Ansel Adams – Moonrise

Ansel Adams Moonrise over Hernandez Fine Art Photo

Ansel Adams – Moonrise – 1941


As well as a beautiful photograph with a broad tonal range, good sharpness and elegant composition, it has a message. At the bottom level, humans worry about death, shown by the graveyard. Death is dwarfed by the enormity of the mountains which are small compared to the clouds. Above the clouds, the stars; and above that, against which this little slice of existence is nothing, is total blackness. It is an expression of the Sublime and man’s tiny part in the universe.


We value scarcity, and things seem more valuable when they are lost or about to be. There’s a great story about how this photo was made; Ansel Adams saw the photo opportunity while driving in New Mexico at sunset and rushed to capture it. Without an exposure meter, he could rely on his knowledge (of the moon’s brightness) and experience to get the shot. Incidentally, exposure settings of 1/200s at f8, ISO100 for the moon, and 1/320s at f8, ISO100 for direct sunlight will often be okay.