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 valley landscapes

Entry relat­ed to place: Africa

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.
dead valley landscapes
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.”

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