While in UAE during our Dubai and Jordan photography workshop, we had a chance to visit and photograph the stunning Liwa Desert. Little did we know that we would be lucky enough to witness a rare fog covering the entire desert. In this article, I will talk about my experience capturing one of my favorite images I’ve ever been able to get with a drone.
It was around 4:30 AM when our group left the hotel. The drive to the dunes was quite slow because of the thick fog; we could barely see the leading car in front of us most of the way. When we finally made it to the dunes and got out of our cars, the fog was too thick to see much of anything. Although we waited for quite a while, the fog just wouldn’t clear.
As you can tell from the photo, taken shortly after sunrise, the fog was extremely thick. I had wanted to fly my drone that morning, but the conditions just didn’t seem like they would allow it. Nasim and I decided to wait and see what would happen, just in case. Our friends Mahmoud Marei and Soqrat Qahoush also wanted to stay and shoot, hoping for the fog to clear.
When a bit of blue sky peeked through overhead about an hour later, I decided to launch my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone (see our detailed review) and see if there was any hope. I flew the drone fairly high, ending up above the low-lying fog, and panned around in all directions. The clouds still appeared to cover the whole desert. As Nasim and I looked at the screen, it seemed hopeless.
But then we noticed a small clearing in the distance that appeared to have sand dunes visible. I flew my drone in that direction, and as I got closer, both Nasim and I started jumping for joy! Mahmoud and Soqrat immediately came over to see what we were looking at, and everyone was stunned to see the one opening in the sky that revealed dunes, with the sun rays putting golden light on them. It was absolutely breathtaking, something none of us have ever seen before.
I made sure that my drone was set to shoot 5 image bursts in order to reduce noise (even at base ISO), as explained by Nasim in his article on reducing noise when shooting with a drone. I positioned my drone so that the dunes were side-lit, with deep shadows separating them from each other, and took a few shots. The composition was especially important here – snaking S-curves of dunes at the front, leading to one tall peak rising in the distance.
Post-processing the image did not take much time. After I did preliminary post-processing in Lightroom, I opened all five layers in Photoshop, then used the Median stack mode to reduce the noise (refer to the tutorial article above for more information).
Here is the final image:
I highly recommend checking out our Youtube video from that morning (even more than normal)! Some of the drone video from above the clouds is pretty insane, and extremely unusual to see:
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