Deadvlei is a popular location for photography, but Marsel had an image in his mind that would be very different from all those taken before. The key ingredient was fog. Deadvlei, though, is in the Namibian Desert, where fog occurs only a handful of times a year, when an easterly wind blows in from the Atlantic. So it was many years before Marsel got his shot. Surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world, Deadvlei is the white clay bed of an ancient lake. The acacia trees, which must have taken root when there was still moisture, some 900 years ago, are all dead, their sun-scorched wood preserved in the dry atmosphere. 'I had selected my perfect tree a few years ago,' says Marsel, 'and worked out my camera settings.' So then it was a matter of gambling when fog might roll in. On the day that early-morning fog was predicted, he arrived in the dark and set up ready to take the picture at dawn, as the light was just touching the dunes but before the sun made it all too bright. To illuminate the tree he set up a flashlight just behind the trunk - so the light would radiate from its arms in exactly the way he wanted - and then let the fog that rolled in do the rest.
Nikon D4 + 24-70mm f2.8 lens; 15 sec at f8; ISO 400; Gitzo tripod + Markins ballhead; Surefire UB3T Invictus flashlight.
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