Light Painting with a Drone

Creative Project

Combining light painting, steel wool, and drone techniques

Light painting. Drones. Steel Wool. These are three of my favorite things! What if I could combine all three of these techniques into a single image, you say? Challenge accepted!

I will say this is merely my first attempt at this technique, and I hope it is only the beginning. However, I am fairly satisfied with my first attempt. The catalyst for this project was a combination of two events:

  1. A close friend giving me the location recommendation of the doorways outside at Franklin Park for the steel wool technique - which really turns out nice as if it is a portal to another dimension.
  2. Browsing for inspiration on social media and stumbling upon a video on TikTok of using a drone with lights to light paint spirals of white light around a tree

After digging further into using a drone for this method, I found both the requirements for flying a drone at night and the equipment needed to be within reach! With proper licensing, updated training, and the correct equipment (i.e. a light visible from 3 nm attached to your drone), commercial drone pilots can now fly at night without a special permit. I was surprised by the lack of options on lights to attach to my drone that would be sufficient for light painting. There were really one 1 or 2 options!

With this all in place, it was just a matter of going out and giving it a shot - yes a pun, deal with it. The final image is actually four different images put together: (1) An image of the scene with no drone/steel wool when there was still some light on the horizon, (2) A shot with the drone light, (3) a shot putting light on the "Frankin Park" title at the top to highlight this and (4) a shot with the steel wool.

The first image below is the end result, with the 2nd image just being one I liked of the steel wool spiraling through the arch from a 3/4 view. Certainly not my first attempt with steel wool if you want to learn more about that technique, but a first to be paired with a drone.

Comment below your idea of where else this technique could be used. Stay tuned for more images in the future using this technique, including some astrophotography as I experiment with new star tracking equipment to elevate my star photos - and where having a drone to light up the scene may come in handy.


Portal at Franklin Park

Portal at Franklin Park

Spiral of Sparks through Franklin Park

Spiral of Sparks through Franklin Park

About the Author

Nicholas Klein

Founder and visual artist, specializing in all aspects of a businesses presence from imagery and video to graphics and web. A graduate of IPFW with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Concentration Photography as well as an Associates Degree in Business. His personal photography works are focused on landscape, travel, and aerial photography.

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