Dennis and Sue describe their visit to Namibia:
Amazing – astounding – full of surprises – hugely inspiring – great infrastructure and well prepared for tourists. And very friendly people!
Namibia’s striking landscapes, people and wildlife, captured through the lenses of countless photographers, left no doubt in the minds of keen amateur photographers Dennis and Sue, that Namibia would be the perfect and logical choice as their next travel destination.
College professors from Boston, USA, the couple had been to Africa before – they visited Ghana briefly in 2004 and then went back for a five-month sabbatical in 2010. While in Ghana, they also visited Mali for two weeks and visited Dogon country. In 2012, they travelled through South Africa and Madagascar for three weeks. Dennis said he was first attracted to visiting Namibia when he saw photographs of Sossusvlei online. Soon the couple made contact Ultimate Safaris – a safari operator who Dennis described as having done “a superlative job with our tour.”
So while Africa as a travel destination for the enthusiastic photographers was not new, Namibia took their breath away.
Says Dennis: I guess the one word that best describes our Namibia trip is “perfect.”
“It would be hard to say exactly what the highlight was – we had so many different types of experiences, each of which just seemed to be better than the last.”
We had no idea as to the level and quality of service at the tourist lodges we stayed in. Absolutely first rate and world class. We have been to many other locations for photography and there is no question that the lodges in Namibia rank with the best of them.
Briefly describe what type of travelers you and your wife are ? What are your travel priorities, and aims?
For most of our travels, photography is the main priority. Our goal is to see and photograph as many diverse people and places as we can, and we are slowly working our way down our “bucket list,” traveling to the most distance places first, then later we expect to travel a lot more in the US. We enjoy high-end accommodations but are happy to lodge wherever the best access to good photographs might be.
What made you choose Namibia as a travel destination? How did Namibia as a destination tickle your travel buds?
Most of our destinations are chosen based on photographs that we’ve seen. I am constantly on line looking at images of places and a few years ago, I saw some amazing shots of Deadvlei, which is when Namibia showed up on our radar.
We had very thorough plans for a trip in 2013, but we postponed it because our oldest daughter delivered our first grandchild to us that spring. By the time we went this summer (2014), I had an extensive list of places we wanted to photograph and shots we wanted to get.
I had also accumulated over 200 emails to our tour operator Ultimate Safaris – some sort of record, no doubt – as we carefully planned all aspects of the trip.
Namibia has such a variety of landscapes, the big five, other unique animals, fauna and flora, and a very interesting history. It satisfied my interest in the unique landscapes and Sue’s interest in animals.
As amateur photographers, how much do your photographic requirements influence your choice of destination?
I would say that for me, 100% of my travel interests are based on photography, though I know my wife has interests outside of taking pictures. When we travel together though, which is most of the time, cameras are our top priority and our itineraries are always based around where and what we want to shoot.
Your experience in Namibia – please sum up what your tour was like, what you saw and what the best bit was? What was the highlight of your trip?
I guess the one word that best describes our Namibia trip is “perfect.”
Ultimate Safaris planned an amazing three weeks for us and because our guide, Piers, was such an avid and accomplished photographer, naturalist and guide (among other things), we were able to fine tune the itinerary and make adjustments on a moment’s notice. We spent the first night in Windhoek, then flew down to Lüderitz for a few days to explore the abandoned diamond mining towns – turns out a 100+ carat diamond was found in the area that same week!
A quick stay at the excellent Namtib Lodge in the Namtib Biosphere Reserve yielded some great night photo shots, and then we spent two great evenings at Wolwedans exploring the landscape from dusk to dawn.
Next it was on to the dunes at Sossusvlei (wow!) where we photographed from the ground in a dune buggy and on foot and from a hot air balloon. From there we took a doors-off (1,000-photograph) flight up to Swakopmund and saw some amazing landscapes along the way.
While at Grootberg we visited a Himba village where we our guide set up a mini “studio” for us to shoot portraits of many men and women.
Two nights at Mowani, on to the Etosha Game Reserve (Okaukejo and Mushara Outpost for two nights each), two nights at the AfriCat reserve in Okonjima (the Bush Suite is simply amazing!), and then back for a surprise final luxurious night at the Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel in Windhoek.
Though it seems like a whirlwind, we never felt rushed or got tired – there was simply too much to see and do.
It would be hard to say exactly what the highlight was – we had so many different types of experiences, each of which just seemed to be better than the last.
What are your favorite photographic subjects?
As one of my favorite photographers has said, “We shoot without prejudice.”
We love to photograph all types of subjects from wildlife to landscapes to macro to portraits.
What’s amazing about Namibia is that there are opportunities to do all of those and so much more – where else would you find 100,000 seals within a few hours of the largest sand dunes in the world?
As a photographer, what equipment would you recommend to anyone traveling to Namibia in a photographic capacity?
Well I think the simple answer is, if you have it, bring it.
There are so many photo opportunities in Namibia, from super long shots of animals to close-up macro to portraiture to landscapes – it’s really endless.
To be more specific, if you know you are only going to certain areas – the dunes, for example, but not Etosha, then you could probably limit your equipment to a normal (55 mm) lens and perhaps a super wide (14-24 or thereabouts).
But to really be prepared for the number of photo opportunities you’ll likely have on a longer trip, you’ll want a wide range of lens. I’d also strongly recommend a second/back-up camera body, lots of cleaning equipment (chamois, lens paper, etc.) and LOTS of plastic or linen bags to keep the sand out of your gear.
A tripod is essential, and a flash would be very helpful in many situations. Of course a lot depends on what time of year you were to come and again, what destinations you will be traveling to.
How does Namibia compare to other destinations you have travelled to, one from a guest experience point of view and two, from a photographers point of view?
We had no idea as to the level and quality of service at the tourist lodges we stayed in. Absolutely first rate and world class. We have been to many other locations for photography and there is no question that the lodges in Namibia rank with the best of them. To name just a few:
As photographers, the number of interesting scenes and sites was simply overwhelming. We spent an entire afternoon at the seal colony at Cape Cross and could have spent another full day with no problem.
The dunes at Sossusvlei are constantly shifting, so if you come back almost one day to the next, you can get different shots.
And our two aerial excursions, one a balloon trip and the other a flight in a Cessna, could easily be repeated numerous times and we’d be sure to see new things each occasion. Really just overwhelming – three weeks was hardly enough!
You are keen photographers. Tell us briefly how your passion for photography developed?
My dad, a very passionate amateur photographer, gave me a camera about 50 years ago, but I never really learned to use it until we lived in Ghana in 2010.
I didn’t even know what aperture or f-stop was prior to that point.
After my first big photo trip (to India) in 2011, I told Sue that I wanted to do a lot more trips and hoped that she would come, even if just to sketch subjects for her paintings (one of her favorite hobbies).
I purchased her first Nikon camera for her and showed her the basics. Sure enough, on the next trip (to Iceland), she got totally hooked on photography and never even took out her sketchpad. 😉 We’ve made half a dozen trips since then – Iceland a second time, twice to Costa Rica, Cuba, South Africa and Madagascar, etc.
ITINERARY IN BRIEF – Itinerary planned by Ultimate Safaris