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!

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