SHOOTING DESERTSCAPES
Asian Photography|June 2021
The sun is beating down on your back, the searing heat penetrates your skin setting it ablaze and you trudge through the sifting sand dragging your heavy, hiking boots-laden feet. As exhausting as it may sound, you know that at the end of this, you are going to walk away with a memory card full of exceptional desert landscapes pictures that would make the unbearable heat and all the ensuing madness worth the while. Pictures of the vast desert in all its glory – whether it’s the changing lines in the sand, the stormy monsoon clouds hanging over the horizon, a herd of camels warily making their way through the unforgivable heat or even the mesmerising star trails that frame the perfect desert skyline. Makes you want to grab your camera and run towards the desert, doesn’t it? The desert forms an integral part of the environment. Preserving its ecosystem is as essential as preserving any other ecosystem of the planet. And desert photography – one of the most underrated forms of photography – is one of the best media to raise awareness about this often overlooked ecosystem. So, for this month, why don’t we dive into Desert Photography and take a look into how we can do our part in desert conservation?
NITYAPRIYA KALIYATH

Research the Place

Now you might be wondering, what’s there to research about desert locations? Wouldn’t it all be the same – rolling sand dunes, scorching heat, and cacti all around? Well, here’s news for you, buster – all desert locations are different! How, you ask?

For one, the landscapes are often different. The cold mountain desert of the Himalayas (Ladakh and Spiti) are cold (duh, obviously) and surrounded by the beauty of the snow-clad Himalayan mountain range. The Thar desert, partly located in Rajasthan, comprises rolling sandhills and is one of the hottest sub-tropical deserts in the world. And if you think deserts are characterised by only golden sand; think again. The vast desert of the Great Rann of Kutch is made of white salt; it’s bright white as far as your eyes can see. Similarly, all over the world, different desert locations have their own unique features. The Sahara Desert is considered to be the largest hot desert in the world while Namib is thought to be the oldest. The deserts of Arizona, meanwhile, have beautiful canyons in shades of orange and pink.

Researching the location will give you a fair idea of the general temperature of the desert, which is very essential when you are packing. Moreover, other than the unique features, you’ll also get to know which the best season to visit is and about the flora and fauna that throngs these barren lands. And yeah, if you don’t want to die, do check out what kind of dangerous animals, such as snakes and scorpions, live there. Safety before photography folks!

Pack Your Essentials

Before we get to the camera and gear, let’s talk about what you are supposed to wear in the desert. Now, this will depend on the location, season, and time. Some deserts are scorching hot while there are somewhere temperatures fall below sub-zero levels and it snows. Hence, pack accordingly.

Deserts are vast stretches of barren land where you might not find a soul in sight. So, first of all, ensure you have enough food and water in your bag pack. Get an idea of nearby towns and locations in case you need help or a fuel/food stop. If you are visiting an extremely remote location, carry a GPS unit as you might not get cellphone services in the desert.

A good rule of thumb would be to wear a trustworthy pair of hiking boots. You don’t want to drag your feet across the sand in open-toed sandals and flip-flops; the desert floor could be littered with prickly needles or hiding dangerous creatures who wouldn’t hesitate to harm you. It’s better to be careful than to be sorry! Likewise, wear pants that cover your legs, a hat to protect your skin, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the direct sunlight. Carry some warm clothes too as night temperatures in deserts dip drastically. And oh, don’t forget to heap on the sunscreen!

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