The blue light of dawn illuminates the snow-covered Eastern Sierra under a setting moon.
Stephen Girimont

Stephen Girimont

Owner, The Intimate Landscape, Fine Art Prints

2020 – The Year of Classic Blue

Might Pantone have named 2020 "The Year of Classic Blue" because of my image? Hmmm...

Did you hear that the Pantone Corporation named the color of the year for 2020 to be “Classic Blue?” I like to think it’s because they came across my image “Moonset Over the Eastern Sierra.” 

I thought I’d share a little bit of background info on how this image came about, because it certainly wasn’t a case of driving through the area and just happening to see the moon over the mountains and thinking “My goodness, but that would make a nice picture! Let me capture that on my phone!”

No, this picture came about after several months of planning. Knowing that I was going to be out west in March of 2019, I had a choice between trying to time my trip to coincide either with the new moon, and try to do some astro-landscape photography, or to time the trip for the full moon. To make my decision, I first used an application called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to see exactly in what direction the full moon was gong to set that month. When I realized that I could get the full moon setting near Mount Whitney as seen from a specific vantage point at the northern edge of the Alabama Hills, I knew I was going to spend at least part of my trip around the area of Bishop, California. I also hoped there would be enough snow over the winter to keep the mountains snow covered into mid-March. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried as there were record snow falls that winter.

I knew I wanted to capture the moon over the mountains at or near the Full Moon, and I wanted to try to get the shot both before the sun rose and after, so I could capture two different scenes: one in the blue hour before sunrise, and one with the first rays of sunlight lighting up the peaks on the mountains.

I figured I had exactly two days on which I could capture my images: on the morning of the full moon, or the next morning. Any later than that, and the moon would be too high in the sky at sunrise for the look I was after.

Turns out I needed that second day because the morning of the full moon was completely clouded out. But I got lucky on the next day: not a cloud to be seen and just the bluest sky you could possibly imagine.

I guess the storm that had gone through in the days before this had cleaned the air of dust, because the pre-dawn light illuminating the mountains was very blue, and not the warm tones one normally associates with what is known as Alpine Glow. If the sunrise behind me had lit up the eastern sky with an orange glow, the look of the mountains in front of me would have been very different. But I really like the blue tones here, while the sky is that deep, deep blue.

I chose a spot in the Alabama Hills where I could get a view of the mountains from face on. I didn’t want to shoot this scene from an oblique angle with the mountains receding in the distance, so I chose a spot near a camping site on the northern end of the Alabama Hills. As a matter of fact, the location from which I shot this image is right off Movie Road, just across from the sign welcoming you to the Alabama Hills recreation area.

The resolution of this image is quite amazing. I shot this image as a multi-row panorama using a very long telephoto lens. A total of 54 images were used (3 rows of 18 images each) and viewing the image at 100% on the computer allows one to count the branches on the pine trees dotting the mountain slopes. 

Stephen Girimont

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