The background is a sand dune "tinted orange by the morning sun."
This photograph, called Camel Thorn Trees, was taken at the Namib-Naukluft park in Namibia by Frans Lanting for National Geographic Magazine. The composition, intense colors and a foreshortening effect that flattens the image makes it look more fake than real. (I’m also fooled by the light orange spots in the background – what are those?)
Similar trees and background, shown in a less abstract way.
The above photo looks more "real." It was taken in Dead Vlei, Namibia and submitted to National Geographic by Fedorico Vettorato.
Photo of the Day – Camel Thorn Trees, Namibia, National Geographic>>
The story the photo illustrated is from June 2011: "Africa’s Super Park."