The entire landscape is picturesque; some areas lend themselves to professional quality shots; we call these Sossusvlei Photo Hotspots.
If your conception of the Namib Desert is just sand as far as the eye can see, head to the southern region. In the middle of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, you will find Sossusvlei. It is a jewel for all keen photographers with opportunities for superb photographs at every turn.
The Dunes – Sossusvlei Photo Hotspots
Some of the tallest dunes in Africa and the world are in Sossusvlei. Formed millions of years ago, they cut an imposing figure around the big white salt-clay pan.
The best photo opportunities are at sunrise or sunset when the sun is low in the sky and altering the tones and colours of the sand by the hour.
They are known as ‘star dunes’ as the wind blows the soft sand from every direction, it alters their shape and ridges.
Some of the dunes are safe to climb. Dune 45 is one of the most popular as it only takes around 45-minutes to reach the summit. Depending on the time of day, you can capture spectacular images of lone hikers, or groups, casting shadows on the sand.
If you’re fit, a hike up Big Daddy takes you to another Sossusvlei photo hotspot. From the summit, you can see as far as the ocean and down into the salt pan below.
For those less fit amongst us, Big Mamma, the adjacent dune, isn’t quite as intimidating.
Just take your time and remember to look up, down, and around as you climb for that perfect photo opportunity.
I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but Sossusvlei is worth travelling halfway across the world! I love visiting this location; it offers so many opportunities to take or make photographs. It takes a while just understanding how the playing of light and weather works, but every time I visit I’m more productive than my previous visits as I get acclimated with the terrain. If I could spend a full year’s worth of days in just one place, this would one of my top choice.
The light here is unlike any other, and so many amazing photo opportunities await you. This place has a way of taking your breath away when the golden hour hits you know that moment an hour after sunset – don’t miss out on this opportunity! The trip will be worth it just for that moment alone; but there are plenty more to capture with your camera along the way too.
Deadvlei is a salt-clay pan that wouldn’t look out of place as the set of a sci-fi movie. It is hauntingly beautiful and the perfect subject for stunning photography.
Have you seen the petrified tree in Deadvlei? Well, there is more than one so let’s not forget to photography the trees. It is an incredible sight to see, now dead as there was not enough water to survive. The remaining skeletons of the trees which are believed to have died 600-700 years ago are now black because the intense sun has baked them. Though not petrified, they do not decompose because of their extremely dry state and lack of rain!
It has everything; deep red dunes that meet the vivid blue sky, cracked white ground of the pan, all interspersed with the blackened skeletal features of dead acacia trees. It is virtually impossible to take a poor photograph in this breathtaking environment.
Ensure you and the photo guide are in place for a sunset as the trees will cast long shadows, giving your photos a playfully eerie look and feel as they seem to bring the trees to life. Don’t rush to leave as the night sky will leave you breathless. Stay to photograph the milky-way and the stars passing overhead.
On the way to Sossusvlei, just past the Sesriem Gate, is the Sesriem Canyon. It is by no means a large canyon but remains a superb subject for pictures nonetheless. Climbing down into the ravine is relatively easy with the help of natural and man-made steps. Once there, the first look skywards is breathtaking. The stark contrast between the craggy, gravelly rock face and the brilliant sky is truly amazing.
There is little to worry about composition-wise, Mother Nature has laid everything out in all of its glory. All that is required is to point and click.
The canyon offers some welcome shade from the heat of the sun. Where there is shade, there are good photo opportunities!
Is there wildlife in the Sossusvlei photo hotspots?
The desert isn’t as inhospitable as people think. Some trees and grasses have adapted over the centuries to exist in dry surroundings.
The same for some creatures. Always have your camera at the ready to snap ostriches, springbok, or gemsbok. You might see antelope, snakes, or geckos, and birds circling overhead. Hyenas and brown hyenas are regular predators in Sossusvlei, always on the prowl for food.
If choosing the right month to visit Sossusvlei is of concern? The high season is May thru August is the peak season with lots of visitors during those months. November to February, when temperatures range from 45-degrees Celsius on most days, are also not ideal for travelers looking for a more pleasant atmosphere; it’s best you avoid these two hotter periods altogether if possible! The best time to go would be in March or April these are low traffic tourist seasons where one may see clouds overhead or even some green grass amongst dunes depending on rainfall patterns that year (a cool perk)!
The best photographs don’t always need to be of the main tourist attractions. Some of the Sossusvlei photo hotspots are of the guides towing the tractor-pulled shuttle bus or digging a stuck vehicle free from the sand.
Even the entrance hut to the park looks good with the correct composition, and of course, with the best lighting.