Shooting in Namibia by Hilmar Buch


Hi Steve,

I am really enjoying the cool stuff you provide through your website and I particularly like the guest comments.

In April and May 2013 my girlfriend and I have been traveling to Namibia for a little more than three weeks. Namibia is located north-westerly of South Africa, a country with which it shares a common historical background. The area of Namibia is about two and half the size of Germany, the country where I come from. In Germany live about 82 million people, whereas Namibia only has 2.3 million inhabitants. Most parts of Namibia are sparsely populated as big deserts make human life difficult or almost impossible.

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When we traveled across the country of Namibia, I had my beloved Leica M9 and a very nice array of lenses with me (Leica Summiluxes 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 70mm). Although Namibia is a paradise for wildlife shooters, I rather reluctantly accepted to also buy a used Nikon DX camera (D7000) and a used telephoto lens (Nikkor 200-400/4). Adding the Nikon stuff seemed to be indispensable to take some photos in the Etosha NP where lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, antelopes and many more other animals can be found but I was not happy with the additional weight and bulkiness. I really love the size and relatively small weight of my Leica lineup.

19 Damaraland M9 Summilux 50

Back home after assessing the photos I have taken during the trip I still do think it was good to have a telephoto with me. However, I was also able to take some images of the Namibian wildlife animals just with the Leica M9 and the mid range lenses. In my view the photos taken with this setup differ from the wildlife shots we are all used to when browsing through photo galleries. Of course, I would not claim the wildlife photos taken with the Leica M9 are better but at least they are different. Different in that they show more of the environment where the animals live. Anyway, I absolutely enjoyed shooting every minute with my Leica M9. It’s the perfect camera for me, providing an output that could hardly get any better.

2 Kalahari desert M9 Summilux 50

And how lucky was I that I could use the camera during the entire trip because an incident has happened. A few days after we had arrived in Namibia we were staying for a few days at a very remote place in the middle of nowhere. The place is called Ranch Koiimasis in the Tiras mountains. When I got up early to catch the first sunlight of the day, my girlfriend was still asleep. I set up my tripod with the Leica M9 and the Summilux 24 attached and tried to find a nice spot on a little rock to wait for the sunrise. I took a few test shots to check whether my exposure was properly set. When I was happy with my settings I waited for the sun to climb up behind the mountains that surrounded the little rock I was standing on. Suddenly, behind me I heard my tripod and the camera and lens combination falling down on the rock I was standing on. Picking up the camera I realized that one of the two eyelets where the strap was attached to the camera had been broken. So there was a small hole in the camera body where the eyelet previously had been. I was very lucky though because the camera was still working properly as some test shots immediately proved. A gaffer tape was all needed to prevent dust and sand from entering the inner body of the camera. And there is a lot of dust and sand in Namibia’s deserts.

11 Sossusvlei M9 Summilux 50

If the Leica M9 had not been working anymore, it would have been a real disaster for me. Personally, I think the Nikon camera does its job but I am not at all emotionally connected with it as I am with my Leica M9. I have had the Leica M9 for two and a half years. It has more than 53,000 shutter actuations and has already seen four continents. It has never let me down and goes with me wherever I go, even to work (I am not a professional photographer). I find it very important to have a camera you really like and feel connected with because whether or not you enjoy your equipment is reflected in the photos you take. The Nikon would have been a good companion but rather on a work-related and not fun-related basis. Moreover, I only had a Nikkor telephoto lens with me so shots in the wide or mid range would have been impossible without the M9. Thank god it was still working as my tool of choice!

21 Etosha NP M9 Summilux 50

After returning to Germany I sold the Nikon gear and, more importantly, directly send in my Leica equipment to the customer service in Solms. Although only one eyelet had broken, to my surprise the complete outer body of the camera (bottom and top plate as well as the metal body) had to be replaced. This cost more than half of the original price of the camera. I was lucky again because I have an insurance that also covers improper handling of the camera by me. The camera is already back in my hands. It is strange to have a camera now that is almost brand-new on the outside and heavily used on the inside. Actually, I prefer the “abused” look of the replaced body.

16 Swakopmund M9 Summilux 75

Let’s have a look at a few more photos now…

In Namibia we did a round trip, starting in the capital Windhoek from where we went down to the Kalahari desert. Further stops of our route were the Tiras mountains, the Namib reserve, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, the Erongo mountains, the Damaraland and finally the Etosha NP. It was an awesome trip. We met many very nice local and international people all of whom made this trip unforgettable. The flora and fauna of Namibia is incredible; there is a mix of colors you can only dream of. It was a trip we will never forget.

In case somebody wants to see more images please visit my website which can be found here:

Hilmar Buch

1 Kalahari desert M9 Summilux 35

3 Kalahari desert M9 Summilux 50

5 Kalahari desert M9 Summilux 50

6 The Tiras Mountains M9 Summilux 75

7 The Tiras Mountains M9 Summilux 75

8 The Tiras Mountains M9 Summilux 24

12 Sossusvlei M9 Summilux 24

14 Swakopmund M9 Summilux 75

15 Swakopmund M9 Summilux 75

18 Damaraland M9 Summilux 50

22 Etosha NP M9 Summilux 75

20 Damaraland M9 Summilux 75


  1. Nice pics, thx for sharing!
    No problem with dust in the camera while chancing lenses? I have planned to go there next year with a m camera and different lenses, but a bit worried about that…

    • Of course, dust can be a problem. However, if you undertake the normal precautions, it’s not that bad. A wet clean after the trip is recommended though.

  2. Really cool shots. The shot of the article- sleeping under the stars- quite amazing. There’s no danger sleeping out like that? I would fear animals getting too close to me 🙂

    • Thank you, Ricardo, much appreciated. It was not dangerous sleeping outdoors at that place. I would not dear sleeping outside it the Etosha NP though.

  3. Well done Paul. Mine broke down just taking shots in the Azores. Leica repaired the sensor for free.
    See yah
    Paul M

    • Thank you for your comment, Paul. Great that Leica repaired the sensor for free. The Azores, that’s a place I would love to see as well.

  4. Enjoyed reading your article and your pictures are in fact wonderful.
    Still I think in difficult lighting conditions there is not much left of the impact the M9 can provide. Resolution and overall image quality is in fact real bad compared to what modern cameras can deliver. Nothing new to most users i guess but it is really night and day looking at the image quality (even though i like your dark shots as well, especially the silhouette of that elefant by the pond).
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great images from a beautiful country. I like your photographs very much, especially the one with the dune und the one with the giraffes.

    Forgive me, but I had to smile a bit when I read what happened to your M9, it reminds me on my experience with cameras in Namibia, especially at Ranch Koiimasis.

    I was traveling through Namibia and Botswana a bit earlier this year for 9 weeks, more or less with a similar equipment as you (Leica M9, M7, Fuji X-100 and Nikon D700 with a tele-lens for wildlife photography). I also spent a few night at Ranch Koiimasis, which is a very nice place but obviously dangerous for cameras. I was following Robert Capa’s advice “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” with my Fuji X-100, but came a bit too close to the Zebra that they have at the ranch. As the Zebra wasn’t in the mood for being photographed it kicked at me, resulting in quite a damage to my X-100 (and a little damage of my hand).

    Already during the journey I decided to sell my Nikon D700. The only cameras that I take with me now when I am traveling are a Leica M and the repaired X-100. If I am in the mood for shooting film I also take my M7 and for longer trips the M9 as backup. I want to travel with less weight, but for me it never was an option to use a DSLR instead of my Leica. The DLSR was always an extra tool for shooting wildlife with a big (and heavy) tele lens, but as I am not too much into wildlife photography anyhow, a Leica does it for me. I just need to be careful, not getting too close…

    • Thank you for your nice comment, Thomas, and for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it. What a similar experience. Ranch Koiimasis seems to be a dangerous place.

  6. ‘ Although only one eyelet had broken, to my surprise the complete outer body of the camera (bottom and top plate as well as the metal body) had to be replaced. This cost more than half of the original price of the camera.’

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a $7000 camera…
    Anyway, thank God you had insurance!

  7. Your photos are wonderful and bring back memories. I traveled through Namibia the first time in 1989/90, the first year of independence. I now use an M9 but a the time I used a Leica R4. People and the environment as well as wildlife are all part of a great place for photography. Well done!

  8. Your story inspires me to travel to places like this. Interesting story and amazing pictures!

    Did you actually camp out-door alone like on the first picture?

    On my screen the bushes in the night picture are violet. Lovely color!

    How come you did not keep the battered M9 and bought a new M-E?

    • We really camped outdoors but we had some guides staying close to us. We didn’t stay outdoors in the National Park where dangerous animals were all about. So no need to worry. 😉

      I didn’t buy a new M-E because I had to replace the battered M9 due to the underlying conditions of the insurance I had.

  9. Wonderful photos, really tugs at my longing to leave my comfy life/job and travel the world. Thankyou for sharing you experiences.

  10. This is a beautiful set with very well written introduction. I really do like every single shot. Thank you very much for showing these pictures to us.



  11. These would have to be the best shots and story I have seen on the site for a while. Very nice

    • Gorgiv, we get it. You’re a troll that appears on every Leica post.
      Your shtick has become very stale and juvenile.
      Leave this discussion for the adults.

    • On the contrary, I think the Leica images look very dynamic. Like he said, the mid-range focal lengths really show the subjects and background well. I’ve seen many southern Africa shots with DSLRs and they all start to look too similar.

  12. Great pics Hilmar. I especially love the one with the sand dune. I live in South Africa and have always wanted to go go Namibia but have for one reason or another never got there. After seeing your photos I think that I must make a plan in the next couple of years.

  13. Hilmar , I like your images – A lot. I too have been to Africa having travelled to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana which as you know borders Namibia. I have always wanted to visit Namibia. It looks stunningly beautiful. Africa gets into your blood. Thanks again Hilmar for your post.

  14. Great images Hilmar and I can certainly see you are at one with the camera.
    My M9 is the same age as yours and has done approx the same activations and I also have an emotional attachment to my camera.
    Thanks for the article and photos.

    • Thank you very much. The ThreeSixFive 13 series needs to be updated though. I didn’t stop shooting but I stopped uploading because I’m far behind with retouching my images.

  15. Image 3 is absolutely amazing as it would be taken with any decent camera, lens and by a gifted photographer. Thanks for showing

  16. Thanks for sharing Hilmar!
    Some lovely shots here, and always nice to hear some new stories from other photographer’s experiences.


  17. Namibia………one of those top ten places to take your camera before you die.
    The flora in spring is awesome, the view of the Milky Way is spectacular.
    Enjoyed the article, thanks Hilmar.

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