OK, so by the end of the previous episode I’d selected three sets of ten images from just over half of a total 320 images I selected from this year’s amazing Complete Namibia Tour. Today, with slightly under half of my selection left, I was going to try to select just ten more, but after a very picky look through my remaining images, I have 25 that I’d still like to talk about, so I’m going to whittle that down to twenty and do one more episode after this to finalize the series. It was such a productive trip, so this is a nice position to be in, and I hope you continue to enjoy joining me on my travels via the Podcast.
We pick up the trail as we made our first visit to the Himba village, where I found that the girl I’ve been photographing over the years was not there. She’d be 18 years old now, and I was looking forward to meeting her again, and was ultimately hoping to get a photo of her with her first baby at some point, but at least for this visit, it wasn’t to be. We did talk with the people that were there and will try to get her back for our next visit, but only if it isn’t too much trouble. The Himba haven’t been getting so many visits due to the pandemic, so there were a number of things that happened during our two visits, one at the start of this day, and one towards the end.
The first thing that I noticed was that the Himba did not seem to get tired of our presence. Usually, after we’ve been there for a few hours, they set up a shop, with most of the women and children in the village forming a circle, and sell bracelets, bowls, baskets, dolls, and other ornaments. Buying these things is one of a number of ways that we pay them back, but it’s also, in the past, been a sign to us that they are ready for us to leave. On this visit, they didn’t set the store up until I felt that the group and I were running out of things to do, so I asked them if they were going to set up their shop, through our guide of course. My understanding of the Himba language stretches to around five or six words, so I rely on our guide heavily for communication.
The other thing that happened was that we met the elder of the group for the first time when we went back in the evening. We don’t usually see many men, but the elder was sitting on a chair near the entrance to the outer corral and was surrounded by many young to middle-aged men. They asked to see my photos from previous visits, so we spent ten minutes or so looking through my photos of them. It was lovely to see their reactions as members of their group that had moved away appeared on my iPhone screen. I was also interested to find that they knew many of the people from the group that lives near the foot of a mountain near Puros, a few hours by car to the northeast from their village.
We were also thanked by the elder for taking so many provisions for them, and he asked our guide to make a note of what he’d brought along for them, and to spread the word that this is the amount of stuff they’d like when people visit. I was amazed to hear that some people turn up, take photos, and leave without giving them any provisions. An exchange like this has to be mutually beneficial, or it becomes tiresome for the people in the village. And for those that turn up and think that paying $10 for a doll will make up for spending one or two hours there, it’s really not. Let’s help people out a little more than that.
Anyway, to the photos… One of my first shots was this image of four Himba children in the back of a truck. This was only the back of the truck, just sitting in the dust, but it was a nice toy for the kids. I found it ironic that the boy in the center of the frame had a key around his neck, as though he was going to be letting himself in when he got home from school. The irony comes from the fact that none of their huts have doors, let alone a lock with a keyhole, so this was purely an accessory, which I thought was a nice touch.
By the way, if you are new to the Podcast and wondering how to see the images, note that they are embedded in the audio file, and applications like Overcast or the Apple Podcasts app will automatically display the images for you as the audio progresses. There is a page under the Posts menu with the title Viewing Podcast Images that has more information. Note too that you can simply type mbp.ac with a slash then the episode number to jump to the post for each episode, so you can see the gallery for this post at https://mbp.ac/783. If you support us on Patreon for just $3/month or more you can also see the full manuscript, and supporters for $10 per month also get a beautifully laid out eBook of each post, that can be downloaded for reading offline and it contains 4K resolution images.
We took a number of the Himba people inside one of their huts to photograph them and at one time had a mother and child inside, giving me the opportunity to get this next photograph of the child lit by the beautiful light from the hut door. Note that I actually use a few layers to darken down the background to almost completely black and feather in the shadow manually with the brush in Capture One Pro. To illustrate this, I’m including the finished image alongside the original image straight out of the camera and included the Capture One Pro interface so that you can also see some of the settings.
If you listened to the episode I did before leaving for Namibia, you might recall that I was planning to take my 50mm ƒ/1.2 lens along with me for these portraits, but I actually ended up leaving it at home, because my bag had simply started to get too heavy, and I was fine with shooting at ƒ/4 with my 24-105mm lens. It’s also nice to be able to zoom in and out as well, especially with kids, because they run around all over the place, making it difficult to frame them well with a prime lens. You can see that I shot this wide open at ƒ/4, with a focal length of 88mm and a 1/160 second shutter speed, at ISO 4000.
Next up, meet Tjiringa, a young Himba girl who I think may turn into my new project if we can’t get Makihoro back in the next few years. Tjiringa is very animated and can grimace as freely as she can smile, so it’s fun to photograph her, and I like the results. I zoomed all the way into 105mm for this, as she was sitting further away than the child in the previous shot. Although I do like a shot that I have of her from the doorway, I really like the serious, almost stern look on her face in this image, so it became my preferred image to share. So that you can see just the previous image as well, I’ll put both of these in together below.
I did, of course, process the photo of this little girl the same as the photo of the small child, using multiple layers to gradually darken the background, and draw attention to the subject’s face. This also simply removes the background, which I often find somewhat distracting.
As I mentioned earlier, we came back to the Himba village later in the day, to photograph the Himba bringing their goats back into the inner corral, and here is a photograph of them doing just that. In fact, this was one of the times when they were taking the goats back out again, and would then drive them back in for me and my group to photograph them once more. I just found this view, with the four ladies in full traditional dress, to be so fascinating, that I couldn’t help grabbing a few extra frames.
Following that, I got this next image which was probably my favorite of the session, with the sunlight catching the goat-dung dust through the wooden sticks that form the inner corral, and the ladies with their few children walking behind the herd again. There was a very relaxed mood, even when we had them do this a third time to increase our photographic opportunities, and one of the ladies thanked us for coming twice and spending so much time with them. I’m completely humbled by that, and as I have mentioned before, I’m so happy that we are able to have such valuable cultural experiences and exchanges on this tour.
The day after we visited the Himba people, we drove through the morning to arrive at our camp just outside the Etosha National Park, where we’d have lunch, and spend the next two nights. After lunch, we did one of their game drives, which I know to have a pretty good chance of seeing the subject of this next image, the amazing White Rhino. The last time I was here the owners of the lodge had bought a truckload of grass to feed the elephants and rhinos with because the drought had pretty much stripped the park bare. This meant that all of the rhinos were concentrated in a small area with the elephants, and that provided some unique opportunities, but it was so nice to see these magnificent animals simply reaching down for a mouthful of that beautiful golden grass.
We also had a few encounters with their lions, but the line of sight was very poor through the trees, so we only got a few shots as this male lion lifted his head reluctantly for a few seconds, before flopping back down to go back to sleep. The top left corner of this shot was very noisy, with heavily textured grass, catching the sunlight through the trees, and the right top corner was just grey dust, so the entire background was a source of annoyance. Because of that, I used a similar technique to that which I use to darken down the background of the Himba, but this was more difficult as the hair is really difficult to fade into the manufactured shadows. I think I made a relatively good job of it, but feel I’d like to revisit this again when I get more time.
I was also very tempted to convert this to black and white, as I enjoy that aesthetic, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out these beautiful golden colors from the last minutes of the day, and it also looked too much like the work of my friend Christian Meermann. I’m fine with work looking similar to others, especially that kind of processing, as I’ve been doing similar processing on flowers and other subjects for many years, but in my mind, Christian owns the high contrast black and white lion space, so I decided to stay away for now.
The following day was spent inside the Etosha National Park. Not exactly big game, we spent a few minutes photographing these ground squirrels, which I thought were hilarious with their bot-bellies and that huge belly button. I have some hand-held video of these guys as well that I will include a few seconds in the slideshow I’m going to make soon, so stay tuned for that.
We also saw a black-backed jackal eating a snake, which I shot with my 1.4X Extender fitted to the 100-500mm lens, and still had to crop this to about half of the actual image size, but I’m pretty happy to have this. It’s a young jackal, so he did well to catch this snake. It took him a total of around 20 to 30 seconds to eat the snake, so I’d say he was happy for the meal.
Ten minutes later, we found a black rhino on his way to the waterhole. I know this is common knowledge, but if you’ve never heard how to tell the difference between a black and white rhino, here goes. If you look at the photo of the white rhino that I shared earlier, you’ll see that it has a very wide mouth for grazing, and the word White actually simply came from someone mishearing the work Wide, for the wide-mouthed rhino. The black rhino although markedly smaller, is about the same color, but it has a pointed mouth, using for browsing as opposed to grazing. He was apparently given the name black rhino simply to differentiate it from the wrongly name white rhino. True story.
And, as the sun went down on our second day at the Etosha National Park, we reached our ten images, so we’ll wrap it up there for this episode. We will finalize this series next week, but our final ten images, from our last two days in Etosha.
This week we continue our journey around Namibia, as we leave Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, and head north, to Walvis Bay, then on to the wonderful Himba people near Sesfontein further north still.
Before we continue with this travelogue, I’d like to mention that for many years, on request from a number of listeners, I have been calling out my camera settings with most of the images that I share, but over the last few days, I’ve implemented a new Lightbox plugin on my website that enables me to share the shooting information automatically with all images that include that information. I know that this won’t help if you are only listening, so I will continue to call out these settings when it is important to understand a technique or why the image is the way it is, but when it’s not so important, I’m not going to call this out any more moving forward.
So, if you ever look at one of the images that I’m talking about and wonder what the settings were, please just click on them to open up the Lightbox, and the information should be there. Because I have been consciously ensuring that this information is embedded in my images since I started the podcast in 2005, this new Lightbox seems to be successfully displaying the settings from the very start, so this change brings new information to pretty much every image I’ve ever uploaded.
Walvis Bay Flamingoes
Also, keep in mind that posts are always available with a short-link using the episode number, so to see the shooting information for the images we’ll talk about today, for example, you’ll need to go to https://mbp.ac/668. We’re going to start with a couple of shots from Walvis Bay, as the sun dropped low in the sky over the South Atlantic Ocean. I needed a fast shutter speed of 1/5000 of a second to keep the incredibly bright water in check for these shots, but I like the effect with the flamingoes silhouetted against the glistening water.
I’m a little bit disappointed that there was a third flamingo overlapping with the two that did a courtship dance, but I only saw them do this once, and that third guy wasn’t going anywhere, so I guess I have to store this one away in my pile of shots that I know I can do better, given enough opportunities. I think that’s how we get better though. If everything just worked out perfectly every time we raised the camera, photography would be a pretty boring pursuit.
I’m occasionally teased on my workshops for saying that I’m not a sunset person, or sunrise person, and I guess I should actually try to find a way to word it better to avoid confusion, but the longer version is, that I find just a sunset, or just a sunrise, with no additional elements of interest in the frame, to be incredibly boring. If however, there is something that can be included to add to the interest of the image, I will still shoot a sunset or sunrise on occasion, and this photo is one such occasion.
As the sun reached the horizon, me and a number of my participants were searching along the beach for some flamingoes that would add interest, and hopefully lift their heads up, but on this first of our two evenings to try this, it didn’t really happen. I also needed to be closer to the surface of the water too, but without a head up high, I preferred this shot, with the flamingoes walking along in the water, looking for a suitable spot to spend the night. Once again, I was left wanting more, but that’s what makes this so fun and challenging, and I do like this second shot a lot as well, although it’s always nice to aim higher.
Flamingoes in the Mist
Having talked so much about the Cranes in the Mist that I shoot during my Hokkaido Winter Wildlife Tours, it almost feels like I’m cheating by mentioning Flamingoes in the Mist, but this is exactly what we were treated to the following morning while we were in Walvis Bay, as you can see in this next image. The morning mist softened the light beautifully, almost like the flamingoes were sitting in a huge soft box for us. Of course, mist doesn’t hang around if there is any wind, so the surface of the water was also very smooth, giving us some very nice reflections. It wasn’t mill-pond smooth, but for the Atlantic Ocean, it was pretty close, and probably the smoothest I’ve seen it at this spot, so this was a very nice bonus for me and the group.
I had to chuckle to myself as well because our local driver and guide had been concerned as we talked about Walvis Day in one of our planning discussions because he thought the mist would cause us problems. Even though he understands photographers’ needs, I think people often fail to understand how much of a blessing a bit of mist can be photographically. Of course, a few years ago, it would indeed have been more of a problem, because even at f/8 I had to crank up my ISO to 3200 to get this shot, and even though I’m using my Expose to the Right techniques to keep the grain down, ISO 3200 would have been a problem until a few generations of cameras ago.
As we started to photograph in the mist, I honestly thought it would burn off quickly as the sun rose, but it hung around for a few hours, giving us countless opportunities, including some flamingo fly-ins in the mist, but I’ll save those shots for another time, so that we can keep the pace going.
Flamingoes with Rectangular Sun
This next shot is also an almost there image, as I’d wished that I could have gotten at least one flamingo with its head up into the sun’s disk, but this is as good as it got for me, as we photographed them at sunset on our second day in Walvis Bay. I was envious of one of my guests that did indeed get a head against the sun’s disk, but that’s how it goes. We can’t win them all, and of course, for me, my guests getting great shots is a win of a different kind, so it still makes me very happy.
I do still like this shot a lot as well. The articulated LCD on the Canon EOS R enabled me to hold the camera right down on the sand just in front of the waterline, so I have that huge swath of red sky reflecting in the out of focus water in the bottom third of the shot. I also found it necessary to tweak the focus manually to ensure that the band of focus fell perfectly across where the flamingoes were. By the time these few started to lift their heads up, the sun was a bit too far down, and the one on the left with his head the highest isn’t even over the sun, but it’s a close one, and definitely not so bad that I feel I should throw it out.
The Zeila Shipwreck
The following morning, we left Walvis Bay for an epic drive up the Skeleton Coast, to Palmwag, where we’d stay for a future two nights. An hour or so into our drive takes us by the Zeila Shipwreck, which is always worth a stop. This is one of the few spots on this trip were we use an neutral density filter, and if I recall, I grabbed my three-stop ND to take my shutter speed out to one second. I love photographing waves crashing at one second, as it is just long enough to register the movement of the water, but it still leaves enough texture and form in the sea for us to be able to actually see what it is doing.
You can see what I mean with those waves crashing against the stern of the Zeila, and also the shape of that wave that is rolling in front of the vessel in the middle of the frame. And I also really like that long line of one-second-surf along the beach. I was also timing my images to get mostly wet sand along the beach as well, which means a wave has just come a way up the beach and is now drawing back out. Because of all of these timing considerations, for this type of image I generally use a cable release as opposed to a two-second timer, because it’s much harder to get it just right when using a timer.
Actually, now that I’m using the Canon EOS R, I have switched from using my old cable releases to Canon’s BR-E1 which is a Bluetooth Wireless Remote Control. I really like this little remote release, as it’s small and easy to carry around, although I almost lost it at our last lodge because it’s so small it had slipped under the lip of a coffee tray in my room. Luckily one of the members of the staff found it during a scan of my room and caught up with us at our vehicle before we left, so he earned a nice tip that morning, and I didn’t have to buy a new remote control. It did make me think though that I need to put a lanyard on it, to make it more obvious where it is, and maybe also just hang it around my neck rather than keeping it in my pocket most of the time.
The Himba People
Namibia is having a very severe drought this year, and although that is terrible on many levels that I won’t go into now, we had been worried because we’d heard that the Himba people that we usually visit during this trip had gone nomad searching for water for their goats. Luckily though, as we made our way up to Palmwag which is a couple of hours south of where they live, we did get confirmation that they had returned, so we were now finally able to look forward to visiting them.
If you’ve been following my photos from Namibia over the years, you’ll know that I have been photographing one young girl literally since she was a small child, and this year I was blown away to find that she’d transitioned from the two plaits that are a mark of the young Himba girls, to the many plaits coated in ocher clay, as you can see in this photograph of her. I’m going to put the two images of this young lady that I’d like to share side by side, for formatting purposes.
I was actually worried following last years tour that I might not be able to photograph this girl again, because she was busy tending the goats, and it seemed to inconvenience her to come and be photographed. This year though, in her new regalia including the large shell that signifies that she’s now eligible to marry, she has truly transformed into a young woman, although still so young that she isn’t allowed to speak in a loud voice like her older sisters.
The second photograph that I’m sharing of her was a gift, maybe a prize for my diligence with the camera. We literally only spend a few minutes at a time with these people inside their huts, and I had just asked her to sit slightly differently, and as she rocked forwards, she paused for a brief moment, and I got a glimpse of an expression that I’d not seen before, and find enigmatic and thought–provoking, as though she herself is in deep thought. It was, of course, just a fleeting moment, but I think this is probably one of my favorite photographs of her to date, so I’m happy that I kept tuned in and caught this expression when I had the chance.
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L lens
I’d also like to mention before we move on, that I shot these images using the new Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L lens, which is absolutely stunning! The 85mm f/1.4 lens that I used here last year is nice, but it’s a bit too long a focal length to work inside these huts, plus, the nearest focus distance is a little on the long side as well. The new RF 50mm can focus as close as 40 cm compared to 85 cm for the EF 85mm f/1.4 lens, and that is a huge bonus.
The image quality is out of this world, and to be honest, I have always wanted a 50 mm f/1.2 lens from Canon that actually works. I wanted to like their EF 50 mm f/1.2L lens but the design was a joke, with the focus shifting to the point that it back-focused at close range, which made it pretty much unusable for me. I actually bought the EF 50mm lens twice, hoping to get a good copy, clinging at straws really, but neither worked, so I had to send them back. I’m very happy to say though that the RF 50mm f/1.2 L lens does not have this problem, so it’s great to finally have a working wide aperture prime at this focal length in my camera bag.
The Himba Dance
After spending a number of hours with the Himba people they danced for us, as you can see in this next image. I am always conscious of the need to avoid making this kind of cultural experience a tourist experience, but the feeling that I get is that they truly enjoy this dancing, and having visited so many times, I know that when they don’t want to do this, they just don’t, so it feels like a nice authentic experience.
I switched to my Canon RF 24-105mm lens for this shot, so that I could zoom out a little, to 35mm. I like the dynamism with the dust being kicked up by the lady dancing, and to freeze that, I increased my ISO to 1250 and my shutter speed to 1/1250 of a second. It’s really hard to pick just one shot of this, as I have hundreds, but the dust and the child walking into the frame are fun, and I like the expressions on the faces of the people standing around the dancing lady.
Later in the day we arranged to go back to the settlement to photograph the Himba people bringing their goats back to the coral. Again, I have lots of shots to chose from, but in the weeks following the trip this one has become a favorite, as it shows the regalia and the hair of the Himba ladies as well as the young girls, and how they have their hair. The goat herding is also an important part of the Himba way of life, and I feel so privileged to be able to document it as we do on my Complete Namibia Tours.
In case you are wondering, we do help these people out by buying some of their souvenirs, which has become an important part of their culture as the tourist industry gradually grows nearer, and more importantly, we go to the nearby town and buy them a lot of provisions that they would otherwise find difficult to get back to their settlement. I feel as though we do right by these people that kindly let us into their lives, and I treasure the experiences that we are able to share with them each year.
Greater Kudu and Bottle Tree
As we drove back to our base one of the guests noticed this Greater Kudu on the top of a rocky hill at the side of the road, so we stopped for a few last shots as the warm evening sun catches the basalt rock providing a striking backdrop for this magnificent antelope.
I’d usually be more concerned about having the small tree in front of the Kudu, but having that Bottle Tree to the right is a nice bonus, and in my opinion outweighs the negative aesthetic of the thin tree trunks over the kudu.
As I mentioned earlier, Namibia is having a terrible drought this year, meaning that the wildlife was behaving differently, and in many ways, we were lucky to see as much as we did. We saw people cutting the grass at the sides of the roads in some areas so that it could be sold and transported to other areas for farmers to feed to their livestock. Our guide told me that it’s a difficult choice for the farmers though, as many of their animals will probably die later this year anyway. I can’t imagine what it would be like to raise livestock in a country like Namibia where the climate can literally wipe out your livelihood with the drop of a hat. Then again, before moving to Japan, I couldn’t imagine living somewhere where earthquakes and tidal waves can sweep aways 10s of thousands of lives just as easily, so I guess it’s what you get used to, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept, and doesn’t stop me feeling for the people and animals of Namibia as they work through this particularly hard year.
Despite the drought though, the Etosha National Park was still amazing, and next week I’m going to try and whittle down the thirty or so images that I still have in my selection to a final ten images, so that we can finish this series and move on to something else.
Complete Namibia Tour and Workshop 2020 and 2021
In the meantime, if you might be interested in joining me for either my 2020 or 2021 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, I have a few places still left on both tours, and you can find details of each tour at https://mbp.ac/namibia2020 and https://mbp.ac/namibia2021 respectively.
We continue our Complete Namibia Tour travelogue this week, as we relax with the Flamingoes in Walvis Bay, then photograph a shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast before spending some time with the incredibly charming Himba People in Northern Namibia.
Having finished our three days in the majestic Sossusvlei area with the sand dunes and Deadvlei, we drove on to Walvis Bay to another beautiful lodge there. Based on feedback from last year, I had changed our itinerary to give us two days in this lodge, and the idea was to basically give the group a bit of a break, as this was the middle of the tour, and we’d already been working full on for more than a week. Because I realize that not everyone would want to just rest though, I arranged an optional drive in the sand dunes over to Sandwich Harbour.
Flamingoes at Walvis Bay
Over breakfast, looking across the road at the bay, we could see that the light catching the flamingoes was nice, so many of the group finished up quickly and grabbed our cameras. The first photograph that we’ll look at today (below) is from this little post-breakfast shoot, as I captured four flamingoes, still resting, although two of them did have their eyes open with nice catchlights from the morning sun.
I was using my Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens at its full extent of 400 mm for this shot. As the sun was just coming over the horizon, I increased my ISO to 800 to give me a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/14. You might wonder why I’m shooting wildlife at f/14, but actually, of this group, only the nearest flamingo that I focussed on is fully sharp. The middle two are a little soft, and the one at the very back is even softer. I also still get some nice blur in the background sea at this aperture, so this works for me.
A Drive in the Dunes
As I suspected would be the case, every member of the group opted to join the excursion to drive out into the dunes, and we were picked up by the company that runs those tours in the middle of the morning. I had hoped for some flamingoes down in the lagoon at Sandwich Harbor, but that didn’t work out. Still, it was an amazing drive, mostly along the beach, with our drivers sometimes timing it so that we’d dart across a patch of the beach as the waves receded, but before they washed back in again. I have some video that I’ll put into a slideshow at some point, hopefully soon, but for now, here’s a bit of a documentary shot (below) to show you the dunes that we drove through to get back out after our champaign lunch in Sandwich Harbour.
The Dunes Near Sandwich Harbour
The tracks that you can see running through the valley in the dunes here are from our three cars, as we made our way to this point. We had to deflate the tires on the cars to make them spread out, giving us more traction in the sand. There were points where we drove down slopes probably up to 40° inclines, which might sound scary, but it’s actually a lot of fun in the hands of professional drivers, and everyone in the group seemed to have a great time, so it was a nice way to spend our R&R day. Plus, we did get some nice shots of the dunes, the beaches, and some close Black-backed Jackal shots, but they’re a bit too documentary to show here.
The Zeila Shipwreck
The following day, we started our drive north with a stop to photograph a ship called Zeila that ran aground in 2008 just south of Henties Bay. As is often the case on the Skeleton Coast, we were treated with some big waves that looked great in a well-timed long exposure of the wreck, as you can see in this photograph (below).
The Zeila Shipwreck
It was quite windy as we photographed Zeila, so there was some risk doing long exposures, and a few of my shots were indeed a bit shaky, but many of them worked out, thanks to my sturdy Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head. I used a neutral density filter from Breakthrough Photography for a five-second exposure at f/16, ISO 100.
I usually use a two-second timer when doing landscape work, so that I can move my hands away from the camera to avoid introducing camera shake, but for shots like this, when I need to time my exposure perfectly for the waves, I use a cable release instead, with no timer. That enabled me to time this shot for when there were two waves, one main one across the entire frame, and a second breaking on the right of the frame. I also time this so that the sea was washing fully up the beach too, as I prefer to see that as opposed to the darker sand.
The Himba People
As spectacular as the landscape and wildlife of Namibia is, one of the highlights of the trip is our visit to a Himba Settlement, and that’s what we had in store for day 11. We started out in the dark and shot a little wildlife along the way, and then arrived at the Himba Settlement mid-morning, as they started to warm up after the chilly night. As usual, we arranged a few shoots inside the huts, so that we could capture these wonderful people out of the harsh sunlight. I have a number of images that I like, but one of my main goals was to find and photograph the young girl that I’ve been photographing for a number of years now, as you can see in this image (below).
Himba Young Girl Portraits
The first of the two shots of the girl that I want to share was from a hut close to the fire where she was cooking some broth for the village breakfast when we arrived. Sitting out working as the sun came up, she had initially been wearing a beautifully patterned shawl, and the light coming through the door in this first hut was much strong than the hut that I’ve shot her in before because it was facing the sun more.
My settings for the first image were ISO 5000 for an 1/80 of a second at f/5, with the new Canon 85mm f/1.4 L lens now with Image Stabilization. I’ll talk more about this lens in a review that I’ll work on now that I have a few images with it, but I was very impressed with it. It’s smaller and lighter than the f/1.2 version that I have been using for years, and it is nice to have that image stabilization now. The focus mechanism is much faster now too, and the image quality is amazing. I need to do some more tests first, but I hope to release more on this lens in the coming weeks.
The second image (above right) of the young Himba girl is from the same hut that I’ve photographed her in before. Although we try not to each spend too much time with the subjects, I do have a number of nice shots of this girl again. In this image I had her look towards the doorway so that we get a nice view of her beautiful hair, as well as nice highlights across her face. With both images, I’ve actually darkened them down a little around the edges to create a bit of a vignette and draw our attention to her face more. My settings for the second image were the same as the first, except I’d opened up the aperture a little more to f/4.
After photographing them in the huts for a while, the Himba people sat in a circle and set up their shop, so that we could buy some trinkets from them, which is part of how we thank them for letting us invade their privacy. We also take them provisions, which our guides give them discretely. Usually, after the shop, we leave, but this year, they also treated us by dancing. They started off a little bit apprehensive, but once they got started, they danced for what was probably well over thirty minutes, so it was a wonderful experience.
I like this particular shot because I was able to capture the motion of the Himba lady as she threw herself around causing her hair and leather tassels on her dress to fly outwards from the centrifugal force.
I also like how the lady to the left has a baby on her back. Some of them actually danced around like this with babies on their backs, which is a tribute to how hardy these people are.
Because I wanted to freeze this motion, I selected ISO 1000 and a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second, at f/8. I was shooting now with my Canon 24-105mm lens, so that I could zoom in and out as necessary to frame the shots how I wanted, and my focal length for this was 105 mm, so zoomed in as far as possible.
There were three young men that joined the group to dance, only one at a time mind, and in this next image (below) we see one of them strutting his stuff with one of the ladies and the rest of the group looking on. I’ve also left a little space to the right of the group in this shot, so that you can see the entrance to the hut. That’s the hut that we mostly use to photograph people in during our visits, so this photo should give you an idea of the size of the light source and show you the direction of the sun that we’re working with.
Himba Dancing in Group
I also have lots of iPhone video of the group dancing like this, and I’ll play a bit of the audio at this point in the audio which you can listen to with the player at the top of this post. Again, I’ll drop some of the video into a slideshow at some point, so I hope you’ll check that out later. My settings for this image were the same as the previous image except that I’d zoomed out to 56 mm to show the entire group.
After our morning session with the Himba, we ate lunch in the mountains nearby, and then drove to town and had a coffee and piece of cake, before heading back to the Himba Settlement later in the afternoon as I’d arranged for us to go back and photograph them herding their goats back into the corral. This next image (below) is one of my favorites, with the goats all marching towards their goal, with just one looking over at the crazy photographers wondering what we’re doing, and the Himba ladies in the background, almost, but not quite, in silhouette, with the shafts of sunlight catching the dust kicked up by the goats.
Himba Goat Herding
I’ve actually drawn an Adjustment mask over all of the dirt in the foreground on this image in Capture One Pro, and darkened it down a little, to better ground the image, but I also selectively desaturated a patch of orange that was caused by flare from the sun hitting the front of the lens as I shot this. With selective coloring, I was able to just use the same mask for both adjustments, without one really affecting the other very much, so it was a quick adjustment, exactly how I like them. My settings for this image were ISO 800 for a 1/1000 of a second at f/11, and a focal length of 35 mm.
Another shot that I like from the Himba settlement is this last one that we’ll look at (below) again from the goat herding session. The goats are all walking back out, as we actually ask them to drive the herd a second time to give us more opportunities, and this shot just does something for me. I love how the hardy babies are strapped to their mothers’ backs, but with both seem totally alert, looking around to take in what they can of the activity. It almost feels to me as though they are already checking out the work that they’ll do as part of the community in later life. In reality, it won’t be too many years until they really do start driving the goats and playing their part in the daily routines of the settlement.
Himba with Babies
I also like how this image gives us a bit of context, with the road that runs by the settlement visible, as is the small mountain further in the distance. Most Himba settlements that I’ve visited are at the foot of mountains, and I’m guessing that this is because they provide a slightly earlier respite from the heat of the sun in the summer months. My settings for this photograph were the same as the previous image but at 95 mm this time.
I really do enjoy these visits to the Himba people. It’s incredible to see how they live, and even just for the few hours that we get to spend with them, it’s really nice to get some insight into both the hardships and the beauty that I feel lies within their way of life. Again, it’s a humbling experience for both me and my guests to be able to interact so closely with these wonderful people.
To finish today, I want to have a bit of fun with a photo that I shot purely by chance. The day after we visited the Himba settlement, we drove through the morning to the first lodge that we would stay in for the first two of our four nights at the Etosha National Park. After lunch, we went for a game drive in the private reserve owned by the people that run the lodge and were presented with some amazing wildlife opportunities to kick off our Etosha experience.
I’ll share more images next week as we finish with a wildlife extravaganza, but I really want to share this image that I shot as we came across a pride of lions, with one lioness standing proudly on a dirt mound. I shot a few frames as our safari vehicle drew to a halt, and because we were still moving, I quite by luck captured two frames that had enough parallax shift in them to create a three-dimensional image, as if I’d shot it with two cameras slightly apart, simulating our two eyes.
I took the two images into Photoshop and aligned the layers perfectly, and cropped them slightly, then moved the two images so that they are side-by-side, as you can see in this photograph (below). I’ve uploaded this really large, so click on the image and open up your browser window as wide as it will go, or even go full-screen, then look at the images while going cross-eyed. It takes some people more time than others to see it, but you should see two images moving closer together as you go cross-eyed, and if you can adjust the amount that your eyes are crossed to match the parallax, you will see the two images perfectly align. Once they align, you’ll see an incredible three-dimensional image.
Proud Lioness in 3D
Once it clicks, you should not only be able to see the lioness standing in front of the background, but the mound and the trees at various depths all have their own layer in the photograph. I also drew a line from the background to the foreground, to get the positioning for my company logo, so that it sits on its own layer too in the closest foreground. That’s really just a watermark, as I’m putting this out there pretty large.
Anyway, I hope you can adjust your eyes to see it. If like me your eyes are set at a slightly different height you might also have to just tilt your neck to one side a little as well, but once you get used to it, you can snap your eyes in pretty quickly. The photo itself was shot at ISO 1000 for a 1/1000 of a second at f/11, and a focal length of 400 mm.
Complete Namibia Tour 2019
OK, so we’ll wrap up there for this episode, and conclude our journey in part five next week, as I pack the last three days of shooting in the Etosha National park into one last episode. If you might be interested in joining the 2019 tour from June 2 to 18, please check out the tour page at mbp.ac/namibia. Note that I’ve also updated the tour page over the last week, so it now contains some lovely comments from this year’s guests. It really is an amazing tour, so give it some thought. I’d love to travel with you in this beautiful land.
Following on from my selection process episode last week, this week I’m going to tell you a little about each of my personal top ten favorite images from 2017.
We’ll work through my top ten in chronological order, starting from January and working through the year. My first image was a bit of a surprise for me, as I wasn’t all that fond of this image when I first shot it, but it quickly grew on me.
This image (below) is from my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour. Weather permitting, I’ll actually be at this same location just a day or so after releasing this episode, and I can’t wait to get back there. This particular spot is just off the ski slope at Mount Asahi in Hokkaido. A beautiful place to ski as well as to photograph, although we are careful not to get in the way of the skiers.
I shot this at f/14 for a 1/50 of a second, at ISO 100. Pretty much my default settings for when I’m working on a tripod. I think one of the things that prevented me from liking this image initially was that I had to compromise my composition because of foreground objects and the fact that I shot this from the other side of a small brook. I’d ideally wanted to go just a little bit wider and include more snow down in that trough in the center foreground, but that would have meant including some hazard warning poles and something else as well, and I obviously didn’t want to do that.
It’s funny because this is the reverse of how we sometimes find it difficult to remove images from a selection because of the emotional attachment that we generally have for a while after a shoot. In this case, I’d had a slightly negative emotional reaction caused by the fact that I had to compromise my preferred composition, but as that wore off over time, I found myself liking the image for its artistic merit, unhampered by my feelings from when I made the photograph.
Revisit Old Shoots
I’ve found this to be the case when going through images from old shoots too. We finish a shoot with certain expectations. It’s still fresh in our mind and we have a shortlist of images that we think went well, and give preference to finding and processing these images, and tend to skim over other images a little less enthusiastically.
Again though, if you go back and look through your old shoots with fresh eyes if your creativity was engaged, you’ll sometimes find that there are images in your set that are pretty good but you ruled out initially because of your fresh expectations. It’s because of this that I like to set aside some time every so often to look through images from six months to a year ago. It sometimes turns up some pleasant surprises.
Moving On, this image (below) is from my Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido wildlife tours. Specifically from the small fishing town of Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula, where we spend three days photographing the sea eagles. This is a White-Tailed Eagle having just caught a fish. In actuality we through the fish into the water, and quite often they are flatfish, which don’t usually swim near the surface, so I like this mostly because it’s a regular looking fish and we can still see the splash of water as well as the reflection of the eagle.
I cropped this down from the top edge to a 16:9 ratio image, mostly because there wasn’t anything interesting at the top, but also because it made it feel more dynamic with movement from left to right being forced into a narrower space. My settings for this were ISO 800 at f/10, with a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. For more information on my settings and techniques for using long lenses for this kind of fast-paced focusing etc. please take a look at my podcast episode 584.
Next, we go from the wintery sub-zero temperatures of northern Japan to Namibia, when I visited a Himba settlement with my Namibia tour group. Without a doubt, one of my favorite images from the 2017 visit is this young Himba girl that I’d also photographed in 2015. It was amazing to see how she’d grown and was turning gradually into a young woman. I’m really hoping to be able to photograph her again this year when I return.
This Himba are an amazing people with beautiful culture and traditions, so it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to photograph them. I shot this at ISO 5000 inside one of their huts, to get out of the harsh sunlight. I had set my aperture to f/5.6 and my shutter speed to 1/80 of a second.
In my post-processing, I darkened down the background and added a vignette to focus our attention on the face. I exposed the image so that the white of her teeth and eyes were just starting to overexpose, and that helps to keep grain away in the dark areas, even at ISO 5000.
Lone Wildebeest on Plain
I also visited the Etosha National Park in Namibia for my first time in 2017. With a few hundred wildlife images to choose from, I found it difficult to remove many of them from my final selection but felt strongly that this shot of a wildebeest (below) should stay. It’s not a dynamic or powerful shot as such, but something about the stance and calmness of this image really appeals to me.
Lone Wildebeest on Plain
As I also mentioned last week, it was only as I revisited my Namibia wildlife work from this year that I really thought about converting this to black and white. I do a lot of black and white and have done monotone wildlife before too, but for some reason when processing my Namibia work it had never really appealed to me, until last week, when it hit me like a sledgehammer.
As is often the case, removing the color enables us to concentrate more of the form of the subject, and I love the texture and gradation in the mane of this magnificent animal, as well as the way black and white makes the wildebeest stand out so much, almost as though it has been superimposed onto the photograph. My settings for this image were ISO 400 at f/11 for 1/640 of a second. I was using my Canon 100-400mm lens with a 1.4X extender attached for a focal length of 560mm.
Colorful Fes Alleyway
I also ran my first tour in Morocco in 2017, and have absolutely fallen in love with this beautiful land and her people. Many of the places we visited had places where the locals had taken pride in decorating their town, like this beautifully painted alleyway is Fes (below).
Colorful Fes Alleyway
Because the local people don’t like having their photos taken without permission, which they rarely give, sometimes the best way to include people in a shot like this is to capture them while they are still so far away that they’re quite small in the frame, as I did here. This works fine, as it enables me to add a human element, but also leave lots of room for us to see the beautiful colors.
Although it was a clear day, the draped cloths and Moroccan flags cut out enough light that I needed an ISO of 2500 at f/11, for a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second. For much of this tour, with there being quite a lot of street photography, I forced myself to use Aperture Priority and set a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 of a second, so that I could freeze any sudden movement in the subjects when necessary. I could have used a slower shutter speed and ISO here, but there often wasn’t enough time to override my settings or drop back into Manual mode, especially as many of my shots had to be grabbed before the unaware subjects got much closer than this.
Camels and Handler in Sahara
While in Morocco I arranged for a shoot in the Sahara Desert with two camel handlers each with five camels. My group actually rode these camels into the desert, which was an experience unto itself, but it was such a treat to be able to photograph these people with their animals like you see in this image (below).
Camels and Handler in Sahara
I was happy with the location that I asked the camel handlers to stop at, with this beautiful view of the sand dunes as a backdrop. I did clone out a number of patches of vegetation from the distant dunes, to clean this up, but I’m very happy with the results.
I used my 24-105mm lens on one body and my 100-400mm lens on a second body so that I could quickly switch between the two. I don’t mind changing lenses in the desert, despite the dust. In fact, I didn’t expect to use the 100-400mm until we actually started shooting, so I put the lens on to the body while out there. Unless there is a lot of wind, generally you can get away with a lens change, especially if you turn your back to any breeze and shield your camera with your body.
My settings were ISO 800 at f/10 for a 1/250 of a second, at 200mm. Again, I was using Aperture Priority here and was actually getting quite comfortable with it by this point. I continued to use Aperture Priority because as you’ll see a few photos from now when we panned around to the right of this scene, we were shooting into the sun and then later the sunset, and Aperture Priority helped to adjust the exposure as we switched from regular lighting to silhouettes.
Camel Handler with Camels
This next image (below) is another one that sort of grew on me. I was excited when shooting it, and thought it had potential, but I didn’t think for a moment that it was going to make my top ten for the year until I started to go through my Morocco images time and again during the process of whittling down my selection. Every time this image flashed up onto the screen, it brought a smile to my face.
Camel Handler with Camels
I don’t know if it’s the Lawrence of Arabia type appeal, with the camel handler in his headwear, or the way this man carries himself, just sitting in the sand that he’s so familiar with, and his five camels standing patiently behind him. I found Morocco to have a wonderfully romantic and poetic air to it, that moved me quite deeply, and I sense a lot of that in this image, so there was no way I could remove it from my top ten selection.
Again, still using an automated mode, I could have switched to a slower shutter if I’d taken control, but it took a lot of work for me to get used to giving up that control during my Morocco tour, so while it made sense, I stayed in Aperture Priority, and so this image was shot at ISO 4000 at f/11 for 1/320 of a second, at 200mm. No big deal really either. The image is as clean as can be, so I have no regrets.
Camel Silhouettes at Sunset
I tried really hard to remove one of my two camel train images from my top ten as well, but I love both of these shots so much, that they both had to stay. I shot this second camel train image (below) as the sun started to turn the sky firey-red and the wispy clouds were making beautiful patterns in the sky. These natural phenomena were a perfect backdrop for our camel handler as we marched him all over the dunes to get our photographs.
Camel Silhouettes at Sunset
I shot this at ISO 500 at f/10 for 1/320 of a second at 35mm, so a lot wider than the first camel train shot. Because I was now shooting into the bright sky, the Auto-ISO dropped down to 500, keeping my shutter speed at 1/320 because I’d set a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 of a second, and I think I had +0.3 of a stop Exposure Compensation dialed in, which is why the actual shutter speed increased by a third of a stop.
Moroccan Man in Well
As we left the Moroccan Sahara to continue our journey, our wonderful guide had our bus driver pull in to a sandy patch of land with what looked like a series of adobe turrets built at intervals across the land. It turns out that there is an underground irrigation channel with wells inside each of these turret-like structures, and when you go underground through a door in their base, you can actually walk into the underground canal.
We were guided into the tunnel by the man you see in this next image (below) who graciously posed for us, looking up into the light pouring down into the darkness from the mouth of the well.
Moroccan Man (Karim) in Well
Taken a little by surprise at this photographic treat, I lowered my exposure compensation to -2.0 to prevent my camera from making the man’s blue garments over-expose due to the very dark background, and also give to give me a 1/40 of a second shutter speed at f/4 in the very low light, even though my auto-ISO had reached the limit I’d set, which was 6400.
I absolutely love this shot though, and although I’m not really much of a people photographer, I think this and the final image that we’ll look at in a moment are my favorite photographs of my top ten for 2017.
Moroccan Man in Adobe Building
In the final image, we see a proud man that lives in an ancient ighrem or fortified village, called Aït Benhaddou, and his families home was built around the 15th or 16th century. An incredibly generous gentleman, he invited our tour group into his home for tea, and then came with us outside, into a nearby building with an opening in the roof, so that we could photograph him in this amazing light.
Moroccan Man in Adobe Building
Again, because of the low light, I opened up my aperture to f/4, as wide as it goes for my 24-105mm, and still had to shoot this at ISO 6400 for a 1/60 of a second exposure. There’s virtually no grain in the image though, as I exposed it so that the whites were bordering on overexposure, which helps to stop the shadows getting too dark, and it’s the shadow areas that become more problematic if you don’t protect them.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit Morocco for the first time last year, and I’m hoping that we’ll get enough people sign up for the 2018 tour to make it possible to visit again. It’s a magical country with beautiful people and a sense of poetry that I honestly wasn’t prepared for.
As I spoke with our guide towards the end of the 2017 tour, he told me that 2018 would be even better, because, in his words, “Morocco is in your eyes now”. This might not seem very special, but it’s this sort of turn of phrase and philosophy that can reel me in and make me love a country and her people like nothing else.
Share Your Own Work
There was a great response to my call for you to share your work at the end of last week’s episode, in which I discussed my selection and editing process for this top ten. I’d like to invite those of you that have not yet posted a link to take a moment to share your own top ten in the comments for this post (below).
If you haven’t selected your own top ten, I really do recommend setting some time aside to do this. It helps to hone various skills that help us to become better photographers, as well as enabling us to put a stake in the ground at the end of each year, and that builds into a great visual record of our progress as we continue on this wonderful journey of our, into 2018 and beyond.
We pick up the trail at dawn on our sixth photography day, when we were back in Deadvlei, for a second shoot with the iconic dead camel-thorn trees against the red dune background. I showed you my first day’s images from this spot last week, and I also mentioned that it’s getting really hard for me now to find a new composition.
The minimalist photographer in me wants to compose my images with minimal elements to provide impact, but the trees in Deadvlei are between 600 and 700 years old, so it’s not like we get new trees growing to provide new photo opportunities. I’d spent a lot of time the previous day looking for something new, and found a pair of trees that I was OK with, but then I went back and photographed the original pair that I’d shot on my first visit in 2013. I have been trying to get 50-megapixel versions of my old favorite images anyway, so that was nice to do, but now I needed to shoot something new.
I settled for a composition that I’d actually framed up and then given up on the previous morning. As you can see in this first photo for this week (below) the image is quite busy in some ways, with eight trees, instead of my usual two or three. I also don’t like the way the four trees on the left side all overlap, but there isn’t any way to avoid this because if I move sideways, either way, other trees creep into the sides of the frame and I lose the separation between the four right trees.
Having said that, overnight, this composition had started to grow on me. There was, of course, a sense that I had to abandon my search for a new composition with fewer trees. I spent more time on this second morning looking again, but as I’d expected, I came up dry. Like I say though, thinking about this composition overnight, it had started to grow on me, so I decided to go with this, and I’m now relatively happy with the results.
I also often find that with these images, there is an expanded version that brings in an extra element to enhance or tell a slightly different story. This first image is about a gathering of beings, as though they are meeting to talk about something. The largest tree on the right is perhaps talking to the others, maybe just gossiping or telling them something a little more sinister.
In this next image, I zoomed out a little from 360 mm to 278 mm and included an extra tree to the right. I entitled the previous images The Gathering, and I’ve called this one The Sermon. They aren’t a set necessarily, but with this image, I almost feel as though the gathering in the previous image was a group of townspeople waiting for the ninth tree in this image. Now they are listening to whatever that tree has to say.
It isn’t obvious, but the largest tree in this shot and the small crooked tree to the right of the main group, then the right-most new tree in this shot is actually the three trees from the shot I made in 2013 and the one that I shared with you last week from the previous day on this trip. That will probably illustrate how a different angle can create a totally different image.
Tree and Dune #40
After our morning shoot in Deadvlei, we took a steady drive back to the lodge, and had a few hours rest during the mid-day heat, then headed back out again at 3 pm to photograph the next dune along from the one we shot on the previous afternoon.
The dunes are numbered by the distance from the gate to the national park. The previous day we’d shot dune number 35, and on this day we traveled another five kilometers along the road to dune number 40.
This one is closer to the road, though still a bit of a walk out until you get to a point where you can photograph something like this image (right) with the camel thorn tree at the base and just the dune in the background.
There was some thin cloud cover on this day, so the contrast between the dark side of the dune and the light side wasn’t so great. You can still see the sand blowing off the right side though, over the crest of the dune.
My settings were f/11 for a 1/50 of a second at ISO 400. I was using a slightly higher ISO so that my shutter speed didn’t get too low, partly because of the wind, but also, in this case, so I didn’t blur the movement of the sand too much. 1/50 of a second will show a little bit of movement in that sand, but 1/13 or so if I’d used ISO 100 would have probably shown the sand a little bit too smoothed over, and perhaps start to reduce the definition.
The following morning, a number of the participants did a helicopter ride, and I’d planned to do a balloon ride with a few other participants, but the wind was blowing in the wrong direction on this day, so our balloon didn’t go up. The helicopter did though, and those guests got some amazing shots.
After we gathered the group back together at 9 am we started our long drive to Walvis Bay, where we’d spend one night before driving up the Skeleton Coast towards Sesfontein. We made a number of stops along the way of course, and one that turned out to be nice and productive was the Zeila Shipwreck.
As we approached, with the morning mist still quite thick, our driver asked if it was worth going because the weather was so bad. Of course, my answer was hell yes! As you can see from this next image, we were able to photograph the Zeila not only in somewhat rough seas but with a bit of mist too. I’ve increased the contrast quite a bit, so the mist isn’t heavily apparent, but I think you can still get a sense of story from this image (below).
Zeila Shipwreck in Mist
I don’t get too hung-up about trying to create a sense of story in my images, opting usually for the goal that I want my images to invoke some kind of an emotion in the viewer. But, when you have story staring you in the face, it’s definitely worth working with. A shipwreck sitting in a calm sea on a sunny day doesn’t really have any more story than, OK, it’s a shipwreck.
A shipwreck in mist with rough seas tells you so much more about why the ship ran ashore in the first place. Of course, it’s a fine line though. I left only a hint of the mist with my processing because I wanted to show the definition of the ship and the waves. The original picture has much heavier mist, but that led to less clarity.
I shot this with my Canon 24-105mm Mark II lens at 105 mm, with an aperture of f/14 and an ND filter to give me a 1.3 second exposure at ISO 100. I did some much longer exposures as well which I also like, but I like the texture left in the sea at just over a one-second exposure.
Zebra Dust Trail
We continued our journey, photographing a number of other things along the way, and arrived at Sesfontein as the sun was getting close to the horizon. Just outside town, we noticed some zebras in the beautiful warm light, and I got a few frames. One with three zebras, and this shot, with just a lone zebra, creating a dust wake as he chases after the group.
Zebra at Dusk
We would spend three nights in Sesfontein to give us access to a number of Himba settlements. The Himba are a wonderful semi-nomadic people and incredibly photogenic due to the ochre cream that they make and spread on their skin, and their distinctive hair and various decorative items that the women generally wear.
Himba Girl Two Years On
The following morning, we headed to the nearby Himba village for a wonderful cultural experience that often becomes the highlight of the tour for many people. As we talked to the Himba, via our interpreter guides, of course, I asked if the girl that I’d photographed in 2015 was still in the village. I showed photographs of the girl in Episode 489 but you can initially see her in this photograph (below) on the right, looking over at her own photograph on my iPhone.
Two Years Older
I didn’t get a photograph of it, but the look on her face as she realized that the photo was her was priceless. The Himba don’t have mirrors, so their mental view of themselves isn’t as strong as in other cultures. The rest of the group initially seemed more interested in the photo, because they have of course seen this girl from their own perspective as she’s grown.
I asked the girl if I could photograph her again, and she agreed to go inside one of their huts so that I could repeat my previous images. I got one of her looking towards the light, which is one of my favorite images from my 2015 trip, but as we’re already going to be showing 11 images today, we’ll skip that one.
Here (right) you can see her looking very proud, and if you compare her to the images from two years ago, you’ll see that she’s pretty much lost that childlike roundness from her face, as she grows into a beautiful young woman.
To photograph these photos inside the hut, I crank my ISO up to 5000. This is one of those times when I take great pleasure in blowing one of the most spoken 5Ds R myths clean out of the water. People love to come up with excuses to not like high-resolution cameras, and one that I hear about the 5Ds R the most is that it has terrible high ISO performance.
I can assure you, that if you expose to the right, and ensure you are recording good quality image information, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. For these images, I was shooting at f/5.6 for a 1/80 of a second shutter speed, and at ISO 5000 this gives me images in which the white on the girl’s neckband was just starting to blow out, becoming slightly over-exposed. The rest of the image is actually quite a lot brighter than what you are seeing here. I darken it down in post for this effect, but the point is, if you are careful with your exposure, you will not see any noticeable grain, even in a photo like this, at ISO 5000.
I couldn’t resist also asking this girl to give me a smile, as you can see in this photograph (right). Of course, as I only speak a few words of her language, everything is relayed by mannerisms. When I want her to smile, I lower my camera and give her a big smile.
I was also surprised by how much this girl has grown in two years. When I photographed her before, she was standing in the hut, making her about the same height in the hut that you see in these photos, but when I asked her to stand this time, her head was almost touching the roof, and her face was out of the light from the doorway.
I initially asked her in words to kneel, but she didn’t understand. I then touched my own knees, and then the floor, but she didn’t understand that either, so as a last resort, I lightly touched one of her knees, then touched the floor, and she understood that.
It can be difficult, and of course, as a middle-aged man in a confined space with a young girl you have to be careful what you do, but with thought, it’s possible to relay posing instructions to a degree.
As a thank you for these photographs, in addition to taking supplies to the village, I bought one of this girls trinkets, as they set up a stall to sell us their wares after we’ve photographed them. My current wish is that I’ll be able to photograph this girl as she grows, and hopefully one day be able to photograph her children as well. I think that would be an amazing project to watch grow.
Later in the day, we revisited the village to photograph the Himba bringing their goats back into the corral. I have lots of frames but thought I’d share this one (below) which I found a little bit comical. The Himba lady looks like she’s saying “Really!” as the goat rears up to butt another. The hand and body posture just struck a funny chord with me.
Really? You’re Going to Butt Him?
For this shot, I’d set my ISO to 800, so that I could freeze the motion in the goats with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second at f/11.
Giraffe on the Plains
On our way out to Purros the following day, we passed through some beautiful countryside. To me, the countryside in Namibia often isn’t quite complete without a beautiful animal in it, so I was happy when we found this giraffe strolling across the plains, looking like it doesn’t have a care in the world (below).
Giraffe on the Plain
It was nice to see so much foliage out on these plains as well. It’s often a lot arider than this. I photographed this scene at f/8 with ISO 200 at 1/400 of a second, at 400mm. I was trying to keep a relatively fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the giraffe and also matching my focal length with my shutter speed helps to avoid camera shake.
We drove over to another Himba settlement near Purros and had another wonderful cultural experience. Most of the women were down at the river gathering firewood when we arrived, but we were able to photograph the children until they came back.
Once back, they needed a few minutes to put their traditional headwear on, before we started to photograph them. My favorite image from this shoot is this one (right).
Unfortunately, I don’t know if this is the ladies baby, but I thought the show of affection with the kiss was beautiful, and a lovely moment to capture. The Himba people don’t openly show their feelings, so this warm and caring gesture was a nice surprise.
This was actually in the doorway of a hut, so I had my ISO set to 1600 for a 1/125 of a second exposure at f/8.
There were a number of people in the village in regular clothes as well, and it makes me wonder how much longer these people will continue to live in traditional dress on the whole. At this point, we are not able to tell them that we are going, and most of the villagers are always in traditional dress when we turn up, so I’m sure it’s still very much a part of their culture, but I imagine as Western values and amenities become more available, we’ll start to see more people in regular clothes in their villages.
The Himba people are photographed often during trips to Namibia, so I don’t necessarily have anything unique here, but I do feel incredibly fortunate and privileged to be able to photograph these people, especially if they do start to lose their current grasp on their rich culture.
We’ll wrap it up there for today, and next week we’ll pick up the trail as we head into the Etosha National Park for the last four days of the trip. I have 257 images from Etosha in my final selection, and my first pass through these to select images that I’d like to show you resulted in a collection of 76 images. I’ve tried to whittle this down to just ten, but I got to 24, so we’ll probably run for two more episodes to complete this travelogue series in a total of five parts.
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. For another culturally rich tour, you might also consider my Morocco trip from the end of October 2017, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/morocco.