Today I would like to inspire you to photograph deserts with a twist. Many desert photographs have beautiful rock and/or sand formations with cactus and other desert plants and animals, which are beautiful and I like to photograph these scenes too, but I want to inspire you to think differently while you’re in a desert.
Kevin and I will take off on a road trip to hike in one of our many deserts in Southern California. We pack my photo equipment, food, water, and other necessities in our jeep and head out to our destination. It’s our way to have a great time doing what we love so I’d like to share with you a bit of inspiration.
Wait for the sun to completely set and stay much longer…
If you see cloud formations in the desert then there is a high percentage that there is going to be an amazing photo op after the sun has set. Take full advantage of the sunset and don’t leave after the sun has gone down because you can still get some great shots. In the image below I liked the way the palms lined up. If I had shot this with the sun in the image your eyes would have went straight for the sun and the silhouettes of the palms would have not been the prominent piece in this image. Don’t leave after the sun has gone down behind the horizon.
Palm Tree Sunset
Where is the Sun
The drama of the clouds and the sun behind the poles caught my attention. So while you’re photographing, think about where the sun is. People’s eyes are drawn to the light areas of your image so try to place the sun in a location that will enhance your subject….then change it up in post to give it your own creative twist.
Look for texture/patterns
Clouds can be really fun in the desert – they can add some fun texture to an image. I like electrical wires and poles and when I noticed how cool the clouds were, I shot this through the sunroof of our jeep. It’s a fun image to remind us of the awesome time we had that day. Pay attention to the clouds.
Again, sunset, electrical lines, desert = fun, different, and creative photography.
You may like something different than electric poles. Pay attention to other things in the desert and work from that. You can start a new portfolio on your interests. Each time you go to a different desert, see what interests you and photograph it in different ways. Change the perspective or color until you’re happy with what you’ve done and keep at it.
Mecca Electric Poles
Shoot in the middle of the day
If the only time you have to photograph is in the middle of the day, don’t let that discourage you. When I saw this field in a desert, I was shocked…farmland in a desert? I had Kevin drive by it and slowed my shutter speed just a bit for motion blur on the fields but kept the dry hills behind sharp. It was the middle of the day and there were no clouds in the sky, so I decided to darken the sky with a gradient, which worked well because I had so much going on in the foreground. The clouds would have made this too busy. Making the photo a black and white just enhances the texture and pattern of the farmland. Have fun and photograph in the day! It will challenge you to be creative.
Next time you plan a trip to the desert, don’t just photograph the basic landscapes. You can also have fun with different subject matter, paying attention to other things in a desert and keeping at it. If you like windmills or casinos or hiking trails for leading lines, etc… pay attention to everything around you. Next, change-up the color in post or desaturate the colors, and play, play, play to add a new twist to your desert images.