My first images of the desert originated from watching David Attenborough documentaries as a child, seeing photos of the Sahara and Namib desert in my father’s books – and of course watching David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. I am amazed to learn here in Namibia that the desert is all that but many other different things as well. All ethereally beautiful, haunting and magical.

Namib desert. The name Namib actually means wide open space. You may think 8 hours of driving through the Namib desert would be 8 hours of repeat scenery. You would be wrong. The desert keeps changing and re-inventing itself, gravel desert, sand desert, majestic mountains (yes I too was surprised, huge mountains in the desert), rolling hills, wide open plains with wildlife, dried up riverbeds. Grass. It has rained more than normal so the desert is green in many places! And sand dunes of course. Massive sand dunes. Small dunes. yellow sand, orange sand, deep red sand. Rounded windswept dunes. Tall laser sharp dunes reaching for the sky. Desert. What is in a name? A lot more than I thought!

The Namib desert is over 2,000 km long. Two thousand kilometres. It boggles the mind and challenges all ideas of distances and space. So much space. I boarded a 6 person ‘flying bathtub’ of a Cessna to get images from above. Once airborne my eyes struggle to compute the information. The Namib desert is larger than many countries. So much space. So beautiful. Sand dunes snake their way to infinity. Again, shooting a photo is like fitting the universe in a shoebox. No photo can convey the feeling of being in the desert heat, wind and dust with a 360 degree view of pure desert. But I can try. And come back and try again and again, as I have fallen in love with this hauntingly beautiful place.

My entire belief system is all natural science. But the normal laws of nature and physics  do not seem to apply here. On every desert trip we’ve been discussing how far away the perceived horizon is. Meaning with a perfectly flat surface, where would an 1.8 meter tall human perceive the horizon to be with the curvature of the earth in mind? In the desert it seems like hundreds of kilometres. A lot of googling has not revealed a definitive answer but it appears to be around 4.5 kilometres away. The perceived horizon on a flat surface that is. Does not make sense. Here in the Namib it is 50 km at least. Also, my 17mm wide angle captures about a 110 degree view. In the Namib that looks like the width of a hair. It appears the view in the Namib is also wider than 360 degrees. Driving back through the desert Sunday night we had bright as daylight deep red burning dusk light on the horizon in front of us. To the right a sliver of a moon. To the left the Southern Cross and a million stars. Behind us the dark night. Must have been a 720 degree horizon. Something magical is up with the laws of physics in the Namib!

Creating images of this is indeed proving difficult but here’s a few quick previews of my feeble attempts of capturing the many shapes of the desert. I am saving the real hero shots for when I get home so stay tuned.

5D Mark II-090424-IMG_1093 copy

Me and My Shadow – on top of the Nissan in the gravel desert

Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Dunes of Namib-Naukluft stretching to infinity

5D Mark II-090417-IMG_0783 copy

Sweeping wide open desert plains

5D Mark II-090419-IMG_0893 copy

Into the abyss, the desert in dusk light from top of Rössing Mountain

5D Mark II-090422-IMG_1079 copy

Windswept round dunes outside Swakopmund

5D Mark II-090416-IMG_0566 copy

Classic laser sharp crest of Namib dunes

Randomness

  • Had to buy a sweater the other day! Desert gets warm at day but cools down quickly and gets cold at night! Also Swakopmund on the coast is sometimes haunted by a cold sea mist that I’m no fan of. So in the desert, you need a horse with no name, lots of sunscreen and also a sweater!
  • Swakopmund was established by the Germans back when Namibia was a German colony, before World War I. So there are many German settlers here, and you can shop at SuperSpar and buy Ritter Sport and Nutella! Some of the German tourists here also seem to have a ‘How to look like a tourist’ competition wearing Khaki safari gear top to bottom. The German spoken is a ‘high’ German very easy to understand and I’m startled to find I remember my German and can follow almost all conversations. Afrikaans, still working on that!
  • Driving at night here can be an interesting experience. Some of the back roads are not marked at all, so at night with an oncoming car it’s anyone’s guess where the road is. There are a few very interesting seconds where the cars pass each other, both drivers regain vision and discover they didn’t hit each other – and still have at least two out of four wheels on the car on the actual road! With every oncoming car this experience is repeated. Keeps you awake!
  • The Namibian desert and sun is energy for my soul! I take it in like a solar panel, feel very re-energised, re-booted, re-vitalised!

20

20 thoughts on “Desert. What is in a name?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. iheartfilm 11 years ago

    That 5D Mark II really seems to be working out for you. How long have you had it?

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi and thanks for your comment! Yeah the 5D Mk II is working just perfectly, I've had it since 23rd of Dec 08 but this is the first serious trip where I'm using it on the road and it just works fantastic. Battery power is incredible too, 1,000 shots on one charge!

  2. SebastianP 11 years ago

    Love the desert plains, nice to know there´s more to it than sand 🙂 .

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Thanks very much Sebastian, glad you like it! And yes there's so much more than sand to it !

  3. Charlene 11 years ago

    Pretty crazy descriptions you've got there – I was also amused to read about the night driving 😀

    And dammit, more awesome previews!

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Thanks very much Charlene 😀 Happy you like the previews, and the crazy text ;D

  4. goosetea 11 years ago

    Rössing Mountain view is like the picture from another planet. Unbelievable. were you briefly abducted by aliens ?)

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Thanks and thanks for your comment! I think I might have been abducted, there's also a very rocky 'Mars landscape' in the desert that I have photos of, also looks incredibly surreal!

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Yes I am using the threads as you can see, my replies have another background and are indented. I only wanted my threads to have two levels.

  5. André 11 years ago

    Great to follow your adventures Flemming, great photos and writing.

  6. André 11 years ago

    BTW, keep that sweater for the Aussie outback ;-), you will need it there too.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Yeah I might, can get a bit chilly now and then at night there as well 🙂

  7. Stephen Williams 11 years ago

    great to hear from you Flem.
    and good to see everythings going well.

    as i usually do with everything i check out the pictures first… small attention span sorry.

    saw the 1st image and thought here's Flem and his shadow again lol. but didn't think much more of it.

    then read your post and found it very interesting about the horizon. then i got back down to that same image again and it had grown on me heaps.
    you really have managed to capture the vastness and the horizon looks insanely far away!

    the Rossing mountains is special.
    very nice!

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Thanks very much Stephen !! No worries about checking out photos first, I do that as well 😀
      Glad you like the shots! Rossing Mountain was surreal, it's a slow rise where you drive up so you hardly notice it until you step out of the car and then realise there's a steeeeeep drop in front of you!

  8. Beau Mitchell 11 years ago

    Great images to go with a great read.

    Really love that shot from the air, Flem! Also, the laser sharp crest one…

    Looking forward to your next post!

    😀

  9. Gudrun and Uta 11 years ago

    Whenever it is Uta's weather (misty) we have to drive poor Flemming 10km out of Swakop into the desert (and to the moon) where he can charge his inbuilt solar panels.
    The moonlandscape will now be renamed to be the Flemming's Marslandscape. Also, nice to see the night-drive was an "interesting" experience. 🙂

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      😀 😀 😀 my dear friends, I love the idea of Flemming's Mars Landscape, see if we have the time to put a new sign up out there in the nothingness 😀