Digital Cameras

Reuben Wu uses drones to paint surreal sci-fi landscapes with light

Reuben Wu uses drones to paint...
These images included the trails of the drones to create eerie floating halos in the sky
These images included the trails of the drones to create eerie floating halos in the sky
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One of the first images from Lux Noctis
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One of the first images from Lux Noctis
The second set of images in the Lux Noctis series incorporated halos lit by drones
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The second set of images in the Lux Noctis series incorporated halos lit by drones
A cross, in the recent Aeroglyph series
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A cross, in the recent Aeroglyph series
Terminus, Wu's latest series, took him to a glacier in Peru
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Terminus, Wu's latest series, took him to a glacier in Peru
These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
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These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
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These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
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These Lux Noctis images were the first of Wu's experiments using drone light to photograph landscapes at night
These Lux Noctis images were taken in Western United States
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These Lux Noctis images were taken in Western United States
The first Lux Noctis images were shot with a Phase One XF 100MP
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The first Lux Noctis images were shot with a Phase One XF 100MP
A 3DR solo drone was fitted with a Fiilex AL250 LED light
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A 3DR solo drone was fitted with a Fiilex AL250 LED light
The images are composites of several long-exposure shots
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The images are composites of several long-exposure shots
The trail in the sky in this image is from SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test launch
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The trail in the sky in this image is from SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test launch
These images included the trails of the drones to create eerie floating halos in the sky
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These images included the trails of the drones to create eerie floating halos in the sky
Lux Noctis II
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Lux Noctis II
Lux Noctis II
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Lux Noctis II
"We are overwhelmed everyday by beautiful images of the familiar," says Wu. "I imagine these scenes transformed into undiscovered landscapes which renew our perceptions of our world"
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"We are overwhelmed everyday by beautiful images of the familiar," says Wu. "I imagine these scenes transformed into undiscovered landscapes which renew our perceptions of our world"
The second series of Lux Noctis photographs
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The second series of Lux Noctis photographs
Starlight Scope
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Starlight Scope
Lux Noctis II
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Lux Noctis II
Stripping the landscape away from the images resulted in a compelling minimalism highlighting the reflections of the drone light on the water
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Stripping the landscape away from the images resulted in a compelling minimalism highlighting the reflections of the drone light on the water
This Aeroglyph image almost seems like it is mapping out an imaginary constellation
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This Aeroglyph image almost seems like it is mapping out an imaginary constellation
Subtitled on Instagram, "Put your heart into it"
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Subtitled on Instagram, "Put your heart into it"
An image in the Aeroglyph project
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An image in the Aeroglyph project
Straight lines – Aeroglyph
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Straight lines – Aeroglyph
The major symbols in the Aeroglyph project
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The major symbols in the Aeroglyph project
The Pastoruri glacier in Peru
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The Pastoruri glacier in Peru
The glacier is melting so fast it may completely disappear within the next couple of decades
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The glacier is melting so fast it may completely disappear within the next couple of decades
Accompanying Wu on the journey to Peru was a film crew sponsored by Coors Lights, making a short documentary on Wu's work
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Accompanying Wu on the journey to Peru was a film crew sponsored by Coors Lights, making a short documentary on Wu's work
The cold weather shortened the drone's battery life limiting Wu's time to shoot
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The cold weather shortened the drone's battery life limiting Wu's time to shoot
The Terminus project is part documentation of a landscape in peril
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The Terminus project is part documentation of a landscape in peril
The Terminus project
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The Terminus project
View gallery - 31 images

The spectacular photography of Reuben Wu blends a myriad of influences, from science fiction to 19th century romantic painting. Using a drone mounted with an LED, he literally paints the landscape with light to create eerie, otherworldly images.

Wu, a visual artist and musician, first got the idea to use drones as a light source several years ago and the Lux Noctis series was born. The first chapter in the series concentrated on rather straightforward "painting with light" but as Wu's skills evolved, so did the sophistication of the imagery.

One of the first images from Lux Noctis
One of the first images from Lux Noctis

Instead of hiding the light source, later images in the Lux Noctis series embraced the presence of the drone. Wu utilized clever time-lapse techniques to draw stunning halos of light over various mountains.

The second set of images in the Lux Noctis series incorporated halos lit by drones
The second set of images in the Lux Noctis series incorporated halos lit by drones

More recently, Wu presented a remarkable new series of images he calls Aeroglyphs. These shots again incorporate the trails of drone light to paint temporary geometric figures in the night sky. The exciting minimalism of the Aeroglyph project removes any landscape features to concentrate on creating symbols in the sky that resemble buttons on a video game keypad.

A cross, in the recent Aeroglyph series
A cross, in the recent Aeroglyph series

His most recent project, Terminus, is yet another exciting evolution in the aesthetic, incorporating the Aeroglyph symbolism with an entirely new landscape focus – glaciers. Shot at an altitude of 17,000 ft (5,200 m) in Peru, the Terminus project is another sublime series from Wu, this time attempting to document a landscape in decline by photographing a glacier that is rapidly disappearing due to climate change.

"I photographed the glacier with conflicting feelings," explains Wu of the Terminus project. "I wanted to show evidence of its alarming retreat, yet I was drawn to the epic scale of the ice which remained. In the end I leaned towards the latter, but each photograph represents a bleak reality, a fading memory of what once stood."

Terminus, Wu's latest series, took him to a glacier in Peru
Terminus, Wu's latest series, took him to a glacier in Peru

Check out a behind-the-scenes video below, with Wu describing how he shoots his fantastic images, and take a look through the gallery for a glimpse at some more of his remarkable work.

Sources: Reuben Wu, Instagram, Behance

Lux Noctis

View gallery - 31 images
1 comment
Tom Kilian
Wu's work - pure genius! - simple approach, sweat and seeing what none of us have seen before he even viewed it - landmark approach!