Welcome to Incredible Photographs, a series of short interviews on South Africa’s very best nature photography. We ask the photographers a set list of questions to gain insight into the previsualization, planning, capture, editing and reflection of their best photographs.
Where was this image taken?Walvisbay Wetlands, Namibia
Did you plan this image or would you consider it a stroke of luck?
When the billowing plumes of Atlantic mist part to reveal the enchanting Dorob coastline, expanses of vividly coloured water sprinkled with thousands of lesser and greater flamingo appear in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colour. Flying this section of coastline is in short, an aerial photographer’s paradise.
This image forms part of a series we worked on exploring the colours of salt along the Dorob coastline of Namibia. The natural brine pans and condensation ponds, coupled with the ephemeral splendour of the Walvis Bay wetlands and tidal lagoons further south kept us exploring and photographing this section of coastline for years.
Weather forms the biggest hurdle along this coastline as for the most part it is hidden in a deep mantle of mist. This was just one of those perfect days. A hot east wind day that blew away the mist a revealed an oceanscape that took our breath away.
Was this image inspired by another photographer’s work or a specific image?
As a young photographer I was inspired by Yaan Arthus Bertrand and later by Michael Poliza. Paul van Schalkwyk was also a legend with his exploration of colour and shape with his images of the Namib landscape
If planned, how many times did you visit this location?
We had photographed Nambia for over 15 years, and with our intimate knowledge of weather and location now puts us more often than not at the right place at the right time to get a great shot.
Did you use an ephemeris or AR planning app like Photopills or TPE?
Do you have any images of failed shoots to provide some background on what goes into an image like this?
I have many examples of failed shoots, especially when I was first starting out in aerial photography. As I have primarily worked out of a fixed wing aircraft it takes some experience to understand the angle, distance and height one has to be at to get the shot. This requires working closely with the pilot. The scene is passing beneath you at an average of 100mph, so you need to be able to converse with the pilot and make split-second decisions if you see something interesting you want to photograph. Also, weather conditions and time of day play a huge role in getting the shot or not. Aerial photography is the only genre of photography where you move through and around light, so in those early days I really needed to learn my camera to use the appropriate settings to compensate for all possible scenarios.
Is the location physically challenging to access or is it a brief walk from a parking lot? Also, would you consider the location safe to go shooting on your own or should one be cautious?
To reach the Walvisbay wetlands from the air, it is about a 15–20-minute flight from the Swakopmund airfield. On the ground the wetlands are a safe and accessible area to visit and photograph by car and on foot.
Did you go out on a whim or was this shoot carefully planned in consideration of weather forecasts?
Aerial photography always requires planning; flight clearances, landing permits, aviation fuel availability and careful consideration of the weather. On this particular shoot we were based in Swakopmund for a month of so photographing the coastline and the interior and spent many many hours waiting for mist to clear before heading out.
How did you feel when you saw the screen light up with that result?
I just knew that this series of images was going to be sensational; the colours, light and textures where just drop dead gorgeous. There are those times when you take a shot, and you just know that it is going to be a beauty, and this was one of those times.
Let’s discuss the technicalities – shutterspeed, ISO, aperture, anything else?
F5.0, 1/2000, ISO 250
Body and Lens used?
Canon EOS 5DSR, Lens Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II
Did you edit it the moment you got home or did you leave it in the photo cellar to mature?
I most definitely edited it the moment I got home! Not a chance that I was leaving these shots to mature in the photo cellar!
Let’s talk about enhancements made in editing –
Basic adjustments made in Adobe Photoshop with further pro contrast enhancements with Nik Software Colour Efex Pro. Aerial photography in Namibia can be challenging with the amount of dust and haze in the air so one does need to work on sharpness and vibrance.
Do you think this image is one of your all-time top 10 photos?
It is so difficult to choose; each time I go out on a new photo expedition I come back with new favorites. But this image is very special to me.
Do you feel you’ve done the location justice and you can move on now?
One can never do Namibia justice. It is a country of such incredible vastness and variability that I never tire of photographing this magical desert world.
Any advice for someone wanting to capture an image like this?
To take aerial images there are a variety of helicopter and fixed wing companies in Namibia that are well versed in aerial photography that one could contact, however I would suggest contacting a photographic guide to help plan your trip so as to make the most of your flying time.
Is this image for sale as a print?
Find available prints on this link
A big thank you to Jay Roode for taking the time to answer our questions and her willingness to share the journey of creation behind the image. Below are the details to all her social media – please give them a like and a follow to show your appreciation. If you’d like to learn from her, check out their workshops and most of all, if you absolutely love this photograph, consider buying a print to support the artists.