Category Archives: Landscape

Namibian Nights

After a day spent walking and climbing the dunes at Sossusvlei, I set up camp with other photographers roughly 70 km away. It’s the nature of being a travel photographer that sleep is often difficult. You exhaust yourself during the daylight hours, but when you try to rest your brain won’t always cooperate. I find myself going over and over the places I’ve seen that day, the shots that I got and the ones I wish could have been better. My mind wanders.

Milky Way and Night Sky of Namibia
May 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/4, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 6400, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

As it turns out, it’s a good thing to be a sleepless photographer in Namibia. As beautiful as the country is during daylight hours, I found it to be even more striking by night. The Namib Desert is one of the best places in the world to see the night sky. There’s little electricity in this part of Namibia, meaning there is virtually no light pollution. When you look up at the night sky in Namibia, you see it the way the ancients saw it.

People don’t look up at the night sky anymore. We go through life continually distracted, and because we’re rarely ever in places that are really, truly dark, most of us simply don’t notice what goes on above us. But in Namibia’s desert, you can’t help but look up. It’s such a vast, calm expanse — and mostly devoid of people — that it’s an ideal place for stargazing. It’s one of the darkest skies in the world.

I keep coming back to the idea of insignificance, but if Namibia in the daytime makes a person feel small, being in the desert at night convinces you very quickly that you are of no consequence in the grand span of time and space. It was humbling, and incredibly beautiful.

I took many photographs in Namibia at night. But can anyone really capture the beauty of one of the last truly dark places left on earth?

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Dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia

I learned something more about insignificance when my travels took me to Sossusvlei. In Namibia I’d seen stark, desolate landscapes and ancient plant life that was blackened and bare from centuries in the sun. I expected that I’d seen the most remarkable landscapes the country had to offer, but even after exploring the alien landscape of Deadvlei, I was amazed by Sossusvlei.

Big Daddy Dune of Sossusvlei in the Morning, Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia
May 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 112mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/15 second, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

By now, my eyes were beginning to adjust to the starkly contrasting colors of Namibia — the rich terra cotta earth against a brilliant blue sky. I had even, to a degree, become accustomed to the strange, weathered trees that I seemed to encounter at every destination. My eyes were used to these things. At Sossusvlei, what I found most breathtaking was the sheer enormity of the place.

Sossusvlei is famous for its massive sand dunes, which are believed to be the tallest in the world. The biggest of them, known as Big Daddy, is roughly 325 meters high. Their striking red color is a result of the iron in the sand, and the contrasting colors, combined with the dunes curving, feminine lines make it one of the most photogenic destinations in Namibia. Like myself, photographers are drawn to the place because of its incredible beauty, but then — also like me — they find themselves feeling tiny and inconsequential in the face of its majesty.

Climbing the dunes — which is what most people come to Sossusvlei for — reveals a landscape that words and photographs can’t adequately describe. There’s more life here than you would imagine, and it says something of the resilience of living things that so many plants and insects have adapted in order to survive here.

But I found plenty to amaze me from the ground. I set up my tripod, framed the shot, and tried my best to capture some of the incredible beauty of Sossusvlei.

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Acacia Trees of Deadvlei, Namibia

Namibia left me awestruck on a daily basis. Each day that I was in the country, I encountered landscapes and scenery unlike anything I’d seen anywhere else in the world.

Dead Acacia Trees and Red Dunes of Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia
May 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 35mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/20 second, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

Kolmanskop gave me an idea of what the world would look like if humanity vanished, and the Quiver Trees made me feel that I’d stepped into a landscape conjured in a child’s imagination.
I thought I’d seen the most otherworldly of Namibia’s landscapes, but I was unprepared for the Deadvlei Trees. A place like this reminds you that we are all powerless against nature. It also gives you some perspective of just how insignificant humans are in the grand passage of time.

Deadvlei was once under water. It’s believed that roughly one thousand years ago, the Tsauchab River flooded, creating shallow pools with a clay pan underneath. In the shallow lake formed by the flooding, acacia trees flourished. But approximately two hundred years later, the climate changed. The area became dry and drought-stricken, and the massive dunes cut the area off from the river.

Looking at the area now, it’s difficult to imagine that there was ever water here. Deadvlei — its name means “Dead Valley” — reveals an earth devoid of water, its clay surface baked white and crackled from centuries of heat. Oddly, the acacia trees that flourished when Deadvlei was awash with water are still here. Believed to be several hundred years old, they remain; scorched black from centuries of sunlight. The air here is too dry for them to decompose; instead, they stand like blackened monuments to the passage of time.

What I had seen so far of Namibia left me eager to see more of this eerily beautiful country.

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Quiver Forest in the Morning, Namibia

The first day in the Quiver Forest was about getting my bearings in a strange, new place and letting my vision adjust to the strangely beautiful landscape there. And like the first day in any overseas trip, it was also spent largely in a foggy mental state, the result of travel fatigue and jet lag. Most of the photos from that first day were disappointing and didn’t see the light of day.

Quiver Trees in the Rocky Desert at Dawn, Keetmanshoop, Namibia
May 2017, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 200, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

By the second day, Namibia started to feel as comfortable as an old friend. The Quiver Forest was still ethereal and otherworldly, like something conjured from a child’s imagination, but it was welcoming; I no longer felt like a visitor there. Among the forest’s chimerical inhabitants, I already had favorites; trees whose unique profile against the horizon captured my attention. I found myself returning to the same trees and compositions again and again, mesmerized by their lines and colors.

It wasn’t only the trees that made the place special; it was a sensory experience, and I took in all of the sounds and smells. I reminded myself often that I was walking in a field of volcanic boulders among trees that in some cases, were two or three hundred years old. The stories they could tell. The world does this here and there — spreads an ancient landscape out before us, simply to remind us of our small place in the order of things.

As I walked among the quiver trees I gradually became aware that we photographers were not alone there. I didn’t notice them on the first day, but on the second day in the forest, just at sunrise, small animals — hamster-like and no bigger than kittens — emerged from underneath the rocks and began to scurry about. I’d never seen them before and I didn’t know what they were, but somehow, they seemed the perfect inhabitants of this place, as if the same child who imagined the quiver trees into existence filled her fanciful landscape with playful creatures who come to life with the sunrise.

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Quiver Trees at Dawn, Namibia

Like all travel photographers, I’ve always been captivated by the world. It’s a wonder, this orb we call home, and I never tire of its mysteries. The man-made structures are frequently beautiful and capable of leaving me slack-jawed with amazement; I defy anyone to spend some time wandering through the Hagia Sofia or Westminster Abbey and not feel humbled by those structures and the human spirit that went into strike of a hammer or chisel.

Quiver Trees in the Rocky Desert at Dawn, Keetmanshoop, Namibia
May 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 3 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

But it’s the natural world that continually intrigues and beguiles me. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to far-flung destinations around the world, and I don’t think the world’s natural beauty will ever lose its hold over me.

So I was thrilled for the opportunity to visit Namibia — a first for me. Like anyone with a case of wanderlust and a passport constantly in need of new stamps, I had seen enough photographs of Namibia to know the country is unlike any other place in the world, its landscape one that defies words.

My first day in Namibia did not disappoint. I traveled with a group of photographers to the Quiver Forest, a place for which the photographs had not prepared me.

The Quiver Forest is actually privately-owned land — the Guriganus Farm — and the “trees” which make up this otherworldly forest are not actually trees at all, but plants. It’s a minor distinction because once inside this alien landscape, details such as that simply don’t matter. Their fibrous trunks are easy to hollow out and were once widely used as quivers for arrows, but again, that’s a detail that doesn’t really matter.

The trees are only naturally found in this one relatively small part of Africa, and typically grow alone, like curiously-formed sentinels guarding the landscape. That’s why the Quiver Forest is special — it’s the only place where the trees have clustered together to form a forest, and the result left me speechless. Seeing the forest at dawn with a pale pink sunrise breaking over the horizon was a moment of unspeakable majesty and wonder for me. It was only my first full day in Namibia, and already I was entranced by the country. And I thought of the words of the English artist and explorer Thomas Baines, who sketched the Quiver Trees and wrote afterward, “I confess I can never quite get over the feeling that the wonderful products of nature are objects to be admired, rather than destroyed.”

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Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls, Croatia

In a Tolkenian natural environment, high-fantasy legends were murmuring at our ears, while we drove to the waterfalls on one of the Plitvice Lakes trail. Vibrant greens, algae, moss and a fresh wet atmosphere surrounded us.

Waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
June 2014, single image, focal length 75mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 1/60 second, ISO 125, handheld.

This very fragile complex of fauna and flora has inspired writers of all times. The story of the Black Queen, who created the 16 lakes after citizens of Plitvice prayed and prayed for rain to fall, that she finally sent thunder and storms until the entire area had become a green lush. Still nowadays it is called the “Devil’s Garden”.

I wanted to explore myself this extraordinary scenery, and chose to do so on an next morning, although clouds had developed and rain started to drizzle for a while. The family breakfast that Volodimir served us was far behind already!

Diving in the oasis of untouched forest, I felt like I was walking in a real life movie where elves and magic Queens would come out from the frame. The smooth movement of the water falling on the rocks, contrasted with the pinkish and grey skies in the background.

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Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

During our visit to Croatia, we decided to visit Plitvice Lakes, famous for its enchanted waterfalls and located far away inland towards the capital city of Zagreb.

Aerial View on Waterfalls in Plitvice National Park, Donja Jezera, Croatia
June 2014, single image, focal length 35mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1.6 seconds, ISO 100, 5-stop ND filter, tripod.

Part of Unesco World Heritage, the sixteen different lakes are interconnected by waterfalls, and the rich fauna, as well as the fairytale surrounding forests make you feel as if you had landed in the fantasy landscape from Lord of the Rings book.

We decided to stay for one night at Plitvice Lakes so I would be able to shoot the sunset and sunrise, without worrying about intendancy and early morning drive.

Having booked our hotel at Plitvice Lakes, we drove along the high speed highway, and then onto the smaller winding roads in the mountains, before reaching the lakes and our family guesthouse.

It was a real surprise to discover 400 years old farm, located inside Plitvice Lakes Park and owned generations and generations by the family of jovial Volodimir. He made us feel at home with home cooking of local delicacies and personally distilled Plum Rakia and we enjoyed his stories and hospitality as much as the actual trip to the lakes and waterfalls.

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Omis Riviera in the Evening, Croatia

After a beautiful day on the beach, there is nothing as enjoyable as sitting by dusk on the shore, waiting for the sun to go down and watching the rocks slowly turns gold and red.

Rocky Beach and Transparent Adriatic Sea near Omis in the Evening, Dalmatia, Croatia
June 2014, single image, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 62 seconds, ISO 100, 10-stop ND filter, tripod.

Omis Riviera is a good place to escape from urban life and its bustle. It is also a place of history, which attracted many famous historical figures and even Roman Emperors.

The amazing natural beauty of the Dalmatian coast was well known since Antiquity, when the Roman Emperor Diocletian made the place its retire from Rome. When people begged him to return to the throne in Rome, Diocletian replied: “If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely would not dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed.”

To capture this sunset shot, I walked for about 10 minutes along the rocky cost. With the cicadae’s singing and pine tree breeze around me, I found the place with the best composition. Perfectly lit underwater rocks creates foreground interest and leads the eye to the rock formation in the centre and further to the Biokovo Mountains in background.

During the shoot the strange thought came to me. If Diocletian was retired here nowadays he could reply: “If you could show the photo that I captured with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely would not dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed.”

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Omis Riviera in the Morning, Croatia

Omis Riviera is my favourite place in Croatia. Located in the heart of Dalmatia it stretches for twenty kilometres along a coast of exceptional beauty, with many perfect beaches, small bays, steep cliffs and crystal clean Adriatic Sea.

Stone Jetty in Small Village near Omis at Dawn, Dalmatia, Croatia
June 2014, panorama from 2 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 100, 5-stop ND filter, tripod.

This area has been famous through the centuries, with the first traces dating back to the pre-historic age and of course to the Roman Empire. The stone fragments of Roman inscriptions are among the most important vestiges which can be seen today, carved during the sovereignty of Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, around 30 A.D.

The name “Omis” derives from the Illyric name “Oneon” from the Illyrian tribes of the Antiquity. This meant “little hill” and echoes to the mountain landscape and amazing canyon of river Cetina still in place today in Omis. Dalmatia in fact, was part of the Illyrian kingdom, till the Roman Republic established a protectorate on the land.

On this early June morning, following the beach shore after my first sunrise shot from the previous post, I quickly reached the stone jetty, where the fishermen of modern times enjoy docking their boats, and swimmers can also relax during the hot day.

The waters of the Adriatic Sea were so invitingly clean and crystal clear on this early morning, with their underwater shapes and huge rocks visible as if I was already inside the sea. The whole scene looked very peaceful and serene and I wanted to reflect as much as possible this amazing feel in my photo.

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Sunrise in Croatia

Everyone has their own little piece of paradise on earth. Mine is definitely located somewhere on Omis Riviera of Adriatic coast in Croatia.

Sunrise on Rocky Beach and Small Village near Omis, Dalmatia, Croatia
June 2014, panorama from 2 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 100, 5-stop ND filter, tripod.

How it is happen, that Croatia got such a wonderful land? An old legend says: “Once upon a time, God decided to give away lands to the different countries. The best lands went to the countries which had arrived first for the draw. Other lands went to the countries which had arrived later and the worst ones to the countries which had arrived at the very end. When the Croatians finally arrived (even later than the others) there was not even one land left for them.

So the story goes on. And the Croatian people asked, “What should we do then? Where can we settle?” To which, God replied with a smile, “Well, he said, I did store one land for myself, so I have to give it to you now!”

This way, the Croatian people, while arriving the last of all, still got the best land ever created on earth!

My early morning photo shoot started with an enjoyable walk from the house high up in the mountains to the rocky beach. Not a noise, not a person in sight, I enjoyed a blissful feeling on this quiet track through the pine trees. The clean atmosphere of a summer morning, with its rich and fantastic smell of pine, flowers and sea salt, was surrounding me with an exhilarating mood.

Biokovo Mountains ridge in sight, I deepened myself in the clear seawaters, and adjusted my composition to capture the magical light of sunrise, illuminating the white stone boat sculpture in the background.

I felt like it was the day God created this small paradise.

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