Category Archives: Images

Vignettes from Namibia: Sossusvlei and Deadvlei

The Sossusvlei and Deadvlei areas of Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park are true photographer’s paradises. I know this sounds like hyperbole and many locations are referred to as such, but in this case the claim really is true. The largest, most majestic sand dunes in the world reside here, as well as a surreal forest of dead camel thorn trees and a modest amount of wildlife too. Here are a sample of images from this area captured in May and June of this year. By the way, openings for the Wild Namibia Photo Tours 2015 are still available.

“Sweet Spot” Deadvlei, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM @ 93mm, 1/15 second @ f/11, ISO 100. Multiple exposures taken at various distances and focus stacked in Adobe Photoshop CC. As darkness fell over the Deadvlei pan, I caught the last bit of light on the dunes while using one tree as a frame for another.

“Sossusvlei” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM @ 200mm, 1/320 second @ f/10, ISO 320. These dunes are the biggest in the world and yes, they are just as impressive in person.

“Casting Shadows” Deadvlei, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 16mm, 1/60 second @ f/20, ISO 125.  Shadows create powerful radial lines across the hard clay pan of Deadvlei.

“Halloween Trees” Deadvlei, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 105mm, 1/50 second @ f/11, ISO 200.  When the dunes throw their shadows over the pan, the trees are transformed into frightening, nightmarish figures.

 

“Clean Cut” Namib Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXT @ 560mm, 1/80 second @ f/11, ISO 320. 560mm? Who ever said that super telephoto lenses were only for wildlife?

“Black Backed Jackel” Sossusvlei, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 33mm, 1/160 second @ f/14, ISO 125, fill flash. 33mm? And who said wide-angle lenses were only for landscapes?

“Isolation” Deadvlei, Namibia. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM @ 70mm, 1/30 second @ f/11, ISO 100. Complex compositions are visually engaging and challenging but sometimes simple delivers a stronger emotional punch.

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Vignettes from Namibia: Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop is the remains of what once was a thriving town built around an equally successful diamond mine near the port city Luderitz in southern Namibia. Once the diamond production declined after World War II, the residents slowly left the settlement and it was eventually abandoned in 1954. Located in the middle of the Namib desert, the ghost town quickly surrendered to the forces of nature – sand and wind – while the arid climate preserved much of what was left behind. It’s one of the most fun and challenging places to photograph!

For information on my Namibia 2015 Photo Tours, check out the Epic Destinations website.

“Doors of Perception” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm @ 20mm, 8 seconds @ f/16, ISO 200

“Better Times” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 1-35mm @ 27mm, 0.6 second @ f/16, ISO 125

“Empty Window” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm @ 21mm, 4 seconds @ f/14, ISO 125

“The Blue Room” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm, 5 seconds @ f/16, ISO 160

“Emptiness” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 15-35mm @ 26mm, 30 seconds @ f/11, ISO 100

“Faded Memories” Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm, 5 seconds @ f/14, ISO 125

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Of Radiance and Lameness

“Radiance” Some insane light at day’s end. Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, Utah USA

Driving long, empty stretches of highway alone often lends itself to contemplation and introspection. If I’m not listening to audiobooks or music, I’ll sometimes but not always reflect on some of my shortcomings and how I can improve myself as a human being. Those who know me might find this to be surprising, but I do find that examining yourself – from the outside looking in – can be quite illuminating.

In the process, I think I’ve identified two major personality defects in myself that are somewhat troubling. One is a general lack of patience while the other is the fact that I get bored too easily.

I address the former defect by consciously trying to relax and accept frustrating situations that are beyond my control. This is a challenge and a trial to me but still well worth pursuing. For example, tourists in busy national parks tend to swarm into the scene I’m trying to photograph – all while seeming to have far too much fun in the process. At times like these I feel as if I should carry with me a rectal thermometer to gauge and monitor the onset of becoming an old fart.

Then I remind myself that they are, after all, entitled to be there too and I quietly accept the situation for what it is and wait for them to leave. After all, it’s difficult to justify a disdain for tourists while pretending you aren’t one of them yourself.

The latter defect has no known antidote of which I am aware. So instead of fighting it, I usually feed and propitiate the beast it by giving in and letting it have what it wants. In addition to a strong antipathy toward boredom, I do all I can to not be boring. That means that sometimes instead of agreeing with a conventional line of reasoning, right or wrong, I’ll happily play the contrarian or sarcastically protract an argument for its own sake rather than be bored or boring. In some social circles it’s called being a smart ass but it’s how I sometimes amuse myself nonetheless.

So when I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday that Balanced Rock in Arches National Park is the lamest photographic icon in the world, or something to that effect, I wasn’t necessarily feeding the aforementioned demons of ennui, although some of the comments and outraged private messages I received did amuse me greatly. That was well worth the effort.

George Carlin once quipped, “Somewhere in the world is the world’s worst doctor. Has to be! Process of elimination. And what’s truly terrifying is that someone has an appointment with him tomorrow morning.” George wasn’t disparaging doctors. He wasn’t even putting down the world’s worst….well, maybe he was a little bit. The point is that the world’s worst doctor could still be a pretty damn good one, there just has to be a best and a worst if you’re ranking them.

And so it goes with photographic icons. If I had to rank iconic scenes in U.S. National Parks, I would put Balanced Rock at or near the bottom of the list. It just doesn’t do much for me, especially when compared to Yosemite’s Tunnel View or the Tetons’ Oxbow Bend or the dozen or so other vistas that dwarf the bizarre phallic-looking rock formation that draws carloads of tourists with iPads and smartphone cameras in tow. It’s not a matter of respect for nature, as some accused me of lacking, it’s just that I have really good taste, that’s all.

Oops, I think I’m doing it again.

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Oh Man, Oman!

I recently spent two weeks in the Sultanate of Oman, a small Arab state on the Southeast coast of the Arabian peninsula. I admit to not knowing much about the place before being invited as part of an international group of photographers on a customized tour. As a young boy, I remember the country having the name Muscat and Oman on my world map but that’s about it.

So I could say that I was overwhelmed by the photo opportunities in Oman – the colorful, friendly people, the mountains (the only country on the Arabian Peninsula with this feature), beaches, and pristine sand deserts – but I won’t. Instead, I’ll let my images tell the story, with only a few editorial comments sprinkled in.

Parched, The Wahiba Sands, Sultanate of Oman

The scene is extremely iconic and a photographic cliché, but would you turn away from the lucsious backlighting and elongated shadows on the rippled sand? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Hide and Seek, Ibra Market, Sultanate of Oman

Yes, this young boy was half heartedly hiding from me and my lens but it was obvious he wasn’t too distressed by the encounter. In fact, by the look of that winning smile of his, I’d say he was enjoying it! One of the best things about Oman was the simple curiosity and innocence of the people, unaccustomed as they are to tourists shoving cameras in their faces.

Circle of Life, Ras al-Jins Turtle Reserve, Sultanate of Oman

Just the two of us crawling around in the sand on our bellies – me grinning behind a wide-angle lens and this green sea turtle wearing a mask of strength and determination as she makes her way back to the waters of the Arabian Sea.

Man of Sur, Sultanate of Oman

This guy was one of my favorite photographic subjects and a new hero of mine. I mean, just look at him. He’s got that badass, I-don’t-give-a-crap aura about him and would you get a load of that beard? I shaved mine shortly thereafter out of shame and humiliation.

Diana’s Point, Jabal al Akhdar, Sultanate of Oman

The late Princess of Wales allegedly frequented this spot to get away from everything, hence the name given by the locals. Now I know all about the blown out sky in the upper right corner  of the image but I really don’t care. I found myself taking more of a photojournalistic approach on this trip and that gives me the excuse to just “let it be.” I feels pretty good, I must say.

The Corneche, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

My friend Sergio and I talked our way onto the roof of an old hotel in order to get this view of Muscat at twilight.

Of Men and Melons, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman

Melons and men talking about melons, because that’s what men do – talk about melons.

Sidewinder, Wahiba Sands, Sultanate of Oman

The exquisitely sculpted dunes of the Wahiba Sands with low-angled, warm sunlight of early morning. And for just a few minutes, I was a fine-art landscape photographer again and it too felt good.

Ghosts of Mutrah Souq, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

The main souq (market) in downtown Muscat provided dozens of prime photo opportunities. For this image, I set up low on a tripod in the middle of the crowd and waited for men to walk by in their white robes, using a longish exposure to create an illusion of motion.

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The Gentle Giants

Earlier this month, I traveled to Crystal River, Florida to capture the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatees) with underwater photo gear – essentially a underwater housing for my Canon 5D Mark III.  Following are a few of the photographic results from the trip plus some interesting manatee facts. Enjoy!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III in AquaTech underwater housing, Canon 14mm f/2.8, 1/125 second @ f/8, ISO 800

Manatee Fact #1: Sailors once believed these animals to be sirens from the deep, mythical mermaids coming to call. This certainly says less about the manatee’s obvious sex appeal (they are pretty cute, aren’t they?) and more about – well, how do I put this politely –  the sailors’ loneliness and desperation for companionship after being at sea too long.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III in AquaTech underwater housing, Canon 14mm f/2.8, 1/320 second @ f/8, ISO 800

Manatee Fact #2: Manatees cannot survive for long in water colder than 60 degrees F (15C). For this reason, they seek out warm water springs in to seek refuge from the frigid Gulf of Mexico during the winter months.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III in AquaTech underwater housing, Canon 14mm f/2.8, 1/30 second @ f/11, ISO 800

Manatee Fact #3: The manatee’s closest living relative is the elephant. By their appearance alone, I thought this to be a somewhat obvious fact but apparently it has something to do with the number of fingernails both species possess.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III in AquaTech underwater housing, Canon 14mm f/2.8, 1/125 second @ f/11 ISO 800

Manatee Fact #4: Manatees have no natural predators. The biggest hazard they encounter are the props from motor boats which has lead to them being included on the endangered species list.

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