Capture Namibia: Photography Tips from Bill Gozansky
As an award winning photographer and photographic safari mentor, Bill Gozansky has come a long way from his home town in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the magnificent landscapes of Namibia. We found out why he thinks Namibia is a photographer’s paradise...
Sossus Pan, Photo Credit: © Bill Gozansky
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
Wow, this is a difficult question as I have so many amazing memories from shooting in Namibia! I recall experimenting with night sky photography in the NamibRand Nature Reserve under some of the most incredibly clear and star-filled night skies I have ever seen. Photographing desert-adapted elephant along the dry Huab riverbed also quickly comes to mind. What a privilege to watch the elephants caring and playful interactions. Capturing images of them spraying the Namibian dust with their trunks as they move through this incredibly harsh environment in their daily search for water was outstanding. Another memorable experience was stopping along the roadside while driving in the Kunene region to have an impromptu visit and photo shoot with some Himba women and children who were resting in the shade of tree. Their acceptance of our presence and easygoing nature was evident even without our ability to share the same language. Yeah, I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one!
Desert-adapted elephant along the dry Huab riverbed, Photo Credit: © Bill Gozansky
How does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
Namibia is definitely a landscape photographer’s paradise. To me, Namibia’s allure is its vastness, the feeling that you can get away from it all in this enchanting, desolate landscape. It doesn’t have that overcrowded feel that you can sometimes get in East Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I love East Africa too (a destination not to be missed by photographers) but there is something special about photographing in nature when there is no one else in sight. Namibia offers this unique experience. Namibia’s dedication to the conservation of its wildlife, its diversity in landscapes and that fact that it is one of the safest environments for travel of any African country, are a few of the great attributes that make Namibia an incredible playground for photographers. Clearly, one challenge for those of us coming from the United States is just getting to Namibia. It is a long journey that requires some lengthy (and costly) plane flights. However, I think that photographers will find the reward worth the effort once they’ve experienced this magnificent destination and its captivating people.
“Namibia’s allure is its vastness, the feeling that you can get away from it all in this enchanting, desolate landscape.”
Which photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of?
I’m not sure I have just three images from Namibia that “I’m most proud of”, but I’ll share a few images that illustrate the diversity of imagery that can be achieved on a photo safari to Namibia and give you a little background on each.
Himba Woman, Photo Credit: © Bill Gozansky
This portrait of a Himba woman was taken in the Kunene Region of Namibia, an incredibly arid and unforgiving environment. The Himba people have thrived here, living in a manner remarkably unchanged from times past. The striking Himba women present some wonderful portraiture opportunities, in part because they adorn themselves with a reddish brown powder made from crushing ochre rocks. I found the Himba photo experience more genuine than you often encounter when photographing indigenous people in different parts of the world. The Himba seemed very easygoing and willing to share with us both their time for photographs and information about their way of life. I guess I am a bit proud of this image as it was one chosen by Namibia Tourism for use in their destination marketing campaign.
Cape fur seal, Photo Credit: © Bill Gozansky
The Cape Cross Seal Reserve in Namibia has one of the largest breeding colonies of Cape fur seals on the planet, and it was there that I took this portrait of a cute Cape fur seal pup. Fortunately, I arrived at the colony shortly after birthing season and found the pups abundant and playful. These inquisitive animals make great subjects as they seem very curious about their surroundings, including photographers! You can see great expressiveness in their eyes.
Dead Vlei, Photo Credit: © Bill Gozansky
This stark landscape image was taken at Dead Vlei in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park. Dead Vlei means “dead marsh,” and it’s an otherworldly, dry clay pan that sits among some of the world’s largest sand dunes. What makes this particular clay pan even more interesting is that it is filled with the remnants of dead camel thorn trees (a species of acacia) that once thrived many years ago when the pan was flooded. This combination of elements makes Dead Vlei an incredible draw for landscape photographers.
What is your equipment of choice for your Namibian expeditions?
Namibia is one of those destinations where you might end up using every lens in your camera bag. The regions are quite diverse and so are the photographic opportunities. Wide-angle to mid-range telephotos are a must for the incredible landscape photography. These are definitely the go-to lenses in capturing Namibia’s “endless horizons”. However, your bigger telephotos and super-telephotos will definitely come in handy when focused on wildlife at the waterholes up in Etosha National Park, when tracking desert-adapted elephant in Damaraland or photographing Cape fur seals on the Skeleton coast. Let’s not forget the amazing opportunities for cultural photography and portraiture, such as when visiting a Himba village. Here again, you might choose to work with wide-angle to mid-range telephoto lenses depending on your shooting style and creative vision. You probably should throw a macro lens in the bag as well, as you don’t want to overlook opportunities to photograph Namibia’s small desert creatures. As you can see, lots of possibilities and therefore lots of potential equipment needs.
One essential item not to be forgotten is a sturdy tripod as this will be invaluable for your landscape work and allow you to experiment with some amazing night sky photography as well.
Conditions in Namibia can be dusty and harsh on your gear, so be prepared. While traveling, be sure to protect your gear from the elements and clean your equipment regularly to maintain optimal performance.
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
#1: For first time travelers, it is definitely advantageous to travel with a guide or a safari company who knows the various regions and can get you to the key photographic locations at the right times. It is a vast country and with limited travel time you want to maximize your photographic experience. A local guide can be invaluable in getting you to that unique photographic location that you might not have found on your own.
#2: There is no substitute for a little research before your trip. A little advanced research can go a long way in making sure you hit the ground running once you get there. It will help not only in your preparations (see equipment ideas above) but also in your ability to pre-visualize what might be possible photographically. The Internet is an incredible resource for gathering information, from what to expect weather-wise to great photography hotspots to even what type of wildlife you might encounter. Studying other photographers’ images from Namibia is also a great way to gain ideas and insights about what you might expect to see.
#3: If you are really looking for a unique, small-group photographic experience, you can join me and Ultimate Safaris on one of our upcoming photo safaris in 2013 - click here for more information
About Bill Gozansky
Bill Gozansky is a freelance photographer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He specializes in travel, nature and fine art photography. Bill’s quest for images enables him to explore unique destinations and to interact with diverse cultures across the globe. Bill Gozansky currently leads photographic safaris to Namibia, Kenya and Ecuador. In private or small group settings, Bill teaches field techniques of professional travel, nature and wildlife photography in these remarkable natural areas. Bill’s award-winning images have been exhibited in galleries, published in many periodicals and books, as well as sold as fine art prints to private collectors. For more information about Bill and his work, visit www.billgozansky.com or find him on Facebook. To join Bill on a photographic safari in Namibia, click here.
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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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