Share this photo on Twitter Share this photo on Facebook

Moonset Over Panamints, Death Valley

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 17 February 2011 in Landscape & Rural.


Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011
(Workshop Sold Out)
Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 4 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 3 spots remaining).
3rd Annual Magic Light, Moonlight, and Pfeiffer Beach Arch Big Sur Winter Workshop - January 8-11, 2012 (space available)
New Articles on my Website: Review of Kinesis Filter Bag for Landscape Photographers
Join me as I am now of Facebook: Don Smith Photography on Facebook

Join me as I am now on Flickr: Don Smith Photography on Flickr

My preferred filters: Singh-Ray Filters

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)


I am not what you would call a pano person, you know the type, every scene is a panoramic or nothing at all - well maybe I'm exaggerating a bit - but I'm sure you know someone (or perhaps you are that someone). Yet I'll admit, on grand view scenes, I find myself more and more capturing a sequence of bracketed images with a potential panoramic in mind.

At Gary Hart's recent Death Valley Workshop, a grand view scene from Badwater Basin begged for a pano - so of course, I obliged! We had one of those magical mornings on the Badwater salt flats as recent rains had converted the 282 foot below sea level flats into a still lakebed. Add in a full moonset and the magical desert colors one sees at dawn and how could you miss?

This was one of the first frames I made on this morning captured approximately 20 minutes prior to sunrise. Using a 24-70mm lens, I opted to photograph the scene vertically and shot a sequence of 12 frames (of which I selected 9) for my final pano. I used the pano tool in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and it nailed the finished image. It was just a matter of cropping and finishing the image by setting my white and black points.

Visually the image held a strong appeal for me. Just the ridges of the hexagonal salt formations poked through the foreground water (I stood in the water about 10 feet from the shoreline) and transitioned into full submersion. The sky above the Panamint Range was glowing with the warm hues of dawn and the moon was setting - what more could you want?

I gave more emphasis to my foreground and took a rather low perspective to give more visual strength to the foreground. My only knock on the image was my lack of attention to the moon's reflection as it fell along a ridgeline and wasn't clean, certainly not a deal buster but one detail I should have paid better attention to.

I actually have other frames where the moon was positioned better but the images lacked the color intensity of this frame. I also have an image where the sun just starts to illuminate Telescope Peak in the distance along with the tips of the surrounding peaks and I really like that frame also be decided to post this one.

Paying attention to details is important in all images. On a cold morning when we are half awake these details can oftentimes be lost in the fog (within my brain at least). The point I am trying to make is that we need to question everything within the boundaries of our composition and do it a mach speed and the light simply will not wait).

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 2 seconds F/16.0 ISO 100 27 mm

My Website: "how to" articles, 2018 WORKSHOP LISTINGS, galleries, stock photos, and more...