Pic of the Week: 2/2/17
Milky Way over the Lighthouse
Location: Palo Duro Canyon, TX
Date Taken: 8/12/15
February is here and that means we’re now starting to get into the milky way season! In fact, I am already planning a trip to Caprock Canyon for my first milky way photo of the year. As a way to celebrate I decided to showcase one of my favorite milky way images I’ve captured. This photo was taken at the Lighthouse in Palo Duro Canyon and there’s something very interesting about this photo—I didn’t take it. Now I know that sounds strange, but if you read on you’ll learn about this story behind the image.
Lighthouse Milky Way © Ben Jacobi
In the fall of 2015 I was starting to plan a shoot for the Perseids meteor shower. The two previous years had left a lot to be desired. My fist attempt was back in 2013 and the waxing crescent moon was supposed to set around 11:00pm that night. Being this was first time shooting the meteor shower I wasn’t exactly sure how the moon would affect the meteors. Sadly, I didn’t even get the chance to see the moon. Low clouds blocked out our night skies and even though I didn’t capture any meteors I did get some nice lightning shots. Enter 2014. This time we were forecast to have clear skies, but it was also the night of the supermoon. I was lucky to get the images I could, but still nothing that I felt really represented a “shower” of meteors. Finally, in 2015 the conditions were looking hopeful. Clear skies and no moon were expected across of northern, TX. I had been talking with my good friend Jim Livingston about meeting up for a possible shoot together. Jim told me I needed to come to Amarillo and we would shoot the shower in Palo Duro Canyon at the iconic Lighthouse rock.
I had been to Palo Duro Canyon once before, but I never made it to the Lighthouse and I certainly hadn’t camped out all night there photographing the stars. Jim, however, was a frequent visitor to PDC and had spent a few years shooting the amazing scenery in the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. We had to get special permission form the headquarters to camp out there and I was so grateful for the opportunity. When we arrived on location I stood amazed at the size of the Lighthouse, a 300ft tall hoodoo standing like a sentinel of the canyon floor. Jim explained to me that I would not be camping on the canyon floor, but instead I would be up at the base of the Lighthouse shooting the shower. We had worked out an arrangement since we both wanted the same shots. I would bring my main Nikon D800 and my backup D5100 up to the base of Lighthouse. I would also bring Jim’s 60D (his backup) camera and set up a timelapse for him. Then down on the canyon floor Jim would take my Nikon D700 and shoot a timelapse of the milky way moving across the Lighthouse.
Our collaboration was a success and we both came back with excellent images and timelapse sequences. In fact, if you watch Jim’s timelapse from his location you will see streaks of light on the Lighthouse base. That was me moving around and trying out different shots. I forgot Jim (and my camera) were down there taking photos. We shot through the night and into the sunrise that morning witnessing around 50 meteors! I scrubbed through the timelapse sequence and this image jumped out at me. Jim was lighting up the Lighthouse using a spotlight giving a little more detail and depth of the massive rock formation. The composition was good and it was during a time I didn't have any lights going. To this day that trip is still one of my most cherished memories and sometimes when I close my eyes I can imagine being back there completely isolated from the world and just staring into the majestic night sky. I have some exciting locations for this year’s milky way season and who knows maybe I’ll be back in Palo Duro Canyon for a reshoot.