Award-winning wildlife photographer Brandenburg ( To the Top of the World: Adventures with Arctic Wolves ) has a unique ability to capture the essence of a subject on film. Here he has assembled a breathtaking collection of images of life--both human and animal--in the desert realms of Namibia. His clear, tautly composed photos vividly depict a wide range of subjects, from the sinuous lines of shifting sand dunes to the results of a day's digging at a diamond mine, from the carefree splashing of seals in the coastal waves to a mass baptism by a Herero priest. But while the images speak directly and elegantly, Brandenburg's text is an unfocused combination of his musings on the elusive nature of the perfect photo, discussions of his professional career and florid descriptions of his wanderings, all of which ultimately detract from the power of the photograph. All ages. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 2 Up-Spectacular photographs are the outstanding feature of this book by a National Geographic photographer. During a trip to Namibia to cover the war against South African colonialism, Brandenburg traveled to the Namib Desert on the coast and to the Etosha Pan, a game reserve in the north of the country. From his pictures of the stark but beautiful desert and its array of animals, including the oryx (or gemsbok), flamingos, giraffes, to ostriches against the rising sun, or elephants around a waterhole, each page is breathtaking. The text is woven successfully around the photographs, and there is interesting information about the adaptation of desert animals. The photographs of people and the accompanying text focus on cultural features such as the striking clothes of the Herero people, or an unusual group baptism where the priest spits water on his congregants. For browsing and incidental reading rather than research, this book will be enjoyed by children interested in natural history or in finding out about South Africa.- Susan Giffard, Midtown Ethical Culture School, New York City
In this stunning photo-essay about Namibia in southwest Africa, the color pictures are mysterious and precise, and so are Brandenburg's words about the place and how he took the pictures. He tells the story behind the haunting cover photo of a horned oryx against the desert shadow: how he saw himself on a kind of "quest" for the "unicornlike" creature through a moonscape setting of shifting sand. He talks about the specifics of lighting: how the use of shadow helps express a mood of melancholy; how he waited for the exact moment to catch four ostriches glowing "in a sliver of light for a few moments at sunrise." The captions make you study the pictures and wonder about the precariousness of each creature as elephants gather at a shrinking water hole and a group of striped zebra is distanced through a filter of dust. Brandenburg (who last year published "To the Top of the World: Adventures with Arctic Wolves") took these pictures while on an assignment in southern Africa for "National Geographic". The few pictures of people are far less interesting than those of the landscape and animals, though there's one great shot of a Herero woman in a swirling print dress, striding down the street with a Singer sewing machine on her head. However, Brandenburg is frank about the fact that he tends to turn every assignment into a natural history story. The desert is his subject here, "the cliffs of cascading sand," where a group of flamingos makes a crowd or he finds a fog-draped wreck washed up on the Skeleton Coast. It's in the empty places that he finds the whole cycle of death and renewal.