an eye for details
Photography in Kolmanskop
Kolmanskop is an old mining town (about 1908) where diamonds were collected in opencast mining.
An employee of the railways who had to maintain the track found the first diamonds and he showed
them to his superior, a German with an interest in archeology. He recognized the diamonds and
had them checked for authenticity. The Germans received concessions in the area and started to
mine the area. It soon became clear that there was a huge amount of diamonds were present around
this mound near Luderitz. Employees crept through the sand by moonlight to collect the brilliant
diamonds which could easily be seen in the moon light.
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All kinds of buildings quickly emerged, all of which were particularly luxurious, because there was
money enough. People even had refrigerators in the middle of the desert. There was a tram, so that
if you wanted to do some shopping you could call (yes you could here too) for the tram to pick you
up and bring you to the butcher. There was also a hospital with the first X-ray machine of this part
of Africa. This device was probably purchased to monitor employees, so that they couldn't smuggle
diamonds out of the compound.
When larger diamonds were found elsewhere, south of Kolmanskop, the people abandoned the town.
Another town was founded, Oranjemund. As this is in the Sperrgebiet you cannot normally go there as
The deserted town was slowly but surely taken over by the desert, what offers beautiful images. The
wind blows the sand up and forms dunes in and against the buildings.
You can visit Kolmanskop for a reasonable fee. There are guided tours that you can join. This is
recommended. You can enter most buildings at your own risk. Some buildings can only be viewed during
You can purchase a photographers permit, which will allow you to reside in Kolmanskop before sunrise
and after sunset. It is better to collect the photographers permit the day before you intend to go
photographing, so you can enter before opening the next day. The doorman will be there around 6:30
If you park your car in front of the barrier and you leave your permit behind the windscreen, you
will be fine.
Kolmanskop can be reached by driving on the B4 from Aus to Luderitz. Near the airport from Luderitz
there is a path to the left (towards the south). After a few hundred meters you will see the
barrier and the doorman's house. You can park your car here outside opening hours and
leave your permit on your dashboard. Within opening hours you can drive on and park at a kind of
restaurant, where the excursions also start.
I got my photographers permit the day before. I just dropped by the day before
to get the photographers permit from the doorman. You probably can buy the photographers permit in
Luderitz at Desert Deli and Gifts. I had obtained my photographers permit the day before, so I could
start photographing around 6am. It
is still fairly fresh. You are not far from the sea and the sea is very cold because of the Benguela
Current which flows in this region. When the sun rises, in some buildings the rooms are illuminated
beautifully which offers beautiful compositions. The trick is to foresee which buildings will be hit
by the sun rays and get there as soon as possible.
I took pictures for a few hours, then went on the tour, then again photographed until about 1 pm.
Had dinner in the restaurant and then again photographed until 3 p.m. In the afternoon the wind
blows harder, which is very unpleasant. The sand there is extremely fine and gets between all the
seems of your equipment. Zooming in and out with your lens makes you suspect the worst. I caught
myself repeating myself so I left earlier than I intended.
I made a lot of HDR shots, because the difference between the darkest dark and the lightest light
was too far apart.
Like everywhere in Namibia, make sure you bring enough water because the humidity is extremely low
and the sun extremely hot. The wind makes it worse.
Equipment wise I had a tripod, wide angle 14-24 2.8 on my Nikon D810 full frame and the 24-70 2.8 on
the Nikon D500 with APS-C sensor. Changing lenses is not an option in this environment. I packed my
equipment in plastic ziplock bags and used rain sleeves to protect my equipment from the sand.
I use a cable release or apply a 3-second shutter release delay to avoid blur because of camera
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