Wednesday 14 December 2016

Those popular dead trees

If you've been following trends in landscape photography, then you would know what "Dead Vlei" means. If you're unfamiliar with the place, it's basically a very photogenic dried up lake near Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia. In the midst of this dried up lake stand a bunch of dead camelthorn trees.

Despite having been to Sossusvlei in 1995, we didn't actually knew about Dead Vlei back then. So, upon our recent road-trip through Namibia, we just had to make a plan to visit this iconic spot.

The problem with visiting a place of which you can see legions of photos over the course of a year is that it has the risk of not feeling new when you step into it for the first time. That's what happened to me. The place is haunting and special, make no mistake. I just think I'd seen so many photos of it that it didn't take my breath away in real life. I guess that is one of the problems of the modern photographic explosion.

I also found it ironic that you need to travel around 300km of gravel road from any direction to get to the entrance gate, but then you have a lovely 57km stretch of asphalt to take you to within 5km of Dead Vlei and Sossusvlei...the impact of modern tourism demands I guess.

Be that as it may - the other challenge is that it's pretty hard to capture unique and "fresh" photos of this place by now. But then again, I think often us photographers get so caught up in wanting to capture a location in our own unique way that just being in the moment and enjoying the privilege of being in a splendid spot of nature can pass us by.

So here are a couple of photos I was able to grab on the one morning we spent there.
I hope you enjoy them...

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f16  |  1/25 SS  |  ISO-200

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 145mm  |  f11  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-200

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f16   |  ISO-200

Let me know what you think of these in the comments below.

Keep clicking!

Morkel Erasmus


  1. I really like the second one Morkel. Greatly composed and beautiful tones. The trees look like hands trying to reach up. The monochrome treatment makes the location less familiar. The red sand definitely adds to the deja vu feeling.

  2. Hey Morkel,

    I so agree with you on this and lets not mention the early morning rush of traffic on that section of tar ;). It is indeed a truly special place, one where one just needs to sit and absorb it.

    I love the first photo, it really captures so much of the feeling of "Dead Vlei" and takes me right back there.

  3. I love the second one in particular...brings out the starkness of the place but also shows the refusal of these ancient trees to wither away. :) GBHs to you...XXX

  4. Morkel, some stunning images. We will be visiting in Feb next year and look forward to it. I can only comment on the feeling after my visit

  5. Many of the iconic locations in the United States are very accessible today to tourist and of course the Internet has made getting a novel composition very difficult. I still feel the need to visit these places but wish I had less exposure to the photos of others. I'm planning a 2018 visit to Deadvlei and felt I needed to budget two days. One for first shots then after reflecting on what I shot on day 1, taking a second stab at it on day 2. I'd love your thoughts on this plan.