Namaqualand is a great place for macro photography. One only starts seeing the detail of the flowers with decent macro shots. I use a Canon 180mm macro lens for the close-ups. A wide-angle lens comes in very handy for capturing the vastness of some of the fields of flowers. I use a Canon 16-35mm lens for those shots, but a more versatile 24-105mm on a full-frame body also gets the job done nicely. Another lens I found to give great shots is a 70-200mm. It is ideal for when you have a great field of flowers you wish to photograph, or even flowers in the distance you can’t get close to. Camera body wise, I use a Canon 7D, 6D and 5D IV as I have found with my work that one body is not always enough.
By Mike Spies
The Namaqualand is a family affair: I am the third generation in our family that does tours to Namaqualand. My father and grandfather started doing tours to Namaqualand in 1985 and in 1993 they bought the Namaqua Lodge in Vanrhynsdorp which still is the base where we conduct our tours from. It is also where we overnight every night with all our flower tours. Being based in one central place during flower season is one of the biggest factors of our success as flower season is also part of the rainy season. When it rains you won’t see any flowers.
My passion for photography started in Namaqualand with my love for the flowers. As we have such a short flower season and because some flowers only bloom for a week at most, photography has been the only way to freeze these moments in time. It allows me to share the Namaqua’s beauty with those people who weren’t lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.
When you come to Namaqualand, it is very important to note that even though the flowers bloom every year between August and September it doesn’t mean there are flowers everywhere. You will need to go and search for the flowers. When you have such a short window of time to see flowers during the day – and the possibility of having overcast or rainy days during your visit – it helps a lot to know exactly when the flowers are blooming and where they are. With the tours we do, it is important for us to know this, therefore we have people scouting for flowers during the season when we are busy with tourists. We are also very privileged to have friends throughout the region who call us when there are nice flowers on their farms. No two consecutive years are the same what the flowers and their abundance are concerned. They differ every year and you cannot plan on last year’s information.
When photographing the Namaqualand during flower season most photography rules about lighting fall away as the flowers only open at around 11 am daily (given it is not a cold or overcast day). They also start closing up for the night from around 4 pm. Thus, the best time to see or photograph the flowers is when the sun is at its highest and the flowers at their brightest.