Namibia – Abstract Landscapes

8 12 2011


One of the highlights of my trip to Namibia was visiting the Deadvlei near Sesriem.  From the time I first saw photos from this amazing place I said to myself “this is somewhere that I just have to photograph”.   The textures of the dry lake bed…. the abstract shapes of the petrified trees….. the beautiful red/orange sand dunes surrounding the lake are all like something out of a Dali painting.

A light painted image taken at night.

I ended up doing three shoots at this location.  A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot, and then a sunset/night shoot.  Similar to Kolmanskop, this location was a photographers dream… lots of different ways you could approach the shoot.  Different compositions, lighting and post processing all combined to make this a pretty special and surreal landscape.

I deliberately went pretty hard with the post processing.  The reason for this was that there are plenty of lovely “natural prints”,  however because this is such a surreal landscape, I wanted to add a bit of surreal processing to the post production to create an image that was a bit different to everybody elses.  The top image looks incredible when printed large on fine art paper (and on super glossy).


I’ll follow up with a tutorial on my post processing for some of these images in a few weeks once I have finished my image processing.


Namibia – Portraits

25 11 2011

Note: Please click on theses images to view them full-size… they go a bit fuzzy when reduced down.

On my trip to Namibia there were three genres that I wanted to photograph;

  1. Ruinscapes (Kolmanskop etc.)
  2. Landscapes (Deadvlei, Wolverdens etc.)
  3. Portraits

I was particularly excited at the prospect of spending five days living with and photographing the Himba tribes of NorthWest Namibia.  While I had seen plenty of natural light photography, I really wanted to try to make different types of portraits of these photogenic people.

Inspired by the incredible personal work of Joey Lawrence, I packed my trusty Paul Buff Einstein light and my two favorite modifiers (Paul Buff 64″ Silver PLM and Westcott Apollo softbox) and decided to really try and make some stylistic environmental portraits using off camera flash techniques.

I had a ball making these images and I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out.  The beauty of the Einstein is that it throws out plenty of light and I can easily overpower the sun.  When I combine it with the ultra-efficient Parabolic Light Modifier (PLM), then I can easily get well over f64 of light out of the light setup which allows you to do some interesting environmental portraits during bright daylight.

Here's our rig in action. Jimmy (our translator) is holding the monopod.

Sometimes we used the sock over the PLM, and other times we shot with the straight silver bounce.   Most of the time we had our light on a light stand, but occasionally we put it on a monopod (as in the photo above).  While this is a 240v light, I use the Paul Buff mini vagabond to provide 240v on location… It’s incredibly small and light.

I also used my neutral density filter with some of the shots to open up my aperture and reduce the depth of field…. again to create more of a stylistic image.   I hope you enjoy the images.

Kolmanskop – Disneyland for photographers

8 11 2011

My Namibian trip is going sensational so far…. Unbelievable landscapes.

Yesterday I spent hours photographing the ghost town of Kolmanskop.   I can only describe it as Disneyland for photographers if you like photographing old stuff, abstracts etc.   It is SO MUCH FUN.

Not much bandwidth, so I’m keeping my post brief.  Off to Wolverdans today for some big landscapes!!!

My bag with my light modifiers and light stand got lost on route, but luckily they have found it and I will be reunited soon.

I’m Off On The Best Photo Trip In The World!

2 11 2011

Photo courtesy of Paul Bruins

OK, Maybe the title is a bit subjective, but thats how I feel.  On Friday I depart for a 2.5 week trip to Namibia.  I’ve been planning this trip for over a year and now it’s finally here.

I am travelling with one other photographer (Analia), and her husband Rob.  Together we are spending two weeks in a

Photo courtesy of Paul Bruins

Landcruiser photographing one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

We collect our 4WD in Windhoek (the capital).  It will be all decked out for camping with 2 fold out tents on the roof, fridge, BBQ, tables, chairs, camping gear etc.  We then head down to the Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanskop,  then off to Luderitz which is on the coast.  The reason we are going here is to photograph two incredible ghost towns – Kolmanskop and Elizabeth Bay.  Both are ex diamond mining towns, and when the diamonds ran out, the people moved out.  What makes Kolmanskop especially interesting is that the desert has started reclaiming some of the buildings, so you get these incredible scenes of abandoned houses with sand dunes in them.   For me this is going to be a fun exercise in light, composition and colour.

Photo courtesy of Paul Bruins

Then we start heading up North to Wolwedans which has some absolutely gorgeous big landscapes.  We are staying in a private camp site all to ourselves with 4wd access roads into the park, so we can photograph at our leisure.

Photo courtesy of Paul Bruins

From there it’s a short hop up to Sesriem.  Our only luxurious accomodation for the trip. Here we are staying at the Sossus Dune Lodge which is inside the gates of the park.  The reason for this extravagence is so that we can photograph the incredible Dead Vlei at night…. I’m just dying to do some light painting here,  I think that it is the perfect subject for it and I have only ever seen two images that were shot at night in this location.

Then we drive for 3 days right up the North of the country to a town called Opuwo.  We pick up our local guide who is going to take us out for 5 days with various Himba tribes.  There I want to really focus on some environmental portraits using off camera flash.  We will go and visit the Epupa falls and the desert country of the North West.

Then back to Windhoek via Etosha National Park for one night of Wildlife viewing.

And then as if that wasn’t enough… when we get back to Windhoek again, a super talented local photographer called Sigi is going to line up a model for a shoot in a great looking ghost house.

This is going to be a photo trip of a lifetime as far as I am concerned.  2 weeks in country… chasing the light… eating, sleeping and breathing photography.  Life doesn’t get much better than that in my book.

Stay tuned, I’m not sure if I’ll be posting from the road, but I’ll sure as hell be posting when I get back.


Faces Of Tanzania – Portraits

25 01 2011

So this morning I got back from Tanzania.  What an incredible trip!  I was doing some charity work for a school over there called St. Judes.  This school was started by an Australian lady called Gemma Siske and what she has built there is nothing short of astonishing.  She has built a school that rivals the best private schools in Australia.  She is offering world class education to over 1500 under privileged kids in Tanzania absolutely free.   The schools mission is “Fighting Poverty Through Education”.  My job there was to shoot some photos for the school and to shoot a video to help them with their fund raising.

While I was there I wanted to really focus on refining my portrait work, so here are some of the portraits that I took along with some information about the individuals and the lighting used.

I recommend you click on each image to see the image at a half decent size if you really want to critique lighting etc.

This is Jonathan Ungusie.  He is the father of one of the girls that goes to St Judes.  I went to his house (well mud hut actually) and interviewed him on video.  He is 58 years old and is the father of 8 kids.  He and his wife raise the 8 kids in the small mud hut behind him which is about the size of a single-car garage.  Jonathan broke his wrist in a bad fall at the flour mill and when it healed it did not set properly, so he has pretty much lost the use of his right hand and can’t work.

His wife works as a contractor at the flour mill and gets paid just under US$2/day.   And they have to feed 8 kids with that.

I shot this with a softbox just outside of frame on camera right.  My SB900 was on full power as I was trying to overpower the sun.  This is what has created the light on his face.   I like this portrait alot as I really feel it captures Jonathan.

This is Seone Silervo. She is a Masai and lives with her family in a traditional Masai hut in a traditional village.   They decorate the interior walls with newspaper.  These huts are very dark and only have light coming in from the small doorway.

To make this portrait I initially shot with natural light and a fast lens (f1.4), however I wasn’t getting enough of the background exposed with natural light, so I used a softbox with SB900 flash about about 1/64 power aiming at Seone.  This provided enough scattered light to create a good exposure on the background.


This was a grab shot, but I really like it because of the expression and grittiness of the image.  They boy and his friends were following us back to the car after shooting in their village.  The kids in the background were laughing and giggling but this little boy was really checking me out.  I grabbed my camera and fired a couple of quick frames before his expression changed.

This was shot using natural lighting and a wide aperture (f2.8)

It was very dusty in the Masai village which coated all the kids in a covering of dust, however they didn’t seem to mind it at all and were  quite happy.


This old lady is amazing.  We were doing a tour of the local village around one of the St. Jude campuses when the group of Year 7 girls took us up to one very small mud hut and asked if we’d like to meet the old lady of the village.

These school girls regularly take food to the villagers to help them out and they know the villagers very well.  They bought out this lovely old lady.  She’s not sure how old she is, but we met her 72 year old daughter a bit later on, so she must be somewhere between 90 and 100 years old which is incredible for Africa.

This is a natural light portrait of the lady.    One thing is clear after this visit.  Growing old in Tanzania is not an easy life.



One thing I have noticed about photographing in Africa is the amazing difference in the quality of the light.  I’m not sure whether this is due to the pollution or dust in the air, but the light seems so soft.  Lovely soft colours and incredible light whenever you are shooting indoors.

I’ve got some lovely prints from this trip that I will enjoy hanging on my wall.

I’m definitely heading back to Africa later this year.