Sahara aerial


Desert settlement

Road and settlement in the desert seen from the air


My flight down to Ghardaia was late at night, offering little to see. Knowing that my return flight would take place in daylight, however, I had made a point of asking for a window seat so that I could take pictures of the desert.

As I settled into my seat on the Air Algérie ATR-72, I realized that I had failed to take something into account. The window was filthy, encrusted with a thick layer of red brown dust. Taking photographs through it was going to be like taking pictures through soup.

I can’t really fault Air Algérie for this. It has to be nearly impossible to keep aircraft clean in a desert environment, and a country that is mostly desert has better things to do with its water than wash planes for the benefit of tourists. I blame myself for not expecting this.

I tried taking pictures anyway, squinting through the murk on the window. The results were disappointing. The spectacular desert landscapes that I could just about see through my grubby window turned into vague smears of rusty brown when photographed through a layer of dust.

The camera must have captured something, however, because when I pulled the photos into Lightroom and pushed the Dehaze slider hard to the right, magic happened. Suddenly, the colors and the shapes of the desert appeared. A little soft, perhaps, and the colors possibly not quite faithful. Still, the final images ended up looking far better than I expected.

Some day, I want to fly over the Sahara in an aircraft with clean windows. Until then, though, I'm pretty happy with some of these shots.