Monthly Archives: May 2009

Kimberley, final frontier, no shock absorbers

Kimberley. Final Frontier. Captain’s log, stardate 8975.1. We received a distress call from bloody tourists lost in the wild and have been sent to investigate. We are not at warp speed 9 but bumping along on a corrugated washboard-like dirt road that threatens to dislocate every bone in our body. Scotty is keeping the engine alive with a never ending supply of Scottish swear words. Our phasers are useless in this setting and have been replaced by cans of mossie repellant. First officer Flemming has clearly lost it, keeps repeating ‘Into the Wild’.

The Gibb River Road and the Kimberley area of Australia is often described as the ‘final frontier’. Well, Space is the final frontier, but the Kimberley is still a wild, remote, rough and reasonably untouched wilderness part of Australia. Three times the size of England, home to only 35,000 people but you will be surprised by the amount of people you meet since there is only one main road. But  you can at least pretend you’re charting uncharted territory as you bump along on corrugated dirt roads into the wild:

Kimberley. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Driving the Gibb River Road is as much about the journey as the destination. Photographic opportunities are there but can be few and far between. I have a knack for attracting extraordinary light and clouds but used up most of this year’s supply in Namibia. Light was bland, but the journey was amazing, had a brilliant time with a brilliant group, got the shots I wanted and the shots I promised my mate at All Terrain Safaris. A brilliant journey! A few highlights:

Windjana Gorge at dawn

If you are a regular reader, you know I love Windjana gorge as described in this post. The power of this place is awesome. This time I walked in the gorge at 5am in the darkness, the eyes of freshwater crocodiles reflected in torch light. Many people do not think much of Windjana Gorge, but it is my favourite gorge in The Kimberley. You can feel the Bunuba people’s spirit here as you stand in between the mighty towering walls of what was once a coral reef under water in the Devonian period, some 350 million years ago! You can also feel the pain of Bunuba’s massacred by the police.

Composition is hard here and it helps to re-visit this gorge a few times. The view is so wide you need to stitch a lot of shots to capture the grandscape here, this is just a quick cropped jpeg preview of a wide angle shot at sunrise:

Windjana Gorge. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography.

Mitchell Plateau

The Mitchell Plateau and mighty Mitchell Falls was new for me, was my main mission and what an awe inspiring experience it was. And I am not easily impressed by waterfalls. A waterfall itself is boring, but string 4 of them together, have them roaring down a massive plateau shaking the ground you walk on ending with an 80 meter fall into a massive pool surrounded by towering walls -  and I am mighty impressed!

To find a vantage point without trees or grass in your shot takes courage, dedication and a love of spinifix grass cutting up your legs! I scouted the very rocky bushy area and without falling into the abyss, found a good spot someway down a cliff face. I had my tripod right on the edge of a 200 meter drop, holding on to a tree with one hand, cable release in the other. I had the 4 tiered Mitchell Falls roaring in front of me drowning all sounds and the abyss threatening to swallow me. A sensational and humbling experience of power, Mother Nature showing off!

Mitchell Falls. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography.

As you can see I used a bit of my powers to attract beautiful clouds on this special day, was the one day with nice light!

The Gibb River Road is a bumpy corrugated dirt road but having just been grated it was in very good condition. Now the Gibb is a six lane tar highway compared to parts of the Kalumburu Road leading up to the Mitchell Falls. Rocky, bumpy, treachery with river crossings, it is 6-8 hours of bone and car breaking track! Day before we got there, two 4wds rolled over on the track. We only broke off both back shock absorbers (shockies) on the truck. Not that it made much difference, track is so rough you hardly feel the difference, shockies or no shockies!

King Brown Snake

I like snakes and I have finally seen a King Brown Snake in the wild! They are highly venomous and have a bit of a reputation of being aggressive but I reckon you are fine with snakes as long as you do not step on them or do anything stupid like pick them up! This King Brown Snake was spotted at night, 10 meters from our camp. About 1,6 meters long it was obviously cold and shy, moving very slowly through the grass just trying to get to cover. So beautiful. Peaceful. Potentially lethal. I slept fine outside under the stars in my swag, no worries, happy to have met and share camp with a King Brown.

Randomness

  • 4 weeks of walking in bare feet or thongs (flip-flops) have almost cured my toes. And made me hate socks and shoes, back to nature, into the wild in bare feet! My feet will never get clean again, a little warning to Rod and Casey who I will soon be going on road trips with!
  • My little portfolio photo book is a huge success and I really recommend bringing something like this with you as a travelling photographer. Had I brought 50 copies I would have sold them all (and had to pay for a bit of overweight on the plane with the earnings!). I have been taking orders from everyone interested, a photo book from me is definitely coming up later this year so stay tuned.
  • What the hell is going on with me and mossies on this trip? I continue to donate blood, I continue my love/hate relationship (they love me, I hate them) but this is getting ridiculous. I tempt fate by sleeping outside of course but even on Cable Beach they track me down and have a feast. Fresh Scandinavian blood is obviously a delicacy for mossies!

Gibb River Road and We eat the snake!

I will be offline for 8 days as I depart Wednesday for a trip up the good old Gibb River Road in Kimberley, Australia! I am going with All Terrain Safaris, I am friends with the manager and in return for the trip, will be shooting landscapes for me – and him. He has also asked me for some ‘people shots’ for his website so I’ll have to remember to disable my Anti-Face-Recognition software! We’re going up the Mitchell Plateau up to Mitchell Falls where I have never been before. Should be interesting, the Mitchell road is so bad it breaks 4WDs in half and eat them for breakfast and people regularly get stuck up there!
Until I return, enjoy my personal favourite of all my Kimberley images:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Kimberley, Silent Grove Sunrise Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Randomness

  • Many years working in IT, dealing with servers, storage, faulty hard drives, corrupted files, blown up controller, blown brain cells on operator (me) has made me paranoid about data protection – see my post on backing up your images. While travelling I have 4 copies of each RAW file. The images from Namibia are priceless, irreplaceable, can never be re-shot. The light we had was one in a million, the trip I had was unique. So I am not formatting the memory cards from Namibia (memory cards are almost impossible to kill). And I still have 4 copies on 4 hard drives of each RAW file. I even carry one, a small WDC Passport drive, everywhere I go so even if my room is raided, or the backpackers burn down – I still have my files!!!!! Like I said, paranoid! Storage is cheap, my images are priceless (to me at least). Murphy’s Law is real and he was a very optimistic person!
  • Having not walked into anything seriously for two weeks my sprained foot and toes (one of them at a strange new angle?) are ready for outback action. Hope the Flying Doctors answers our call as I foresee beautiful clouds and me walking into more things! Need new bionic left leg!
  • Absolutely brilliant quote from the brilliant book ‘Someone Else’s Country’ by Peter Docker, spoken by an aboriginal elder. Adam is of Adam and Eve of course. ‘Mob’ basically means people or group.
    “We’re not Adam’s mob though.
    Snake come offering apple?
    We eat the snake! haha!”
    I want that on a T-shirt! Snake offers apple? I eat the snake!

All in a day’s work for Mother Nature

Nature never ceases to amaze me. No matter how many days, nights, sunrises and sunsets I experience, Mother Nature always comes up with something new. It is one of the reasons I love landscape photography so much. Trying to capture these short moments of magic that most people never see, never experience, never even notice. I can think of no greater thing to point my camera at than Nature itself. We pale in comparison.

I previously mentioned that the laws of physics seemed warped in Namibia. The clear desert air removed all filters, we had pure 100% Nature. That horizon seemed to always be at infinity. That sky was twice as tall as anything else. After shooting in the desert we would be driving home through the gravel desert. Driving West towards the coast and Swakopmund we were going straight into the most striking fiery red and orange post-dusk light in a banner on the horizon. Not dusk really, but post-dusk, a good 30-40 minutes after sunset. In every other direction no light existed, except for a million stars like diamonds in the sky. To the right perhaps the moon. And always to the left, our trusty night sky companion – The Southern Cross. One time we just had to stop, kill the engine, get out and stare into the universe. Stare back into time. No words can describe it, no camera can capture it. You have to be there.

I have attempted to capture some of Nature’s work. They are not necessarily art, but are simply attempts to document Nature warping the laws of physics!

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Glowing night clouds in Namibia. This is not dusk light. The sunset lit up the clouds, then they went dark. Then dusk light lit up the clouds, then they went dark. But then…they lit up again! On fire. It was pitch black except for these night clouds on fire. I stared in disbelief, finally had to get out and try and document this. It was pitch black, couldn’t see the camera. It was also blowing a gale. It is a 10 second exposure, iso400, f/6.3 – tells you how little light there was. Live view on my camera gave up, was just blackness. Couldn’t see much in viewfinder so I just pointed. And got this. Night clouds on fire. White part in top right corner is the moon, shame I didn’t get that. The ‘frozen wave’ on the horizon is the infamous mist/fog coming in to swallow the coast and Swakopmund!

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Dusk lighting up the atmosphere in the Namib gravel Desert, opposite direction of the setting sun. The blue line is actually the earth’s shadow, it is blocking the dusk light from hitting air particles in the lower part of the sky – hence the pink/blue banners. I have seen this many times before but never so clear, so colourful as in the desert! Desert makes everything clearer.

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Rain cloud in the Namib Desert, you can see where it touches the ground. Most rain in the desert never hits the ground, it evaporates long time before that. This is a rain cloud that gave us a few hundred drops of water in the middle of the desert for about two minutes. Just enough to register some drops on the windscreen. We experienced rain in the desert! When locals tell you “we had 15 centimeters of rain” that means that they measured the distance between the rain drops and they were 15cm apart!

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And lastly, a sunset from Cable Beach in Australia where Mother Nature really turned on all the party lights and just lit up every cloud! She also kindly arranged a low tide so I could get mega reflections. I have a stitched 180 degree pano of this coming up, actually for a full 360 degrees the sky was on fire. A 5 minute demonstration of power, of Mother Nature having a party!

The camera’s we use nowadays are incredibly advanced hi-tech tools. Yet I always feel I am holding the equivalent of a stone age tool when Nature flexes it’s muscles. Nothing can capture that. Will not ever keep me from trying though! Won’t keep me from having my head in the clouds, walking into things!
I am a Nature Junkie!

A day with the Jarlmadangah mob

This week I had the pleasure of visiting the Jarlmadangah Burru aboriginal community and spending a day out in their gorgeous Country. I am fascinated and have a deep respect and interest in the indigenous people of this world and had a fantastic time learning about law, culture and history of the two language groups in Jarlmadangah Burru. One of the young fellas, Angus, in training to be a tour guide, even tried to teach me a lot of words in the Nyikina language! Not easy, it is a complicated language to repeat!

In almost every country in the world where white man appeared and stole the land by planting a flag (see Eddie Izzard’s funny ‘do you have a flag?’ skit), the indigenous people suffered terribly. Namibia was and is certainly no exception, the Herero were almost wiped out systematically, San people removed from their land – and they still have apparently the greatest economic disparity in the world. Denmark is no exception. Australia is no exception. Australia has treated the original, the first Australians, absolutely appallingly. Removing them from their Country (after having called Australia uninhabited in the first place to get around any legal problems). Slave labour on stations, murder, rape, massacres etc. Passing a law that says the police will come and take your children. Think about it. Say your government passed a law that meant the police showed up, stole your children, you would never see them again! Introduction of alcohol has also been devastating for aboriginal communities. 50 to 60,000 years of culture, knowledge and law on the verge of extinction. A rich country like Australia and the Original Australians live in 3rd world country conditions. I am quite often ashamed to be white but that’s just me.

Anyway, it is a topic of another long post some day -  it was a pleasure to see a dry (meaning no alcohol) community like Jarlmadanga Burru working so well and I loved the short time I got to spend with Harry the elder and the rest of the guys at the community! It was great fun and a privilege to gain such insight! Wish I could have spend a week with you fellas!  I went with their own tour company, owned by the community – “Purely Unreal” Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours. Great, albeit slightly long name! I highly recommend this tour. If you are in Broome I would say you have to do this, it is that good! You will have a brilliant, fun day with people from the community, do a camel ride (Harry the elder loves his camels!) in the gorgeous Country, see rock art and have a unique experience! I wanted to spend two days out there, unfortunately only the one-day tour was running but if I am lucky I will go again on the two-day tour.

This day was all about the experience, not about photography. But of course, I did shoot a few ‘snapshots’ with the 5D mk II

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Large boab trees lead the way to the community

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Boys from the community having fun!

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Beautiful Jarlmadangah Burru Country!

Their Country is gorgeous, I could shoot for weeks in there. The largest boabs I have ever seen. White gorgeous snappy gum trees, red rock, caves with rock arts. Just confirms what I already knew from Hawk Dreaming – some of the best areas of Australia are fortunately not accessible to the public! We can only hope it stays that way, although if the mining companies have their way, Kimberley will be one big mine soon!

For more images, check out the beautiful gallery at the tour site for Purely Unreal Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours! And next time you are in Broome, this is the tour to do! If you would like to know more about aboriginal culture, law and country, I know some great books, do email me.

On Broome Time and oh the stupidity.

Lazy Days. Holiday mode. I don’t usually allow myself much time to relax while travelling (must shoot photos. Will die if I don’t. Eternally Restless) but have been forced into lazy holiday mode. I am now in Broome, Western Australia, a small but popular outback town where relaxation in 34 degree perfect sunny days is not too bad at all. Why am I forced into holiday mode? My own stupidity!

Last week, walking down the street to Cable Beach with my head in the clouds as usual – I have a real problem with not looking where I am going – I am actually studying the beautiful clouds thinking this will be a stunner of a sunset. Up comes the big heavy Detour sign (ironic isn’t it). Now, I pay this no attention at all but simply hammer my left foot (just wearing a thong or flip-flops as some people know them) full force into the sign. I fall forward. I get my head out of the clouds just in time to brace the fall. At which point the tripod, in the tripod holder on my camera backpack, slides forward at great speed, comes to a full stop when it collides the stationary object that is my head and proceeds to tattoo a Gitzo logo in the back of my skull. Ouch. I now lie in the red dirt. I take a few seconds to gather myself and wonder what hurts the most, my foot, my head or my dignity. I choose all 3 but the following day reveals two toes on my left foot commands attention. Nothing broken but very severely sprained and coloured like a rainbow. Can almost not bloody walk at all, left foot now 2 sizes larger than right foot. Need to use tripod as a crutch and generally look ridiculous as I limp around Broome with yet another bump in my head and an Elephant’s foot.

It is a big disappointment, but somehow lucky that the All Terrrain Photo tour was cancelled (didn’t get enough bookings). I would need a wheel chair for that. So, all original plans are off, and can’t walk, need new plans! I had such amazing light in Namibia, I think I used up my luck for a while. I may go up the Gibb River Road next week after some more recovery. Also need to adjust to a new leg of this tour as Namibia was such an incredible experience, I can’t really get over that it had to end at some point. My desert, where are thou now?

Well, I have managed to get around and shoot some in Broome, Cable Beach, Town Beach, Gantheaume Point, Reddell Beach etc. Decided I could at least build up a good stock library of Broome images. It is not art, but stock images are nice, they usually pay the bills so we can afford to shoot art. Here’s a few of my Broome stock images:

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Sunset on Cable Beach. Managed to find a bit of sand dunes with ripples on Cable Beach! Not quite the Namib, but it’s sand! Crazy sky is smoke from bush fires lit up by the setting sun.

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Surreal water- and cloudscape – Cable Beach at dusk. Shot roughly one hour after my little accident. The colours at dusk in the tropics can sometimes be simply ridiculous. Like, you look at it and think, how is that possible in nature? I attempted to create a slightly abstract surreal look here. Water and a beach is clearly not my element, I don’t really know how to shoot it and I’m not very good at stitching wave shots. Earth is my element!

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The famous Broome ‘Staircase to the moon’.

It is the full moon reflected into the mud banks at low tide. Only happens of course when there’s a full moon (duh) and a low tide as the moon rises so the exposed water on the mud banks can reflect the light. In every shop in Broome you can buy photos, canvas, postcards etc. of the Staircase to the Moon. I needed my shot as well, even though it is impossible to create anything that doesn’t look like all the other images of this. In the image on the left, I chose to blend two exposures, one for the moon, one for the foreground as I wanted more detail in the foreground than you usually see. Also, even though I had seen a thousand images of this it really was quite special to witness this as it really is good fun and a bit of magic. Locals told me it was the best in years, so a bit of luck I still have left. I also had heaps of fun explaining moon photography to a crowd of many who noticed tripod and gear etc. The moon itself is actually super bright (it is reflected sunlight, like daylight!) so shoot it almost like it was daylight!

Randomness

  • Panasonic LX3 -small My bag of clothes arrived 3 days late from Johannesburg. When I leave home I spend a few hours precision packing everything into camera bag (bring on plane) and big check-in bag. It is the only time this is possible, on next flight I will have bought stuff and shuffled everything around and can’t be bothered and it just never fits in one bag again. So I have an Eagle Creek soft compact fold-out duffel bag I then use for clothes etc. meaning two check-in bags. Jo’burg airport is apparently notorious for handlers ‘lending’ items from luggage in the airport. Somehow (got no idea how) my custom street-modded Panasonic LX-3 compact (see image) complete with Voigtlander 21mm viewfinder and leather strap was in the clothes bag. Was. Is no more. Some lucky thief in Jo’burg now uses this! He seemed less interested in my underwear as that was left in the bag!
  • I think the tripod knocked a few braincells loose! As I said, been shooting around Broome. Went to Gantheaume Point. Then remembered it is all rocks. Navigated this in thongs on one leg. Then remembered I had forgotten mossie spray. Was promptly eaten alive. Some Aussies from Noosa took photos of me taking photos from top of a rock and doing the ‘insects go away dance’ and kindly came to the rescue, spraying me with Bushman mossie spray. Also dropped ND grad filter in sand about 10 times. Brain not really working!

Desert. Snake. Lizard. Fremen. Me

Besides the odd strange visitor like yours truly, the desert is home to some fascinating creatures. Creatures highly skilled in desert survival. Snakes. Lizards. Spiders. Scorpions. Chameleons. And I am sure I caught a glimpse of a Fremen from Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune.

Surviving in the deadly inhospitable desert requires centuries of finely honed skills. As much as I like to call desert home, reality is I would not last long! At dawn and dusk the desert is the most magical place on this planet. At noon it is a harsh hot deadly inhospitable place where sand temperatures can easily reach 75 degrees and the sun kills you by dehydration. You do not notice at first because you do not sweat much, there is no moisture and the warm wind and sun evaporates the sweat from your skin. You do not realise you are loosing precious water, you just taste the dry desert in your mouth. You are getting killed by the desert! I can pretend I am a Fremen, call desert home all day long but I would die in an instant compared to the experts of the desert! Experts that fortunately I managed to get a few photos of:

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Classic windswept dunescape, just outside Swakopmund. I am sure there is a Fremen here!

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Sidewinder snake. Small highly venomous 30cm long desert adapted snake. Buries itself in the sand and waits for prey. Sidewinding movement not only means it can climb sand dunes it also means the least amount of skin touch the warm sand during forward movement.

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Web footed gecko. Practically transparent as it has no pigment in the skin, rather unpractical for a desert creature. 20 seconds of sun kills it right away. So it adapts and buries itself in the sand using webby feet and only comes out at night.

Photographer (me), pretending to be a Fremen at the ‘Moon Landscape’ outside Swakopmund, now to be renamed Flemming’s Mars Landscape as this looks much more like Mars!

I shot the snake and gecko images on a trip with a wildlife expert who spots the tracks and finds the animals in the dunes. You have little chance of spotting these yourself unless you step on a buried sidewinder. We found 4 sidewinder in one morning, as I am a big snake lover I was very thrilled and very happy to get some snakes in the wild shots! I am impressed by their speed, I was running up a dune next to it trying to keep up, focus, compose and shoot while not tripping over my own legs. Great fun!

Same wildlife expert told me that once the sun in Namibia has burned your skin, you are hooked. Addicted. Gotta come back. Soon. I believe it. Happened to me. Addicted. Hooked. Gotta come back! Soon! Magic of the Namib. Namib Dreaming. And I still have hundreds of desert images to develop and show you from this first trip! Capturing the African desert is my new project!

Randomness

  • Africa is not for sissies! Neither is African Rugby. Was watching a rugby game at Jo’burg airport and 9:54 minutes into the rugby game (a game where players larger than Hulk crash into each other at full speed protected only by much-too-small T-shirts and shorts) two players have already been seriously injured.
  • Africa is not for sissies! You can only really rely on your family and friends so there is a very tight bond and people really help each other. In many ways it’s good, you have to really take control of your own life. No expecting society to do everything for you. There are downsides of course.  Government and Police can be an up and down experience. Public transport is your feet. Another police story I heard is a person calling in a crime and the officer on the phone says “Can’t help, I don’t know that street”. The person has to explain that “it is the same street your police station is on, you’re in the street already!!!!”
  • My escape from the next Danish Winter may very well be to a Namibian farm, family of my friend, where I have been offered work. Something I may seriously do! Stay tuned as this blog switches from landscape photography to tutorials on farming and feeding farm animals!