An Interview With Koos Van Der Lende

Panoramas and panoramic photography have always been an instant draw to me. I have tried myself several times to capture a scene in this format but I don't think I have the patience. Unlike Koos van Der Lende, whose patience seems never ending and it is this patience that has allowed him to capture some of the most stunning images I have ever seen.

At the time of writing ( Novemeber 2008) Koos has just returned from England where he was commended for several of his panorama images. He is currently in the middle of a project for the Peace Parks Foundation photographing parklands in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Angola amongst others, where I'm sure he is seeing some fantastic panoramas.

Koos has a stunning website at where you can also read about some of his trips into the wilderness with his vehicle and trusty camera. Some of his adventures are truely amazing, if not slightly scary and shows his true dedication to his photography art and capturing panoramas on the African continent.

I hope you will enjoy this interview and I would like to thank Koos once again for giving up some of his precious time for us.

Hello Koos, thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with us today. Before I ask any questions I always like to give the interviewee an opportunity to briefly tell us about themselves and how and why they first became involved with photography?

Panoramas - Koos Van Delende

I was born in South Africa from Dutch parents and the family emigrated back to the Netherlands in 1971. I just never could adapt in Holland and after my 16 months in the military service I decided to do a trip through South Africa.

I was not exposed to any photography at that time but bought a 35mm Olympus OM 1 to do the tourist thing. While I was in Namibia I was was so captivated by the scenery that I said to myself that one day I would like to be a photographer in SA.

Panoramas - Koos in the desert

After the 10 month trip I returned to Holland and studied at the School for Photography in The Hague for 3 years. With a diploma in my hand I went back to SA to start a new season in my life. And now 25 years later Im still here living out the passion of my heart.

I worked as a full time commercial photographer until 2002. I closed the studio and sold all of the equipment to make sure that I will never return to commercial work again but push forward to pursue my heart.

Although you are primarily a Landscape photographer, one of the main reasons I wanted to interview you was because you use the panoramic format for your images. This is a truly stunning format and could be a good option for the urban photographer too. Can you tell us about what you like about shooting panoramas and the panoramic format and when you first started to use this format for your images?

The need for the panoramic format was born in Namibia. Wide open spaces with stark compositions, all happening in a horizontal level asked for the 6 x17 cm format. It was not available or even really known in SA about 15 years back so I flew to New York to buy it there and a whole new world opened up for me.

Panoramas - Koos Van Delende

What is really nice to me about the format is that it asks for a strong subject in the foreground. Because of the static lens the challenge to find a good composition is big. It is a time consuming camera to work with, so one is really involved with the shoot. The upside down image, underneath a black cloth, focusing on a separate matscreen, playing with the depth of field, all manual, etc make the whole process interesting. I can recall every shot I have taken over the past 15 years of what the circumstances were, because of that involvement.

Do you use any specific equipment to shoot panoramas and if so why do you think this gives the panoramic photographer advantages over others using digital software to create a similar effect?

I have never been a social photographer or doing fashion photography because one has to shoot a lot of shots in the hope that something good will come out of that.In the bush I will scout in the heat of the day armed with the viewers of the 3 lenses and a compass.

Coming to an area I first determine at what time the sun rises and sets but also the exact degrees west or east. With that in mind I set out and walk many kilometers, in Angola about 350 kilometers, to find landscapes. Finding one, I visualize the end result. It is very important to know what you want. Ill go back to the vehicle, make camp and start carrying in the equipment.

Panoramas - Koos Van Delende

I also use big reflector boards during the day with sunlight and a million candlelight lightsource for painting with light in the evenings. So there's a lot to carry. I make use of a lot of filters to compensate for extreme high contrast scenes. I want to be the artist in the bush. I am not there to register the scene but to express myself through the shot.

My love for the bush comes first and the photography gives it purpose. What the digital guys and girls do with High Range Definition on the Mac I try to accomplish in the bush. A fair amount of my shots are taken after sunset with exposures of about 30 minutes. I think film still handles that better. The all new digital panoramic camera on the market slowest speed is 1 sec, so you can never paint with light or have moving clouds. Even stitching cannot be done with extreme long exposures. Shooting with film is becomming a niche artform.

I understand that you can spend weeks researching a particular panoramas before actually shooting it. Why is this?

When I started to shoot landscapes fulltime in 2002 I made a decision not to shoot for money anymore. Money is time and time money. I wanted to give my best without money being involved. My trips last about 2 months at a time and during that time I can come home with no shots or maybe with 40. Of which 10 are maybe very special.The money will follow the passion.

So if you give your best, with a pure heart, the shot will look better and people will relate better to it and maybe buy it. I want to separate the money issue from my passion. Now I can wait as long as I want to get the result which I have visualized.

Are you currently working on any new projects and if so could you tell us about them?

I have approached the Peace Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization who help to establish transfrontier parks between countries to photograph the proposed TF Park free of charge in exchange for free entrance into the areas. I keep the copyright and they are allowed to use some shots for marketing purposes only.

We have been working together since 2002 and curently I am busy with the Kavango/Zambezi TF Park. It comprises of 5 countries. I have already done Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Angola is next in January God willing and then Zimbabwe soon after that.

I understand that you recently came to England to pick up a BBC Wildlife Award for your work. That must be very exciting for any landscape photographer and definitely a feather in your cap. Would you like to tell us about the experience of coming to England and receiving the award and also a little about your images which were being praised?

Since February I have a representative helping me with marketing and Dominique decided to enter a couple of panoramics. The category was called "In praise of plants".I would never have done it on my own because I shoot for my pleasure and do not seek acknowledgement of people. So I was quite surprised to have 2 images receiving the Highly Commended Award.

It was great to experience a society where systems work and to see the energy and enthusiasm with how the BBC and the Natural History Museum have organized everything. I will enter again because it has great marketing value. It seemed as though a lot of photographers knew each other already. The atmosphere was great.

Two of your images on your website have really jumped out at me, possibly because they have the urban elements of rust and decay. They are Evolution 5 and 6, which depict a rusting ship and train in the desert. You have used very dramatic lighting to enhance the overall spooky feel. Can you tell us a little about these panoramas and the subject matters, where you found them and what techniques did you employ to capture these images.

Panoramas - The Bohlen by Koos Van Delande

Everything is about light! The Bohlen is a wreck along the west coast of Namibia. It,s from about 1903 if I am correct. I absolute love old objects in the desert because of the starkness of it. Strong subject. Almost every morning a cold mist is coming from the Atlantic Ocean into the desert. I waited as it started to lift. The sun broke through in patches and also just for seconds at a time. I waited until some light fell on the wreck. Each time it was just one shot. Then I had to wait again for another sunburst. I used a sunset filter to get that rusty old feel.

Panoramas - Train by Koos Van Delande

The same with the train. Standing in the middle of Pretoria, the capital of SA, it was easy to access. Early morning shot with the sun just out of the picture. I used the 8 reflector boards to bounce off some light.

Finally Koos, If you were asked to give a new photographer some advice about the world of landscape photography and shooting panoramas, what would that be?

First of all one must have a passion for the outdoors. Because the nastiest weather produces the best shots. If you do not love the bush you will give up.

Make sure you have a good tripod because often the wind is blowing and closing down the cameras aperture asks for a long exposure. To make sure all is stable, a solid tripod is necessary.

Do not try to squeeze in shots in one afternoon. For every shot there is only one perfect shooting time. Rather have one excellent shot than 3 mediocre ones.

Do not ever compromise on carrying stuff up the mountain or through the sand. Patience, patience! If it is in your heart you will have patience.

Do not try to be somebody else. God has given you your unique fingerprint and heart, so follow that. There is only one of you and your style is unique. Walk, and explore. Only by foot will you find hidden scenes that are very special!