Tag Archives: swakopmund

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!)

All in a day’s work for Mother Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

I rode through the desert and it started to rain!

The title is of course a play on the lyrics of the band America’s classic song “I rode through the desert on a horse with no name”! It refers to our perfect day in the desert. A very special perfect day. Otherworldly world class light. Green Grass in the normally arid desert. Extraordinary cloud systems in all directions. Magenta Sun Setting. Blood Red Moon Rising. Rain. Yes. Rain in the desert! It rained for two minutes and we all got out of the truck and celebrated this perfect day! More later, first a recap of my first 3 adventure filled days in Namibia:

Arriving at Windhoek

At Windhoek airport you step out of the plane straight onto the runway. Dry warm desert air caress my body, strong harsh sun light re-energises my soul. I immediately fall in love and I do a movie-like 360 degree spin looking at the sky and taking it all in. An American woman laughs and says “You must be happy to be home!” “Well, feels like home” I tell her! Customs only take two minutes, I pick up my bag and meet my good friend Gudrun and her cousin Kyra. We drive to Kyra’s house and I meet the rest of the family, the husband Etienne and kids Andre and Maxine. Their hospitality and friendliness knows no end. I switch to shorts, shirts and thongs. I sit in the garden literally inhaling the lovely weather and sunshine. Certainly feels like home! Cricket games in the garden, great barbecue (called braai in Afrikaans) for dinner, mozzie bites after 10 minutes. Certainly feels like home!

Windhoek

Capital of Namibia with an estimated 300,000 inhabitants. City centre is very small, the suburbs are spread out over the hilly landscape. I only did a few hours sightseeing but found a nice laidback country atmosphere, outback and relaxed as I like it. A quick snapshot from Independence Avenue:

Windhoek. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Veld Wedding

My friend’s family and a pair of their friends are attending a wedding held in the bush – bush is called veld here and pronounced ‘felt’. Since it is the Easter holiday they are making a bush camping trip out of it. So off we go on Good Friday, to the farm where the wedding is held which is in the bush about 30 k’s out of Windhoek! The setting for the wedding is gorgeous and the bush camp is lots of fun as I struggle to keep up with a thousand campfire jokes told in Afrikaans.

Perfect day in the desert

Saturday, Gudrun, Gudrun’s mother and stepdad and I drive from Windhoek to their home, the coastal town of Swakopmund. We take the scenic dirt road route straight through the desert. We end up taking more than 8 hours as we keep stopping on this magical one out of a million day. A perfect day. Out of this world light. Huge rays of “god beams” showing the way. Green Grass on the desert plains. Magenta Sun setting. Blood Moon Rising. Two minutes of rain. Gudrun’s mother having lived here her whole life says this is unbelievably spectacular. Too good for words. Will never ever be repeated. This drive deserves a long blog post of it’s own some day when I get the RAW files developed. Developing 5D Mk II files on my old laptop is like watching paint dry, so for now I’ll just leave you with this small jpeg preview of desert travelling on a perfect day:

Namib Desert. Flemming Bo Jensen

Swakopmund, between the ocean and the dunes

I am now in Swakopmund on the coast. Our front yard is the ocean, back yard is huge sand dunes – literally down the end of the street! My eyes must be lying I tell myself but witness this snapshot from inside the car, driving along the coast:

Swakopmund. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

More to come about Swakopmund and the surrounding area. The world’s largest sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert are on the menu from Tuesday! See ya!