Is This Really Planet Earth?S

The Moon, Venus, the clouds, and the birds dancing under the lights and shadows of a perfect sunset... So perfect, in fact, that it feels otherworldly, like an sci-fi illustration. But there aren't Photoshop filters or HDR or airbrushing here.

I thought it was artificial when I first saw it, perhaps High Dynamic Range photography. But that's not the case. It was just one of those perfect moments of nature, framing the conjunction of Venus and Mars.

I talked with Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual, the photographer, about his technique:

It was pretty simple. I took it with my Canon 5D and Canon EF70-200 2.8 IS lenses. I measured the light with a Sekonik light meter, and set the camera at ISO 320, f/5.6 and 1/320. I imported it through RAW and that was it.

No Photoshop adjustment work, no HDR toning or compositing of any kind. Just the usual value tweaking while importing the RAW photography from the camera. The magic was not in the camera or the software, just in the skies of the beautiful city of Córdoba, Spain.

It was last week, on September 11. I was in a place called Los Sotos de la Albolafia, a natural reserve where birds live in Córdoba. One of those evenings when you can smell the storm coming in the air. There was a pleasant breeze. It felt like the end of the summer.

There was a giant anvil cloud. Flocks of birds were coming back to sleep. I knew Venus would be near Jupiter, and after a while it appeared behind a cloud. It was fast, because in a few seconds all was gone.

I was in the right place at the right time with the gear ready... so it had to be good.

And good it is. [Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual]