Patterns in the desert

I wrote earlier about zooming in and picking out patterns in the desert from the air. It works equally well when you are on the ground, feet in the sand, head in the clouds. Often in Namibia the elements present are only sand and sky, a landscape so pure and simplified that you almost cannot believe this is the work of the usual rather chaotic artist Mother Nature. Quite often as a landscape photographer we work hard to simplify and pick out a ‘less is more’ simple composition in a somewhat chaotic setting, as Mother Nature likes to throw in a bit of everything in her work. Here you have to think in reverse!

Fortunately sand is a magical element especially when Wind joins in and paints perfect patterns with a fine brush. The dunes just outside of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay on the west coast of Namibia are only half as tall as the mighty Naukluft National Park dunes and are yellow, not orange. They are however on the coast so Wind the Artist has the perfect playground for creating patterns in the sand. Every day magic happens when the sun is low enough to provide side lighting. Harsh and flat at midday, at sunrise and sunset the shadows come out to play. And so do I. Here are two different examples of sand, shadows and wind.

Dunescape. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a classic Swakopmund dune beaten into shape by a strong prevailing Wind from the sea creating ripples, shapes and patterns. I am shooting at 17mm using a view camera style composition, focusing at roughly the hyperfocal point to get as much depth of field as possible. This is where a tilt-shift lens would be most handy for creating unlimited depth of field.

Sand storm. Flemming Bo Jensen

Dune Crest Sand Storm
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This day the Wind was flexing muscles and blowing a gale across the sand dunes creating some brilliant effects of sand blowing in the sun light. I am using my 70-200mm lens at around 130mm to zoom in and pick out patterns and compress the image. The shadow behind this dune is from a larger dune creating nice contrast for the sand in the air. I love this image but looking at it I should have scaled this large dune, gotten close and switched to wide angle lens. Why? Depth of Field. As you see the foreground is blurred, f/11 at 130mm does not create a large enough depth of field to hold everything in focus. The shallow DOF creates a different look of course, but I do wish I had a larger DOF version. I opened up to f/11 as I needed a fairly fast shutter speed to capture the blowing sand particles and keep the image sharp as the wind was fiercely moving my tripod, camera and me (what we do for art! It is a dangerous gig this landscape business).

Much more sand and patterns in my Namibia gallery and many images yet to come (you would be forgiven for thinking this blog is getting a bit sandy!)

18 Comments on “Patterns in the desert”

    1. Thanks very much Jamie. I have to correct you, the Lancelin dunes are not massive, I have seen them. They are tiny little sand hills 😀
      Now the Namib dunes, 400 meters tall, that is MASSIVE!

    1. Thanks Stephen! Funny you both prefer the top one, my favourite is the bottom one. Probably partly because I was there shooting them and the second one is much harder to catch, gotta get lucky with a day of strong wind and sunset etc.

  1. Top one for me too Flemming but both are certainly very good images. Most of the dune shots from Oz have ususally have the straight leading lines to the crest but this is unique.

  2. I'm a hardcore fan of panoramic photography! You have some stunners in here! love' em all! I'll be diggin in deep later!
    Nice to meet you & your blog! 😀

  3. i'll be honest- it's probably more to do with you have a much better eye then me Flem! 🙂

    i do like the second, but yeah the first is definitely what grabbed me more.
    brighter colours, you have no idea how bright flashy things can grab my attention 😉 lol

    1. Happy to hear that Merv, keeping your boat floating! 😀

      Btw it is a fun strange human phenomenon, post 2-3 photos and everyone will automatically without even being asked tell you which one they prefer!

  4. These dunes are so amazing.
    They are almost like fingerprints, all look the same from a distance but they are very unique.

    I like how you captured the sand motion, in the 2nd shot. And I love the orange at the bottom of the top shot.

    Great Work, hows life on the road?

    1. Thanks Thomas! You are right, these dunes are fantastic, people think it is all the same but up close every one of them have their own shapes, patterns, shadows and features.

      I too am a big fan of sand in motion, why I am so happy about the 2nd image.

      I am not on the road presently, back in Copenhagen for a short spell. Hitting the road again asap when my flat and furniture etc is sold!

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