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Photography Question 
John F. Aceti

How to photograph large sand dunes

I will be spending several days in the Sahara desert in Morocco next month and would like to know how to photograph the sand dunes in the morning and at dusk. Many thanks.

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12/24/2008 1:02:27 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  John, I've shot in Sand Dunes in SoCal, you'll want to use a tripod and do NOT change your lens outside....even if you don't see the dust its there. go to google photos of desert scapes

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12/24/2008 2:18:23 PM

Kay Beausoleil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/31/2004
  When I shot in Death Valley, someone told me to use a polarizer. At the time, I didn't understand why, but they sure were right. I tried with and without and got much richer colours with, and I always carry one now. And since it was way back in the film days, I used a warming filter for the dawn work, but now I do the warming in digital postprocessing.

Have a wonderful time!

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12/24/2008 3:10:48 PM

Shoot RAW

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12/24/2008 3:42:20 PM

Dunes are BIG mothers! You'll have problems capturing a whole dune in your frame. That will tempt you to use a wide angle lens, to get everything in the frame. DON'T! A wide angle lens will only make the dune look wider and flatter than it really is.
Better go the exact opposite route: use considerable telephoto, at a considerable distance. Try to get more than one dune in the frame. Because of the telephoto effect they'll "bunch up", they'll look closer to each other than they really are. So you can get more dunes in your frame.

Use a tripod if you can.
Especially if you want to make grand high resolution panoramas by stitching in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. That's very easy, look here:

For some inspiration on dunes photos:

Have fun!

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12/24/2008 9:01:35 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi John, Also dont forget about when you will be shooting. Early as the sun rises & late as it is setting will give you more contrast & shadows. Note the direction of the sun in relation to the area of dunes you want to shoot.
my .02 - Carlton

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12/25/2008 1:41:42 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  All good advice.

Don't forget exposure latitude. This will vary depending on time of day, color of sand, sky conditions.

A split ND, +2 and +4 will come in handy.

You may try your hand at HDR as well.

If that is not an option for you, shoot a few different exposures from a tripod, sandwich them, isolate brights and darks, blend with Adobe or whatever you prefer.


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12/25/2008 7:15:13 PM

Like Pete suggested, HDR may be a good m.o. to handle the high contrast in the desert, John. Shooting RAW will make that easy.

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12/26/2008 9:12:53 AM

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