Shooting deserts can a great choice for landscape photographers who like adventures. Even though the weather conditions in deserts can be quite harsh, the variety of stunning scenery and surreal quality of light can make desert photographs truly gorgeous.
Deserts aren’t always devoid of life – many of them include various plants, animals and eye-catching geology which can make photos dynamic and challenging in terms of composition.
The following 5 tips will help you get ready for an adventurous desert shoot!
Note: For other landscape scenarios, start with our article on landscape photography ideas.
1. Get prepared properly
Have in mind that it’s not easy to shoot in the desert – you need to choose the proper time to visit based on your temperature tolerance. Deserts can be extremely hot sometimes, even deadly for those who aren’t well-prepared. You need to have a hat to shield you from the sun, enough water to stay hydrated, sunglasses and sunscreen.
When it comes to gear, desert photography isn’t really different from landscape photography in general. Yo’ll need a few lenses ranging from wide angle to telephoto, tripod, cable release, filters like polarizers or graduated neutral density filters. If you plan to shoot the desert at night you should have a flash unit too.
2. Look for patterns and textures
Desert landscapes can be minimal and arid sometimes, but in many locations you can still find cacti, interesting geology, small animals or maybe nomad tribes. This means that your desert photographs can feature a variety of colors, unusual rocks and abstract patterns.
Be a careful observer and look for leading lines and interesting patterns that can strengthen the composition of your photographs.
3. Shoot when the sun is low
In order to avoid overexposed and overly flat images, it’s best to shoot this kind of landscapes when the sun is low. Because of this, it can be a great decision to visit the desert in the wintertime when the days are shorter and the sun’s position is low most of the day.
The low angle of sun creates great lighting because the shadows emphasize the shapes and textures of dunes, rocks and desert flora.
4. Experiment with nighttime desert photography
If you want to try out something different when it comes to desert photography, you should wait for the night to fall and unravel another kind of beauty. The night sky in the desert is usually very clear and it can be a great occasion for astrophotography. Combining the beauty of dunes and stars can yield gorgeous landscape shots.
You can experiment with longer exposures until you obtain the perfect image of the sky above the desert.
If you have a flash, you don’t have to stick to astrophotography – you can shoot rocks, plants and dunes illuminated by your artificial source of light. Even portrait photography can be truly unique if shot at night in the desert.
5. Play with perspective
Don’t take only those typical postcard-like shots in the desert!
If you don’t want to end up with a bunch of similar photos with the horizon in the middle, shoot from a variety of angles. For example, getting low while capturing a wide angle will give you the chance to emphasize the foreground and details such as small plants or pretty colorful stones. On the other hand, if you want wide-open panoramic shots, you should shoot from slightly higher ground.
You don’t have to include the sky in each and every of your desert shots. If you focus on the shape of dunes and exclude the sky, you can create some wonderful abstract imagery.
Desert photography is a wonderful way to capture the magic of these puzzling landscapes made of sand. If you organize your trip to the desert properly, you can enjoy a creative and rewarding photo adventure.
If you want to learn more about other types of landscape photography, make sure to check out the following links!