Capture Namibia: Photography Tips from Christopher Rimmer
It's easy to be captivated by the contrasting and brilliant colours of the Namibian landscape. But professional photographer, Christopher Rimmer, looks at Namibia through a different lens. His black and white portraits, are not only striking, but expose the raw beauty of the people, animals and nature that are his subjects. We spoke to Christopher about why he thinks Namibia is "a photographer's dream".
The Dominant Male, Western Etosha, Namibia, 2011 by Christopher Rimmer
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
There have been so many, it is impossible to single out just one. I love waking up in the Kaokoveld and watching the sun slowly rise silhouetting a group of giraffe on the horizon. I love the silence and the whisper of the desert breeze and the dazzling galaxies of stars at night, the welcoming smile of a child. If you aren’t moved in some way by the sheer variety of beauty of Namibia, you just aren’t human.
"If you aren’t moved in some way by the sheer variety of beauty of Namibia, you just aren’t human"
How does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
Namibia is a photographer’s dream. The roads are good; the people are fascinating and friendly. The tourism infrastructure is world class, it’s safe and then there’s the quality of the light, which is quite simply – unforgettable! What’s not to love about Namibia? Sure there are some challenges, particularly for people who may be travelling in an arid region for the first time, but once you have experienced Namibia, it will stay in your heart forever. It is the only place on Earth where I have felt completely at peace.
Which photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of?
The Matriarch's Group near Okaukuejo, Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
When I went to Etosha Pan in 2009, I initially stayed at the camp at Okaukuejo where I would stake out a nearby water hole frequented by two groups of elephants who visited during the heat of the afternoon, practically on a daily basis. Observing the elephants every day, I realized that one group was a matriarch’s herd comprised of females together with calves and sub adults of both sexes, and the other comprised male adults only. Whilst they often arrived at the waterhole around the same time, the matriarch’s herd would drink and then head off to dust in the distance leaving the male group at the waterhole where they stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. As the matriarch’s group moved off together to the dusting grounds, I noticed they had a curious habit of forming a long straight line, almost like a group of trained circus elephants. I also realized that, if I was able to capture this scene on film, I would have a stunning photograph. I had a problem though. I had a wide lens which would capture the entire scene but not without capturing a significant amount of edge distortion in the process. I resolved to return the following year with a special panoramic camera with which I was able to capture the entire scene distortion free in stunning detail. The resulting print is just over 3 meters long and you can see individual hairs on each elephant. This image has sold many times over all around the world. It is a very carefully planned photograph and I’m proud of it for that reason.
Himba Girl with Baby, Swaartbooisdrift, Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
This is the image that went all around the world when it was chosen by international news agencies to accompany a story about my photography being banned on Facebook. Facebook decided to remove some photographs of Himba women breast feeding their babies who were the subject of my 2010 Australian exhibition, ‘In Africa,’ on the grounds they were unfit to be viewed by minors. The obvious absurdity of this captured the media’s attention and I unwittingly became something of a poster boy for the benefits of breast-feeding! This photograph has travelled widely and later this year will be projected onto an enormous screen to coincide with its exhibition at the Montier en Der Festival in France. I often wonder about this woman and her child and I wish I could meet them again but I realize the chances are pretty slim.
Elephant Calves, Etosha Pan, 2009 by Christopher Rimmer
This photograph generates a common reaction in nearly everyone who sees it – empathy. People emotionally connect to the scene of tender affection displayed by these two young elephants. As a photographer and a passionate conservationist, I realized early in my career that my photography had the potential to act as a catalyst for change if people emotionally connected with what they saw in my photographs and if they emotionally connected, they would care about what they were seeing. The world’s last remaining elephant herds need our care and our consideration if they are to survive and if they are to be seen in the wild by our children and our grandchildren. The land they need to live is being degraded and diminished by seemingly unstoppable human encroachment and the great herds are being slaughtered on an unprecedented scale for their ivory. So I’m proud of this photograph because I am aware of the emotional impact it has made.
What is your equipment of choice for your Namibian expeditions?
I use a large range of cameras, some film and some digital. I never leave home for Namibia without a small digital body and a 50mm lens. Everywhere I travel in Namibia, I’m amazed at how enthusiastic people, particularly children, are to see their image on the back of a camera. It is a great way to break the ice when photographing strangers. Most of the work I exhibit is photographed using Pentax 6 x 7 cameras.
Herero Woman, Ruacana, Namibia, 2011 by Christopher Rimmer
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
#1 Take a spare battery for your camera and try to keep both charged, you may be hundreds of kilometres from the nearest plug!
#2 Take a set of ND grad filters to reduce the dynamic range of your exposures.
#3 Don’t leave your camera in direct sunlight. Dashboards of cars are a great place to melt the plastic bodies of modern cameras anywhere it’s hot but particularly in Namibia!
Giraffe at Etosha Pan Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
Christopher Rimmer talks about his journeys to Namibia
About Christopher Rimmer
Christopher Rimmer was born in England, grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Australia in 1981. His photography career started as a teenager, taking photos with a plastic 35mm Hanimex camera. Since then he has exhibited in Australia, the United Kingdom and France, is represented in several public and many private collections, and his critically acclaimed photographs of Africa have been widely published. Rimmer's work made international news in October, 2010 when Facebook banned his images of breast feeding African women from the site on the grounds that they were unfit to be viewed by minors. He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society and was shortlisted for British magazine B&W Photographer of the Year for his work in Southern Africa in 2011 and again in 2012. His most recent exhibition “Spirits Speak” opened at Without Pier Gallery in Melbourne, Australia in June, 2012. Rimmer's work will be exhibited in 2013 at the Manton and Montier en Der Festivals in France.
More Photographer Tips
This part of a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.
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