Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

    Browsing Posts tagged Namibia



    A young male giraffe struts his stuff in Etosha National Park in Nambia.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 239 mm, 1/3200 sec at f/4.5, ISO 400

    In late spring of this year, Alison and I spent nearly two weeks in Etosha National Park in Namibia with a group organized by our friends Gary and JudyLynn Malloch. We spent many hours parked near various waterholes and observed plenty of interesting animal behavior, but one our favorite things to witness were the giraffes when then would get rambunctious. Since there was no predator nearby at the time, and because none of the other giraffes present in the vicinity appeared agitated, it is impossible to know why this particular animal was so riled up. But it was pure joy to watch the strangeness that is a giraffe exuberantly kicking and bucking, reminding us in a way of an elongated rodeo bronco in slow motion.

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    The silhouetted branches of a long-dead tree and a distant sand dune near Dead Vlei combine to create an engaging abstract composition.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 200 mm, 1/100 sec at f/10, ISO 200

    I created this post’s featured image on my second of two mornings at Dead Vlei, in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park. Having tried my hand at some iconic Dead Vlei photos the first morning, I felt I had a chance to experiment a bit on the second.

    The contrast between the Vlei’s shaded dead trees and the sunlit dune west of the Vlei was extreme. Therefore, properly exposing for the bright sand would render the trees nearly black — in silhouette, that is. I just needed to find the right tree and to position the camera so that the jagged outlines of the branches formed a pleasing abstract composition. This picture is one of my favorite attempts at doing just that.

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    Dead Vlei


    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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    Dune 40


    One of Namib-Naukluft National Park's massive sand dunes rises above the valley floor bathed in warm late-afternoon sunlight.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 165 mm, 1/80 sec at f/10, ISO 200

    It was our first afternoon among the giant dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, and Alison and I were focused on finding the best spot to capture the beauty of the place. With their ochre hues and sinuous profiles, all of the dunes along the 35 miles stretch of road we had before us were begging to be photographed, and we were fighting the irrational desire to clone ourselves and be at many locations at once. And because the photograph I was seeking would be obtained in the last 30 minutes before the sun set, when shadows are long and the light shines in warm tones, we were under time pressure.

    The dunes in the National Park are among the tallest in the world and certain ones in particular are famous for their size and beauty. One of the landmark dunes is called Dune 45, due to the fact that it lies relatively close to the road near the 45 kilometer mileage marker. We had been told that it was the best place to go for sunset and so we went to see for ourselves. While Dune 45 is indeed beautiful, it has a parking area right at its base, and on the afternoon we were there, several tourists were climbing up the dunes spine towards its peak. I wanted to avoid any signs of man in my photograph, so we left Dune 45 in search of a more pristine subject.

    A few miles back up the road we had noticed a stunning dune that I thought had great promise, but the sun was now quite low in the sky and there was little time left to reposition. Alison drove hastily back to our “plan B” dune, which just happened to be located at the 40 kilometer marker, and I immediately jumped out of our truck with camera and tripod in hand. I had just enough time to set up my equipment, compose the photograph, and depress the shutter before “Dune 40”, as we decided to call it, began to descend into shadow. In fact, you can see a slight darkening at the foot of the dune in the above photograph, but I think that lends a bit of intrigue to the image, and it is a happy reminder of our victory in a race against the sun.

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    A pair of klipspringers pause momentarily to investigate the human intruders passing through their remote Namibian neighborhood.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 400 mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    “Did you see those?”, Alison exclaimed, and I snapped my gaze to the rocky area where she was pointing. Somehow, while steering our 4-by-4 vehicle over a rugged gravel road in the middle of a vast, desolate — yet starkly beautiful — Namibian landscape, Alison managed to spy some klipspringers amongst the rocky terrain flying past our windows. She asked me if I wanted to try to photograph them and I excitedly replied, “Definitely. But I’ll need to find my camera first.” Because the roads we were driving between Windhoek (Namibia’s capital city) and Namib-Naukluft National Park (our destination) were so punishing that I feared my cameras would soon be bounced onto the truck’s floor, and because the areas we were traversing were so seemingly lifeless, I had packed every last bit of my photo gear inside my camera bag now locked in the pick-up’s covered bed.

    The klipspringer (which literally means “rock jumper” in Afrikaans) is one of the smallest antelope species in the world, and in my experience they are accordingly secretive and shy. Therefore, I was not optimistic we would see those klipspringers again after bringing the vehicle to a halt, retrieving my camera bag, attaching lens to camera, u-turning the vehicle and driving the few hundred yards back to the location of the sighting. Boy, was I wrong. There they were, standing on the same rock and being extremely cooperative as Alison positioned the 4-by-4 in the optimal spot. At first, they stared at us, then the buck apparently had other things on his mind and he began intently sniffing the doe’s hind end while she continued staring at our truck. Then, as if he realized that it was not the time for romance, the buck joined the doe in locking his investigative gaze on us.

    A few moments later, perhaps thinking that they tolerated our presence long enough, both klipspringers took off in a flash, zipping away through the rocky terrain at a velocity that seemed impossibly fast. Even though the encounter lasted only a few minutes from start to finish, it was totally unexpected and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to photograph this usually elusive antelope species. And to Alison a hearty, “Well spotted!”

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