Final Documentation – Joncarlo Avila

For my humanities project, I set out to do something I had never seen before. It was something within my hobby of drones and RC planes, but I was unsure if it would be possible. I set out to take long exposure photos of LED lights attached to a drone. I originally set out with a few ideas in mind. I wanted to fill the sky with little LED lights by dropping them from an RC plane, but because of weather I did not get a chance. I also wanted to use drones to tow a strip of LED lights across the sky in an attempt to recreate the Northern Lights. To do so I had to overcome a few obstacles.

First, I have had almost no practice with taking long exposure photos. To capture the images I had imagined in my head I had to do research online and practice taking long exposure photos. Once I was confident in my photo taking abilities  I could focus on the next step.

Long Exposure Practice Photo

Next, I had to figure out how I was going to wire the LEDs to a drone and RC plane. I figured a strip of LEDs would suffice in creating a Northern Lights like effect in the sky. I began by purchasing a strip of LED lights and an LED light controller which would work off the voltage of the battery from drone and RC plane. I had some difficulty soldering everything together, as the soldering tips offered in the MakerSpace were for small circuitry work, but after some digging around I found larger tips to use which worked. I soldered together a harness of wires to allow me to connect the LED light strip to where ever I used hobby batteries. With the wiring all done, it was time to start taking photos.

Wiring Harness

The first time I went out to take photos, I learned a lot. I started taking photos right after the sun set and I quickly realized it was too bright out and in order for this to work it would need to be much darker. I waited for it to begin to become much darker out and took more photos. Going into this I did not have much faith in the LEDs looking just like Northern Lights, but to my surprise they really did. 

Photo at Sunset
Photo Once it Became Darker

After going out and getting a large amount of photos with the drone towing LED lights, I was ready to switch gears to a few of my other ideas, but because of weather, I was limited. I decided to take the same strip of LED lights and mount them to my RC car. I then took it out and got a few practice shots. Again, I realized the photos looked really intriguing. I then decided to try to make natural shapes on the ground by driving in a zig-zag or in a wavy line. Depending on the color this made the photos look like a river of water or lava. 

RC Car with LED Lights
Example of RC Car Long Exposure
Example of RC Car Long Exposure

With a lot of photos now taken, it was time to decide which ones will make it to the final presentation. I went through and picked the most interesting and clear photos to begin editing. I edited all the photos in LightRoom. I did not edit them too much, I did some color correction and made the photos look a little bit softer. At this point had narrowed down my choices to 5 photos in particular.

For my final presentation I knew I wanted to get prints of these photos to hang on the wall and create a small photo gallery. I ordered 8×10 prints from CVS because they had the quickest turn around. On presentation day, I hung up the prints and allowed the class to walk around and view my photographs.

I am very pleased with how this project turned out. I think I was able to capture really interesting photographs which were taken in a way I have never seen done before. If I had a few more weeks to take photos I would take photos from a further distance as the lighting effect looks more like Northern Lights. Below are the final five photographs of my project. 

I would like to thank Professor Rosenstock for teaching this Light Art Practicum. I also want thank Jeremy Lopez for hitting the shutter button for almost all of my photos.

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