By now we’ve all “oohed” and “awed” over footage of thousands of glowing drones used to create elaborate animated light shows in the night sky. But artist Frodo Álvarez has come up with a different approach, using just a handful of pre-programmed drones to create towering long-exposure light paintings.
Typically these types of images are created by someone standing in front of a camera with its shutter open for a prolonged period and either waving an LED light wand around, or using brightly coloured flashlights to sketch out images in the air that are only visible to the camera’s sensor. Because the person making the drawings can’t see their previous strokes, there’s a certain lack of precision to the artwork they create, and as a result light painting is more like doodling than creating fine art.
As has been demonstrated many times before through the complex real-time animations they can create for light shows, the flight path of a drone can be precisely controlled and pre-programmed, so Álvarez teamed up with the Madrid-based UMILES entertainment who specialises in using drones to create light shows. This particular project required just five drones to create an image of a soccer player ready to kick a ball. The drones were each flown into a very specific position before turning on their LED lights and then performing a pre-determined flight pattern for an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera with an Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro lens.
According to PetaPixel, thanks to the drone’s limited battery life and an 11pm curfew in place as a result of the pandemic, the team only had time for four attempts once the sky had sufficiently darkened so the long exposure image wouldn’t be blown out. The scale of the image necessitated the use of multiple drones who were each responsible for just a part of the soccer player’s body so that the light painting would be finished in a specific time frame. But there’s no reason that less ambitious light paintings couldn’t be created using just a single drone and proper planning, so hopefully, this starts a new photography trend that even amateurs could reproduce.