Tag Archives: Africa

I was not expecting how awe-inspiring Namibia can be. We arranged a three week trip driving around Namibia in a Landrover with a tent on top (supplied a brilliant company Safari Drive) and I researched the photographic possibilities. The red dunes at Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are high on the list, as is Spitzkoppe, these are very impressive but the unexpected was the landscape in general in the North West of Namibia (see my gallery) and the people. I found a book on my last day that I wish I had read before going Landshapes – The Geomorphology of Namibia it has no pictures but lots of drawings and gives you an insight on what you might see and the geology behind it (unfortunately it is not easy to get in the UK). I was also slightly handicapped by the distances -Marrienfluss Valley, Namibia we covered 3,600km off-road in 17 days – and the pressure to get places meant I didn’t take the time I wanted both to wait for light or explore the angles away from the track. My next trip to Namibia I hope to find a more leisurely pace so that I can try to capture the landscape.

Geomorphology

Briefly – the geomorphology of Namibia stems from the Huab era (900-2,600 million years ago), given the Earth was formed 4,600 million years, or so, ago some of the rock in the Northern part of Namibia is the oldest on the planet! From around 300 million years ago Gondwana was covered by glaciers (it was over the South Pole) and many glacial valleys can be seen in the Namibia landscape. Finally a lot of the geomorphology was formed from the separation of Gondwana into Africa and South America (132 million years ago). In fact many formations in the Etendeka Highlands have matching formations in Paraná in Brazil.

Etendeka Tablelands in Namibia

After the breakup of Gondwana the dominant effect has been erosion. Around 70-60 million years ago Africa was lifted about 1km and there was initial a surface covering of sedimentary rock. This sedimentary rock has in general been eroded, especially as Namibia has been arid for millions of years and has minimal vegetation. Subsequent deep basins are filled up with sand (from the eroded sedimentary rock) and this has flattened the topography. However there remain many isolated igneous intrusions which poke through due to ancient tectonic upheaval. These igneous intrusions along with visible plate tectonics, eroded basalt features are now the dominant features in the landscape.

Spitzkoppe Namibia

Rivers and Geomorphology

An interesting feature of Namibia is that water impact on the geomorphology is different than most landscapes. Back of Epupa Falls on Kunene River on the border of Angola andThe only perennial rivers in Namibia are shared with its neighbours; they are the Orange, Kunene, Okavango, Zambezi and Chobe. Each of these functions as a national frontier with limited irrigation potential. Most rivers are ephemeral in that they are mostly dry but run only for short periods following rainfall in distant mountains. Often the start of river flow is out of the blue and can come with a flood. Ephemeral River in NamibiaThe river will then run for 1-2 days. Although the ephemeral rivers of Namibia have dry sandy or rocky river beds for most of the year, they are conduits for subsurface flow and contain a number of wetlands defined as ‘shallow, swampy or marshy areas with little or no water flow’ or ‘waterlogged solid dominated by emergent vegetation’. These dry river beds are habitat for much of the plant and animal life in the desert regions.

Namib Desert

The Namib Desert is a major feature of Namibia, stretching 2,000 km along its Atlantic coast. The Namib’s aridity is caused by the descent of dry air of the Hadley Cell, cooled by the cold Benguela current along the coast. From the Atlantic coast eastward, the Namib gradually ascends in elevation, reaching up to 200 kilometres inland to the foot of the Great Escarpment. Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimetres in the most arid regions to 200 millimetres at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa. Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for roughly 55-80 million years, the Namib is also the oldest desert in the world.

Dunes in Sossusvlei Namibia

The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while gravel plains and scattered mountain outcrops occur further inland. The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres high and span 32 kilometres long, are the second largest in the world after the Badain Jaran Desert dunes in China.

So overall Namibia has large desert plains with amazing rocks surrounding the plains and large rock sticking through very Tolkienest! There is always a WOW around the corner or over the ridge.

Photography

Panorama of The Bridge at Spitzkoppe in Namibia

On the photography front I found the scale of the landscapes a challenge. Using a 21mm lens the large mountains in the background disappear. The foreground is limited to some amazing treesQuiver Tree Namibia, wind-rippled sand, dirt tracks and the occasional animal. I have just been given Joe Cornish book First Light for Christmas and wish I had read the section “On the rocks” the is a lot to rock formations and wish I had taken more telephoto views. Lightning at Twilight in Etendeka Tablelands NamibiaWe went in late Nov/Dec 2012, this is beginning of the rainy season and the thunder storms where fantastic - I’m going to take a lightening trigger on my next trip – although I managed a few amazing shots after sunset on repetitive shots at slow shutter. Finally, if you get a chance go in a balloon in Sossusvlei.

Mist at Sunrise from balloon in  Sossusvlei Namibia

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The Himba are a tribe living in North West Namibia (for images of the areas see my gallery) they have been a semi-nomadic, pastoral people for 900 years and are closely related to the Herero tribe speaking a dialect, Otjihimba, of the Herero language. The number of the Himba is far less than the Herero, perhaps only about 10,000 and whilst the German immigrants of the late 19th Century “westernised” the Herero they undertook genocide of the Himba. Perhaps because of the harsh desert climate in the region where they live and their seclusion from outside influences, the Himba have managed to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle. Members live under a tribal structure based on bilateral descent that helps them live in one of the most extreme environments on earth.

Himba ManUnder bilateral descent, everyone belongs to two clans:  the fathers and mothers. The clans are led by the eldest male in the clan. Sons live with their father’s clan, and when daughters marry, they go to live with the clan of their husband. Inheritance of worldly goods follows the female line, that is, a son does not inherit his father’s cattle but his maternal uncle’s instead.

The Himba breed cattle and goats. Himba Woman on way to Water holeThe responsibility for milking the cows and goats lies with the women. Women take care of the children, and share out the work within the village looking after other children than their own.Women tend to perform more labour-intensive work than men do, such as carrying water to the village and building homes. Water can be considerable distances, we came across a mother and daughter on a 20km round trip. Men handle the political tasks, legal trials and look after the Cattle. Often children from the age of six can be found looking after goats miles from the village on their own.

To make them eligible for marriage both boys and girls are circumcised before puberty. During the circumcision boys should be silent and girls are encouraged to scream. The Himba Himba Teenage Girl and Mother in Desert on the Way for Water inbelieve that this act makes them ready for wedding. As soon as the girl is born, her future husband is decided. They get married when the girl is between 14 and 17 years old. Men have up to three to four wives, if a male visits a village it is normal to “lend” a wife. Despite this practice, due to their isolation, the Himba have not been troubled by HIV/AIDS.

In everyday life the Himba people worship the god Mukuru and their ancestors. The fire-keeper is an important person in every family. He keeps the family ancestral fire burning. Every 7 to 10 days he uses the fire to communicate with the Mukuru and family ancestors.

Their diet consists of porridge (made from maze which they buy), milk and goat. It is rare to eat their cows as they are often too large for a village before going off; cows are often sold to the government.

Himba Village

Himba Villiage

Members of an extended family typically dwell in a village which is a small, circular hamlet of huts and work shelters that surround an okuruwo (ancestral fire) and a central livestock enclosure. Both the fire and the livestock are closely tied to their belief in ancestor worship, the fire representing ancestral protection and the livestock allowing proper relations between human and ancestor.

Himba Dress

The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, possibly to protect themselves from the sun. Himba Woman putting otjize onThe mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge. This symbolizes earth’s rich red colour and the blood that symbolizes life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty. Himba women have a rather interesting way to make them smell nice. They slowly burn certain aromatic plants and resins and use the smoke created to perfume and clean themselves.

The Himba wear lot of leather jewellery. They often combine it with shells. Western style of fashion appears too but only on men. Both men and women walk topless. They wear skirts or loincloths made of animal skin. Adult women wear beaded anklets to protect their legs from venomous animal bites.

Himba Woman from BackThe hairstyle of the OvaHimba indicates age and social status. Children have two plaits of braided hair. From the onset of puberty the girls’ plaits are moved to the face over their eyes, and they can have more than two. Married women wear headdresses with many streams of braided hair, coloured and put in shape with otjize. Single men wear one one plait backwards to their necks, while married men wear a turban of many otjize-soaked plaits.

Photography of Himba Tribe

The Himba whilst they live in very isolated places are used to Western visitors in their 4×4. They have also learnt that we wish to photograph them due to their inherent beauty, their Himba Childrentribal dress and the amazing landscapes they live in. As a consequence they often seek money without really understanding its value. The money is given to the men and is often used to purchase alcohol as they only other goods they buy is maize flour for porridge. Our guide encouraged gifts of maize flour, sugar, tobacco and sweets which we complied with. This compliance though meant I missed a few shots as our 4×4 didn’t carry the trading goods! My recommendation is carry your own trading goods and then balance the shot against money if requested – second chance on kids tending goats, village with goats in golden light and women on donkeys might not happen. We often drove through villages with nothing but children on their own.

In high contrast situation the Himba skin colour is dark. I had seen Brent Pearson photostream on flickr and whist I loved the images I was not keen on the lighting … mistake. You do not need lights but a reflector (i’d use gold) is a real must. I have managed to pull most of the images from my D800 but my wife used the D7000 and I failed with some images to get usable ones.

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2012 has seen me in Africa for 5 weeks in 2 trips – I had no Safari photography experience and so spent a lot of time researching what was needed before the first trip. The best article I found was Digital Safari Equipment Tips by Nathan Myhrvold and to be honest you need to read it as I am not going to do such a comprehensive job. However Nathan wrote this in 2007 so there are some issues due to the 5 years from a technology perspective plus I have taken a different approach in certain issues. After taking 15,000 photos (selected photos in gallery), in two trips and created 2 books I’d like to share my thoughts.

The keys issues in order of importance are:

  • Camera support
  • Autofocus speed and ability (less frame per second)
  • Dust
  • Reach – What Safari lens (and camera sensor size)
  • Shutter speed and Auto ISO
  • Backup and power

Note: I photograph in RAW and so should you. I use Lightroom … and so should you. Otherwise you are going to think about a whole host of other issues that I am not going to discuss.

The Safari Day

We spent our first trip in Botswana mostly on Concessions and then sometime in Chobe national park our experiences are similar to Nathan. On the second trip we drove ourselves in a Landrover Defender around Namibia; in which you can make your own day – it is cool being able to spend many hours by one water hole, often on your own, you see much more (I might do a blog one of these days). When driving yourself you initially miss the Safari vehicles openness and the skills of the guides to get your photo position right (where the animal will go next – get The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals, how to get level with the animals eyes, avoiding those mid ground bits of grass that mess up focus and the sun/shade).

Camera Support and Workflow

This critical! The vehicles are all different (some discussion coming) and the size and weight of your lens is important. Briefly jumping ahead, I did not use a large prime, I used a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 and occasionally with x2 convertor, this works (see later), so I did not follow the gimbal head advice. I believe my approach would work with a large prime but I have not tested it at length – the guys at Robert White where fantastic and say the birding chaps use the method I will describe. All cameras had a Really Right Stuff L-Plate and I changed the 70-200 foot plate to a Really Right Stuff.

In general there are three safari vehicle types:

  • Self-drive 4×4 (we used Safari Drive - recommended)
  • Southern African open vehicles (in my experience these are in use in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, I understand it is also true of South Africa and Zimbabwe)
  • Northern African closed vehicles with opening roof

You need an easy fluid workflow, during which you don’t strain yourself, that lets you rest the lens/camera with a dust cover (I use a micro-fibre towel) and quickly gets you in position for the shots.

Self-drive 4×4 are easily addressed. You cannot get out of your vehicle so you have to reach to the back seat for the camera and bean bag. Yup you have to rest the bag on the half  Landrover Defenderraised glass. They do actually stay on even in rough terrain but the beans shake down and eventually the lens ends up on the glass. If you’re driving getting your vehicle position right is critical – then switch the engine off – I learnt this the hard way, you cannot get tack sharp pictures with the engine on – also if you have to move the 4×4 it draws attention to yourself. The monopod method (see next) is also OK in a Defender however there is too much manipulation and you end up hitting your partner with the monopod. Namibia Day 3I used a Stealth Gear Double Bean Bag from Wex couldn’t fault it. I used Haricot beans and took all the 500g bags the “supermarket” had in Windhoek, which was x5, I tried this in the car park but it was not enough so got x2 500g bags of another bean and really could have got another one in it.

 

 

Southern African open vehicles are great; the Concessions have no canvas roof but the parks do. You cannot use a bean bag. I was really tempted with the Really Right Stuff Andy Biggs setup – however in the end I felt it was a lot to spend so I made my own approach. I - 20120808 - 105805 - Ian Purvesused a carbon fibre monopod with twist grips (VANGUARD Elite CP-324 4-Section Carbon Fibre Monopod 167cm), with an Arca Swiss Monoball Ball and Socket Z1 sp with quickset device and took two ways of attaching the monopod to the vehicle;

 

 

  • Manfrotto Double Super Clamp from Camulet
  • Old bike inner tube cut in half without the valve

Both attachment methods worked brilliantly however the vibrations and dust are significant. Your camera cannot stay on the ballhead. I stopped using them quickly – you do not need them. The monopod is great without ridged attachment if you set the ball head such that the friction is such it will bend 60-70 degree the lens rests on your thighs (with towel or fleece hatcovering it) when not in use. The camera/lens can be up and straight AND level in a flash. On the Arca Swiss quickset I marked with inedible white pen the balance points for lens with and without convertor. I tested this briefly with a 500mm f4 and it worked great … except (see later).

- 20120810 - 092619 - Ian Purves - 20120808 - 104636 - Ian Purves - 20120812 - 172549 - Ian Purves

Northern African closed vehicles with opening roof it would seem a bean bag is the approach but I have no experience.

Autofocus speed and ability (less frame per second)

Wildlife photograph revolves around getting a tack sharp image of the nearest eye of the subject animal. This seems to be one of those rare unbreakable photography rules – where I have failed the image just isn’t “right”. So my focus approach is obviously auto focus with;

  • AF-C priority selection: Focus (D800 will do Release + Focus)
  • AF-S priority selection: Focus
  • Focus mode: Auto-Servo AF
  • Autofocus area mode: Single-point AF (should I trust Auto-area AF – see Nasim Mansurov)
  • Autofocus mode: AF-A (perhaps I should use AF-C – see Ken Rockwell)
  • Release mode: 4 fps

Animal movements and blinking necessitate taking a few frames per second to avoid disappointment however my observation is that if you go faster than 4 fps you just end up with more out of focus shots. Perhaps “Autofocus mode: AF-A” doesn’t flip to AF-C accurately enough? Once locked you are reliant on the camera/lens focus ability. In modern lens this is a camera issue. Also note that many cameras have a f/5.6 limit when used with convertor. The new D800 and D4 have a f/8 limit.

So what I am saying is that having a camera with leading auto focus ability is more important than frames per second. I noticed a big difference between my D7000’s and D800, although the D7000 is still pretty good. One area where both camera’s are similar is buffer capacity which is around 11 frames for the D7000 and 16 for the D800 – this another reason to keep fps down as the action, whilst possibly frenetic with a kill, lasts longer than a 2-3 seconds. You need a D4 or D3s if you are serious but in 5 weeks I possibly missed a few nice frames on four occasions and in three of the four I got some good ones, in one I missed the keys shots of the action.

Dust

Boy there is a lot of dust. To minimise the effect:

  • Take 2 bodies and have different reach between them to save any lens swapping
  • Take a pillow case for adding converters and keep the pillow case in plastic zip lock bag (in fact keep everything in plastic zip lock bags)
  • Cover your lens when it’s not in use (I use a micro-fibre towel … light brown). Before you cover it check for dust and finger prints on filter (no good checking just before you shoot as you’ll forget or miss the shot)

You still end up with dust so I carry;

  • Nikon Micro-fibre small cloths with lens fluid
  • Nikon Lens Pen
  • Giottos GTAA1900 Rocket Air Blower (hardly used successfully I wonder if canned air spray might be better?)
  • Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly 724 Brite (this occasionally smears dust so I use the swabs below)
  • Visible Dust 1.0x (for D800) and 1.6x (for D7000) Sensor Cleaning Kit (Vdust Solution and 4 Orange Swabs) – the instructions are not great so read up on their website before you go and keep the fluid to absolute minimum … don’t panic when it smears … it evaporates and use swab which is drying by then to remove any visible smear

Reach – What Safari lens (and camera sensor size)

I am just going to discuss Animal rather than Landscape (I mostly use a Zeiss 21mm Distagon T* f/2.8 for Landscape – look for later posts [addition: here it is]).

When I went on my first trip I spent ages reading and worrying what to do. At the time I had a Nikon D7000 which most people say is a perfect camera for Safari as it has decent focus ability, good high ISO capabilities, 16 Megapixels, good frame per second at 6 and DX frame giving x1.5 multiple on focal length of lens. Of course the multiple is a bit artificial especially if you have a FX with 36 megapixels (more of later). The D7000 is affordable, so I bought a second body and started worrying about the lens.

The options seemed to be

  • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II with TC-20E III Teleconverter
  • 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S NIKKOR with TC-20E III Teleconverter
  • 500mm f/4D ED-IF AF-S II NIKKOR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 200-400MM F/4G ED VR II

The 70-200 is the only affordable one but the others can be easily hired with insurance for Africa. On the first trip we had limited luggage with 20kg on the small plane transfers. However in the end I had 10Kg clothes and 13Kg of cameras and we were never asked about luggage at all. Plus I read that with the concession you get really close and so a large lens is not needed? Anyhow the D7000 with 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II with TC-20E III Teleconverter has a theoretical reach of 600mm and so that is what I took. Generally the other D7000 had a 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX NIKKOR on.

In summary, apart from birds, it has been perfect and I would recommend the combination. The concessions are great – I have been 2.5 m from lions eating a Zebra they have just killed. In the parks you just don’t see what you’re missing but in Chobe you can drive by the river where most things happen (at least in dry months).

For Namibia I was more interested in Landscape and as mentioned I bought a D800 and a Zeiss 21mm. I only got these a couple of weeks before we went and so I stuck with my D7000 70-200 combo for wildlife and used the D800 with a AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G as backup for a bit of breadth or close-by animals.

Looking through the images on getting back I wonder if the D800 might have been a better option!?

  • The noise in higher ISO’s is radically better than the D7000 (which I thought to be superb)Namibia
  • The D800 has 14 stops of contrast … you can push and pull image in Lightroom amazingly
  • 4 fps isn’t that slow especially as the focus seems so much better on the D800
  • You can put the D800 into 16 megapixels DX mode … but then you can crop 36 megapixel image to DX frame with 16 megapixels …
  • D800 can manage focussing at f/8.0 so you could teleconvert a rented 500mm f/4.0 with a TC-20E III Teleconverter

Anyhow that’s another trip?

I met people with both the 300mm and 500mm both are beasts especially the 500mm. I feel that the shipping issues, the workflow problems, the back/shoulder strain issues and support problems really mean you have to be a pro that goes down the gym to use these lenses. The exception is birds – I have some nice shots but very few great shots. However does the bigger reach solve the problem? I suspect general Safari is not the ideal approach to birds and you need to go on a dedicated birding Safari and spend more time/technique getting nearer the skittish sharp eyed little buggers.

Shutter speed and Auto ISO

To get tack sharp images you need to use a high shutter speed with long reach lens, same number or higher (e.g. 200mm with 1/250s, 400mm with 1/500s).

At f/2.8 at 200mm with the subject 20m away you have only 50cm front and back depth of field (DoF), at f/5.6 about 1m as the distance drops say 10m it is f/2.8 – 14cm; f/5.6 – 25cm so you might need f/8.0 – 40cm to get a whole animal in focus.

I leave the camera in Aperture Priority and have Auto ISO on with max ISO 3,200 and lowest shutter speed of 1/500s (on the D800 it adapts to the lens which is great!) you have to keep a close eye on the ISO and always roll back to f/2.8 to get the least noisy image. It perhaps acceptable in the golden hours to have a slightly noisy image but daft using f/8.0 on a small animal at noon especially if the ISO goes over 800 on the D7000 (the D800 looks amazing at 3,200). This is the commonest mistake I made – forgetting to roll back to f/2.8 (or f/5.6 with TC). The other problem is knocking the mode dial on the D7000 from “A” to something else, say “S” and not noticing for several, critical, shots.

Backup and power

For backup I took a laptop (fast MacBook Pro with Retina display and 500Mb SSD) with two rugged USB 3.0 1TB drives. I used Ingestamatic to download to the MBP SSD and simultaneous backup to one of the external drives and then autoloaded into Lightroom 4.0. I used Ingestamatic because of better file labelling, GPS linkage but mostly x3 faster upload from the SD card than just using Lightroom. If had time I would pick and reject images in Lightroom and once done I would synchronise my Lightroom directory with the second harddrive using ChronoSync.

In lodges and camps they will have 240v some of the time (in the lodge not your room) and they are usually have UK or South Africa sockets. I took a power surge protected UK four block with a South African convertor and had no problems – except I only took one each of the required leads and I lost my USB to Mini USB cable and thus GPS Tracker on the first trip (second trip I duplicated all cables). I also took a double battery charger which was 240v/12v for my EN-EL15’s and had four batteries. This was a Pearstone Duo Battery Charger for Nikon EN-EL15 from B&H in the USA and cost a lot for shipping; I saw something similar in Camulet recently.

On the self-drive it was whole new can of worms. The Defender had a fridge and so a second battery but this was linked to the main starter battery! It only had one cigar lighter that was linked to the starter battery. So I rigged an extra fours sockets using:

  • TRIXES Car Battery Clip-on Snap-on Cigarette Lighter Socket Adaptor 12v for Cars, Caravan, lorry and Camping
  • Ring Automotive RMS4 Quadruple Multi-Socket Complete with Battery Analyser

I stuck an inline 10A fuse on the clip on and took spare fuses. I also took slow blow 8A 32mm glass fuses for the items with these in the male cigar adapter. We blew x2 10A fuses and x5 8A fuses in three weeks!

I also took a 100Wh Hyperjuice for 12v charging of the MBP both in the Landy with engine running and when the engine was not on. 85W is like leaving your headlights on and the MBP take 5 hour for a full charge. The Hyperjuice was brilliant and also had USB output as well.

As a backup I had a 100w invertor with UK socket which I never used but I lent it out to others.

Things I still need to learn and practice

Whilst I have some amazing tack sharp images …

Personal Learning Notes:

  • I need to try using other auto-focus settings (especially ‘Autofocus area mode’ and ‘Autofocus mode’) and experiment
  • I suspect a local birding spot would be the ideal as they are by far the hardest animals to capture.
  • And whilst I am at it perhaps I should practice approaching birds having reviewed this posting.
  • Have I got the right lens combination or should I hire something bigger?

Update 18 Jan 2013: See Wildlife photography technique post

Further update on autofocusing 01 Aug 2013 see blog

Gear List

This has got a big post … if you’re interested ask.

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I am not sure if this is a location guide or just me talking about my few hours in Deadvlei (24°45′35″S 15°17′31″E) which is part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia and is near the Sossusvlei pan.

Deadvlei has become an iconic location for photographers and we extended our 3 week trip driving around the Northern part of Namibia (3,600km offroad!) just for a dawn shoot in the pan. Namib-Naukluft National Park is a desert and whilst even slight rain would enable the trees to survive; some 900 years ago rain failed to arrive in time for the Acacia trees in Deadvlei. It is amazing after so long the trees still stand in their surrealistic environment.

Deadvlei Sossusvlei NamibiaWhilst we all search for golden light it is really important in Deadvlei because the ground is so white, the sun bright and there are deep shadows from the high dunes it gives many stops of contrast. But at dawn it is magical.

The park has gates which close at 6pm and are locked until 7am! Deadvlei is some 65km from the gate and the last 6km is rutted sand. There is only one way to see dawn in Deadvlei – you have to stay at Sossus Dune Lodge which is run by the parks and is inside the gates with private access. Actually it is also the only way to see the sunset from Dune 45 as well. The lodge has guided tours when we where there they went up the big dune for sunrise and then into Deadlvei (too late). If you do it yourself you need a 4×4 (preferably with Diff Lock … if not drop your tyre pressure to 1.5 bar), its not bad sand but then we had a lot of worse experiences. Stay in high box 2nd or 3rd and keep going with meaning grip steering straight and tolerate your tail weaving about. If you get stuck don’t dig yourself try to reverse and get going again. We left at 0430 its a 45-50 minute drive to the “parking” area – the second one 6km after the end of the road. You need 20-30 minutes to walk in and then however long to setup/work out shot list before it all starts to happen … which it does at an alarming rate.

Deadvlei Sossusvlei Namibia

There is a sign in the parking area saying follow the posts … the posts have gone! We made the mistake of following our fellow guest (with guide) up the dune to the left. Dunes are really hard work. We eventually saw our mistake. The pan is to the right of the Dune … so walk the 1.1km slightly right of the sign telling you about the posts to follow – unless there has been a lot of wind the lower path is still visible in the sand.

Before going to Namibia I did research what might be interesting shots;

What this doesn’t prepare you for is figuring out the order of your shot list nor innovation. Here are some notes (with reference to image above);

  • The sun comes up back left and highlights the dunes behind and to the rightDeadvlei Sossusvlei Namibia
  • The trees are mostly in the ‘front’, the sun first appears on the floor of the pan at the ‘front’ right and moves back
  • The patterna of the pan floor is very variable you need to find your shots and angles before the sun hits the ‘front’
  • None of the trees are really close to the dunes think about focal length / DOF beforehand; I started with a Ziess 21mm and moved to Nikon 70-200 once the sun was on most of the pan floor.
  • I wish I had thought about close up of a tree with background
  • The day before we did a balloon flight and there was thick fog in the dunes, great for us glad I wasn’t in the dunes.

PLease have look at the shots in my Namibia gallery.

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