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.
Kris Koeller says
Beautiful sunset. Happy 2013!
Glen Sherman says
All three are nice photos. My least favorite is the one with the flare, not so much due to the flare itself but rather because the details of the image are reduced in importance and all we (I) really notice is the blown out sun.
Second in preference for me is the first shot. I find the sky quite interesting and then my eye is drawn into the foreground to the softly highlighted ridge just in front of the observer, and then back up to the sky again. Much to enjoy in this shot.
My favorite is the last shot, mostly due to the drama of the bright red/orange/yellow sunset. But then I notice the city or highway lights in the foreground which I think adds an interesting note to the image so that it’s not just all about the color.
Len Saltiel says
Happy New Year Anne. Simply wonderful shots. The light and color are killer.
Erin Duke says
Love them all, but my favorite is the second. I dig the lens flare! 🙂
What a trio and what a view you had – that is worth getting cold for! Lens flare goes with the territory for this type of image. Sometimes I manage t clean up the stray points of light but these look tricky to clone out – they don’t spoil the image for me. I prefer the first because of the superb rendering of the nearer ridges. That is the closest to how the eye would see it I think, but the colours of the other two are magical.
Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment says
Hi Anne, they’re all really gorgeous images. I like the first one best – maybe its subtlety is what draws me – and the third one least. As for the lens flare, I think it works well in the second image (and I like how the rays of light reach down).
Fabio Bosco says
The 1st image may be “technically” better but I enjoy watching the 2nd image the most. This is because of the beautiful sky (which you left extra space for it) and you can still see details in the foreground. But more importantly, it is the one that made me picture myself in that place the most, as I would also be admiring that sunset.
Timothy Place says
The first image is my favorite; the colors are symphonic, subtle, broad palette, and softly blend together well. This softness theme carries into the foreground mountains as well, and there is some detail there, rather like velvet, that I find attractive and giving a breath to the image. There is a nice coherence to the elements in this image.
The second image flare is not objectionable to me-we all know by now that when the power of the sun is included in an image, flare results to some degree. I find the flare in this image minimal and so not particularly distracting, and even evocative of the sun’s great power. The preservation of detail in the mountains is to my liking as well.
The third image is a bit too color saturated to my taste, but I refer you back to my comment on the first image-what I like about the first image is missing in the third. The lack of detail in the foreground is also a problem for me, as are the city lights.
Thanks for presenting these images for discussion…all the best!
Anne McKinnell says
Thank you Timothy, I really appreciate your feedback on the images. It’s nice to get an outside perspective. I didn’t actually saturate the colours on the third image, it was a really red sunset!! But I get what you are saying. I like the subtle tones in the first image myself.
Rudy DeVeau says
That is a great spot. But it is above the Joshua trees . I do like having some of the trees in the picture since they are so photogenic. Thanks for the tip.