Using Drones To Transform Earth Into An Alien World

Reuben Wu shares his latest otherworldly photos of our real world.


One day, Reuben Wu decided that humanity–oversaturated with a constant flow of beautiful images–needed a new perspective of our planet. So he started Lux Noctis, an ongoing series of award-winning photographs that use drones to illuminate landscapes with otherworldly results.


Co.Design spoke with him about how he decided to take this path and how he does his magic.

How did you come up with the idea for Lux Noctis?

It was a logical combination of lighting and drone technology but the inspiration really was depicting landscapes in a new way, so viewers have a renewed perspective of our own planet. It’s also influenced by ideas of planetary exploration, 19th-century sublime romantic painting and science fiction.

Have you experimented with drones before?

I was experimenting with projections in the desert in 2014 and also flying drones to shoot footage. The combination of those things made a new connection. This lead to the first set of the series. I now create motion versions of this idea:


How do you plan and execute these shots?

A lot of prior research poring over maps, moon cycles, seasons, and tourist traffic. I spend the day planning compositions, locations, hiking tracks, and GPS markers and then wait until sundown before I start shooting. I keep my entire kit portable so I can hike to very remote spots. I never fly when there are other visitors present, it’s important to me that the location is very remote and I am alone to create these pictures.

[Photo: Reuben Wu]

One of the shots accidentally caught the final burn of [SpaceX’s] Falcon Heavy as it exited the Earth’s atmosphere.

In some of these images, I’ve evolved my process of intervention where I show the light source in the form of a light path. I see it as a kind of “zero trace” version of land art where the environment remains untouched by the artist and at the same time is presented in a way which is inspired by 19th-century sublime Romantic painting and science and fictional imagery.

You can follow Reuben Wu on Instagram.

About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.