Photographer Reuben Wu fuses landscape photography with fine art sensibilities to capture earthly scenes that have an otherworldly feel. Using powerful LED lights mounted on a drone, he selectively illuminated Pastoruri, one of the few glaciers left in the tropical parts of South America. His photographs were shot at night and showcase the blue glacial ice surrounded by sinuous black rock, all against a backdrop of the clear night sky.
The pictures are part of Wu’s ongoing series called Lux Noctis, in which he has photographed other desolate landscapes in a similar way—although the climate conditions were completely different. In earlier iterations of Lux Noctis, Wu trekked into the pitch-black desert at night to spotlight rock formations in the western part of the United States; he later extended the project by using light to “paint” over similar natural structures.
Wu has titled his glacier project Terminus, and it marks one of his most ambitious (and demanding) endeavors yet. “At 17,000ft [5,250m], it was a physical challenge to reach the glacier,” he explained, “compounded by the fact that I was shooting at night and under freezing conditions.” The extreme weather caused him to lose sensation in his fingers and reduced the battery life of his camera and drone.
Despite the frigid weather that Wu experienced, the Pastoruri glacier is in danger because it’s too warm. “This glacier is receding at a shocking rate due to climate change and as a result, there has been a huge drop in tourism and an impact on the local community,” he said. “With this series, I felt like this was an attempt to document an endangered landscape which may not exist in a decade.”
As Wu began Terminus, he was unsure of how he would feel while photographing it; he felt conflicted. “I wanted to show evidence of its alarming retreat, yet I was drawn to the epic scale of the ice which remained,” he recalled. “In the end, I leaned towards the latter, but each photograph represents a bleak reality, a fading memory of what once stood.”