Desert Photography and Digital Cameras

Getting Great Pictures

In principal, a digital camera is similar to a traditional film-based camera. There's a viewfinder to aim it, a lens to focus the image onto a light-sensitive device, some means by which several images can be stored and removed for later use, and everything is fitted into a camera body. In a conventional camera, light-sensitive film captures images and is used to store them after chemical development. Digital photography uses a combination of advanced image sensor technology and memory storage chip, which allows images to be captured in a digital format that is available instantly.

The picture quality of a digital camera depends on several factors, including the optical quality of the lens and image-capture chip, compression algorithms, and other components. However, the most important determinant of image quality is the resolution of the CCD. The more elements (mega pixels), the higher the resolution, and the greater the detail that can be captured.

Getting a good digital camera does not make you a good photographer. We have a series of articles in our archives that will help you get better pictures. We have also included a few tips from Kodak on how to take great pictures, of desert wildflowers, landscapes and park landmarks.

Tips for taking great desert pictures.


Flowers charm and enchant the eye with their dazzling colors and delightful shapes. Here are some tips to help make your flower pictures equally charming and enchanting.

Use a simple background
Find a position that provides a plain, non-competing background. Or place a black or pleasingly colored cardboard behind the flower.

Get close
If your camera has a close-up focusing mode, use it and get as close as the camera manual suggests. With a digital camera, use the display screen to compose the picture. Accessory close-up lenses are mandatory for dedicated flower photographers.

Get close to the flowers you want to photograph

Shoot at different angles
Vary the level of your viewpoint. Shoot down to create attractive pinwheel patterns of daisies; kneel to the level of other flowers, such as tulips and daffodils.

Use creative lighting
Observe the lighting on your flowers. Backlighting shining through some flowers gives them an appealing glow. Cloudy-day lighting reveals subtle hues.

Control the wind
Is the wind tossing the wildflowers about? Use a piece of cardboard to block the wind. Choose your camera angle so the cardboard doesn't show in the picture. Or choose a colored board and position it to block the wind and to serve as the background.


Instead of just making a record of a scenic landscape, you can create truly impressive landscape pictures with these suggestions.

Include a strong point of interest
Your eye needs a place to rest in the picture, so include something of interest—a clump of colorful flowers, a cloud in the sky, a mountain, a tree, a boat.

Include an interesting object in the foreground
A branch, a boulder, a fence—include an object in the foreground to add depth to your picture.

Objects in the foreground will add interest to your landscape

Place the point of interest off-center
The picture will be more interesting if the horizon or your point of interest is not in the center of the picture. Put the horizon a third of the way down from the top (or up from the bottom) of the frame, or the subject a third of the way in from the left or right. Experiment until you find a composition that appeals to you.

Include people for scale
The cliff may not look all that big, especially in a photo—until you put a person next to it. In some scenes, including a person adds a sense of awe by showing the sheer size of your subject.

Use lines to lead the eye
Lines, such as a road, a river, or a fence, direct attention into your picture. Select a spot or an angle where major lines in the scene lead your eye toward the main center of interest.

Wait for the right light
The best light is in the early morning, shortly after sunrise, or late afternoon when the sun is low. Noonday sunlight is harsh and less appealing, so if you have the option, take pictures early or late in the day.


National parks and state parks with their bounty of wildlife, grand scenery, and beautiful details offer plenty of picture-taking opportunities.

Capture the landmarks
Most parks are known for some special feature—a geyser, a mountain, a waterfall, a scenic view. Make sure you take at least one picture of that distinctive site.

Use the same landscape tips mentioned above as you photograph the park, include a strong point of interest, make it off center, and set up your shot in vertical thirds to keep it interesting. Including people for scale, being aware of the lighting, and noticing the lines in the landscape will add to your composition.


Take extra batteries and memory cards
Wouldn't you be crushed if your camera stopped? What if you filled up your memory card right at the crucial moment? The night before, check the batteries in your camera and snap a few pictures to make sure everything is working. Pack extra batteries and memory cards to take with you.

Use the self-timer
Don't forget to get into some of the pictures yourself. Set your camera on a flat surface or a tripod. Check what you're aiming at in the viewfinder, then set the camera's self-timer so you can join the scene after you press the shutter button. Read your camera manual for detailed instructions on the self-timer.

Fill in with flash
If your family is standing in a shadow and the scenery behind them is in sunlight, turn on the flash to balance out the scene. This also reduces harsh shadows on faces.

Use a zoom lens
Your camera's built-in zoom may not be enough to make a wild animal more than a speck in your frame. Check to see if your camera accepts accessory lenses. If so, bring along a telephoto or zoom lens (and an adapter if necessary) to capture that wandering moose or bear. Follow park rules and don't approach wild animals.

Take pictures, even in bad weather
Don't let rainy days discourage you from taking pictures. Polished by the rain, colors seem to glow. On overcast days, try to include a spot of color to brighten your picture.

Turn off your flash
For more effective lighting when you're outside in dim light and your subject isn't within flash range (more than about 10 feet away), turn off your flash and capture the scene in the existing light. Hold your camera extra steady or use a tripod.

Capture a panorama
If your camera has a panoramic format mode (P), you can use it to capture the grandeur of a wide vista.

Avoid distractions
Is there a trash can in the foreground? A telephone wire overhead? Check everything in the viewfinder and reposition yourself to eliminate distractions.

Take plenty of pictures
Every professional knows that the potential for success increases when more pictures are taken. Think about some rare scenes you'll encounter; without film all you need is lots of memory chips which are far less expensive than a missed opportunity.

More articles on Desert Photography


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