2014 Travel Photographer of the Year, Gary Arndt has visited all seven continents and over 140 countries and territories around the world. He recently spent some time in Namibia and we managed to get him to sit still long enough to give us his top tips for capturing Namibia on film.
Q: Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
A: I wasn’t actually shooting at the time, but it was when we drove down the Long Wall. 100m straight down a giant dune with the ocean at the bottom! I had my hands firmly on the dashboard holding on for dear life. As I later learned, no matter how large the dune, they have pretty much the same degree of steepness. Driving down a large dune isn’t that much different than driving down a smaller one.
Q: Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
A: I have always found deserts to be fascinating places and some of my favorite to photograph. The incredible dunes in the Namib are unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. They are big and dramatic regardless if you view them from the ground or in the air. The challenge of shooting in the desert is the sand. It gets everywhere and it can cause problems with electronics, especially with sensors in digital cameras.
Q: Which 3 photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?
A: It is very hard to pick just 3. But I’ll go with the following:
1) A solitary tree at sunset.
During our first night camping along the Kuiseb River, our campground was marked by the only tree we saw above the river during our entire trip. I managed to get this shot of the tree just minutes before sunset.
2) Damara boy smiling.
I joined a trip going to Twyfelfontein in Damaraland. During one of our stops we visited a Damara village and I took this photo of a young man who was in a very good mood.
3) Aerial view of sand dunes.
I took a short break to fly over the dunes on a two hour flight from Swakopmund. It was an incredible experience and something I recommend that everyone do if you can.
Q: When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?
A: Unlike most photographers, I don’t have a home. I am traveling continuously and I have to carry my gear with me wherever I go. For that reason, I have to pack extremely light. My primary camera body is a Nikon D300s. I carry 3 lenses with me: an 18-20mm VR, a 12-24mm wide angle and a 50mm f/1.4. I usually will use the 18-200 as it is very versatile and will cover a wide range of shooting circumstances.
Q: What top 3 tips would you give someone wanting to capture the best of Namibia.
A: 1) Be aware of the sand. Try to avoid swapping lenses while you are in the desert if you can. This is one region where you are better off bringing a separate body so you don’t have to switch lenses.
2) Seek out the people. I found Namibia to be a much more diverse place than I expected. I had the pleasure of meeting some people in Damaraland and some people in the German speaking community. I would love to return and meet some of the Himba people as well people from the other tribal groups in the country.
3) It is big country. I really only scratched the surface of Namibia. I was there for a conference, so I didn’t get to explore as much of the country as I would have liked. Be prepared to drive long distances. If possible, take a flight over the dunes as it gives you very different perspective of the landscape.