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Thread: How to shoot sand dunes

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    New Delhi, India

    How to shoot sand dunes


    I plan to visit Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (India). I want to shoot sand dunes there, specially in B/W. I use Ilford FP-4film for my 4X5 B/W.

    Despite being very close to Rajasthan I have never seen sand Dunes or desert before. I need your advice for filters I should carry with me.
    Any other important advice regarding exposure or shooting in desert in general is very much welcome.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    You'll need good shadows, so early morning or late afternoon. Otherwise you will not get any textures and separations.
    Now, if you shoot on the sand, you might want to set your tripod on plates to provide stability and prevent the tripod to sink in.
    Sand dunes in active field are quite amazing and form generally in a windy place. Most wind and flying sand on the crests of the dunes. Less wind and flying sand in between dunes where hard ground is present. Keep in mind the dunes move, so where there's hardground you might find bone fragments/teeth of animals that died a long time ago, and which have been coverred by the moving dunes. Depending where you are (dont know if it will be there), you can find stones in circle where people made fires hundreds of years ago, or even artifacts. Look for wind carved stones. You might even see root casts (remaines of roots sticking out from the ground). After some rain (yes it happens), the wind will carve out and expose the patterns from the internal structures of the dunes.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2000

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    The advice from Stephane are all very good. If there is wind, I would recommend that you take a cloth or bag to protect your equipment from the flying sand. For instance, fine sand particles can enter the shutter mechanism and cause serious problems.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    Dunes are all one color, therefore very flat in tonality, even when in bright sun. Expose and develop using your setup for N+ or N++.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Currently New York

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    Early morning and late afternoon are great times in the desert, and not just for making photographs, but this was shot mid-day and worked out fine. I probably had a polarizer on the lens.

    As you can see from this photograph, deserts are like anywhere else. Sometimes it's windy, sometimes it isn't. Personally, I'm not interested in taking photographs in a windstorm, and I think you'll find, if you look, that most photographs of sand dunes have been taken in calm conditions.

    As Stephane says, if you pay attention to the ground you are liable to find all kinds of artifacts. In the Middle East and in North Africa, pottery fragments are everywhere, and local people can show you places where people have carved images or words into rocks. It wouldn't surprise me if India is the same. You may also come across very small flowers, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, low to the ground.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Massachusetts USA

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    Red filter. Orange filter.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Westminster, MD

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    You may wish to use an incident exposure meter as well.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    Black and white or color? For black and white no filter is needed. If you want that typical b&w dunes look with deep shadow and bright highlight patterns meter for the shadows as usual, stop down two stops (Zone III) then meter the highlights. If dunes in India are like the ones in the U.S. (e.g. Death Valley, Oregon coast) you'll find surprisingly little difference early in the morning, only about two stops. Which means the highlights won't be bright enough with normal development, you'll need to develop at least plus one or plus two. Assuming that's the look you want of course.

    For color, I don't know. I've never photographed dunes in color.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Ontario CA

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    I use the lids from those plastic storage containers as plates on the feet of my tripod. Cut a small hole in the middle, push 'em onto the spike, and you're good to go.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: How to shoot sand dunes

    Edward Weston's advice to Ansel Adams for shooting the dunes in Death Valley was to use a medium yellow filter, but don't use any filter factor.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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