Rings of Fire—How Guilhem Nicolas Uses Drone Lighting to Create Surreal Images in the Night Sky
BY Zacc Dukowitz31 May 2023
Guilhem Nicolas—also known as Jadikan—is a French artist who has made a name for himself by creating strange, beautiful images in the night sky.
To make these photos, Nicolas uses long exposures and drones as a light source. The end results are beautiful shapes framed against the night sky, like this hoop that looks like its dripping with fire.
Drones are usually used to take photos. But in these images, drone lighting is used to create forms from light, and the photos themselves are taken from the ground.
Reuben Wu was the first saw artist we ever saw to experiment with using drones as a light source like this.
Credit: Reuben Wu
Wu has been doing this kind of work for years, reaching such acclaim that his work was featured last year on the cover of National Geographic.
The picture that made it on the cover was of Stone Henge. Wu used a unique approach to lighting that involved drones and other light sources, finding an entirely new way to capture the over-photographed site.
Nicolas’s work takes Wu’s concept of using drones as a light source and pushes it further, creating new, organic shapes that are entirely his own.
Take a look at some of the images from his new series, entitled Phénomènes (i.e., Phenomena).
How Jadikan Makes Rings of Fire in the Night Sky
A key addition Guilhem Nicolas has made to the concept of creating shapes with light is to add motion.
In Reuben Wu’s photos, we see stark circles of light painted on the night sky. These shapes look like eerie structures from another world: solid, permanent, and yet strangely afloat.
These shapes are achieved by having a drone equipped with bright lights fly in a circle, and then taking photographs of them from the ground using a long exposure time, allowing the entire circle the drone’s lights make to be captured as a single shape.
There are different ways to execute the idea, but the end result is typically a circle, or several circles.
Jadikan’s light-shaped images, on the other hand, appears to be in motion.
The circles of light in his photos seem to rain down sparks or even golden ropes, depending on the length of the exposure he’s using.
The artist achieves this effect by using a combustible powder, making it look like the rings of light are dripping some kind of molten, water-like material. And the end result is stunning.
I sought to bring a new dimension of poetry and spirituality to the landscape through this series . . . In each photograph, you can follow a circle of fire that wanders from landscape to landscape to transform them into unknown and lunar places.
– Guilhem Nicolas
According to Nicolas, he sees the landscape he photographs as both a canvas on which he can paint light and as a subject itself.
His work requires careful planning. To scout locations for taking photos he spends time during the day looking for the perfect spot, framing the shot and picturing what it will look like when it’s dark.
Here are some more images from Jadikan’s new series:
Jadikan has used drones as a light source to create art before the Phénomènes series.
Here is a photo from an earlier series called AGFA – PONT A MARCQ:
Photos from the Phénomènes series are currently on display in Fontaine, France, in a show called “Dimensions Lumières.” The show is hosted by Le VOG Centre d’art Contemporain and is taking place from May 20 to July 8.