Drone light paintings are taking off

Digital Now

COLORADO SPRINGS — A local photographer creates unique images in the night sky using his drone.

Drone light painting is pretty new, Russell Klimas said.

“It’s only been around for one or two years when it comes to complex paintings compared to basic circles or lines in the sky,” Klimas added.

Klimas taught himself and has even given a TedTalks explaining his craft. He uses an Olympus camera and uses the live composite setting which means he can expose the scene for a certain amount of seconds and any light that he puts on to the scene will be exposed separately so it doesn’t overexpose the scene.

He also created the technique of automating it. He has completed 25-30 light paintings so far. You can check out his gallery on his website.

Klimas also started a drone light painting Facebook group to share ideas and build off of one another.

Horse in stop motion. Courtesy of Russell Klimas

How does he create the images?

First, Klimas decides what kind of logo, shape, or drawing he wants to create. Then he finds that image on the internet or has someone draw it, and he creates an overlay in Google Earth.

“Which basically lets me put the picture on top of google earth somewhere then once I have determined where I want to do my drone light painting I’m going to put in the placemarks that are within Google Earth that you have the option to and I just basically those around like tracing the image,” Klimas said.

Then he exports that file rendering, and he’ll put it into a flying app called Litchi, which people can get on their phones or the web. Once the image is on Litchi, Klimas makes sure his headings and settings are correct, then he saves it and is ready to go out to the field to start creating the painting.

>>> Drone Light Painting Tutorial

How do you get different colors?

“I use what you call a Lume Cube Strobe which has these little attachments that you can put on them that are just colored gels that will change the colors and they also have the Lume Cubes themselves have a magnetic gels that will change the color and you can stack those to get the secondary and tertiary colors and if you don’t want to do that gaff tape some gels on there or anything that will change the color of the light.”

When asked if he was the mysterious drone pilot this was his response:

“People have definitely tagged me a few times and said Russ they’re on to you and I’m like oh no and I’m like no dude, it’s not me, it’s too far away.”

How does he choose the images?

“A lot of the time it comes down to what I enjoy whether it’s podcasts or TV shows or if I want to challenge myself doing stop motion animation stuff, I did a Tetris a while ago which is vertical and stop motion or 3-D things, really anything that challenges me where I’m like ok this is going to be fun.”

Can anyone start doing drone light paintings?

“Anyone can do it, Google Earth is free and Litchi is really cheap. You could totally do it and the most important thing is just being aware of what the rules are with flying drones, what the FAA says and just being safe cause that’s what matters more than anything.”

So what are the rules of drones?

He recommends anyone that flys a drone to apply for a drone license because that is where you’ll learn about a lot of the rules. He added if someone uses a drone, not just for fun, they have to have a license to use it. Klimas adds there is material all over the internet to study for the drone exam and free resources in order to fly safely. Anything in the air takes precedence over your drone. He said always be aware of the airports around you, make sure you use an app before you fly or 800wxbriefing so that you can fly in that area.

Klimas advised to have a visual observer who looks in the sky at all times, and if you hear helicopters, if it is too close, you shouldn’t be flying if a helicopter/plane is in the air.

“Especially if you have a license to apply for a night waiver which will make sure that you can fly at night and make sure within your city wherever you are that you have permission to fly in that city, each city has their own rules and so you have to make sure that if you are flying under a company or if it’s just for yourself that you have permission.”

How does he make the drone paintings move?

 “If you see anything like Wallace and Gromit or stop motion animation, like the old cartoons they are frame by frame in order to make something move. If you have ever seen a picture book that you open and someone can move in that it is the same concept so if I want to make it (image) move if I have a Tetris piece here and a box that’s my first frame, then I make another box and move the Tetris piece down a bit then I have my next picture so you have to do each part of it frame by frame and plan it out. It takes a lot of work to do it.”

Can any drone make light paintings?

“Yes, any drone can do this but if you want to do complicated shapes and stuff in the sky, it depends on if the drone can for the moment if they can work with Litchi or not. Just make sure you do your research if this is something you want to get into.”

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