Top Five Photography Spots in Namibia

With endless dunes stretching for hundreds of kilometers, abandoned houses, rocky mountains, and soils that look like the Martian surface, Namibia should put some wind in your photography sails. Check out the full list of the best photography locations in Namibia, as well as advice about appropriate gear and shooting times for each of them.

Spitzkoppe

A lesser-known attraction, Spitzkoppe rises 1,728 meters above sea level and stands out among the Namibian landscapes.

How to get there: Spitzkoppe is located around 180 kilometers from Swakopmund and 280 kilometers from Windhoek. To get there, travel along the B2 highway. Drive past Usakos, then in 24 kilometers take the D1918 gravel road to Henties Bay and drive 18 kilometers until you see a turn off to D3716 — this is the road to Spitzkoppe.

When to shoot: The best time to shoot Spitzkoppe is at sunrise or sunset. This gives you ample opportunity to capture the contrasting light and shadow patterns. Spend at least four hours in the area if you want to get really good shots. There’s also a comfortable lodge to stay and enjoy the views all around.

Spitzkoppe is a stunning natural wonder which is undeservedly ignored by photographers. In the photo, you see what an exciting place it is. This is a famous natural arch captured at sunset. I was really lucky to catch the last sun rays! And the man in the center, our guide, shows the greatness of the location. To make this pan, I used a Nikon D850 with the Nikkor 14-24mm.

Spitzkoppe Natural Arch

Spitzkoppe Natural Arch. Photo made with Nikon D850, 14-24mm lens, edited with Luminar 3.

Deadvlei

Among the towering red dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park is an area known as Deadvlei, or “dead marsh.” It’s found among the tallest dunes in the world — some reach 1,312 meters high. It’s a strange and alien landscape, a forest frozen in time and a “place of no return.” The dark, dead camel thorn trees contrast with the white clay pan.

How to get there: Deadvlei is located 68 kilometers from the Sesriem gate. The last six kilometers can only be driven with a four-wheel drive or walked. But be aware: there’s no shade, and you’ll be walking through the desert the whole way. So make sure to take plenty of water.

This night photo isn’t actually one photo. It’s composed of up to 700 shots, each with a 25-second exposure. The gear I used is a Nikon D850 with a 14-24mm lens at f/2.8 and ISO 5,000. Deadvlei is a unique place and difficult to get to, especially at sunset or sunrise. To get a desirable shot, you’d better stay right in the park for a night. Just rent a lodge and take your time for shooting.

Deadvlei

Deadvlei. Photo made with Nikon D850, 14–24mm lens, f2.8 and ISO 5000, edited with Luminar 3

When to shoot: It’s best to rent a lodge and stay inside the Sossusvlei park for a night to capture the sunset and sunrise. Deadvlei is a paradise for photographers as altogether the blue sky, red dunes, and white clay pans make a striking vision.

Deadvlei

Deadvlei. Photo made with Nikon D850, edited with Luminar 3

Sossusvlei Sand Dunes

The largest and probably oldest sand dunes in the world (nearly 50,000 square kilometers) in the vast Namibian desert are awesomely enormous and eerily enticing. In this sea of sand, the rich orange dunes rise tantalizingly to an astonishing 300 meters (100 meters higher than their nearest rivals in Arabia) and just beg to be climbed barefoot.

How to get there: There’s only one bumpy way — 65 kilometers away from the Sossusvlei dry oasis you can find accommodation close to the dunes in the campsite at Sesriem. Although it takes time and effort to get that far, the feeling of vastness and space is well worth it.

When to shoot: This dreamscape was captured at 9 a.m., when the sun creates beautiful shadows on the dunes. The 400mm lens squeezes the space to show the scale of the immense Namibian sand dunes.  

Sossusvlei Dune

Sossusvlei Dune. Photo made with Nikon D850, 400mm lens, edited with Luminar 3

Kolmanskop Ghost Town

Imagine being able to step out your front door on a clear day, walk a meter or two, and simply bend down and pick up a few diamonds, then walk back into town and use these to pay for your ice, milk, and daily groceries. This scene was once reality at one of Namibia’s most interesting attractions, the Kolmanskop Ghost Town.

How to get there: Drive around 12 kilometers from Luderitz and you’ll find the incredible ghost town of the Namib desert.

Once home to more than 700 families, Kolmanskop has turned into a deprived, abandoned place. In just 40 years, a prospering town that produced over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of diamonds was completely devastated. And the Namib desert slowly but surely is reclaiming everything that was built on it.

When to shoot: It’s cool to shoot the interiors of еmрtу local houses during the daylight or at sunset. With the dunes inside houses, you’ll get really thrilling photographs. When shooting at night, use an artificial source of light, like a lamp, and enjoy fantastic shots with captivating star trails.

The desert has no mercy. It turned Kolmanskop into a ghost town where sand has occupied everything. This photo, for example, was taken in the former school building and now the dune is its only habitat. It was really scary to be there so I put on the lamp, which produced a soft light beneficial for the photo shoot.

Former school building in Kolmanskop

Former school building in Kolmanskop, edited with Luminar 3

Abandoned railway and Milky Way in Kolmanskop

Abandoned railway and Milky Way in Kolmanskop, edited with Luminar 3

Quiver Tree Forest and Giant’s Playground

Thousands of huge dolerite boulders among odd trees with arching branches and thorns instead of leaves seem like a place where giants used to play millions of years ago. This authentic place is a Namibian national monument called Quiver Tree Forest.

How to get there: This attraction can be found 14 kilometers north of Keetmanshoop, on the road to Koës. The forest is in the Gariganus farm. You can stay at the Mesosaurus fossil camp, where a friendly master can show his farm covered by more than 5,000 quiver trees (the botanical name is Aloidendron dichotomum).

With their odd shape and thorns, as if brought by aliens, Quiver Trees are popular among travel photographers. These plants got this name because the locals used them to make quivers for arrows. The night is a special time for capturing a Milky Way in this area — though it’s almost invisible in the shot, the shape can be clearly seen. This pan is made of four vertical shots, with a 14mm lens.

Quiver Tree Forest

Quiver Tree Forest. Photo made with Nikon D850, 14mm lens, edited with Luminar 3.

When to shoot: As there are a very few people in the forest and only photographers wander here and there to find the right place for the best shot, you can leave your camera for a whole night and make time-lapse star trails just like in the photo above.

Namibia is a massive, desolate landscape and its endless vistas will be permanently etched into your soul. Namibia’s desert winds have sculpted the world’s highest dunes out of red sand and it is these dunes that make the Namibian landscape like no other on earth. Namibia was definitely the revelation for me. The incredible night sky, infinite desert going straight into the ocean, abandoned towns and tasty local seafood. I made a scouting trip here last spring and will definitely return with a new photography tour this year.

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19 Comments

Simon Patterson's picture

All terrific locations, and your very good images do it justice. A traveller would be hard pressed to find a more starkly beautiful place than Namibia. My wife and I would go there every year if we could afford it.

Daniel Kordan's picture

Thank you, Simon! I was also very impressed with the trip and the beauty of the place, planning another trip soon.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

We’re off to Namibia in a few weeks. Can’t wait.
Question regarding night photography at Kolmanskop, how does that work, permit wise?

Simon Patterson's picture

Those Kolmanskop night photos do look great!

You can't photograph inside kolmanskop in the night. This photo with railway was made right outside the gate!

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Thank you. Good info all around!

For those interested, check out the "Mesosaur Fossil Rest Camp", which is down the road from the "Quiver Tree Forrest Rest Camp", which has the same quiver trees, but much friendly management. If you want to do astrophotography, request one of the bush camps.

Also, how is Etosha National Park not listed? My goodness, in the dry season, it's like heaven for safari photography!!

Simon Patterson's picture

Etosha is easily Southern Africa's premiere game park for wildlife photography in my opinion. So many other places are terrific too, but I do think this list is a great start.

Etosha is fantastic! I'll go to explore it next year :) i love animals, but my goal is to show awesome landscape.

Mikkel Beiter's picture

I spoke with the Namibian Ministry last summer. It’s not possible to obtain a permit for staying at Deadvlei during night anymore. It’s on hold.
Even if you stay at a lodge on the correct side of the fence - it will be illegal to go to Deadvlei between sunset and sunrise (Night)..

Just some nice info to have :-)

Unfortunately you are absolutely right! Since last year it is impossible to get permit, we were the last to receive it waiting and calling for almost a year before. The fee is very high around 3000 eur if you disobey rules. And that's reasonable because of many tourists recent years! Not all of them behave good with such a great unique place

Jeremy Lusk's picture

Daniel, you’ve been one of my favorite follows on Instagram for a long time. Your work is stunning, and I’m very glad to see you sharing some of your expertise here on FStoppers!

C est magnifique un grand bravo

I would love to see your process in Luminar 3. Your photos are fantastic!!

Great photography! My knowledge of Namibia is very slim, after this article I am definitely adding the country to my bucket list of locations to photograph. Daniel, how long have you been using Luminar 3? Do you use the program by itself or do you use it as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom? What is the workflow like for you using Luminar 3?

Raymond Hoffmann's picture

... out of this world Daniel!!! Nice to see here too ;-)