Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, scattered with hundreds of dead Acacia trees that once thrived when water from the Tsauchab River soaked this piece of land. Some 900 years ago the river diverted its course, leaving Dead Vlei literally high and dry. Dead Vlei has been claimed to be surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters which rest on a sandstone terrace.
The clay pan was formed after rainfall, when the Tsauchab river flooded, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area. The trees died, as there no longer was enough water to survive. There are some species of plants remaining, such as salsola and clumps of nara, adapted to surviving off the morning mist and very rare rainfall. The remaining skeletons of the trees, which are believed to be about 900 years old, are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. Though not petrified, the wood does not decompose because it is so dry.
The stunning picture was made at dawn when the warm light of the morning sun was illuminating a huge red sand dune dotted with white grasses while the white floor of the clay pan was still in shade. It looks blue because it reflects the color of the sky above. "Because of the contrast between the shady foreground and the sunlit background I used a two-stop graduated filter which reduced the contrast", said photographer Frans Lanting. "The perfect moment came when the sun reached all the way down to the bottom of the sand dune just before it reached the desert floor. I used a long telephoto lens and stopped it all the way down to compress the perspective".