Reuben Wu Is Creating “Motion Pieces” Using Drones as a Light Source—And They’re Amazing

BY Zacc Dukowitz
5 May 2021

Photographer and all around magic-image maker Reuben Wu has once again found a new way to use drones as a light source to create beautiful works of art.

In his ongoing Lux Noctis series, Wu has again reinvented the use of drone lighting to capture incredible stills of nature. But he’s also doing something he’s never done before—using drones as a light source to create “motion pieces.”

Take a look:

These motion pieces might be Wu’s most ambitious work yet, and they take a lot of planning to pull off, including shooting both at night and into the day. Here’s a tweet Reuben shared showing some stills documenting the process he followed to create the 8-second work of art featured above:


For years now, Wu has managed to use drone lighting to help us see the familiar in new ways.

And these motion pieces are one more step forward in that work, adding not only motion but sound effects as well to turn something we know—lightning during a storm—into something much more strange and beautiful.

By attaching a light to a drone, and tracing linear forms above remote landscapes at night, my work offers a new perspective, showing familiar places but under an unfamiliar light.

– Reuben Wu

From Mountain Halos to Motion Pieces

We’ve written about Wu’s art a few times before.

He first came to our attention for his creative employment of drones as a light source to create halos around natural objects at night, using long exposure times and circular flight paths to create what he calls “mountain halo shots,” such as the one shown below.

mountain halo drone
Photo credit: Reuben Wu

Wu’s work has continued to evolve since that first series of mountain halo photos.

In his Light Storm series, which came out in late 2020, Wu became more playful with light and the different ways he could use drones to illuminate a landscape.

[To see more of Reuben’s artwork, follow him on Instagram or visit his website.]

As you can see in the photo below, in the Light Storm photos Wu explores new ways to use the halo effect to make stark desert locales seem foreign and new, enlivening these dusty scenes as if they were being visited by creatures from another planet.

Photo credit: Reuben Wu

In Light Storm, Wu also began experimenting with using drones as an unseen light source to dramatize landscapes, lending them an otherworldly quality:

Photo credit: Reuben Wu

The Lux Noctis Series

The ongoing Lux Noctis series features both stills and the kinds of motion pieces we shared above.

Here is the very first motion piece Wu created for the series:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Reuben Wu (@itsreuben)

As for the still images from Lox Noctis, Wu has been incorporating bodies of water into his nighttime photos, using drones to provide a floating, surrealistic light source.

Photo credit: Reuben Wu

He’s also been playing with using drone lighting to create rectilinear shapes within his photos, as well as adding himself to the shots—perhaps in an effort to create a sense of the scale of the surroundings, or perhaps just to add another eerie layer to the overall scene.

Photo credit: Reuben Wu

The Lux Noctis series is huge, and Wu is still adding images and motion pieces to it.

Below are just some of our favorites from it, but make sure to check out the full series on Wu’s website.







Note: All the images shown above are owned by Reuben Wu

Lux Noctis is an ongoing project depicting landscapes unbound by time and space, influenced by ideas of planetary exploration, chiaroscuro painting, and science fiction. We are overwhelmed everyday by beautiful images of the familiar. I imagine these scenes transformed into undiscovered landscapes which renew our perceptions of our world.

– Reuben Wu

Want to see more of Reuben Wu’s work? Follow him on Instagram or visit the projects page of his website.

Blown away by Wu’s work? Share your impressions in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.

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