Be mindful of the surrounding ecosystem.
“Any plant you see in the desert worked hard to get there, so don’t walk on the little desert flowers. Know that your impact on the landscape can be lasting,” says Ohst. “Even what looks like a thin little crust on top of soil could be a microbiome that took 100 years to form.” Do some research on the location to find out how sensitive the environment is, as well as any rules or restrictions to follow during your visit. Make sure to find out what snakes, scorpions, or other animals and insects you might need to look out for during your shoot.
Know your gear and how to take care of it.
Water is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of protecting their camera gear from the elements. But sand and wind are the more dangerous culprits to be wary of. They can scratch lenses and create internal buildup. Blowing sand can even damage your camera sensor.
“If there’s any wind at all, that dust or sand may get into the camera, lens, tripod, or all three,” says Ohst. “Take care of that situation by using a rocket blower and little brushes to get sand out of crevices and threads, followed by a soft cloth to remove tiny dust particles. The longer you leave sand in, the more damage it causes.”
Keep gear you’re not using in your closed camera bag for maximum protection. You may even consider using a camera cover to block more wind and sand.
Check if your camera body is weather sealed or not. You don’t need a weather-sealed camera to shoot in the desert, but it lowers the likelihood of sand getting into your camera.
Avoid changing lenses while you’re in the desert. This is the best way to protect your camera and lens, and it’s something you can do whether your camera is weather sealed or not. “Sand can go into your sensor and cause permanent damage. It can also scratch your glass, which can ruin your entire lens,” says Nguyen.
To protect the front element of your lens you can put a UV filter, polarizer, or neutral density filter on it, depending on the look you’re going for. Consider bringing or renting a second camera body, too. That way, you can put a wide-angle lens on one and a telephoto lens on the other and still be able to get a variety of focal lengths without separating your camera body and lens.