If you think that the photograph lacks aesthetic merit, then I would be interested in hearing why you think that. If you're unable to articulate the reason for your judgment, then the problem lies not with the photograph but elsewhere.
In other words, I am making a distinction between your subjective reaction to the photo, which is legitimate in all cases and needs no explanation, versus an objective assessment, which, if truly objective, requires an explanation.
If you have no opinion and are simply wanting to understand what others see in it, there's no shortage of discussion of this photograph. Try this:
I personally like the photograph although I have not spent a whole lot of time thinking about it, so I haven't got any hard formed opinion as to its aesthetic value. Like most people, however, my automatic reaction is that since I like it, it must be good.
The only metric of the value of an object, act or condition. It's hard to promote something like parks (my example), even though people want them, love them and use them heavily because we have a hard time placing dollar values on the things that parks offer their users. It's why news reports like to include cost of damages from storms or crime even though the greatest loss is often non-material. It's how capitalist societies appear to work. I took if for granted people would know what I meant because I use the dollar filter too.
But, no... the image doesn't mean much to me beyond the technical aspects. That's the problem I have with it, I suppose: it looks much like a lot of what I've seen in the SouthWest (albeit mostly without a moonrise) and aside that technical quality and the story of how it was captured the image does not "speak to me". Even the crosses don't cause me to feel any more spiritual or religious than I normally do.
The image speaks volumes to others and for that (and them) I feel quite happy. I get more from Snake River and Tetons myself. Go figure.
Last autumn, I spent several minutes with my nose pressed up against the glass of a Moonrise print in the Gallery collection (owned by Ansel's daughter). I had seen several reproductions from magazines and books but they did the original no justice at all. This was printed late in his life and so was probably more to the dramatic style. I thought the crosses were a bit blown out, but the sky was wonderful in the delicacy of the clouds. It is not among my favorites, but seeing the straight print now for the first time, I am amazed at the skill that went into the final print.
"Moonrise" never really turned me on. I've seen several vintages of the print (before and after sel
intensification), and have even had my work displayed side by side with mural-sized versions of this
and numerous other AA classic images. I understand its historic importance, and find the anecdotes
about its capture to be a bit of spice to the history behind it. Maybe it's just that I'm from the Sierra
and respond more to how AA captured the essence of light in the mtns than in the desert. Who knows. To each his own.