Taking photos in Namibia


This is the space where photography tips, tricks and ideas are presented at regular intervals; where pictures are discussed or places worthwhile for photographers are explored. For easier reading no explicit mention will be made of female photographers but they are, of course, included. The varying topics will appeal to beginners who feel at home in Africa just as much as to photographers who know their equipment inside out but have brought it to Africa for the first time.

Before looking at subjects, technical details and settings in upcoming instalments we want to answer the question why we are here, why here in Namibia. Why is Namibia so important to us as photographers, what makes it so valuable for photographers?

Photography Tips
Pentax 645z
28mm, f14, s1/320, iso400
The view from Deadvlei towards Sossusvlei shows the characteristic dune formation with Big Daddy in the middle. Due to my low position, a little distance away from the main routes, I was able to avoid the large parking lot and footmarks interfering with my picture. © Lambert Heil

Fluid shapes and colours, contrasts and opposites, clear lines, blurred horizons, shimmering opaque plains are forever created and recreated by the light and the effect of large differences in temperature. In the most beautiful light the country offers every conceivable desert scene, which often is easy to photograph. That is to say that photographically interested beginners or even travellers equipped with just a very simple camera or a mobile phone are able to take pictures which do much more than merely capture details of a trip – they will become the highlights of the photo collection at home.

Photography Tips
Pentax 645z
28mm, f4.5, s1/320, iso200
Kuzikus Wildlife Reserve
I was quietly sitting behind a wooden beam, waiting for the young rhino bull to come closer. His curiosity and his positive experience with human beings allowed me to take some pictures at eyelevel. As a result of saturation adjustment and contrast enhancement our gaze is directed to the structure of the skin. © Lambert Heil

Impressionist artists flocked to the south of France in the early 20th century because of the extraordinary light they found there. At the “source of light” they wanted to communicate with their subjects, catch the light and become part of it. They portrayed everyday life and found unique scenes in nature. Their light and the artist’s eye and skill still fascinate to this day.

In the 21st century our attention is directed further south: to Africa with its exotic motifs, which are concentrated in Namibia and at the right time of day present themselves in the very best light. It seems that Namibia is the “new source of light” that attracts photographers from around the world. They all come to just for once get a taste of the atmosphere; to just for once merge into the surroundings, where light becomes an experience, with their camera.

Pentax 645z
28mm, f25, 1/100, iso200
Naukluft Mountains
A rare sight… humidity causes a corona, also known as an aureole, to form around the sun. Only a wide angle lens of 16mm (full frame) or 28mm in the case of my medium-format camera made it possible to capture the whole ring in a single picture. © Lambert Heil

During your trip you will not only capture the vast landscape with ease and discover varieties through the viewfinder at different times of the day, but also the host of different creatures, from strange insects to stately elephants to intensely coloured birds. All of them afford the beholder an opportunity to take a picture – only a little patience is needed. Added to that, members of Namibia’s various ethnical groups usually welcome tourists and allow them unique glimpses into their world, which you may witness with your camera.

There is no lack of diverse motifs. This gives you the time to wait for the perfect lighting that displays the motif’s qualities you are looking for (e.g. dramatics or serenity) to their best advantage.

Photography Tips
Dune grass
Pentax 645z
28mm, f22, s1/250, iso400
Sossusvlei, Elim Dune
At sunset everybody looks for a good spot to revel in the splendour and take photos. It doesn’t have to be the typical fiery sky all the time: here the sky is fittingly contrasted by the pattern of the dune grass and the last light shining through. © Lambert Heil

In Namibia, therefore, the light is often more important to me – and others – than the motif itself. Usually it depends on the various light conditions whether or not I reach for the camera, and it depends on the motif whether or not I press the shutter-release button. The light elevates the subject and the picture can enter the realm of art. It becomes more than a subjective, simple image of holiday memories. It leaves its mark on the beholder, who will react with an appreciative wow, and it will thus attract attention in public as well.

Photography Tips
Pentax K3II
16mm, f8, s1/25, iso800, -1.00ev
There was heavy cloud cover that morning but we hoped that the water level in Warmquelle would continue to drop so that we could be on our way. It had been a long night cut off by the floods. In order to capture some water movement (long exposure) and deep depth of field (medium aperture) without a tripod, I slightly underexposed the image and later brightened it on the computer. © Lambert Heil

Photography will have various purposes for everyone. As for myself, it is not only the pleasure that I take in it and share with others but it is also about focussing my senses on the essence that I want to capture. I find the essence in nature, the wildlife and people of whom I take photos. You will find the essence in Namibia!

When do you start your journey?

Lambert Heil has been photographing wildlife, nature, people and typical situations on trips in Africa and Europe for many years. He portrays the space in which the life of people and animals happens. Usually it is nature and sometimes urban surroundings which provide the backdrop for the motif.

Heil works at Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich as a zoo educator. A former travel editor, he has organised nature tours for almost 30 years. As a result he is well-versed in people, nature and animals. During photography courses in game reserves and enclosures as well as on photo journeys he shares his practical knowledge with other photographers. Being a passionate wildlife photographer himself he leads several photo tours to destinations in Africa every year. He also gives talks on nature in general and Africa in particular.

He co-authored the book Tierfotografie which was published in the beginning of 2017 by well-known Rheinwerkverlag in Germany. Heil is a Pentax brand ambassador.

What is important to him in terms of photography? “Wildlife pictures are more than animal portraits, because anyone can take those in a zoo, and usually better and easier than on a safari. Decisive for me is not only the proximity but also the habitat and the behaviour of animals. Viewed as a whole you will see links which you can’t find in the detail (no matter how beautiful it is.)”

Author Lambert Heil


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