Tag Archives: sand

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

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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!

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!

Chasing the sun

I am now also a Sunchaser. I am on the west coast and the best bit – watching the sun set into the Indian ocean and Western Australia sunsets are stunning! I almost forgot how good they are in real life and not just on photos, how special it is to see the sun fall straight into the Indian Ocean. So here’s what I did the other day (click for larger size):

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Get the train to Cottesloe Beach, sit and enjoy the 29 degree warm Spring day

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Watch the fantastic cloud formations light up behind the Indiana Teahouse

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Stroll the beach in the dusk light

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Watch some blokes decide this sunset is so good they have to jump in a boat and chase it to the horizon – and then wishing I had gone with them!

Perth

If you jump on a plane in Sydney and fly 5 hours and 4300 kilometers west you would be forgiven for thinking you would land in another country. Well, you don’t, you are now in Perth in Western Australia the worlds most remote capital!

Perth is beautifully situated right on the Swan River and presently home to an estimated 1,5 million people and that is growing rapidly due to the oft mentioned “mining boom”. Western Australia is rich on minerals (richest mineral soil in the world) and the mining industry is doing incredibly well. Fortunately Perth is still the way I remember it – an outback country town with a few highrises thrown in! A very nice change from too-hectic Sydney. Perth has that great laid-back remote outback Western Australia feel and almost all of the 1,5 million live in the suburbs so Perth CBD is very small (and totally dead and slightly spooky after 6pm). Most streets are fairly wide, most houses are only a few floors tall. Most of CBD is one big construction site at the moment though, trying to adapt Perth to the many new inhabitants building new highrises.

Been a long time since I’ve been here, spent a long time here in 1999 in another life starring another me. Bit weird revisiting (like a never-ending flashback) so I put myself to work straight away shooting pictures, my main reason for being here (the few Perth shots I have from 99 are shithouse, backpackers, alcohol and photography don’t mix). Here’s a few of Perth more at my gallery.

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Perth with purple dusk light as seen from South Perth across the river

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Perth at night from Kings Park

Outback Western Australia

I love outback WA, so beautiful and so remote. Just to try and put it into perspective: WA is about the size of Western Europe but home to only 2 million and the 1,5 million of those are living in Perth! So that leaves 0,5 million people for the rest of Western Europe!

Some day I will revisit and re-shoot the fantastic far north outback of Western Australia. The Kimberleys are one of the best spots in Australia. Not on this tour though, wrong time of the year to go far north now, pretty much has to be in May/June/July. Fortunately Perth is so remote you only have to drive a few hours north to get to places like these, more at my gallery:

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The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park

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Sand dunes of Lancelin

I need a holiday!

Yeah I know sounds pretty stupid to need a holiday but I’m so exhausted! This trip was always about photography first, holiday maybe second. But the past 3 weeks I may have overdone it and wore myself out as I tend to do, doing nothing but photography full time every day trying to get to as many shooting ops as possible every day. I love, live and breathe photography don’t get me wrong but it’s a lot of work. So I need a holiday. I also need a new left foot! Something wrong with the one I have now, something happened to it doing those 200 kilometers walking in Sydney. My left shoulder is not really keen on the heavy camera bag anymore either. So these last few days of my trip I have traveled around by taxi, taxi to and from Kings Park, to and from the beach etc. Soon I will be shooting my shots out of the window of the taxi and annoying the taxi driver to no end: “Just a bit forward mate. Stop. Go back a bit. Stop. Left a bit. No too far. Back. Stop. Forward. Turn around. Go right. There. Perfect shot. Ah bugger the light is gone…forward!”

Randomness

  • You gotta have your fun living in the remote outback. Which is why you will see roadhouses advertising “25 hour service, 8 days a week” and pubs in the middle of nowhere advertising “Ocean View!”
  • Ah the joys of photography at dusk. Mossie bites on my right hand this time! Where are the Germans, I need a bit of your mossie repellant!
  • Big sign on the Transperth train saying “if you witness criminal or anti-social behaviour on the train report it by calling this number”. Anti-social. Hehehehe that could be me, I’m not very social, not a real people’s person – so I better watch my behaviour on the Transperth trains!
  • Always take the weather with you – and I do! Have had fantastic weather the whole trip, even here in Perth (Spring is not normally that warm here) it’s been up to 27-29 degrees and sunny. Have had sunshine basically non-stop since 23rd of August!