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Awesome Eight - create your own concept

Last months I spent three weeks in Namibia – a destination I heard many people marvel at and which was high on my own travel list. We took off beginning of September and it felt so good to travel again ! We spent two weeks in the North / North East up until the so called Caprivi / Zambesi strip, back via Etosha and down to Swakopmund. The last week was dedicated to the South with the big red sand dunes and the port of Lüderitz. Stunning landscapes like on another planet, emptiness and wilderness and many close encounters with the wildlife made this trip one of the most impressive journeys I every made. If you want to read more about the trip including practical advice and more pictures you can read my article which will be published on Nov, 7 on the Travel and Photoblog “Lichter der Welt”.

Touring some of the national parks for the first ten days, (photo) safari was our main occupation. As soon as you start watching out for wild animals, you are confronted with the concept of the “Big Five”. Unconsciously, you start “ticking the box” for rhinoceros, lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard. Mistakenly I thought, a hippo must definitely be among the Big Five while I did not see the buffalo as a necessarily so exotic species to be part of it. But the hippo was not included. That was when I started to question that concept. It stems from hunting and is based on the difficulty for big game hunters to chase down these five animals. Hunting is not my cup of tea. So why should I adopt a concept I did not have any relation to and which did not even embrace my favourite animals?

I decided to make my own list of the most impressive or charming wild animals we encountered and tried to take a good picture or portrait of them. I called them the Awesome Eight and they include giraffes and zebras as well as the rhinos, hippos and the crocodile. In terms of equipment a telephoto lens is unavoidable even if we could sometimes get really close. Since I usually do not use a telephoto lens, I had to pay attention to a really short shutter speed (at least 1/focal lens). Since I sometimes forgot about it many pictures were not sharp enough, that's how you learn... Maybe also because I used a very old Canon EF 75-300mm lens. Anyway, here are some of my favourites.

Another encounter made me think of why and for whom you take pictures. Climbing up the grand sand dunes of the Namib Desert is a Must for every visitor. It is one of the two Namibian UNESCO sites (another list to tick boxes if you like). A quiet morning was not to be expected even if you get up at 5 o ‘clock to be among the first. But nevertheless, the soft morning light which gently awakened the exposed side of the big sand giants up to their elegantly swung backbones created a fascinating landscape which I had the priviledge to enjoy sitting on the top of the dunes. While I tried to find a perspective where people had not trampled down the rim of the dune, others spent their time posing for the best Instagram picture. I am not sure they even indulged in the beauty of the landscape since it was more important to find the right spot for the perfect Instagram shot, as if the subject of their photography was themselves, not the place they were visiting. Fine, if it works for them. But I drew two conclusions for myself: first of all – do not copy other people’s concepts whether is a list of what you should have seen or which picture you should have taken. Secondly, do not take pictures for an audience, take pictures first and above all for yourself! You wil enjoy it much more and they will mean something to you. If they mean something to others, too, it is great, but this should not be the purpose of your photography (unless you work on a commission for somebody).

Take care and enjoy !


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