Namibia: 8 Stunning Locations Photographers Must Visit

Namibia: 8 Stunning Locations Photographers Must Visit

Inspiration

Namibia Photography Hotspots

Simply put, Namibia is a photographer’s dream. It’s also a big, sparsely populated country so knowing where to go when you arrive can save you lots of time and money while optimizing your photography output. Namibia has the planet’s oldest desert, largest sand dunes, world-class wildlife viewing and many more attractions that you probably didn’t know about but should. If you have the opportunity to visit Namibia, here are 8 must-see locations that will make your photography trip a sure-fire success.

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park in the north-central part of Namibia is renown for its amazing wildlife viewing and photography. It’s the most important wildlife sanctuary in Namibia and one of the largest savannah conservation areas in all of Africa. Elephants, zebras, black and white rhinoceros, lions, leopards, cheetahs, herds of springbok, giraffe, and wildebeest all call Etosha home in plentiful numbers.

The Park is at its prime during the dry months, which is approximately May through November, when the water holes draw the greatest concentration of animals, especially early and late in the day. The gates into and out of the Park are closed and locked at sunrise and sunset (to help thwart the pervasive wildlife poaching) so the holes nearest to the Okaukuejo, Namutoni, and Halali base camps are where you have the chance to work with the best light of the day.

This is one of the easiest wildlife parks to drive yourself, hopping waterhole to waterhole to find the best wildlife activity. You are not allowed to exit your vehicle at any time. Gates open at sunrise and close at sunset.

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(Top Left) Giraffe silhouettes reflected in Okaukuejo water hole at sunset, Etosha National Park. (Top Right) Zebras lining up for a late afternoon drink, Etosha National Park. (Bottom Left) A stately male lion in Etosha National Park. (Bottom Right) Two elephants greet each other at the evening water hole, Etosha National Park.  All Images © Richard Bernabe

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Namib-Naukluft is a large National Park that stretches across much of Namibia’s southern coast. Within its boundaries are the world’s oldest desert and largest sand dunes. Sossusvlei, an area in the southern Namib, is characterized by enormous red sand dunes – the largest in the world. The dune complex is often referred to as Sosusvlei, although the name specifically applies to a hard clay pan located in the center of this region as well as one particularly large dune.

Deadvlei is another clay pan near Sossusvlei with dozens of stark looking camel thorn trees entirely surrounded by giant red sand dunes. The early morning and late evening light is best for photography when the warm, low-angled sunlight intensifies the dunes’ bright orange and red hues.

Access to the Sosusvlei and Deadvlei area is via the Sesriem gate with a forty-mile drive to the dunes. The final 3 miles (which includes immediate access to both Sosusvlei and Deadvlei) are accessable with a 4WD vehicle with high clearance only. The gate at Sesriem opens at sunrise and closes at sunset.

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(Top Left) A dunescape in Sossusvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park. (Top Middle) A lone acacia tree is dwarfed by the edge of a giant sand dune, Namib-Naukluft National Park. (Top Right) Shadows are cast across the clay pan at Deadvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park. (Bottom Left) An oryx crests the edge of a sand dune and into the light, Namib-Naukluft National Park. (Bottom Right) Tree art during intense dune light at Deadvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park. All images © Richard Bernabe

Quiver Tree Forest and Giant’s Playground

Near the southern Namibia town of Keetmanshoop sits a unique forest of “quiver trees”, one of the most fascinating photography destinations in Namibia. These are not actually real trees, but rather several different species of Aloe, which are large enough to be referred to as “quiver trees” by the locals, since bushmen once used the branches to make quivers for their arrows.

The plant’s distinctive candelabra-like shape creates ideal silhouettes against a colorful sunrise or sunset sky. The forest is also the perfect locale for night photography with static starscapes, star trails, and streaking clouds through a moonlit sky.

The Giant’s Playground is only a few miles from the quiver tree forest (and contains a respectable number of quiver trees as well) but In the surroundings of the forest there is another site of geological interest (itself a tourist attraction), the Giant’s Playground, a vast pile of large dolerite rocks.

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(Above) The Milky Way hangs over the Quiver Tree Forest during a light painting night photography session, Keetmanshoop. All images © Richard Bernabe

Desert Horses at Aus

On the eastern edge of the Namib Desert near the town of Aus is a thriving population of feral desert horses, the only herd of feral horses in all of Africa. This group of about 90 -150 members has captured the imagination of Namibian tourists and photographers for years as they survive in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Your best chance to see the horses is at the man made watering hole at Garub, early and late in the day.

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(Above Left) Desert horses graze in a rare area of vegetation as the sun rises through the morning fog. (Above Right) A mare and foal in the barren desert landscape near Aus. All images © Richard Bernabe

Kolmanskop Ghost Town

Kolmanskop was once a bustling village built around a productive western Namibian diamond mine. Located just beyond the coastal city of Lüderitz, Kolmanshop is now a surreal ghost town, well preserved by the dry desert climate.

When diamond production ceased in the mid 1950s, the citizens of Kolmanskop abandoned the town and left the remaining structures to fend for themselves against the advancing desert sands. What’s left is well preserved today, if not partly overtaken by the desert in many places. The juxtaposition of the manmade and the visable forces of nature make Kolmanskop a favorite photography destination for visitors.

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(Top Left) The well-preserved, colorful paint on the walls provides an interesting contrast with the overwhelming forces of nature that have overtaken the floor, Kolmanskop. (Top Right) Morning light streams through the doors of an abandoned hospital, Kolmanskop. (Bottom) A bright blue room housing an itinerant sand dune, Kolmanskop. All images © Richard Bernabe

Cape Cross Seal Reserve

Cape Cross Seal Reserve sits along the Southern Atlantic Ocean about 80 miles north of the coastal town of Swakopmund and just south of Namibia’s famed Skeleton Coast. What interests photographers the most is the fact that Cape Cross hosts the largest colony of cape fur seals in the world. Depending on the time of the year, more than 200,000 cape fur seals can be found congregating along the shores of Cape Cross to feed and fight for potential mates.

There is an elevated boardwalk that brings you literally face-to-face with many of the colony’s members. Althoguh your initial impulse might be to grab the longest telephoto lens you can find, there are creative compositional options at many different focal lengths, including a wide-angle perspective.

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(Top Left) A backlit cape fur seal shows off its whiskers, Cape Cross Seal Reserve. (Top Right) A lone cape fur seal seems to pose in front of a back lit crashing wave, Cape Cross Seal Reserve. (Bottom) A wailing cape fur seal caught with electronic flash and a wide-angle lens, Cape Cross Seal Reserve. All images © Richard Bernabe

NAMIBIA IMPRESSIONS

FREE PDF E-Book by Richard Bernabe
Renowned nature, wildlife, and travel photographer, Richard Bernabe takes you on a virtual expedition in Namibia Impressions.

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Spitzkoppe Mountains

The Spitzkoppe Mountains are a group of smooth granite peaks and boulders that rise dramatically from the flat Namib Desert. The Spitzkoppe or Matterhorn of Namibia is the highest peak in the group at 5800 feet (1780 meters) iand can be spotted and recognized from many miles away.

In addition to the formidable mountains, Spitzkoppe is home to boulder fields and natural arches that can be the source of endless compositional variations. Early morning and late evening are the best times when the low angled sunlight lights of the orange rocks with brilliant color. To gain access to the area during the best light, the nearby campsite is the best lodging option.

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(Above Left) Shadows dance across the glowing rocks at sunset, Spitzkoppe. (Above Right) The rock arches can be used to frame the Spitzkoppe Mountains, especially near sunrise and sunset when you experience the best color, Spitzkoppe. All Images © Richard Bernabe 

Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay, a coastal city of 100,000 residents on the Atlantic Ocean, is an important deep-water port for Namibia’s economy. It also attracts an impressive array of wildlife because of it’s plankton rich waters. Southern right whales, pelicans, and two species of flamingos can be found in the area in large numbers.

Both the greater and lesser varieties of flamingos can be easily seen and photographed right from the center of town on the tidal flats. Morning is the best time when the the sun is at your back and it’s not obstructed by the marine layer hovering over the ocean in the west. Longer telephoto lenses are needed for close-ups but catching large flocks of birds with shorter telephoto lenses is also a good strategy as well.

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(Top Left) A group of lesser flamingos taking flight from the tidal flats, Walvis Bay. (Top Right) Flamingos in the cool light of pre dawn, Walvis Bay. (Bottom) A trio of greater flamingos feeding on the tidal flats in the soft light of early morning, Walvis Bay. All Images © Richard Bernabe

Useful Namibia Links

Wild Namibia Photo Workshop and Tour with Richard Bernabe  https://www.richardbernabe.com/namibia-photography-tour/
Namibia Impressions free ebook  https://www.richardbernabe.com/namibia-impressions/
Namibia Tourism Board  http://www.namibiatourism.com.na
Namibia Weather Network http://www.namibiaweather.info
Etosha National Park http://www.etoshanationalpark.org
Hosea Kutako International Airport (Windhoek) http://www.airports.com.na/airports/hosea-kutako-international-airport/12/
Air Namibia http://www.airnamibia.com
Namibia Wildlife Resorts https://www.nwr.com.na
Namibia Travel Guide http://www.namibia-travel.net
Spitzkoppe Campsites http://www.spitzkoppe.com
Sossusvlei.org http://www.sossusvlei.org
Kolmanskop.net http://kolmanskop.net
Quivertree Forest Rest Camp http://quivertreeforest.com

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Richard Bernabe Online Photography Classes

Richard Bernabe Online Photography Classes

Announcements

For the past two years, I’ve been working to create online photography classes with KelbyOne, a worldwide leader in photography education and Photoshop/Lightroom instruction. In 2016, we released Master Compositional Class for Landscape Photographers which was filmed along the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina. That was followed by Landscape Photography Preplanning Post-Processing in 2017, which helped photographers connect the decisions they make in the field with the techniques they will use later in the digital darkroom.

These photography classes are masterfully filmed, produced, and edited by the video team at KelbyOne and in addition to being extremely informative, the video classes are ecstatically beautiful as well (if you don’t consider that I am in the frame most of the time). For my photography classes, as well other many other photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom classes as well, become a member of KelbyOne and learn from the pros. My classes are listed below.

Master Compositional Class for Landscape Photographers

This class takes you on a photographic road tour through the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina while you learn how to master an array of compositional tools for creating more dynamic landscape photographs. I will share my thought processes on various composition principles and concepts while showing you how to create more compelling landscape images – from sunrise, sunset, waterfalls, and grand landscapes. View this class here: Master Composition Class for Landscape Photographers.

Landscape Photography Preplanning and Post-Processing

This class demonstrates how the photographic decisions you make in the field will impact the tools and techniques you can use in the digital darkroom later. I will show how you can bring your field work together with your post processing, so that you are capturing photographs that allow you to get the most out of your workflow. Each lesson on a specific capture technique is paired with a lesson on how to process those photographs using Lightroom and Photoshop. View this class here: Landscape Photography Preplanning and Post-Processing.

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The Creative Principle

The Creative Principle

Creativity

The following is an excerpt from my new E-book, Creative Composition. It happens to be the very last chapter after outlining and explaining the many compositional “rules” and concepts used in photography and the arts.

The Creative Principle

Creativity is the process of making, or creating, something new and useful – in our instance here, that would be a photograph. So in order for a photograph to be creative it must involve a scene, technique, or composition that’s never been done before. But making something new isn’t enough. There are an infinite number of ways to make new or novel images with your camera – including tripping the shutter as you throw it down a mountain or firing it remotely after attaching the camera to your dog’s tail as it walks the yard. Each of the results would be new or different, to be sure, but they wouldn’t necessarily be creative. Almost all of the photos would be failures, unless you stumbled upon a random, happy accident. The photograph needs to be both new and useful, meaning it has to make a meaningful connection with the viewer. Art cannot be the product of an accident. Art must be purposeful. Composing a scene through your camera’s viewfinder is just one conscious, purposeful thing you can do as a photographic artist.

Following the composition “rules” as outlined in this book will surely lead to visually appealing images that are “useful” but they will lack the creativity you’re striving for since there’s nothing new in any of them. You must learn to break the rules in order to achieve true creative results but you also have to know the rules in order to break them. Actors are told to learn their lines so they can later forget them and improvise on the spot. The good ones do just that. Call it irony if you wish, but I prefer to call it the Creative Principle. Feel free to break this one too since there are, in fact, no rules.

It’s also crucial to understand that breaking the rules just for the sake of breaking them is not being creative either. What’s most important about knowing the rules is understanding why they work most of the time – something I hope this book has accomplished for you. Knowing why the rules work will lead to something akin to a higher state of compositional enlightenment: knowing when your photo is successful when not using the rules, or better yet, purposely breaking them. Once you get to that happy place, you will be on the path to true creative synthesis.

The last step on this journey to creative expression is actually putting The Creative Principle into action. The French artist, Henri Matisse once famously declared, “Creativity takes courage.” It takes considerable courage to deviate from the safe confines of conventional compositional rules because trying something different could lead to failure. Your art should be an intimate expression of yourself so it’s easy to take failure personally. It’s important to remember, however, that artistic growth requires experimenting and trying new things. Failures will definitely occur along the way but they’re a small price to pay for the creative breakthroughs you’re going to make by venturing outside your comfort zone. Edwin Land, the founder of Poloroid, said, “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Don’t be afraid to try something new.

So consider the rules merely as guidelines or suggestions with which to take generous liberties. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” Pablo Picasso offered as advice to fellow creatives. When I’m behind the camera, I am not thinking about any compositional rules, guidelines, or suggestions but instead I’m working on more of an intuitive level. I don’t think too much about composition. I simply defer to what feels right. Yet the concepts in this book have helped teach me how to see and they’re never far away from the conscious decisions I’m making in real time. Later on, I often discover that I did, in fact, use one of the rules presented here (or I’ve discovered that I ignored all of them) but I’m never thinking that way at the time of the capture.

Remember, no one is born an accomplished photographer and master of composition. It’s not an innate talent. It’s not a gift. There are no child prodigies in the field of photography. Every great photographer has had to learn the rules, intentionally break the rules, then ignore them altogether. If you’re just starting out, rest assured that you are in the same place that I once was, as well as every other professional photographer. Learn the rules, adopt the Creative Principle, then follow your heart and intuition to a life of creative expression. Enjoy the journey.

The 74 pages of Creative Composition, including the Creative Principle and photographs to illustrate the ideas and concepts in the book, will get your creative juices flowing again which will help power your way to greater creative expression with your camera.

Creative Principle

CREATIVE COMPOSITION

Image Design Masterclass by Richard Bernabe $9.95 USD
74-page PDF E-book on photographic composition theory and practice by photographer Richard Bernabe.

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My Ten Favorite Photography Quotes

My Ten Favorite Photography Quotes

Inspiration

My Ten Favorite Photography Quotes

A photo may be worth a thousand words, as its often been said, but sometimes just a few words can help explain a thousand or more photographs. And while thousands of illuminating remarks may have been uttered about photography, here are my ten favorite photography quotes.

“Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them” – Elliot Erwin

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment ” – Ansel Adams

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera” – Dorothea Lange

“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time” – John Berger

“With photography, I always think that it’s not good enough” – Lynsey Addario

“Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it may be” – Edward Weston

“I think photographers are too polite. There is not enough anger in photography” – Duane Michals

“Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world” – Arnold Newman

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer” – Ansel Adams

“My best photographs always had a strong personal vision. If they didn’t communicate a vision or an emotion, they failed” – Galen Rowell

If you have a favorite photography quote of your own, please share it with us in the comments section.

If you have a favorite photography quote of your own, please share it with us in the comments section.

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