Namibia 2016 Gallery

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.

    Bandon Moody Mornings

    A moody sky breaks in early morning over Bandon Beach, Oregon
    A moody sky breaks in early morning over Bandon Beach, Oregon

    Recently I published a post about my trip to Bandon Oregon and some of the sunset conditions I faced. Here is a counterpart to that article about the mornings I spent on the beach. Due to the weather, most mornings were overcast and very moody. It was a perfect opportunity to capture a quiet beach in somber lighting.

    A moody sky breaks in early morning over Bandon Beach, Oregon
    A moody sky breaks in early morning over Bandon Beach, Oregon

    Most mornings had a very low tide, offering more compositional opportunities than sunset. For the photo above I spent some time studying the interplay of shapes between the sand, water, rocks, and their reflections. It is important to separate out the graphical elements in your image to prevent strong lines from overlapping. I had to carefully balance the space in between the large rock reflection and the sand bar jutting into the tide pool, with the spacing between the mid-frame rock and the sea stacks out on the horizon.

    Low tide uncovers clusters of mussels, Bandon, Oregon
    Low tide uncovers clusters of mussels, Bandon, Oregon

    On another part of the beach, I found a large group of exposed mussels and decided to use them as leading lines out to the large sea stacks in the water. Getting down low with a wide angle lens helped emphasize the mussels in the foreground. Here I used focus stacking to ensure sharp focus throughout the frame.

    A low tide exposes large stones and carved sand along Bandon Beach, Oregon
    A low tide exposes large stones and carved sand along Bandon Beach, Oregon

    The flat light of the morning lent itself well to black and white conversions. What attracted my eye to this area were the deep lines in the sand cut by the receding water. By converting to black and white, I was able to emphasize these lines by increasing the contrast and bringing out the drama of the image. I also liked the randomness of the rocks strewn about the background of the image. Compositionally, it is a nice juxtaposition of the round shapes of the rocks with the jagged straight lines cut through the sand.

    The sun rises on a blue, dreary day along Bandon Beach Oregon
    The sun rises on a blue, dreary day along Bandon Beach Oregon

    Sometimes instead of adding contrast to an image (as in the black and white image seen above), it is better to showcase the low contrast qualities of the scene. Many mornings there was a foggy mist that settled around the rock formations, and here I wanted to show that atmosphere as well as the blue light cast of the morning.

    The sun rises on a blue, dreary day along Bandon Beach Oregon
    The sun rises on a blue, dreary day along Bandon Beach Oregon

    Finally, this image was shot on the same day as the image above, but I increased the contrast to show off the sharpness of the foreground rocks leading to the rock spire.

    It was a lot of fun to really think about why I was attracted to each of these images and use the processing stage to convey those thoughts to the viewer. It is also a reminder that taking the photos is only half of the story. A lot of communication comes through in the processing itself.

    On Creating Meaningful Photographs

    As a photography blogger, I oftentimes get more caught up with the latest gear that was used to create a photo rather than the substance of the photograph itself. But when the focus shifts to meaningful subject matter and creativity, all pixel count, ISO performance, and frame rate melt into the background. Meaningful photographs can be created with almost any gear. In order to succeed here, the emphasis should be on photographer intent and how well the photographer conveys that intent.

    At 4 days old, Jake Jr does a lot of sleeping
    At 4 days old, Jake Jr does a lot of sleeping

    Recently I welcomed the arrival of my nephew Jake with a quick photo session when he was four days old. Due in part to the latest technology of my gear, I was able to capture high quality photographs without much disruption to little Jake or his parents. I was able to use natural light, a quiet shutter, and a fast frame rate to capture those fleeting expressions of a newborn.

    Nancy cradles Jake Jr's hand in her own.
    Nancy cradles Jake Jr’s hand in her own.

    When I first started photographing regularly, I thought of myself as an explorer, both of the technology I was using and of the world around me. Seeing through a variety of lenses provides many different perspectives of the world, and being able to record those perspectives provides avenues of endless creativity and communication. I first had to master my tools before I could really concentrate on the art. As I improve (I like to always think of myself as improving!) I find myself thinking more about the meaning behind the pictures I am creating, and what I am trying to communicate to the viewer.

    At 4 days old, Jake Jr's feet are slightly bigger than an adult thumb
    At 4 days old, Jake Jr’s feet are slightly bigger than an adult thumb

    Don’t get me wrong, when taking these photos of baby Jake I was using many techniques I’ve learned over the years. But much more important than how I achieved the photos are the photos themselves. These photos will serve both as a keepsake for family members, and as a lasting record of Jake as he appeared as a newborn. I’m sure there will be tens of thousands of photos taken of Jake in his lifetime. Most will become a visual record of his life, but it is those most meaningful photos that will have lasting impact to those who love him.

    Jake Jr sleep soundly while resting his hand in his mother's
    Jake Jr sleep soundly while resting his hand in his mother’s

    The next time you are out shooting, whether you are capturing a beautiful sunset, a wild creature, or a portrait of a loved one, think about the message you are trying to convey in your image. If your answer is “I am creating a beautiful scenic”, that is a great answer. But over time, you might find a deeper message creeping into your work. I know I keep striving to find my meaning and connect with the viewers of my photographs.

    Black And White Challenge

    Two weeks ago I was challenged by friend and photographer Jerry Dodrill to post 5 black and white photographs on social media over 5 consecutive days. As I am not known for shooting much black and white, I dug back into my archives to see what I had. From that selection, I chose five photos from a variety of subject matter (landscape, wildlife, and architecture) that spoke to me more as fine art than editorial photos. Here is my selection collected together, along with a short synopsis of each.

    Day One

    Dawn breaks over Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness
    Dawn breaks over Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness

    I shot this last year on my attempt at the John Muir Trail. Thousand Island Lake is a beautiful location in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This was a dark, moody, stormy morning, and during a brief pause in the torrential downpour, I braved the elements and scrambled out of my tent to capture Banner Peak with the lake below. In order to convey my feelings at the time I shot it, it seemed like a perfect candidate for a B&W conversion.

    Day Two

    Death Valley's Mesquite Dunes are a study of form and lines
    Death Valley’s Mesquite Dunes are a study of form and lines

    This shot is of the Mesquite Dunes outside of Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley National Park. I shot this fairly wide (21mm) as I was standing on the foreground dune. Those who have photographed a lot of sand know that you can’t just back up to reshoot – you’ll end up with a photo full of footprints! Black and white allowed me to add contrast into the sand ripples along the crest of the dune.

    Day Three

    Four american white pelicans line up, all of them fishing at the same time. There was a nice symmetry to this image, which was calling very strongly to be rendered as a black and white fine art photograph.
    Four american white pelicans line up, all of them fishing at the same time. There was a nice symmetry to this image, which was calling very strongly to be rendered as a black and white fine art photograph.

    With this photo, I’m switching focus to birds (hey, birds can make great B&W too!) I was shooting a group of American White Pelicans and was waiting for that perfect, synergistic moment. Finally they all ducked down for fish at the same time (the white pelicans tend to be much lazier when eating as compared to the California Browns who are constantly dive bombing their food). I caught the moment and new it would make a nice pano crop – a conversion to a high-key black and white was icing on the cake.

    Day Four

    Church and cemetery, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Church and cemetery, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    This image is a little different from my usual fare. Quite a few years ago, a friend and I were hiking through the woods of Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It was a still, crisp November day, and we were utterly alone with the trees. Throughout the day, we had been getting a very creepy vibe. Unlike the wilderness of the west, these forests are littered with remnants of past civilizations – small mountain villages linked to other settlements only via walking paths. It almost felt like the ghosts of the past were watching our progress through their woods. Suddenly our trail opened up into a clearing with an old church, complete with cemetery and 100+ year old headstones. When I took this photograph, I knew I wanted to try to convey that feeling that we’d been getting all day. A black and white, high contrast conversion was in order.

    Day Five

    Soft light across the dunes adds a milky texture to the wind carved lines, Death Valley National Park
    Soft light across the dunes adds a milky texture to the wind carved lines, Death Valley National Park

    My final shot is another B&W dune photo from Death Valley. This time I kept the contrast and the clarity low, to emphasize the soft buttery texture of twilight. What first attracted me to this spot was the three tall dunes in the background. I think they reminded me of pyramids off in the distance. I set about looking for a foreground. When I found layer upon layer of sand “waves” stacked up in front of the dunes, I knew I had my shot. I fell in love with the way the light moved across the sand like it was a living thing. In order to remove all other distractions from the photo, I subtracted all color and let the interplay between the shadows and highlights define the photograph.