22nd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Views Beyond the Bay Area - Adult

"Campfire Under the Stars"

By Timothy Aiken

Eighteen-year-old Timothy Aiken, a Stanford University freshman who grew up on campus where both of his parents teach, was on a four-day backpack trip in Baja California with his family when he began framing his winning "Campfire Under the Stars" shot.

They were crossing the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, a wooded range.

"At the highest point is an open expanse that used to be a lake. We camped in a huge meadow.

"We were 7,000 feet up, away from any cities. There were amazing, amazing stars," he recalled.

But when he looked through his lens, the light from the campfire was overwhelming. So, first he positioned his mother and sister to block out the fire, then he used filters to cut down on light from the fire area and bring up light in the sky.

With a 30-second exposure, he asked his family "to sit very, very still," he said.

Aiken, who's been seriously taking photographs since he was in the seventh grade and spent a year on a round-the-world trip with his family, said he "feels privileged to have been able to do that kind of travel."

His other strong interest is cycling. He combines his two passions by keeping an eye out for interesting landscapes while on his bike, then returning to identified locations to capture the California scenery.

— Carol Blitzer

Judge's Comment:

Each year when I view the entries in the Views Beyond the Bay Area category, I am transported to the beautiful places around the world our readers get to see. From Venetian canals to African savannahs to lush hiking trails just a state or two away, I always enjoy living vicariously through the photos of these travels for a brief moment.

This year's winning entries impressed me and the fellow judges because the photos not only show a place but they tell a story, capture a mood and call attention to the overlooked beauty of seemingly everyday objects.

Tim Aiken's winning "Campfire Under the Stars" caught our attention immediately. In this long exposure, three figures gather around a fire, faces illuminated by the glowing flames, and draped under a huge canopy of the seemingly infinite stars and light bands of the Milky Way galaxy. One can almost feel the warmth of the fire on their faces and imagine staring up at the stars by looking at this image. Aiken's use of light, exposure and framing has brilliantly captured the mood and feeling of this place that would be difficult to express in words.

— Veronica Weber

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