A couple of years ago I noticed that one my friends started posting lots of "Dunes" pictures, they usually consisted of a car or two, a few guys and lots of sand. I wondered what they did in these trips and where did they go to, so he offered me to join him in one of the trips and I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to enjoy the adventure and take better-than-camera-phone pictures, hit the jump for the full pictorial.
This is my friend's car, a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser, fully prepped and modified for such treks, in this picture we have just left the asphalt and were reducing the tire pressure to get a larger footprint and avoid getting stuck in the soft sand.
Camera wise, I chose my 15-85mm lens and skipped everything else for two reasons, knowing that it will be windy, I was not keen to change lenses when there's a chance I might get dust on the sensor (never cleaned it, and hope to never need to), the other reason being the flexibility of the zoom, I knew I will be mostly shooting landscapes with a large DoF, and this lens provided a 24mm equivalent field of view, so the small aperture didn't put me off, I spent most of the time between f/8 and f11, and when I needed to zoom or get a close-up, it also served me well.
Of course with such environments a CPL is a very useful accessory, it really helped enrich the blue hues of the sky and darken the sand's color. The other accessories I took with me were a Manfrotto tripod + a remote shutter release /intervalometer for the night shots (review coming later), a couple of speedlights, the Lumiquest SBIII and a lens cleaning kit.
We spent the night behind the rocks you see in the picture above, it provided a good shelter from the wind. Once we settled in and setup our tents, it was almost sunset time, I took a few pictures of the beautiful violet sky hues like the picture at the top of the post, and the one below.
Once it got dark, I setup my tripod and started taking photos, the most difficult thing was focusing on far away objects in almost complete darkness. During the below shots, I learned that I don't have the patience for long exposures, I hope I can rectify this in the future.
In the photo above I wanted to light the rock to give it a more interesting look, so I setup the camera on the tripod, adjusted the exposure, and asked my friend to release the shutter when I signalled him.
The rock was quite far from the camera, so I left one speedlite with my friend and I took the other, and we agreed that I will signal him with a flash and he will release the shutter, then I will start using my speedlite's test button to light the rock, I had no idea how much light is enough, so I set my flash to full power and kept firing it during the exposure.
As you can see, I didn't really succeed (can you see me to the right of the rock?), and due to the failure of our signaling system and my lack of patience, the above shot was the only one I got. I slept very early that day and resumed shooting the next morning with the sunrise.
I enjoyed that trip very much, and would not hesitate to repeat it anytime. I was also happy with the IS performance of my lens, I took loads of nice shots from inside the car while we were jumping around.