A good image tells a story as we all know. But sometimes, the story behind this image can be as interesting and surprising as the story the image tells itself. And sometimes it is a complete different story behind it. With this new series I'd like to take you with me to the place I shot those specific images and tell you how they where made.
In this first image I'd like to invent you to come with me back to Namibia, into a ghost town called Kolmanskop where I shot this baththub on a sanddune in front of a abandoned house. Read more to find out whats all behind it.
Kolmanskop - or its original german name "Kolmanskuppe" - lies in the southwest of Namibia, near the city of Lüderitz. The germans founded this little village back back in 1905 in the middle of the Namib-desert. But they had a good reason for that: As history tells us, you where back then able to find diamonds on the surface of the sand. Whiteout digging or something, you just had do fall on your knees and start collecting. So no surprise, more and more people came here and so the village grow. It had houses for the workers, for all important people, it had a school, a hospital and even an ice-manufacture (we speak here from like 35-40°C air temperature during the day) that delivers all the houses and the city of Lüderitz. Even a railroad was built in just 1,5 years through the desert to the village Aus, approximately 120km east of Kolmanskop.
But as more and more workers came, the diamonds all where found somewhen around 1930 and people moved further south where it was easier to find new diamonds. The last person left Kolmanskop around 1960, and since then the village is left to the unforgiving nature of the Namib-desert and turned into one of the most amazing ghost towns on this planet.
Read more of the history of Kolmanskop on Wikipedia. Or if you have the chance, visit it!
Kolmanskop is now a museum with some strict visitor-regulations. You have to have bought you ticket in Luderitz before arriving at Kolmanskop. It opens when the sun is rising and closes at noon. Because the ground still belongs the the diamond-company and lies in the "Sperrgebiet" - nobody without permit is allowed to enter this section - they don't want you to be so long around there. And the surly don't want you give enough time to find some diamond ;)
There is a tour, leading you around the village and providing you with some interesting facts. The guides speak english and german and there is no additional cost (although the guides expect a small tip) to the tour.
The entrance-tickets are available throughout Luderitz and cost 75.00N$ (around 7.00 USD), whit children under 14 years have some discount.
At the time we visited the village where a special photography-permit available wich apparently let you stay until sunset. It seems the regulation have changed a bit since then. As a amateur-photographer you need to pay 220.00 N$ (20 USD) for the permit whilst professionals need an extra permit that has to be organized in advance. Keep that in mind if you visit, although you will be able to take pictures with the normal permit as you will see ;)
HOW THE IMAGE WAS SHOT
We visited Kolmanskop on a windy october-day in 2016. The day before the visit we where in Luderitz (buying our permits) and had a good night sleep in an hotel as theres only guests. Our alarm woke us up long before sunrise, we packed up our stuff, ate some small breakfast and checked out of the hotel. Still dark outside we headed our way to Kolmanskop, a 25 minute drive from our hotel, arriving just 2 minutes after sunrise - perfect timing here!
Luckily the early get up payed off as we where the first persons in that day arriving there. At the gate the check your permit, its like crossing a boarder, and rise the barrier if your allowed to enter. We parked our car in front of the Casino - now the Visitor-Center with restaurant, exhibition, restrooms and - of cours - a shop.
To my liking we had some clouds in that day. Plain-blue-skys are boring to me. What I didn't liked was the wind, or more specific the sand that got blown with the wind. That mend one thing in the first place: decide on a lens and stick with it. Changing a lens in this conditions isn't recommended as your sensor and inside of the camera is covered with fine sand in seconds. I choosed my go-to-landscape/architecture-lens: the amazing Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM and mounted in on my weather sealed Canon EOS 5D Mark III. To balance the sky with the foreground (for outside-images) I also packed my Lee-Filter-Holder and my 3-Stop SGND- (Soft-Graduated-Neutral-Density) Filter. Covered in jackets, hat and hicking-shoes we started our discovery of the ghost town.
I saw a similar picture of this bathtub during my research at home and thought I'd like to try to get a shot like this for myself if I can find that spot. With that in mind we walked around the Casino and the I immediately saw the scene. How awesome! And to my luck there where no footprints in the sand yet (as the wind covered the ones from the day before and we where the first ones on that day). Usually I work with a tripod, but not in this case.
As quick as possible - be careful not to leave any footprints that ruin the shot - I searched for a composition. I placed the mainsubject - the bathtub - on the lower-left-third-point and let the building (where you assume the bathtub comes from) be in the background. The sanddune where the bathtub lies on leads the eye then further into the picture and into the view. That gives the image some context where this house stands - or that there is nothing else as far as you can see. The horizon lies on the lower third of the image where you can see it, and the roof of the house lies on the upper third line. Further on the clouds running from the upper left and right corner to the center of the image, the house, which helps the eye to find its way to the main subject. All in all a classic composition with the rule of thirds.
Whit camera settings of ISO 100, f/8 and a shutter-speed of 1/500 I shot the Bathtub in Kolmanskop. In the post-process I only made all verticals really vertical, added some contrast and minor adjustments. And the final image had finished:
Of course we continued our discoveries through the ghost town further. It really is one of the most photogenic places I have ever been, although a bit weird from time to time to be in this abandoned houses. Nevertheless I absolutely would recommend everybody to visit this place when in Namibia. But be sure to be early, by 9.30am the buses with tourists start to come in and it will be difficult to get a shot whiteout people and footprints in the sand.
We left Kolmanskop at noon, felt a little sandblasted but excited, because we had to reach our next stop. But I imagine that this will be a wonderful spot during sunset. Here are a few shots more from Kolmanskop:
If you like this picture or one of the others in the gallery, I have good news: It's available as print! If your interested please send me an e-mail (address on the bottom of this post). Other Prints are also available in my Online-Shop.
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