Triple Conjunction over the I.A.N.P. | The Moon, Venus and Jupiter – Fernando Rey

I had already been for a few weeks with the idea of taking pictures of the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon, three celestial bodies over the Atlantic Ocean, and I had more or less my calculations, although without much hope because when you plan to take this kind of picture, there are many factors involved and they can lead to pleasant surprises or fatal problems, even so you must have a clear idea of what you are going to capture and be lucky.

When you practice Starry Skies Photography, the first thing you have to consider is to have good information. Through different applications we can know quite accurately and in advance all kind of parameters about what is going on in the celestial sphere, like positions of planets and stars, movements, angles, times and orientations… Thus, the three protagonist celestial bodies would meet the night from 20 to 21 of June, they would start to become visible just after the sunset, at about 22:40h West facing, until their setting at 23:50h. The Moon in a young crescent stage would be next to the two planets forming an almost perfect triangle, and the moment with the greatest splendor would be approaching the horizon.
It is not the first time that I photograph the Moon in that position, so I knew I would have to choose the best possible location, I would have a short space of time for taking the picture and it would depend so much on the weather to get a picture of value.


The Moon, Venus and Jupiter conjunction over the Sálvora lighthouse.
Islas Atlánticas National Park. March 2012.

Thus, the Cíes Islands, in the Islas Atlánticas National Park, was the location chosen by three reasons. The first one was to have a point overlooking the West over the Atlantic Ocean with the conjunction. The second reason was being a location with little light pollution, it would be easier to capture all the light generated by the three bodies, and the third reason was the great knowledge of them for having been photographing them for years.
The only thing that I have not clear was the exact place to take the picture, I doubted between take it from the top of the Piedra de la Campana (170m), or from the sea-level near the dam.
Finally, the weather forecast was one of the most important conditions because due to the place and date all could happen. The haze, a fog bank, a front on the horizon or even wind and waves, could ruin any prior planning.

_6200862OLYSan Martiño Island.
Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

The day arrived and we start off… The weekend forecast was good, a lot of heat and fairly clear skies, so we arranged a visit to the Park from Saturday to Sunday with family and friends, including three photographers, not just to enjoy the scenery, but also the company, the beaches, and the talks in the terrace with a cold beer.
Just before the end of the day we went to the dam that separates the islands of Monteagudo and Montefaro with the group of people waiting to see one of the most beautiful and traditional performances in Galicia since ancient times, the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
Indispensable sight of the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.


Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

There, besides capturing the fantastic postcard, we found that the location for shooting the combination was good and the atmosphere on the horizon was clear and clean, so we just needed to go to dinner at the campsite, near the dam, and return again with renewed strength for the big event.



Same place, same reason, same frame and a different way of transmitting the time. 
It is important to master the technique to change the way you want to show the light.

After dinner, rehydrated and with the camera batteries charged, we walked the path down to the dock, and that was when we discovered the big spectacle, at 22: 40h the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were almost in position with a perfect visibility, the horizon was clean and with an amazing warm colour tone.

Quickly, I took the equipment and I opened the tripods, while I was sending SMS to urge the people who were in the camping to come down to see the big spectacle. With one of my OMDs I looked for the movement, and using the Live Composite mode I framed, measured the light and let it capture everything that happened there.

_6210062-2OLY Triple conjunction with Live Composite, ISO 1600.
Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

With the second camera I looked for several compositions, with different focus, different parameters and … then I stopped and watched. The celestial bodies were coming to the Atlantic Ocean, and their light was beginning to be reflected over the water, not only from the Moon, most common, but also from Venus, accompanied by Jupiter and a set of stars around them, it was a great spectacle. … I put the rocks in the centre and the sea in the foreground, vertical, and I shot two photos in 28mm, ISO 400, f2.8 aperture with 15 » and 30″ exposures respectively. Afterwards, I changed to a horizontal frame to capture the 8mm the whole scene, but the stars quickly lost their brightness when they approached the horizon and they disappeared.

_6200935OLY  Triple conjunction, Samyang 8mm, f3.5, 30”, ISO 800
Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

The evening continued spectacular with a temperature inviting to walk and to continue photographing beautiful landscapes of the National Park and that is what we did, looking for the Milky Way until approximately 5:00 in the morning of an unforgettable unique day.

_6210976OLY Milky Way, Samyang 8mm, f3.5, 30”, ISO 1600
Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

From that moment on, going back home, downloading cards, checking images and again the surprise of seeing the two images of the conjunction and confirm that they had something special. I selected one of them, the one with 30 «exposure and I entered the forums of the NASA website where I sent some technical comments about how and where the photo was taken, and about what was important for me, the warm brightness and captivating light reflecting off the Moon and Venus over the Atlantic Ocean, the granite rocks of Galicia and the entry of water into the lake Dos Nenos in the Islas Atánticas National Park.

The selection of the image for the NASA’s APOD «Astronomy Picture of the Day» on the 24th of June 2015 and the media coverage is another story …

_6200931wb Triple conjunction, EM5 MkII, Zuiko12-40 @ 28mm, f2.8, 30”, ISO 400
Islas Atlánticas National Park. June 2015.

Text and images:
Fernando Rey.