Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 621)

Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 621)

Just back from this year’s Complete Namibia Tour, today we start a series of travelogue-style episodes to walk you through our antics as my group and I traveled this majestic land.

I’m going to come right out and say, that I believe this year’s Namibia tour was probably one of my best tours to date, if not these best. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel with many wonderful people over the years, and everyone on this group seemed to click with each other, which makes my life as a tour leader very easy, and the photographic opportunities that we were presented with on this trip were incredible too.

Humbling Experience

We start in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, then drove down to a place called Keetmanshoop, for one night, to photograph the Quiver Tree Forest there. On our way, we stopped to eat our packed lunches on the grass in front of a supermarket, and I had a very humbling experience that I’d like to share with you before we start to look at some images.

Namibia has quite a high percentage of unemployed people, and very little by way of benefits to help those without work. As a group, whenever we have food left in our often too large lunch packs, rather than wasting it, we collect it together and give it to people that we meet on the road. We did just this on our first lunch stop, and after our guides had handed one man some food, I found a few other uneaten apples and sandwiches, so I walked over to this man to hand these over too.

As I approached him, I saw that his hands were both already covered in yellow grains from the cornbread that we’d given him. As I reached out to hand him the apples and sandwiches, he opened his mouth, showing me his teeth also covered in yellow grains, and this is usually something that I am not keen on looking at. He gave out almost a scream of delight, and threw his hands out to his sides, then extended them forwards to accept the food.

I have never been so happy to see the food inside a person’s mouth. It was a beautiful sight! But at the same time, incredibly sad and humbling. I could hardly believe that we could make a man so happy simply by giving him a meal, and I was immediately reminded of the hardship that many people face just obtaining the food that they require to simply stay alive. We are so fortunate to live in a world where the next meal is almost a given, and I also feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to witness this humbling experience first-hand as we traveled in Namibia.

We did, of course, continue to collect what we didn’t eat, and I noticed that not only were people that were obviously struggling to get a meal accepting the food but even officials working on some of the remote national park gates etc. would gladly take what we could offer them. Please don’t think that this is coming from some sort of an aloof perch, handing down our scraps. Everyone that we can help on this tour is treated with utmost respect, often with our local guides passing the food discretely to the recipients. This is actually another reason why I felt so fortunate to have been able to have had the experience I just mentioned during our first lunch, as I don’t normally pass the food directly.

Quiver Tree Forest

Anyway, moving on to our first shoot, we checked in at the nearby lodge in the afternoon of day one and made our way to the Quiver Tree Forest. We shot for a couple of hours to give the group a chance to stake out some nice places to shoot the sunset, and here is my shot to show you what it was like (below). I’m not much of a sunset person per se, but when we can get something nice and unique like the quiver trees in the frame, as well as the fiery African sky, it’s hard to resist.

Quiver Tree Fiery Sunset
Quiver Tree Fiery Sunset

I enjoy doing these silhouette images, looking for a spot with a nice main tree, then also trying to get some nice separation between the trees in the background, as well as a clear edge on either side of the frame. I was shooting with my 24-105mm lens at 27mm and struggled quite a bit to get a nice line of trees without too many bushes, like the one you can see below the right-most quiver tree. Still, the sky is lovely and it was an enjoyable shoot. My other settings were f/14, and a 0.2-second exposure with ISO 100.

Moonlit Quiver Trees

Because of availability of some of the key lodges, this year I was not able to align our visit to the Quiver Tree Forest with a new moon, which would have allowed us to shoot the Milky Way, but there was going to be an almost full moon, which I was hoping to use to good effect. Rather than going back to the lodge for dinner then coming back out, I negotiated a late dinner, to give us an extra hour in the forest as the moon rose.

The result was this next photograph, with the moon illuminating the low cloud cover, but the stars also clearly visible shining through the clouds (below). We can also see how the moonlight had lit the base of some of the foreground trees, making them not quite silhouettes, but I like being able to see that extra bit of detail.

Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees

I shot this with my 11-24mm lens at 17 mm. Now, of course, shooting by moonlight, my shutter speed was 25 seconds at f/4, and ISO 1600. At 17mm you can’t really use a longer shutter speed, because the stars start to elongate if you do, and I didn’t want that. This is why I chose to use a high ISO and wide aperture instead of a longer exposure. There is still some nice movement in the clouds though, and I really like being able to see stars in the relatively bright sky. It definitely makes up for not being able to shoot the Milky Way here this year.

The Giant’s Playground

The following morning, we visited the nearby Giant’s Playground before breakfast, to photograph the boulders silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky, as you can see in this photograph (below). I like looking for faces in the rocks, and pretty much did a repeat of one of my favorite photos from this location, with the boulders on the left looking a little like the Moai Statues, and there is a large chinned man bottom right, and a portly somewhat Shrek-like face in the bottom center of the frame.

Dawn Faces at Giant's Playground
Dawn Faces at Giant’s Playground

I shot a few frames as the sun got closer to the horizon, and this was the one that had the most intense color. I really like the perfectly clean gradation between the orange and the blue here. My shutter speed was 1.3 seconds again at f/14, at ISO 100 and a focal length of 85mm.

Kolmanskop

After breakfast back at the lodge, we checked out and drove through the morning to Kolmanskop, the deserted diamond mine town, where the desert is gradually reclaiming the houses. This first image (below) is one of my favorite scenes, and one of my first shots, as I showed some of the participants where this particular house was. This small indoor sand-dune has been there for five years now, since my first visit in 2013. This house is actually faring better than some, which are starting to succumb to the desert more quickly than others.

Indoor Sand-Dune
Indoor Sand-Dune

I really love the color contrast in this room, with the pastel blue being almost exactly the opposite color to the orange sand on a color wheel, and that’s something that we are almost programmed to find appealing. This was a two-second exposure at ISO 100, a focal length of 28mm and you guessed it, an aperture of f/14. That’s my go-to aperture when there is no reason to change it. It gives me enough depth of field at this focal length to get everything in the frame sharp.

Playing with Color

I continued playing with the color in these beautiful old houses, working with a similar palette this time, with the orangey-brown walls similar to the color of the sand. There was also a hint of blue and teal coming from the left and right rooms at the end of this sand-filled corridor. Quite often, to shoot these images, I simply get far enough into the room to get past the doors to the sides near the entrance, just enough to give me a clear shot of what I consider to be a much cleaner scene, with fewer distracting elements.

Brown-Walled Sandy Corridor
Brown-Walled Sandy Corridor

I also have a vertical orientation shot of this image with an old light-shade hanging down from the ceiling included, and I think I prefer that shot, but the blog formatting works better with landscape orientation images, so that’s what I’m sharing at this time. I shot this at 24mm, f/14 for 0.8 seconds at ISO 100. I pretty much always stick with ISO 100 unless there is a reason to change it as well. I’m not afraid to increase the ISO of course, routinely shooting up to ISO 6400, but with no real wind requiring me to speed it up, ISO 100 it was.

Collapsed Ceilings

Something that I saw much more of this year was houses where the ceiling has literally just collapsed into the downstairs rooms, as we can see in this photo (below). I imagine this is mostly caused by the weight of the sand that accumulates on the floor upstairs, especially as the roofs succumb to the elements allowing more sand in. Here once again though, I enjoyed the contrast between the blue walls and orange sand.

Blue Wall and Collapsed Ceiling
Blue Wall and Collapsed Ceiling

My shutter speed for this image was 4 seconds at ISO 100, so we can tell that the afternoon light was getting a little darker by the point. Again, my aperture was f/14 and my focal length for this shot was 30 mm.

Exterior Shot!

Next, I want to share one of the few photos I’ve made of the exterior of the buildings at Kolmanskop. I don’t do this often, as I generally prefer the colors of the interior, as well as the spectacle of having sand-filled rooms, but this particular scene caught my eye, as we wandered from building to building. As you can see, the sand also builds up against the outside walls sometimes, and I thought this straggly tree made for a nice element along with the window and sand (below).

Straggly Tree and Window
Straggly Tree and Window

I like cropping in tight like this, but here I was also forced in tight because I didn’t want to include the frame of the door just to the right of this scene. I’m not a big fan of the grasses creeping into the frame on the bottom right edge, but I might spend a few minutes to clean that up at some point. It doesn’t bother me enough to spend that time today as I try to get caught up on work. My settings were a 1/13 of a second exposure at f/14 and a focal length of 62mm. I changed my ISO to 400 for this shot, as there was a bit of a breeze that may have caused camera-shake a longer exposure.

Another Collapsed Ceiling

As I mentioned, I noticed more collapsed ceilings this year than before, and here is another example of this (below). The roof seems pretty much intact here though, so I’m not sure what caused this ceiling to cave in. In this photo, I do like the contrast between the still intact wash basin and sand and the collapsed roof. The fact that the walls are still pretty nicely decorated adds additional elements of contrast.

Collapsed Ceiling
Collapsed Ceiling

Back in the shelter of the building again, away from the breeze, I had returned my ISO to 100 and shutter speed back to 4 seconds, at f/14, and now shooting with my 11-24mm lens again, at 14mm.

The Ice Factory

Towards the end of the day, as I made my way back towards the entrance of Kolmanskop to our cars, I stopped at another favorite room, the relatively well-kept Ice Factory (below). I had earlier thought this was just a workshop of sorts, but there is a sign on the door that says Eisfabrik, which I believe means an ice factory or to manufacture ice.

Eisfabrik (Ice Factory)
Eisfabrik (Ice Factory)

With the sun almost on the horizon on the other side of this building, there was virtually no sunlight making its way into this room by the time I photographed it, so my shutter speed was 20 seconds at f/14, ISO 100 and again using my 11-24mm lens, this time at 12mm. As I would have been standing in the precious light coming through the doorway, I moved down the steps and out of the way during my exposure. There’s no point in blocking my own light.

We’re going to end this first episode with this, my last photo from day two, as the warm light from the sun illuminated a side room at what I seem to recall being the old bakery, and here I was again using the one-point perspective composition that I talked about last year. I love the drama and tension this kind of composition adds to a photograph (below).

Bakery Side-Room
Bakery Side-Room

Again, I had to move to the side to avoid blocking my own light and leaving a shadow on the right wall in this image. We can also see the marks on the sand in the foreground of this shot from a recent relatively rare heavy rain that they had, a few weeks before we arrived. This seems to have dripped through the ceiling of this building. My settings here were a 25-second shutter speed at ISO 100, f/14 and my lens wide open at 11 mm.

Processing Finished

We’ll leave it there for today, as we’ve reached the usual 10 photos at which I like to limit my posts. I’m quite pleased to have been able to make time each evening to pretty much catch up on my selection process and most of the processing that I wanted to do on my images before finishing the trip. As we’ll see, we end this trip with four nights at the Etosha National Park shooting wildlife, and that presents a bigger problem due to the number of images we shoot compared to landscape work, but I was still pretty much able to complete my preliminary selections before I started my flight back to Tokyo.

After getting a few hours sleep on my way from Johannesburg to Dubai, then a few more hours at the start of my flight from Dubai to Tokyo, I was able to work on my images and selection process for a further six hours on the plane, and that enabled me to just relax a little over the weekend, and spend some quality time with my wife. It was really nice to come into my studio this morning with all of this work done and just get straight into selecting the images that I’ve talked about today.

I haven’t selected the images for the remaining episodes of this travelogue yet, so I don’t yet know how many parts this will take, but I have a massive 363 images in my final selection, so I think we’re looking at around four, perhaps a five-part series to cover this trip, and we’ll continue to part two next week.

Complete Namibia Tour 2019

If you might like to join us on this tour from June 2 to 18, 2019, please check out the tour page at mbp.ac/namibia2019. It really has matured into an amazing tour, and I’d love to travel with you in this beautiful land.

Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees
Moonlit Quiver Trees
Start your day in the Giant's Playground
Start your day in the
Giant's Playground
In one of the most conservation aware countries in the world
...in one of the world's most
conservation-aware countries
Amazing Cultural Experiences
Savor life-changing
Cultural Experiences
Mind-Boggling Landscapes
...and
Mind-Boggling
Landscapes
Take a walk on the Wild Side
Let's take a
walk on the
Wild Side
Your Adventure Starts Here
The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop
June 2 – 18, 2019
Your Adventure Starts Here!
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Show Notes

Visit the 2019 Complete Nambia Tour page here: https://mbp.ac/namibia2019

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

Today we continue a travelogue series to walk you through my recent Complete Namibia Tour, as we visit Elizabeth Bay and move on to Sossusvlei and the mystical Deadvlei.

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It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Namibia, so I’m in that space now where the trip is gradually fading into memory, enabling me to be a little bit more ruthless in my edit, removing more images, but due to the variety of subjects we cover on this trip, and just the richness of this beautiful country, I’ve still got heaps of images in my final selection, so let’s talk first about the state of my edit, and then we’ll move on to look at today’s ten images.

My Final Edit

After working on my images on and off during last week, I initially managed to complete my second pass to whittle down the 1,028 images that were left after my first pass, to a more manageable 496. I was happy to at least get below 500 at this point but I continued working until I got my selection down to 419. I might be able to get this down a little further before I actually copy these images to my Finals folder, but it’s pretty much my last call on my 3-star selection.

My Rating System

For me, 3-star images are ones that I am happy to let people see and will submit to my stock agency, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are my absolute favorites. For example, some are slight variations of the same subject. I might have two different head positions of an animal. Both have merit, but I don’t necessarily want to keep both of them in my favorites. Or I might have a vertical version of the same subject. This always works well with stock imagery.

So, at this point, I went through the 419 images and selected my 4-star images, of which there were 191. Four stars for me means that I like them enough to add them to my Apple Photos app so that I can actively show people them as I travel around. These will take preference over the three stars when I’m selecting images to illustrate articles etc.

At some point, I’ll go through my 4-star images and select a small number of my photos to add to my Namibia portfolio. These will become 5-star images, my portfolio-worthy rating. I reserve 2 stars as a way of marking my “originals” in as much as I sometimes have to take an image into Photoshop and do some work on it, and when I bring that back into Capture One Pro, I make the original raw file a 2-star, and make the Photoshop version a 3-star image or higher.

My 1-star rating means it was once selected for consideration during my editing process, but then got demoted out of the selection. This is just my way of keeping tabs on something that I once liked, but it lost the battle to stay in my “Finals” group. I also like to keep tabs on these images, because they are my first port of call if I have to go back to my original shoot folders looking for something else.

Elizabeth Bay

We ended the first part of this travelogue series at lunch time on day three, as we finished our second shoot at Kolmanskop. Like Kolmanskop, Elizabeth Bay is an abandoned diamond mine community, with a couple of differences. The first being that in 2005 the Namibian Government in partnership with De Beers expanded the original diamond mine and started mining again. Because of this, we go through very strict security when entering Elizabeth Bay.

The other difference is the way the buildings are corroding. I imagine that it’s because of the sea air, but in this first image for today (below) you can see from the brickwork at the end of the building that the bricks are corroding more quickly than the mortar holding them together, making for some very strange shapes, as we’ll explore.

Elizabeth Bay Labourers' Quarters

Elizabeth Bay Labourers’ Quarters

The partitions that you can see lining each side of this room are where the laborers slept. We heard one story that these laborers were slaves, but we were given an explanation of the old mine before we photographed it, and were told that the laborers were actually paid very well, so I’d like to believe that story instead. Either way, it couldn’t have been much fun sleeping in those partitions, but as a way to make a good living, if that’s what it was, I can imagine people were able to put up with it.

Again here, I’ve used the one-point perspective that I talked about in last week’s episode, as I really like the drama that this creates. I’ve allowed the light from the windows to overexpose a little, but I don’t mind that. My settings for this image were an aperture of f/14 at ISO 100 for a 0.8 sec exposure. I was using my Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 lens at 12mm, to get more of the room in, but also to emphasize the converging lines.

You can also see how the buildings are corroding in this external view of one of the buildings in Elizabeth Bay (below). As with many of the buildings, this one is partially collapsed, and if you look at the brickwork, in some areas the mortar is still there, but the bricks have corroded away.

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

As you can see, although the houses at Elizabeth Bay are mostly newer than Kolmanskop, the sea air really has taken its toll much more, and most of them are just not safe to go inside. Kolmanskop is getting that way, but it has a few more years in it yet I’d say. My settings for this image were f/14 with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second at ISO 100.

This next photo is of a building that’s bearing up a little better on the sheltered side, and this is also the room that you’ll see on the cover of Freeman Patterson’s Odysseys book. It’s hard to resist shooting this iconic image, even though they all look the same because you have to shoot through a window, giving the same angle essentially (below).

Tropical Wall

Tropical Wall

It was actually cloudy when we arrived at Elizabeth Bay, so I was hoping to photograph the houses without the strong light coming through the windows, but it cleared up pretty much while we were getting our talk about the place, so we’re stuck with bright windows again, and I’m not one for doing two exposures and blending them together. It’s just not me. The settings for this photo were f/14 for 0.3 sec at ISO 100.

This last photo from Elizabeth Bay (below) is of one of the larger buildings at the start of the town, and as you can see I placed the sun through one of the gaps in the corroded building, to form a starburst. I converted this to black and white in Capture One Pro. I just felt like these external photos suited black and white more, as the sandy color wasn’t really adding much to the feel of the image, and they are more about the graphical shapes of the buildings.

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

I shot this at f/14 again, with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed, at ISO 100. This was one of the first times I’ve done a starburst shot with the new Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS Mark II lens, and I’m very happy with how clean it is. Although I heard some people giving this new lens a bad rap, I’ve still had no problems with it at all, and continue to love the image quality and versatility.

Desert Sunbeams

The sun set as we headed back to our hotel for a second night in this area. As we started our drive towards Sossusvlei the next morning, shortly after passing Kolmanskop, I couldn’t resist stopping our vehicles for a walk up the hill at the side of the road for this scene (below).

Desert Sunbeams

Desert Sunbeams

The light was streaming through the clouds in sunbeams, catching the tops of the distant hills and sand dunes so beautifully we just had to stop. I’ve enhanced this a little in Capture One Pro, to add contrast to the dunes, and I’ve also run a graduated filter down the top third to darken the sky a little more and accentuate the sunbeams, but this is closer to how I recalled this magical scene.

My settings were f/11 at 1/320 of a second, at ISO 100. I moved away from my usual f/14 landscape aperture because I was hand-holding my 100-400mm at a focal length of 286mm, so I needed a slightly faster shutter speed.

Deadvlei

We stopped for a number of photos along the way to Sossusvlei, but we’ll jump to the following morning now, and look at my images from the first visit to Deadvlei for this tour. We arrived well before the sun started to illuminate the sand dune behind the dead camel thorn trees, and I spent quite a lot of time walking around trying to find a composition that I have not already photographed and found that it’s getting difficult to do so.

Here’s my main photo for this first shoot (below) and it’s growing on me a little, but I prefer some of my previous compositions. I was attracted to this because it felt as though these two trees were like hands reaching out from the dried up clay pan, almost in desperation.

Desperation

Desperation

If you haven’t seen this type of photo from Deadvlei before, there are a few minutes each morning when the sun starts to climb over a sand dune to my back while shooting this, and there comes a point when it is only illuminating the dune and does not yet light up the clay pan, so we can make these beautifully surreal, almost silhouette-like photographs. My settings for this were f/14 for 1/20 of a second at ISO 100.

The line of light moves quickly along the edge of the clay pan, but if you are quick, you can get a few different compositions in before the phenomenon ends, so I ran along and grabbed this second shot, that some of you may recognize (below).

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

I didn’t check against my original photo, but this is an almost complete replica of my first Deadvlei Silhouettes image from my first visit in 2013, which you can see in episode 373 if you are interested. The trees to the left are exactly the same as they were four years ago, but unfortunately, the tree to the right is missing a branch from its left side. These trees are between 600 and 700 years old and don’t decay because it’s so dry in this basin, so I imagine someone has fooled around grabbing hold of the third branch, and actually broken it off, which I find incredibly sad.

Checking Focus in Live View

At f/14, the orange dune in the background isn’t completely sharp in these images, but it wouldn’t get much sharper if I stopped down to f/22, but then, of course, we start to see diffraction creep in, which makes everything in the image softer, so I like to avoid that. To me, the important thing is that the two trees are sharp. The trees to the left here are just slightly behind the tree to the right, so I like to check my depth of field.

To check my focus and depth of field in situations like this, I initially focus on one of the trees, then go into Live View and zoom in to 5X, and hold down the Depth of Field Preview button near the bottom right side of the lens mount on my camera. I check both trees to see if they are in focus, and if one is not, with the Depth of Field Preview button still pressed, I manually adjust the focus until it just becomes in focus, and then go back and check the other tree, to see if it’s still sharp. If it isn’t, I adjust the focus back a little and then check the other tree again. The actual focus may be somewhere between the trees, but as long as they are both sharp, I’m happy.

Although it’s quite rare, there were some beautiful clouds while we were in Deadvlei on this first morning, so I capitalized on that with the following image (below). Here you can see the trees in normal light, and get a feel for what the clay basin actually looks like illuminated as well. Anthropomorphizing as I often do, I saw the main tree in this shot as a Sorcerer, perhaps casting his spells on the other trees.

The Sourcerer

The Sourcerer

I tried a circular polarizer filter on this as well, to see if it would help me to deepen the blue in the sky, but I didn’t like the results. The sky became too dark, and the foreground also became dark as I exposed for the white in the clouds, so I went back to no filter for this image, which I shot at f/14 for 1/60 of a second at ISO 100.

Dune #35

After our morning visit to Deadvlei, we went to another sand dune for a while, then went back to the hotel for lunch, and to grab a few hours of welcome rest. Then, later in the afternoon, we headed back out again to photograph Dune #35. The dunes in Sossusvlei aren’t actually numbered, but people identify them by the distance from the entrance to the national park. The one you can see in this photo (below) is 35km in.

Intimate Dune #35

Intimate Dune #35

This dune is quite a walk from the road, perhaps around 2km, so when we looked back towards our safari vehicles from the base of this dune, they were smaller than ants. This does enable us to get quite intimate though, especially with my 100-400mm lens, used at 400mm as I did here.

Dune #35

Dune #35

The sun was perhaps 20 minutes from going down at this point, so the acute angle of the sun had started to highlight one side of the ripples in the sand, and the shadow forming on the other side gives beautiful definition.

In this final photo for today, shot at 158mm from a little further back, you can see a larger section of the same dune, and if you look closely can perhaps make out a bit of sand blowing off the crest.

I was using a circular polarizer filter for these images, partly to darken the blue in the sky, and I also found that the bright side of the dune not only became more vibrant, but the dark side became darker, which works well for this image.

I actually darkened the shadows just a little bit more using the Luma Curve in Capture One Pro, to increase the overall contrast.

I shot both of these last two images at f/14, for a 1/40 of a second exposure at ISO 400. I increased my ISO rather than doing a slower shutter speed because the wind was blowing quite strongly in gusts across the plane, and I didn’t want to risk it moving the camera during the exposure.

Just below the base of this image, there are some trees, which I also included in some of my shots, some of which I really like as well, but in order to keep these episodes to my usual ten photos, we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. We’ll pick up the trail again next week starting from our second dawn shoot in Deadvlei, perhaps a shot or two of Dune #40, and then we drive up the Skeleton Coast to Walvis Bay and then on to Sesfontein, where we photographed the beautiful Himba people.

Complete Namibia Tour 2018

If you would like to join me in Namibia on my 2018 tour, please do check out the details and you can book from the tour page at https://mbp.ac/namibia. If you can’t wait until next year, you might also consider my Morocco tour from the end of October 2017 as well, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/morocco.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018


Show Notes

Check out details of my 2018 Namibia Tour here: https://mbp.ac/namibia

And my Morocco Tour details can be found here: https://mbp.ac/morocco

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Artist Feature – Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times (Podcast 569)

Artist Feature – Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times (Podcast 569)

This week I’m sharing a video that I made recently to interview Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times. Lee is a street photographer who takes his craft to the limits when it comes to getting up close to his subjects, although he’s generally a pretty shy person.

I have released this episode as a small iPhone version video in the podcast feed, but I recommend you watch the full sized video below to enjoy Lee’s beautiful work to the full.

Some of Lee’s work can seem very in-your-face, as he gets quite close to his subjects, generally without their permission, but as you’ll hear Lee explain in our conversation, his goal is never to annoy his subjects, and he always wants to portray them well, or at least as good as their situation allows. His subjects range from Tokyo’s youth, people that could be movie stars, to inhabitants of the red-light district, and his photos invoke a myriad of emotions that are unique to Lee’s work and his style.

Anyway, rather than writing about it, grab a coffee, kick up your feet, and go full-screen to enjoy Lee’s world in all it’s gritty glory.

Catch up with Lee Chapman Online

Lee’s Blog: http://wordpress.tokyotimes.org

Lee’s Portfolios: https://leechapman.photos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tokyotimes_lee/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tokyotimes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tokyotimes.org

RSS: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Wwwtokyotimesorg

Some of Lee’s Beautiful Images

We view more than this in the video, but here is a small selection of Lee’s work.

© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman

Show Notes

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Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 487)

Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 487)

This is part two of a series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through my recent visit to Namibia, co-hosting an amazing photography tour with my friend Jeremy Woodhouse.

We pick up the trail on the morning of August 13, as we return to the abandoned diamond mine town of Kolmanskop. We visited this location on the afternoon of the previous day too, as we saw in episode 486, so these are the remaining images from the following day.

Kolmanskop – Abandoned Diamond Mine Village

I’ve ended up with 33 final selects from Kolmanskop, so we’re looking at about a third of them in these two episodes. As I mentioned last week, I used the new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 L lens a lot at this location, and really enjoyed this centralized one-point perspective that Stanley Kubrick uses extensively in his movies to create tension and drama, as I’ve done in this photograph (below).

Kolmanskop Room

Kolmanskop Room

For this photo (above) I’d zoomed in a little to 13mm, and with an aperture of f/14 exposed this for 1 second at ISO 100. That should give you an idea of how much available light there is in these rooms. I’m not concerned about over exposing the scene through the window, although I do try leave the slats in the window visible when possible.

This enables me to get a relatively well lit room from that single light source, and there is still a bit of detail in the shadows as well. In fact, I have darkened down the shadows by reducing the Blacks slider in Lightroom a little and increasing the Clarity slider, which also darkens the shadows a little. This adds to the drama of the image in my opinion.

For this next photo (below) I switched to my 24-70mm at shot this at 59mm, as I wanted to show the crack in the wall through this doorway in a room full of sand. The buildings at Kolmanskop are all falling rapidly into a state of decay that will probably make them inaccessible quite soon over the next few years.

Kolmanskop Doorway

Kolmanskop Doorway

I shot this with an exposure of 1/4 of a second at f/14, ISO 100. This image shows how the walls are being pushed out by the pressure of the sand that has built up, but there are now many buildings where the walls have given way, and fallen outwards.

Schlachterei (The Butchers)

Schlachterei (The Butchers)

There are also a number of rooms where the floor has fallen through under the weight of the sand. Needless to say, as photographers, we enter all of these buildings at our own risk.

Here (right) is another room that had very low ambient light, requiring an exposure of 6 seconds at f/14, ISO 100.

This shows some large boiling pots and the oven to heat them in the butchers for the mining town. I have a landscape orientation version of this scene as well, which I also like, but this vertical orientation shows how the roof is starting to fall away, giving more context to the oven, which doesn’t look that bad without the roof, although you probably wouldn’t want to boil a batch of sausages in there at this point in time.

I managed to totally miss this room on my first visit in 2013, although I’m not sure how, but I was happy to find it this time around. It’s easy to spend a full day just walking from building to building, capturing its mood and atmosphere as best as you can.

The mood changes with the time of day as the angle of light entering the rooms changes, so it’s nice to spend time in the village at both ends of the day, to capture the many different faces that it presents us with.

This next building is just along from the Butchers, and looks like some kind of workshop (below). Again, I’ve used the one-point perspective here, with all lines leading to a vanishing point in the very center of the frame. At 12mm, I was also able to include part of the decaying roof here too, which I feel adds to the overall atmosphere of the scene.

Kolmanskop Room

Kolmanskop Room

As is often the case, I was actually standing in the doorway here, blocking out some of the only natural light entering the room, but this also helps to reduce the contrast, so I don’t try to work around this. The result was an exposure of 0.8 seconds at f/14, ISO 100.

You’ve probably noticed that I shoot at f/14 a lot. This is to maximize depth-of-field without the affects of diffraction making everything soft, which starts to happen from around f/16, and becomes quite a problem at f/22, although this varies depending on the lens. Of course, at 12mm, I have a very deep depth of field from just a few feet in front of the lens, even with an aperture of say f/8, so I could go wider on the aperture, but with a good tripod to hold everything steady, the longer exposures aren’t a problem either, so I tend to stay stopped down at f/14 a lot.

The long time listeners among you will also notice that this shot is almost a replication of my photo of the same room from 2013, although this is a little bit wider. To be honest, to a certain degree I was reshooting images that I got with my 5D Mark III, with the 5Ds R. The amount of detail in the 50 megapixel 5Ds R images is incredible, so whenever possible I’m going to be reshooting old favorites, but of course at the same time, trying to stay open to the creativity of Martin 2015, and not limit myself to what I was capable of as Martin, version 2013.

This next image (below) was the second visit to this building on this trip, and I decided to include the hooks on the wall more prominently here, as they’d caught my eye on both visits. I don’t know why, but they really appeal to me. Perhaps it’s because they give us a firm hint that people really lived here until until the town was abandoned in 1954 when the diamond field was mostly depleted. This was shot at 1.3 seconds, again at f/14, ISO 100.

Kolmanskop Room with Wall Hooks

Kolmanskop Room with Wall Hooks

Another building that I don’t recall going inside on my 2013 visit, was the hospital. This was another eerie building, with room after room along the very long corridor. I decided to have some fun here, and asked Ardwin, who I was shooting with, to walk down the corridor, then go into one of the rooms until I counted down to three, then he came out and started to walk towards me down the corridor.

Eerie Figure in Hospital

Eerie Figure in Hospital

It took a few takes to get the affect I was after, but if you look closely in the above photograph, you can see an eerie shadow in the center of the corridor. We needed to have Ardwin stay in a side room until for the first second of the 3.2 second exposure, so that the light from the end of the corridor would start to be recorded in the image, as that is stronger than the shadow that his figure created as he walked for a further two seconds.

I was using a two second timer to start my exposure, so I just started counting down “three, two, one…” and started my timer just after I started to count, so the exposure started just before Ardwin came out of the room, for this fun, and somewhat eerie affect.

Kolmanskop Slat Patterns

Kolmanskop Slat Patterns

There is one building at Kolmanskop that I failed to shoot at its peak on my first visit, and that is the room that we can see in this image (below).

This is a room where the time of day that you shoot it is vitally important. I remember coming here at the end of the day on my first visit, an at that time, all you get in the light from the roof slats on the back wall.

At noon though, the light falls not only on the back wall, but also the right side wall and the floor. This, accompanied by the light coming directly through the roof slats, results in a very disorienting affect.

At first glance, it’s difficult to even figure out what you are looking at. My wife couldn’t figure this out for a while, even after I’d told her what it is.

Whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but I love creating images that throw the viewer into a state of confusion, just for a short while. Of course, I want the viewer to get what it is after a while, and hopefully enjoy the image.

I shot this last image at 11:50 am, and then we made our way down to the carp park, to regroup, as we were going to spend the afternoon at another abandoned mine town, at a place called Elizabeth Bay.

Elizabeth Bay – Abandoned Diamond Mine Village

The Elizabeth Bay mine town is actually very close to a real diamond mine that has been reopened, so we had to go through rigorous security checks as we were allowed in, and out of course. We were escorted to the town by a guide, and some of the group were actually frisked during the outbound security checks, to ensure that we weren’t trying to smuggle out any diamonds that we might have found. This was quite an experience in itself.

When we got up to the mine, about a thirty minute drive from Kolmanskop, we were treated with a different kind of external decay and erosion, that we’ll look at in the last photo for today, after the next two images.

This photo (below) is of a room in the town, that some of you may recognize from the cover of a Freeman Patterson book called Odysseys. I shot a photo pretty much from the same angle as Freeman Patterson’s image too, but chose to share this angle, as the other image feels a little bit plagiaristic.

Marry Me and You'll Sleep Under Palm Trees

Marry Me and You’ll Sleep Under Palm Trees

Our guide told us the story behind the painted palm trees in this room. Apparently the person who lived here was getting lonely, and told potential suitors in Europe that if they married him, they would get to sleep under palm trees in Africa. I’m not sure how well this went down, but apart from the palm trees, the scene painted on the wall is very much like the view of Elizabeth Bay that you can see in that direction from outside the building.

Right at the end of the town, is the large building that we can see here (below). I’m not sure what this building is, although there are a number of stoves or kiln-like structures, so maybe it’s a large kitchen building. I shot this at 1/6 of a second at f/14, ISO 100, with a focal length of 13mm, and yes, once again with the one-point perspective.

Elizabeth Bay Building

Elizabeth Bay Building

This was actually one of just two or three buildings where I shot multiple exposures, with a few frames exposed for the outside light, but having tried an HDR of this, and almost immediately throwing up, I decided to stick with this version. I don’t mind looking at nicely done HDR images from other photographers, but it really isn’t for me.

OK, so this (below) is the last image for today, and the one that I mentioned earlier, that shows us how this town is decaying differently to Kolmanskop. Here, the salty wind from the sea and sand blown around the town, is decaying the building at an alarming rate. The town was abandoned in 1998 from what I can learn online, and yet most of the buildings are already collapsed, many with just pillars of the cement that used to hold the bricks together, although the bricks themselves have completely eroded away.

Elizabeth Bay Mine Town Building

Elizabeth Bay Mine Town Building

This was of course a straight outdoor shot, with an exposure of 1/100 at f/14, ISO 100. I shot this at 11mm, to emphasize the pile of rubble in front of the building. Because the sun was only just out of the frame to the right, and the built-in lens hood on the 11-24mm lens is relatively shallow, I was holding my hand between the sun and the front element of the lens to stop a few balls of lens flare that I could see in the image in Live View, on the LCD of my camera.

OK, so that brings us to the end of this episode. We’ll pick up the trail again next week, as we arrive in the Sossusvlei area, to photograph those magnificent red dunes, and the incredible Deadvlei, with it’s dead camel-thorn trees silhouetted against the background dune in the morning light.

The 5DayDeal is Back!

Remember that amazing 5DayDeal Complete Photography Bundle that I talked about last year? Well, they’re doing it again, and this bundle is as awesome as ever! I can’t say any more at this point, other than this year’s sale is from Sept 10 to 15, so don’t miss it!

Rather than just waiting for the sale to start, you can sign up here, for a chance to win a prize from a pool totaling more than $50,000 in value! Click here or the graphic below to enter the draw!

Also, if you arrive here between Sept 10 and 15, just click below to pick up your Complete Photography Bundle. If you arrive after September 15, sorry. This particular bundle will be gone forever. If you sign up for my newsletters though, I’ll be sure to let you know when the next one happens.

5DayDeal Complete $50,000 Photography Giveaway!

5DayDeal Complete $50,000 Photography Giveaway!


Show Notes

Music by the Staff of the Kulala Lodge in Sossusvlei – Thank you!


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Podcast 243: April 2010 MBP/WebSpy Photography Assignment Winners

Podcast 243: April 2010 MBP/WebSpy Photography Assignment Winners

Today we’re going to take a look at the winning images from the April MBP and WebSpy Photography Assignment, with members’ back-stories and I’ll be adding my own comments and thoughts on the images as usual.

The April Photography assignment is the penultimate assignment of this current six month batch of assignments that we are grouping together to find the winner who amasses the most votes to take away one of five amazing prizes that our sponsors WebSpy have been kind enough to provide. These include a 320GB Sanho HyperDrive COLORSPACE UDMA portable storage unit for the first prize, a Lensbaby Composer with a case as the second prize, and then the next three winners will all receive an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, to enable you to set accurate custom white balance in the field and then create RAW Profiles for your cameras in post processing, for true color accuracy in your digital workflow.

(Note: If you prefer to listen, there is an audio player at the bottom of the post.)

Last month I thought that our friend Dan Newcomb, the winner of the first six month WebSpy assignment, was going to steam on home with this six month assignment too, but there are a few people that are really giving Dan a run for his money, so let’s take a look at the winners of the April Assignment, and see where we stand in the running for this batch of six, with just one month to go. By the way, the May assignment which is now in its third week, is on Flowerscapes, so if you haven’t got your image bagged and uploaded to the members’ gallery yet, please do so before the end of May.

So, we’ll start as usual with third place for the April 2010 Assignment, which was won by Dennis Brennan with the amazing image “Relics of the Chain Gang”. Dennis has kindly provided a back-story, so I’ll read that out first (in the Podcast), and then give my thoughts of the image too.

Relics of the Chain Gang (© Dennis Brennan)

Relics of the Chain Gang (© Dennis Brennan)

As soon as the April assignment theme of Urban Decay was announced, I knew where I’d go to get my shot. Eastern State Penitentiary is an old American prison located in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The prison closed in 1971 and was left empty for almost 20 years. It has since been reopened to the public as a historic site and a great place to make some interesting photographs. I’d been there shooting several times in the past couple of years – usually with HDR images in mind. Last summer I photographed the same cell block, but included much more of the hall and ceilings in the composition. With this image, I wanted to show more of the decaying detail in both the old cell doors and that curious cart learning against the wall. The soft light coming through the skylights, falling directly on that section of the hall, creates such an interesting mood in this spot. Composition is a bit tricky as the end of the hall is barred off. You have to shoot through the bars – almost as if you were in a cell! It took a bit of maneuvering, but I managed to get the 70-200 positioned in place between the bars without the lens hood. While I did bracket the exposures for this scene, I also shot it with a single exposure in mind. The single exposure turned out to be my favorite and it looked good enough to use without much post at all (a little saturation, a very subtle vignette and some overall clarity). Thanks so much for the votes. It really is quite an honor to place with so many great images submitted. And as always, thanks to our gracious host for another fun monthly theme!

As usual, you’re more than welcome Dennis, and thank you, for continuing to get involved, and submitting such great images.

It’s nice to have somewhere like this close by, and spring to mind, for an assignment on urban decay. You really made an excellent job of capturing the scene, and the back-story really helps to give an idea of your thought process and the troubles that you had actually lining up the shot through the bars. I thought initially that you’d done a sepia monotone conversion, until I looked into the shot and saw the orange rope on the cart, which I think by the way, adds a lot to the image. With the color making it stand out, it really adds an additional element of interest.

The doors are kind of sad. Although I’d like to think that the people that stayed behind them had good reason to be there, it’s a fact that society can also put people into situations where they do things that wind them up in a place like this, and I can just imagine the amount of turmoil going through the minds of some of the people that spend portions of their lives behind these bars. I love, as you say, the way the light catches the center of the wall and the cart here, and the way the light tapers off into the distance, really enhancing the mood greatly. The subtle vignette really helps too, so congratulations once again Dennis, for getting third place, and for capturing a great image for the April assignment.

In second place is, we once again have cheshirecat, or Elise with another wonderful image, “An Untold Story”. Here’s Elise’s back-story:

The decay theme was subject matter outside my comfort zone as it was something that I had never attempted before. I started soon after the theme was announced and actually traveled quite a distance to find decay. I found it in many places and in some that were relatively close to home. The farm I selected did not seem to be abandoned when viewed from the country road. I was a little nervous about going onto what I thought was private property, but I decided to park on the road and walk down the driveway. A posted sign indicated it was state property so I felt a little more comfortable exploring. Signs of decay were everywhere… An old decaying farmhouse and numerous barns, an old rusting car that I discovered in a field was what I had originally envisioned for this theme. But it was the tricycle, with the missing wheel, that drew me to the barnyard to shoot this scene. It seemed to be the most important element to include. Having barns on three sides made the lighting and angle of composition a little more awkward for me. It took three visits to get all of the elements of decay into the image. This particular one was taken following a rainstorm when everything was still quite damp. I tried a conversion to black and white, but the color version held more of the decay details.

An Untold Story (© Elise)

An Untold Story (© Elise)

Well, congratulations on a great image Elise. Your back-story is great too. I’m impressed that you went to such lengths for this assignment and actually went back to this spot three times for the image. Having not seen the others it’s hard to tell how much better this one is, but as you say, that damp feeling that you have captured here does help to enforce the decay theme, and one of the things that stood out to me was the splashes of red paint still on the walls of the building. I can see how a black and white conversion might have taken that away, though I would also like to see what could be done while playing with the red channel, and maybe playing on that color separation. The only other reason I would have also liked to have seen a black and white version, is to remove the splash of bright green in that foliage behind the tricycle. Red and green contrast well together though, so I don’t think it detracts from the color version at all though.

I also agree that your honing in on the tricycle with the missing back wheel was a key factor in the success of this image. Placing it way down in one of the corners is another factor, and in fact one of the compositional techniques that I am planning to include in a follow up to my composition Podcasts that I released a few months ago. It would have been tempting to put the trike on one of the third intersections, using the rule of thirds, but as we know, rules are made to be broken, and doing so here works very well in my opinion, so well done on that too. I also like the way you created a bit of a frame with the wooden pillar along the left side, and the unbroken slab of concrete across the bottom, and even the foliage dangling down on the right side, give the eye something to stop at as you scan the scene, preventing the eye from running out of the image and losing the viewer’s interest. All great additions to a great image, so congratulations on second place Elise.

And finally, the winner of the Urban/Rural Decay assignment is Tom Maugham with a really nostalgic and somewhat thought provoking image “Waiting for the Train”. Before we take a look at Tom’s back-story, I also wanted to read the caption that Tom assigned to the image in the assignment gallery. Tom wrote “A weary traveler waits by an abandoned freight station for a train that will never come”. Some people say that images don’t need captions and that they should stand alone, but here, as with the Title, “Waiting for the Train”, the caption gives us a chance to add our own artistic interpretation of the scene, and in my opinion can add so much to the image. While creating the photograph itself we are creating art, and by our selection of lens and how we frame the scene, the aperture we select for the required depth-of-field and the shutter speed of course. We are also making artistic decisions when we select how we process the color in post processing, and there are countless other artistic decisions that come into play when making and processing an image. In my opinion, the selections of a title and caption are simply an extension of this process. We don’t have to be totally lead by them of course, and we can choose to ignore these textual additions altogether, but this is a great example of how the title can really enhance the image, and the experience of viewing it, and the feelings that it invokes, so thanks for taking the time to think of the title and caption too Tom.

Waiting for the Train (© Tom Maugham)

Waiting for the Train (© Tom Maugham)

We also hear that this is the first time Tom has entered an image for the assignment and was thrilled to come first, which is great. Congratulations Tom! Here’s the back-story:

This is truly an abandoned freight station. The Raritan River Railroad is no more and all its operations (what little there were left) have been absorbed into Conrail. A train comes through a couple of times a month to deliver plastic pellets to a nearby window factory but that’s it. I’ve taken many pics here over the years and thought it a natural setting for this theme. I took many more shots in April but it wasn’t until I added the human element that things clicked.

The ‘weary traveler’ is actually me. I put on my old army field jacket and a hat and triggered my camera with a remote control. There is a lawyer’s office and parking lot just to the right and I got some very interesting stares from lawyers and clients alike. But it was fun! Thanks to everyone who voted for me and for the nice comments on the picture page.

So, once again, we have an example of someone that went the extra mile to add something to the image, and that was a key factor in the success of the image, without doubt. I love the way the left track is almost perpendicular, even though it results in the end of the tracks leading out of the image near the edge of the shot. Again, there would be the temptation to put this point on the left third line, but Tom chose not to, to the benefit of the image, I’m sure. We do see that tom sat roughly on the left third line of course, whether intentional or not, which is also a nice comfortable compositional technique. I also like how the station building and the line of trees in the background as well as the telegraph poles on the left, all lead our eyes into the vanishing point at the end of the railroad tracks as they head out of the scene into the distance. The little bit of cloud close to the horizon is nice, as is the black and white conversion, though I personally would have been tempted to darken the sky a little, to maybe add some more drama. I also see a little speck of dust on the sensor just above the top left corner of the station building, which would be nice to remove, but these are minor nit-picks in a great shot.

Congratulations on visualizing and executing to create a wonderful, timeless image Tom, and thanks for getting involved in the assignment.

If you want to see the number of votes that everyone received, you can go to the scores page, which I’ll link to in the show-notes. Also, at the bottom of that page is a graph with the grand totals, for all of the first five assignments in this six month batch. We can see that Dan, or Mr. Nikon is still in the lead with 127 votes, but with two good placings, Elise or cheshirecat has stormed into second place, with 114 votes. Dennis Brennan has won once and placed third twice, which has put him just two votes behind Elise with 112 votes. Just behind Dennis in fourth place is Super Digital Girl or Leslie Granda-Hill with exactly 100 votes, and then in fifth place with 60 votes is Zodiaci, otherwise known as Allen ONeal. Of course, this could all change with this last assignment for May 2010, with the theme of Flowerscapes. Do try to grab yourself a nice Flowerscape shot, and enter it into the assignment gallery at mbpgalleries.com, and see if you can’t nudge yourself into the top five for the six month batch of assignments, and scoop one of the great prizes that we have on offer, courtesy of our sponsors WebSpy.


Podcast show-notes:

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


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