Sossusvlei – Namibia

I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to make this particular trip. I’d booked it last year when my health was good. Then I found myself needing to take a sabbatical for health reasons and then broke my shoulder / arm. But something told me I should still go.

3 flights, ~9,700 air miles, 684 road miles, 7 days of traveling later, it was all worth it to see Sossusvlei in Namibia where it has been a dream of mine to shoot the unique landscape.

We first got to shoot the famous dunes from the ground in the soft evening light.

Then at dawn, we took to the air. It was a surreal experience. The abstract patterns that emerged from the different perspective were stunning. 

For example at the top left of this first photograph, the tree like formation shows the path the water flowed around the dune into the enormous white colored sand and clay pan of Sossusvlei.

As one has no sense of scale in these photographs, just know these dunes are hundreds of feet tall, with the largest of them, “Big daddy” towering over 1000 feet tall alongside “Deadvlei” shown below. 

Deadvlei – 900 year old trees against the backdrop of “Big Daddy” dune

It actually took my longest lens to zoom up to the top of one of the popular dunes people like to hike and here you can see how tiny they look in relation to the massive dune bowls that extend out for miles.

To give you a closer perspective, let’s come back down to earth to show their scale with one of our group, Colin, standing alongside one of the dunes and our brilliant guide Hougaard at tip of the dune. 

If you’re curious about the changing color of the sand, it comes from both different elements in the sand as well as the light at different times of the day. The predominant and distinct red color above for example, comes from the iron oxide. 

What struck us as we stood on the ground was how crazy it is that the dunes stand so orderly with the sand rising from the valley so neatly, as you can see from the left hand edge of the photo above.

Even more amazingly, when one gets into the air you can see the extraordinary way in which the dunes can touch, yet keep their distinct shapes and colors without combining!

Massive dune, shot from aobve.

These officially named “star dunes” are shaped by the multi-directional nature of the winds in the Namib desert region. As the wind shifts and changes, it pushes sand particles in different directions, creating distinct ridges and valleys that give the dunes their star shape. 

Some of the arrangements mother nature creates are quite vivid, such as this so called “Devil’s Pitchfork” series of dunes. The apparent white river in the foreground is actually the dried out sand and clay deposited in playful patterns.

As part of the oldest desert in the world, Sossusvlei gave me another perspective on nature’s wonders. A humbling experience, 55 million years in the making, it also reminded me that time is fleeting. I hope it inspires you to make time to travel if you can and share your experiences.