Though these trees at Dead Vlei are belived to have died at least 500 years ago, they remain upright today, resisting decay in the hyper-dry climate of Namibia's Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 180 mm, 1/125 sec at f/11, ISO 200

Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest conservation area in Africa, and for many visitors its main attraction is an area commonly known as “Sossusvlei” famous for its plethora of towering, reddish sand dunes. Within Sossusvlei is a magical spot called Dead Vlei, which is nestled between the giant dunes and is characterized by a flat, white, clay pan and a forest of dark tree “skeletons”. According to Wikipedia, Deadvlei means “dead marsh” (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes).

Standing in the middle of a bone-dry desert, the last thing Dead Vlei reminded me of was a marsh! Yet centuries ago flood waters from the Tsauchab river left behind sediments that created the pan, and provided sufficient water for many camel thorn trees to grow. Since then, changes to the climate, perhaps in conjunction with the build up of the sand dunes, severely curtailed the amount of water reaching the vlei and caused the trees to die. While the die-off is estimated to have occurred 500-600 years ago, the rate of decay in this arid desert is so slow that the trees remain standing to this day.

Dead Vlei’s combination of white clay, red sand, blue sky, and dark ghostly trees has created a photographers’ paradise. With the angle of the sunlight changing throughout the day (and to a lesser degree throughout the year), and wide range of possible compositions, the photographic possibilities at Dead Vlei are nearly limitless. So, while I cherished my two mornings at Dead Vlei, I hope to have the opportunity to return someday and pick up where I left off. The image in this post is one that I feel conveys the essence — and the beauty — of the place.

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