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2020 Honorable Mention - Tyler Dittenbir

Fall Colors Michigan

Just as a painter chooses color from a palette – photographers, too, must choose their palette. Autumn is by far the photographers greatest color palette as nature begins to reveal its complexity through an expression of vibrant color, its last effort to affect beauty on the world before falling dormant to the winter cold. Three colorful culprits expose themselves through a biochemical process triggered by the lengthening of nights and shortening of sunlight hours, and of course in Michigan, the arrival of bitter cold temperatures. Namely carotenoids, anthocyanin, and chlorophyll – together these three pigments compose the spectrum of color we find across nature such as the color of corn, carrots, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and of course the ever-present green of photosynthetic plants. As autumn approaches, chlorophyll production within the leaves of photoperiod plants begins to slow before subsiding to reveal the already present pigments of carotenoids and anthocyanins.

The autumn season in Michigan is recognizably beautiful and one of the great privileges of being a lifelong resident of the state. As an avid photographer, there is arguably no better time of year to take outdoor photographs – the range of colors and tonalities are unmatched in the natural sunlight. I found inspiration for this photo through my recognition of the complexity of color change and in this compositions ability to appeal to many conceptions. For instance, the aerial perspective and distance between drone and canopy give an illusion of bacterial growth in a petri dish. Others, however, may recognize the trees instantly and find themselves drawn closer until they find the stream which runs through the center of the image – making you increasingly more aware of the complexity of color as you draw nearer.

I made this photograph with the help of my drone which is equipped with a gyroscopic camera and live video feed to a tablet which allows me as the pilot to view exactly what the drone sees. This photo is taken somewhere between 600’ to 900’ in the sky, or roughly two to three football fields high. I don’t wear gloves while operating my drone as the input sticks which are used to control the aircraft require a great deal of sensitivity and precision. For this reason, the making of this photograph was under particularly harsh circumstances. Bitter, gusting winds and below freezing temperatures pushed both me and my drone’s abilities to the edge. The decision making behind what I want in the frame is much more impulsive and I could’ve easily walked away with an entirely different image given my mindset at the time and this is the intersect where I find most of my artistic expression comes alive.