Photographing in the Moroccan Sahara

Author: Andy Yee

This photo of the Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert of Morocco may well be the image that defines my photography career. Well; at least the part that enters into photography competitions. It’s not often that I take the time to enter into competitions as its not the reason for why I shoot in the first place.

"The landscape catergory was brutally competitive this year, with dozens of images that we would habe been happy to see as finalists. With so many powerful images in contention, the winners had to be not only aesthetically striking, but also techincally excellent. Andy's winning image uses a carefully considered minimalistic composition. On closer inspection however, there is an incredible level of detail waiting to reward the viewer"
Sony Alpha Landscape Award Winner

Andy Yee - Sony Alpha Landscape Award Winning Photo in the Sahara Desert of Morocco

Andy Yee - Sony Alpha Landscape Award Winning Photo | © Andy Yee

This image was taken during The Giving Lens (TGL) Morocco trip in 2016. Early morning we had set out from our desert camp at the Open Doors Morocco Bedouin Bivouc in search of high vantage points on our surrounding sand dunes.

With camera, tripod and two lenses with me, our ascent up the nearest ridge has us warmed up and short of breath soon enough. My boots are filling with sand soon enough and I’m in two minds between regret and caution after hearing the story of someone previously being stung by a scorpion. I am however thankful that in the early morning conditions that the sand is not blistereing hot as yet.

The group treks slowly single file up the ridge line and is careful to not disturb the sand and lines where we would be photographing. The group is careful in the sandy enviroment after being stuck in a sandstorm the previous day. Lessons of how fine sand granules dont mix well with expensive camera gear are fresh.

Andy Yee - Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert of Morocco

Trekking up the ridge line of a dune in the Sahara Desert at sunrise | © Andy Yee

With sand in every direction, the sheer size of the Sahara Desert becomes daunting. It’s a massive panorama of rolling sandy dunes as far as you can see. Our desert bivouac where we started our trek looks like an ant village in the distance. The camels around the camp are wandering around looking for grass to feed. One of our bedouin guides watches his herd from a nearby crest.

Andy Yee - Sony Alpha Landscape Award Winning Photo of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

A high vantage view of the Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert | © Andy Yee

I started off shooting images with my 16-35 wide angle lens to try and capture the size of the desert, but I was getting lost in the space. Changing over to the 70-200mm I was able to find something to completely fill a frame with details to pick apart.

In between conversations, laughter and the occasional shutter slap in the group, its like being in a vacuum. There is literally no sound to be heard which is a strange feeling for a city dweller.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the long shadows being cast by the dunes started to create a strong contrast rich in colour and character.

Andy Yee - Descending a large dune in the Erg Chebbi region of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Descending a large dune in the Erg Chebbi region of the Sahara Desert | © Andy Yee

At the time I shot this image I was surrounded by other talented photographers in the TGL group. Everyone had an opportunity to capture this image but I’m not sure if any did. Part of the advantage of being in a photography workshop is seeing what others find interesting, and utilising some of those elements towards your own creativity.

This image was shot on Sony A7RII at 160mm on my 70-200mm zoom lens. The image was made from a three image bracket HDR with editing in Lightroom with Nik software plugins.

Andy Yee - Sunrise on the Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert of Morocco

Sunrise on the dunes of the Erg Chebbi Desert | © Andy Yee

In every direction the group looks and finds things of interest to photograph. There are so many angles worthy of a “fine art” tag, but we take what we can get, enjoy a moment of lying on the side of the dune taking a few selfies, then venture back down to enjoy breakfast at camp before we leave the desert to explore another part of Morocco.

Andy Yee - Bedouin camp in the Sahara Desert of Morocco

Bedouin Camp in the Sahara Desert | © Andy Yee

This article and photos published by Andy Yee, guest instructor for the Morocco Cycling Vacation and Photography tour. Check out Andy's upcoming photography workshops at AndyYee.com

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