Tag Archives: dune

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!

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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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

Next stop Namibia

//www.namibiatourism.com.na “Hallou hoe gaan dit?” is Afrikaans for “hello how are you?”. Learning a bit of Afrikaans and dusting off my German language skills are just two of the many things I have on my to-do list before my next photography odyssey which, in exactly two months time from now, sees me embark for the magical deserts of Namibia, as seen in this David Attenborough narrated BBC video.

Namibia is mostly desert and extremely dry. Home to the world’s oldest desert with the world’s largest sand dunes and the least people (least densely populated country in the world). It appears to be the perfect conditions for me and I am seriously concerned already about becoming obsessed with two continents! After Namibia I am jumping across the Indian Ocean to be part of a photo tour (if it runs, if enough people book) in Kimberley, Western Australia, and the route Denmark-Namibia-Australia is not the easiest nor cheapest to fly!

Winter in Denmark means a completely grey, dull and overcast sky, some rain, almost no snow, the sun and all light fighting a loosing battle and the result is Winter depression rules. Every day, every second is like deja-vu all over again (a great Yogi Berra quote).  How different, wonderful and revitalising it will be to touch down in the dry desolate and warm deserts of Namibia:

//www.namibiatourism.com.na

This will be the first serious road test of my Canon 5D Mk II and I look forward to capturing 21 megapixel desert shots day and night! I am fortunate to be staying with a Namibian friend and family in the town of Swakopmund, right on the coast and next to the dunes. My favourite science fiction book is Dune and I will be working on my ‘Fremen’ skills every day as I capture my own version of Dune.
See ya’ in the desert and “totsiens!” (means goodbye). T minus 58 days.

Photos courtesy of Namibia Tourism Board – http://www.namibiatourism.com.na