Photo By Dan Mitler

When it comes to things to see and do outdoors, Michigan has a lot to offer. Those willing to make the lengthy journey to its Upper Peninsula are rewarded with waterfalls, wildlife, lakes, forests, sandstone cliffs and tree-covered mountains. In the winter, there are also unique snowshoeing and snowmobiling opportunities to explore impressive ice caves.

Thanks to the abundance of maple, aspen, larch and other trees whose foliage grows brighter and more colorful as the days grow shorter, the Upper Peninsula is a premier destination to experience fall colors. Thanks to the many state and national forests and parks, wildlife refuges, scenic areas and abundant roads and trails throughout the “UP,” as it’s known, it’s not difficult to find a quiet area to listen to the breeze rustle the crisp autumn leaves or gaze out along the chilly waters of a lake, Great or otherwise.

Trying to plan a foliage trip in advance can be tough to do, as peak color can vary year to year, and there’s always the risk of a cold snap or strong winds. I followed the foliage reports of a few dedicated locals and went up in early October. The long drive meant that I got in and set up camp after dark, so I didn’t have a chance to see my surroundings but decided to go to a nearby undeveloped lake for sunrise.

A storm system came through overnight, and some cloud cover lingered to make for a muted sunrise as light fog hung above the small lake. Any other time, I might have been disappointed with the lackluster dawn, but the soft light was perfect for photographing foliage, as it saturated the colors and avoided the issue of patchy forest light. Once I was done shooting, I made sure there was no one else around who might be disturbed and sent up my drone to look around and explore a more unique perspective.

There were quite a few small lakes nearby, some areas where the transition to fall had barely begun and others where it was well underway. One area with great color was a flight of just a minute or two away, so off my drone went. I flew first higher, then lower, tilting the camera up, then down, trying to find a good aerial composition. I wanted to emphasize the texture and brilliant colors of the treetops, so I angled the camera straight down and stayed low. Thanks to its gimbal system, I was able to take a few sharp images at relatively slow shutter speeds to make sure enough light got through to the drone’s camera sensor.

After flying over to check out some of the nearby lakes, I landed the drone and hiked to explore a few of the spots I scouted from above. I didn’t have long as more rain was on the way, but I enjoyed the time I did have before heading farther west to Bond Falls and the Porcupine Mountains—which I’d highly recommend if you’re in the area. OP

DJI Mavic 2 Pro, PolarPro CPL filter. Exposure: 1/30 sec., ƒ/4, ISO 100.

See more of Dan Mitler’s work, including location reports and trip guides, at


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