Lighting up landscapes

Alisha Shinde
Sunday, 1 April 2018

Award winning British photographer Reuben Wu wanted to change the look of landscape images 

Of all the recent advances in technology and photography, the drone has always been in the lead mostly because of the different ways in which it can be used. British photographer Reuben Wu has been using the drone not as a flying camera but as a light to capture striking long exposure shots.

“Aren’t we all overwhelmed every single day by beautiful images of the familiar things we see?” asks Wu, co-founder of the band Ladytron and now also a photographer who clicks stunning images of surreal locations. Catching up with Wu we find out more about his award-winning series of photographs called ‘Lux Noctis’ (Light the night). 

A multi-disciplinary artist working in photography, motion and music, Wu found an interesting hobby while touring extensively with the band, “Photography, for me, grew from a hobby into a career, capturing and creating imagery and motion pieces for some big brands like Apple, Audi, GE and even Google,” says Wu.

He believes that the notion of journey and discovery is central to his art, which is bound with his love for new technology and the opportunities that it brings to modern storytelling. Explaining his series, he says the photographs depict landscapes within the framework of traditional landscape photography but which is influenced by the ideas of planetary exploration of the 19th century sublime romantic painting collaborated with science fiction. “I imagined the landscapes transformed into undiscovered places which renew our perceptions of our world,” says Wu.

He says that he started this ongoing project in 2016, shooting mostly in the remote desert environments of western parts of America and also in other locations around the world including Greece, the UK and Indonesia. Talking about his experience while shooting the series he says that every single photograph takes a few hours of daytime scouting and a couple of hours to shoot. 

A drone for most of the photographers is the easiest way of getting some really awesome aerial shots but Wu used them to create some unimaginable scenes which seemed to be right out of a Star Wars movie. When asked why he decided to incorporate a drone in his photography, he says, “I wanted to create a new perspective on landscape photography.” He believes there is so much imagery which relies on natural light for which photographers have to wait for the right time of the day and angle of the sun. 

Wu often thought that nature was doing the work for him because of which he wanted to create an atmosphere of his own for the scene. “Just the way a photographer would light a portrait in a studio,” says Wu adding that using a drone was just a means of achieving what he had conceptualised in his mind. 
There is a lot of hard work that goes behind capturing such brilliant photographs because each and every second is important to capture the essence in one single frame. Talking about the challenges Wu had to face, he says that there is a lot of planning, driving, hiking and preparation that goes into taking these shots. Wu says, “I usually shoot alone because of which I have to carry my entire set up from location to location and everything has to be portable.” Hiking in the dark can be difficult and tiring especially when there is climbing involved. 

Wu feels that landscape photography has changed over the years, Wu says, “But at its core, it hasn’t changed because of which I decided to do this project.” Landscape photographs have the tendency of looking the same or they look like what has already been done in the past. 

He believes that mobile phones have made photography way more accessible to people. “There are more cameras, photographers and photographs than ever before which is good,” he says, adding that it is an evolving and rich medium for art but it also poses a challenge for photographers to create something new and unique,” he concludes. 

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