BEHIND THE LENS: MOTHER OF THE FOREST
In this article I will explain a little more about the story and techniques behind the above image ‘Mother of the Forest’, which has been selected as a finalist (top 30 – out of 37,853 entrants) to win the Photographer of the Year competition of Africa Geographic.
All selected photos are amazing and represent our beloved Africa at its best! Being a finalist with my favorite Baobab photo ‘Mother of the Forest’ is amazing news! I feel blessed with this nomination, recognition and appreciation for my photography work. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year title. However, I’m still proud I made it to the finals and I’m super excited to see my photo published in the Africa Geographic Yearbook of 2020.
This picture was taken during a 3,5-week road trip through Madagascar. After seeing the best of Madagascar and all these amazing photo worthy spots, I would definitely recommend you to visit Madagascar, but don’t go without your camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of Madagascar. When you travel to Madagascar you will enjoy surprisingly diverse landscapes, cultures and traditions and very rich and endemic flora and fauna. It’s a Treasure Island waiting for you to be discovered!
This magical spectacle of light and color is captured during the golden hour at the famous Avenue of the Baobabs (or Allee des Baobabs) in Madagascar, located along the Highway 8 (RN8) between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina. If you are planning to visit Madagascar then make sure to add Morondava to your itinerary, certainly one of the best places to visit in Madagascar with beautiful photo opportunities.
Once you arrive at Allee des Baobabs, you will see a group of about 25 huge Grandidier’s baobabs along the sandy road and there is some kind of ‘viewpoint’ from where you can see the baobabs lined up along the avenue. From that point, the sun will slowly set behind the massive trees and the sky will treat you with the beautiful colors of the setting sun.
For my trip to Madagascar I packed two camera bodies (Canon 5D MKIV and Canon 7D) and different lenses. Two zoom lenses for photographing Madagascar’s (endemic) wildlife and the more wide-angle lenses like the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 for photographing Madagascar’s gorgeous landscapes. For this particular image I used my Canon EOS7D and my Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens. I’m really satisfied with this sharp bright and not too heavy Sigma lens. I always shoot in manual mode and I used the following settings: ISO320 – f/22 – 1/500s.
Time and date
The image was shot on Jun 3, 2019 16.21 AM. I’ve visited the Avenue on 3 different times of the day, but (for me) sunset turned out to be the most spectacular. Visiting Allee des Baobabs at sunset is also the most popular time to visit for tourists and therefore the busiest part of the day! When you plan to visit Avenue of the Baobabs during sunset, I would strongly advise to depart in time. At arrival, tourists were already gathering on the alley and at the photography ‘viewpoint’. If you want to know where and at what time the sun will set or when the golden hour will occur, make sure to check useful apps like Photopills. The more specialized apps can calculate the angle of sunset and other useful information. Luckily, I did my research and preparations. Because of that I saved time and I could completely focus on a successful sunset shoot.
Lighting of the scene
For me, sunrises and sunsets are the most beautiful moments of the day. The best sunset photos showcase the effects of the sunset on the surrounding landscape or nearby objects, using the saturated lighting of the sunlight. The weather conditions were great. There was a mid-level clouds, a lower humidity and calm winds. The colors of the sky changed into beautiful yellow/orange colors of the setting sun and the clouds added some atmosphere and drama to this picture.
I positioned the sun behind one of the Baobabs so I wouldn’t get blinded by the light and therefore able to capture a beautiful silhouette of the amazing Baobabs. Apart from that, I was lucky enough to capture the amazing silhouette of the Malagasy mother and her child, walking along the dusty avenue through the rays of light of the setting sun! And that’s what makes this photo so special to me; because of the contrast of both tree- and human silhouettes you really get a feel of how tiny and small we humans are compared to these massive Baobabs that can reach heights up to 30 meters (98ft) and of which some are believed to be more than 2800 years old! We humans will never get that old but these trees survive for decades; that’s life and the beauty of nature. And that makes you even more aware of the fact that we are only visitors on our planet for a while; we should appreciate this more and take good care of our ‘Mother Earth’.
I shoot my images in RAW. To do justice to the scene I photographed, I usually edit all my images in Lightroom before they are ready to use. I started with basic adjustments like highlights, shadows, whites and blacks, the exposure and contrast. I also adjusted the temp, tint and saturation of the image a bit to further alter the colors of the setting sun. Besides these basic adjustments in Lightroom I removed one tiny spot in Photoshop. It was a blurry leaf lying on the road between me and the chameleon.
Photographing the Avenue of the Baobab was on my travel and photography bucket list for quite some time, because Baobabs are my favorite trees in the world and I wanted to spend enough time on the Avenue to really get a feel of these massive trees and admire them in different lighting (sunrise, sunset, during the day, at night) and that’s exactly what I did.
The avenue des Baobabs is probably the most popular and picturesque road in whole Madagascar, also known as the country of the Baobabs. You can find 7 species of Baobab trees in the world in Madagascar and 6 of them are endemic to the country. The Menabe region, including Morondava, is home to 3 of these endemic species.
The baobab tree is known as the ‘tree of life’ because it stores life-saving water in its branches and trunk. This is very important because the tree grows in arid regions. Baobabs play a key role in the ecosystem. They help keep soil conditions humid, promote nutrient recycling, and prevent soil erosion. It can provide shelter, clothing, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants.
The most famous Baobab tree of Madagascar, the Adansonia Grandidieiri, can’t be found in any other part of our planet! They can reach 30 meters high and develop a trunk with a diameter of 3 meters. These Baobabs – whose roots seem to grow into the sky – used to be part of a dense forest but because of for example deforestation there are only a few left. Nowadays these ‘upside down trees’ are a legacy of the dense forests that once thrived in the Menabe region. The area is declared as national monument to preserve these trees and they are also planting new tiny Baobabs along the avenue, which is great to see. We will never witness these small Baobabs become as huge as their ‘mothers’, but there’s hope for the future the Baobabs will not go extinct.
In Malagasy language the Baobabs are called ‘Renala’, which means ‘Mother of the Forest’. That’s the reason why I gave my piece of art the title ‘Mother of the Forest’. The Malagasy mother with her child, walking down the avenue, give even more valuable meaning and power to this title. For me, it’s the silhouette of the mother with her child that make this image truly special and the reason why it stands out from other Baobab photos at sunset. I captured many sunset photos during my sunset shoot on Allee des Baobabs, but I ended up with two favorites and this is the most spectacular and special one.
Buy my art work ‘Mother of the Forest’
Interested in buying my image as framed or unframed fine art print to decorate your interior? Get in touch to discuss the possibilities. Interested in a digital copy for your website, social media or other? Get in touch and I will get back to you with my rates.
Thank you for taking your time, reading this ‘behind the lens’ article. I really appreciate it and hope it inspired you. Please help me in return by sharing this article on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook. As a travel photographer I love to share my best travel photos with you! Take a look at my travel photography portfolio on my website or follow @ourplanetinmylens on Instagram to see and read more about my travel adventures.
Want to read more about my trip through Madagascar including some useful Madagascar travel tips?
For Traveltomtom I wrote different blogs about my Madagascar experience. Take a look at my articles including my travel photos if you are interested to read more about my Madagascar trip. I wrote the ultimate Madagascar travel blog + 2 week itinerary, and a blog about things to do in Morondava. If you’re also interested in exploring the Northern part of Madagascar, I would recommend you to read my blog with travel tips + itinerary of Northern Madagascar.