40 Days of Africa

So far, 2014 has been ridiculously busy for me. In the first six months of this year, I’ve been to 15 countries, with photography trips to the following: Venezuela, Morocco, Botswana, Argentina, Chile, Namibia, Tanzania, and Rwanda (with non-photography visits or layovers in South Africa, France, Columbia, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Netherlands, and Canada). I’ve flown many thousands of miles, and taken many more thousands of photographs. And the second half of 2014 isn’t likely to slow down much, with trips planned to the North Slope of Alaska (I know, it’s part of the U.S., but Alaska is a foreign country as far as us in the Lower 48 are concerned), Brazil, Costa Rica—and possibly Ireland and Ecuador as well. And who knows where else.

Wow, I’m tired. I need some time off.

I guess what I’m doing right now qualifies as a break, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to share images from my recent 40 day photo trip to Africa, where I photographed Namibia (co-leading two photo tours there with Richard Bernabe for our new international photo workshop company, Epic Destinations), Tanzania, and Rwanda. So here are my favorite 40 images from the trip, one for each day I spent chasing light in the Dark Continent. Enjoy!

“Sunset Sojourn”—Namibia

I caught this image of a trio of elephants heading to a waterhole at sunset. I positioned myself to take advantage of the gorgeous backlight. Namibia’s clear desert air is simply the best for backlit situations! Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 307mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640 second.

"Sunset Sojourn" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Touching the Sun”—Namibia

Here’s one from the famous Deadvlei area. The sun was rising just above the tree, so I used the resulting flare creatively, taking care to shade the lens from too much stray light. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 47mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/50 second.

"Touching the Sun" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Spirit of the Forest”—Rwanda

I photographed this mountain gorilla through a screen of leaves for a mysterious effect. I used a shallow depth-of-field to render the leaves as a colorful blur. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, 109mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500 second.

"Spirit of the Forest" - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda (by Ian Plant)

“Desert Solitaire”—Namibia

Here’s a shot taken in Namibia’s famous Namib desert, with its towering red sand dunes. I zoomed in tight to isolate a discrete portion of the overall landscape. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 800, f/11, 1/250 second.

"Desert Solitaire" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Malicious Intent”—Tanzania

This cape buffalo looks like he is plotting to murder someone . . . probably me! Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/500 second.

"Malicious Intent" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Desert Painting”—Namibia

This image was taken in a ghost town being invaded by the surrounding desert. A beautiful sunset was going on outside, so a lot of red light was reflecting into the building. Kolmanskop, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 13 seconds.

"Desert Painting" - Kolmanskop, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Strength and Beauty”—Tanzania

I’m normally not a fan of overcast light for wildlife photography, but for this female lion portrait it worked great! Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 473mm, ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/400 second.

"Strength and Beauty" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Africa Nocturne”—Namibia

Here’s a simple night shot of the Milky Way; Africa night skies are the best! Spitzkoppe Mountains, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 3200, f/2.8, 30 seconds.

"Africa Nocturne" - Spitzkoppe Mountains, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“African Watercolor”—Tanzania

When I saw this white cloud passing by, I couldn’t resist a wider view of a pair of female lions. Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 200mm, ISO 125, f/4, 1/400 second.

"African Watercolor" - Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Rimlight”—Namibia

Here’s a shot of a cape fur seal rim lit by light from the setting sun. I intentionally choose a dark exposure to emphasize basic shapes and forms. Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/800 second.

"Rimlight" - Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Searchlight”—Namibia

I framed this flamingo within the reflection of the setting sun for dramatic emphasis. Dorob National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/500 second.

"Searchlight" - Dorob National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Ngorongoro”—Tanzania

Here’s a view of a stunning sunset over the Ngorongoro Crater (a deep, volcanic crater, the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world). Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 79mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/13 second.

"Ngorongoro" - Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“African Huntress”—Namibia

I was lucky to find this female lion at sunrise; I caught her searching for prey in the first light of dawn. Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 386mm, ISO 250, f/4.5, 1/320 second.

 

"African Huntress" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Serengeti”—Tanzania

A wide angle view of elephants on the Serengeti plains. I was afraid they were going to bump the game vehicle I was riding in! Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 18mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/500 second.

"Serengeti" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Peeling”—Namibia

Here’s another from the ghost town. I was attracted to the peeling paint, and the resulting textures and colors. Kolmanskop, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 17mm, ISO 800, f/11, 30 seconds.

"Peeling" - Kolmanskop, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Pachyderm Peccadillo”—Namibia

I shot this image of elephants crossing in front of a waterhole at sunset. I chose a dark exposure, obscuring the elephants, focusing the composition on the sunset skies and the elephants’ reflections. Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 117mm, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/320 second.

"Pachyderm Peccadillo" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Hungry Hungry Hippos”—Tanzania

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist a reference to the famous kid’s game! These two hippos battled for several minutes before resuming their midday napping. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 560mm. ISO 320, f/8, 1/400 second.

"Hungry Hungry Hippos" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Affection”—Namibia

A moment of affection between a mother cape fur seal and her pup on the Atlantic coast. I choose a dark exposure to emphasize the rim light from the setting sun. Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/500 second.

"Affection" - Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Deadvlei”—Namibia

Here’s another shot from the famous Deadvlei. I shot this at the edge of the last light on the dead trees, some of which have been standing for almost a thousand years. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 191mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/20 second.

"Deadvlei" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Three’s a Crowd”—Tanzania

While photographing hundreds of zebra drinking at a river, I zoomed in tight to simplify my composition. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000 second.

"Three's a Crowd" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Desert Window”—Namibia

When photographing the ghost town, I was on the lookout for intimate details. I got inches away to accentuate the rippled sand in the foreground. Kolmanskop, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/16, 10 seconds.

"Desert Window" - Kolmanskop, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Cape Cross”—Namibia

This is an image taken in the Cape Cross seal colony, one of the most amazing sights (and smells!) on Earth. Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 280mm, ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/500 second.

"Cape Cross" - Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Siesta”—Tanzania

I found this female lion napping on a large rock. She reminds me of my cats at home! Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/320 second.

"Siesta" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Grand Procession”—Namibia

Here’s a view of some flamingos strutting their stuff. Dorob National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 412mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/320 second.

"Grand Procession" - Dorob National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Almost Human”—Rwanda

This is a portrait of a blackback mountain gorilla (a younger male subordinate to the silverback that leads the troop). Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, 200mm, ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/500 second.

"Almost Human" - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda (by Ian Plant)

“End of the Hall”—Namibia

Another image from the ghost town; I choose a wide-angle view to emphasize the perspective lines leading to the center of the composition. Kolmanskop, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1 second.

"End of the Hall" - Kolmanskop, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Watchful Eye”—Tanzania

A mother elephant and her calf cautiously drink from a water hole. Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 270mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/400 second.

"Watchful Eye" - Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“A Place for Rest”—Namibia

Here’s an image of a male lion resting in some grass. I choose a high-key exposure to ensure adequate detail in the shadows. Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/500 second.

"A Place for Rest" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Shadow Puppets”—Namibia

For this image, I had some fun with my workshop clients in the Spitzkoppe Mountains of Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/13, 1/100 second.

"Shadow Puppets" - Spitzkoppe Mountains, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Mini Me”—Tanzania

I couldn’t resist this mother elephant and her calf striking similar poses. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 442mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/320 second.

"Mini Me" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Escher’s Palace”—Namibia

This scene reminds me of an Escher painting. Kolmanskop, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/14, 2 seconds.

"Escher's Palace" - Kolmanskop, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Duality”—Namibia

Namibia has some of the most amazing sand dunes in the world. I was attracted to the strong diagonal line formed by the dune crest. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 47mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/40 second.

"Duality" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Death in Africa”—Tanzania

Just having a little fun with my wide angle lens and a cape buffalo skull. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/60 second.

"Death in Africa" - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

“Synchronicity”—Namibia

Here are some flamingos at sunset; moment is everything! Dorob National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 383mm, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/500 second.

"Synchronicity" - Dorob National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Witch Dance”—Namibia

I got lucky at Deadvlei when some mist formed early in the morning. I choose a simple, graphic composition of just this one interesting tree. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 200mm, ISO 100, f/22, 1/10 second.

"Witch Dance" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Gorilla Tangle”—Rwanda

I had a wonderful time trekking with mountain gorillas. Rwanda is a beautiful country, and I wish I had more than three days there! Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, 200mm, ISO 200, f/3.2, 1/400 second.

"Gorilla Tangle" - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda (by Ian Plant)

“Quenched”—Namibia

Here’s a shot of a lioness pausing for a drink. I’m always on the lookout for capturing moments which tell a story or reveal something important about my subject. Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 533mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/250.

"Quenched" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“The Walking Dead”—Namibia

I took this shot of dead camel thorn trees in Namibia’s Deadvlei. Most shots here are taken when there is light on the dune in the background; I shot this after the light had faded for a different look. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 143mm, ISO 100, f/22, 5 seconds.

"The Walking Dead" - Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

“Chillin”—Tanzania

I couldn’t resists snapping a shot of this olive baboon just hanging out on a rock. Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Canon 5DIII, 394mm, ISO 1250, f/6.3, 1/320 second.

"Chillin" - Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania (by Ian Plant)

“Sunkissed”—Namibia

Sunset is always a mad dash trying to find charismatic megafauna to photograph. On this particular evening, I had to settle for a lowly springbok—although I can’t argue with the results! The light was absolutely stunning, and I was lucky enough to get a perfect pose from my subject. Etosha National Park, Namibia. Canon 70D, 461mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/250 second.

"Sunkissed" - Etosha National Park, Namibia (by Ian Plant)

Africa is a fantastic place and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. My workshop company, Epic Destinations, will be leading several tours there in 2015. We’ve got tours to Morocco and Namibia already planned, and we’ll be listing a few more soon, so stay tuned. I hope you can join us!

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Ian Plant

Author: Ian Plant

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.

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