- Sossusvlei and the Dunes of Fire
There are some things I’d never imagine would ever happen to me.
It’s difficult to set the scene, and if it weren’t for Jay Collier and Emma Desira from Canon Collective—and visiting photographer Hougaard Malan—who can vouch for me, you’d think I’m re-living a weird dream.
We were driving across the Namib Desert near Sossusvlei, Namibia, with the world’s largest sand dunes either side of us. Our driver, Etosa, was wearing a bright red t-shirt emblazoned with “Ladies Man” and a picture of Homer Simpson in his underwear. For some reason he was grinning ear-to-ear as he drove, playing the worst Swahili elevator music mix I’ve ever heard. Thankfully someone spotted a lone Oryx walking in front of one of the dunes, giving us an excuse to stop and escape the car.
For the uninitiated, an Oryx is best described as a big antelope—best eaten rare. But they’ve got a nasty side; they’re known for a temperament that not even a lion would challenge.
Jay and I jumped out of the car—cameras in-hand—and started to make our way towards the Oryx. Hougaard followed behind us but at a distance, knowing that with a good start he could outrun us both if the beast got a little feisty. Measuring distance in the desert is hard: something that looks roughly 500 metres away is more likely one kilometre off. So after about two kilometres of walking, we finally managed to get close enough to shoot.
Emma stayed back near the car. I think she was secretly hoping she’d get that award-winning Nat Geo shot of two photographers getting chased—and run over—by an Oryx. Either that, or she liked the music.
This particular day marked the halfway point of our trip to Namibia. It was a bit of an odd time; many of us had started to feel the effects of nine-hour drives, shooting until midnight with 6am starts—not to mention the party at Deadvlei the night before. I was the only one to make it to breakfast that day, so I had the morning session to myself with three of the best photography guides you can imagine.
We left the Oryx; satisfied with the haul of images we’d captured we jumped back in the car and pressed on. Before long Houggard stopped us at “Dune 45”— a massive sand dune named for it’s position 45 kilometres down the road that connects the Sesriem Gate and Sossusvlei.
The wind picked up; the sand was swirling in every direction you could imagine. The dunes around us came alive, and lit up like they were on fire.
The swirling sand took on the appearance of the cruelest of bushfires, with flames reaching hundreds of meters into the air.
There were four of us shooting the same image that morning, but we all managed to capture different pictures as the sand’s shape and form was so random it was impossible to shoot anything identical. Since returning home I’ve wondered how a simple public servant made it to Namibia as a guest of the Canon Collective. The trip has actually changed my live forever.
Alistair McBurnie was the overall winner of the 2016 Canon Light Awards photography competition. His prize was a photographic tour to Namibia with the Canon Collective. Find out more about the 2017 Canon Light Awards LIVE here.
Canon Masters Jackie Ranken and Mike Langford travelled to China to explore the vast cultural heritage and surrounds of the ancient Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean.
The first official selection from Show Us What’s Possible immediately spoke to our expert panel. Watch more to see why.
Four of Australia’s leading visual creators from our latest creativity project share their top shots and the thinking behind them.
Inspired by landscapes and a love of travel, Rach Stewart likes to explore the unknown, and find the all-important elements that connect humans with nature.
William Pike has an infectious enthusiasm for adventure and is willing to tackle any challenge with a positive attitude, no matter how life changing.
We sat down with Amber Jones from @amberandfriends_photography to talk about her passion for the ocean, sharks and how sharing this world through her imagery has helped spread the word on shark conservation and research.
Acclaimed conflict photographer and Canon Master, Stephen Dupont, illustrates the scene behind one of his prized war-time images from Badakhshan.
Kim Tucci knows about the importance of capturing life with babies better than most—she has five of them! Kim’s the mum of one-year-old quintuplets with three older siblings
Many think imagination ends with childhood, a cruel blow that many of us never recover from. But what happens when we lose it – do we really lose it?
Shifting creative thinking behind the lens and pushing photographers to break the rules with experimentation.
From Cape York to Bruny Island; Sydney Cove to Shark Bay—we're bringing you top-notch Australian imagery in this breath-taking aerial photography series.