Complete Namibia Tour 2019 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 667)

Complete Namibia Tour 2019 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 667)

This week we continue our travelogue series to cover my 2019 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, as we leave the deserted diamond mine town of Kolmanskop, for an afternoon in another deserted mine at Elizabeth Bay.

Unlike Kolmanskop, which is deteriorating relatively gracefully, the buildings at Elizabeth Bay were built using bricks made with seawater, so the salt is causing the bricks to erode away quicker than the mortar that holds the walls together. You can see this in action at the far end wall of these laborer’s quarters. On the other side of that wall, the South Atlantic Ocean constantly crashes against the shoreline.

Laborer's Quarter
Brick’s made with seawater erode quicker than the mortar in Elizabeth Bay

Once again, I used my favorite one-point perspective for this shot, aligning the far end of the building square on to the camera, as I find this increases the tension in the shot, and these rooms lend themselves to that in my opinion. I find it ironic that people that were reportedly making good money slept in such meager quarters, and probably left what little belongings they brought with them on that plate above the bed areas, only to be replaced by the dust of the crumbling plaster from the walls that once sheltered them from the sea winds. My settings for this photo were f/14 for 0.6 seconds at ISO 100, and I was using my Canon EF 11-24mm lens at 12 mm.

Crumbling Buildings

This next shot is more for documentary purposes, but I wanted to show you what some of these houses look like from outside. As you can see, the bricks are fairing the weather much worse than the mortar, and many of the buildings are simply collapsing as the bricks fail to support them. Because of this, we are obviously careful about which buildings we go inside. Needless to say, I didn’t feel comfortable venturing inside of this one.

A house at Elizabeth Bay gradually succumbs to the elements

Now outside, I was able to increase my shutter speed to a 1/50 of a second for this shot, but left my aperture at my favorite f/14 and ISO at 100, with my focal length adjusted to 20 mm.

Painted Palmtrees

Although the back of the next house I visited is crumbling pretty badly, it’s worth venturing in, as this is the building that Freeman Patterson photographed and used a photo similar to this on the cover of his Odysseys book.

Palmtrees painted on a wall in a house at Elizabeth Bay

I cropped this to a 4:5 aspect ratio, to remove the windows to the right and the door to the left. I’ve shot it with them in the past, but figured I’d just concentrate on the wall and the table with the bottles this year. Back inside for this, my shutter speed was 0.5 seconds, and my focal length was 15 mm, with the rest of my settings unchanged.

Corroded Luderitz Jetty

Following an afternoon in Elizabeth Bay, we drove back to Luderitz, and a few of us got out of the vehicle a short walk from the hotel, to photograph the corroding jetty that you see in this next image. I look at this every year, but there was a bit of color forming in the sky on this evening, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to do some long exposure work to smooth over the sea and allow the clouds to move a little.

Corroded Luderitz Jetty
A the metal of a jetty gradually corrodes in the town of Luderitz

I shot from a few different angles, but prefer this one, as for some reason I really like those bent over metal spikes on the block in the bottom left. The rest of the structure is also severely corroded, and I don’t imagine this will be there for many more years, with some of those beams looking as though they’re going to fall away at any time.

If I recall correctly, I was using a six-stop neutral density filter, which took around a 0.5-second exposure out to one minute to capture the movement of the waves and sky. I was also carefully applying downward pressure on my tripod because the wind was blowing quite strongly, and my camera would have moved otherwise. I actually opened up my aperture to f/10 for this shutter speed too, as I didn’t want to risk going any longer while applying pressure. My focal length was 47 mm, now shooting with my Canon RF 24-105mm lens.

Deadvlei Silhouettes

The following morning we started one of our long drive days, which is a great way to see Namibia, and the roads are now much better than they were when I first started visiting Namibia, though most of this day is on dirt tracks. We stopped for a number of photos along the way, but we’ll skip to the next highlight, which is Deadvlei, from our first visit the following morning.

This shot from Deadvlei makes me think of a priest giving a sermon

I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of image before, but I still love shooting these, and the magic never seems to fade as the sun climbs, illuminating the sand dune, but the shadow of the dune to our backs keeping the clay-pan and foreground camel thorn trees in the shade, making them almost silhouettes. It’s really hard to find something new when there are limited trees that can be framed up with adequate separation between them, but this year, I decided for my first shot that I’d allow the two trees to the left to overlap, so that I could put all five of them in that group on the left, and this makes me feel like there is a priest on the right, giving them a sermon, although he might also be holding up two fingers, making a peace sign.

My settings were ISO 100 for 1/25 of a second at f/14, and I was using my Canon EF 100-400mm lens at 200 mm. I find that longer focal lengths are essential to get separation between the trees because a wider angle includes other trees too easily. The sun only illuminates the background dune perfectly like this for a few minutes, so once I have a couple of frames of each composition, I run between a few other possibilities. On this morning I got five or six shots that I was really happy with, although I won’t share them all today.

Bands of Color

One other thing that I do like to do is to play with the bands of colors that form as the sun climbs, as we can see in this image, with the blue sky, darker dune, orange dune, a slither of brightly lit clay, then the clay basin still in shadow with the camel thorn trees.

Bands of Color
As the sun climbs, bands of color form at the back of Deadvlei, in Namibia

The fun thing about this shot is that it actually shows you how much the trees in the previous image that we looked at were compacted. The three trees on the far right of this image are the third, fourth and fifth trees from the left in the previous image. The tree in between the other two trees just to the right of the center of this shot, is the tree on the right side of the previous image, and the tree that is overlapping the smaller tree in the third group from the left here is the back tree of the two on the left of the previous image.

You really wouldn’t think that they were as spaced out as this, but it goes to show just how much using long focal lengths can compact the elements of a scene. In the previous shot, you’d think that all of the trees are within a few meters of each other when they are actually more like thirty meters apart. My settings for this shot were ISO 100 for a 1/30 of a second at f/14, and a focal length of 158 mm.

Deadvlei Sand Storm

After our morning shoot in Deadvlei, we drove back to our lodge and got lunch, then after a little bit of downtime, we went back out and took a walk across the plain to photograph one of the sand dunes. We do this again at the end of the second day in the park, so I’ll share a photo from that shoot later, but before that, I’d like to share a couple more shots from Deadvlei from our second visit.

As we left the lodge on our second morning, there was a good wind blowing, and it got gradually stronger as the sun came up while we were waiting for that magic minute in Deadvlei. Having decided on our first composition, as we sat and waited for the silhouettes to form, every so often a strong gust of wind would whip up the sand and dust so much that it almost completely whited-out the background, so that the orange color of the background dune became almost a very pale pinkish-orange, as you can see here.

A gust of wind whipped up the sand around the camel thorn trees in Deadvlei, giving us a nice bonus in return for getting sand-blasted

I like this because I’ve never seen shots like this from Deadvlei, so we had been presented with something very special, almost as if it was in payment for us being sand-blasted every few minutes. There were a few relatively uncomfortable moments as banks of sand swept through Deadvlei, but when they give you shots like this, it’s absolutely worth it. I also really like how the texture of the trees is so much more visible in these shots, and that soft colored background is a beautiful additional element. My settings for this image were ISO 100 for 0.8-seconds at f/14 and a focal length of 312 mm.

Stark Contrast

Also, to illustrate the stark contrast between the white background image and our main objective, here is the exact same photograph around 40 minutes later, as the sun reached the bottom of the background sand dune, increasing the contrast once again.

Deadvlei Camel Thorn Tree  Silhouettes #1
The Magic Moment as the sun creates beautiful silhouettes with the came thorn trees in Deadvlei

These three trees are the same as the right three in the main photo from the previous day, and I’ve shot this same composition many times now, but I do enjoy having this image from various cameras, and I have to say that this version from my Canon EOS R camera is absolutely stunning when viewed at 100%. My settings for this were an 1/80 of a second shutter speed at f/14, and a focal length of 321 mm. I increased my ISO to 400 to get this slightly faster than my usual shutter speed, because of the wind. I wanted to avoid camera shake if a gust of wind caught my camera at the critical moment.

Smoking Dune

I’d like to share one last shot from Deadvlei before we move on. Once again, the high winds presented us with another unexpected bonus, as the sand from the brow of the sand dune that causes the shadow in the valley was backlit by the low morning sun, looking almost like the corona coming off of the surface of the sun itself.

Smoking Dune
High winds blew the sand from the brow of a sand dune that was backlit by the low morning sun at Deadvlei

I’ve processed this to increase the contrast, using the tone curve and levels sliders to darken down the sand, allowing the smoking sand to look like fire, but there is still enough texture in the sand to see what it is. My settings for this shot were ISO 100 for a 1/50 of a second at f/11, and a focal length of 360 mm.

Fiery Sand Dune

As I mentioned earlier, we repeated the previous day, by driving back to our lodge for lunch, and after a bit of downtime headed out to walk to the face of a sand dune, and here you see it looking almost a fiery red with the last moments of sunlight before the sun went down. The wind is blowing the sand around the surface of the dune here, and of course, the contrast between the East and West sides of the dune causes the East side to go into almost full black.

Fiery Sand Dune with Camel Thorn Tree
The surface of this sand dune comes alive as the wind blows the sand swirling across its surface

There are actually two Camel Thorn trees in this shot, but I positioned the second behind the one you see here to minimalize the elements in the frame as much as I could. I like to keep things as simple as possible. After this, we walked back to our vehicle, to a Gin and Tonic and some snacks provided by our amazing guide, and then had a nice drive back to the lodge to spend our third night in this very special part of Namibia.

That’s out ten photos for this episode, so we’ll stop there, and pick up the trail again next week as we head over to Walvis Bay where once again the weather gave us an unexpected bonus, enabling us to photograph the flamingos in a beautiful morning mist, so please stay tuned for that.

The Martin Bailey Art Gallery is Live!

Before we finish, I’d like to quickly mention that I have just flicked the switch to go live with a brand new website Martin Bailey Art, which is a new fine art print and wall art store, containing much of my best work, all available to buy as anything from fine art prints, to canvas, metal and even printed onto wood, as well as some budget media, if you’d like to own something but need to keep the price down, although these third party prints are all quite reasonably priced. There is also a 20% discount for first-time orders if you fill out the popup that will display when you first visit, so please take advantage of that if you find something that you like, including many of the photographs that we’ve looked at today. You can find the new site at www.martinbailey.art. I hope you like what you find there! If you are looking for one of my photos that isn’t available, by all means, drop me a line, and I’ll upload it for you to pick up a print.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshops 2020 and 2021

I’d also like to mention that in addition to the places that we have left for my 2020 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, I have now started to take bookings for 2021, and you can find details of each tour at https://mbp.ac/namibia2020 and https://mbp.ac/namibia2021 respectively.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2020
Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2021

Show Notes

Visit Martin Bailey Art here: https://www.martinbailey.art/

See details of currently available Namibia Tours at https://mbp.ac/namibia2020 and https://mbp.ac/namibia2021 respectively.

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Morocco Tour 2018 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 643)

Morocco Tour 2018 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 643)

Today we continue our Morocco tour as we venture into the Sahara Desert for some beautiful photography in this exotic land.

[download id=”54623″]

As I sat down to prepare for this episode, with the memory of Morocco slowly fading into the past, I thought that I could probably wrap this up with today’s ten images, and move on to something else next week. Fortunately for us, photographs are a wonderful thing. I went through my remaining three stars and higher photos, hitting the Q key on my keyboard, as that’s the key I have assigned the shortcut to, to drop the currently selected image into a folder that I’ve specified as my Selects Collection.

Well, even though I was being somewhat selective, a few minutes later I had 49 images in my collection that I still want to talk about, so I guess wrapping this up today is out of the question. I will try to whittle it down to just twenty more images though, so that we can finish this series next week, in the final episode of 2018.

A Five-Stringed Sintir?

The first image that I wanted to talk about, was of the hand of a musician as he plucked away at what I believe is called a Sintir or a Guembri, but these are supposed to have only three strings, and in this photo there are two darker colored strings that seem to be beneath the three main strings. The instrument was obviously hand-made though, so maybe he just added a couple of string to build on the capabilities of a traditional Sintir.

A Five-Stringed Sintir?
A Five-Stringed Sintir?

I left my shutter speed down at 1/125 of a second for this shot, because I wanted to record some of the movement in the hand to show how energetic the playing was. You can hear the instrument being played in the music that I’ll play in the audio as I record this (Listen with the player above).

My other settings for this image were f/5 for a shallow depth of field at ISO 100, with a focal length of 85mm, with my Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens. You know, I was never too concerned about adding the EF mount designation when describing my Canon lenses, but as I now also own and will be talking about the new RF 24-105mm lens, I guess I’d better start making a point of which type of lens I’m referring to.

Moroccan Musicians

The steel castanet type instruments that you can hear and also see in this next image are called karkabou. The Sintir is also a traditional three-stringed Sintir in this shot too, so you can see what the entire instrument looks like. I thought it was nice that the kids are starting to get into what is probably a family business, and you’ll be glad to know, if you think about these things like I do, that it was a Sunday when we visited these musicians, so the kids weren’t being kept out of school to play in this band.

Moroccan Musicians
Moroccan Musicians

It’s a lovely experience to be able to listen to this music and to photograph the musicians at close quarters as well. My settings for this image were 1/320 of a second at f/5.6, ISO 100 with my focal length still at 85 mm.

Moroccan Nomad

Moroccan Nomad
Moroccan Nomad

Later on the same day, we drove to the camp of some nomad people, where I photographed this young man in his black turban. I’ve actually darkened down everything except his eyes, because the eyes are what I really want to draw attention too, but I realize that in doing this I’m creating a somewhat sinister looking character, especially from a western perspective where we tend to associate this kind of headwear and covered face with terrorists.

I don’t want to allow that to stop myself from using this image though, because in the desert, this is really just their way of keeping the heat of the sun of their heads and the sand out of their ears, mouths, and noses.

I also can’t deny that there is a part of me that also just wants to work with the image like this, to fly in the face of common thinking, where this kind of image might cause fear or concern, when the reality is that this is just a kind young nomad sitting for us to photograph him in exchange for a small financial reward.

My settings were a 1/640 of a second shutter speed at ISO 100 with an aperture of f/3.2, again, with my 85mm lens.

Camping in the Dunes

The first night that we spent in the Sahara was in a large lodge, with big rooms, but to get ourselves situated for a camel ride out into the dunes, before we continued to photograph on this day we’d moved to our luxury tents, just far enough from the lodge for us to feel as though we had the Sahara to ourselves.

We spent an hour or so to settle into our tents, before regrouping to mount our camels and then ride deeper into the Sahara looking for a nice spot to photograph the camels with their handlers, as we’ll see in the next few images.

Camel Handler with Camels in Sahara Desert
Camel Handler with Camels in Sahara Desert

This first shot shows our camel handler taking his first walk up into the dunes, making the first footprints, so we wanted to make sure that everyone was ready before we started shooting here. We walked through the strategy and what we were going to do before we asked the camel handler to walk into the dunes. My settings here were a 1/320 of a second at ISO 320 at f/10, and a focal length of 100mm with my Canon EF 24-105mm Mark II lens.

The Brow of the Dune

This next photograph is just moments later, as the camel handler reached the top of the sand dune that I’d asked him to walk up. We had to call out to get him to walk a bit faster because the camels were starting to bunch up, and it looks much better if you can get a little bit of separation between the camels, like this.

Camels Reach the Brow of the Dune
Camels Reach the Brow of the Dune

Although I’m overall quite happy with most aspects of this photo, there is often something, a tiny detail or two in a photo that really appeals to me. In this photo, it’s the sand whipping up along the back edge of the dune that the camels are walking on, and also how the sand is whipping off the brow of the dune in the middle on the far left of the frame.

We were lucky to get a good bit of wind for this shoot, and we used it to good effect in some other photos that we’ll look at shortly, but I do recall pulling sand out of my ears for at least a day after finishing this shoot. My settings for this image were a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second at ISO 320 with an aperture of f/10 at 182mm. I had my 100-400mm Mark II lens on a second body and was switching between them as necessary.

Virgin Sand

Although we had three camel handlers with us, I found that from this first shoot, when we had two of them walk their camels up a dune and then back again, my favorite three images were of the same man with his camels, because he had the least footprints in his shots. The second guy was no longer walking through virgin sand, and the images just don’t look quite as good. They’re usable, but when you’re trying to whittle down a selection, it’s a good reason to move on to the next shot.

Camel Handler in Sahara
Camel Handler in Sahara

Here we see the first camel handler coming back, and I really like how he and his camels are mostly against the dark band of shadow on the dune behind them. I’ve actually darkened down the shadows a little more with the levels and tone curve in Capture One Pro, just to increase the overall contrast and to stop the dunes looking a little washed out. My settings for this were ISO 800 for a 1/250 of a second at f/14, with a focal length of 227mm.

Compacted Elements

One thing to note here is that the use of the 100-400mm lens at 200 millimeters or so really helps to compact the elements in the frame, stacking the distant sand dunes up, making them look like they are much closer than they did in the first shot that I shared from this location. We had hardly moved between these shots, but the distant dunes appear much closer and more importantly larger in this image because I’d changed my focal length from 100 mm to 227 mm.

Waiting for Sunset

From this point for a while, we had some time on our hands as we needed to wait for the sunset, before finishing our shoot. We had the peak of a dune running to the right of the spot you see in these last three images, that we were hoping to have the camels walk along with the sun on the horizon behind them, and we were slightly mortified when three tourists strolled past on their own camels, but they made for a good photo, and from the angle that we were going to shoot, we could live with their footprints.

The other great thing about having a little time on our hands, was that we were able to photograph our three camel handler models relaxing initially, as you can see in this image.

Three Camel Handlers
Three Camel Handlers

Again, I like how the sand is being whipped up along the brow of the sand dune in front of the camel handlers. It’s also a nice illustration of how their headwear is used to also keep the sand out of their ears and mouths, as I’d mentioned earlier. My settings for this image were ISO 320 for a 1/320 of a second at f/10, with a focal length of 400mm.

Turban in the Wind

As I mentioned earlier, we were able to have some fun with the wind, as you can see in this next image. We asked our camel handler models to first take off, then put their turbans back on allowing them to blow in the wind.

Young Moroccan Man Tying Turban
Young Moroccan Man Tying Turban

It was great that the wind was strong enough to get their turbans out almost horizontally, and with these men looking into the sun they have great catchlights in their eyes as well. I have lots of these images, but we’ll just look at a couple of different variations after this. My settings here were ISO 500 for 1/320 of a second at f/10, and a focal length of 263 mm.

The Turban and the Cloud

Perhaps a little bit cliche, but we couldn’t help but ask the camel handler to go to the top of the dune as well, so that we could shoot him against this wonderful big cloud that had formed up there. I can’t help thinking of romantic classics like Lawrence of Arabia when looking at photographs like this.

The Turban and the Cloud
The Turban and the Cloud

The contrast was actually a little bit harsh, but the Shadows slider at 100 in Capture One Pro helped to pull back a lot of light in the face of the man, so I’m pretty happy with this photo. My settings were ISO 250 for 1/320 of a second at f/10, and a focal length of 300 mm.

Cinematic Crop

While we had the opportunity, we asked another of the camel handlers to also go to the top of the dune, and this time photographed him sitting down with his turban blowing in the wind.

Turban in the Wind
Turban in the Wind

This time I decided to crop the image to a 16:9 ratio to give it a more cinematic feel, and that also enabled me to reposition the man towards the top of the frame, which makes him look higher up, with less space above his head. My settings for this image were ISO 400 for a 1/250 of a second at f/10, and a focal length of 400 mm.

Although we used the time that we had waiting for the sunset pretty well, I need to keep you waiting for the sunset now, because that’s our ten images for this episode, so we’ll start part four with some camels in the sunset, as we walk through our final ten images from this year’s Morocco tour and workshop.


Show Notes

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Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #3 (Podcast 623)

Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #3 (Podcast 623)

We continue our travelogue series today, walking you through my 2018 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, as we spend a magical few hours in Deadvlei, photographing the beautiful silhouetted camelthorn trees.

If you’ve been following the podcast for a while, you’ll have heard me talk about the magical few minutes that happens most mornings in Deadvlei, as the sun rises above the large sand dune to our backs, and we are treated with a beautiful natural contrast of light and shade, that you can see in the first photo for today (below). This is a popular photograph to shoot since National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting put Deadvlei on the map, but as I work with my group here each year, it’s easy to see that composing a nice shot in Deadvlei isn’t as easy as you might think. 

Deadvlei Silhouetted Camelthorn Trees
Deadvlei Silhouetted Camelthorn Trees

Of course, you can just look at what everyone else has done here, and copy that, but I never look at images of places that I visit beforehand, so I start with a clean slate on my first visit, and then I know that at least everything I come home with is original to me. I talked about this concept in depth if episode 571, “Be a Creator Not a Collector of Photographs” so check that out if you are interested.

Composing Deadvlei

My main consideration when composing a scene is that I generally want separation between the main elements of the photograph. Plus, I generally don’t want to crowd my photograph with too many elements. There is literally only one place that you can stand to get this photograph without including parts of the trees to the left and distant clutter to the right starting to creep into the frame.

Camelthorn Tree Cluster
Camelthorn Tree Cluster

It’s lovely to work this location though, and even though I’m visiting twice a year at the moment, the magic never goes away, as the sun works its way down that dune in the background, and creates that perfect line of shadow across the clay pan for just a minute or two.

My settings for this shot (above) were ISO 100 at f/16 for a 1/15 of a second, and a focal length of 200mm with my Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens. As usual, I am exposing to the right, so just ensuring that the sand dune is exposed as far over on the histogram as possible, and then the rest of the shot just takes care of itself.

Cluster of Trees

You really have to work to find pleasing compositions though, and with the time being so short, it’s worth scouting out a few additional options to shoot quickly after your main shot. With just about all of the shots that I can find under my belt already though, I now just quickly grab a few other shots, like this one (right) where I flipped my camera into a vertical orientation and cropped in very tightly on this group of four trees.

You can probably tell that the two trees at the back are the same as the left-most trees from the first shot, so I’d just moved across to my left a little, and zoomed in to 300 mm.

I allowed the tree to the left to overlap with the background trees a little while maintaining some separation between the rightmost two trees, and I quite like the results. However, you can see that the light is already just starting to illuminate the left side of the clay pan, forming a pale yellow line between the orange dune and the darker foreground, and this was just three minutes after my first shot, so you can tell how little time we really have to get these shots.

Bands of Color

The great thing about Deadvlei though, is that you can keep having fun with the light as the sun gets higher, playing with things like the various bands of color, as I did in this next photograph (below). I cropped this down to a 16:9 ratio, to emphasize the horizontal bands, and remove a little bit of excess sky that didn’t do much fore me.

Deadvlei Bands of Color
Deadvlei Bands of Color

With the sun getting higher still now, my shutter speed was at 1/50 of a second now, still at ISO 100 and f/16 though, and at this point I was using my 24-105mm lens at 70mm. With five distinct bands of color, light, and shade, I quite like the overall striking look of this image, although the following image (below) is somehow more appealing to me, as we simply get to enjoy seeing how the trees look in full sunlight.

Deadvlei Camelthorn Trees
Deadvlei Camelthorn Trees

We also do still have four bands of color, which I like to see. You’ll also notice that I’m still trying to get some separation between as many of these trees as possible, just to keep things simple to look at. My settings here were the same as the previous image except that my shutter speed had changed to 1/60 of a second, just a third of a stop faster.

Oryx in the Shade

When photographing in the Deadvlei and Sossusvlei area we head back to the lodge for lunch and a few hours rest before heading back out. The sun is very harsh at midday, and no real shadows either, making the photography a bit difficult. We aren’t the only ones that head for the shade at midday though, as you can see in this next photograph (below) with an Oryx that had decided to keep cool under a small camelthorn tree in front of a sand dune.

Oryx in the Shade
Oryx in the Shade

The dark patches that you can see on both the face of the dune, and the right side of it, are not shadows, but deposits of iron. If you run a magnet over the sand in these places you can quickly get a handful of what are essentially iron filings. They also add a nice bit of texture to the sand, but not to be confused with shadows. The other thing that you’d notice if you can zoom in on the original photo to 100%, is that at midday, the sun is so hot that it causes the air to shimmer, like a mirage, so the Oryx is actually a little bit distorted, as is everything behind it up to the base of the dune. This is another reason why shooting at midday isn’t such a good idea in the desert.

Dune 35 at Sundown

On our way out of the lodge in the afternoon, we had some nice wildlife encounters, but I think I’ll save the wildlife until we get closer to the Etosha National Park probably starting from the end of the next episode. Our main goal was to walk out to dune number 35, which is named so because it’s 35 kilometers from the entrance to the park. We walked out a couple of kilometers to the point from which I made this photograph (below).

Dune 35 at Sundown
Dune 35 at Sundown

We get about this distance to the dune rather than using a longer lens from further away, because there is a third switch-back in the top of the dune, that I personally don’t like to include, and this is the point at which it disappears. We then photograph the trees and generally work the scene until the sun goes down far enough to plunge the left face of the dune into shadow, for this kind of photograph. My settings were ISO 100 for a 1/15 of a second shutter speed at f/14, and a focal length of 120 mm.

Back to Deadvlei

On my tours, I generally try to give my guests at least two opportunities to visit the same location, so that we can improve on our shots, especially when there is only a finite amount of time to make something work, like the two minutes of magic in Deadvlei each morning. The second visit is often optional, and two of our guests decided to climb the dune that causes the shadow in Deadvlei on our second visit, but the rest of the group went back in for a repeat of the previous morning. I photographed one of my favorite compositions again, as you can see in the next photograph (below).

Deadvlei Camelthorn Tree Silhouettes
Deadvlei Camelthorn Tree Silhouettes

I tried really hard this year to find some new compositions at Deadvlei, and although I do have a number of images that I like, I really just enjoy these simple two tree images, that are all about the contrast between the trees and the background dune. I actually removed a few clumps of grass from the dune in this photo, in Capture One Pro of course, just to clean it up a little bit. I’m not a photojournalist, so I’m happy to do that when I feel it will improve the overall aesthetic quality of the image.

We didn’t spend as long as the first day in Deadvlei on our second visit, but as we started to walk out, despite it having been a pretty calm morning up to that point, there was a gust of wind swept through the basin, carrying a bank of dust with it, and within five minutes, we were in the middle of a full-on sandstorm. It was difficult to walk into the wind at some points, and the sand hurt a little if you didn’t turn your head away from it.

I Love Air I Can See

This, of course, isn’t a bad thing. As I often say, I love to photograph scenes when there is something in the air to make the atmosphere visible. Beit rain, snow, mist or sand, I always find it really appealing to be able to see the air, as we can in this photograph (below) just before we got back to our safari vehicles after the thirty minute walk out from Deadvlei.

Sossusvlei Sandstorm
Sossusvlei Sandstorm

I’ve actually done some pretty aggressive level adjustments to bring out the details and layers in this photograph, as the original was much paler, with the sand almost completely whiting-out the scene. I’ve also run a subtle gradient down the top 20% of the frame or so, and reduced the exposure up there by around half a stop, just to darken it down some, for better balance with the rest of the image. Because my camera was being buffeted by the strong gusts of wind, I increased my ISO to 400 and used a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/14, to ensure that I didn’t get any camera shake.

Light and Shade
Light and Shade

Light and Shade

As is often the case though, these morning sandstorms don’t last long, and by the time we’d arrived at our lodge shortly before lunchtime, we wouldn’t have known there’d even been a storm. We headed back out in the middle of the afternoon again, this time heading for dune number 37, which is a little closer to the road than dune 35, and worked the light and shade once again, as you can see in this image (right).

We had hoped for a more defined line along the crest of the dune, but the angle of the sun didn’t give us that with the current shape of the crest. Still, I like the subtle gradation along the line that we did get. I also really like how the wind has caused the large troughs on the lighter side of the dune here. 

The late afternoon sun also really highlights the ripples in the sand at the base of this photograph, so I moved my watermark to the top of the frame instead, so as to avoid messing that up. 

I have increased the shadows with the levels and tone curve quite a bit to make the dark area much darker, for a more striking image, but the orange face is pretty much straight out of the camera. Again, I was exposing to the right to ensure the image was as bright as possible in the light areas, and I can do whatever I want with the darker areas once I have captured all the detail in this way.

I also obviously made a conscious decision to crop in very tightly on this dune. I shot the whole thing as well, and it’s nice, but my favorite shots are zoomed in much closer, like this. I just find this kind of image more appealing most of the time. It takes a moment to figure out what you are looking at for some people, and I think we find an image more rewarding to look at when the content of the image isn’t immediately obvious. My settings for this image were ISO 100 for a 1/40 of a second at f/14, and a focal length of 200 mm.

Tight Crops

I’ve done something similar, going in very tight, with the last image that we’ll look at for today too (below). This is, of course, the same sand dune, but a little over to the left, so as to include the beautiful camelthorn tree that stands there.

Dune 37 with Camelthorn Tree
Dune 37 with Camelthorn Tree

Again, I’ve used the levels and tone curve to darken the shadows, but the sand itself is pretty much as the camera recorded it, with the exception of adding +15 saturation, to just bring back some of the saturation that I lose by exposing to the right. I can also just reduce the exposure slider to get a similar effect, but that affects the entire image, and I want to avoid that. My settings for this image were ISO 100 for a 1/25 of a second, as the sun got closer to the horizon, and an aperture of f/14 at 158 mm.

Contemplating the Place and Moment

I really enjoy photographing these desert scenes. There is something very soothing and thought-provoking about being out in the desert, with really nothing for miles and miles around, except for sand dunes and camelthorn trees, and the occasional Oryx, Ostrich or Springbok wandering around. After our second afternoon photographing these dunes, we were treated to some drinks at our vehicles. We were initially all talking about how wonderful it was to be there, and about the shoot itself, among other things, then our guide suggested that we stop talking for a minute, and just disperse to simply contemplate the place and the moment.

This was a wonderful experience. It’s often nice to just lower the camera and experience the moment, but setting aside time to really just look out across the vastness, feeling the warm desert air being gently pushed aside by the cool post-sunset breeze, and I’m sure that most of the group, myself included of course, just felt incredibly fortunate to have been able to travel to and experience such a wonderful place. It also makes you appreciate just how tiny we are in the greater scheme of things. Even as we looked back at our vehicles from the dunes they were hardly visible in the landscape, but compared to the entire valley between the dunes were all just so completely insignificant and I think it does us good to feel that from time to time.

Complete Namibia Tour 2019

OK, so we’ll wrap up there for this episode, and continue our journey to visit the Himba people for an amazing cultural experience next week. 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, as well as a swanky new animated page header. It really is an amazing tour, so give it some thought. 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

Check out the 2019 (or future) Namibia tour here: https://mbp.ac/namibia

Music by Martin Bailey


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Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 580)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 580)

This week we continue our travelogue series recounting my recent Complete Namibia Tour, as we move to our second day in Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, then move on to photograph the beautiful Himba people.

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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.

The Gathering

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.

The Gathering

The Gathering

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.

The Sermon

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.

The Sermon

The Sermon

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

Tree and Dune #40

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.

I shot this at 248 mm, and all three of these first images for today were shot with my Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens.

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.

Zeila Shipwreck

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

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

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.

Seeing Oneself

Seeing Oneself

Two Years Older

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.

Himba Smile

Himba Smile

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?

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

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.

Kiss

Kiss

Purros Himba

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.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018


Show Notes

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

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

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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


Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

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

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

My Final Edit

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

My Rating System

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Bay

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

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

Elizabeth Bay Labourers' Quarters

Elizabeth Bay Labourers’ Quarters

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

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

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

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

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

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

Tropical Wall

Tropical Wall

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

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

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

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

Desert Sunbeams

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

Desert Sunbeams

Desert Sunbeams

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

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

Deadvlei

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

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

Desperation

Desperation

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

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

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

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

Checking Focus in Live View

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

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

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

The Sourcerer

The Sourcerer

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

Dune #35

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

Intimate Dune #35

Intimate Dune #35

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

Dune #35

Dune #35

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Namibia Tour 2018

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

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018


Show Notes

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

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

Music by Martin Bailey


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