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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’ve known me for a while, you might remember that I took a trip to Japan in January 2015, to take part in one of Martin Bailey’s Hokkaido Winter Landscape tours. And I loved every minute of it.
Firstly, for the opportunity to meet photographers I’ve known, or known of, for a long time on line, including Martin and David DuChemin. But also it was fantastic to meet new people from all over the world, and develop friendships with a bunch of people who share a passion for photography and travel. Among others on the trip I took, we had a Scottish guy who lived in Sweden, a Romanian who lives in Dubai, an American who lives in Shanghai, and a Brit who lives in Hong Kong. It’s fair to say it was an eclectic bunch!
Add to that, the opportunity to visit locations that I never would have otherwise, and to shoot amazing minimalist winter landscapes that I’ve never experienced before, and you can see why it’s one of my favourite experiences of recent years.
So, I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to chat with Martin this week and be invited to accompany him and help lead his 2017 Namibia Tour and Workshop. Taking place in June 2017, the tour is a 17-day adventure through Namibia in open-top Land Rovers, visiting National Parks and shooting wildlife, landscapes and people in some wonderful looking locations.
My participation depends on numbers – I’ll be the co-host in the second vehicle if enough people sign up for the tour before July 15 – and it looks like places are filling up pretty quickly. So, if you’ve ever thought of taking a photographic safari through Africa, or you’d like to have an experience meeting new, like-minded people from all around the world in a great location, head on over to Martin’s page and sign up now.