(namib-naukluft park sparkling here)
this is how the nat geo photographer, Frans Lanting, explained the painting-like appearance:
"[the photo was taken] at dawn when the warm light of the morning sun was illuminating a huge red sand dune dotted with white grasses while the white floor of the clay pan was still in shade. It looks blue because it reflects the color of the sky above. ... The perfect moment came when the sun reached all the way down to the bottom of the sand dune just before it reached the desert floor. I used a long telephoto lens and stopped it all the way down to compress the perspective."
i don't completely understand it, but i do completely like it. i wish i was capable of doing something, or anything like this.