“Handshake at Sunset”

The shadow of the West Mitten Butte falling onto East Mitten Butte, Monument Valley, Arizona

Chasing a Shadow

Celestial alignments that I can observe on Earth inspire me. Whether it is a rising moon aligned with a desert tower or sunlight illuminating a feature on a landscape, I enjoy doing the calculations and planning of how to photograph it.

Getting good photographs of these events is not entirely predictable, though. Clouds, weather, and other, more random factors keep things exciting. Many times I have worked hard to plan and travel to an “alignment” shot, only to find the sun or moon blocked by clouds. The uncertainty keeps things exciting!

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A Special Solar Alignment

For the shadow of West Mitten Butte to fall directly on East Mitten Butte, the setting sun must lie along the line defined by the two buttes.

The sun rises and sets a different azimuth angle each day of the year. The azimuth angle is measured relative to north, and ranges from 0 degrees at due north, 90 degrees east, increasing in a clockwise direction.

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