Trip Report – Part 1


It was a cold Highveld winter morning as we left Pretoria at 03:00 for our drive through to Keetmanshoop. After a stop in Upington for lunch and to refuel, we crossed the border and reached our destination only 12 hours after leaving home. (An easy drive with no need to exceed the speed limit).


We had time to settle in and to visit the Quiver Forest for the first time. The wonderful shapes against the setting sun were marvelous and drew us back again after dinner especially as it was a particularly dark night with plenty of bright stars and almost no moon.


In the morning we set out for Sossusvlei, where we checked into the spectacular Dune Lodge, situated inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Being inside the Park meant that we could enter the Dead Vlei hours ahead of normal visitors – and depart an hour or two after the visitors had left. This gave us a dual advantage. We could be in the park for those spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and we could set up our cameras in the most ideal places to capture the best possible images. We arrived early and left as late as possible to take advantage of the glorious conditions.

Vibrant image of a Quiver tree at sunset
Three Quiver Trees at night with the Milky Way in the background
Forrest of Quiver Trees at night with the Milky Way in the background

Then on the second night we were granted a rare privilege… to remain in the Park after closing hours. A lifelong dream of mine was realized … to visit Dead Vlei after dark. My dream was not only fulfilled, it was surpassed beyond my imagination! Our entire group managed to capture amazing scenes in the Dead Vlei. We used a multitude of techniques painting in detail of those beautiful trees set against the bright milky way in the background. This was a spectacular evening to say the least…!


The next morning we were up bright and early. The surrounding area has had a seasonal dry spell and hundreds of Gemsbok (Oryx) were in the Tsauchab River Bed in search of water and grazing. I knew this was a great opportunity to capture these beautiful antelope set against the huge red dunes of the Namib Desert. Spending the entire morning photographing these elegant animals against this unique background. We used a mixture of fast and slow shutter speeds and mixed the lighting between back lit, front lit and side lit lighting techniques. There was almost a winning image no matter where you pointed your camera. It was good fun at times as we often set out on foot to get the perfect angle and opportunities with the Gemsbok…. the harder you worked the more pictures you got!

Dead tree and dunes in daylight
Dead tree and Milky Way at night

In the afternoon we initially took a few long lens landscapes along the Tsauchab River in the most glorious light before Ben and I set-off to Dead Vlei again. Our group was already over worked with little sleep at this point and they all opted to go back to the lodge for a beer. Ben and I raced into Dead Vlei and placed our cameras for a star trail setup. We checked and re-checked all our settings and compositions a thousand times before we headed back to Lodge with our cameras left out in the Vlei for the night. And to make this extra special, it was the winter solstice … the longest night of the year, and with very little moon, the conditions were perfect.

Oryx running with dunes in the background

The next morning we had to be the first people to arrive in Dead Vlei. We did have a few nervous thoughts and a few comments were made around dinner of lost cameras and fortunes lost. And of course we made sure that we were the first to enter the area in the morning to retrieve our cameras. What would our images be like, we wondered? Well, they were exceptional! Exactly what we had hoped for… and worth every bit of effort we put in to get the shot!


We then waited for the first Rays of the sun to color the dunes while the valley remained in black shadow – another fabulous landscape opportunity we used to photograph red dunes with stark black figures in the foreground.

Dead tree with star trail in the background
Dead tree at sunset with the sun behind the tree giving a silhouette effect

We then waited for the first rays of the sun to colour the dunes while the valley remained in black shadow – another fabulous landscape opportunity we used to photograph red dunes with stark black figures in the foreground.


After returning to the Lodge to pack up we left for Swakopmund, the second leg on our adventure. On the way we made the obligatory stop at Solitaire for lunch and their even more obligatory and renowned Apfel Strudel at the world famous Moose McGregor bakery.

Oryx running with dunes in the background