Chapter Two. Basic Theory

Ansel Adams’s Moonrise Over Hernandez is one of the most famous photographs of the twentieth century. (If you’re not familiar with the image, you can easily see a copy online by Googling “moonrise over Hernandez.”) The image shows a wide New Mexico valley containing the small village of Hernandez. In the background a bright moon rises over a distant mountain range. One of the most striking features of the image is the heavy black sky that dominates the upper part of the frame.

Adams took the image on November 1, 1941 (analysis of the moon position reveals that he shot the image at 4:49:20 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, for those of you who are sticklers for accuracy), and for years he told an interesting story about its ...

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