Kolmanskop

In 1908, a labourer shovelling sand off the railway tracks from Luderitz discovered some interesting looking stones in the sand. Turns out they were diamonds, and pretty soon mining claims were established, and the town of Kolmanskop was born.

By 1912, the area was producing over 10 per cent of the world’s total diamonds, and Kolmanskop grew into a small, but very rich town, with its own butcher, baker, ice factory, and elaborate houses for the resident architect, engineers, doctor and mining managers. There was even a school and hospital.

The long hallway of the hospital building, being overtaken by the dunes The long hallway of the hospital building, being overtaken by the dunes Light beams through rusted iron boarding up the window of this room in the school Light beams through rusted iron boarding up the window of this room in the school

Mining was interrupted by World War I, and the town started its final decline from around the 1930s, with the last family leaving in 1956. Since then, the desert has started to reclaim the town. While many buildings are still standing, they’re gradually being filled with sand as the dunes continue their march across the landscape.

In some buildings, the sand has reached up to the top of door frames In some buildings, the sand has reached up to the top of door frames

I first became aware of this place through some photographs shared by Andy Biggs. Since then, it seems like every photographer who travels through Namibia stops in here. For this reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling on the first of our two days here that I was just going through the motions. Collecting photographs, rather than making them. But now that there’s been some time between shooting and editing, I’m pretty pleased with a lot of the work I produced here.

Click below for a full gallery.

All The Himba Ladies

After a few days in the dunes, we travelled to Sesfontein for a couple of days visiting and photographing in two Himba villages in the area.

Himba are pastoralists with the men primarily taking care of the livestock while the women remain behind and undertake the bulk of the work in their small villages, including cooking, collecting water and firewood, looking after the children and maintaining the village.

The women wear traditional dress, and cover themselves in ochre. Different hairstyles represent varying stages of life or marital status.

Most of these portraits were made inside the small mud huts which the women are kind enough to let us into. Inside the huts is quite dark, with the only light source coming from the natural light through the small door.

Quiver Trees

You may have guessed, but posts have been a little out of order. The Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop was our first real stop after a long drive from Windhoek.

First, we arrived in the afternoon and spent an hour or two in the forest as the sun set. There were no clouds in the sky this day, but we still managed to get a lovely colour transition in the western sky as the sun set.

In disappointing news, this was the first shoot with my new 3 Legged Thing Winston tripod. Although the tripod was generally great throughout the trip, on this shoot, one of the feet came unscrewed and became lost among the grass and boulders. Similar happened to at least one other photographer durig the trip, with their much more expensive Really Right Stuff tripod. A handy reminder to regularly check your gear and make sure everything’s done up secure and tight.

The next morning, my jet lag paiud off with a 4:00am rise to take advantage of the moonless sky just before the morning twilight. The darkness of the sky without the moon allowed us to capture the Milky Way, which was lying pretty much parallel to the horizon by this time of the night. We did some light painting of the trees, but I much prefer the photographs with the main subject silhouetted against the sky. For me, the subtle light on the other trees in this shot (from others light painting their own composition) kind of works. A happy accident.

As the sun rose, we took a short drive to the Giant’s Playground, a vast pile of dolerite rocks, with the odd quiver tree dotted around.

Namibia Dunes

A rare sight as we left Luderitz, with clouds and rain over the dunes. The way the light and shadow was falling on the sand resulted in the first “Quick! Stop!” of the trip.

And then onto Sossusvlei for the real dunes. The tallest, and highest in the world. We spent a a couple of pre-sunrise mornings crossing the dunes to Deadvlei for *that* photo. Made famous by Frans Lanting a few years ago, this shot is achieved by waiting for the sun to illuminate the dune in the background. You have just a minute or two while the petrified trees stay in shadow and before the clay pan of Deadvlei begins to lighten.

Etosha Wildlife

I went to a travel expo when I was around 15, and came home with nothing but brochures about African safari tours. Twenty-odd years later, and I finally had the opportunity to go, assisting Martin Bailey to lead his Complete Namibia Tour and Workshop over the last three weeks.

The trip ended with three days in Etosha National Park, a 22,000 square kilometre game reserve, home to hundreds of species of animals, including several which are endangered, including the black rhinoceros.

I don’t do a lot of wildlife photography, so I found myself struggling a little on the first day with an interesting problem to have – there were just too many animals! At the Okaukuejo Waterhole, there was literally a rotating cast of hundreds of zebra, wildebeest, oryx, impala and springbok. It was hard to decide where to point the camera, and then once you’d composed a shot, another animal would come along and stick their head or butt into the frame. Like I said, a good problem to have.

The following days I found my groove a little more, relishing the opportunity to photograph lions, elephants, giraffes and more. The trip came to a wonderful conclusion with an afternoon spent watching and photographing a herd of around 40 elephants arrive, drink & play, and then leave a waterhole.

Click below for the full gallery.

Chris Cornell

This may be a little self-indulgent, but I’m sad and don’t really care.

I first saw Soundgarden in Newcastle in January 1997. If I’m honest, that wasn’t a great show – it was just a couple of months before they broke up, and in hindsight, you could tell they just weren’t into it.

Fast forward to 2012, and I was a music photographer, shooting my first Big Day Out. Soundgarden were back together and on the lineup. Here are some photos I took of Chris Cornell.

RIP.

Hobart Dawn

I recently spent a weekend in Hobart. I didn’t take many photographs because, well, it wasn’t that kind of trip.

I did get up early one morning and drove to the summit of Mount Wellington, where it was 2.7 degrees, with crazy winds making it feel like -8.2 degrees. The drive back down was much more pleasant, so I stopped when I saw this golden dawn light falling on the foothills and Lenah Valley.

Coolum

Hi. Remember me? It’s been a while, and a lot has happened since I last posted.

For one, I’ve gone back to a job in my other profession – environmental consulting – which means I’m back to being an “amateur” photographer. Whatever that means.

But what it has meant, from a practical perspective, is that I haven’t picked up a camera for a few weeks. Until this weekend, when I spent a couple of days at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. Swimming in the ocean. Eating takeaway. Taking the dogs to the beach. Making photographs. Does it get much better?

Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow

I’ve been meaning to get out and shoot some landscapes for the last couple of weeks, after the folks at Sleeklens sent me a copy of their “Through The Woods” Lightroom Workflow for Landscapes. I finally managed to get out the door early this morning and head out to Oxley Creek Common, an area of grazing land not far from home.

Turns out it’s not a great spot for my usual wide-open landscapes, with power lines and warehouses running through the background, so I focused first on this fence running away into the early morning fog.

Here’s the straight-out-of-camera photograph. A little dull, huh?

And below is the final product after running through the Sleeklens workflow. Remember that word “workflow”. More on that later.

And of course, although it’s called a Landscape Workflow, the presets can be used on non-landscape photos too. I came across this kookaburra sitting on a low branch, no doubt waiting for some prey to stir. Again, the straight-out-of-camera versions of each shot is first, followed by the finished product.

I’ve tried a lot of Lightroom Presets, most of which are a blunt instrument – one click results in broad scale changes which, if you’re lazy, give you a final product. Or, of course, you can use them as a starting point for further refinement.

The Sleeklens presets work differently. Sure there are some “All In One” traditional-style presets, but the real power comes from the stackable workflow, which allows you to select a base tone, then make some exposure adjustments, colour corrections, tone and tint adjustments and final polishes.

But it doesn’t end there. Sleeklens also includes thirty local adjustment brush presets, which let you go in and make adjustments and corrections to specific parts of the image. The end result is a much more customisable use of presets and adjustment brushes than the one-click “instagram filter” approach of many other presets.

If you’d like to try the Through The Woods workflow yourself, it can be purchased for $39 USD from Sleeklens.