Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pic(k) of the week 43: Desert Acrobatics

This weeks Pic(k) of the week looks a bit different! Last Thursday we went out for the first  a desert drive of the winter season with three 4x4 cars.  A classic way of escaping the hustle and bustle of Dubai city! A great BBQ finished it all off.

Pic(k) of the week 43: Desert Acrobatics

As usual, people visiting friends or family come along for the ride as well. One of them was Timmy from Sweden, which quickly became the "Desert Acrobatic". Thanks Timmy!

Best viewed on a high resolution monitor, click on the image and then select O (original) from the image size.

Image details:
Nikon D700 with 70-200 2.8 lens
ISO 800, 70mm, f6.3, 1/1000s
All 5 RAW images batch developed in LR3
Used LR3 Print module to make the 5 panel Polyptych

Happy shooting,
BJORN






Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NAMIBIA - Beauty and the Beasts- Part 3

Leaving Etosha through the South-West gate, we were now headed to the heart of Damaraland. Very similar to the scenery of Monument valley in the US and often called the Utah of Namibia, we stayed at the Vingerklip lodge
Panorama at Vingerklip lodge
This place on a 3000ha (yes!) farm, with its huge eroded rock formations, turned out to be great for landscape photography. 

Petrified forest
The following day we made a quick stop a the Petrified forest. A place full of fossilized trunks of trees, that came to their final resting place an estimated 280 million years ago after floodings brought them here from central Africa.
C39 road near Wereldsend
Later in the afternoon we got to the "Skeleton Coast National park",  a park where one can drive for hours without seeing anybody and which protects the top third of the Namibian coast. 


Namib Skeleton Coast Park
The only option to stay inside the park, Terrace Bay Resort, turned out to be a great. It consists of about 10 small cabins on the deserted beach and has an excellent restaurant. The whole village counts 50 people! The next one down the road is 3 to 4 hours away. The end of the world! 

Shipwreck (1975), Benguela Eagle, Skeleton Coast park
Next we headed South along the Skeleton coast, which is mainly known for its shipwrecks and stories of stranded sailors walking for days trying to find food and water...





Rusty oil rig at Skeleton coast
During my initial preparation I bumped into some interesting images of a dis-used oil rig hidden in the dunes. Looking for the correct GPS coordinates online payed off. 

Jackal living in an oil rig at Skeleton coast
A family of jackals lived in the rusty structure and it turned out to be a good place for some HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography.


Cape Fur Seal at Cape Cross Seal colony
Just a few hours North of Swakopmund, which was our next layover place, we visited the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. With about 300 000 Cape Fur seals living here, it is the largest land based seal colony in the world. Oh boy it was smelly!  

Part 4 of this series (probably the last one), will pick up from Swakopmund on our way to one of the other highlights of the trip. 
More soon...

Till then,
Happy shooting,
BJORN

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NAMIBIA -Beauty and the Beasts- part 2

The second day in Etosha we spend in the middle section of this huge wild-life paradise. It turned out that looking up all Etosha waterholes was a great idea. Entering them in my iPad 3G (with GPS) would prove to be very useful.

Crossing Rhino near Etosha-Badia
While driving between two waterholes early in the morning, we bumped into (not really!) this Rhino. We saw her approaching from a distance and immediately stopped the car and switched off the engine, while waiting for this mighty beast to pass. She turned out to be crossing only a few meters in front of our car, completely neglecting our human presence. 

Landscape at Etosha-Halali
Etosha has a lot of open space, mostly covered with grass. Excellent for landscape shots like this one. 

Zebras at Etosha-Rietfontein waterhole
Zebras are probably the easiest to photograph. Sometimes it even looks like they pose for the camera.

Lion between Salvadora & Sueda waterhole
Very similar to the Rhino encounter, we had 1 lion and 4 lionesses crossing our path. The white ground makes for a great light reflector.

Just a short while later, we arrived at the Homob waterhole where lots of Springbok and Zebras were staring in the same direction. Something was not normal. They felt (or smelt) the presence of the 5 lions we had just encountered and were ready to do a runner whenever they would sight them. 

Springbok on the run at Etosha-Homob waterhole
That's exactly what these Springbok did when they started running towards the camera! The Zebras seemed to be off for a slower start, a few seconds later. We didn't witness a kill but the above picture seems to be very liked by the people that had a preview of the images... 

Drinking Giraffe at Etosha Gemboksvlakte waterhole

A drinking giraffe is always a funny site. This one at the Gemboksvlakte waterhole is a good example.

Elephant and Springbok cooling down at Etosha-Nebrownii waterhole
Next was a large herd of elephants taking a mud bad at the Nebrownii waterhole. The contrast between the Springbok and the Elephant makes for a nice shot.

Etosha pan landscape
The Etosha salt pan does not attract a lot of animals because of the lack of shelter and the potential danger from predators. A few ostriches and a giraffe were the exception! 

One of the best waterholes in Etosha is without doubt the Okaukuejo one. It has a large viewing deck where guests at the camp spot and lodge can spend the evening/night watching the animals. 

Rhino at Okaukuejo waterhole by night
Even though the image above is not 100% sharp (due to animal movement and a longer exposure), I do like the atmosphere and the water mirroring of this black Rhino coming for a drink.


Okaukuejo waterhole pannorama
My last image for today, shows the same place during the day. Click on the image for more details and select O (for Original) from the size menu, for a best viewing experience.

I've also just uploaded the rest of the Namibia -Beauty and the Beasts- images. Click here to view them.

The next blogpost will concentrate on the landscape portion of the trip and should be complete early next week. 

It's always nice to receive feedback (positive and/or negative) and I very much appreciate comments below, like your favorite image(s), why it works for you, etc... 

Till the next post,
Have a great weekend, where-ever you are, whatever you do!
BJORN

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pic(k) of the week 42: Looking at Dubai

Earlier this week, friends in Dubai, invited me for a sunset boat-trip. Thanks Frank and Iris! Needless to say, I didn't say no... The weather had just turned from Summer to Fall, no falling leaves however, and the visibility was great!

Every time, I go out there, I'm confronted with the fact how much Dubai has changed over the years. When I arrived here over 8 years ago, half of the buildings on the image below were not there. Twenty years ago there were only a handful, while less than thirty years ago, there was only the little Trade center building on the left. Amazing!

Pic(k) of the week 42: Looking at Dubai
I like how the wake of the boat, leads to the skyline. Just a small heading change by skipper Frank and I was done!

Image details:
Nikon D700 with Nikkor 24-70 2.8 lens
ISO 200, 62mm, f6.3, 1/800s
Lightroom 3 RAW processing

Beside this image, I shot few more skyline panoramas, multiple images (4 to 6 shot vertical) stitched together in Photoshop. Click here for more.

More of my Namibia -The Beauty and the Beasts- images should be online in 36hrs.

Remember that following this blog is made very easy by clicking like on this Facebook page.

Take that lens-cap off,
BJORN

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FOCUS ON AVIATION

My new photography book, 'FOCUS ON AVIATION" is now available for purchase! I'm excited about this book which is a collection of more than 100 of my best Aviation photography images taken all over the world.  

To receive an instant 25% discount on the total bill, enter the following coupon codes:

-for payments in USD: BOOKIFY
-for payments in GBP: BOOKIFY1
-for payments in EUR: BOOKIFY2
-for payments in CAD: BOOKIFY3
-for payments in AUD: BOOKIFY4

Unfortunately discount codes are only valid until November 2, 2010. Books are published by Blurb a high quality self publish book editor. I sell them for cost price and do not take any profit. Yes, not kidding! 
I strongly recommend ordering the hardcover and premium paper copies for an even better viewing experience!




Beside the new release above, 2 other great photography are available:

Enjoy,
BJORN

Monday, October 18, 2010

NAMIBIA -Beauty and the Beasts- part 1

Todays post will be the first one in a series of posts on a wonderful trip we recently did to Namibia, formerly known before independence in 1990, as South-West Africa. It is one of the youngest countries in Africa and is the least populated country in the world with only 2.5 inhabitants per square km! No wonder, one can drive for hours without seeing anybody.



Sunset at Okonjima home of the Africat foundation
The first half of the photo adventure was mainly orientated on wildlife photography while the second half was concentrating more on landscape photography. Today will be talking wildlife!

Our two week trip started off in the Windhoek where we picked up a Nissan 4x4 equipped with a roof-top tent. The plan was to do about 50% camping and 50% overnights in lodges. Just 3 hours North of the capital we stopped for the night at the Okonjima lodge, home of the Africat foundation. 
Cheetah on a termite mount at Okonjima, Africat foundation
More on Okonjima and its beautiful Cheetahs on my Pic(k) of the week 40: Cheetah on the lookout blogpost earlier this week. 

The next morning we continued North-East towards the Waterberg National Park, an elevated plateau a few hundred meters above the Eastern Namibian plains of the Kalahari. 
Buffalo on the run at Waterberg
It is the only place in Namibia where one can find Buffalo, beside Rhino, Leopard, Elephant and Lion, one of the the Big 5 animals. And yes before you ask, we did see all of them and a lot more! We bumped into dozen of them drinking at one of the waterholes. One needs to be very careful approaching Buffalo since they are known to attack cars/people if they are pushed into a corner! Waterberg was one of the only places in Namibia where we had a guide showing us around. Unlike Etosha, individual cars are not allowed on the plateau.
After an excellent night sleep in our roof-top tent, we headed towards Etosha National Park, one of the world finest game reserves and a highlight of our trip... Etosha, meaning "great white place", is dominated by a salt pan 130 km by 50 km and outlines a total of 850 km all the way around. 
Elephant at Etosha-Namutoni
The white saline dust covering a lot of the park, acts as an excellent light reflector.

Pair of giraffes at Estosha Klein-Namutoni
Since it was coming to the end of the dry season and water was scarce, animals were mostly seen at or close to one of the many waterholes.

Zebra at Etosha Pan


We spend a total of three nights in Etosha, one in every of the three main camps, Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo.

Our second and third day in this wildlife paradise will be covered in part 2.
As of today, I've uploaded about 40% of the images. More will be added towards the end of this week. To view the Namibia images click here.

Click that shutter,
BJORN

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pic(k) of the week 41: The world is turning!

I'm in the middle of editing 2000 images of a recent trip to Namibia. At times I find it challenging to remain focused on editing a large batch of images like these. Taking breaks and not rushing seems to be the key! 

Perfect time to write a post on something I tried for the first time, while in Namibia. We had finished dinner at a remote camping spot just under 2000 m altitude. The nearest city with streetlights was over 200 km or a 5 hour drive away. The air was cold and the moonless sky pitch dark and crystal clear. A perfect location for star trail photography! 
I had a vague idea how this was done, but it quickly became obvious that there would be some guessing. A quick online search would have helped a lot, but needless to say internet was not available at this remote location! 

I started setting up my Nikon D700 with the 14-24mm 2.8 lens on my sturdy Gitzo tripod and connected the remote cable release. Pressing the shutter manually should be avoided because of the introduction of camera shake. Most cameras limit the normal exposure time to a maximum of 30 sec. Using Bulb mode is the only way around it.

In the Northern hemisphere one needs to point the camera to Polaris (the Northern star) in order to a have a good sense of motion. Being down under in the Southern hemisphere, I initially wasn't sure... It turned out (by trial and error) that one needs to center on the Southern star. The only problem is that there is no Southern star visible by the naked eye. The free iPhone app, "Stars" together my compass on my iphone saved the day.
Pic(k) of the week 41: The world is turning!
Namib Grens camp, Namibia
The lighter tones on the right hand side of the image are part of the Milky Way Galaxy. I initially tried a 15 min exposure followed by a 20 min one at f 5.6 aperture. It turned out too dark and found that 30 min was going to be the sweet-spot. I first found it a challenge to focus because of the lack of contrast in the very dark sky. It turned out that leaving the focus on manual and infinity would do the job just fine.


Ideally, I should have opened the aperture up to f 4.0 or even f 2.8 to increase the exposure even more. Exposing the sensor during longer times (up to 1 hour) would have achieved the same but I was running out of time already. One does not want to increase the ISO above the minimum value because of noise issues in the shadows. Even with an excellent high ISO performer like the Nikon D700. Switching the in-camera noise reduction function ON, drastically helps reducing noise but also doubles time between two exposures. Taking a 30 min exposure, the camera basically needs another 30 mins to do the noise reduction. 


I also experimented a little with "painting with light". Using a normal flashlight I wanted to make the tree in the foreground stand out a bit more.
An early morning wake-up and temperatures reducing below 10 C, made me call it a night and climb up into the 4x4 roof-top tent. I definitively want to experiment a bit more with this, but finding a place as dark as this one won't be easy... 


Image details:
Nikon D700 with Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8
ISO 200, f5.6, 14mm, 1732sec (just below 30min)
RAW LR3 processing

I do hope to start uploading more images of our Namibia photo-aventure in the coming days.

Take that lens cap off,
BJORN

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pic(k) of the week 40: Cheetah on the lookout

I'm writing this post, while flying as a passenger between Windhoek,Namibia and Johannesburg, South-Africa. Unfortunately our 2 week Namibian photo adventure is coming to an end. What a great trip it has been!

We crossed this beautiful South-West African country by roof top equipped 4x4, clocking over 3000km on its gravel and sand tracks. Being away from all modern forms of civilization like phones, TV, Radio and Internet has been very refreshing to say the least!

Not staying connected meant that I'm 2 weeks behind in my Pic(k) of the week series, which will be corrected in the next few days... 

Pic(k) of the week 40: On the lookout in Namibia!
The image above was made on day 2 at Okonjima, the home of the Africat foundation, a non-profit organization 200 km North of Windhoek which rehabilitates wild Cheetahs and Leopards and releases them back into the wild. A great initiative!

On a late afternoon game drive in the 22000 ha private nature reserve, we spotted this beauty standing on a 3 to 4 m high termite mount. A photographer's dream coming through!

With its topspeed of 120km/h, the Cheetah is the fastest land animal on the planet, able to achieve 0 to 100km/h in 3 seconds, better than the best sports car! Using its tail as an aircraft rudder, it's able to take very abrupt turns.

Image details:
Nikon D700 with Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR2 lens + 1.7 teleconverter
ISO 1000, 290mm, f5.6, 1/320s
quick RAW processing with LR3

Editing the +2000 images will be the first priority. Once this process is done, I plan on publishing a series of detailed blogposts about my latest African photo adventure!

Till then,
take that lens cap off,