Five shot vertical pan, hand held, five exposure brackets -2 to +2, centered on 1/250, ISO 600, f11. D800, Nikkor 28-70 @ 28 mm. Each individual bracket set was processed in HDR Efex Pro 2, then stitched in PTGUI Pro. B&W post-processing in Perfect B&W 1. Minor tweaks to luminance and saturation in LR 5.
I have looked at these images several times this weekend. Each time I have planned to write something but have decided I wasn't sure how to say what I felt. Hopefully, I can communicate well with this post.
First, I think the color image is really interesting. I like it that the color of the sand is very similar to the sunlight reflections in the clouds. Seems to give some symmetry and balance to the image and the orange of the sunset provides a nice break along the ridge of the hills.
What I keep looking for is the central point of interest in the image. I don't seem to find it. If there was something large, graphic or of special interest in the foreground it would add a lot to this image. Instead there is some plant growth and the sand. The sand has some interesting patterns but neither the plants nor the sand seem to be the focal point of the image. I keep looking for that center of interest and don't think I see it. The top of the plant at the bottom right also bothers me. I wish it was totally in the image or completely gone from the image. I continue to be drawn to the branches sticking into the image and it is distracting and continues to lead my eyes out of the frame.
You have done a really nice job of capturing the color of the sand, the color in the clouds and in the sunset and your panorama does convey the vast expanses of the desert. I just keep looking or something that I don't find--the central focal point.
Scott - thanks for the close look. I agree about the noise. Looking at my original, it's not quite as prominent, but still is noticable. I think there's a bit of jpeg-related posterization going on that is making it more prominent. I'm going to go back and do some noise reduction and see how that works
Ron - thanks for the extensive comments. I can see what you're saying, particularly in regard to the bush in the lower right corner. The composition was something I struggled with as the light faded. I wanted to get that last bit of magic light on the horizon, but I had a lot of issues with the foreground where I was working. I worked my way around about ten or fifteen feet to the right and left of where I ended up shooting, but the foreground elements were, at best bland or at worst, outright clunky and ugly. In the end, I settled for the spot that gave me the best piece of the red sand in the foreground. Of the other vantage points I tried, some had better lines of sight to the far horizon and better flow, but at a cost of loosing any foreground interest and/or losing the rippled sand. I knew I had a brief window before the light was lost, so I did what I could.
On one hand, I was very happy to catch that bit of elusive light, but it's been gnawing at me as well, suspecting that if I had more time, I might have come up with something really exceptional. Guess I'll try again the next time business takes me to Vegas.
Both are really very good but my first choice is the BW. Those clouds floating in the sky is great. I would crop the foreground to about a third and 2/3 sky. Just the tips of the "offending" bush on the right will be visible. Now the cloud becomes a focal point.