I just had the opportunity to see this last week for the first time in person at MOPA in san diego... It is an awesome photo... seriously... it's stunning.... 5 years ago.. i wouldn't have gotten it either. but, today i love the darkroom, and i love black and white, moreover, i know that when you shoot something, it takes practice to do it right from beginning to end, and to create this image, AA got all the steps pretty much perfectly.
1. The houses were lit from the setting sun from behind. you can see in the photograph that these are lit and there's plenty of detail all around, there's a cemetery there.
2. The sky has a beautiful tonality. the moon is clear
3 . the clouds almost glow, but there's detail in them as well, and they look white, and you can see, ( i being from el paso tx, under new mexico) the clouds look just like that at sundown sometimes...
all these things create an atmosphere... to truly appreciate them, you have to know that the negative, had to be exposed correctly ( which is fairly simple with experience) and he had to develop the negative accordingly. My wife and cousin, thought it was okay... nothing great.
Dont' forget AA had a photographic memory, i'm sure that helped.