Sossusvlei : A Collection of Photos from Another World

A photo essay of Sossusvlei’s gargantuan red desert dunes, families of dead camel thorn trees frozen in cracked, white clay and sprinkles of life. Magic. 

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World

About Sossusvlei

Located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, lies Sossusvlei – literally meaning “The Marsh of No Return”. The name derives from the fact that the pan itself is a drainage basin with no outflows (though no one would blame you for thinking that it was because the harsh landscape swallowed people whole).

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Our trusted Land Rover on his last great trip.

Our trusted Land Rover on his last great trip.

The surrounding area is often referred to as Sossusvlei too and includes the famous Dooie Vlei as well as many other famous dunes (including the largest dune in the world – Dune 7). This photo essay documents our journey through this unusual landscape to what at times really felt like another world.

Frozen in Time

Perhaps the most iconic photographic element of Sossusvlei is Dooie Vlei (dead marsh) – the famous clay pan surrounded by some of the largest dunes in the world and dotted by the blackened skeletons of dead camel thorn trees . It is believed that the site was formed between 600 and 700 years ago when, due to climate change, the Tsauchab river (which used to flood the pan) got blocked off from the area.

Slipping through the soft red sand of the dunes surrounding the pan, we eventually reached the top (camera gear in hand), opting not join the brave tourists sliding down the other side on cardboard boxes.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Dooie Vlei in the heat of the midday sun.

Dooie Vlei in the heat of the midday sun.

During our time in Sossusvlei we were lucky enough to experience the ebb and flow of nature over this spot frozen in time – a testament to the way that life always just carries on and on.

… the rise and fall of the sun and moon…

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - The soft dusk sun casting long shadows over the pan.

The soft dusk sun casting long shadows over the pan.

…thick desert mist nourishing small desert plants

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Thick mist engulfs the dunes and settles in the pan.

Thick mist engulfs the dunes and settles in the pan.

… the relentless desert wind blasting sand in our eyes

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - The powerful wind blasting sand against the trees.

The powerful wind blasting sand against the trees.

… dark clouds build over head and then release a fleeting but welcome rain…

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Tiny droplets streak the dune backdrop.

Tiny droplets streak the dune backdrop.

Passage of Time

There is something about the desert – something ancient, yet impermanent; something still yet fluid; something dead yet completely alive. The three photos below are testament to this.

Taken from the same spot at three different times during the day, the photos show how the light reflecting off the dune in the background changes during the day. There is no Photoshop involved here – just the very real magic of nature.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Taken at dawn - with the dune in shadow.

Taken at dawn – with the dune in shadow.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Taken at sunset - with the sun's golden glow on the dune.

Taken at sunset – with the sun’s golden glow on the dune.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Taken just after sunset - the red of the dune prominent.

Taken just after sunset – the red of the dune prominent.

Beauty in Isolation

Spend too much time in the desert and your eyes start to play tricks on you. Lonely trees spring to life like elegant ballerinas, sand ripples like water and the sun puts the spotlights on.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - The ballerina - a dead tree's roots are exposed by the desert wind to reveal its elegance.

The ballerina – a dead tree’s roots are exposed by the desert wind to reveal its elegance.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Lonely trees

Lonely trees

Perspective / Proportion

With the tallest sand dunes in the world (some measuring 400m in height), it is easy to feel small in Sossusvlei. Towering over the landscape, filling the skies with their red sand, fluid yet motionless.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Just a scale shot showing our Land Rover in relation to a dune.

Just a scale shot showing our Land Rover in relation to a dune.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Dune after dune after dune.

Dune after dune after dune.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Creating the illusion of a grainy sky.

Creating the illusion of a grainy sky.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Creating the illusion of Earth drifting past Mars.

Or the illusion of Earth drifting past Mars.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Majestic in its grandeur.

Majestic in its grandeur.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Magically casting purple shadows.

Magically casting purple shadows.

A Living Desert

Even in this harsh climate, life continues to find a way to exist. Springbok and gemsbok dot the plains with the dunes serving at the ultimate backdrop.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - A gemsbok walking through yellow grass against a red dune.

A gemsbok walking through yellow grass against a red dune.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - A springbok and a lava-like dune.

A springbok and a lava-like dune.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Gemsbok just before sunset.

Gemsbok just before sunset.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Springbok at sunrise.

Springbok at sunrise.

Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - Springbok with the perfect dune silhouette.

Springbok with the perfect dune silhouette.

Buy Prints

If you would love to own one of the photos above, you can find them (and many other fine art prints) on Adam’s website: www.rabinowitz-photography.com/portfolio. Prints can be ordered framed (currently only available in South Africa) or can be shipped in a tube internationally.

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Sossusvlei, Namibia : A Collection of Photos from Another World - A photo essay of Sossusvlei's gargantuan red desert dunes, families of dead camel thorn trees growing on cracked, white clay and sprinkles of life. Magic.