Monday, March 16, 2015

"The Third Time's the Charm," Right?? Not When You're Talking About Namibia!

Join Brenda Tharp and me this Aug/September 2015 to photograph these sights and more!
This is a trip you won't want to miss!  (Details below)

…EVERY time is "the charm!"
Let me explain…
Anytime I go to a place I have never been, there are sights and experiences like no other.  My first trip to Namibia was in 2009 and it introduced me to a country so rich in culture, wildlife and diverse landscapes.  There were surprises around every corner and I soaked up all of the experiences and sights like a sponge!

I saw my first Quivertree- actually an aloe plant that is hundreds of years old. They have such an odd and spectacular beauty about them and photographing them is always a delight!

I spent 2 days exploring the deserted buildings in Kolmanskop- the first diamond mining town in Namibia, which is now abandoned and being swallowed by the shifting sands of the Namib Desert.  My imagination went wild as I meandered through the various buildings thinking about how people lived here in harsh conditions during the heyday of the diamond mining boom.

I remember seeing the world renowned orange sand dunes for the first time, towering over the Namib Desert in all their magnificent glory!  They change dramatically through the day and present ever changing photographic possibilities! The hike to Dead Vlei in the dark…so worth the 30 minute trek through sand to see the sun rise over this iconic place at the base of the tallest sand dune in the world!!

I stayed at a lodge within the Namib Naukluft Park boundaries which is comprised of a string of luxurious huts that over look the Namib.  I will always remember standing on the porch of my hut under the bright expanse of the Milky Way and feeling so small in a world of wonder.  The night skies in Namibia are like no other….

Staying in the seaside city of Swakopmund feels like stepping back in time.  Such a quiet and quaint place to unwind… Situated between desert and ocean, there is plenty to keep busy!  One of my favorite experiences is with Tommy's Tours exploring the small creatures who live in the dunes.  I have been on his tour 3 times and have learned so much about the fragile ecosystems in the desert.

The landscapes in Palmwag are beyond description, especially when dotted with desert lions, giraffes and elephants who inhabit the area; and the spectacular sunsets are consistently better than any superlatives to describe them!

Namibia is filled with culture and my eyes were opened wide with fascination of the Himba tribe and how they live.  Spending time with these friendly people and observing their traditions first hand is inspiring and humbling.

I will never forget the surprise and excitement of my first wild animal sighting in Etosha National Park!  It was a giraffe looming over the trees and peering curiously into our vehicle at the edge of the Dik Dik Trail. In fact, every sighting of wild animal species- elephants, zebras, jackals, springbok, lions and rhinos continue to meet with the same surprise and excitement!  There is nothing as amazing as sitting at a waterhole and watching the choreographed performance of animals taking turns coming in for a drink.

Since that first visit to Namibia, I have returned four times.  Why do I keep returning when there are so many other places in the world to see?
Namibia calls to me.  Namibia is now a part of me.

Each time I visit, Namibia is full of new and different experiences making each of my returning visits as magical as the first.  This is why EVERY time is the "the charm!" 

There is a Namibian proverb that states: "The earth is not ours, it is a treasure we hold in trust for future generations" and Namibia holds many of these world treasures!

Bust don't just take my word for it...consider joining Brenda Tharp and me in August/September on an amazing photography tour through Namibia with Strabo Photo Tours and experience it for yourself!

The diversity of Namibia opens your eyes and challenges the way you see.
It  allows you to practice and use all of your photographic skills as we photograph people, landscapes, the night skies, architecture, plant life, abstracts and macro subjects. You'll receive professional assistance with making your best images in each place we visit. You will learn so much about all facets of Namibia from our very knowledgeable and English-speaking guide.
Most of all, Namibia will become a part of you and will call you back...
You won't want to miss this tour!

Details of our upcoming 2015 Namibia Photo Tour can be found at Strabo Photo Tours Namibia 2015

Images from last year's trip can be found HERE.

Please share this blog post and links with anyone who might be interested.

Monday, February 2, 2015

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! (Lessons Learned Editing)

Like many photographers my age, I began my photographic journey shooting slide film.  Remember those specific characteristics of various films and having to make your choices before loading the camera for 24-36 precious exposures? Fuji Velvia with its vivid greens, Provia, Kodak E100S-with its vibrant blues, E100SW- with its warm tones, Scala Black and White, and Agfachrome 1000- with its beautiful gritty grain…
I shot slides for close to 10 years before moving into the digital age.  The slides I shot filled 17 3-inch binders which have been untouched on the shelf since 2003!  Needing the space in my office, I decided to go through them, edit and purge!  What I thought would be a chore turned out to be an amazing experience.  I observed how my vision developed as I progressed from book to book while trying to keep my emotions apart from my decisions to keep or toss. 
My first discovery was how much I missed the sensory part of editing, feeling the slide pages in my hands and holding the loupe to my eye over a light table.  There is something mysterious about peeking through a loupe at dark slides and being surprised by what you see illuminated within that 2x2 inch cardboard frame!

As I progressed through my binders I discovered how much I bracketed my shots while learning the valuable lesson of "exposure." Slide film has a very narrow exposure latitude and one had to 'nail' the correct exposure so as not to blow out highlights or block up the shadows.  I could see how unsure I was of exposure concepts at the beginning of my photo learning curve by the number of bracketed shots I made for each subject, and how I later mastered it with fewer and fewer bracketed shots. And remember in camera dupes?  I had many of those for particular subjects I thought were worth it.  (Guess what? They weren't!)
Continuing my editing process, I realized my love for abstracts, reflections, shadows and motion goes all the way back to the start of my photographic journey.  To this day, I look for these subjects and while many of the ideas are the same, my conceptual vision has matured since then.
I could see my progress in learning to see and capture light.
I saw (and tossed) my first dreadful attempts in accomplishing successful landscapes and saw how I literally followed all of 'the rules of composition' daring not to break any of them! Slide page by slide page, I could see and feel my struggle with mastering wide angle lenses and the broad based landscape, which took me far from my comfort zone of long lenses and subject isolation. Images marked on the slide mount as "keepers" back then are far from what I would choose as "keepers" today. Many of my early landscape shots made me ask myself "What was I thinking when I took this shot?"  They looked like snapshots, and had no impact at all!  I also realized that to this day, I am still challenged by consistently composing the perfect scenic!
The "historical keepers" were saved without question for posterity and consisted of places long gone and of the legendary musicians I captured over years of attending the New Orleans Jazzfest.  I kept all of those shots whether good, soft, or badly composed. 
Wondering in what year an image was made, I realized that in film days we did not have the convenience of metadata informing us of time, date, etc which we take for granted today.  All we had to rely on was the month/year stamp on cardboard frames and any notes we thought to write on the slide mounts.  I realized the value of journaling and making notes in the field- which I do religiously today- since many of my slide shots were taken in obscure places which I do not remember.  On the other hand, there were certain images of places and subjects which I could remember with all of my senses as I peered at them through the loupe.  Funny how that goes…
Then there were the surprise slides made of family, friends and pets.  None of those slides were purged- too many good memories and sentimental moments.  Those will definitely get scanned someday soon.
I shot a lot back then.  I was learning. (and I still am!) I realized the importance of shooting as often as I can to grow photographically, to get everything 'right' in the camera, to be selective when shooting, and to explore a subject completely before moving on.
If you have a library of your photographic roots, I highly recommend going through them soon and discover how far you have come.  You might also gain some much needed room in your workspace!