The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah is one of the most unique places to take photos in the world. The landscape is so open and flat that you can just make out the curvature of the Earth! The Salt Flats are surrounded by distant mountain peaks and the ground looks almost like glass when it is wet. This location is almost like shooting on another planet.
You can access the Salt Flats by driving right to them with your car. You can even drive your car right on the Salt Flats! That makes this location very convenient to get to and from. The Salt Flats are settled about 122 miles west of Salt Lake City on the Utah/Nevada border. You will take I-80 to get to the Salt Flats and turn off when you see signs for the Bonneville Speedway. Yes, that’s right! There’s a speedway on the Salt Flats.
This guide will go over the best times to photograph the Salt Flats, some tips for traveling there, and offer some photo inspiration, too.
The Best Time of Year to Photograph the Salt Flats
The Salt Flats can be photographed year-rounds, but the landscape looks different as the seasons and weather change. During the summer, the ground is dry and rock hard. When it gets to befall, and rainfall becomes more frequent, the Salt Flats transform and the ground is covered in a layer of reflective water, which can make for absolutely incredible photos – especially if you’re photographing a subject.
You never know exactly when it’s going to rain in Utah, however! There are rainy days in the summertime. You can check what the conditions are like with the Salt Flats livestream webcam. This will tell you exactly what you have to prepare for on the day you visit.
Preparing for Your Visit to the Salt Flats
It’s important to know that the Salt Flats are located 1.5-3 hours away from a major city, and there are limited spots to stop for refreshments, gas, and bathrooms. The closest place to go to the bathroom and fill up your gas tank will either be Tooele or at the Bonneville Speedway Exit. If you have a photography team with you on this trip, you’ll likely want to pick some snacks and water bottles for the ride.
Driving into The Bonneville Salt Flats
The Salt Flats are situated about 122 miles from Salk Lake City and 20 miles from the Nevada border. They are pretty easy to get to once you’re on the road – just put “Bonneville Salt Flats” into your GPS and you’ll be taken to the closest rest stop. From there, the Salt Flats are nearly impossible to miss. Just look up and you’ll see the sprawling white flats that go on for miles and miles!
Tips for Trekking Through the Salt
The Salt Flats are, in fact, 90% common table salt. It gets very messy! It’s recommended to wear a pair of sturdy (but comfortable) shoes that you don’t mind getting very messy. It doesn’t matter if the salt is completely dry or covered with water. Your shoes will certainly get covered in the chalky white substance.
It might be tempting to walk around with bare feet just to see what it feels like but just be warned that the salt is very rough and can be sharp in some areas. It might feel similar to walking on glass. If you would like to photograph a model without shoes on, make sure they have a pair of sandals nearby that they can quickly slip on when they need to move to another spot.
Also, be very mindful about setting equipment and bags down on the ground! The salt will stick to anything that touches it and might sneak its way into the crevasses of your expensive equipment. Try not to let anything touch the ground unless it is in a waterproof bag.
The air on the Salt Flats is very dry and the sun can be very powerful, especially in the summer months. No matter what time of year you travel to the Salt Flats to take pictures, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen with you. It’s important to stay hydrated and protected from the sun’s UV rays!
Photographing Cars on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Car photography is very common on the Bonneville Salt Flats. You are allowed to drive your vehicle across the flats and there is even a world-renowned speedway!
The wet Salt Flats can make for some incredible shots of cars, but it’s important to be aware that salt will most likely get all over your vehicle. Drive as slowly and carefully as possible when on wet ground, and you might want to bring a few towels with you to wipe away any wet salt on the vehicle before you start taking photos. The Bonneville Speedway is a United States Historical Landmark where many world land speed records have been set. Speed Week is taking place during mid-August and gives photographers many chances to capture excellent photos of cars speeding down the strip surrounded by salt flats.
If you choose to drive your vehicle right onto the Salt Flats, it’s recommended to get a car wash as soon as possible. Salt is very corrosive and can damage your vehicle if it’s left on for a long period of time.
Photographing the Salt Flats Solo or with a Team
There are benefits to traveling to the Salt Flats as a solo photographer and with a team of assistants and models.
First, if you travel alone with minimal equipment, that means that you don’t have to worry about as much as you drive and walk around the Salt Flats. As previously mentioned, the climate can be a bit rough and the drive to the Salt Flats is long. You will need to make sure everyone on your team is well-prepared to handle along day in the car and out in the elements. That being said, the Salt Flats are empty, for the most part. There will likely be other people there taking their own photos of themselves, their models, friends, families, and cars, but there might not be very many opportunities for unique photoshoots.
In order to capture the most unique photos on the Salt Flats, you might have to create the environment yourself. That means you’ll need a team of models, props, tripods, lighting, and assistants to help you work everything while you capture incredible photos.
If you prefer to go the more natural route and just photograph the landscape, you might want to go when there are more opportunities for unique photos. For example, nighttime can produce incredible astral photography, and the day after a rainstorm is perfect for capturing images that look like they were taken on top of a mirror! Although this is one of the things the Salt Flats are well-known for, there are infinite ways to get creative and capture some truly mind-bending photos. Perhaps you can bring along some actual mirrors and create an optical illusion with your photography!
No matter what time of year you visit the Salt Flats, or whether you go with a team of assistants and models or just by yourself, you’re sure to capture some amazing photos. The Bonneville Salt Flats truly feel as though you are standing on another planet. Think outside the box and get other-worldly with your images!
To check out what the Bonneville Salt Flats look like and gather a little bit of inspiration, check out our gallery here.