Almost a millennia ago, Namibia‘s Tsauchab River flooded, creating conditions for a few giraffe thorn trees to grow in a valley now known as Dead Vlei.
Later, huge sand dunes around 1,150 feet high and some of the biggest in the world, like nearby “Big Daddy” and “Crazy Dune,” blocked the river bed and eventually the trees died.
But their unfossilized remains are still standing there 900 years later because the area is too dry for the wood to decompose.
Despite the harsh climate, creatures like the tok-tokkie beetle survive by drinking from the fog, and the oryx antelopes can survive for weeks without drinking, and by eating Nara melons.
The blue sky, black trees, red dunes, and white clay pan floors are a famous sight to behold.
As well as attracting adventurous tourists, the area is popular with photographers, like Marsel van Oosten who created this innovative time lapse series.
Time was of the essence to create this piece. It took Marsel and his team quite some planning to get it right; calculating the exact moment of moon set and capturing the trees in mist, which only happens about five days a year in the Dead Vlei.
It won first prize in the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year Awards, a competition that receives entries from over 100 countries. The contest does not allow videos over 1 minute in length, so this extended version of the video was released later.
And here are some more stunning images of the area by day: