Photography lessons learned in the desert

Photography lessons learned in the desert

Leslie photographing in Joshua Tree

Just less than 2 weeks ago, I was in Joshua Tree National Park, exploring and searching for the perfect image for a future notebook collection. What a joy it was to be doing it while basking in the warm sun. Armed with only limited self-taught photography skills and no previous experience shooting in the desert, I took note and learned a few things about each part of the day as they related to my photography mission. Here’s what I recorded in my trusty travel-journal.

Sunrise: You really have to be at your destination well before the sun actually rises, because the sky is magical with its fast-changing colours as the sun makes its way to the horizon. And when it does, the light is extremely warm and very bright (side note: trying to capture sunrise without looking into the sun is quite the challenge!). Metering for the right exposure is tricky, and takes time along with several attempts, so it’s a good idea to scope out the locale beforehand and have some ideas ready to implement when Mr. Sun wakes up. I found that the 3 hours after sunrise was great for photographing landscapes and people in the desert. Don’t forget to turn around and look behind you and other angles if you’d been focused on one particular shot.

Mid-day: This period of time includes late morning to mid-afternoon, and during these hours, the light is harsh. Many things appear dark and images often turn out with lots of contrast without the saturated colours you see in real life. When the sun was high in the sky, I looked for cool shapes for visually appealing shots, did close-ups of nature’s various things, and used fill flash whenever people were my subjects. Lots of exploring took place with less focus on trying to find the perfect shot.

Sunset: The sunlight is perfect starting around 2 hours leading up to sunset, but when the sun approaches the horizon, it gets dark fairly quickly. While the sun is still up but low, there are lots of amazing silhouettes and it’s the opportune time to create moody pictures. The enchanting skies at sunset makes the most mesmerizing backdrop for mountains and trees. I captured incredible images without even trying that hard.

I did some research before the trip – found shots on the internet that I wanted to imitate, but in the end, I really had to use my own creativity for many reasons. Here are a few shots I ended up with that are worth considering for a future notebook cover. Which one do you think has potential?

Cholla Cactus Garden at sunriseDriving through Joshua Tree National Park in mid-dayHidden Valley at sunset

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