The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)

The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)


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Following on from the previous post about creating a slideshow using Boinx Software’s FotoMagico, although I was taken out of action for two days following my fourth COVID vaccination, I spent several additional days creating the background music for my slideshow, as I mentioned in that previous post. Slideshow music can be difficult because you don’t want it to be too prominent, but at the same time, it needs to compliment the images and content, so it takes more thought than simply sitting down to make a track just for the sake of it.

I’m not going to go into much detail, as this post is really at this point to point you to the video. Still, as the video starts, you’ll notice some simple Kalimba music, which is an African instrument that I have in one of my many plugins. I then spent some time finding chords that matched the subject matter, slightly sad sounding in places, mainly because of the feeling from the deserted diamond mines, and then I make it a little lighter with some flurries when necessary. We drop back to the Kalimba several times to break up the piano. After the initial Kolmanskop piano accompaniment, I switched to a hybrid traditional piano and electric piano played together. My wife thinks the flurries with the hybrid piano sound a little 70s or 80s, and she’s probably right because I was thinking Blade Runner as some of the notes and feeling of the music started to form.

Here is a screenshot of the final score in Ableton Live before I exported the music to embed into FotoMagico. If you click on the image, you’ll be able to see more detail if you are interested. Note that I designed the dark-teal theme for Ableton, as I don’t like the look of any of the actual themes provided with the software. The only additional thing to mention is that I also added some orchestral strings with brass and horns at various places, again, to add a little variation while changing the way I played some of the chords, hopefully making it a little less monotonous without having to compose and play each bar individually. This is to both save time and because too much variation can also get in the way of the slideshow if it starts to take the viewer’s attention.

Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score
Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score

I changed the timing a little, so although I’d say this would be around 18 minutes, the final video is 16 minutes and 30 seconds, which is still very long for a slideshow. This essentially represents most of my “keepers” from the trip, as the slideshow is designed to show you how much can be achieved during my 17-day Complete Namibia Tours. If you have time, do try to watch to the end, but I doubt with the number of images, it will be a video you’ll rewatch many times. Either way, though, if I can get my message across, that’s great. I hope you enjoy this. You can see this and over 100 other videos on my Vimeo Channel.


Show Notes

See the video on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/737475715

Check out my Vimeo Channel here: https://vimeo.com/martinbailey

Music by Martin Bailey


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Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 5 (Podcast 490)

Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 5 (Podcast 490)

This is the final part in 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 August 22, as we visit a second Himba village, for possibly one of the most beautiful cultural exchanges of my life. Although the people at the first village we visited were genuine and friendly, the people at the second village seemed to welcome us so warmly into their community, actually thanking Jeremy for arranging the tour. We laughed together, played together, and even danced together, making it a wonderful morning.

Having photographed the gentleman in this photo around the fire outside, I asked if he would allow me to photograph him inside a hut, and this is the first of two of those images (below). He had with him a pipe made from a spent bullet shell, so I asked him if she could light it. I have a whole series of images as he lit the pipe with a large smouldering log from the fire in the hut, but as I try to keep the number of images down to ten per episode, we can’t look at all of these. We are actually already going to look at twelve today anyway, as I couldn’t remove any more from this final episode’s selection

Himba Man "Hidion" Smoking

Himba Man “Hidion” Smoking

I shot this image at f/4, ISO 3200 for 1/100 of a second. As I mentioned last week, although it can seem counter intuitive, it’s often better to increase your ISO passed levels that you would usually be comfortable with, to keep grain from becoming a problem in dark situations like this.

Unlike the Himba photos that we looked at last week though, this image is actually straight out of the camera, with no exposure adjustment or Radial Filter etc. I actually don’t feel that this needs any modification. The only thing I wish I’d done, is include just a little more along the bottom of the frame, to complete his neck band.

Hidion (a Himba Man)

Hidion (a Himba Man)

I went to portrait orientation for this next photograph though (left), which I really like. The camera settings were exactly the same as the previous image.

The man in these photographs is Hidion, and he was a wonderful character. I really wish I could show more photos of him, and I might do at some point, but he was kind and giving of his time, and had a beautiful smile, which he showed me often.

In post processing, I did apply a Radial Filter to this photograph, to highlight Hidion’s face by darkening the surroundings a little, but otherwise, this is untouched. I might remove that little brown ball in the bottom right corner at some point, but I’m not sure it concerns me enough to bother.

After photographing Hidion in his hut for a while, I went outside, and although I made a few more photographs, I ended up spending a whole lot of time just playing with the children.

One of them, a little boy with a warm coat on and no pants, had a tennis ball, that he through to me. This boy couldn’t have been much more than two years old, with a wonderful snotty nose from the cold, but his smile lit up the entire village.

I was also reminded how amazing children are at mimicking adults to learn languages. A few times I said ‘yey!’ as I threw the tennis ball to him, and after just a few times, he started to say ‘yey’ as he through it back. Next I tried ‘da da-da dattadaah!’ and sure enough, he mimicked me exactly the same as he through the ball back.

Then, two older children came along to join in the game, and I tried to through the ball to each one in turn, yet whenever I threw it to another of the kids, the other two would look hurt, as though I’d done them a huge dis-justice. And of course, as is often the case with kids, this game went on and on. It actually came to an end, as one of them noticed that I had something in my vest pocket, and came over to tap it, and as I mentioned last week, whisper in my ear “water”.

I really felt for this little children, that were happy enough, and enjoyed playing, but the prospect of getting a drink from what they thought was a flask of water in my pocket, not a lens, just trumps any fun that they might have been having. I remember touching their hands and being amazed at just how dry their young skin was. Thankfully though, our visit and the supplies that we bring them in payment, helps these people, as they live hard lives in these desert conditions.

Another way that these Himba village capitalize on visits from groups like ours is to set up little shops to sell us bracelets and other trinkets. I actually have strict orders from home that we don’t need any more souvenirs from the places I visit, so I try to resist, but at this town, I broke down and bought a wooden zebra, as it has a look on its face that I knew my wife wouldn’t be able to resist. It’s now standing beside our TV in the lounge, so my gut feeling panned out this time. It would have been relegated to the desk in my studio if that hadn’t worked out.

After we’d finished buying our souvenirs, the Himba people thanked us again for visiting, and gave us a surprise dance. The Himba dances don’t seem to be as ritualized as you see in some other African countries, but as you can see in this photo (below), they are dynamic and photogenic, so I was thrilled to experience this.

Himba People Dancing

Himba People Dancing

I had started off with a faster shutter speed, freezing the motion as each person came out of the line at the back, to do their dance, basically stomping their feet and kicking up dust, but I wanted to capture that motion in my still photographs, so I reduced my shutter speed to 1/100 of a second, which did the trick. Of course, I have subject movement throughout the lady in the foreground, but the movement comes across more strongly in this image than the faster shutter speeds. I also used an aperture of f/11, so that the people in the row at the back were also relatively sharp at 53mm, and that all gave me an ISO of 200.

In addition to the expression on the dancing ladies face, the thing I really like about this photograph, is that all of the people’s faces are happy, as they enjoy the dance, and I absolutely love the look on the lady to the far right’s face. She seems to be literally creased up with laughter. Again, I have other photos that I’d like to share, but we have to move on for now. I’ll probably put a slideshow together at some point, with some video interwoven as well, as I have so much more to share than the 53 images we’ll have looked at through this five part series.

After this, Jeremy and one of our guides actually went in and started to dance with the group. It really was an amazing cultural experience, that I won’t forget.

After we left the village, we went back to the riverbed of the Hoanib River, where I had my first encounter with wild lions, as we can see in this image (below). These are desert adapted lions, that had just taken down a young giraffe. I must admit, I’m a little disappointed that my first encounter with wild lions wasn’t in more beautiful surroundings, but it was still a very magical experience.

Pride of Desert Lions with Kill

Pride of Desert Lions with Kill

Some of the other photos I have are a little more gruesome. We would come back to this location a number of times over the following three days, and watched this pride strip the giraffe to the bone. Literally, on the third day, all that was left was an almost totally clean rib cage, some legs, and the lower jaw. I won’t describe some of the other photos that I have, but let me just say, that the people making the documentaries that we see on TV must be very careful in what they show us.

I shot this at f/8, with a 1/250 of a second exposure, ISO 2000 at 200mm. The funny thing is, as we tried to drive up the sandy bank as we left this spot, our car got stuck, and we had to get out and dig it out, then push the car until we could free it. Our guide told the ladies to stay in the vehicle, and us men were told not to wander off. It was slightly unnerving to see one of the lions come over towards us a little way, then sit down in some foliage, just watching as we messed around with our Land Rover. I would have been a lot more worried of course, if they didn’t already have a giraffe to feast on. 🙂

The following day, we drove over to a place called Mowe Bay, but due to a miscommunication between our drivers, we thought we were late, so we rushed ahead trying to catch up with the other vehicle, then our driver lost the track, and we ended up totally grounding our land rover on a dirt bank, and spent around an hour getting it off.

It turns out, that the other group were behind us, and we met up before heading over to the coast, to Mowe Bay. The scenery from the vehicle was amazing as we drove over the brightest yellow sand dunes you can imagine, but with the time we’d lost getting grounded, we only had time for a 20 minute lunch by the sea, and then called by a Cape fur seal colony briefly before we had to start driving back to our camp.

Just for the record, here’s a photo of some of the fur seals, that I shot through the window of the Land Rover (below). I waited until the wave in the background started to break, to add an extra element of interest, and tried to find a good place on either side of the frame to cut off the seals, but I’m happy enough with how this turned out. I shot this at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second at ISO 250, and a focal length of 400mm.

Cape Fur Seals at Mowe Bay

Cape Fur Seals at Mowe Bay

Desert Elephant Tugging on Tree

Desert Elephant Tugging on Tree

The next day, August 24, was pretty amazing, as we tracked individual Desert Elephant bulls around the riverbed, and then found a herd of them, which we’ll look at over the next seven images, with one Oryx photo thrown in for good measure.

We stayed with the bull that you can see in this image (right) for about an hour, as he walked, stopping occasionally to feed on the seeds and leaves from the many Ana trees that lined the riverbed.

We were so close to this bull that I had to wait for him to start to curl his trunk a little, so that I could fit him all in the frame at 100mm, the widest I could go with my 100-400mm lens.

I’m going to continue to share the rest of these photos in color, although I think I’ll end up processing some of these into black and white at some point. It’s a hard decision to make though, as although I don’t necessarily like the drab browns, this is the environment that these animals live in, so I also feel that I want to leave the color as it is as well.

We continued to follow this guy, and I have way more photos than I need of him, but I did try to only shoot when something cool was happening, like when he kicked up dust as he walked down a slight embankment, as we see in this image (below).

Desert Elephant Walking Down Embankment

Desert Elephant Walking Down Embankment

We were still quite close to the elephant went I shot this, at 148mm, which is party why his actions were a little bit exaggerated, as a warning to us not to get any closer. It’s not good to cause wild animals to change their actions, but the riverbed is so narrow in places that it’s unavoidable to a degree. Of course, when it get very narrow, and the elephant was on the move, we stayed back to give him the right of way. I shot this at f/9 with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second at ISO 640.

I was amazed at the power of these elephants. As we can see in this photo (below) they sometimes put the bone at the base of their trunks up against the trunk of the Ana tree, and shake the entire tree, to shake down any lose seeds or foliage, which they then walk around and pick up to eat. If you click on the image to view it larger, you can probably just about make out a few of the larger bits falling from the tree just above the elephant. Again, I also like how there is dust pluming up around the elephant’s feet in this photo, which I shot at f/10 for 1/500 of a second with ISO 500, and a focal length 400mm.

Desert Elephant Shaking an Ana Tree

Desert Elephant Shaking an Ana Tree

This next photo just makes me smile (below). I pulled back just a little for this one, to 330mm, to include more of the tree, and put the elephant in his environment, but I love how close together his feet are as he starts to walk towards us. It reminds me of a model and the catwalk, because if you look closely, the left leg is actually crossing over the right leg, like a model does when they are strutting their stuff.

Desert Elephant Poses Under Ana Tree

Desert Elephant Poses Under Ana Tree

I also like the various layers in this image, starting with the tree on the same layer as the elephant, but then there is the sandy bank leading up to the dirt river bank, then the hills in the distance, and then the white sky. Again, I don’t necessarily like the brown tones, but it is what it is, and now, having been home for a few weeks, these photos are starting to become very fond memories from a wonderful trip.

As with my 2013 visit to Namibia, I found myself with many shots of Oryx, just standing there in their environment. However nice the environment sometimes is, I had been hoping for a something more. This very thought was going across my mind as I framed up the Oryx in this next image (below) as he was just standing there look at our vehicle, and then he just took off! Luckily, I already had a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second set, and I always use AI Servo focus mode when I’m shooting wildlife, so I was able to track with him for my first Oryx action photo, with dust kicking up and everything.

Oryx at Full Pelt

Oryx at Full Pelt

Desert Elephant

Desert Elephant

As I said earlier, although we usually stick to ten images per episode, I couldn’t remove any more from today’s selection, so we’ll go on to do two more elephant shots before we finish.

Here we see a different bull from the one we’ve looked at so far (right) from a herd that we were photographing later in the day on August 24.

I quite like this, mainly for the pose. Front-on, and this guy doesn’t have a broken tusk, which is great. I do wish he didn’t have those twigs in his trunk, which would have been a more powerful shot, because it would look like he’s about to charge, not have dinner, but still, I’m happy enough with this shot.

Just look at the size of his feet too! It’s sometimes hard to gauge just how big elephants are from photos, but occasionally when we got out of our vehicles to walk around, we’d see elephant footprints, and they are massive!

I shot this at 1/500 of a second, f/9, ISO 250 at 312mm. Even if the subject isn’t moving around a lot, I generally like to keep the shutter speed around 1/500 when shooting with the 100-400mm lens, so that I can zoom right in to 400mm without worrying too much about camera shake. Of course, you never know when you’re going to need a fast shutter speed either, like with the last Oryx photo, so maintaining a good shutter speed, even faster tan 1/500 of a second if possible, always helps with wildlife photography.

On August 25, we had a long drive to where we’d spend our last night, and after four days of bush camping, with a hole in the ground toilet and a bucket of water hung from a tree as a shower, I was quite looking forward to a nice lodge, but photographically, I don’t have much to share. So we’ll finish with this apt photograph from the end of August 24, which was one of the last photographs I shot before we left the herd of desert elephants behind (below).

Herd of Desert Elephants

Herd of Desert Elephants

In my opinion, elephants are one of the few animals that really lend themselves to the often avoided butt shot. Here we see the herd heading off into the distance. The large brown bull leading the way on the far right, and another bull bringing up the rear, protecting their family as they make their way along the riverbed. As we neared the end of our journey, it felt fitting to watch this herd continue proudly on theirs.

Many people have already asked if I’ll be doing the Namibia tour again next year, and at this point, I’m afraid that I’ve got nothing planned, but Namibia is a magical country, and I will go back at some point. If you would be interested in joining me, sign up for our Tours & Workshops newsletter at https://mbp.ac/news if you don’t already receive this, and you’ll be among the first to know when I make an announcement. If you aren’t sure if you are signed up or not, fill out the form anyway, and you’ll be given a link to modify your profile if it already exists. Also, if you check our Tours & Workshops page, you will always be able to see a current list of tours that we have planned.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this five part series covering the photographs from my Namibia trip with Jeremy Woodhouse. I have very much enjoyed bringing it to you. By the time I release this episode, I’ll actually be on my second week in Iceland, doing my yearly tour there, so assuming I can edit my selects down in time, we’ll start a travelogue series from Iceland from next week, so do stay tuned for that as well.


Show Notes

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


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Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 375)

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 375)

Continuing our travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia, I’ve selected the next ten favorites to take a look at today, and I’ll include a little background and my thought process while shooting. We pick up the trail on the morning of May 17, at the Himba village, that we started to look at photos from last week.

To give you an idea of where the Himba village is, let’s start by taking another look at the map that I included in part one of this series.

Namibia Trip Map

Namibia Trip Map

We started our journey in Winhoek, where you can see the number 35 in the middle of Namibia, and worked our way southward over the first couple of days, and then as we traced our route through part two and three, we’ve gradually worked our way up the country.

The flamingos were where it says 148 about half way up the country on the coast, and then we continued north, with the shipwreck shot where it says 96, and that was also where we shot the seals, that we didn’t look at. Where you can see the number 20, was an old abandoned oil rig, which I got a couple of nice long exposure shots of, and then the 1625 and 861 was were we started to shoot lots of wildlife that we were looking at last week. Otgendunda, is the name of the Himba village that we visited, and this is the furthest north that we went, and you can see it here where it says 228 on this map.

We looked at one shot of some of the Himba children before we finished last week, and I want to look at a couple more shots today too, but I’d like to start today by giving you just a little bit of information on the incredible culture of these proud people.

Festus, our guide, gave us a talk on the Himba people over dinner the night before we visited, to prepare us. I had thought the Himba people were nomadic, but they are only semi-nomadic, sometimes spending time away from their homestead to find good grazing ground for their goats and cattle.

The homestead is surrounded by a fence made of tree branches and sticks, and inside is a circular corral. This corral we were told is where the ancestors remains are buried, but also where the livestock are kept. In the Himba belief system, the livestock are closely links to their ancestors in the corral. There is also a circle of stones about 10 meters from the front of the corral with an ancestral fire that is kept burning by the fire-keeper. We were told that under no circumstances should we walk between the fire and the corral entrance. When we asked what the punishment for doing this is, we were told, “just don’t walk across that line”.

Young Himba Man

Young Himba Man

The Himba women wear their hair in two plaits and the men wear one plait, as we can just about see in this first photo of a young Himba man. We had many of the subjects sit in the door of their huts, as the light was way too harsh outside for flattering or artistic photos. I shot this with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, with an aperture of f/3.5 for 1/60 of a second, at ISO 400. I used a wide aperture because I wanted the focus clearly on the face but the rest of the man’s body is slightly soft.

I also reduced the blacks slider in Lightroom to -40 for this shot, because I wanted to plug up the dark background a little more. Here we can only really see the center pillar of the hut, but without this modification, there is just a little more clutter inside that didn’t really help the shot.

That was after we’d had them move a few water containers etc. as well. They were incredibly accommodating, and even broke into a smile for us every so often. I found the best photos were when they weren’t smiling though. Although they have beautiful smiles, there initial pose is always with a very serious, almost sullen look, so most of the photos I chose were with this look.

I was kind of surprised to see the Himba wearing plastic beads, but after our few hours of photography, when they broke out their craft market, we’d see that they use all sorts of modern material in their crafts, as well as traditional material. I guess for me this just reinforced how well these people are holding on to their rich culture.

They are surrounded by and exposed to western culture and materials all the time, but they choose to maintain their own values and way of life, which I applaud. On a very different scale, this is actually one of the things I like so much about Japan. They have taken on many western ideas and values, and yet you still see lots of tradition everywhere, on a daily basis, and this makes life a richer, fuller experience in my opinion.

Uapahongua - Young Himba Woman

Uapahongua – Young Himba Woman

This next photo of Uapahongua, a young Himba woman, was shot in the same doorway as the young man we just looked at. I think they were brother and sister, but I’m not sure. Another interesting factoid from Festus is that the Himba are not monogamous. The men will often marry up multiple wives. The guy that was helping with our visit and spoke really good English introduced us to his three wives.

What I though was even more interesting, is that, in Festus’ words, “affairs are tolerated”, so families can include brothers and sisters from multiple mothers, and although this usually centers around one father, because affairs are tolerated, there is no saying that he is actually the father of all the siblings.

We also heard were that most marriage partners are decided by the Uncle of the children. There are virtually no marriages where the couple choose each other. It’s always the uncle that decides.

Again, I shot this photo with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at f/5.6 at ISO 800, for a 1/60 of a second. I chose a deeper depth of field for this photo so that we can see better detail in all the decoration that the woman wear, honestly. Apparently the shell that the women wear means that they are eligible for or actually married.

The orange color on their skin is because they grind ochre stones and mix the powder with a type of butter fat, and smear that on their skin. This is both to protect the skin from the harsh sun, and for cosmetic reasons. From the decorations to the extensions in their hair, which as you can see here is also covered in ochre clay, the Himba women are very particular about how they look. After every photo Uapahongua here would ask to see the back of the camera, and then nod with approval if she liked what she saw.

We also heard that the Himba never bathe, which is pretty incredible when you consider the heat in which they live. The women actually sit in smoke huts, and smoke themselves as a way to keep clean. When we set off from their homestead, we actually two women with a child each about 10 kilometers down the road, to a place where they would travel in another direction to a hospital, as the children were sick. It was quite a surreal experience to be sitting in a safari vehicle with two Himba women and children on board, but I have to say, despite them not bathing, they actually smelled pretty good. The mixture of the butter fat and the smoky smell gave them an earthy aroma that was in no way displeasing.

We had lunch under a tree at the side of an almost dried up river on this day, and then spent the afternoon tracking lions that we would not find. The following morning, as we left the lodge and pulled onto the large gravel road running through the area, something large darted across the road in the car lights, and Festus our trusty guide, immediately recognized it as a cheetah. When Festus saw something like this he was incredibly gutsy with his off-roading. Within seconds we were being tossed around as we navigated the basalt boulders strewn evenly across all terrain in this area that had not been cleared as a road.

It was still dark, but the car lights provided enough light for us to be able to make out a mother cheetah and her three almost full grown cubs. I started with my ISO set at 25600, and was able to get a few shots. If that was all I got, I’d have missed the opportunity, because it was still way too dark, even with the ISO cranked up that high. The image was being recorded on the left side of the histogram, which meant it was grainy as hell. Even at 25600 though, as the light got up, the grain became much less of a problem, and the images would have been usable, again, if that is all that I got.

By the time I shot this image though, the light had increased to the point where I could drop my ISO down a stop to 12800, and I was now exposing to the right, so the amount of grain recorded was very manageable. Apart from adding +40 on the Clarity slider in Lightroom, this shot is straight out of the camera. We see one of the cubs sitting in front of a euphorbia bush, looking quite relaxed. This was shot with the 300mm f/2.8 lens with a 2X Extender fitted, giving me 600mm.

Relaxed Cheetah

Relaxed Cheetah

The aperture was set to f/6.3, so stopped down just a third from wide open, and the shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. We had raised the roof panel of the safari vehicle and were resting on the roof for stabilization. I had a bean bag with me, but no-one actually filled them. The vehicles were fine to just rest the lenses on our hands, and we weren’t doing enough wildlife work to make this tiring or uncomfortable.

This next shot was just a few minutes later. I called it “Stalking Cheetah” but that’s really just artistic license. The only thing this cheetah was stalking was it’s brother or sister. The sun was coming up, and I’d changed my settings to f/5.6 for 1/160 of a second, which is basically the same exposure value, but a little hazy cloud had covered the sun, so I increased the exposure of this by 0.1 in Lighroom. Because I was still over the right on the histogram though, this shot is still very acceptable on the grain front, and I like the pose, so I was happy to be able to include it in my selection.

Stalking Cheetah

Stalking Cheetah

We watched the cubs playing, and although I got more shots, these were probably my favorites. I will probably end up picking something else out later though, as I revisit my images in another six months or so, to see what I missed.

Mukaandora - Himba Girl

Mukaandora – Himba Girl

We were out tracking lions and elephants again, and the cheetahs were a lucky bonus. Once they’d headed off down the valley, we pulled back out onto the main road, and literally within a few more minutes, a leopard darted across the road in front of us, but this time he was too illusive. We saw where he went, but we weren’t able to find him again.

As we started heading back to the lodge for breakfast, we saw a small hut on a hill, with some Himba women sitting outside, so we decided to go and see if we could photograph them. Festus negotiated with them so that we could do so. Whether you agree with this or not, the thing to do apparently is to just pay them. The village we visited the previous day were paid a small amount, and given food provisions for their time. This group got fifty Namibian dollars, which is about $5 US. We photographed them all, for about 40 minutes, and after a while I set up this shot of a young girl named Mukaandora, looking out across her land.

I like this because it shows the decorative hair extensions, and the pelt that the the Himba women wear, almost like a skirt, but just at the back. Mukaandora did not have a shell on her chest, as she was too young to be eligible for marriage. They told us she was only 10 years old, but we reckon they’d lost count somewhere along the way.

An interesting experience here was that as we were leaving, one of the women started to complain about something. I asked Festus what the problem was, and he told me that she had not been part of the original negotiation, and wanted paying for having her photo taken. I hadn’t even taken her photo, but asked how much would be appropriate, and Festus told me $20 Namibian would be plenty, so I gave her a $20 note. This is like $2 US, so not a big deal for me, but the look on her face changed instantly. She snapped the note out between her two hands, clapped with it on her palm a few times, then started clapping at having received the money. I don’t think as tourists we should spoil the locals with large sums of money, and this is why we agreed at the start of the trip that all of these kind of negotiations would go through the guides, Festus and Jeremiah. They don’t want to spoil their people any more than we do, so I was happy with the amount, and if I can make someone that happy with $2, I’m happy too.

Later this day, we drove about 50k south, to our next lodge, on the rim of the Etendeka Plateau looking out across the Klip River Valley. In the afternoon we went out for a game drive around the basalt rock strewn plateau, but the main reason we were here was to track black rhino the following day.

After descending the steep road from the lodge down into the valley, we were immediately faced with three magnificent elephants. The foreground foliage actually made it difficult to get a nice shot, but here’s one that I quite like, of a large bull. This is the only elephant shot that I didn’t feel compelled to convert into sepia, because I quite like the sandy tones  here, and the greens don’t get in the way too much.

African Elephant

African Elephant

This was shot with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with the 2X Extender, wide open at f/5.6 for 1/500 of a second at ISO 400. While shooting this, there was actually another elephant much closer to our right, but the foliage was really spoiling the shot.

As we stopped for lunch in the shade of a large tree again, three boys sped past on their Damara Ferrari. This was the tour leader Jeremy Woodhouse’s term for the carts that we saw quite often here, that were made of old car axels, and pulled usually by donkeys. Damara was the name of the area that we were in. Earlier in the trip they’d been Kalahari Ferraris.

After lunch, we caught them up, and asked them to wait as we set up a little further down the road to photograph them from the front as they rode past. This is one of my resulting photographs. We also shot some of them speeding down a hill a little further along, but one of our local guides decided that it would be dangerous for them to do that alone, and jumped on the cart with them to help them steer, which kind of spoiled the shot. It was a better action shot, but I think I prefer this one, with the boy in the center smiling broadly as they head towards us.

Three Boys on Damara Ferrari

Three Boys on Their Damara Ferrari

For this I stopped down to f/8 to get a deeper depth of field, and selected a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second, at ISO 125. The boys aren’t quite in the depth of field here, as I focused on the donkeys, but they’re sharp enough to make this photo work I think. I’d prefer them to be a little soft than get too much of the background in focus, so I’m happy with the decision to go with f/8 for this shot.

We’d spend the entire day, literally around 10 hours of driving on the incredibly bumpy basalt tracks, and although it was enjoyable, we almost didn’t see any black rhino at all, but then, way past the time were were supposed to be back at the lodge, the guides from the lodge climbed a hill, and located two black rhino down-wind of us. The rhino apparently have terrible eyesight, but a very good sense of smell, and because we were down-wind, once they’d smelled us, they ran out of the valley where they were, further down into the valley, and we were able to get a few quick shots as they passed us on the other side of the valley wall.

Two Black Rhino

Two Black Rhino

I did opt for a sepia toned image here again, as the color was getting in the way, but this is more of a trophy shot that something I’m really happy with. Again shot with the 70-200 with the 2X Extender, at f/8 for 1/250 of a second at ISO 400. I actually wished I’d gone to ISO 800 for a faster shutter speed because these guys were moving pretty fast, but the movement was adequately frozen, so I got away with it. I also of course wished I’d taken my 300mm lens, but we’d been told to bring just one lens, as there wouldn’t be room for more, though that turned out not to be true. I could have placed a second lens on the seat next to me, so I was kicking myself for not just bringing it, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk as they say.

After the rhino, we started to head out of the reserve, but we were still a good way from camp. Almost an hour and a half later, still driving out of the reserve, we came across the same heard of elephants we’d seen on our way in, and they were still eating very close to where we’d seen them in the morning. I’d love to finish with this shot today, but to keep the images in chronological order, here’s one of my favorite shots of an elephant’s ass.

Elephant's Ass

Elephant’s Ass

The light was dropping, so I increased the ISO to 1600 for this, at f/5.6 for 1/200 of a second. I converted to this sepia tone in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, and added just a touch of additional structure on the elephant to accentuate the wrinkles in the skin, which I think is a wonderful feature of these magnificent animals. It might not be that obvious to shoot a butt shot like this, but I think they’re really effective, and I actually prefer this to this next shot, of an elephant from the side.

Elephant's Curly Trunk

Elephant’s Curly Trunk

I like this because of the shape of the trunk as the elephant fed, and I’d included a bit more of the environment here. I ended up not choosing an even wide shot that I took of these, with some sky in as well, as I’ve switch around again to prefer these more intimate images, but I do like to have the surrounding in like this. Here by the way, I’d increased the ISO again to 2000, still at f/5.6 for 1/200 of a second.

The day after this, we would have another long drive to a place called Okonjima, where we’d shoot cheetah and leopard for the last few days of the tour. this is where you can see the number 995 on the map, just above the capital of Windhoek, where it says 35, right there in the middle of Namibia. I’ve selected 10 more photos from those last few days though, so we’ll conclude this travelogue series with one last episode, number five, next week. Remember that if you would like to see all of the images that I selected from this trip, you can see them on my Portfolios page here https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/.


Show Notes

Martin’s 100 Impressions of Namibia: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/

Music used with kind permission from the staff of the Kulala Desert Lodge.


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 374)

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 374)

Continuing our travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia, I’ve selected the next ten favorites to take a look at today, and I’ll include a little background and my thought process while shooting. We pick up the trail on the morning of May 14, as we started to drive away from the Sossusvlei area.

As we crossed the riverbed, dry from lack of rain this year, the sun was almost on the horizon, and we stopped for one last sunrise in this beautiful area. If you follow my work, you’ll know that I’m not much of a sunrise person. Not because they’re early, I’m usually out and about while it’s still dark when on tours like this, but they just don’t do a lot for me unless there is something of interest that I can put in the foreground, and for this shot, I really liked the silhouette of this large tree by the river.

Balloon Sunrise

Balloon Sunrise

As I adjusted my composition, placing the sun in the space there on the left, framed by the branches of the tree, I noticed the balloon in the distance, probably the same balloon that I was due to be riding in the previous morning, before I changed my plans to go back to Deadvlei. I gave the balloon a second or two to be in a nice position framed by the trees to the right, then shot a few more frames, of which this is my favorite.

In my normal life, I am not up before dawn, and when long evening meals keep me out of my bed for longer than I’d usually like, I often don’t relish the thought of getting up at 4am or whatever while traveling either, but once I’m up, and when I look back on the fruits of a tour like this, I am always happy and feel fortunate to have watched the sun rise as we do. There’s something very special about watching a day start, and then using every hour to the full, until the sun goes down again.

A note on exposure before we move on, when shooting the sun, at sunrise or sunset, I generally expose so that the sun’s disk is just over-exposed but the area around it is not. The sun is so bright that if you adjust your exposure to the point that the sun is also well exposed, it looks a little unnatural. We can’t look directly at the sun with our naked eyes, without damaging them that is, so for a silhouette like this, I think overexposing the sun a little is fine. If I needed foreground detail, I might consider an HDR, but that doesn’t really appeal to me either. When I’m looking into a sun like this, I am just not able to study all the foreground detail without shielding my eyes from the sun, so I leave my photos like that too.

Another thing to note is that I generally use Live View too, rather than looking through the viewfinder. The sun is magnified through the lens, and can seriously damage your eyes if you look at it directly, so although I’ve done this, and will glance quickly if necessary, it’s always best to use Live View, to protect your eyes, and using Live View helps with composition etc. anyway, so it’s always nice to use.

A few hours into our long drive to Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast, we saw a small group of Springbok at the side of the road, and as we stopped our car, one of them started to pronk, which is when they jump and hang in the air for a while. They do this in self-defense when they feel threatened apparently, so they’re usually running away from you when the do it, but I was happy to catch this springbok in the center of the frame here at full pronk.

Springbok at Full Pronk

Springbok at Full Pronk

Luckily I’d already got my 300mm lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted and ready, and I’d also been setting exposure so that when something like this happened, I’d be ready, so although this was a split second shot, I was ready for it, and it worked out.

After a long drive, as we passed through the town of Walvis Bay, we had a brief stop at a flamingo colony. I put the 2X Extender on the 300mm, and jumped straight into bird photographer mode. I was desperate to get something that I liked in the short time we had, and was happy to see that there were a lot of small groups of flamingo flying in and out of the area.

Flamingo Flyby

Flamingo Flyby

In this shot, I captured two of them as they flew right in front of me with the flock in the background, which I thought was quite effective. I also got a few others in small groups against the white overcast sky, which are OK, but this is by far my favorite. There was actually a third flamingo just coming into the frame at the bottom, but he was too close to include fully, so I cropped this to a 16:9 aspect ratio to get rid of him.

We still had some ground to cover though, so it was back to the cars, and we made our way, stopping just once more in the last few minutes of light to capture this shipwreck, maybe 40km outside of Cape Cross. I love doing long exposures of the sea, and it always works well if you have a static object to anchor the image visually, like this.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck

This was shot with the 70-200mm at 115mm, f/11 for a 60 second exposure. Because my Canon cameras only go to 30 seconds in Manual, I switched to Bulb mode and used my Remote Time cable release to time the 60 seconds. Because I usually work in Live View for landscape and still life shots, I often use the 2 second timer instead of mirror lockup, because you’re basically in mirror lockup anyway when using Live View, so I generally just set my remote timer to two seconds longer than I need the exposure. Here it was at 62 seconds, giving me the 60 second exposure I needed. Of course I use the two seconds to get my hands away from the camera, to allow any camera shake that I might introduce die down before the exposure starts.

Note too that here I left the edge of the shoreline along the bottom of the frame, to anchor the image. It might have worked without this, but I think it adds to the story to let the viewer see that this ship is aground not far from the shore. I did a couple of other shots straight after this, but the light faded so fast that the following shots, even doubling the exposure, really weren’t as nice as the first, so this is the one I went with.

The following morning, we spent a few hours at the seal colony at Cape Cross, but although I included a couple of seal portraits in my final selection of images, they didn’t do much for me, especially compared to the seals I’ve shot in Antarctica, so we’ll skip them today. By the afternoon, we’d made our way to northern Damaraland and to the Palmwag Lodge, where we’d spend three nights, and get to visit the Himba people, which was one of the highlights of the tour.

More to show you the terrain than the wildlife, this shot of a small group of zebras shows the basalt rock that evenly covered pretty much all of the open ground in this area. We’d do game drives out here a number of times, and sometimes we’d see zebra and oryx running on this stuff, which never failed to amaze me.

Zebras and Euphorbia Bush

Zebras and Euphorbia Bush

Something else to note here is that the Euphorbia bush that we see behind the zebra here is apparently quite poisonous. The sap causes blisters on contact with the skin, and if it gets into your nervous system can kill you, so whenever we drove close enough for this stuff to brush against the side of the car, and possibly rupture, we closed the windows. It’s one of the favorite foods of the Rhino though. Apparently are able to digest the poison without any problems.

There were a few shots that I would have loved to get on this trip, including a closeup of an ostrich, which never happened, despite us seeing many of them. The other was a pair of zebra close enough to just get an almost abstract shot of their black and white stripes, but with their being no waterholes due to the lack of rain this year, the animals were usually just grazing, and never preoccupied enough to stop them from running away as soon as they saw us.

Curious Zebra

Curious Zebra

One of the few times when a zebra did take more than a few seconds to bolt off, was this one that regarded our vehicle for a while, before turning around and walking down behind the hill on which he was standing. This was from the following morning, May 16, and I actually quite like this, with the zebra in the shade, but with the background in full sun, providing a nice bright backdrop, but without the harsh light hitting the main subject.

This was also shot with the 300mm f/2.8 and the 2X Extender. If you are wondering about image quality with this combination, I can tell you that it works great with the 1D X, but not so good with the 5D Mark III, because the 5D is higher resolution, and basically out-resolves the glass. Lenses, or lens and extender combinations can only resolve light down to a finite point, often called the circle of confusion, and if the size of that point of light is the same or smaller than the size of the pixels or photodiodes on the sensor, the image will be sharp. If that point of light is larger than the photodiodes, which it is on the 5D Mark III, the image starts to look soft because the light spills over into the surrounding pixels. For this reason, whenever I needed to use the 300mm with the 2X Extender, I made sure I used it with the 1D X instead of the 5D.

We’d been tracking Lions that we wouldn’t see, but later that morning, as we were about as far as we could go before we had to go back to the lodge for lunch, we came across a large group of Chacma Baboons. They were on the other side of a gorge, which provided enough distance and security that a few of them came over to the edge and just sat looking at us, like this one, in an incredibly human pose.

Sitting Chacma Baboon

Sitting Chacma Baboon

I never cease to be amazed at how much like us monkeys are, and this is no exception. He just walked up, and sat down almost like he was about to have a cigarette, or even pull out a cell phone and start to call a friend or check his email. The light was harsh at this point, shortly after 11am, so I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom to just brush in an extra two stops of Exposure around the eyes here. Otherwise they would just be dark pits, and you couldn’t see the eyes at all.

Because I shoot to the right though, meaning that the data in the histogram is almost touching the right shoulder, I can increase by around two stops without introduce any grain. Had I exposed this according to the camera’s meter, it would have been much darker and I’d have gotten a lot of grain around the eyes as I tried to brighten them. I may not have even been able to brighten them if the dark detail was totally lost in the shadows.

As we got close to the lodge on the way back for lunch, we found some elephant droppings and tracked them to an elephant eating some fresh grass just behind our lodge. We got really close, but he was so busy eating that he just didn’t look up enough for us to get a decent photo. Then, after lunch, I was amazed to find a second elephant feeding and drinking at the waterhole right behind my room at the lodge, as we can see in this photo.

Elephant at Waterhole

Elephant at Waterhole

This was still shot at 420mm, the 300mm with a 1.4X extender fitted, but he was close enough for me to have to walk back a few paces to get him in the frame like this. In hind-sight, I wish I’d take the extender off, and show him in his environment a little more, as it was a beautiful waterhole. Sometimes the surrounds are as important as the subject, but when confronted with a beautiful animal like this, it’s difficult to pull back. I learned from this though, and fixed it later in the trip. Of course, sometimes I love to get in really close too, and just fill the frame with a part of the animal, but I didn’t have the lens power to do that on this trip.

I had wanted to avoid making sepia toned images on this trip, because I didn’t want to appear to be copying the beautiful work of Nick Brandt, which I of course don’t even come close to, but as much as I tried to like the straight black and white shots of elephants that I was processing, I just couldn’t live with them. I found the dull coloring of elephants was easily outshone by bright greenery around them, so wanted to convert to monotone, but I ended up giving in and working in sepia for all but one of my elephant shots and a couple of black rhino shots that we’ll look at probably next week or the week after. I only left one elephant shot in color, because it felt better than monotone.

Another incredible animal that I’d see in the flesh for the first time on this day was the Giraffe. We’d see more, and get really close to some of them later in the trip, but my first view of a giraffe in the wild was magical. It almost felt like the scene in Jurassic Park as brontosaurus and other dinosaurs roamed across a plain. These animals are mostly really composed, and walk so slowly and deliberately, towering over much of the vegetation, that the hair on the back of my head stood up as I framed and photographed this beautiful animal.

Giraffe Profile

Giraffe Profile

I’d get more giraffe shots as I say, but this is one of my favorites, as it gives a bit of a sense of scale, and also shows the surroundings. I was conscious not to crop that tree in the top right too, as I felt that needed to be there to balance the top part of the image. It would have felt awkward if that was cropped partway. It’s often difficult when faced with something as magnificent as this though. Like with the last elephant shot, it’s all too easy to just get caught up in the excitement of the moment, and forget about composition etc. but allowing that to happen all the time would leave you with nothing to show, despite all of your amazing experiences. I had to pinch myself many times on this trip, especially now we were seeing more wildlife.

Himba Children

Himba Children

On the morning of May 17 though, we’d break from the wildlife, for a highly cultural experience as we visited the Himba people. To close with though, here is a taste of that visit, with one of my first shots of some small children in the village.

We arrived shortly after dawn, and started to break off into small groups, to pose and work with the people of the village. Some shots were more posed than others, and although I’d rounded a few kids up for this one, the really small children couldn’t really be controlled, so I started to shoot what I could as they walked around.

As you can see in their eyes, this small one was a little bit bewildered, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, but the larger child was having a bit of fun with it. I just love this little one’s beautiful big eyes though, which as you might expect, contain the reflection of a large daunting photographer and the blue sky behind him.

In the most part, we had the subjects to move into the shade, because even at 7:30am, the sunlight was already very harsh and contrasty. I used my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for the whole morning, and really did have a wonderful time with these people.

We’ll look at more photos next week, as I try to wrap this up with the last ten shots, although it might run into a five part series, because there’s still a lot to show you. Remember though, I do have my favorite Impressions of Namibia posted on my Portfolios web site, if you’d like to take a look at that rather than waiting for the last episode or two.


Show Notes

Martin’s Impressions of Namibia: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/

Music used with kind permission from the staff of the Kulala Desert Lodge.


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.