Tag Archives: desert

We Built Our Own World

inception_poster_imax1-535 copy Inception. I am in danger of becoming stuck inside this movie. I have watched it three times and it is brilliant. They seemingly stuck a camera inside my own dreams, indeed that is how it feels like watching it. Inception toys with dreams merging with reality and does it extremely well in a very entertaining way. It also provided an idea and an insight into my landscape work.

Dream within a Dream

I continually look for landscapes bathed in otherworldly light where I can compose and capture a timeless composition that sits somewhere between dream and reality. Hyper reality. It is Earth but not quite as we know it. I am not interested in reality I am interested in creating grand dreamscapes allowing the viewer to Escape in Landscapes. My landscapes are not documentation, when I get it right they are moments of dreams.

Abstract simplistic locations like a desert at dusk lends itself well to dreams of surrealism; here I present Death Valley in the USA and the desert of Namibia. Both images shot with ND and GND filters using long exposures at the very tail end of the dusk light and picking up that lovely otherworldly glow:

Badwater Bliss -  blogMagic of the desert -blog Cities can certainly become hyper real in the right light. This is the best image I will ever capture of Copenhagen, a large thunderstorm two years ago prepares to level the city at sunset and creates a never to be repeated light.

Summer Storm - blog

Waiting for a train

What is your favourite ‘dream’ image? An otherworldly image that feels like you are dreaming it. Can be your own image or someone else, feel free to post a link in the comments.  Hurry though, the music may start playing soon.

Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain

"I really love it here. I think the freedom of this place is just so beautiful.
To me, I wouldn’t move for $10 million, unless I had to.
So I’m contented here in the desert, and I’m living where I want to live.
And I think good gets better.
And I think those great big tanks there were the sewer plant for the Marine base in World War II"

Some may recognize the words of Leonard Knight from the movie Into The Wild where Chris and Tracy take a walk to Salvation Mountain and meet him. In March I had the pleasure of taking my own walk to Salvation Mountain and meet the legend.

Salvation Mountain -blog

Leonard Knight

Leonard Knight is a joy and an inspiration, just as passionate and quirky in real life as on screen. I spoke with him for a while and his passion for his Salvation Mountain and for his God are very infectious. His work, life, passion and mission is a never ending process of creating Salvation Mountain as a tribute to his God. It’s really just a lot of paint on a mountain built of everything from clay to car doors and telephone poles but his dedication and passion lifts it to something special.

It was a slow hot day with few visitors, Leonard tells of days with hundreds of people. The desert sun was scorching, the clouds were spectacular and the wind a warm companion. The air tasted hot and dusty as I ate my lunch sandwich sitting on top of Salvation. Leonard then took me on a tour and gave me a handful of postcards telling me to "spread the love in Denmark, tell people about my work, about love and my mountain". He is a weathered old desert dweller who has seen his fair share of the desert sun. Here’s my portrait of Leonard and part of his desert home.

Leonard Knight - blog

Leonards Home - blog

Slab City

Salvation mountain resides at Slab City, also of Into The Wild fame. Slab City is just a bunch of caravans out in the desert on concrete slabs, leftovers from a Marine base. There is not much to it but I can see what Leonard mean by stating"the freedom of this place is so beautiful". I was there on a Thursday and wish I had stayed for the Friday outdoor concert as seen in the movie. With a little more guts for shooting people I would have liked to do portraits of the characters living here. Instead, some awesome clouds offered the chance of a wide Slab City panorama:

Slab City pano - blog

Into The Wild

into_the_wild_movie_poster I tend to get somewhat obsessive about my…obsessions one could say. I have over the past two years watched the beautiful movie Into The Wild twenty times, read the moving book ten times and listened to the great Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook soundtracks a million times over. Christopher McCandless’ quest, passion and great adventure somewhat mirrors mine and my feelings, and he completely changed my life post-mortem.

Chris, his story, the book, the movie, the soundtrack still means very much to me and there is great strength, comfort and inspiration for me in passionate people like Chris and Leonard. Attempting to slightly moderate my spectacularism (Douglas Coupland’s word for loving extreme situations) I am now attempting to create and live my nomad story, not a copy of the Alexander Supertramp story.  Still, I had to visit Slab City and Salvation Mountain when I passed by the Salton Sea back in March. Some elements and arcs of a story came together for me and it was special for me, somewhat moving to be standing there. As if several versions of me caught up and merged into one.

– ∞ –

Tech: All images including the portrait shot using my Canon 17-40mm L lens, it does actually work as a portrait lens in a pinch and my copy is razor sharp (except for the corners of course). The panorama is stitched. All images have received my ‘harsh desert’ Photoshop process but they needed very little, the conditions here are already very harsh desert!

Into The Nothingness

I am completely taken aback by wide open desolate spaces. The bigger, wider, more open, more desolate the better and it really does take my breath away. It is hard to describe this feeling I get from it but it is the sense of space, the openness and having no boundaries at all. Once I have accumulated a collection large and good enough I hope to share this love through exhibitions and books dedicated to Wide Open Spaces.

The image I wish to present today is from Namibia, from driving through the gravel desert in Namibia. Namibians has a nice expression for this – “Gramadulas” – basically meaning outback or middle of nowhere! You will not find a more barren vast area and I loved every second of this magnificent place. I am however somewhat curious if anyone but me likes this sort of stuff. Into the Wild does not really apply here as there is not a thing here and that is what makes it great. It is more appropriately Into The Nothingness!

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Gravel Desert Travelling
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

PS. I am posting slightly less and shorter than normal. Becoming a nomad and starting a new life is hard work and takes up a lot of time; leaving not as much time presently as I would like for blogging. Spare time needed!

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.

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Namibia – Walvis Bay Sunset Dunes
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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

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:

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

Sun or No Sun?

In actual life there is no question, like a solar panel I need the rays of the sun to energize me everyday. In my images it is a different story. Having the sun in the frame will burn out the red channel on a digital sensor and leave an ugly yellow brownish/greenish halo around the sun. To my eyes this looks even worse on print than on screen. Film or transparencies have a much nicer gentler curve so they cope much better with the sun in the frame, but digital is unforgiving.

This does mean I delete images that otherwise are quite nice, but have a small burned out area from the sun. As I just started developing RAW files from Namibia, I ran into two of these images. So now I am asking you dear reader, what do you think of having the sun in the frame? Do you like it? Does it distract you? Do you dislike it? And photographers; what do you do to make images like these work – or do you delete them as I do?

As examples I present two sunset images from driving 6 hours through the Namibian desert, from the capital of Windhoek to Swakopmund on the coast. A most special day with beautiful cloud cover (very rare) and 30 seconds of rain in the afternoon (very rare!).

Namib desert into the sun 2. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Namib desert into the sun 1. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

My Namibian friends tell me it was a day that happens once in 10 years. I am amazed by the big reflection of the sun in the grass. But, both images also have burned out sun, so please let me know if you think they work as I am not so sure.

Desert. What is in a name?

My first images of the desert originated from watching David Attenborough documentaries as a child, seeing photos of the Sahara and Namib desert in my father’s books – and of course watching David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. I am amazed to learn here in Namibia that the desert is all that but many other different things as well. All ethereally beautiful, haunting and magical.

Namib desert. The name Namib actually means wide open space. You may think 8 hours of driving through the Namib desert would be 8 hours of repeat scenery. You would be wrong. The desert keeps changing and re-inventing itself, gravel desert, sand desert, majestic mountains (yes I too was surprised, huge mountains in the desert), rolling hills, wide open plains with wildlife, dried up riverbeds. Grass. It has rained more than normal so the desert is green in many places! And sand dunes of course. Massive sand dunes. Small dunes. yellow sand, orange sand, deep red sand. Rounded windswept dunes. Tall laser sharp dunes reaching for the sky. Desert. What is in a name? A lot more than I thought!

The Namib desert is over 2,000 km long. Two thousand kilometres. It boggles the mind and challenges all ideas of distances and space. So much space. I boarded a 6 person ‘flying bathtub’ of a Cessna to get images from above. Once airborne my eyes struggle to compute the information. The Namib desert is larger than many countries. So much space. So beautiful. Sand dunes snake their way to infinity. Again, shooting a photo is like fitting the universe in a shoebox. No photo can convey the feeling of being in the desert heat, wind and dust with a 360 degree view of pure desert. But I can try. And come back and try again and again, as I have fallen in love with this hauntingly beautiful place.

My entire belief system is all natural science. But the normal laws of nature and physics  do not seem to apply here. On every desert trip we’ve been discussing how far away the perceived horizon is. Meaning with a perfectly flat surface, where would an 1.8 meter tall human perceive the horizon to be with the curvature of the earth in mind? In the desert it seems like hundreds of kilometres. A lot of googling has not revealed a definitive answer but it appears to be around 4.5 kilometres away. The perceived horizon on a flat surface that is. Does not make sense. Here in the Namib it is 50 km at least. Also, my 17mm wide angle captures about a 110 degree view. In the Namib that looks like the width of a hair. It appears the view in the Namib is also wider than 360 degrees. Driving back through the desert Sunday night we had bright as daylight deep red burning dusk light on the horizon in front of us. To the right a sliver of a moon. To the left the Southern Cross and a million stars. Behind us the dark night. Must have been a 720 degree horizon. Something magical is up with the laws of physics in the Namib!

Creating images of this is indeed proving difficult but here’s a few quick previews of my feeble attempts of capturing the many shapes of the desert. I am saving the real hero shots for when I get home so stay tuned.

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Me and My Shadow – on top of the Nissan in the gravel desert

Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Dunes of Namib-Naukluft stretching to infinity

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Sweeping wide open desert plains

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Into the abyss, the desert in dusk light from top of Rössing Mountain

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Windswept round dunes outside Swakopmund

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Classic laser sharp crest of Namib dunes

Randomness

  • Had to buy a sweater the other day! Desert gets warm at day but cools down quickly and gets cold at night! Also Swakopmund on the coast is sometimes haunted by a cold sea mist that I’m no fan of. So in the desert, you need a horse with no name, lots of sunscreen and also a sweater!
  • Swakopmund was established by the Germans back when Namibia was a German colony, before World War I. So there are many German settlers here, and you can shop at SuperSpar and buy Ritter Sport and Nutella! Some of the German tourists here also seem to have a ‘How to look like a tourist’ competition wearing Khaki safari gear top to bottom. The German spoken is a ‘high’ German very easy to understand and I’m startled to find I remember my German and can follow almost all conversations. Afrikaans, still working on that!
  • Driving at night here can be an interesting experience. Some of the back roads are not marked at all, so at night with an oncoming car it’s anyone’s guess where the road is. There are a few very interesting seconds where the cars pass each other, both drivers regain vision and discover they didn’t hit each other – and still have at least two out of four wheels on the car on the actual road! With every oncoming car this experience is repeated. Keeps you awake!
  • The Namibian desert and sun is energy for my soul! I take it in like a solar panel, feel very re-energised, re-booted, re-vitalised!