Going into Namibia this year, I knew not to expect a repeat of last year’s amazing rain and skies. It was a freak year in which most of the country got three to four times its annual rainfall. Each day ended with near black thunderstorm skies turning to flaming reds and giving way to endless displays of lightning. The photographic opportunities were indescribable and over a total of about 3 weeks spent there on two trips I got some of my best work yet. I knew I had been spoiled and that I needed to tone down my expectations, but some small hope in me obviously wished for those dark skies again.
My first destination was the famous Spitzkoppe mountains, a spine of granite mountain peaks protruding from a plateau like a set of jagged teeth. It’s one of the most iconic landscapes in Namibia and I had 6 nights to try and do it some photographic justice. The weather forecast looked good: rain showers most afternoons. After arriving and setting up camp I spent the most of the first day just exploring the location for potential compositions. Photos of Spitzkoppe are very common in all tourism related media of Namibia and I thought I had seen most angles of the place. Upon some exploration I was surprised at the vast amount of possible foregrounds and compositions dotted around the main mountains. Iconic arch apart, there were so many rock pools, rock patterns, grass fields, trees, boulders etc. that I was very confused about where to start.
I decided to kick off with the iconic arch shots, and then move on to something more unique. After 4 days I had gotten a satisfying amount of material of the location and while I never got a proper storm at sunset, I certainly couldn’t complain about the light I had. For a first visit to the place I was very happy and I decided to head to the coast for a well-deserved break from climbing up and down granite ‘hills’. I had four days to kill before the C4 workshop kicked off in the Rand and I thought I’d make a decision on where to go over a cold drink and the sound of the waves in Henties Bay. While there I made the decision that while I don’t really want typical photos of Sossus- and Deadvlei, for business reasons it was a necessity in my portfolio.
I spent three days at Sesriem, but I still don’t have any stories of revelation or inspiration about the place. I had one good sunset and one good sunrise so I got the shots I wanted. I already knew all the typical wide angle compositions at Deadvlei so it was simply a matter of moving the tripod around and getting the shots. The one morning we arrived to find a British group of about 15 photographers already shooting. ‘We’ were another 4, and as the sun climbed I think about another 10 arrived. There were more tripods than trees and it was impossible to get a shot without someone in it. Luckily the skies were cloudless so I had a nap on the side of the pan while the masses bustled about in each other’s compositions. It’s a place that still fails to touch me, or maybe I fail to connect with it??
The next 7 days followed with the C4 workshop of which 4 days were on the farm Excelsior in the Namib Rand and 3 days were at Sossusvlei. The weather was good and we had very flexible hours at Sossusvlei which allowed our clients to get some great photos. The strenuous hours and long walks were a bit of a shock to some of the clients, but they quickly adapted to the desert! We had a good rest on the last morning and spent the last night well into darkness shooting stars in deadvlei. The group tried a few static milky way shots with light painted trees and ended things with a 32 minute star trail exposure that came out brilliant. I ached to get the night sky photos myself, but I’ll return at a later stage to attempt something unique.
After the workshop, I and a client traveled on to the ghost town of Kolmanskop, a location that was a complete block to me last year. It was a bucket list location for Jill and I think her ambition to get great shots influenced me to give it another proper try after failing so miserably last year. I studied a few images of Kolmanskop in the run-up to my trip and learnt quite a few things from them. Armed with this new knowledge, me and Jill were psyched to shoot the iconic ghost town. On both mornings conditions were very misty which not only cast beautiful soft light into the buildings, but kept things pleasantly cool. Without really noticing it, we shot nonstop for 5 hours on the first morning and the second morning went similar. After those two days we were both very satisfied with our results and it was time to carry on to Fish River Canyon.
The Fish River Lodge is definitely my favorite lodge in Namibia. Everything from the location to the service to the architecture is astounding and I often end up just relaxing more than shooting. As with the rest of the trip, the weather wasn’t amazing, but it certainly wasn’t bad. I got some new photos to go home with. The potential of the place is however much greater than I’ve ever seen in any photo, but you need a pretty rare synchronization of weather elements to get killer light over the canyon at the right time.
It was a successful three weeks, but I’d be lying if I said it was as special as last year. Most places were definitely easier to shoot after having been there before, but then they were also less exciting. I can’t wait to get back next year and experience the place again. The magic of Namibia never fails to refresh the mind and satisfy one’s craving for excellent photography. Even when I say that it wasn’t as special, you can see from the photos that it was still an absolute feast of top class photographic opportunities…and this is about 1/5th of the work I’ve deemed worthy of being processed to go into my portfolio.
Bookings will open in the coming weeks and there will be a slight variation on last year. The one workshop will be 4 days Namib Rand, 2 days Fish River Canyon, 2 days Sossusvlei and on the other date Fish River Canyon will be substituted for Kolmanskop/Luderitz. Both will be in March next year and the price will be roughly R20000-R25000 ($3000-$4000) with about 15 places available between the two. Watch this space!
Photograph Namibia Guides
These have both been removed from my blog. I am in the process of turning them into e-books which will be much more content rich and precise and available for purchase at a small price.