The idea of using drones for art is not a new one. Intel has pioneered using hundreds of drones in coordinated light shows. DJI has teased at the idea of the Phantom X, that can be controlled using hand gestures to create “paintings in the sky”. We did something far less complicated and, in our opinion, much more beautiful than anything DJI or Intel have (or haven’t) done. We created fantastic long exposure light paintings using an inexpensive toy LED drone that you can get on Amazon today!
The concept is pretty simple. I set up my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera with a 30-second long exposure, a small f/22 aperture to keep everything in pretty good focus, and a low ISO 400 sensitivity to keep the bright lights from overexposing and keep the background nice and dark. Then I flew. Once I got started it was pretty addictive.
Picking a Drone
There is no doubt that the Halo 3000 is pretty ideal for this task. It has altitude hold so if you are looking up it is easier to keep the drone at roughly the right altitude. The real benefit of this drone is that the LEDs are clearly visible regardless of the orientation of the drone. We are very tempted to get the less expensive predecessor to the Halo, the UFO 3000.
The UFO 3000 generally runs about $10 cheaper than the Halo but it doesn’t include altitude hold. The benefit of no altitude hold is that the pilot has complete control of the drone including altitude. This can be a real benefit, especially when capturing images from the side. No matter what drone you go with, make sure it has some really nice LEDs that can be seen from multiple angles.
I recommend you experiment with different camera angles. Most of my favorite images are with the camera pointed up and the drone flying over the camera. You can get different effects from the side, where upward-flying spirals and loops create interesting effects. I suggest you play around and find what you like best. As I mentioned before, I recommend a low ISO setting and a small aperture to get the best shots.
We put a video together showing video of the flights and we added a little humor courtesy of the painting master himself, Bob Ross. We’ve got him beat though. These light paintings were all finished in no more than 30 seconds. It always took Bob 30 minutes to crank out an oil painting with his knife and 2-inch brush.
A Few More Shots
Check out a couple more cool images I captured. You just can’t get the same effects by doing light painting by hand. I definitely recommend you try this. Check the latest price on the Halo 3000 with altitude hold or the original UFO 3000 that allows the pilot more control.
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