There’s nothing quite like a desert landscape at sunset. Streaks of pink, yellow, and orange streaming across the blue sky, silhouetting a Saguaro in the Sonoran desert – it’s an image that will stay with you forever, especially if you’re a photographer!
But photographing in the desert brings its own unique set of challenges. Whether you’re photographing a desert near you, or going on an expedition across America – or even internationally – you need to be prepared with the right gear, equipment, techniques and safety precautions.
A UV filter will protect your lens from damage, and it will also help eliminate glare, lens flare, and visual artifacting when you take pictures in the bright sun. A lens hood is also useful for protecting against glare, alongside a UV filter. In addition, if you have a polarizer filter, this can be a good tool for bringing out more contrast in the bright, sunny desert – providing you with better results from your shoot.
Of course, you can shoot photos in the desert whenever you want. But during the brightest, hottest times of the day, it will be hard to capture detail like light and shadow – and this is also the most dangerous time to be out in the hot sun. If you’re looking to capture truly exquisite shots of the desert, try to focus on taking photos mostly in the early morning or late evening – when it will be cooler outside, and the rays of the sun will bring out more detail in the desert scene.
When the sun is close to the horizon during the evening and morning, make sure you do not shoot with it directly behind you. Your photos will look the best when there is a balance between light and shadow, which brings out hidden details in the image.
When the sun shines from directly behind you, your subject will be completely illuminated, with few visible shadows from the perspective of the camera. For this reason, you should try to point your camera perpendicular to the angle of the sunlight – allowing for more shadows to be cast, and creating a sense of depth.
Find a subject or Landscape that allows for a sense of scale. This is very important in desert photography. a phot of a sweeping expanse of dunes can be interesting but without some kind of reference point that allow for a sense of scale, the vast desert will not look as interesting. That’s why you should always look for opportunities to incorporate object into your photos that provide you a sense of scale. In the foreground, for example a large stone or a cactus could help put your shot into perspective. Background objects , such a s large stone massifs, cliffs and monoliths and hills and mountains can also have the same effect.