Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen + Gendarmenmarkt

Last full day in Berlin. So … I wanted to see more of what used to be East Berlin and at the same time see a former Stasi prison. This city provokes many contradictory feelings. From marveling at the deep cultural heritage of its art and architecture to being dumbfounded by the unspeakable history of terror and war.

(Images coming)


Boomer Extreme Sport: MFA

I just got notification of being accepted into the Masters of Fine Arts graduate program at the University of Calgary. My second graduate degree. No other way to describe what I’m doing as a Boomer extreme sport! Looking forward to this though, but filled with trepidation too. Beyond a group show many years ago and some private purchases of my photographs, I have never experience a group critique of my work. Nor have I had to produce work on a regular basis for exhibition and evaluation. Two years of this…yikes!

Summer in Windhoek

It is summer time now in Namibia. The temperatures hover around 34 C during the day, dropping to the low twenties at night. The rainy season has yet to start. The skys during the day are a deep blue, colours are saturated and the air is dry. It has started to become windy however and although the streets are paved, there is also a lot of dust kicked up from fields scattered everywhere.

My lemon tree is going stronger than ever, producing a prodigious quantity of lemons. The base of the tree is littered with ripe fruit. The grapefruit trees are starting to bud after producing flowers the scent of which is reminiscent of lavender trees. It appears that there are two grapefruit harvests to be had during the year. I look forward to watching their progress from small bud to full-sized fruit.

Music I’m listening to:

Late Beethoven sonatas, Andras Schiff at the keyboard. These are conversations, almost inner dialogues. Schiff thinks they represent Beethoven’s thanks to life.
Schubert: Winterreise: Mark Padmore, tenor, Paul Lewis, piano.
Handel: Between heaven and earth, arias sung by Sandrine Piau, soprano – gorgeous music
David Bowie: The Essential David Bowie – both a trip down memory lane and a marvel of good pop music. No question, Bowie is a wonderful melodist.

Sosussvlei – dawn

Sossusvlei just before sunrise

Based on my experience photographing sand dunes in Death Valley, California, one of the best times to take pictures is at sunrise. (And I shouldn’t forget to add it is also the coolest time of day too.) After the long journey the day before, getting up at 4:30 was no picnic. Speaking of which, the lodge had packed one for us intrepid folk who insist on gobbling up nature at the light of dawn. It was still dark, our driver advised us to put on coats as it would be cold in the open jeep for the 35 minutes or so it would take to get from the lodge to Sossusvlei itself. While others were sleeping, I kept an eye out for that moment before the sun rises that marks the first dawn in order to take pictures, even if it meant a slow shutter speed and a bumpy ride.
I had never seen such large dunes before: in the blue dawn light, their size and redness were very impressive. Standing like silent sentinels, it was impossible not to be awed by nature’s majesty. Although I was able to take sharp, movement-free images later, I think that some of these early dawn shots are more expressive.

Windhoek – Sossusvlei

On the C23 to Sossus Dunes

At long last, a dream come true: to see the huge sand dunes of Sossuvlei, in the middle of the Namib desert. Off I went south from Windhoek through Rehoboth and quite nicely missed the turnoff to Sossuvlei. (Just outside Windhoek, there was a family of baboons clustered along the edge of the highway. One had to be careful as it seemed they thought of nothing of traipsing across the highway at a moment’s notice.)
Paved (or tarred as they are called here) roads are labelled Bx and everything else is C, D, E, F. F type roads is really nothing more than a beaten track. C type roads – gravel – are the norm and thus many destinations in Namibia require traveling these roads.
Missing the turn off at Rehoboth resulted in a detour that added two more hours to the total travel time and meant taking yet another stretch of gravel roads lasting 4 hours. The upside was snaking through very beautiful mountain ranges and combined with the very low population density left a feeling of being quite small in the middle of all this grandeur. It is a peculiar feeling to be traveling in places where there is no cellular access, very few cars and thus the possibility of being stranded due to mechanical failure was real. Yet, some people live in the middle of all of this and in what looks like very difficult conditions.
Given the condition of the road and the need to be careful with the car meant travelling most of the time no more than 40km/hr. Surprisingly, there were long stretches where it was possible to travel at more normal speeds. Given the 400km gap between Windhoek and Sossus Dunes, add the detour, the trip took about 7 hours to complete.

Namutoni (Etosha east) – Otjiwarongo (Cheetah Conservation Fund)

The drive to Otjiwarongo was thankfully on paved roads (or tarred, as they say here). I had paid for a full day at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, but I over-estimated our ability to cover the distance in time for the 8AM cheetah run. I arrived at noon finally and spent the rest of the day in the company of a guide and the cheetahs. Here are some pics from the day. I think they show how well the cheetah is camouflaged in the brown grass.
A couple of points of interest about the cheetah: First, apparently their genetic pool is very small and thus most of the cheetahs we see today are heavily inbred. This results in a very fragile animal. Second, most of Namibia is privately owned and fenced off. There are many game farms that grow Springbok, Oryx, Kudu, Ostrich etc. Inevitably, farmers and cheetahs are in perpetual conflict resulting in many cheetah deaths. Sometimes farmers kill pregnant animals and realizing there are un-born cubs will cut open the mother and bring them to the Cheetah Conservancy. Once they have been taken out of nature they must be cared for until they die. To this end, the Conservancy goes through 12-15 donkeys per week to feed the many cheetahs on hand.