Technical: Nikon D3, ISO 200, 1/500s at f11, 14mm, Capture NX2
It is ironic to consider that the oldest desert in the world was the birth place of this camel thorn tree. A surreal landscape dominated by dunes whose height and majesty rival that of the Empire State building, a natural rampart so impenetrable it marked the point of no return for the sporadic floods of the river Tscauchab.
Some nine hundred years ago, a stem cracked the soil of this improbable and ephemeral oasis. For several centuries, our tree gradually gained a more elevated perspective on its surroundings observing the exquisite interplay of light, shapes and color, whilst defying the elements, until changing winds eventually formed a sand barrier. Trapped in an Arena of Death, our tree managed to survive on phreatic water for a considerable period until finally the flow of life ceased some 500+ years ago.
One could imagine a slow agony under the eye of a morbid besieger, the trees monument to their own destruction, yet what the desert taketh the desert giveth, the sap of life for life eternal (Bram Stoker style)...how could this landscape be otherwise. The overall conditions and aridity were such that they perfectly preserved these trees, protecting them from any form of decay (bacteria, fungus, insects, etc...). They are not petrified, simply scorched by the sun.
Countless nights of countless stars later, here I stand among these wooden sculptures, timeless totems which complete this sanctuary. Dead Vlei is an iconic place on this planet, profound, beautiful and other worldly. It offers a landscape in permanent metamorphosis, and no one picture will ever manage to capture the essence of it nor to convey, the "spirituality" of the place.
Despite the fact that legions of photographers have completed their pilgrimage here, I feel the potential of the place is barely tapped. The first time I came here, some 8 years ago, I had the pleasure of discovery, I barely knew what to expect. I had the good fortune of being accompanied by an extraordinary guide, very similar in looks and demeanor to Morgan Freeman. I had stopped just short of a zillion times before arriving in Dead Vlei. At 10am, there was virtually no tourist left, he advised my wife and I venture off in separate directions, and also "confiscated" my camera. I will not forget that experience, the silence, although you are unlikely ever to find me without a camera here again. Some six years later the magic had not faded as I returned and I plan to devote significant time in the future to the Namib Desert and the Sossusvlei area in particular.
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What do you think?