Deadvlei (dead marsh or valley) is one of the most famously photographed places in Namibia.
It has sun-scorched camel thorn trees sprouting across a bleached-white clay pan surrounded by looming orange sand dunes. These natural tree sculptures are estimated to be 900 years old! And they were a large part of my motivation to visit Namibia.
In this post, I share with you my tips and struggles through photos and brief commentary. Most bloggers and instagrammers will post only the best photos of Deadvlei. But I share the good, the bad, and the real bad.
Holding nothing back; this is the realness. This is Deadvlei in all its beauty through traditional and creative angles as well as awful selfies and terrible captures.
In the end, Deadvlei is beautiful no matter how you take its picture.
Don't Get Stuck
You'll need a 4x4 to get to the parking lot for the walk into Deadvlei. The sand is loose and deep on the way in making it easy to get stuck. Most travelers rent a 4x4 and still let air out of their tires to be on the safe side. Guides say to drive at a steady pace without stopping.
Still, many travelers must rely on local opportunists who charge a fee to pull travelers out of the sand.
Rain can make the sand a bit more compact and easier to drive on, but it is very uncommon in the region. We were luckier than most on this day because it rained a few days earlier. Plus, my guide was a local with experience driving there.
So there was no getting stuck for us!
Solo Photography In Deadvlei
Some people prefer fancy equipment...
Some people prefer sexy models...
I prefer my simple camera, simple gear, and simple ol' me. I took most photos with my Olympus Stylus Tough TG-3 attached to a collapsible Gorilla Pod (read more about my tech setup). Despite having guides on my trip to the Namib Desert, I was solo for this adventure. Selfies are always a little difficult to take when solo.
Many did not come out right...
[Side note - In case you're wondering, it was a bit chilly there in the early morning hours. It looks hot, but May in Namibia is the start of winter and it dropped to 40F overnight. So yes, I was wearing a scarf and long sleeves for most of the morning I was at Deadvlei!]
I managed to capture a few photos of myself with correct placement and a set timer...
The only major road bump was other people wandering into my shot...
And once in a while, I could ask a stranger to take a photo for me.
Get There Early
After climbing Dune 45 at sunrise, I zoomed over to Deadvlei while the sun was still low in the sky. I wanted to play with the shadows.
The sun rises over Big Daddy dune to the East. Before it rises, the dune casts the clay pan and its blackened trees in darkness. This makes for some fun with the trees cast half in shadow, half in light. The dunes were also partially bathed in shadow, making for some neat contrasting colors.
Another benefit of arriving early? Less people. There weren't huge crowds at Deadvlei, but by about 11am, there were more than 10x as many as when I first arrived.
This made it much more difficult to take photos of the landscape with no humans in there to mess it up! But sometimes, you just have to go with it, and work them into the shot...
Mix It Up! Face The Sun
The most common photo I see online of Deadvlei looks something like this...
Don't get me wrong—it's a nice angle! But what I rarely see are photos facing the sun.
When the sun finally rose over Big Daddy dune, I chose to face it head on. The result was some pretty neat shots (if I do say so...) that I have never seen anyone else capture from this region.
Stay Off The Trees
There are signs posted on the walk into Deadvlei asking visitors not to touch or climb the trees. Yet, people still do it.
This is a super special place.
As it grows in popularity, it will become even more important to stay off the trees. This will ensure its preservation for future generations to enjoy.
Bad Photos Of Deadvlei
The following are some of my less than ideal and downright terrible shots of Deadvlei...
Good Photos Of Deadvlei
Here are more of my favorite captures from my visit to Deadvlei...
I walked away with some great photos of Deadvlei. Even the bad ones capture this place's epic beauty!
Of course, fancy equipment or a travel buddy would have been useful. But they also would have changed the experience. And I loved experiencing this for 2.5 hours, completely at my own pace with my lightweight, easy to use gear.
In my next posts, I will share even more of the awesome scenic spots (and wildlife!) in the Sossusvlei region of the Namib Desert!