Say What? Drones Used as a Light Source Help Create “Mountain Halo” Night Landscape Shots

BY Zacc Dukowitz
21 March 2018

Chicago-based photographer Reuben Wu has been using drones to create what he calls mountain halo shots, and they are incredible.

Here are some of our favorites:

drone mountain halo 3
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

drone mountain halo light
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

mountain halo drone
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

It’s important to note that drones were used in an unusual way for this project—as the light source, and not to capture the images themselves.

Using long exposures and programming his DJI Phantom to orbit around a mountain as a point of interest, Reuben was able to create the visual representation of a continuous halo of light around a mountain—or a bright point, or a squiggle, as the case might be.

Reuben has said that even though he spends lots of time planning and executing these photos the project is still experimental in nature, and he’s really just curious to see what can be done using drones as a light source coupled with long exposures.

Before embarking on this mountain halo project, Reuben had already made a name for himself with his Lux Noctis work, in which he uses drone-mounted lights to give landscapes an erie, out-of-this-world kind of look, which has been referred to as “painting” nocturnal landscape with light through multiple exposures.

Reuben sharing his process

All of Reuben’s work is shot in remote landscapes, mountains and deserts, where he can pass long periods of time getting multiple exposures for his shots.

According to Wu, lots of research goes into his work.

He spends time looking at maps, seasonality of light, tourist flow, and moon cycles. When he’s picked an area where he wants to shoot, he’ll spend the day planning the location and composition. Once he’s ready, he’ll wait until the sun goes down so that he can start shooting.

It’s important to him to keep his work kit portable so that he can move around to remote locations, so he can be in solitude while creating these shots.

The mountain halo shots weren’t something he intentionally set out to capture at first, but were more of an organic outgrowth from his work outdoors and his interest in using drones as light sources.

While shooting at night, he started playing with long exposures to capture the light paths of his drone against mountains and other landscape features, and found that the trails of light added a magical element to his night photographs.

Out of this first realization grew the “mountain halo” pictures showcased here in this article.

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.

– Reuben Wu

In addition to these projects, Reuben Wu is a musician and plays in the band Ladytron.

Here are some more shots taken by Reuben, where drones were used as light sources.

mountain halo drone light
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

mountain halo drone
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

drone light mountain halo

Photo credit: Reuben Wu

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