Photography in the Atacama Desert

posted in: Chile, General, Photography, South America, Travel | 2

6 days 2 dudes and 1 goal – capturing the breathtaking Atacama Desert in Chile.

In January, fellow explorer Philippe and ExpediTom went to Chile and Argentina for a once in a lifetime adventure. Despite offering amazing insights into new cultures and explorations of unknown landscapes, this travel left me with an unimaginable pile of data to work through. Here I want to present a selection of images from the Atacama Desert with some advice on photography in such inhospitable conditions. But first, let us look at some images:

The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth. Some locations have not seen rain for more than 15 years. Therefore, vegetation is scarce to none existent and is compensated by the abundant sand and bare rocks. Although the scarcity might suggest not much to offer in terms of photography, however the opposite is the case: The bareness and lack of mostly everything allows to appreciate the uniqueness of the desert.

It comes as no surprise, that this clime is not very suitable for delicate photography gear and a few thoughts deserve consideration. What equipment do I need? Where do you change lenses to avoid dust on the sensor? How do you keep your equipment clean?

Photography equipment for the Atacama desert

Regarding the equipment, I used mostly the fast wide-angle prime Sigma 16mm f1.4. This lens is not only my favourite for astrophotography, but also offers extreme sharpness and a lovely sun star when stopped down to f16. This makes it a perfect landscape photography lens.

The second lens I recommend is a telephoto lens for wildlife photography. This allows you to extract certain elements of the landscape and gives you the opportunity to show the scale better. Owning the Tamron 18-200mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, I took this one with me. However, if you can afford more expensive lenses such as the Sony G-Master 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 you should definitely go for that one.

To change lenses, I always went into the car to prevent any dust entering the body of the camera.

Apart from the named lenses, which are the most crucial part of your photography equipment, I would suggest you take a trustworthy camera body such as the Sony A6500. I took all images with this camera. Next, a sturdy tripod is a must and do not forget to take cleaning equipment with you: Camera dust cleaner, sensor cleaning swipes and a micro fibre towel.

The desert is unforgiving in this respect.

Do want to see the video about night timelapse in the Atacama desert? Click here!

Do you have any questions about photography in the Atacama Desert? Have you been there before? Do you plan to go there?

2 Responses

  1. Rewind 2018: Small fish, big travels and ShutterTom - ExpediTom

    […] After this trek, we drove all the way back spending time at the Perito Moreno Glacier, hitchhiking back with a Brazilian couple to catch the bus just in time. Next we visited Torres del Paine – notoriously known for bad weather. We had sunshine and moderate winds (read: blew me away). We continued all the way up north into the Atacama Desert for star gazing, camping, and altitude endurance testing. […]

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