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Umm al-Ma - a 'Classic Oasis'

Umm al-Ma - a 'Classic Oasis'
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-04-06
Categories: Desert
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM
Exposure: f/9.0, 1/400 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-12-09 6:27
Viewed: 9470
Points: 42
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
The Ubari Lakes are in the deep Sahara and present one with a the 'classic' picture of an oasis - but in fact this type of oasis, surrounded by sand, is very rare. More unusually, the lakes are several hundred feet above the level of the rocks on sand - I assume there must be a band of impermeable clay which traps the water which sometimes falls on the surrounding, massive, dumes.

PHOTOGRAPHIC NOTE - the air was thick with dust throughout our time in the Libyan Sahara - hence the pinkish sky and paler colours.

This lake is Umm al-Ma, meaning Mother of Water.

There are at least 11 lakes in this area, deep out into the softest and largest sandy desert. Unfortunately, a lowering water table (caused by the Inland River Project to the south?) is drying up several of them.

The salt levels are extremely high, and can be compared with the Dead Sea. This makes swimming easy, but you must make sure you have no rash or wounds before jumping in (we didn't).

Idehan Ubari (the Ubari Sand Sea) is another enormous expanse of sand that is similar in size to Idehan Murzuq it stretches almost to Ghadhames, 500km to the northwest. It seems to have a different topology to Murzuq, with vast panoramas of smaller dunes rolling like the waves in a Hokusai print, but it is every bit as breathtaking. In the late afternoon sun, the shades of colour change constantly depending on the angle of the light and the shape of the dunes. Some 50km up Wadi Gebraoun is the area of the Ubari Lakes, their beautiful stretches of water surrounded by reeds, date palms and tamarisk trees nestling under high ridges of sand. Sunrise in Gebraoun is stunning cool, with translucent blue dawn skies,


In geography, an oasis (plural: oases) or cienega (southwestern United States) is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source. Oases also provide habitat for animals and even humans if the area is big enough.

The location of oases has been of critical importance for trade and transportation routes in desert areas. Caravans must travel via oases so that supplies of water and food can be replenished. Thus, political or military control of an oasis has in many cases meant control of trade on a particular route. For example, the oases of Awjila, Ghadames and Kufra, situated in modern-day Libya, have at various times been vital to both North-South and East-West trade in the Sahara desert. The word oasis came into English via Greek ὄασις oasis, borrowed directly from Egyptian wḥ3t or Demotic wḥỉ. It was not borrowed from Coptic ouaḥe, as is sometimes suggested; the Greek word is attested several centuries before Coptic existed as a written language.

The Huacachina oasis in Ica, PeruOases are formed from underground rivers or aquifers such as an artesian aquifer, where water can reach the surface naturally by pressure or by man made wells. Occasional brief thunderstorms provide subterranean water to sustain natural oases, such as the Tuat. Substrata of impermeable rock and stone can trap water and retain it in pockets; or on long faulting subsurface ridges or volcanic dikes water can collect and percolate to the surface. Any incidence of water is then used by migrating birds who also pass seeds with their droppings which will grow at the waters edge forming an oasis.

uleko, SelenE, Evelynn, eng55, mohaiminawang, boreocypriensis, cataclysta, jaycee, siggi, nglen, zulfu, Dis. Ac., CeltickRanger, eqshannon, rcrick, Argus, soccer has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-12-09 7:17]

Hello James,
Fantastic to see a picture of a lake in the Sahara!! It looks so beautiful surrounded by the light sand and green palms. The little bird is a bonus but I'm surprise they visit such a salty lake. A lovely composition showing great details and beautiful colours.
Many thanks and regards, Ulla

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-12-09 7:19]

Hi James,
Looks like a dream... Soft lighting, warm colors tones, DOF, POV, textures, composition and the scenery look lovely. Exposure is very well controlled. TFS
All the best,

dear james, excellent composition and pov. looks like paradise on earth...

Hi James,

My mental image of an oasis always was of a much smaller body of water. It does feel incongruous to have all that water surrounded by sand. I do understand about clay... I can dig a hole here and fill it with water to soften the soil and days later still have it full of water!!! How discouraging it must have been for travellers to see such a sight and find it salty. What good is that!? I don't remember seeing anything growing around the edges of salty lakes.

The dusty/sandy air makes the image feel genuine. Don't change any lenses! I like the pov you chose, looking way down the lake. I also like the inclusion of foreground foliage. The lone duck is a nice touch.

Evelynn : )

  • Great 
  • eng55 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1256 W: 42 N: 1976] (5892)
  • [2008-12-09 8:42]

Hi James,
Beautiful landscape.POV,soft lighting,exposure,DOF and use of perspective are perfect.
Thanks for posting.

Hi James,

The Palm trees at the water edge give a strong impact of this image- indicate the scale and nice perspective with yellow sand BG. Great POV and compo.TFS.


Hi Bro James,
Wonderful scene capture of an oassis from Sahara. Wonderful composition and colours.
TFS and cheers,

Hi James
Another fantastic place. Your photo is perfectly composed with good exposure and great depth of view
As always fantastic
Best wishes

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-12-09 9:31]

Hi James,

This scene MUST have been used in movies! When I think of the word "oasis" I think of something that looks just like this. It is so beautiful. A wonderful composition showing the sand leading to the water completely surrounded by the palms and bushes. It looks like you even captured a duck or a bird as an added bonus.


  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2008-12-09 10:18]

Hello James,
very nice scenery and great composed.
nice sharpness and well captured.
thanks and regards

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-12-09 12:04]

Hi James. This is a fantastic compostion. Just out of a film set. My eyes are taken up into the picture following the water. I like the ferns in the forground. and the soft colours. A surprise to see a duck type loooking bird. well done TFS , Interesting notes too.

  • Great 
  • zulfu Gold Star Critiquer [C: 685 W: 0 N: 2] (43)
  • [2008-12-09 13:15]

Hello James, wonderful landscape shot. Details, colours and composition are great.
TFS and G's,

Hi James,

very nice landscape picture with good pov and beautiful clarity colours.
Very good notes too.


hello James

very beautiful image of this Oasis with soft colours,
fine POV, DOF and framing, i love (the point) in the image far
where the lake goes, TFS

ciao James, fantastic composition with splendid lake in a desert, wonderful light and colors, I like a lot, ciao Silvio

  • Great 
  • demeve Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 586 W: 12 N: 1682] (6165)
  • [2008-12-09 16:16]

Hello James,
This is fantastic! Great POV, this Oasis is so beautiful,
everything looks so right in place.. Great sharpness and
excellent composition... Well done


I have heard of these many times...since a child...but never one time did I look it up...only had ideas in my memories...now you have made what was almost a fantasy come true..You're good at that....You're good at almost everything you do on TN! Serious....I find myself a slight bit depressed as of late with fog..I have mentioned it before the last days...and my lack of gear now is sad...but as my mother said "All things come to those who wait"...I hope barrack Obama pays off my debts:-) HA!

Hello James,

Mate I can see you've been busy I've missed so many postings whilst I've been away, this is an excellent shot. Love the colours with the sand and the palms, beautiful reflection just adds to the whole image, and the way the lake disappears of in the distance, and the foreground grasses and palms really do frame this so well, perfect POV, really nice work,

All the best Cheers Rick :)

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-12-10 6:52]

Hello James,
A fine, well composed shot of an Oasis taken in fine lighting. As the salinity is high it must be useless as a watering place, though there is some vegetation and a duck seems to be resting on the water.
TFS this and the informative note,

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-12-10 20:05]

Hello James, brilliant shot with superb details. Great landscape and with lovely lighting and colors. Ganesh

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-12-11 13:11]

An almost surreal scene :-)
This must look like heaven for all those parched animals out there... until they taste the salt!!
Excellent composition.
Lovely colours.
Very sharp.

Well done,

p.s the 10D has been a life-saver recently... my 400D has been shipped off with my 100-400mm to get repaired! :-)


An excellent example of an oasis indeed. Amazing to see something like this. I enjoy your DOF, POV and sharpness of the image.

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