A salt flats photo shoot takes some doing. The Bonneville Salt Flats are near Wendover, NV, but a bit over 100 miles from Salt Lake City. If you want to shoot in the Salt Flats with a model, then likely you will be starting out in Salt Lake City. In this shoot, we were joined by Camille, who did a superb job of striking poses in the bright sunlight. Count on this as a likelihood, the sun will be brilliant. Clear skies and white, reflective salt make for a hard light environment. If you are lucky enough to come on a day with big clouds and rays of sun, then that’s pretty lucky.
We used poses with eyes closed, sunglasses, and back-lighting to deal with sun in the eyes. Camille is far better than most models at not squinting in the face of the sun. She grew up on Oahu with lots of sunshine, and the desert is now her home, so she’s able to master the light.
A salt flat photo shoot calls for colorful outfits, although I would like to shoot with a pure white outfit as well on my next trip. The green zippered dress in the reclining pose is simply ideal for this environment. I used a white washcloth between the model and the ground since it is easily concealed or removed from the finished photo.
As if all that bright light weren’t enough, I also made use of 2 studio strobes to add some fill light. Next time I shoot here I may use more high speed sync to help reduce ambient light a bit. I generally did want good depth of field since I wanted to see the flats in focus and get a bit of the mountains in the distance. When shooting here, deciding where to shoot in the flats is the big choice. We set up in a spot near the road for much of the shoot, since my scouting found that that area had the best pattern in the salt.
My suggestion for planning your Salt Flats photo shoot is to meet your model, then travel to Wendover and do a brief session around sunset. Get rooms in Wendover, then shoot in the early morning hours the following day before the return to Salt Lake City. The same amount of time shooting in the flats is likely to provide better results and the pattern in the flats is more obvious the lower the angle of the light. It would also be fun to come at a time of year when there is some water on the flats, so that’s yet another reason to check out the Bonneville Salt Flats at all times of year. Well, almost all times. I see no point of going here with snow on the ground.
Finally, bring lots of water if you go in summer. It may come in handy to help your model cool off. And soaking wet is a better look than beads of sweat on a hot afternoon. Right?