The best place to watch the sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, California, is at Keys View where the vast panorama includes the noticeable fault line of of the San Andreas Fault, the Coachella Valley, and the city of Palm Springs in the distant background.
I made these three images as the sun was setting. Please click on the images to view larger versions.
We had a great sky that night. I composed the first image with the horizon a little higher than the middle of the frame to highlight the layers of hills and the valley beyond while still including a decent amount of sky. This is not an HDR image. I used a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter to even out the exposure. In post-processing I brightened the shadows even further and then added a bit of detail using Nik Color Efex Pro.
The second image is similar to the first one and taken only moments later. The difference is that I put the horizon in the bottom third of the frame to include more of that great sky, and I included the sun in the frame which created more excitement and added lens flare. I go back and forth on whether I like lens flare but I think it works here.
The last image was made about 45 minutes later when the sun was well below the horizon and the sky had turned a deep red. You can see the lights of Palm Springs off to the right.
Do these images make Keys View look warm and peaceful to you? Maybe if you were watching from inside your car it might have been but outside it was windy and freezing cold! Ah, the things we do for photography.
Which of these three images do you like best? And, what do you think about the lens flare? Let me know in the comments.