November 29, 2010

Of Summer Thunderstorms and Clouds

Summer rains are starting to arrive in Namibia and with them, amazing clouds. With the phenomenal light effects we are seeing here so close to the Tropic of Capricorn (see earlier post from November 7th), the thunderstorm clouds coupled with African sunsets simply take my breath away.

The rains were beginning in earnest at the start of our mid-November trip to Etosha. A couple of days before however, it was very clear and we saw this beautiful display of the earth’s shadow just before sunrise.

This gorgeous array was directly overhead about noon on our drive to Etosha.

The skies at Etosha clouded up each day and dazzling shafts of sunlight came streaming through holes in the clouds.

Once we were back from Etosha, there were a progression of stormy days and beautiful skies to accompany them. The thunderstorms here are like the ones in New Mexico. They gather enough mass to rain and once they’re over the skies clear, usually in time for a breathtaking sunset.

On November 21, clouds dissipated before they could form thunderstorms, but they were in the northern skies after sunset and put on this gorgeous display.

Then on November 23, there was the best sunset display yet.  The rains were over and this is how it looked as the sun crashed into the horizon.  

Here is the progression of changes in the sky in the half hour or so after sunset.  I really wish you all could have been here to see it for yourselves.


Later, just as I was heading to bed, this was the view of the gorgeous night that followed that amazing sunset.

 Three days later, another storm was ending just at sunset, this time turning the clouds the color of orange juice.

Tonight, yet another late afternoon storm passed over Windhoek.  This was the scene to the east shortly after sunset.  This is not an HDR photo. It really looked like this!

My camera and I are having the time of our lives.

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s hoping each one of our family and friends has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day filled with love of family and experiences that will age into rich memories.

Have a piece of pumpkin pie for us!

November 22, 2010

A Magical Place

We couldn’t resist.

We felt compelled to go back to Etosha some more before the rainy season starts and animal spotting becomes more problematical. We get so caught up in photographing everything, it’s not until we get home and look at the photos on our laptops that we realize what a truly magical place it is.

The professor just loaded his Etosha photos at our Flickr site so you can see a little of what we have seen. Please have a look!

November 18, 2010

Today's Highly Accurate Weather Nomenclature

They tell us the current weather is unusual for November in Windhoek. It has been raining every day since last weekend. I have been able to dodge the rains until today when just as I was coming out of the Spar with a trolley (grocery cart) full of bags, the skies opened up. The young man who was helping me out with my groceries went to collect (as he called it) an umbrella and we made it out to the car and got everything loaded into the boot (trunk). But despite his kindness in providing an umbrella AND a cheerful attitude, we both got drenched in the process. I drove home in nearly flooded streets with many running in water up to the curb. Here’s what it looked like from our flat.

I did know to expect this, however, as I recently found a website that offers extensive weather information for Windhoek. This particular site has all kinds of esoteric scientific data in addition to its exceedingly accurate forecasts.

I checked it a day or two ago and was surprised to find this highly scientific nomenclature for today’s forecast: “Tons of rain”.

Sure enough.

November 11, 2010

School’s Almost Out for Summer!

By tomorrow, the last finals will have been taken in Polytechnic of Namibia’s Engineering classes. The students (and most professors!) will be out for the summer and will not return to university classes until mid-January.

The professor has just about finished all of his finals grading

 and is as ready as the students are for a break.

However, with garlands of decorated pine boughs hung throughout the malls and stores full of Christmas displays and gift selections, it certainly doesn’t seem like it should be summer, though the temperatures in the 90’s say otherwise.

We’ll have to get used to it though, because as the store windows tell us, ‘tis the season and Christmas is:

November 07, 2010

Funny light effects explained......we think

It has been bothering me not to understand what’s going on with the light here. Actually, it has been nagging at me ever since I put up that last post. But this morning my attention was diverted away as I tried to work out the new time difference due to the end of Daylight Saving Time today in the US.

I looked online for a definitive time-of-day site so I could be absolutely certain of the new time difference between Windhoek and Albuquerque. I have become hyper-attuned to always knowing that difference so that I don’t repeat an earlier offense of wanting to share something with my daughter via text message at the exact moment I think of it. That resulted in a message that reached her at 3AM her time. It was not well received.

I found a site that gave not only the time but all sorts of data about day length, phase of the moon, civil twilight times, AND the sun angle at noon. As it turns out, the sun angle in Windhoek was 84° above the horizon at 12:35 PM today. That little data point pretty much explains the amazing light effects we have been seeing through polarized sunglasses and polarizing filters.

According to the professor, the best effects with a polarizer (and polarized sunglasses) are when your line of sight is 90° to the sun. Near noon the sun is so close to directly overhead here that if you look straight ahead, wherever you point your polarizing camera filter or your polarized sunglasses, your view is virtually 90° to the sun. Thus, the gorgeous light effects we have been seeing here lately.

Since Windhoek is about 54 miles north of the Tropic of Capricorn where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the December 21st summer solstice (winter solstice at home), there should be these same awesome photographic opportunities and great light effects for a few weeks on both sides of the solstice.

That’s something to look forward to on your trip here, Erin. (I would have put that in a text message to you but I may not have this time difference thing worked out yet.)   :>)

November 05, 2010

Funny light effects + Fairy tale clouds = Eye Candy

There’s this funny thing going on with the physics of light now that spring is fully underway here. The haze has finally left and days are incredibly clear. Once things got clearer and spring was here in force, we began noticing something unusual when looking at the landscape and clouds through polarized sunglasses. Everything is so much brighter, the colors so intense, and the edges so much sharper (weird as that sounds) with polarized lenses.

Remember the big scene in Contact where Jodie Foster’s character is transported to an island that is bathed in Technicolor? With polarized lenses, that’s what it’s like here (but sans beach!). We use polarized sunglasses at home but the difference between ‘with’ and ‘without’ is slight. The altitudes of Albuquerque and Windhoek are almost identical and when it’s clear here, to the naked eye, it seems just like a clear Albuquerque day. But with polarized sunglasses on, there is a profound difference from Albuquerque.

Yesterday was a clear day with just these fairy tale clouds floating around to the north and some larger ones to the south.

Fairy tale clouds to the north
When I put my sunglasses on, the clouds and the city came into sharp, beautiful focus. The clouds had definition I never see through sunglasses at home. The mountains around Windhoek – even at high noon—have sharp definition. You can see the depressions and textures so clearly.

I photographed the clouds and city using a polarizing filter to see if the effect shows in photos. It’s not anywhere nearly as pronounced in a photo as it is in person but here’s what the experiment yielded:

Without polarizing filter

With polarizing filter

Without polarizing filter

With polarizing filter

Even the professor who is wise about the physics of light, cannot figure out what’s going on.

When we arrived in July, it was winter in Namibia. There was one blindingly bright clear day after another. But the phenomenon didn’t happen in July.  The best we can figure is that light does funny things when you are this close to the Tropic of Capricorn in southern hemisphere spring. It’s a dazzling effect and you can hardly believe it’s real. We keep flipping our sunglasses up and down just to be sure we’re really seeing what we think we’re seeing. It’s that hard to believe.
Eye candy, the professor called it.

That’s about as scientific as we’re going to get on this one.

November 02, 2010

Walking with Dad

On our October trip to Etosha, we were just pulling away from a waterhole and from a distance, could see a male and female ostrich approaching our car. We decided to wait until they got closer in hopes of getting some good photos.

When they had gotten about half way to us, we could also sort of make out something smaller trailing them but much shorter and closer to the ground. We thought it might be a jackal heading to the waterhole along with the ostriches. Here’s what it turned out to be:


We later learned from our game drive guide, the baby chicks (he called them chicklets!) were likely only a couple of days old. Mom led the way, then dad, and finally the line of babies all heading to the waterhole for a drink.

According to our guide, the male ostrich will stay with the mother and babies to protect the chicklets that survive until they are large enough to contend with predators on their own.

November 01, 2010

Tall, Aren't They?

We made a second trip to Etosha National Park toward the end of October. The dry season is firmly in place now and everything feels much drier (and hotter!) than during our last visit in August.  The animals are now getting their water exclusively at the waterholes as all other sources of water in the park have dried up. As you can imagine, this makes for great animal viewing for the human visitors at the waterholes.

We thought you might enjoy having a look at just how tall a giraffe is when you aren’t seeing it in the artificial setting of a zoo. The springbok in the foreground are about three feet high at the shoulders.

*.....future posts on our second Etosha trip are forthcoming