Category Archives: Africa

Nomadic Photographer and Voyager

Feeling like a bit of adventure? A bit of magic? New stories? New images? New silliness? Then get the drinks and popcorn ready and stay tuned to this blog!

Armed with a camera and a notebook, my dream of a life on the road as a nomadic photographer is about to become reality. This week I sold my flat, a big checkmark on the to-do list. Now; preparations aplenty for life on the road as a Nomadic Photographer and Voyager. I hope for some assignments along the way, but have saved up money – and courage – for a long time. Here we go!

First stop is Thailand sometime in November where dear friends await me to show me more of incredible Asia. There is no itinerary. There is no end date. Only missions. And visions. Of tropical jungles and beaches in Asia. Wide open desolate deserts in Africa. Plains of majestic wildlife in Africa. Outback grandscapes in Australia. Valleys, Canyons, Forests and deserts of America. Magical icescapes of Patagonia.

I want to show you all how Mother Nature is the greatest artist of all, how a windy Wednesday afternoon in the image below turns all magical for just a few moments. A few moments where all elements come together. A few moments forever lost in time – unless captured, magic frozen in time. I want to make you a Believer. A believer in the magic of Mother Nature and a believer in preserving the wild, untouched places remaining in the world.

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

Namibia – Walvis Bay Sunset Dunes
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

Arrakis dunes

To attempt an understanding of Muad’Dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be. -from "Manual of Muad’Dib" by the Princess Irulan

Frank Herbert’s Dune is quite possibly my favourite book. Ever. A masterpiece of writing. A masterpiece in science fiction. A masterpiece in any genre. So brilliant even people who are not into science fiction absolutely love it. If you have not already read it, I suggest go out and buy it now! If you have read it, it’s probably time to re-read it! I am re-reading it presently for the umpteenth time.

A recently developed shot from Namibia was pointed out to me by a friend of mine as having some nice Dune (the book) qualities. Most dune images from Namibia could easily be mistaken for the sand planet Arrakis (a planet with just sand – my paradise!) This one has special Arrakis qualities though.The Light and the Darkness could easily conceal some Fremen fighters or a Maker worm. Study the light, the darkness, the shapes and the lines here and tell me what you think. And remember: Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us?

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

Dune Shapes and Shadows
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

And ending with a favourite Dune quote of mine:

No Fear. Fear is the Mind Killer!

Patterns in the sky and the ground

As a follow up to my post about Patterns in the Desert, I present images once again from the beautiful sand dunes outside of the towns Swakopmund and Walvis Bay in Namibia. Patterns, shapes and lines are all very essential tools for composition and when Mother Nature presents you with the Namibian smorgasbord you are in heaven as a landscape photographer!

One afternoon after a little visit to Walvis Bay we drive on the backside of these dunes and we happen upon these extraordinary patterns in the ground. What they are and what caused them I honestly could not say. What I can say is I had a brilliant time lining them up in my viewfinder at sunset, creating images like this one:

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

Walvis Bay Dune Patterns
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Later that same afternoon, the clouds felt left out so they demanded attention by creating these beautiful cloudscapes at dusk. Both of these shots were shot using a 3 stop  ND grad filter, an essential tool here as the sun sets on the other side of the dunes and the ND grad filter is necessary to even exposure and get detail in the foreground.

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

Walvis Bay Dunes at Dusk 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Incidentally, I find it incredible the way a smell, a taste or a sound can be linked so strongly to the memory of capturing a photo. As I study these photos I taste “Jungle Energy Muesli Bars” in my mouth. I very distinctly remember wolfing down these energy bars at night when I loaded these raw files into my laptop and was rather pleased with the result – and the muesli bars!

Finally; these gorgeous dunes are small in comparison to the massive 400 meter tall Naukluft dunes but are still about 50 to 100 meters tall and spread out over 30 kilometres of coast between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Witness from above, these gorgeous dunes, neighbour to the sea.

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

Swakopmund Dunes from the air 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Amusing anecdote from this day. As I am shooting these images my friends Gudrun and Svenn are waiting in the car a few hundreds meters away. It is a rather windy and chilly day. I feel an urgent need to use the bush toilet (should it be called desert toilet here?) to relieve myself of the nice coffee from a café in Walvis Bay. I water the sand and hear intense whistling and woohoo’ing from my friends. As they are at least a few hundred meters away and it is dark I can’t really see what they are doing. So I gather they are cold and tired and want to go. I hurry (with the shooting not the peeing) and get the last few shots, it is almost pitch black anyway and I rush back to them. At which point I of course learn they were laughing and whistling at the sight of me, the camera, the tripod and the desert toilet situation. I can be rather slow at times!

Patterns in the desert

I wrote earlier about zooming in and picking out patterns in the desert from the air. It works equally well when you are on the ground, feet in the sand, head in the clouds. Often in Namibia the elements present are only sand and sky, a landscape so pure and simplified that you almost cannot believe this is the work of the usual rather chaotic artist Mother Nature. Quite often as a landscape photographer we work hard to simplify and pick out a ‘less is more’ simple composition in a somewhat chaotic setting, as Mother Nature likes to throw in a bit of everything in her work. Here you have to think in reverse!

Fortunately sand is a magical element especially when Wind joins in and paints perfect patterns with a fine brush. The dunes just outside of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay on the west coast of Namibia are only half as tall as the mighty Naukluft National Park dunes and are yellow, not orange. They are however on the coast so Wind the Artist has the perfect playground for creating patterns in the sand. Every day magic happens when the sun is low enough to provide side lighting. Harsh and flat at midday, at sunrise and sunset the shadows come out to play. And so do I. Here are two different examples of sand, shadows and wind.

Dunescape. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Dunescape
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a classic Swakopmund dune beaten into shape by a strong prevailing Wind from the sea creating ripples, shapes and patterns. I am shooting at 17mm using a view camera style composition, focusing at roughly the hyperfocal point to get as much depth of field as possible. This is where a tilt-shift lens would be most handy for creating unlimited depth of field.

Sand storm. Flemming Bo Jensen

Dune Crest Sand Storm
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This day the Wind was flexing muscles and blowing a gale across the sand dunes creating some brilliant effects of sand blowing in the sun light. I am using my 70-200mm lens at around 130mm to zoom in and pick out patterns and compress the image. The shadow behind this dune is from a larger dune creating nice contrast for the sand in the air. I love this image but looking at it I should have scaled this large dune, gotten close and switched to wide angle lens. Why? Depth of Field. As you see the foreground is blurred, f/11 at 130mm does not create a large enough depth of field to hold everything in focus. The shallow DOF creates a different look of course, but I do wish I had a larger DOF version. I opened up to f/11 as I needed a fairly fast shutter speed to capture the blowing sand particles and keep the image sharp as the wind was fiercely moving my tripod, camera and me (what we do for art! It is a dangerous gig this landscape business).

Much more sand and patterns in my Namibia gallery and many images yet to come (you would be forgiven for thinking this blog is getting a bit sandy!)

Dune with a Zoom

The sand dunes of Namibia are massive. Largest in the world. More than 400 meters tall. So you would be right in thinking ‘to capture them I need to bring the widest lens I own’. In my case 17 mm and on a fullframe 5D MkII that is very wide. But you should also bring the longest zoom lens you have. I brought my Canon 70-200mm f/4 L, one of the best lenses Canon makes and great for landscapes. I could however very easily have used a 400mm zoom or more.  Only a few places in the Naukluft National Park can you get up close and walk the dunes. This is a good thing, or there would be people and foot prints everywhere! The rest of the time you will be parked on the side of the road going into the Sossusvlei and Deadvlei dunes and you will actually be quite far away from the dunes.

The sand dunes at Namib-Naukluft are shaped by a wind alternating from either the ocean to the west or the desert to the east. This ensures a perfect sharp crest on the towering dunes that seem to reach into the clouds. When people view images of the dunes they have a hard time understanding the scale. Your brain cannot comprehend sand dunes taller than Empire State Building. This is where your longest zoom lens comes to the rescue. The large dunes offers some outstanding photo opportunities in the morning or afternoon where the strong side light will highlight the razor sharp crest. And if you get lucky you can include wildlife grazing in front of the dunes to provide some scale.

This is exactly what I captured in the image below. It is shot at 200 mm and cropped somewhat to zoom in further. I could easily have used 400 or 600 mm zoom. Fortunately the 70-200mm is tack sharp, when viewed at full size you can clearly make out the tiny oryx (antilopes) and trees in front of the massive dune. I would however have loved to be able to zoom in a lot more and not include any sky at all so next time I am bringing at least a 400mm zoom.

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

The Mighty Dune
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The 60 km drive from the gate of the national park into the Sossusvlei and Deadvlei dunes is 60 km of pure magic. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. The outer gates open at 6am so you will be driving in through the dunes just as the sun is rising. Well, there is also an inner gate, opens at 5am. If you pay an absolute fortune for accommodation you can stay here, inside the park, meaning you get to take off at 5am. Clever business tactics here. If you do not wish to spend a fortune you can join the rest of us outside the outer gate waiting for 6am!

Driving in is so magical I completely lost myself in the visuals. Apart from Deadvlei, which is so gorgeous you get high shooting in there, the drive into the park is the most beautiful part of the massive park. My friend kept asking ‘wanna stop? wanna stop?’ but I couldn’t answer. How do you decide where you want to stop when you have just landed on Mars? It’s all so otherworldly, so beautiful, so mind boggling. Fortunately I managed to mumble a ‘yes’ now and then, and she stopped by herself on occasions so we could capture gorgeous images.

If you find yourself at Namib-Naukluft, take it easy,  enjoy the ride and don’t rush to get to Sossusvlei where everyone else is going. Bring a mega zoom and remember to stop along the way.
The journey is as important as the destination here, as it often is!

Namib desert – Sea of Sand

The Namib desert is the oldest desert in the world with the largest sand dunes, more than 400 meters tall. Sand dunes as tall as the Empire State Building, Uluru or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Taller than the Eiffel tower. The Namib desert runs for more than 2000 kilometres up the coast. 2,000 kilometres of sand. These numbers boggles the mind. The tall sand dunes dwarfs you when up close and personal but to truly understand the size of the desert you have to take to the air. From the air the sheer size and grandness is revealed and your brain struggles to take in this sea of sand, a country of sand really!

I have done quite a bit of shooting from planes and helicopters and is great fun but very hard to master. It is hard getting any worthwhile compositions from the air. Especially in a boiling hot plane as the air coming off the warm sand dunes is scorching. Adding to the challenge is the fact that looking through a viewfinder for extended periods of time while bumping along in a hot Cessna is the easiest way to induce motion sickness that I know off. All well worth it though as I doubt many sights in the world can compare to the mighty Namib desert from above!

I have 140 shots from this 2.5 hour flight. From a plane you have to machine gun your camera a bit as there are bound to be some out of focus or motion blurred shots. I am kicking myself for not shooting any video but this was before I really discovered the fun of shooting video on the 5D Mk II. Also I was plenty busy shooting stills and feeling slightly queasy! These are 3 of my favourite images from the flight, more to come.

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

Sossusvlei from above
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is the area of of the classic Sossusvlei and Deadvlei pans. Top third in the middle you can just make out the end of the 60km road that runs from the gate entrance into the National Park. This is the only road into the park.

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

Dune Snake
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

From the air it works well to zoom in and pick out shapes and patterns. Patterns is something I am attempting to do more of. I have much to learn though as my eyes are attracted to grandscapes, not the details. With no time to switch lenses I should have brought my old 5D on board the plane as well with 70-200mm zoom attached so I could switch back and forth as I was using 5D MkII with 17-40mm zoom . It was the one day where I missed my 24-105mm L lens.

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

Sea of Sand
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

One of my favourite Namib from above photos. Gorgeous ethereal sand dunes stretching into infinity in what really is a large sea of sand, nothing here but glorious sand! The afternoon light brings out the orange colour and creates great definition in the dunes with side lighting picking up every shape and pattern.

I am happy with these images, I do feel I got something worthwhile from the air, if nothing else I got the magical experience of seeing the mighty Namib desert from above. So beautiful, so surreal, so otherworldly that you hardly blink for the duration of the flight!

The Lone Oryx in the Dunes

It is one of the classic Namibian photo compositions; The lone Oryx striding majestically in front of the massive orange sand dunes. It is not necessarily the easiest image to capture, you cannot just ask an Oryx to please stroll past one of the dunes in a pleasing photographic composition! Driving into Namib Naukluft National Park, we were lucky enough to spot several Oryx. My friend immediately asked if we should stop and as I was weighing the options of stopping vs driving further while we still had great light she adds “we have to stop, you won’t get this again”. She was of course right, always listen to your local experienced friend! I am very happy we stopped, we saw other oryx but nothing like this image of The Lone Oryx in the Dunes:

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

Lone Oryx in the Dunes
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is just one of several versions, I have a hard time picking out my favourite. There is a panorama I shall post as well. I used my 70-200mm f/4 L lens for this and I ended up using this lens much in Namibia. Often in the Naukluft National Park (home of the 400 meter tall orange dunes) the dunes are quite far away or you want to zoom in on a pattern. I could easily have used a 400mm for some shots so a new zoom is on the shopping list for next Africa trip.

Cutting a long story short

You may have noticed my blog posts are slightly shorter. I love writing but presently I do not have the time to write long elaborate posts and tutorials, takes 4-5 hours to put together. So for a while you may see more images, and less text, a move I am sure favoured by many!