Pic of the Week 3/10/23 "The Alignment of the Gods of Love and Sky"

March 10, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 3/10/23

"The Alignment of the Gods of Love and Sky"

Location: Burkburnett, TX

Date taken: 3/3/23


Alignment of the Gods of Love and SkyAlignment of the Gods of Love and SkyThe planets Venus and Jupiter align in unison over a rural country scene. © Ben Jacobi


It has been over a month since my last blog post. I seem to always do this, I get in a creative rut, and I just don’t feel like sharing new or old images. Usually, it takes an interesting trip or a successful photoshoot to drag me out of my slump. I’m happy to report that I am now out of that rut and am back to capturing new images. In fact, Ashlee and I went on a camping trip last weekend to Lake Tawakoni State Park in north central Texas. I’ll be sharing those images over the next few weeks.

This was an unplanned and stora spur-of-the-moment shot. I was researching the position of the stars and the Milky Way over our area while preparing for our weekend trip. When I loaded the program, it defaulted to night time, and I saw the alignment of Venus and Jupiter would be low on the horizon. The cogs in my head began slowly turning as I unpacked all the details of the event. We would have clear skies, a full moon, and an interesting alignment of some planets. I opened Google Earth and began searching my database for locations that would work for this shoot.

I didn’t want to travel too far, as we were going to be traveling through the weekend. I needed somewhere close, but also interesting. My eyes scanned the purple pins scattered across the Google Earth map. I clicked the box "within 30 miles," and the results narrowed. Finally, I found a location that could make a really cool photograph. I checked the alignment and timing, and sure enough, it would work. I would be heading to an area I have named the Vaughn Road Windmill.

Just outside of Burkburnett, TX off of Vaughn Road, a windmill sits in an open field facing the west. Since discovering this location, I haven’t shot too much of the windmill. I did have an unsuccessful lightning photography shoot here last year, but this would be a much less chaotic shooting scenario. The path of the planets could be tracked down the second, and all I had to do was show up in time. The composition would be simple, but effective, and the image would require finer shooting and editing skills. My plan was to feature the planets in between the windmill and the photogenic tree on the other side. This tree has an excellent arc to the trunk that points the viewer into the gap between the tree and windmill. All you need to do is put something interesting there, and you have a shot.

I arrived on location after having dinner that evening, and although Ashlee decided to stay back home, I was glad she appreciated my going out to photograph something. The full moon was shining on the pavement, and as I pulled off the road to park, I caught the glint of moonlight reflecting off the windmill. I was not expecting this to be so well illuminated, and I was excited when I could make out the name on the windmill’s tail. High above the tree, the bright planets of Venus and Jupiter shone in the dark night sky. Now, it was just a waiting game.

I spent the next several minutes testing out different focal lengths, compositions, and settings to ensure the best possible final result. Night sky photography is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. But, it wasn’t too long before the planets started to show up in my composition. From time to time  I would move up and down the field to double- (and triple) check the angle. Everything looked to be in order. Sometime after 8:00 p.m., I started shooting as the planets dipped lower in the horizon.

I knew that I needed to keep my shutter speed short, so I wouldn’t introduce blur in the stars, but I needed as much light as possible to get details in the image. I decided to crank my ISO to 4000 and shoot at 3" at f/9.5. This was the shortest, sharpest, and brightest exposure setting that worked for the image. The only downside was the significant amount of noise (digital equivalent of grain) that showed up in the photo. To combat this, I shot several frames of the same scene, and using a stacking technique in Photoshop, I layered up the images and averaged out their noise, giving me a cleaner final image. A little extra post-processing never hurt anyone, right? 

With the image(s) successfully captured, I drove the few miles back home and uploaded the images to my computer. I was eager to begin working on the photos, but I would save it for after our weekend camping trip. Thankfully, this edit wasn’t nearly as involved as some of my usual photography, and the simple scene required a simple look. Venus is the goddess of love, and Jupiter is the god of the sky and thunder. I was very grateful that all the conditions worked out for this unique capture of the alignment of the gods of love and sky. I might have to revisit this windmill more and create a whole series of images. It is close by and a great subject to photograph.



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