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12-05-2006, 08:29 AM   #1
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Any experiences photographing in a desert?

In a few weeks I'll be trekking (on foot) through central Sahara and I found myself in dilemma, which camera and lenses to take with me. The thing that worries me the most is sand. I've never been in desert yet so I don't know the circumstances that rule there. Therefore I would appreciate any advice how to handle with the equipment, how to protect it against weather conditions and sand. And of course any advice about photographing, what precautions to take, as desert has its own specifics and different time of the year has its specific light.

While I was still waiting for K10D, there was no dilemma that I'll take two slr cameras - each one with it's own lens that I don't need to change them - and plenty of dia films. But since I've got the new toy, and seeing the results, I have a great wish to take it with me but at the same time I'm worried if something goes wrong (due to sand, filling batteries, image tank, carrying all the stuff all day long, security, etc. )

Thanks a lot in advance!

12-05-2006, 09:19 AM   #2
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Not a lot of desert experience, but I have been once in Morocco and twice in Namibia.

Sand is the biggest problem in the desert. Take your equipment out of the bag only when needed and leave it in the bag in case of wind. Sand carried wind can really damage equipement. The people in the group which wanted to take photos nevertheless had the front lens completly scratched, so an UV filter on all lenses is strongly adviced.

Well, it sounds silly, I have been told that the only way to protect photo equipment against sand in the desert would be to use an underwater box for the camera...

I had problems with sand with an MZ-5 in Morocco, but was not cautious enough. I wanted to take photos despite the wind.

I was much more paying attention to the sand with the *istD in Namibia and only took the camera out when needed and put it back immediately. I had no problem at all. Equipment resisted without any problem.

You may find the photos of the Namibian trip on Namibia Photo Gallery by Dominique Schreckling at pbase.com if interested.

The best time to make photos in the desert is early morning and late evening. Then you get a lot of structures and different colours on sand dunes which all becomes quite flat and dull during day time.

I frequently used a circular pol filter in the desert back in film days to get better blue skies. But now with the digital cameras, I find the effect of these filters too strong.

Hope I could help.
12-05-2006, 10:40 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by tcom:
...so an UV filter on all lenses is strongly advised.
Sounds like taking an extra or two would be worthwhile.

QuoteOriginally posted by tcom:
Well, it sounds silly, I have been told that the only way to protect photo equipment against sand in the desert would be to use an underwater box for the camera...
Another excellent suggestion. Too bad housings are so expensive for the Pentax bodies.

QuoteOriginally posted by tcom:
You may find the photos of the Namibian trip on Namibia Photo Gallery by Dominique Schreckling at pbase.com if interested.
What a beautiful country! Makes me want move Namibia up to near the top of the list of countries to visit in the future. Closest I've been is northern South Africa. You've captured the essence of the Namibia.

QuoteOriginally posted by tcom:
The best time to make photos in the desert is early morning and late evening. Then you get a lot of structures and different colours on sand dunes which all becomes quite flat and dull during day time.
Good point. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
12-05-2006, 04:16 PM   #4
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I lived in the Sahara for a couple of years (Agadez, Niger to be exact). This was back in the film days. I had no camera problems in the years I was there, and only had one roll of film that had scratches from sand in the back of the camera. Take the K10d, it's weatherized.

1. Use a UV filter like someone else said
2. Keep your camera in a zip-lock bag except when actually taking pictures
3. If you change film, or a memory card, or a battery, do so late at night or early in the morning when the wind is the least. Otherwise, do it inside a closed vehicle, or house. If you are staying at hotels, do it in the bathroom after you've run the shower for several minutes. The moisture will do a pretty good job of cleaning the dust out of the air.
4. Just like anywhere, early morning and evening best for the light. Avoid taking pictures middle of the day, there just isn't enough shadow definition. Everything will look flat
5. Ask before taking pictures of people. Most are very superstitious.
6. Take a blower brush, or canned air or something, and clean your gear at least daily

If you are going to the Sahara in a couple of weeks, you will be in the height of harmatan season....constantly blowing wind, sand, etc. Sometimes it's denser than fog. No matter how much you try EVERYTHING will be covered in sand.

Enjoy....

12-06-2006, 09:10 PM   #5
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Thanks a lot to both of you for useful information and advices
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