Image: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
(San Francisco, California, 1902 - 1984, Carmel, California)

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico , 1942 (printed early 1970s)

Gelatin silver print
15 1/2 in. x 19 1/2 in. (39.37 cm x 49.53 cm)
Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John A. McAlonan Trust Fund
Arguably one of the best-known images of the American landscape, this photograph shows a small village on a plain beneath an expanse of darkened sky. The moon has just risen over distant snow-capped peaks, which are topped by a bank of clouds.  What gives the scene its extraordinary brilliance are the rays of the late afternoon sun illuminating the cloud bank and turning the crosses in the church cemetery a blazing white. Adams reprinted this popular image over the years, at first allowing random clouds to appear in the sky.  It was not until the 1970s, when he printed the sky as an almost cloudless dark-toned expanse, that he felt he had achieved an effect equal to his original visualization of the scene.
Adams was often inexact in the dating of his pictures. An astronomer friend, Dr. David Elmore, finally came to the rescue.  By studying astronomical data, Elmore determined that 'Moonrise' had been taken between 4:00 and 4:05 P.M. on October 31, 1941. Whatever the specific date or time of day, this image remains a timeless metaphor of the stillness of the American landscape and the magical character of its light.
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