Self-taught photographer Chikku Baiju is not only the youngest winner of the 2013-14 Arizona Highways Online Photography Contest; he’s also the first two-time winner in the six years the contest has been held. The 22-year-old says he shoots as a hobby but would one day like to make the hobby a full-time job. Baiju, who uses a Canon EOS-5D Mark II, gave us a little insight into the way he works his magic.
Q: As a photographer without professional training, how have you learned the art?
A: I took a high-school class my senior year, and that’s when I got hooked on it. It’s mostly looking at other famous photographers. My main goal is to go to a popular photography place and try to come up with something different than what other people have taken there.
Q: You also won the 2009-10 contest; how does it feel to win again?
A: I wasn’t expecting to win this year; there were a lot of good entries. I was surprised to win again.
Q: Tell us about the process of shooting the winning photo.
A: This was the first time I’ve ever tried to shoot wildflowers at night. The shot was taken kind of away from the trail, a spot that not many people go to, I guess. It’s a lot of finding and luck. I liked what I came up with.
Q: What is the craziest situation you’ve found yourself shooting in?
A: I was up in the Bishop area [in California], and I was trying to shoot some night shots. I was driving down the road, and I saw this one dirt road and wondered, “Where does this go?” It was a really great scene; it had a lot of wildflowers. I got some decent shots, and then I heard a huge breath. I thought it was the wind at first, and then it got louder and more animal-like. At that point I said, “I’ll probably just take photos in the parking lot by my car, just to be safe.” I had to run away to my car, because it’s bear country. I didn’t get the night shot, but I did get the sunset shot.
Q: Besides our book (100 Greatest Photographs to Ever Appear in Arizona Highways Magazine), where else can people view your work?
A: I have a website, www.chikkubaiju.com.
— Kirsten Kraklio