The picture below is not a painting or a drawing. The photo was taken in the Namib-Naukluft park in Namibia, in a strange and surreal landscape called Dead Vlei. And although it bears the name of the Dead Valley, Dead Vley is not an actual valley. The term means “dead swamp” (from the English dead, and the African vlei, a lake or swamp in a valley between dunes).
Dead Vlei is a white clay plateau located near the more famous Sossusvlei salt flat, dotted with hundreds of dead Acacia trees that flourished long ago when water from the Tsocheb River soaked this piece of land. Approximately 900 years ago, the river diverted its course, leaving the Dead Valley literally dried up. Dead Vlei was said to be surrounded by the highest dunes in the world, the highest of which reached 300–400 meters.
The clay plateau of Dead Vlei was formed after a rainstorm when the Tsocheb River flooded all around, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorns to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area and the dunes invaded these areas, blocking the river. The trees died because there was no longer enough water to survive. There are some varieties of plants remaining that are adapted to survive drought and very little rain. The remaining tree skeletons, believed to be about 900 years old, are now completely black because the intense sun has scorched them. However, the forest does not decompose because it is very dry here.
The stunning picture was taken at dawn, when the warm light of the morning sun illuminated a huge red dune dotted with white grasses. The place looks blue because it reflects the color of the sky. “Because of the contrast between the shadowy foreground and the sunlit background, I used a special filter that reduced the contrast,” said photographer Frans Lanting. “The perfect moment came when the sun reached the bottom of the dune. I used a long telephoto lens to squeeze the perspective.”