National Geographic

Is That Nat Geo Photo ... A Painting?

Tinted orange by the morning sun, a soaring dune is the backdrop for the hulks of camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park. i i

Tinted orange by the morning sun, a soaring dune is the backdrop for the hulks of camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park. Frans Lanting/National Geographic hide caption

itoggle caption Frans Lanting/National Geographic
Tinted orange by the morning sun, a soaring dune is the backdrop for the hulks of camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park.

Tinted orange by the morning sun, a soaring dune is the backdrop for the hulks of camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park.

Frans Lanting/National Geographic

I can't quite put a finger on what this reminds me of — other than something someone would paint. But it is, in fact, a photo, taken in Namibia by Frans Lanting for a story in National Geographic's June issue.

Lanting explains how he did it in a Nat Geo Q&A:

It was made at dawn when the warm light of the morning sun was illuminating a huge red sand dune dotted with white grasses while the white floor of the clay pan was still in shade. It looks blue because it reflects the color of the sky above. ... The perfect moment came when the sun reached all the way down to the bottom of the sand dune just before it reached the desert floor. I used a long telephoto lens and stopped it all the way down to compress the perspective.

Here's what the scene looks like from a wider vantage point.

  • Quiver trees stand under the stars in the Namib Desert. The flowers of these desert-tough varieties of the aloe plant provide nectar for birds and insects.
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    Quiver trees stand under the stars in the Namib Desert. The flowers of these desert-tough varieties of the aloe plant provide nectar for birds and insects.
    Courtesy of National Geographic
  • Desert-dwelling elephants follow the contours of the ancient Huab River Valley, wending through the timeless landscapes of the Torra Conservancy, one of some 60 such areas overseen by local communities.
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    Desert-dwelling elephants follow the contours of the ancient Huab River Valley, wending through the timeless landscapes of the Torra Conservancy, one of some 60 such areas overseen by local communities.
    Courtesy of National Geographic
  • A cluster of pink flamingos dots the water in Sandwich Harbour. Once a secluded anchorage for whalers, this desolate lagoon in Namib-Naukluft Park is now renowned for its birdlife, with more than 100 species recorded.
    Hide caption
    A cluster of pink flamingos dots the water in Sandwich Harbour. Once a secluded anchorage for whalers, this desolate lagoon in Namib-Naukluft Park is now renowned for its birdlife, with more than 100 species recorded.
    Courtesy of National Geographic
  • Over thousands of years, winds have sculpted sand in the Namib Desert into some of the world's tallest dunes, colored red by iron oxide. The sand contains just enough moisture to sustain a few hardy plants. Not far from this dune, one called Big Daddy looms 1,200 feet above the desert floor.
    Hide caption
    Over thousands of years, winds have sculpted sand in the Namib Desert into some of the world's tallest dunes, colored red by iron oxide. The sand contains just enough moisture to sustain a few hardy plants. Not far from this dune, one called Big Daddy looms 1,200 feet above the desert floor.
    Courtesy of National Geographic
  • A brown hyena carries off a dead fur seal pup in Sperrgebiet National Park, as a jackal looks on. These reclusive hyenas, numbering fewer than 1,200 in Namibia and 8,000 Africa-wide, have rarely been photographed.
    Hide caption
    A brown hyena carries off a dead fur seal pup in Sperrgebiet National Park, as a jackal looks on. These reclusive hyenas, numbering fewer than 1,200 in Namibia and 8,000 Africa-wide, have rarely been photographed.
    Courtesy of National Geographic

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The magazine story is about how, after gaining independence in 1990, Namibia became "one of the world's first nations to write environmental protection into its constitution." Today, nearly half of Namibia is set aside as park land. Lanting's photos show flourishing coastal parks and the animals they protect.

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