A rainbow arcing across the sky is an ethereal symbol of hope after a storm. Following 2020’s winning photo of turbulent Lake Michigan waves, John Den Uyl’s first place with “Rainbow over the Michigamme Highlands,” shot in Baraga County, Mich., creates a poetic narrative. The 2021 Photographer-at-Large Contest wrapped up in December 2021. Congratulations to our new honorary photographer-at-large!

Den Uyl, a research lab specialist in the lab of EEB Professor and U-M Biological Station Director Aimée Classen, shot the breathtaking photo soon after arriving at his canoe-in campsite. Rain had been falling off and on all afternoon. “I remember thinking ‘I'd better get my tent set up, those clouds to the west look pretty dark.’ Then I turned around and saw one of the most beautiful landscapes I'd ever seen.”

He said, “The granite cliff in this photo is part of the southeastern extent of the Canadian Shield, and the rocks are estimated to be well over a billion years old. Meanwhile, the rainbow was only a few minutes old at the time of the photo.”

Den Uyl’s campsite was many miles from any road (paved or dirt) on the shores of one of the most remote lakes in Michigan. “Not 10 minutes after I took this photo, I was caught in one of the most intense hail storms I've ever weathered while camping. I was very impressed with my tarp's ability to hold up to heavy hail.”

Much of his fieldwork takes place at UMBS in northern Michigan. This photo was taken a few hours away in the western Upper Peninsula on a weekend canoe camping trip.

Instagram: @john.denuyl

Fifteen minutes at the Biostation, U-M Biological Station. Image credit: Will Weaver

EEB graduate student Will Weaver scored second place with the dreamy “Fifteen minutes at the Biostation.” Weaver said, “This was the thunderstorm that eventually rained out our retreat!” He’s been experimenting with long exposure photography or astrophotography for the last few years, “whenever I get a chance and this was the longest exposure I've done so far. I light paint the foreground at the beginning of the session and then leave the camera to capture the stars all night.”

Nightclub, star trails over our campsite in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, Weminuche Wilderness. Image credit: Will Weaver

Weaver also placed third with “Nightclub, star trails over our campsite in the San Juan mountains of Colorado.” The striking photo reveals the Earth’s rotation in starlight. What was he thinking during this photo shoot? “I was hoping my batteries would last long enough!”  

Star trails is a composite of 900 images taken over six hours in Eureka, Colo. They were on the edge of the Weminuche Wilderness at the beginning of August 2021. “It was very windy as the cold air descended down the valley.”  

Instagram  @liquidam.bar

Floof (boreal chickadee on a snowy March day), Peshekee Grade, Marquette County, Mich. Image credit: Teresa Pegan

Honorable mentions include the following:

EEB graduate student, Teresa Pegan, entered “Floof (Boreal Chickadee on a snowy March day),” photographed in Peshekee Grade, Marquette County, Mich. “I was excited to see this very cute bird, which is difficult to find, in Michigan. This species of chickadee is only found in boreal forests. They are particularly uncommon in Michigan, which might be because they don’t like to cross water and our state is surrounded by Great Lakes. None are found in the lower peninsula and they are rare in the upper peninsula, becoming more common the further west you go. I would guess the ones in the U.P. are more related to the ones in Wisconsin rather than the ones that live across Lake Superior in Ontario.”

They visited the Peshekee Grade road at the end of March 2021. “The day before it had been warmer and a little drizzly, but overnight the area received 4 inches of snow! It was such a beautiful transformation of the boreal forest. This was a trip for fun, but I do research on boreal birds and it’s always fun to go see them.”

The moment of totality, solar eclipse along the ruta de las estrellas, in the high desert, Paihuano, Coquimbo, Chile. Image credit: Rumaan Malhotra

EEB graduate student, Rumaan Malhotra, ventured far to Paihuano, Coquimbo, Chile where he captured the moment of totality, “Solar eclipse along the ruta de las estrellas, in the high desert.” This was during his field season. After spending three weeks straight putting out wildlife camera traps, they decided to spend their first couple of days off catching the eclipse.  

“This eclipse ran straight up the ruta de las estrellas (route of the stars) in the Elqui valley in Coquimbo. That area is famous for clear skies and has several observatories, including one in the town of Vicuña where the country's president was watching the eclipse. I went a little deeper into the Andes to find a quieter spot, and ended up on this hillside nestled between some cacti.” Malhotra described the area as somewhat remote, a couple hours up dirt mountain roads. The weather that day was warm and dry – a  perfect high desert winter day.

Baby copperhead showing a caudal lure, Atlanta, Georgia. Image credit: Rumaan Malhotra

Malhotra had a second honorable mention, “Baby copperhead showing a caudal lure,” photographed in the Atlanta, Georgia suburbs, during a very rainy week. “I'm always looking for copperheads in my parents' yard when I visit. I found this little guy on the doormat trying to get in! So I set up a quick white box and took a couple photos before putting it in the back yard. I think caudal lures in general are super cool. The little bit at the end of the tail is waved about to lure in some potential dinner."

Instagram: @rumaaninnature

Hops, Montana. Image credit: Sarah Smith

Special attention goes to these photographers and photos that tied at 15 - 16 votes each, very close to the honorable mentions: Marc Ammerlaan, Ice berries, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Ramon Nagesan, A young big horned sheep in the Rockies; John Den Uyl, Winds of the Elk Mountains, Gothic, Colo.; Eric Gulson, Inquisitive least chipmunk on a black knot, Fox River, Upper Peninsula, Mich.; Rumaan Malhotra, The spray catching the early morning light, along a stretch of pristine temperate rainforest, Mapu Lahual, Chile; Sarah Smith, Hops, Montana; Syuan-Jyun Sun, The painter of the sky and lake, Whitmore Lake, Michigan; Will Weaver, Learning to fly - a bighorn sheep watches over a lamb as it jumps to a new boulder, following the rest of the herd down a cliff, Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, Colorado.

Ice berries, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Image credit: Marc Ammerlaan

The 14th annual EEB Photographer at Large Contest was held in fond memory of David Bay, the self-described “photographer-at-large” for EEB and its predecessor departments for 34 years. It’s been nearly 13 years since Bay’s too early passing at the age of 60 in February 2009. Special thanks to all 25 photographers who entered the contest and to 110 voters!


View all entries in a Google Photos album>>