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


Audio

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Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #2 (Podcast 781)

Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #2 (Podcast 781)


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Kolmanskop Old Staircase
Kolmanskop Old Staircase

Following on from last week, today we pick up the trail on my recent Complete Namibia tour on the second afternoon in Kolmanskop, the deserted diamond mind town. We have historically been able to do an afternoon, followed by a morning, which helps to get different directions of the sunlight on both days, but they have stopped doing afternoon visits into Elizabeth Bay, so we worked with what we had. It was still great, and most of the opportunities are still available to us.

I started with the Ice Factory, but I’ve shown so many images of that in the past I think we’ll skip it today. I continued by walking up the hill behind the visitors center, where we’d eaten lunch, and shot this next image in the fifth building from the end of the row. Still in relatively good condition, but also with some sand at the foot of the stairs, I like this composition, with the one-point perspective, and a certain amount of symmetry, but also the asymmetry with the stairs on the left coming up closer to the camera and then the banister running from the center along to the right edge.

My wife’s immediate reaction was, “And you, of course, walked up those stairs to get that photo?” probably thinking that I should have gone through them. I must admit, I was slightly nervous, especially as some of the steps gave out an unhealthy groan as I stood on them, but it all worked out OK.

Also, for those of you that are wondering why I allow the window to blow out that way, the reason is that I actually quite like the mystique of not being able to see outside. If I was trying to sell this house, working to architecture photographer’s rules, I’d do an HDR, but as art, I prefer this style of image. The only time you’ll see anything outside a window in my shots here is when the natural light or a little bit of tweaking in Capture One Pro enables me to show it. Otherwise, it’s white windows all the way.

The next image is an example of when we can see outside. The large expanse of missing roof in the Accountant’s House makes it easy to expose for both inside and outside, so we see blue sky and the Namib Desert running across the horizon, as well as the room at the back of the attic and the beams that we can still walk on to get around up here.

I don’t recall why, but I’d let my ISO creep up to 500 for these shots, so my shutter speed was set unnecessarily high at 1/320 of a second at ƒ/11 for this shot. It’s not an issue with today’s cameras, but I’m slightly disappointed in myself here because I’m usually more careful with my exposure. The results balance of course, but not being able to remember why I used these settings is a little bit annoying. I guess I’m not getting any younger though, so you’ll have to forgive me for not being able to keep up with myself from time to time.

The Accountant's House Attic Space
The Accountant’s House Attic Space

Here’s another relatively famous shot from Kolmanskop, with the sand-filled room and the bathtub. I included the door to the room, open, yet stuck in the sand, because I find these jarred open doors really appealing. I don’t know where the bathtub was originally fixed, but it seems to be almost surfing the sand now, and the broken tree branch, looks almost like a piece of driftwood, afloat on the same sea of sand.

The Bathtub
The Bathtub

And here is a final shot from Kolmanskop for this series, and we see again, the door stuck in the sand, this time through a first door, with a second door in the background. We can also see here how the afternoon light was causing a bit of a problem with the highlights on the sand, but I do like the contrast between the light and dark, so again, I’m not too worried about this.

The Doors
The Doors

I was at least back on form with my camera settings by this point, with the ISO set to 100, for a 0.4-second exposure at ƒ/11. All of these shots were made with the Canon RF 15-35mm ƒ/2.8 L lens. Having bought this lens a couple of years ago to replace my EF 11-24mm lens when I switched to mirrorless, I hadn’t really given the RF lens much love until now, but love it I do, now that I’ve had a chance to really work with it. It’s an amazing lens, and although I thought I’d miss the extra 4 millimeters on the wide end, I really didn’t, so at this point, I am really happy with the decision to switch these lenses out. The extra aperture stop was also very welcome for the astrophotography that we do on this trip so all in all, a good decision.

We spend one more night in Luderitz, the city near Kolmanskop on the Atlantic coast of Namibia, then started our drive inland, then North to Sossusvlei, where we would spend the next three nights. We start to see a little more wildlife on that drive, and at one point, came across a matriarchal Ostrich looking after thirteen young Ostrich. The matriarch generally looks after all the young in their herd, with help from other females who may have contributed to the clutch. You can actually only see eleven of the thirteen chicks in this shot, as the other two were a little too far from the group for an effective shot.

Ostrich Matriarch with Young
Ostrich Matriarch with Young

I cropped this down to a panorama partly to emphasize the width of the group of young ostrich, but also because we were shooting over the top of a fence, so the birds were naturally placed quite low in the frame, and the top of the frame added no real interest, so I got rid of it.

We saw multiple birds on the way as well, and I was able to get this shot as what I believe to be a Greater Kestrel landed on the top of the fence at the side of the road. It’s not the best shot, but I like the warmth of the scene and the dynamic pose of the kestrel.

Greater Kestrel
Greater Kestrel

Pretty much in the same color palette, here we see an Oryx feeding in the long grass, and it was so nice to see all that grass during this drive. Namibia has just come out of a seven-year drought that has cost the lives of many farm animals as the farmers fought to find food and water for them. Some farmers paid out what money they had for food only to go on to lose the cattle anyway, as the drought worsened, so seeing the oryx standing in these huge open grass-covered planes was really reassuring.

Grass at Last
Grass at Last

We entered the Namib-Naukluft National Park with about an hour to spare, so we drove down into the valley to the first dry river bed, seeing a number of Oryx and Springbok on the way. Just oryx shots aren’t much to write home about, but I do like it when we are able to get them in a nice environment, like this one with one of the sand dunes in the background, and the warm light just before sundown bathing them all.

Oryx and Dunes
Oryx and Dunes

I shot this with the 100-500mm lens and the 1.4X extender for a focal length of 700mm. I’d set my camera up to be able to capture movement should it be required, so my ISO was at 1600 and my shutter speed 1/1000 of a second, at ƒ/11.

The following morning, up bright and early, we drove down to the car park near Deadvlei and walked into the iconic valley. There are now two new sand dunes that have formed in the mouth of the valley, so the walk gets the heart beating a little more than before, as do the additional corona pounds that I need to lose, but this spot is so worth the effort. After my three-year hiatus from Namibia, it also felt natural to go back to the first trees that I shot here for the first time in 2013, on my first visit.

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2022
Deadvlei Silhouettes 2022

For anyone that doesn’t get what’s happening here, there is about a minute each morning when the sun has risen to the point where it is illuminating the sand dune that you see in the top four-fifths of this photo, but there is a sand dune to our backs, which casts a shadow across the clay basin, throwing the basin and the petrified camel thorn trees into shadow. That contrast makes the trees go almost black and the almost white clay remains a mid to dark gray color. This location was thrust into the limelight by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting, and although I wasn’t aware of Lanting’s beautiful work on my first visit, I was kind of proud to find that the left two trees in my shot feature prominently on the right side of his iconic image.

This final image for this episode was shot at the end of the same day, when we walked to one of the dunes with some trees at its base. This is one of my favorites because of the trees, and the way the left side of the dune goes into shadow as the sun nears the horizon. It also made a nice change to see a bit of cloud in the sky here, as we don’t see that too often. I cropped this to a 16:9 aspect ratio to work better with the wide screen, as the additional bit of sky I had in my original wasn’t really adding anything.

Sand Dune and Trees at Sunset
Sand Dune and Trees at Sunset

We’ll pick up the trail on our second morning in Deadvlei in a few days, as I am trying to pull in our three June episodes before the end of the month, so let’s catch up again in a few days.


Show Notes

Check out our tours page: https://mbp.ac/tours

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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

Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #1 (Podcast 780)


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I have just got back from Namibia and from today for the next three or four weeks will report on what we got up to, illustrated with around 10 images for each episode. This was my first tour in two and a half years, so it felt amazing to be out in the field again, and this tour was made even more special by the five guests that accompanied me on our epic journey around Namibia. I’ve been lucky to travel with many wonderful groups over the years, rarely meeting people that simply don’t mesh, but it does happen, so it was a huge relief to find that this group really was a complete pleasure to spend 17 days with. We’ll hear from the group in the final episode, as we recorded a short message from each of them on our final evening, but for now, let’s jump in and start to walk through the tour.

I actually went to Namibia a day early this year, in case the additional procedures in place due to the pandemic caused any problems. Shortly before I left Japan though, the requirement to get a PCR test within 72 hours of entering Namibia was lifted, which certainly removed a level of stress that helped to get things kicked off more easily. Wearing a mask for the entire journey over was somewhat taxing, especially because the first of my two outbound flights were extended from 12 to 15 hours as we couldn’t fly over Russian airspace. I also confirmed my general dislike for Lufthansa planes. Economy class on these planes has too little leg-room, with my legs having to be pressed against the seat in front of me for the entire flight. I’m just pleased that the flight between Tokyo and Frankfurt was an ANA codeshare, as ANA has much better planes and generally better staff as well.

I did hear at the beginning of the tour that Qatar Airlines have just started a direct flight to Namibia as well, which I’m going to try to book next year to avoid Lufthansa. I really don’t understand why their planes have so little leg room. It’s not as if Germans are generally little people, so maybe there are just trying to force more people into Business Class, which would be a shame, as I generally go by economy class.

Anyway, on my second morning, I went back to the airport in Windhoek to welcome the remaining four of our five guests as they also flew in from Frankfurt. Lufthansa had lost one of the guest’s luggage, which added an extra level of difficulty to the start of the trip. Luckily the guest rolled with it pretty well, and the case did get forwarded to us as we traveled, albeit around five or six days into the tour.

As usual, I timed the first photography day with a new moon, and we got into the Quiver Tree Forest relatively early in the afternoon after our drive down from Windhoek, so we had plenty of time to decide which trees we’d use for our sunset shots. My main goal as I look for a nice group of trees is to find one main tree with a pleasing shape, and a number of smaller or more distant trees that are nicely isolated. I also ensure that the main tree is isolated, without anything else overlapping it anywhere. In this case, that meant I had to lower my tripod to just over one leg section, to prevent that bow hanging down on the left side of the main tree from overlapping with the distant quiver tree below it.

Quiver Tree Sunset
Quiver Tree Sunset

I was happy with the results though, and although I’m not much of a sunset person, I do like this warm glow after the sun has dropped below the horizon when it happens.We went back to our lodge for a lovely dinner shortly after the sunset glow had died down, and then we came back out a few hours later to capture the Milky Way, and the Galactic Core which was to be still low in the sky, allowing us to place the silhouette of some Quiver Trees in from of it, as you can see in this next image.

Quiver Trees and Milky Way
Quiver Trees and Milky Way

This was actually the first time I was going to really get to use my Canon RF 15-35mm ƒ/2.8 lens, as well as my Canon EOS R5 in the field, and I was completely blown away all over again by this gear. The RF 100-500mm lens was also really getting its first field use, and I was really happy with that too, as we’ll see later in these trip reports. I used the 500 rule for my shutter speed, so divided 500 by 15, my focal length, which gives 33 seconds, and I rounded it down to 30 seconds. This gives slightly elongated star discs but in my opinion a good balance. My ISO was 1600 and my aperture was set to ƒ/3.2, stopping down just a fraction to ensure that the quiver trees were also sharp. Note too that I generally zoom in to 10X magnification on the electronic finder and manually focus on the stars. Just cranking your lens out to infinity is not always going to give you sharp stars, so when possible, zooming in and manually focussing gives better results.

The following morning we visited the Giant’s Playground before breakfast, and this shot was a hair under a four-minute exposure as the light on the horizon started to pick up. I just went to ƒ/14 for this to ensure that the nearby and distant rocks were sharp. The ISO was 100 and I was using my RF 24-105mm lens for this shot. Note too that I generally like to go to the cloudy White Balance preset for dawn and dusk shots as it makes the colors much richer.

Rock Baboon
Rock Baboon

Here’s another shot from the Giant’s Playground, in which you can see what almost looks like a comical Disney character silhouette on the right, and one of the few Quiver Trees that you can also find in the Playground. By this time the sun was almost on the horizon, so my shutter speed was now 1/6 of a second at ISO 100, still with an aperture of ƒ/14.

Disney Character Rock
Disney Character Rock

After breakfast, we drove over to the Atlantic coast to visit the deserted diamond mine at Kolmanskop. One of the houses that has lost its roof and the upstairs floorboards is great for this kind of high-contrast shadow shots, with the light shining through the slats in the ceiling. I’ve generally shot the other room on most of my visits, but there is now a well-formed sand dune in the second front room, which I really enjoyed as well.

I also had to visit what’s probably my second favorite room for this beautifully formed sand dune and lovely pale-blue walls. There seems to be more decay on the walls now though, giving this shot even more character than in previous years. I love that I’m able to watch these locations evolve over time.

As you can see in this next image, some of the building’s ceilings are now caving in, and some buildings are also close to collapsing. Some of the floors have also given way. The Mine Manager and the Accountant’s houses on the top of the hill at Kolmanskop have been cleaned out, almost restored to their former glory. We also heard that there is talk of renovating many more houses and restoring them to their former state, but this would be a grave mistake.

Roof Caving In

The appeal and beauty of Kolmanskop come almost entirely from the sand and the decaying building. If they are to do anything, it should be to prevent the buildings from becoming any more dangerous, while maintaining their current decayed state. If it becomes simply a museum of what the mine used to look like, they will destroy it completely. I don’t think I’d be the only one to stop visiting if that were to happen.

We spent the following morning in the mine at Elizabeth Bay, which is another diamond mine town, which actually still has an active mine area, so security is very strict when entering and exiting the area. Part of the charm of Elizabeth Bay comes from the fact that they used sea water to make the bricks for the houses, so many of the bricks have decayed away leaving just the mortar that used to hold the bricks together, as you can see in this image.

Decayed Bricks
Decayed Bricks

Elizabeth Bay has fallen more quickly into decay during the three years since my last visit. As you can see in this next image, many of the houses have now almost completely collapsed. In some ways, it’s getting more difficult to shoot, because so many of the houses are now just piles of rubble.

Fallen Roofs
Fallen Roofs

It’s also a rather harrowing place to shoot. I’ve shot what were essentially slave quarters many times over the years, with a line of tiny partitions on either side of a large room in which the workers slept. Now that the outer walls of some of the larger buildings have fallen away, as you see in this final image for today, we now see that there were some of these quarters that had a second row, making them even harder to look at, but I think it’s important to record this, and to this day, the current owners still say that the workers were not slaves, because they were paid. I’m sure that’s true, but they were also often chained, and not allowed to leave. That sounds a lot like a slave to me.

Double Decker Slave Quarters
Double Decker Slave Quarters

OK, so that’s our ten photos for this first episode. To make up for missing the last three weeks, I intend to release the following episodes in quick succession, so stay tuned if you like this sort of work. Also note that we do have some spaces still on next year’s tours, so check out our tour pages for details.


Show Notes

Check out our tours here: https://mbp.ac/tours

Canon EOS R5: https://mbp.ac/EOSR5

Canon RF 15-35mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/15-35

Canon RF 24-105mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/rf24-105

Canon RF 100-500mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/100-500

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Complete Namibia Tour 2019 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 666)

Complete Namibia Tour 2019 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 666)

Last month I completed my fifth epic Complete Namibia Tour, and today we are going to start a series of travelogue-style episodes to walk you through the tour step by step. As is often the case, I’m selecting my ten images for each episode as I go, so I’m not sure how many weeks this will span yet, but it will probably be three or four episodes, and for those of you that like travelogue shows, I think you’ll enjoy this.

As usual, we kick of the tour in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, getting acquainted with the guests on the first evening, then starting our drive down to Keetmanshoop the following morning, to get into the Quiver Tree Forest mid-afternoon. The Quiver Tree Forest is a magical place, but as much as I try, I never like the daylight photos from there, as they just seem to mediocre compared to the sunset or night time shots that we get there.

Here is one of my favorite shots as the sun dropped below the horizon, and this is a slightly different take on what I’ve done in previous years. I just liked how the tree on the right helped me to frame the shot, although it did not lend itself to the separation that I usually like to try and get among the other Quiver Trees in the distance but I think it still works.

Quiver Tree Forest at Dusk
Quiver Tree Forest at Dusk

I think the soft pink tones in the sky and also the warm light of late dusk illuminating the trunk of that right tree help to give us some more information about the trees when most of the others are almost completely silhouetted. At this point, my settings for this shot were 0.6 seconds exposure at ISO 100, with an aperture of f/14, at 35 mm. I was, of course, using a tripod, and all of the images that I’ll share in these travelogues were shot with one of my two Canon EOS R cameras. I was also using my Canon RF 24-105mm lens for these first two images.

As the sun got deeper below the horizon, I shot a few final images with the warm glow just along the bottom of the frame, transitioning gradually to the indigo of twilight at the top. Here too I abandoned my desire to keep each tree separated in order to get these many different quiver tree forms in the frame, including many of the trees which were flowing.

Quiver Tree Forest Sunset
Quiver Tree Forest Sunset

My shutter speed for this shot was now down to 13 seconds at ISO 100, still at f/14, and now using a slightly wider focal length of 27 mm. It’s always fun running around the Quiver Tree Forest trying to find compositions that I feel work as the sky gradually turns red. Unfortunately, this year, there was no cloud cover, so the sunset had nothing to reflect onto, making it somewhat uneventful. However, that was probably a good thing, as I’d planned for us to be at the Quiver Trees when there is a new moon this year, and that gave us the opportunity to come back into the forest after dinner, for some astrophotography.

The Milky Way with Jupiter

As you can see from this next image, the clear skies did help us to get some pretty neat shots of the Milky Way with the quiver trees silhouetted in the foreground, and the timing of our trip actually placed Jupiter right in the Milky Way, shining bright to the left of the Quiver Tree in this image.

Quiver Trees and Milky Way with Jupiter
Quiver Trees and Milky Way with Jupiter

The 340 Rule

You’ve probably heard people talking about the 500 Rule or the 600 Rule, which is intended as a guideline calculation to help you avoid elongation of the stars discs in your images of the night sky, caused by the rotation of the earth. Basically you divide the focal length that you’ll shoot at by 500, so dividing 500 by the 17mm I used for this shot, we get 29.4 seconds.

Well, I imagine this is affected by where you are on the planet, as I imagine the movement of the earth affects the stars more when we are closer to the equator, so just south of the Tropic of Capricorn in June, I find the ideal formula is to actually use what I suppose should be termed the 340 Rule. In fact, at 20 seconds at a focal length of 17 mm, the stars are just starting to elongate, so you may even need a shorter shutter speed if you really want to get circular discs. This works for me though, and I’m pretty happy with this year’s Milky Way photo, especially with the cameo from Jupiter.

The Giant’s Playground

The following morning, we got up bright and early to head out to the Giant’s Playground looking to capture this kind of image, again a silhouette, but this time of the comical faces that we can find in the dramatic rock formations of the Playground. It’s literally like giants have placed these rocks so that they look like faces. If you were in the UK in the 70s and 80s you’ll probably recognize the late Bruce Forsyth with a trilby hat on looking up at Venus from his pile of rocks, Shrek is also peering up at Venus from just right of center, and of course, the baboon or Easter Island statue is pretty prominent on the left side of the frame.

Giant's Playground Faces Revere Venus
Giant’s Playground Faces Revere Venus

My settings for this were a 6-second exposure at f/14, with ISO 100 and a focal length of 70 mm. Once again, I continued to shoot some images once the sun started to come up, but they really don’t do as much for me as these dramatic silhouettes, so we’ll skip them.

Kolmanskop

After breakfast, we drove through the morning to the Atlantic shore, just short of Luderitz, our base for the next two nights, and we spend the afternoon in Kolmanskop, the deserted diamond mine town, that is gradually being reclaimed by the desert. Although I have somewhat skeptical views on trying to create “something different” as discussed in episode 571, I do like to try and find things that I have not photographed before, especially as I visit many places time and again on my tours, and I was happy to find the room that we see in this first image from Kolmanskop, which I found for the first time this year.

Wallpapered Walls in Kolmanskop
Wallpapered Walls in Kolmanskop

Maybe the owners of Kolmanskop are gradually clearing the entrances to some of the rooms that are still in relatively good condition, as the roofs cave in on other buildings, gradually taking them out of commission, or maybe I just missed it, but I did enjoy this room, with its vertically striped moss-green wallpaper. I also liked the half-sheet of corrugated steel on the floor, and as I’ve mentioned before, I generally like to allow the light from the windows to glow like this, rather than trying to let the viewer see outside, as I feel this adds to the mystery of the image. My settings for this were a 1-second exposure at f/14 with ISO 100 and a focal length of 24mm.

School Corridor

One shot that I pretty much repeat without change every year is this image of the school corridor, from the furthest building from the entrance to the town. There’s just something about the one-point perspective that I use for this shot that continues to appeal to me. I also pay attention to getting the camera at just the right height and position to enable me to get wall on either side of the frame and to get the windows vertical throughout the shot, so I don’t have to correct the image with the Keystone tool in Capture One Pro.

Kolmanskop School Corridor 2019
Kolmanskop School Corridor 2019

The contrast between the inside and the outside world here is actually not so high, so with a tweak of the sliders in Capture One I can actually bring the highlights down to show you the buildings outside for this image, but I prefer not to. I just like that glow, as I mentioned earlier, and really don’t think that we have to see outside unless it helps us to tell a deeper story. For me, in these shots, quite often the mystery is more important. My settings for this shot were a shutter speed of 0.4-seconds, at f/14, ISO 100 at 40 mm.

Blue Room

As I shoot Kolmanskop, some of the rooms that we peer into have direct sunlight pouring into them, and although that can be effective, it can also introduce too much contrast, so I make a mental note to revisit the room the following morning when the sun is on the other side of the building. I’d just walked away from the room in this next shot when the sun went behind some clouds, so I quickly walked back with a few of my guests, so that we could shoot it while the window of opportunity lasted.

Kolmanskop Blue Sand-Filled Room
Kolmanskop Blue Sand-Filled Room

I really like this room, so full of sand, yet still in relatively good condition. For this shot, we literally have to just shoot through a broken panel in the wooden door, which will never be opened again with all this sand pushing back against it. For this perspective, I also used my Canon EF 11-24mm lens, almost wide open at 12 mm, being careful to get the back wall square in the frame, but allowing the wide lens to cause all of these great diagonal lines of the side walls and ceiling. I also like how we can see into the second room with its healthy amount of sand against its blue wall as well. My other settings were f/14 for a 4-second exposure, this time at ISO 400, because the wind was gusting a little, and I didn’t want to risk a longer exposure.

The following morning we went back to Kolmanskop and were presented with a foggy start of the day, as the sea mist made its way inland, engulfing the deserted town for our first hour. We got a number of shots of the mine manager and accountant’s houses in the mist that were interesting, but perhaps not quite interesting enough to share here.

Indoor Sand Dune

After the mist cleared, the sun once again became strong enough to create these slithers of light on the walls in one of the rooms where the roof has caved in, and the upstairs floor-boards have decayed away, leaving the slats of the first-floor ceiling exposed. This building is another favorite, with an indoor sand dune that almost seems like it might have been the “in” thing to do at one point in history, like keeping a bonsai tree or doing indoor fireworks at a party.

Indoor Sand Dune with Slithers of Light
Indoor Sand Dune with Slithers of Light

Once again I am playing with the lines in the walls caused by my wide angle of 12 mm, causing the angles to open out from the vertical lines in seemingly random order, accentuated perhaps by the roof of the room to the right caving in, forming another completely unexpected angle. My other settings were a 0.4-second exposure at f/14, ISO 125.

View From the Hospital

I mentioned earlier that I like the glowing windows unless there is a story to tell by being able to see outside. Well, this is probably the first photo I’ve shot at Kolmanskop where I felt there was a story to be told by being able to see out of the window. I went through one of the rooms in the hospital and found a corridor at the back with windows that looked out across the desert, with some of the distant buildings of the entrance to the Elizabeth Bay diamond mine, that we would visit later this day.

A View From the Hospital
A View From the Hospital

As I looked at the scene from these windows, I thought of all the people that must have sat in this corridor looking out across the desert, just as I was, and perhaps some with ailments that may have made them long to be able to go outside, despite it being one of the most hostile environments on the planet. To tell this story, I exposed for outside, rather than inside, and then increased the brightness of the inside with the Shadows slider in Capture One Pro. This gives us enough information to see the now failing walls, but also the flourishes above the border painted on the walls, showing us how proud the people running and staying inside this hospital were of their architecture. My settings were 1/125 of a second at f/16, ISO 100 and my lens was wide open at 11 mm.

Doors and Slats
Doors and Slats

Doors and Slats

The last image from Kolmanskop that I’d like to share from this visit is this one, of another favorite building, where the roof and upstairs floor-boards are missing, but at the right time of day, provide this wonderful display of diagonal slithers of light throughout the building.

I, of course, lined this up so that the doors in the other rooms of the house are in view, but also went vertical to emphasize all of the gaps in the slats in the ceiling and the slithers of light on the floor. With the camera horizontal, in landscape orientation, you get a bit too much of the dark walls either side of these slithers or light, so I prefer portrait orientation here.

I kind of like the door that someone has stood up against the wall, as an extra element of interest, but I was happy with it not there as well. I guess this is something different that moves me so little that I really don’t care either way.

My settings for this were 1/50 of a second at f/14, ISO 100, with a focal length of 19 mm. Again, the wide angle is helping to accentuate all of these lines making for a very graphically pleasing shot, although I do realize that some people struggle to understand what’s happening in this image, at least to begin with.

OK, so that brings us to 10 images, and the end of this first episode in the series. Next week we’ll pick up the trail as we head into Elizabeth Bay, where this is still a diamond mine in production, which means strict security as we enter and leave, although our goal is to visit the run-down houses and buildings in the old mine that has been closed for some fifty years or so now.

Complete Namibia Tour 2020

Note that we have filled the first vehicle for this tour in 2020, so the tour will go ahead, but we do now have spaces in the second vehicle, so if you’d like to join me, please check your schedule and book your place at https://mbp.ac/namibia2020 as soon as you can. The lodges and other service providers in Namibia force us to lock in on our numbers very early, and once we are locked in, we can’t take any more people, so time is of the essence, as they say.

As you’ll see during this travelogue series, this is a truly epic tour in which you will see and photograph many of the highlights that Namibia has to offer, and I’d really like to share it with you on my sixth visit.

Complete Namibia Tour - June 20 - July 6, 2020

Show Notes

For details of the 2020 Namibia tour check here: https://mbp.ac/namibia2020

Music by Martin Bailey


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Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 622)

Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 622)

This week we continue our travelogue series covering my 2018 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, as we spend a morning in Kolmanskop and an afternoon at Elizabeth Bay, another deserted diamond mine town, before driving on to Sossusvlei.

Kolmanskop Day #2

With this year’s tour being so productive, it’s been difficult to whittle down my images past a certain point, and even today, although I try to limit each episode to 10 photographs, I ended up with 12 to talk about this week, so that we can move on to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei next week. Because I haven’t been to the big houses on the hill at Kolmanskop for a few years, I decided to walk up there early on the morning following our first visit for this year.

Kolmanskop Manager's House
Kolmanskop Manager’s House
Door on the Floor
Door on the Floor

As you can see, there was plenty of light flooding into this space from the missing roof, and because the light wasn’t really high contrast, I was able to easily balance the inside and outside of this space with the Levels, Highlight and Shadow sliders, and a slight Luma Tonecurve in Capture One Pro.

I also positioned my camera at a height that allowed me to get the vertical beams in the space vertical, which I like to do when possible, and when it makes sense to do so. I shot this with my Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens wide open at 11mm. My aperture was f/14 at ISO 100 for a 1/10 of a second shutter speed.

Door on the Floor

This is one of the few buildings that for some reason is being cleaned, and is in pretty good condition, as far as derelict houses in the desert go. I find it interesting though that things like the back door that has come away from its hinges are just left flat on the floor, as you can see in this next image (right). There is sand around, and you may be able to make out a mound of sand two rooms deep in this photograph, but the door is just off. 

Due to the low angle, and the fact that I wanted to get just the door without the door frame, I do have a little bit of outwards lean in the verticals in this shot, but this is one of those times where I just choose to roll with it. I can correct this in Capture One, but I lose too much of the image, and it really doesn’t bother me.

My main composition consideration here was getting the door straight and symmetrically aligned with the bottom corners of the frame. My settings for this shot were a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 18mm.

Accountant’s Bathroom

I think I have it correct in saying that the next house I visited was the accountant’s residence back in the day. It’s funny that the accountant seems to have a slightly better plot of land than the manager, with an unencumbered view across the dunes at sunset.

This next photo is the bathroom from this house, which as you can see, still has some beautifully well kept black and white checkered tiling on the floor (below). The walls are also still in very good condition, although the metal in the room has all rusted quite badly. It’s interesting to see how the various materials deteriorate at different rates. My settings for this image were a 1.6-second exposure at f/11, with ISO 100 and a focal length of 12 mm. If you are wondering why I didn’t use my usual f/14 for this shot, it was basically because people were walking around the house, and I could feel a slight vibration, but more just because I could.

Kolmanskop Accountant's Bathroom
Kolmanskop Accountant’s Bathroom

With a lens at 12 mm and an aperture of f/11, if you focus at just over a meter or three feet in front of the camera, everything from 60 cm or 2 feet to infinity is in focus anyway, and that’s information from my Photographer’s Friend app in Pixel Peeper mode, so the reading is a little harsher than traditional calculations. So, although I like to shoot at f/14 for landscapes, there really isn’t much reason to do so in a situation like this, as I was standing up and nothing in the scene was so close that it would not have been in focus.

Note that here too, I am not at all concerned that the window is completely overexposed. I was asked by email last week if ever do HDR to reduce this contrast, and my answer is no. I know that some people like to do that, or sometimes just merge two exposures, one for the inside and one for the outside exposure, but I really just don’t think that’s necessary for my own photography. Not only are most of these windows quite dirty, preventing us from seeing much outside anyway, I actually quite like using these windows simply as a light source. They glow, and in my opinion help to keep the image somewhat minimalist just as they are.

School Corridor

I guess there are just many things about photography that I just decide not to care about. I’m sure there are people out there that cringe when they see my overexposed windows, but I really just simply do not care. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it, I’ve made a conscious decision to leave them as they are. In this next photo of the school corridor, which is actually at the other end of Kolmanskop from the accountant’s house, you can see a little bit of detail outside, and if I wanted to, I could bring that under control a little more in Capture One Pro, but I really just don’t like the look of the photo when I do that. I prefer the glow that these windows bring to the photograph (below).

Kolmanskop School Corridor
Kolmanskop School Corridor

In this image, I’ve positioned my camera at such as height that I could get the vertical frames of the windows straight. I’ve also used my favorite one-point perspective composition here, with the window at the end of the corridor positioned perfectly in the center of the frame, to add tension and drama. I moved that dark frame on the floor a little more into the scene as well. It was closer initially and would have been cut off by my framing had I left it where it was. As you can tell, I’m constantly giving attention to certain details when it makes sense to do so, and completely letting go when it doesn’t.

Slatted Room
Slatted Room

Slatted Room

This last photo from Kolmanskop is one of my favorite rooms, and most of the group had gathered here shortly before lunch, hoping for a chance to make this kind of photograph (right).

Before lunch, the sun wasn’t quite high enough in the sky to get light shining through the slats in the ceiling like this, so I was pretty pleased that I’d decided to start our Elizabeth Bay visit from 2 o’clock, as that gave us an hour after lunch to work this scene. Actually, it was probably a bit less, as it was a Namibian lunch, as in it took quite a long time for our food to arrive, so I think it was about ten past one when we got back there.

I love this look though. You have to really work to figure out what you are looking at, especially as you try to fathom what’s happening with the multiple doors in the bottom right corner. And of course, all of the highlights and shadows add additional directions that our eyes try to follow throwing off our perception of what we are seeing even more.

Compositionally I was conscious here that I wanted to be in a position where I had as much of the slat shadow covered walls in the frame as possible, as well as being able to see through the first do to the others in the rooms further back, and this was just about the best position to achieve that. My settings were a 1/50 of a second shutter speed at ISO 100, back to f/14, and a focal length of 22 mm.

Elizabeth Bay

After photographing the slatted room, we made our way down to our safari vehicles just outside the gates to Kolmanskop and waited for our guide to arrive and accompany us through the tight security on the entrance to Elizabeth Bay. 

We were entering to visit a second deserted diamond mine there, but there is still an active diamond mine that we pass on the way, so the checks are quite serious. This year, for the first time, every member of our group was breathalyzed. This worried me at first, as a few people had drunk a beer with their lunch, but there were no problems. I guess they are checking for high levels of alcohol rather than traces.

The way that the houses in Elizabeth Bay are decaying is different from that of Kolmanskop. As Elizabeth Bay is right on the coast, sea air is literally dissolving the bricks, leaving the mortar in place, as you can see in this photograph (below). Note how the cement is left sticking out in the foreground building, but also if you look at the distant building in the center of the frame here, you’ll see how the roof is gone, and the walls are decaying almost looking like lace with some of the bricks completely gone now.

Elizabeth Bay Houses
Elizabeth Bay Houses

As is often the case, there was a good sea breeze blowing. I often make recordings of various sounds with a digital record that I carry around, and I tried to make a recording of my footsteps crunching in the sand as I walked between the buildings, but because I didn’t put my wind protector over the mics, the recording is mostly wind noise, although a nice audible reminder of the day. My settings for this shot were 1/100 of a second shutter speed at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 35 mm. I was using my Canon 24-105 Mark II lens now.

This next photograph was from inside a room that has a painted wall that Freeman Patterson made famous by using his photograph of it on the cover of his book “Odysseys Mediations and Thoughts for a Life’s Journey“. That book was first published in 1998, so twenty years ago now, and although the wall looks a little bit worse for wear, the table is still in place, and that kind of shows us that things are changing slowly in some respects.

Elizabeth Bay Palm Tree Mural
Elizabeth Bay Palm Tree Mural

In the past, I’ve shot this building through the window which is just to my left as I made this photo, but this year, I actually entered the building from the front door, which we’ll look at in a moment, although I didn’t realize it was the house with this room until I walked through the door to the left. My settings for this image were a 0.4-second shutter speed at f/14, ISO 100 at 17 mm.

This next photo (below) is the same building from the outside, and you can see just how badly the building is actually decaying from the sea wind and elements. Compositionally I kept the top of the frame close to the top of the building, as I didn’t want to include too much of that clear cloudless sky, but I like the amount that I have, as it is a good indication of the dry conditions that we associate with the desert that surrounds this abandoned town.

Palm Tree Mural House
Palm Tree Mural House

I also, of course, wanted to include more of the bricks and sand in the foreground, as these add to the overall story of desolation and decay in Elizabeth Bay. My settings for this shot were 1/60 of a second at f/14, ISO 100 at 20 mm. I switched back to my 11-24mm lens after that first shot in the bay, and although I was carrying both lenses on the separate 5Ds R bodies, I seem to gravitate towards the wider lens for this location.

In this next photo we can see that the end of one of the laborer’s quarters buildings has now almost completely fallen away, leaving us with a clear view down to the beach (below). This is good to show how close the sea is, giving us a better idea of why these buildings are decaying so quickly. It does make me wonder though, as with Kolmanskop too, just how many more year’s these buildings will last. The room with the mural painted on the wall is almost unchanged in 20 years, but everything else makes me think that we’re probably only looking at another five to ten years for most of these buildings.

Really Laborers?
Really Laborers?

Another contradiction that this photo calls to the fore is whether or not the people that slept in these tiny compartments really were laborers or slaves. The people that run the tours tell us that they were laborers that were well paid, which they may have been, but our local guide tells us that the work was so hard that these so-called laborers were chained at night to stop them from escaping, and that sounds much more like a slave to me. My settings for this shot were a 1/60 of a second shutter speed at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 18 mm.

Drive to Sossusvlei

I had a few more images to look at from Elizabeth Bay, but we’ll skip those as it’s going to take too many episodes to get through this trip if I don’t. Let’s quickly look at three more images, taking us to 12 for today, just to illustrate what happened the day after this, as we made our way north, to Sossusvlei. On our way out of Luderitz were we’d spent the previous two nights, we stopped briefly to photograph the old abandoned train station at Garub (below).

Garub Train Station
Garub Train Station

I like the desolation, almost desperation of this abandoned train station. Although the train line itself is still operational, trains just don’t stop here anymore. You may be able to tell too that I’ve cropped this down to a 16:9 aspect ratio. Again, I’m really just not a fan of blue skies, and as there wasn’t much in the foreground either, I just chose this more cinematic aspect ratio to reduce both of these elements, and I also think that this helps to add to the sideways motion of the train line. My settings were 1/125 of a second at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 105 mm.

We drive through some beautiful countryside on this day, and it’s always nice to be able to capture a bit of wildlife in this kind of habitat, as I did with this pair of ostriches (below). As there were two birds, I actually should have kept my aperture a little bit smaller for this shot, but I had opened up to f/10, because the birds were moving around, and I wanted a faster shutter speed because I was hand-holding my 100-400mm Mark II lens for this, extended out to 400 mm. 

Ostriches on Plain
Ostriches on Plain

The male ostrich is slightly soft because of this, but he has a nice catch-light in his eye which kind of makes up for that. My shutter speed was at 1/800 of a second at ISO 400, so I could have gone to ISO 800 at f/14 for greater depth of field, so I consider this to be a bit of a failure, although I quite like the shot.

Our last photo today is of a male Oryx with his harem, and all of them looking back at our vehicle, probably wondering why we’d just screeched to a halt in the middle of the desert (below).

Oryx Male with Harem
Oryx Male with Harem

We can identify the male as the second from the right in the group, because he’s thicker set, and has thicker horns for fighting, and also, our guide told us that the mail Oryx have a thinner dark stripe on their underbelly, compared to the thicker stripe that you see on the two female oryxes on both sides. I really just thought this was a fun shot with all of them grouped together like this, looking back at us in wonder. My settings for this were f/8 for a 1/1000 of a second at ISO 800, and a focal length of 400 mm. This aperture was fine in this instance because there’s no real distance between the four animals, so they are all in sharp focus.

OK, so we went two images over, but that takes us to the end of our fourth day on the road, as we arrived at Sossusvlei to make our way to our lodge for the next three nights. Next week we’ll take a look at some photos from Deadvlei, with the silhouetted camel thorn trees against the brightly lit sand dunes at dawn, and some of the other picturesque dunes in the area. 

Complete Namibia Tour 2019

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

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

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

Music by Martin Bailey


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