“Light the Night.” That’s what drone pilot and photographer Craig Coker calls his drone photography project.
Just don’t assume that every reference of ‘drone photography’ means the drone is taking the photo. That’s certainly not what’s happening with Light the Night.
With Coker’s unique style of photography, the photo you’re looking at comes from a camera on the ground — but the drone is crucial to the photo. That’s because the drone provides the light source for the photo.
Here’s just one stunning example from Coker’s “Light the Night” project:
Coker has spent years now toying with the concept of putting lights on drones, which would then functioning as an aerial, moving spotlight for objects on the ground. With the launch of the Sony Airpeak S1 drone in the final week of 2021, his idea was finally able to pan out as the drone was capable of lifting the lights he needed to put in the air, while also flying in a reliable manner, particularly at high speeds and on aggressive flight paths.
So with the drone in hand, he set out to achieve his vision of photographing various athletes at night. See how he did it in a 6-minute long YouTube video here:
How they pulled off “Light the Night”
The athletes/models used for “Light the Night” were professional off-road driver Blake Wilkey, professional freestyle skier Joss Christensen and world champion skimboarder and social media sensation Austin Keen, and he worked with other crew including Lee Stockwell, Brandon Skinner and Johnny V to pull it all off.
The gear used was a Sony Airpeak drone, outfitted with a Godox AD300 outdoor flash and the Light & Motion Reflex S LED/Flash Head. They also used a Gremsy Gimbal for tilt control and stabilized light.
Using a remote for the drone attached to a chest mount harness system, as well as his Sony Alpha 1 attached to a tripod, Coker could fly the Airpeak and then shoot a photo at basically the same time. And from there, he generated nighttime photos with the drone acting as a flying light component.
While this specific example is artistic in nature, it could pave the way for other commercial and industrial applications that are similar in that drones aren’t flying cameras, but rather are flying light sources. Coker said rocket companies like SpaceX who do a lot of their inspections at night have approached him about using the drones to spotlight certain components of the large aircrafts, or it could be useful for search and rescue missions — many of which also occur at night.
About the photographer, Craig Coker
If the name Craig Coker sounds familiar, that’s because you met him last month on my website in a Q&A. Coker is absolutely THE guy to know in drones. He builds them, he consults on them and of course he flies and photographs with them. Currently, Coker has a contract with Sony as the Japanese camera company’s official drone pilot for its Sony Airpeak S1 drone. Not only is he taking pictures for Sony though, but he’s putting the drone through stress tests to find flaws in them, and he’s working directly with designers to make suggestions for improvements.
Prior to joining Sony, he consulted with other major drone makers including DJI, 3DR, Yuneec and GoPro. He was instrumental in the 3DR Solo drone, where he helped work on a light source for Solo too, and he was there in the early days of the original DJI Phantom.
And not only is he an expert in drones, but he’s an expert in action sports. Up until about 10 years ago, he was a professional freestyle skier, traveling the world, which in part is what piqued his interest in action sports photography. He’s also a professional race car driver. The man is multi-faceted and exponentially more multi-talented.
And with Light the Night, all Coker’s passions — drones, photography and action sports — converge into one.
“The idea of a light source on Airpeak has been incredible,” he said. “I couldn’t do it with most other drones.”
Check out a full review of the Sony Airpeak S1 drone here.
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