KENNEWICK — Kennewick aerial photographer David Wyatt took one pass over Red Mountain on a crisp early morning in November 2009, unaware of what would be revealed.
But the photographic moment that came into view couldn't have pleased him more.
"Stunning," said Wyatt, 45, whose image of the landscape, along with another taken later near Ritzville, earned him top awards last week in Las Vegas at the International Aerial Photographers Association Conference.
Red Mountain, with its tawny slopes illuminated by shafts of dawn's light, received Best of Show and Best Scenic.
His Heartland photo, showing a farmstead with red barn surrounded by a verdant wheat field, won the Best Artistic award. It was Wyatt's first time to enter, and there were more than 100 entries.
Collecting three People's Choice Awards was a first in the history of the international print competition.
"I am inspired by the beauty of nature and knowing my work is appreciated by my colleagues," Wyatt said.
The hobby pilot works as a senior fire protection engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, but tries to take his camera aloft at least once a week to capture the golden light moments of the Mid-Columbia.
Wyatt has been a pilot for 23 years, but turned to aerial photography only a few years ago after purchasing half-interest in the 1969 Cessna that serves as a mobile platform for his hobby and his business, Loftics, an aerial photography business based in Kennewick.
Getting above the Tri-Cities early in the morning or at sunset is how Wyatt gets quality time for his love of flying and photography.
"I often ask the Lord to take me someplace spectacular," he said.
The shot above Red Mountain was taken in one of those places.
He had just banked hard, circling to the east to face the light breaking through a thick layer of clouds.
As the Cessna leveled out, giving Wyatt the full view of Red Mountain spread out before him with its tawny ridges splayed symmetrically, he seized the moment with his camera.
"David's beautiful aerial images were a standout in the competition. Winning in three People's Choice is highly unusual and a feat not soon to be repeated," Patrick Belanger, president of the association, said in a prepared statement.
Wyatt's work is on display at Greenies in Richland, and three of his best photos will be included in the Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce annual report, membership directory and community profile to be released in April.
They also can be seen on his website, loftics.com.
"I am just excited to be able to put these photos out there and share it," he said.