Best Techniques for Perfecting Your Desert Photography

by Eren Kampman

Desert landscapes include an exciting variety of plants, animals, and geology.  They are the perfect location for landscape and nature photographers.

This article is full of tips and techniques to help you take stunning desert pictures.

Essential Gear for Desert Photography

Desert photography is similar to landscape photography. You have to pack the equipment you are sure you will need.

This can include:

  • Lenses ranging from wide-angle to telephoto,
  • A tripod,
  • Cable release,
  • Filters like a polariser or graduated neutral density,
  • A focus loupe,
  • A flash unit if you want to add light,
  • Extra batteries,
  • Extra SD cards,
  • A multi-tool.

And make sure you have a garbage bag with you!

Many desert plant species have adapted defensive mechanisms in the form of needles. In some locations, the ground is littered with them. Camera care is important, and setting your bag on the ground or in the sand can create problems later. It is better to place it in the garbage bag.

Choosing Lenses for Desert Photography

Wondering what lens you’ll need is a valid question. My opinion is, “whatever you can carry.”  If you need to keep weight in check, limit your lens choice to fewer lenses with greater coverage. I carry 16-35mm, 28-70mm, and 80-200mm as my three main lenses and they all get used.

The desert landscape consists of endless sand and sky. It’s natural to want to capture it all in one frame with a wide-angle lens. While there are plenty of subjects where this lens is a perfect choice, consider using a telephoto lens as well.

Remember, a wide-angle lens makes the foreground appear larger. A telephoto brings the distant background closer to the viewer by zooming in.

A telephoto lens is also valuable when you observe a subject far away. Here, the foreground is not interesting, so it’s best left out while zooming in on a specific area.

Captured in Valley, this detailed shot of distant hills needed a 300mm lens. It was the best way to get close enough and leave out the surroundings.

Use Classic Composition Methods to Add Depth and Interest

The desert landscape is rich with subjects to photograph. But if you are new to these dry, desolate locations, finding a great subject and composition may take some time.

Recall the most common composition strategies in landscape photography. You can find the same ones in the desert as well.

Look for leading lines, curves, patterns, textures, objects, framing, forced perspective, one-third placement. If you keep these in mind, you will find a worthy subject in no time.

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