Use Your Camera to Navigate in the Desert

The temperature is well over 100 degrees and I am about 10 miles from civilization in the middle of Nevada desert. After digging my rental car out of the sand, I am beginning to question whether or not I want to go through with this photo assignment. I could see the peaks of the sand dunes in the distance, and armed with a bottle of Powerade and my digital camera I start walking away from my car – and safety…

My goal is to photograph some sand dunes for backgrounds in a brochure. The dunes I am walking toward are the Armagosa Sand Dunes of Nevada. A day earlier I was in Las Vegas shooting an amazing sandrail vehicle. I told the driver about my plans to head to Armagosa to get some sand scenery to drop the sandrail into. Although Armagosa is a popular destination for sandrails, I was surprised to learn that nobody drives in the Armagosa dunes in the middle of July. Why? Because it is too hot. “Some diehards will ride early in the morning, but they will be off the sand by 9 because the heat is just too bad.” That sentence was clear in my memory as noon was about an hour away.

I am now a couple hundred yards from my car and I can already see that the wind is burying my footprints in the sand. The “road” that I followed to get to this point was more like a suggested path with multiple routes that fanned out the closer you get to the dunes. If I wasn’t careful, I could easily get lost. In this heat, without a cell phone, and with only one bottle of liquid, not being able to find my car could be disastrous. Another hundred yards and I can’t see my car anymore. If I am going to turn back, now is the time.

Time to make a plan. I scan the terrain for some sort of marker so I can remember this point. Nothing. I look in the direction of my car. I try to memorize the scene. Everything looks the same. Suddenly I realize that I don’t have to memorize the scene. I can use my digital camera to take a picture. Yes! I took a picture in the direction of my car and note that my car is to the left of the dip in the mountains. Slightly more confident now, I proceed to walk toward the sand dunes.

When I reach the base of the dunes, I find a piece of tape and tie it to a branch. Again I take a picture of this point and note the direction I came from. With half a bottle of Powerade remaining, I take the photos I need and then make the trek back to my car. When I arrived at my vehicle, I breathed a sigh of relief. I hope you never find yourself alone in a desert in July with only a camera. If you do, remember my story. Maybe it will save your life!

One Response to “Use Your Camera to Navigate in the Desert”

  1. H singh Says:

    I am trying to get in touch with Marcus F Adrian Who was in Calcutta in 2005 with film students from Potsdam. Can you help?

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