Check out these incredible shots by Liverpool-born and Chigaco-based musician and photographer Reuben Wu. Reuben is known for his pioneering methods of using drone-mounted lights to illuminate landscapes, giving them an otherworldly quality reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. These images are part of an ongoing project called Lux Noctis, which he has been working on since 2016.
“I got my first drone in 2014,” Reuben told Bored Panda. “My childhood dream was to have a flying camera – being able to see landscapes from impossible perspectives, so it was an important step in my photography to start using a remote moving camera. I began to shoot photos and music videos with it while experimenting with using projectors to shine graphical patterns at night onto rock pinnacles. The Lux Noctis concept developed from that, using the drone as an aerial light source instead of a camera.”
Reuben is naturally drawn to the remote landscapes of the mountains and desert, as the solitude and rich natural wonder that they offer gives him both inspiration and opportunity to focus on his work. Exploring these environments at night only add to this, as well as creating an extra challenge. “The photographs are long exposures and have to be well considered and set up,” he told us. “To me, there is more craft in creating night photos, and the use of remote aerial lights is just part of that (quite complex) workflow.” He has used many types of camera during the project, but says that the latest is a Fujifilm GFX50S, while the drone is a modified DJI Phantom.
The remote locations that he visits means that Reuben must be well-prepared for his shoots. “There is a lot of prior research that goes into these pictures,” he said. “Poring over maps, moon cycles, seasons and tourist flow. I spend the day of the shoot planning compositions, locations, hiking tracks and GPS markers and then wait until sun down before I start shooting. I keep my entire kit portable so I can hike to very remote spots. I never fly when there are other visitors present, it’s important to me that the location is very remote and I am alone to create these pictures.”
“One of the shots accidentally caught the final burn of Falcon Heavy as it exited the Earth’s atmosphere. This was in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona.” Can you guess which one it is?
While using his drone to light up the majestic mountain scenes, he began capturing the light paths of the drone with a long exposure, and discovered that this added another element to his images. “The first part of the series intentionally removes any sign of the light source to leave just the illuminated landscape,” Reuben explained to Bored Panda. “This second series makes a feature of the light path of the drone as it lights the landscape, and one of the features the drone has is a circular orbit mode around a ‘point of interest’. It was an intentional move, but the whole process for me is experimental.” This ‘halo’ effect is particularly impressive!
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