Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Etosha National Park- Namibia

When traveling to Namibia, one cannot miss visiting Etosha National Park for excellent wildlife game viewing experiences.  The park was officially made a game reserve in 1907 and is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves.There are 150 species of mammals in the park, including the endangered black rhino.

During the drier months, the many waterholes located through the park are quite a draw to herds of animals in need of water.  (The Dry Season is from June to November- which includes the date range of the 2014 Strabo Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and Me)

'Etosha' means "Great White Place" in reference to the huge salt pan located (mostly) within the park's boundaries.  The salt pan is so big, it is actually visible from space! There are several lodges located in Etosha National Park. 

We will be spending 2 nights at Okaukuejo Rest Camp situated near the western edge of the Etosha Pan.

After sunset, the waterhole is illuminated by floodlights in order to allow wildlife observation at night.  One can stay out all night long watching and enjoying the animals, if so inclined. Rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and lions are some of the species who frequent here, and it is considered by many to be the best place in Africa to see the endangered black rhino.  
(It's always worth remembering that the best waterholes to visit can change on a daily and even hourly basis, and that often it comes down to the 'luck of the draw' as far as what we will see.)

You can see a collection of my most recent images from Etosha National Park HERE. 

I hope you will consider joining Brenda and me on our photo tour to Namibia in August 2014.  We have a varied itinerary of many different and exciting photo opportunities.  For information and details about our Strabo Namibia Photo Tour, please click HERE.


Monday, December 23, 2013

What does 'The Best' Actually Mean?

As 2013 comes to a close, I have been seeing many posts on my Facebook newsfeed by other photographers who have posted their "best" of 2013.

I am in awe of the 'best' photos represented by my fellow photographers and I decided to re-visit my 2013 photos to share my 'best' of the year.
As I began to look through the multitude of images of varied subject matter from this past year, I had to take pause and ask myself: "What does 'best' really mean?"
The first thought that came to mind was: 'the best' means a technically sound image with perfect composition and impact- after all, these are the criteria used for judging photo competitions.  While I have many images that are technically sound, tack sharp, and worthy of competition entry, they are not what I consider 'the best' of my collection. 
There are so many wonderful memories of things I have seen and of the places I have been which come flooding back to me when viewing images I have made.  To me, so much of an image is about the experience of being in that place and witnessing what I try to capture with my lens- sometimes technically successfully, and sometimes not. It's difficult for me to separate all of the emotions I feel when making an image from the resulting photograph. 
So many of my 'best' are fleeting moments in time.  A great number of these 'bests' have never been shared with anyone else, but are the ones which I often  revisit and just smile...  Those magical moments and the awe and wonder of subjects discovered for the first time, special times with friends and family, and those moments which excited me as I saw them come together through the viewfinder. 
This is what "the best" means to me, and I invite you to view a gallery of MY 'BEST' PHOTOGRAPHIC MOMENTS AND DISCOVERIES OF 2013 -while keeping in mind the experience and discovery behind each image.
Wishing you only 'BESTS' in 2014 and beyond...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Himba People of Namibia

This is the fifth posting in a sequence of blogs highlighting the many places in Namibia which will be visited on the Strabo 2014 Namibia Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and myself.  The images featured in my Namibia blogs are from my most recent and previous visits to Namibia and feature the places included in the itinerary for 2014.
The next stop on our 2014 Strabo Namibia Photo Tour will be to the town of Opuwo which is the capital of the Kunene Region in north-western Namibia.  The mingling of ethnic groups on the streets of Opuwo is a sight you will always remember!  It is here where we will have the opportunity to photograph the Himba people.  We will be spending two nights at the Opuwo Country Hotel which is situated on the outskirts of the town on a hilltop which overlooks breathtaking mountains and valleys. 
Himba Woman and Goat Herd
The Himba are semi-nomadic people and are indigenous to the northern Kunene Region of Namibia.  They live with their extended family in a kraal- which is a fenced circle of individual family huts surrounding a central livestock enclosure and a sacred fire.  Their livestock are a symbol of their wealth and so these people will travel with their herds to find adequate grazing and water to keep the herds healthy and producing new offspring.
Himba Wealth

Himba Woman in Late Afternoon Light
During our time in Opuwo, we will have the opportunity to visit two different authentic Himba villages (kralls) and photograph the people who live there.  One session will take place in the morning as their daily village activities begin.  During this session we will learn about their fascinating culture and beliefs from our personal Himba guide.  The second session of the day will be in the late afternoon and on into the "golden hour" which enhances the red skin tones which are unique to these women.
The Himba are beautiful and friendly people.  The women of this culture are best known for covering themselves with 'otjize'- a mixture of butterfat and red powdered ochre.  The women perform the ritual of bathing in this mixture on a daily basis, resulting in their iconic deep red skin color.  We are usually able to enter a hut and watch this bathing process.  Although you will have to use a very high ISO, the light streaming in from the doorway allows us to create some very special images of these beautiful women.
Mixing Ochre                              Bathing Ritual
During the time spent in the villages, it will be time to change from our landscape photography techniques used during the first half of our trip to those suited for portraiture.  Typically, a mid-range telephoto lens (24-105mm) will be the workhorse of your Himba visit.  However, it is also nice to have a longer telephoto lens (70-200mm) handy for intimate portraits and for isolating details.
Portrait of a Himba Woman                                    Clothing Details
The Himba people are very receptive to our presence in their village and the children are a delight!  They adore having their photos taken and then seeing their likeness on the backs of our cameras!
Himba Children Delight In Seeing Themselves
Upon leaving the village and presenting the people with our thank-you gifts, the women produce some of their handmade crafts and offer them for sale.  While not obligated to buy them, it is tough to resist, knowing you are helping their existence while taking a bit of Himba culture home with you as a souvenir.
Handmade Himba Crafts
Photos of the Himba people  made on my most recent visit to Namibia can be seen HERE.
Please consider joining us on our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour.  It is a trip you will never forget!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


(This is the fourth in a sequence of blogs highlighting the many places in Namibia which will be visited on the Strabo 2014 Namibia Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and myself. The images featured in my Namibia blogs will be from my most recent trip since the 2013 itinerary closely mirrored our Itinerary for 2014.)
The next stop on our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour will be the city of Swakopmund. During the time you will spend here, you will be free to explore Swakopmund and all it has to offer on your own.
Aerial View of Swakopmund

The Skyline of Swakopmund Seen From the Dunes

We will be spending two nights at the The Schweizerhaus Hotel.  The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of the main part of town, and houses Café Anton, a quaint café/bakery where you will have your morning coffee and breakfast, and can also choose to purchase wonderful baked goods for later!

Hotel Schweizerhaus and Pastries from Café Anton
Swakopmund is situated on the coast of Namibia, and is surrounded by the oldest desert in the world: the Namib. Founded in 1892, Swakopmund is the country's biggest coastal town and is a holiday destination for many Namibians. There is a strong German architectural influence in the town and the quaint streets and store fronts seem to be stuck in time.

Makalani Nut Carvings
You can easily spend your time in Swakopmund relaxing from the first half of our tour by leisurely strolling the streets and shopping for beautiful African crafts as souvenirs.  You might choose to visit the Swakopmund Museum, (the largest privately run museum in Namibia)  the lighthouse, or the aquarium. There are cafes and restaurants serving authentic German food and are a good place to settle in for some people watching...
You might opt for a tour of nearby Walvis Bay or The Walvis Bay Bird Paradise.  One can also take to the water for a seal and dolphin tour.
Swakopmund has become the country's leading adrenaline destination, with a wide range of activities to suit all ages. You can choose to see the Namib desert and Skeleton coast by helicopter, plane, or air balloon!  
An Aerial View of the Namibian Coast
Or you can choose to see the desert from the ground by sand boarding, quad-biking or by taking a tour of the desert.
Quad Biking on Dune 7
I highly recommend Tommy's Tours and SafarisTommy Collard is a wealth of knowledge and a delight in the way he teaches about the Namib Desert!  His tour is affordably priced for a half day of fascinating information and learning, as well as for photography.  
Tommy's Tours and Safaris 4 x 4 Vehicles

Tommy takes you through the dune belt on the outskirts of Swakopmund sharing the variety of little and hidden creatures (many who are endemic to Namibia) who make the dunes their home.  From insects, to reptiles, to birds- you will leave this tour with a greater respect for the desert and the life it supports.
Feeding a Namaqua Chameleon

A gallery of images made during Tommy's Living Desert Tour can be seen HERE.

A few fun videos made on the tour and in the Swakopmund dunes can be enjoyed ON THIS PAGE. 

For more information and details regarding our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour, please visit Strabo Tours.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia

(This is the third in a sequence of blogs highlighting the many places in Namibia which will be visited on the Strabo 2014 Namibia Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and myself. The images featured in my upcoming Namibia blogs will be from my most recent trip since the 2013 itinerary closely mirrored our Itinerary for 2014.)
Aerial View of Dune 45

When people think of Namibia, usually the first thing to come to mind is its world famous red sand dunes towering above the desert.  Namibia is home to the tallest sand dunes in the world- measuring 325 meters high! The dunes are located within the 50,000 sq km of Namib-Naukluft Park which in turn is located between two deserts: the Namib Desert to the west and the Kalahari Desert to the east.

We will be visiting Namib-Naukluft park for 3 nights during our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour and will be staying at The Sossus Dune Lodge within the borders of the park.  The lodge is made up of a string of chalets nestled at the base of a tall hill.  Each chalet has a gorgeous view of the desert beyond, and at night, the stars and Milky Way are a spectacular sight against the black sky.
(Click on any image in this blog for a larger view)
The Sossus Dune Lodge

Perhaps the best known areas of the park are Sossusvlei and Deadvlei.  Deadvlei is an ancient lake bed of dried cracked mud, surrounded by giant dunes. Deadvlei sports hundreds of ancient skeletal camel thorn trees dating back 500-600 years.  The starkness of this place has been photographed from virtually every angle over the years, yet continues to challenge one's photographic eye. The largest dune, nicknamed "Big Daddy," looms over the far end of the vlei and is a favorite dune of tourists for climbing.

Dune Hiker
Sossusvlei is another dry white mud lake bed surrounded by towering star shaped, red-orange dunes.  The dunes change their warm hues based upon the time of day and weather conditions.  The red-orange sand dunes against the deep blue sky make classic images of this iconic place.

From wide angle to telephoto, the graphic and abstract photo possibilities are endless, as one concentrates on light and shadow, lines and angles, and shape and form.  Not only will we have the opportunity to photograph the ancient lake beds, but the road from the park entrance to the vlei is lined with dunes of various shapes and sizes.  We will make this drive more than once during our visit, photographing along its length.  One never tires of the dunes, as they change their appearance with the changing light through the day.  To see examples of classic images made at this location, please visit THIS GALLERY.
Classic Dune Images
On our recent visit to Deadvlei, we awoke at 3 AM to make the one hour drive to the trailhead for Deadvlei so we could be in the pan at sunrise. Staying within the park's boundaries allows early access to the trailhead before it becomes filled with visitors.  A 4x4 vehicle is required for the last 6 km of the drive.  

Because it was cloudy and misting, it was very tempting to stay in bed!  But as devoted photographers with limited time to spend here, we pushed ourselves to make the trip. Upon arrival to the trailhead, we then hiked 30 minutes through the sand dunes to get to Deadvlei before daylight. 

While our dream was to photograph Deadvlei under the starry night skies, we were faced instead with a fine mist of rain and thick clouds overhead!  These very unusual weather conditions turned out to be a blessing in that we were the only ones in the vlei in the early hours of the morning to witness the soft morning fog and subtle pastel colors as day broke.  It seldom rains in the vlei, and so we felt quite privileged  be witnessing such a rare weather event in this iconic place. 
Fog Veil at Deadvlei

Photos from this very special morning can be seen in my new gallery: Deadvlei-2013.

For more information and details regarding our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour, please visit Strabo Tours.  Brenda and I would love to have you join us!