The Quiver tree forest near Keetmanshoop in southern Namibia likely won’t win any awards for accurate advertising.
For a start, they’re not really trees – they’re aloe – although decades and, in some cases, centuries of growth have seen them rival trees in size and shape. Second, to call it a forest is a bit of a stretch and even the moniker ‘wood’ would be a little over optimistic. Still, you can wander between them and when I was trying to find a lone quiver tree to photograph there was always at least one lurking on the background somewhere. But they do quiver, although Wikipedia suggests that the name comes from the fact that local bushmen used their branches to make quivers for hunting.
We were out for our final visit to the forest with the aim of catching the light from the setting sun before settling in for an evening of astrophotography. As I wandered further away the already sparse trees became more isolated and I was immediately struck by a three-trunked tree close to the edge of a plain extending, empty and unyielding, into the distance. The light wasn’t great and the sky was a clear and featureless blue but I made a note to walk back past this tree in a couple of hours thinking that I could add interest to the sky by using a polariser to bring out different shades of blue and then convert to black and white.
Upon my return I have to say that I was pretty happy to find that the sun was now low enough to cast areas of shadow around the tree and light up the wonderfully textured bark. I was even more happy to see that not only were there finally some clouds in the sky but the wind was moving quickly enough for them to blur on a long exposure. In fact, I may have even performed a mini fist pump at my luck, but with no one to witness it, I still have plausible deniability.
The only downside of the 30 second exposure and the wind blowing the clouds across the sky is that I discovered the other reason why the trees are called quiver trees.