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Moonset Over Panamints, Death Valley

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

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*** PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM IN YOSEMITE THIS WEEK ASSISTING GARY HART WITH HIS WINTER WORKSHOP AND MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO YOUR COMMENTS.***

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

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