During recent years, Chicago-based photographer Reuben Wu has visited quiet regions in Bolivia, Nevada’s SolarReserve, and the rivers of molten sulfur flowing in Indonesian volcanoes to capture the natural grandeur of the earth’s outmost layer. In each location, Wu highlights the land’s beauty by juxtaposing the organic features with artificial light cast by drones flying overhead. The resulting images, of which Wu boasts a rich and diverse collection, employ illuminated geometric shapes to spotlight individual features.
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Wu’s most recent series, titled Light Storm, brought him to the rocky landscapes of Utah and New Mexico—the photographer doesn’t disclose specifics due to the fragility of the environment. Here, the hovering instruments brighten the stripes and crevices embedded within the stone formations. Like his 2018 series that detailed the melting Pastoruri Glacier in Peru, Light Storm plays a similar role. “I felt like it was an attempt to document and preserve the memory of a landscape in peril,” he shares with Colossal.
Adamant about leaving no trace on the locales he visits, Wu’s process allows him to maintain a distance from his rugged subject matter while creating the conditions necessary for such precise shots. He explains:
Instead of the old photographers’ adage of waiting for the right moment, I’m literally creating it from my position behind the camera. It also allows me to have more creative ownership over a photograph of a landscape. Something I’ve been struggling with as a photographer/artist is the idea that a beautiful landscape is doing all the work for me, so this was an opportunity to finally have more artistic control.
Overall, Wu writes, “the project is about presenting familiar sights in a new and unfamiliar light, renewing your sense of seeing and the experience of discovery.” Prints of his topographical images are available in his shop, and you can find more of his work on Instagram, Twitter, and Behance.