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Photographing at Namibia’s Kolmanskop

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Kolmanskop is a ghost town located in the Namib Desert in southern Namibia.  At one time it was a rich diamond mining village. After the diamond field was abandoned in 1954, the town folded and has now been reclaimed by the desert sand and years of neglect. Namibia’s Kolmanskop has become a popular place for tourists and photographers.  As an Urbex (urban exploration) photographer I like the idea of seeing sand filled doorways and discovering traces of yesteryear.  This lonely abandoned location lends itself nicely to creative interpretation; both in-camera and in post-processing. I’ve always sought out the dark side as a way of expressing my art and this ghost town does not disappoint.

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Photography Notes:

I like to be creative with the shadows at Kolmanskop. I will photograph a scene in the morning and return to the same location late in the day to see how the light and shadows have changed.  I don’t use filters at Kolmanskop but I do bracket my images when needed. You may want to bring a flashlight with you for early morning and/or evening shooting.

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    Same scene – different times of day

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    Kolmanskop, Namibi

Camera Gear:

Wide angle lenses work great here as sometimes you will be up against a close wall.  I like the 16-35mm and the 24-105mm. I also like to use a camera body with a full frame sensor. A sturdy tripod is a good idea as the lighting can be quite low at times in some of the structures. I also like to bring along a medium telephoto lens like the 70-200mm with teleconverters. Sometimes the scenes are all about the details. Be careful when using your tripod in sandy areas; sand can easily to get lodged in the joints, making them difficult to operate.

Clothing Suggestion:

Dress in layers, I was there from dusk to dawn and at both ends it was cool. It got hot during the day but depending on the building I was in, I needed long sleeves. The ground is mostly sand but I would wear a vibram sole shoe, just in case you step on broken glass, nails, etc. A hat for sun protection is always a good idea. I brought a backpack as a roller bag is too difficult to maneuver in the sand. I always use a packable lightweight back pack for trips like this where I am limited with weight restrictions. It is called Stowaway Packable Daypack and weighs 11 ounces and costs $15.00 by Eddie Bauer.

Do you have photos from this location. Feel free to share them with our viewers in the comments below.

About Author Denise Ippolito

Denise Ippolito is a full time professional photographer, international workshop leader, and creative artist living in New Jersey. Most recently one of Denise’s images was selected as the "Birds" Category Winner in the prestigious Nature's Best 2016 Windland Smith Rice International Awards Competition. In 2015 she also won the Category for "Art in Nature" in the Nature's Best 2015 International Awards Competition.
In 2010 and again in 2014 Denise received a Highly Honored award in the same Nature's Best competition. Also in 2014 one of her images was selected as part of the People's Choice Awards Top 50 Images in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. She has also won several PSA (Photographic Society of America) awards. Her images have been published in magazines and text books, sold as greeting cards, calendars and most recently featured in a Sierra Club Documentary. Six of her images hung in the distinguished Birds of the World Exhibit featured at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Denise travels extensively presenting slide shows, lectures and seminars and teaching photography and Photoshop. Her workshops feature a variety of subjects including: avian, flower, landscape and urbex (urban-exploration) photography.