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2017
01.17

Namibia 2016

I’ve finished processing my photos from a trip to Namibia, Africa last year (yeah, sometimes it takes a while to get everything processed). Here is a gallery of some of my favorite shots.

Several plains zebra line up to drink at the Okaukuejo waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

It was a truly amazing trip, as I was lucky enough to

  • Watch endangered black rhinos congregating around a waterhole in the dead of night
  • Walk among the tallest sand dunes in the world (over 1000 feet) in the world’s oldest desert
  • Witness a rare lightning storm in the desert as thunderclouds rolled over endless dune fields
  • Visit Deadvlei, an ancient river valley dotted with 700 year old desiccated tree husks in the heart of the Namib desert
  • Drive 2500 miles (mostly on dirt roads) over 11 days, see a good variety of countryside
  • See the desert-adapted bush elephants of Damaraland
  • Check out the gallery this and much more, including numerous birds and wildlife. Click each image to see the next, or use your keyboard arrows to navigate.

    2017
    01.13

    Pre-dawn sunlight turns rare desert storm clouds orange over the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    The crackling of distant thunder woke me from a deep sleep at 4:30 in the morning. Instantly wide awake, I looked to the floor-to-ceiling windows to see flashes of light behind the thick drapes. I made my way out of the door of my bungalow to the balcony overlooking a wide expanse of the desert valley. Suddenly a lightning bolt ignited the night sky, silhouetting the 1000 foot dunes in the distance.

    It was my last morning in the middle of the Namib Desert in western Namibia. I stood on the balcony in awe of mother nature’s light show. Lightning continued to split the sky as pregnant thunder clouds rolled across the endless dune fields. A dry cool wind was whipping across the desert floor, bringing respite from the African heat. All at once, the sky opened up and I stood in one of the most impressive downpours I’ve ever witnessed. This land receives only 10 mm of rain each year, and here was buckets of water drenching everything to the horizon.

    Pre-dawn sunlight turns rare desert storm clouds orange over the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    Although I was now soaked, I found that I couldn’t bring myself to go inside. After twenty minutes of intense rain, it suddenly stopped. Ten minutes after that I was dry, thanks to the return of the desert’s typical aridity.

    I gathered my gear and met up with my traveling companions, who I was planning to join to do an aerial shoot at sunrise. Obviously these plans were quickly scrapped, as none of us wanted to be tossed around in a small aircraft in the middle of a thunderstorm. Instead, we headed out into the desert where we got into position to capture this marvelous sunrise over the Naukluft Mountains. Clear sky to the far east allowed the sun to light up the underside of the storm clouds, painting the sky a deep red. A couple of gemsbok oryx crossing the desert floor in front of the mountains added the icing on top.

    Rain falls from a storm cloud over the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    With rain still pouring from clouds in places, we chased the light through the dunes, hoping to capture this phenomena.

    A rare rainfall turns the giant dunes of the Namib Desert wet, forming patterns across the dune’s massive face, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    Although there was not enough accumulation to create pools of water (I was hoping to find a reflection opportunity), the wet sand lent a very different look to the massive dunes. The water softened the edges of sand cut by the wind, diffusing the contours into abstract patterns.

    A rare rainfall turns the giant dunes of the Namib Desert wet, forming patterns across the dune’s massive face, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    After about an hour of dramatic lighting, the skies cleared up into their usual blue. I felt so fortunate to witness such drama on my last morning in the desert.

    2017
    01.03

    A red-vented bulbul perches on a small twig, Mudumalai National Park, India.

    The red-vented bulbul is common across the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced to other locations such as Hawaii, Fiji, Argentina and New Zealand. In fact, this species can so easily establish itself in new locations it is included in the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species.

    I came across several of these birds over the course of just two days, a couple of which I managed to photograph.

    A red-vented bulbul sits on a narrow branch, Mudumalai National Park, India.

    This bird gets its name due to the red feathers at its vent. However, these feathers are often hidden while it is perched, forcing identification through other means. It has the characteristic crest of a bulbul, and a scaly feathered body.

    A red-vented bulbul perches on a rock, Mudumalai National Park, India.

    My main challenge with these photographs was getting close enough to the birds. I was not using my regular bird lens, and only had a 400mm with me, forcing me to put my stalking skills to work. Luck was in my favor and I managed to get close enough for some decent shots before they flitted away.

    2016
    12.31

    In years past, I’ve curated a list of my best 40 photos of the past year. However, with trips in 2016 to India and Africa, I couldn’t whittle down the set to just 40. So here is the best 100 photos of 2016, many of which are previously unpublished. As always, there is a mixture of bird, wildlife and landscape, but this year includes much more wildlife than usual.

    Please enjoy the gallery below. For best viewing (especially if viewing on a mobile device), please click on the following photo:

    Pre-dawn sunlight turns rare desert storm clouds orange over the Namib Desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia.

    To view the gallery, click here to see individual photos.


    If you are interested in compilations from previous years, please see the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 lists.

    2016
    12.22
    A male red-headed finch carries nesting material, Windhoek, Namibia.

    A male red-headed finch carries nesting material, Windhoek, Namibia.

    Red-headed finches are a medium sized finch with a beautiful feather pattern on the body. The males display a bright red head, while the females have a grayish head with slightly duller body colors.

    I came across a wild colony in Windhoek, Namibia, where it appears that they took over a set of old nests abandoned by some kind of weaver.

    A male red-headed finch perches on a nest, Windhoek, Namibia.

    A male red-headed finch perches on a nest, Windhoek, Namibia.

    The nests were hanging from the branches of a tree, with a small entrance on the underside. This species is known to take over and retrofit nests of other species, though they also build their own.

    A female red-headed finch perches on a thick branch, Windhoek, Namibia.

    A female red-headed finch perches on a thick branch, Windhoek, Namibia.

    I was not able to find much information on this bird, other than to read that they are occasionally bred as caged birds.

    A male red-headed finch perches on a thick branch, Windhoek, Namibia.

    A male red-headed finch perches on a thick branch, Windhoek, Namibia.

    It is birds like this that makes traveling to other parts of the world so much fun for me. When I arrive in a new area, even the most common species are new and interesting.