Camel Thorn Trees Against Sand Dunes, Namibia by Franz Lanting

Namib-Naukluft Park Picture – Travel Wallpaper – National Geographic Photo of the Day

This is not a painting. It’s hard to believe, but this is a photograph that has NOT been manipulated to achieve this effect.

The truth is that Franz Lanting is an experienced and talented nature photographer who captured a special moment when the sun was rising and coloring the sand dunes this deep orange for a background with the camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park in the foreground. Sure, he may have used filters and lenses to help him but I doubt that this image has been photo shopped to make it orange any more than Ansel Adams moved the moon for “moonrise over Hernandez” or did much more than dodge and burn in his classic Yosemite images.

While I am curious about comments from other photographers, in my opinion what the best photographers do is put themselves into the right place at the right time. What really makes this strikingly artistic is Lanting’s choices of which trees and how he framed the shot. The texture on the sand dunes, if you look more closely, seems to be outcroppings which might have been catching more light or be lighter in color. See more pictures from the June 2011 feature story “Africa’s Super Park.”

I met Franz back as a student at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s. He’d called the Environmental Studies office to see if someone knew a trust worthy student who could drive to San Francisco to help him get his passport in order so he could fly to Africa to take photos on assignment, I think it might have been his first for National Geographic. At the time, he was well known in Santa Cruz for his photos and he was just developing his international reputation. I was asked and I did it. I’ll never forget the intensity with which he made me understand the gravity and importance of my task.

In 2009, I had to get my own passport at the last minute in order to travel to Portugal as a guest of Enoforum Wines. I’m not sure whether I would have entrusted the task to a student –or in these post 2001 days, if I could have even completed the errand for him these days. I do know that my travel to Portugal made a huge difference in my life –as I know that that trip had a huge impact on his.

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