silently transforming the landscape

Images Ewan Thompson – Text Ewan Thompson & Melanie Kettner

Ewan: There is nothing everyday about Namibia. The purpose of my trip to Southern Africa was primarily to visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana, but I was able to add a few days in Namibia before hand and had absolutely no idea what to expect. What a surprise I was in for. The sheer majesty of the scenery was breathtaking, along with the colossal scale of the landscapes. I had the unforgettable (and rather bumpy) experience of flying into our camp from Windhoek in a little 4-seater propellor plane, allowing the desert to unfold beneath us and offer extraordinary aerial views.

Once landed we rose early the next day to visit Sossusvlei for an opportunity to explore the sand dunes. Other than the size of the dunes, the first thing that struck me was the extraordinary perfection of the curves in the sand – that the abstract, motiveless wind could unconsciously shift such vast quantities of tiny specks of sand into such wonderfully beautiful and consistent patterns. Moreover the stark lines and ridges offer such beautiful opportunities to explore light and shadow, with the sun moving slowly overhead and silently transforming the landscape hour by hour. The other worldly sight of the huge dunes, dwarfing the plucky trees brave enough to take root by their side, as well as the black silhouettes of the dead branches of their long-dead forebears once fed by ancient lakes was utterly extraordinary, providing the perfect opportunity to find abstract shapes and natural geometry amid the alien landscapes offered up by the dessert.

Away from the dunes the plains extend endlessly, long-grassed savannahs punctuated by brutal black-ridged mountains, and of course the vast expanse of the sky. Having arrived with no expectations whatsoever, I left utterly enchanted and inspired.

I live and work in London. My approach as a photographer is as simple as to carry around my cameras with me and take photographs of anything that catches my eye, be it architecture or landscapes. I think the constant between the two is a fascination with shapes, geometry and abstraction. There is nothing more delightful than finding a pleasing abstract pattern in the everyday world. When I was a boy I inherited a 35mm film camera from my grandfather. I used it very artlessly, but it did have the virtue of introducing me to the mechanics of photography and thinking about framing subjects. My father has been bought a Hasselblad camera as a wedding present by my mother. As I grew older and began to travel more I would borrow the Hasselblad and take it with me on my various foreign adventures. The camera – being medium format – takes pictures with a square frame, and with only 12 shots on a roll and requires the utmost care in composition. Looking back now, I feel this was the perfect way to learn to think about photography – make each shot count, with the unusual square frame forcing one to think hard about composition in particular. I am still using the Hasselblad today.

© all images Ewan Thompson with kind permission

Melanie: As my husband grew up in  Southafrica I have a special relationship to Namibia. When I saw Namibia for the first time I immediately fell in love with the African vegetation, the magic lines on the ground, the vastness, the air, the colours and the calmness due to the overall reduction. This country responds to some deeper parts of my soul. I miss the calm rhythm of Namibian daily life, no news on the radio as we know them, the news there deal with a lion seen near the ground of a farmer or a collection for a summer charity event. No politics, no trendy music of the international charts, rather the songs of the 80s. Time stands still. When you order a coffee on the way it is not served in a paper cup, but in an old fashioned tableware like that one your granny has. There is always time for having a break, a conversation while drinking your coffee with grace. When you go on a trip in Namibia, you probably won’t see anybody on the road. When you meet someone there is always a cheerful mutual greeting and waving. The people living in Namibia know how to come to terms with all the difficult circumstances of daily life in Namibia. I admire that independent and brave attitude.

Stay in touch with Ewan to learn more about his adventure trips and gifted photography on Instagram here.

Have a wonderful week my dear followers! Take good care of yourself! Yours, Melanie Kettner