Desert photos illuminated by UV light look straight out of science fiction

Photographer Cody Cobb has a knack for transforming the perception of a familiar landscape photograph into an entirely new experience. His ongoing photo series Spectral Takes viewers through an environment that feels like something out of science fiction.

in Spectralfound by huge, Cobb transforms the American West into a sci-fi dreamscape, using light manipulation—UV light—to create alien-like terrain and micro-lifeforms. Focusing on desert vegetation, canyons and jagged peaks, Cobb masterfully projects UV light to reveal an invisible spectrum of color and bacteria that is not only luminous but also otherworldly. The effect is striking and pays a brilliant tribute to Sci-Fi culture.

Ultraviolet light on smooth and jagged mountains

Cave in UV light

“I have a whole life-long sci-fi obsession that I’ve taken out, I can’t escape it! fantasy planet and liquid sky There are two unique films that immediately come to mind with this work,” says Cobb, speaking Peta Pixel.

Trace in UV light

For the past 10 years, Cobb has been capturing solitary experiences in the wilderness of the American West, but now using UV light, he’s capturing some new perspectives of the region.

“Walking around these wild places with UV light and learning what fluoresces and what doesn’t has given me a new way of observing my surroundings. “I think I’m able to reach out and induce some kind of response from the rocks and vegetation around me,” Cobb explains.

Ultraviolet light on jagged white mountains

UV light on mountains and waterways

The haunting and terrifying effect mystifies and intrigues him, while simultaneously encouraging his nocturnal practice of traveling and discovering terrains that can be reimagined with UV light.

“Over the years, I’ve become a nocturnal photographer who uses artificial light as a way to control the scenes I’m trying to create. Working in the dark has given me the ability to experiment more and experience a deeper sense of solitude in remote places,” he says.

rocks in UV light

Achieving Cobb’s vision is not without its challenges.

“My biggest challenge was finding a way to capture this strange phenomenon in my own voice. Combining long exposures of visible light using LED tube lights with high-powered UV flashlights allowed me to shape this alternate world that I was experiencing somewhere late at night. “

UV light on the water path

Being a nocturnal animal can take its toll, and Cobb continues to navigate the physical and spiritual aspects of his presence in the wilderness.

“The biggest challenge for me […] Lack of sleep. I’m out until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, night after night. I sleep in the tent or in my car and wake up automatically when it’s noon […] I think this psychological state affects the work I do. Even the nocturnal world seems unfamiliar when you’re denied proper sleep,” Cobb says.

Ultraviolet light in desert mountains

“I’ve always struggled to describe my relationship with the wilderness,” he continues. “To be honest, my presence in these places often feels like a disturbance. Despite years of spending as much time outside as possible, I never felt completely comfortable there (especially alone at night).

Ultraviolet light on smooth mountains

The mood of each photograph in the series seems to tell a story, or simply set the pace of imagination. Some seem to be seen through the eyes of a nocturnal animal, while other shots look like snapshots of a vivid, retro-like science fiction novel cover. There’s also a subtle feel that runs through Cobb’s shots, glowing fungi that can pulsate, rocks that look like extraneous eggs, dry hills that pop with color, heat waves, and light—it’s all rhythmic and hypnotic.

Ultraviolet light on mushrooms

Ultraviolet light on trees and red leaves

UV light on cracked boulders

Looking to the future, and due to the positive response online to his collaborative work, Cobb is changing his life to devote more time to photography.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love and to resonate with people who have a similar relationship with the outside world.”

Ultraviolet light on grass and rocks

For more from Cobb, be sure to visit his website


Image credit: All photos by Cody Cobb

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