How Nat Geo’s Gorgeous ‘Stonehenge Revealed’ Cover Photo Was Shot

Sunset brings peace but not tranquility to Stonehenge, which is bordered by a busy highway. “One thing that was bothersome, even at night, was the constant noise from nearby traffic,” says photographer Reuben Wu. “I found myself imagining what the place would have felt like thousands of years ago. years.” | Ruben Wu/National Geographic; image made with 13 superimposed poses

National Geographic August issue Stonehenge revealed features a dramatic shot of the iconic 5,000-year-old structures captured using overhead lighting thanks to drone accessibility granted only to the magazine.

The photo comes 100 years later National geographic published an image of the destination in 1922, photographed from an airplane:

Stonehege National Geographic
An aerial view of the relics located at Stonehenge. | Public domain image by Central Aerophoto Co. LTD

The focus on Stonehenge this time includes footage no one else has ever captured. Photographer Reuben Wu photographed the giant stones with a powerful light attached to a drone to capture multiple exposures of a scene.

National geographic says it’s a first for Stonehenge that has resulted in layered images and the creation of truly otherworldly imagery. Nat Geo also created an immersive, high-resolution 3D model of Stonehenge, using over 7K images of the site from all angles.

Wu, who had been in contact with National Geographic’s director of photography, Sarah Leen, for about a year, was approached for the assignment to photograph Stonehence and other Neolithic monuments for a future story, using the technique of drone lighting he started using in 2016, he says PetaPixel.

One of the iconic monuments of the world, Stonehenge has been studied for centuries. Yet, according to archaeologist Vince Gaffney, new technologies are “transforming our understanding of ancient landscapes, even Stonehenge, a place we thought we knew well.” | Ruben Wu/National Geographic; image made with 11 superimposed poses

“As one of the most photographed monuments in the world, I knew I had to show Stonehenge in a way that had never been seen before. Like my Lux Noctis project, the stones are lit from above by a powerful light, attached to a drone,” he explains.

“I love the idea of ​​’terrestrial chiaroscuro’, where I’m able to bring out texture and contrast using very specific angles of light using drone light. It gives me a lot more control over a scene than just waiting and hoping for natural daylight,” Wu continues.

@natgeo Stonehenge like you’ve never seen it before 😮 #NatGeoTikTok #BehindThePhoto ♬ original sound – National Geographic

“With this kind of lighting, I was able to bring a new, unfamiliar feel to the monument, one that felt timeless and spoke to the power and ancient history of the site.”

While Wu photographed many scenes with this technique, Stonehenge was different for a number of reasons.

“There is a strong attachment to Stonehenge because it is such a household name, especially for so many people in the UK. Many of us went on rainy school trips there as children. But because of this familiarity, the perceived image of Stonehenge has always felt a bit mundane over the years. This project was an opportunity for me to give the monument a remarkable and extraordinary appearance,” he says.

A sprawling ceremonial complex at the time, Stanton Drew boasted wooden circles, two walkways of standing stones leading down to the nearby River Chew and one of Britain’s largest stone rings, around 370 feet in diameter. Today, 26 stones remain, and ground-penetrating radar revealed nine rings of wooden posts. | Ruben Wu/National Geographic; image made with 18 superimposed poses

“We had to get permission from English Heritage, the Royal Air Force, and my drone pilot Zac Henderson had to pass UK drone pilot exams to make this all possible. And because Stonehenge is in military airspace, we had to call the RAF to let them know each time we were about to fly the drone.

Even after he and his pilot were set up legally, the challenges didn’t end there.

“We knew the UK weather was going to be a concern, particularly because you can’t fly drones in rain or wind. This meant that we spent long hours working on site and many days waiting for the weather to improve. Luckily, we were able to shoot the cover image during a beautiful sunset and a clear starry night,” says Wu.

“You can see that the light from my drone is angled to illuminate the remote stones outside the circle itself. This is because we couldn’t fly the drone directly inside the stone circle due to risk of potential damage One solution I had was to use a 40 foot telescopic pole with lights attached to it which my assistant carefully walked around inside the circle as if it were my drone.

The final photo is a multiple exposure image made up of 25 images that were captured in approximately three hours. Wu says he captured about 50 images in total during that time.

“Each image shows the drone light in a different position. These are then layered in post-production to result in a final image that shows the whole stone henge lit up against the setting sun. I used a combination of apps like Gaia GPS and Photopills to help me spot and plan angle and composition,” he explains.

Discovered in 1925 from aerial photographs of a wheat field, Woodhenge comprised six towering concentric rings of timber, their locations now marked by concrete pillars. Like nearby Stonehenge, the structure was built to align with the rising sun at the summer solstice. | Ruben Wu/National Geographic; image made with five layered exposures)

“I used a Phase One XF with a 150MP IQ4 back and a 23mm Rodenstock lens. This allowed me to capture a very wide angle scene and maintain enough image resolution to accommodate different aspect ratios and cultures.

Wu says he also used a Sony Alpha 1 to capture the time-lapse footage that was used for mobile digital coverage.

“Like many of us, I grew up reading my father’s books. National geographic magazines, and they instilled a sense of adventure and curiosity about the world we live in,” says Wu. never thought it would become a reality, so seeing my picture on the cover is unreal and a huge honour.”

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To learn more about this story, visit National Geographic website where to find Stonehenge revealed all over the newsstands.

Picture credits: Photos by Reuben Wu, courtesy of National Geographic.

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