The Sahara Desert is one of the great natural wonders of the world. It’s a magical and mystical place to photograph that lends itself to beautiful photographs. Whether new to photograph or a seasoned pro the following are a few of my best tips for upping your game when photographing in the Sahara.
1.Sunset and sunrise is king
A prominent adventure photographer once told me that 90% of a great photo is epic scenery and great light. He’s right and the Sahara gives you both so use it. Catch the light early in the morning or late afternoon. 1 hour before sunrise an then the half hour to hour around sunset are the best times. This will help you avoid making the image look flat and really bring out the stunning colors of the desert.
Tip: If you plan to use slower shutter speeds remember to bring a tripod.
2.Lines and Patterns
The desert is filled with interesting lines, patterns and shapes. Use them! Look for those leading lines to draw your eye into the photograph. The texture of the sand can be fascinating. Notice the shapes of the dues, but also look down at the sand in front of you and see what it’s doing.
3.What’s Your Story
Story is important to both convey to the viewer what your photo is about and also for you to remember what was happening during your trip. Landscapes are great, but also photograph the people, camels, critters you see and other elements besides the sand the sky. What’s your experience like in the desert? What is unfolding in front of you? Keep in mind details, medium shots and wide shops. Everything from focus on small elements, to action motions, to the wider picture of what’s happening helps tell your story and experience of the Sahara.
4. Subject or Point of Interest
The vast sand sea of the Sahara can sometimes turn into a repetitive endless landscape of sand. Look for interesting elements or subjects to break up this vast stretch of desert and further tell the story of what’s unfolding (see number 3). Spot an interesting shrub, people, camel, beduoin tent off in the distance. Place these elements thoughtfully in your frame.
5. Use Filters
One of the great landscape photographer tricks is to use filters – graduated filters, neutral density filters, polarizing filters. The help cut the glare and balanced the exposure of the bright sky and dark landscape. Filters will do wonders for taking your photography to the next level. If you’re serious about taking beautiful photos invest in a good set of filters and learn how to use them.
6. Change the Angle
Get low, get high, climb a sand dune, go wide on a camel, lay on the ground. Interesting photos are usually not taken at chest/head height. Instead shift up what people expect and change the angle of your shots. This will go a long way in taking images from point-and-shoot perspective to more interesting, professional images.
About the Author: Genevieve Hathaway is the founder and owner of ArchaeoAdventures. She is also a professional editorial and commercial photographer, having worked with a variety of clients including National Geographic Traveller India, EcoTraveller Guides, G Adventures, Planeterra and the Seattle Opera.