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Dawn Moonset, Zabriske Point, Death Valley

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 14 February 2010 in Landscape & Rural.

UPCOMING 2009 / 2010 WORKSHOPS:

Spring Big Sur Photo Workshop - March 29 - April 1, 2010 (Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Northern Arizona: Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Sedona Photo Workshop - May 3-7, 2010 (Sold Out - Waiting List Only)
Redwoods and Mendocino Coast Photo Workshop - June 15-18, 2010 (space available)
Kauai, Hawaii Photo Workshop - July 12-16, 2010 (space available)
Big Sur Photo Workshop Summer August, 17-20, 2010 (space available)
Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop November 3-7, 2010 (space available)
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New Article on my Website: Balancing Images in Post Processing

Books Available for Purchase on my Website:
Refined Vision: 50 Lessons Designed to Improve Your Digital Landscape Photography (e-book and printed versions - 160 pages)
The Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)
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So just how does one capture something different from an iconic National Park location like Death Valley's Zabriske Point? For one thing, try adding a setting moon, and then timing that moon to set through an emerging twilight wedge in the dawn's early light (sounds like a song), and perhaps the image takes on a somewhat unique appearance.

I would be remiss to say I photographed this alone as I was with 13 workshop students, and two other instructors as part of Gary Hart's Death Valley workshop. Gary was the one who deserves the credit for positioning the group at Zabriske to witness and photograph this moonset, but the light was courtesy of Mother Nature.

A polarizer actually saturated the warm color just a bit, but other than that, this was as the camera saw it. I used Nik's Viveza 2 software and the new Structure command to add a bit of pop to the rolling hills. Beyond that, I bracketed my compositions from wide to tele (and everything I could think of in between - both vertical and horizontal). I often talk about bracketing compositions (as well as exposures, and even aperture to change depth-of-field). This scene probably would not have been my first selection when I reviewed my images on my LCD, but once I returned home and saw my thumbnails and large previews, I kept returning to this frame.

It's easy to get so engrossed with one composition when the magic is happening that we fail to see other possibilities. I have to consciously challenge myself to find various compositions and I am often rewarded with a sleeper image such as this. Pros call this "working the scene." Try it the next time you are in the field composing an image. Photograph your first compositional instinct, then try playing (easy to do with today's quality zooms). You may find your own "sleeper" that ends up becoming your "keeper!"

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 3/10 second F/16.0 ISO 200 40 mm

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