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How to Photograph in the Desert

Updated on January 14, 2014

Soda Lake

(CC BY 2.0
(CC BY 2.0 | Source

"A desert is a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation. About one third of the land surface of the world is arid or semi-arid. This includes much of the polar regions where little precipitation occurs and which are sometimes called "cold deserts". There are a number of ways of classifying deserts including by the amount of precipitation that falls, by the temperature that prevails, by the causes of desertification or by the geographical location of the desert.

Deserts are formed by weathering processes as large variations in temperature between day and night put strains on the rocks which consequently break in pieces".Wikipedia

Photographing a desert is not difficult. What is difficult is working under the harsh conditions that a desert may present not to mention the ever presence sand that can instantly ruin your camera gear if you are not careful and take precautions.

But nevertheless if you have an opportunity of taking some pictures in a desert you should not miss the chance since you can get very pleasant images so long as you do things right and use your creativity.

If you have a desert location near your home or plan on visiting one there are some things to do before you even take your gear out of the bag. Deserts can be beautiful but they can also be quite deathly.

Rub al Khali

CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

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One of the first things that you should do is to research the location. I don't mean taking a glance at a map, you must research access roads, weather patterns, best light times, interesting details and so on.

Next you should plan and prepare a good itinerary including arrival times and departures schedules or if you plan on staying the night to take some awesome night shots, be prepared with the right gear including reliable methods of reaching someone in the event of a misfortune like if you get lost or your way in breaks down.

Next get a good up to date paper map. GPS's sometimes don't work and the batteries can die on you and as strange as this may seem. They can often be out of date and unreliable. Roads which it may have shown may not exits anymore. Look out for landmarks and mark them on the map and give a copy of the map to someone who will stay behind so that all times someone is aware of where you are.

Last but just as important is to have the right gear with you. Most deserts offer wide angle panorama views, there are also opportunities for long shots as well as for macro photography. Having the right gear with you can mean the difference between a "so so" shot and a great one.

Among the gear should be some lint free rags and pressurized air so that you can safely remove sand particles from the lenses as well as any that may get into the body and mess up the digital sensor of film plane. Make sure you have enough batteries, film or memory cards and a reliable data storage piece of equipment too.

Just as important is clothing. Deserts can change from really hot to almost freezing over night so the right clothing is a must. It is best to take layers instead of one main outfit. Layers helps you put on or take off thus helping your body adjust.

Thar Desert

CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

Even if you are thinking that there is nothing to photograph in a desert but sand you can still capture good images by focusing on ripples in the sand, angles and corners often formed when sand dunes meet as well as other interesting details found when you get down to the ground.

Other scenes can be accomplished by focusing on trees and any vegetation that most deserts have including silhouettes.

Pay attention to small critters that often inhabit deserts like scorpions, crickets, lizards and beetles as well as snakes.

Capturing sunsets is always a good choice in photos since there is usually nothing to impede your view.

The Wave - Arizona

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Coral Pink Sand Dunes National Park

Edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link CC BY 2.0
Edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link CC BY 2.0 | Source

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida

      WiccanSage: Thank you

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida

      grand old lady: Thank you

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Very nice tips, and even more beautiful are the photographs. They are breathtaking, and would make wonderful posters, especially the desert photo with the sun and the yellow background. I also like the tumbleweed.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Really beautiful images here. Deserts offer such amazing photo ops. One time I was traveling through the southwest, and the sun was coming up over the desert, it was one of the most breathtaking views of my life.