Introducing man made light in a natural surroundings opens the mind to every other plan of seeing, says photographer and drone pilot Reuben Wu.

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Reuben Wu created this record by utilizing lights mounted on drones to dramatically illuminate
the Pastoruri Glacier in Cordillera Blanca, Peru.

Introducing man made light in a natural surroundings opens the mind to every other plan of seeing, says photographer and drone pilot Reuben Wu.


Describe Illustrations by Reuben Wu


This story appears within the
September 2020 subject of
National Geographic magazine.

The impressive landscapes on Earth can desire a particular person’s breath away. But for Reuben Wu, that wasn’t adequate. Wu—a photographer, visible artist, and song producer—felt that the planet’s majestic mountains, glaciers, and beaches were lacking something.

Namely, unnatural lights.




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Wu solid a difficult make of light on rock formations attain Arbol de Piedra, Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve of Sur Lípez Province, Bolivia.

The premise develop into born from a mistake. One evening attain Death Valley, California, Wu plot a camera to make a time-lapse sequence at the hours of darkness. A pickup truck drove by and washed out the scene with its harsh headlights.

Within the foundation, says Wu, “I develop into in fact frustrated. But after I checked out the pictures, I develop into fascinated. Right here develop into man made lights in a natural surroundings.”

The juxtaposition launched his want to test out adding light to a lot of scenes where it didn’t belong: on lakes, in canyons, on gargantuan rock pillars within the desolate tract. He flew drones carrying lights in entrance of cameras, taking long exposures—so long as 30 seconds. Then he layered the pictures into composites and, in some pictures, retouched the closing model to settle the drone but depart the light it solid.




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We programmed lit drones to circle above Utah’s Yant Flat sandstone formations, then mixed a lot of long exposures into this composite record.




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Illuminating the Moel Tryfan quarry in North Wales required a methodical make of painting with drone light, to stress the rock faces’ contours.

What emerged were incongruous, otherworldly landscapes, every a visual puzzle dauntless the observer to identify how this kind of scene came to be.

Wu pictures basically within the US, where he lives. But within the spirit of exploration, he says, any landscape on Earth is a candidate for this kind of portrait—any scene, anyplace, that will even be captured in a technique it doesn’t in overall seem.

Wu intends for the sequence to confound: Is it nature? Is it artwork? Disorientation, he says, opens the mind to every other plan of seeing.




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A drone inscribes an oval of light above a rock tower in Blue Canyon on the Hopi Reservation attain Tuba City, Arizona.




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Stars blur as the Earth turns in a long-publicity photo of lit stone formations in Blue Canyon, on the Hopi Reservation attain Tuba City, Arizona.




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At Crowley Lake attain Colossal Lakes, California, lights heightens a rock face’s reflection.




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Gentle bathes these bluffs at Sarakiniko seaside on Milos island, Greece.




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Stars shine above brightly lit spires in Valle de las Animas, La Paz, Bolivia.




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A circling drone sheds a halo’s light on Yant Flat sandstone formations in southern Utah.