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Merzouga Sand Dunes

These sprawling, golden-color sand dunes create an enthralling, breathtaking and inviting vista for as far as the eye can see. The remote dunes, accented by dramatic shadows in the early morning and late afternoon, make this area of the Sahara a landscape photographer’s paradise.

Where: In the Moroccan Sahara, bordering the town of Merzouga.

When: Between October and April, when the weather is cooler than it is in summer.

Photography: My #1 tip is to set out before sunrise and to stay out until after sunset – so you can capture the interplay between light and shadows. Hire a guide (which you can arrange at your riad/hotel, or in advance with a travel agency), so you don’t need to worry about getting lost in the dunes. A guide can take you into the dunes by foot, by 4x4 or by dromedary – locally called a camel.

Speaking of 4x4s and camels, you’ll mostly likely find lots of tracks on the dunes. For somewhat pristine shots, you’ll need to compose your photos so the prints are hidden from view, or spend time cloning out the prints in Photoshop or Lightroom. You can also embrace the situation and picture the dunes as they are, as I did in several situations.

If you want to walk in the dunes, plan on trudging through thick sand, which can be exhausting, especially when you are hiking up a tall dune.

No matter how you go, bring a bottle of water! And don't forget a hat and sunscreen.

To capture the sweeping views, sometimes dotted with small groups of tourists riding camels, I’d suggest using a zoom lens in the 15-35mm range or 24-105mm range. You can also capture the beauty of the sand dunes with your smartphone.

Compose your landscape photographs for shapes and shadows, patters and textures.

Use leading lines to draw the viewer into the scene, as pictured above.

Break the so-called rules of composition. In the photograph below, I placed the horizon line in the center of the frame to equally include both the dramatic sky and the textured foreground.

Set a small aperture to get the entire scene in focus, so your photograph looks as the scene looks to your eyes.

When taking silhouettes of the camels and their riders, try to get down low and place the subjects above the horizon line.

Another tip for camel/rider photographs: try to seek separation, that is, have each camel separated from one another.

Finally, have fun photographing while seated on a camel. I took the photo below on our late afternoon camel ride to our desert camp, where we spent the night in a very comfortable tent . . . after having a wonderful traditional Moroccan dinner.

Learn More: Our 12-day trips was organized by Good Travelling Morocco. We had an amazing time from start (Casablanca) to finish (Marrakech). I highly recommend this local travel agency.

© Rick Sammon

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