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17-year-old wins grand prize in Playing Outdoors photo contest

Grand-prize photo: Milky Way selfie

Nicole Recla of Star won the top prize in the Playing Outdoors/Idaho Camera photo contest.
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Nicole Recla of Star won the top prize in the Playing Outdoors/Idaho Camera photo contest.

The Playing Outdoors/Idaho Camera photo contest winners (grand prize, first place, second place, third place and youth) and honorable mentions are in Tuesday’s edition of the Idaho Statesman.

We’ve been unveiling the winners online over several days.

Previously: Third place, youth winner, second place, first place

Today:

Grand prize: Nicole Recla

That’s Recla, 17 of Star, on the right side of her grand-prize-winning photo of the Milky Way in the sky outside of McCall (the source of light at far right). Recla thought the right side of the photo was too boring. Since she already was triggering the shutter with a remote, she decided to step into one of the 16 frames that were stitched together in Adobe Photoshop to create this panorama.

“All my friends were afraid of the bats,” said Recla, who was staying at a cabin with friends. “I was just on my own in the middle of nowhere taking photos of myself underneath the night sky.”

Recla asked for a camera for Christmas almost two years ago after seeing landscape and wildlife photos on Facebook that intrigued her about photography. She has been serious about it for about a year and plans to at least minor in photography in college.

The Eagle High senior hadn’t tried a panorama before this shot and had only tried shooting the night sky once before.

“It was just super, super pretty,” she said. “There were a lot of clear skies ... and I wanted to take advantage of that.”

She started by taking photos of pieces of the Milky Way, then decided to try the panorama. She used a wide-angle lens and left the shutter open for 25 seconds while taking each of the 16 shots, panning 180 degrees across from her location. She only needed to step into the frame once.

“I didn’t really do much at all to the photo,” she said. “I just brought down the brightness so it’s in a tasteful light and just bumped up the contrast a little bit.”

The photo fit one of the aspects she likes most about photography — the ability to highlight scenes that others might not realize are there.

“Panoramas of the Milky Way are just kind of cool in general because you get that whole entire view of something, and you don’t realize something is there until you take a photo of it and leave that lens open to get all the light,” she said, “and all of a sudden something appears in front of you. Looking up, you don’t always see it.”

She entered the contest at the suggestion of her dad. She didn’t decide what to enter until shortly before the deadline. Hers was one of 234 photos entered.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to win at all,” Recla said. “It was just sort of, I’ll never know unless I try.”

Judge’s take

“I particularly like this picture because I know how hard it is to do. I’ve tried it myself. (Recla) did a wonderful job capturing what Idaho looks like at nighttime, particularly out in the backcountry. I also like the fact that it’s a panorama. That really added to it.” — Pat Nagel, co-president of Idaho Camera

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