Tag Archives: Namibia

A lesson in light

It seems that this is turning into an admin and preparation month: books to write, processing for commissioned projects to complete, and a couple of new projects and different dimensions to long-standing hides locally gradually getting in place and which will hopefully make the effort worthwhile as the autumn and winter finally arrive.

In amongst times though I’m still trying to catch up on some old unprocessed material from southern Africa last year and in the process found a folder from an ultimately enjoyable evening spent photographing Quiver Trees in southern Namibia, and a good and salutory lesson it proved in terms of both the importance of and the patience needed to wait for good light.

Quiver trees are an almost iconic landmark to be found when travelling in the northern Cape and southern Namibian region, although they are not actually trees.  Rather they are a member of the Aloe family and goth their more common name from the fact that their hollow branches are traditionally used by Bushmen as quivers for their arrows.  They survive in this arid region by a combination of a white reflective outer coating to their trunk and branches and leaves that act as storage units for what rainfall there is in the wet season.

We arrived at this unusually large collection as the afternoon was coming to a close and much to my initial disappointment a thick bank of cloud (the first we had seen in days) had rolled in as the day drew on meaning that although the setting and the magnificent plants were inspiring things just weren’t as I had hoped for.

Of course, as in all genres of outdoor photography, patience and the right light are the key to everything and I could see a thin band of clear sky on the horizon to the west so it was a question of sitting and waiting and hoping to be rewarded.

When the last rays of the days sun finally burst through the narrow window about an hour later the difference to the scene was simply stunning by comparison.

If ever a lesson were necessary to remind me of just how important light is this was it, and of course the presence of the cloud, a curse earlier, was now a blessing providing even more drama to the skies and the chance after the sun finally gave up the ghost for the day (it does drop ever so quickly here) to take full advantage of the colours created by silhouetting the trees, the last of these images being my personal favourite from the whole session.

When I eventually manage to get away from the shackles of the office to start the side of the job I love the best with camera in hand, unearthing this folder and reliving the emotional roller-coaster of the afternoon is a great reminder of the continued need for patience and working in the best light to do any subject justice, even as dramatic a one as these remarkable plants.

In Search of Sand

So just where does a person who spends their working life photographing wildlife go for their summer holidays?  This year it was only one of the S’s that are on so many others lists and it was in search of sand, and where better for that than the deserts of southern Africa.

Sand here comes in many shapes, forms and sizes and it’s a landscape photographers dream when the light is working in your favour.

Abandoned mining settlements like Kolmanskop are a reminder too of it’s power – here it’s taken over the houses in a matter of decades.

In a way that I was drawn to the patterns the wind made in the windblown ridges of snow in Yellowstone earlier in the year, I found myself constantly drawn to the visual record of a landscape permanently on the move.

It also comes in a wide variety of colours too, and in the Sossusvlei area of southern Namibia the textbook rich reds take over from the more sandy colours to be found further south.

This is a much photographed corner of the continent for sure and I guess that’s what made it feel more like a holiday than work as I know there will be little commercial return on images taken here: it made an early morning session with the trees at Dead Vlei, an afternoon seeking the wonderful contrasts that low light gives on such enormous dunes and the appreciation that the subtle light of dusk brings to completely change the atmosphere of the place nothing more than the pure pleasure being in such an extraordinary place should be.

But I can’t keep away from wildlife wherever I go and as stunning (and unusual) as it was to see Sossus Vlei itself full of water, it was the presence of Avocets in these desert oases that drew my attention and time – waders in the desert: who’d have planned for that?

With the iconic Gemsbok or Oryx also on hand to ofer the classic picture postcard type shot this sandy break was one that this wildlife photographer couldn’t help but enjoy.

For now it’s back to work though and after a monster catch up (this trip was nearly 4 weeks and covered lots more besides as I hope to touch on in further posts) a week in Norway with Musk Ox and Sea-Eagles beckons: it’s a tough life for some!