In late August, almost a year ago to be exact, Travis Amick strolled down a Ketchum street and snapped a series of photographs that would capture in so many ways, the spirit of the city's 60th Anniversary Wagon Days celebration.
Under a brilliant night sky punctuated by a clear view of the Milky Way, Amick set about making photos featuring Wagon Days' iconic Lewis Ore Wagons set against a brilliant nighttime sky.
"I was driving by one day, saw the wagons outside and realized they would be positioned perfectly under the Milky Way," said Amick. "It just seemed like a perfect shot for me at the time."
What he didn't know at the time was that the images he'd produce that night would turn out to be a perfect fit a year later for promoting Ketchum's annual Wagon Days festivities.
Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas said Amick's image fit so well because it aligned with so many other events occurring in and around Ketchum in the run-up to Wagon Days.
For example, the city has filed an application seeking designation as a "Dark Sky Community." One of the leading forces behind that effort, Dr. Stephen Pauley, has been named 2017 Wagon Days Grand Marshal. Pauley has also been instrumental in the campaign to create the Central Idaho Dark Skies Reserve.
The celestial theme was on display earlier this month when thousands of visitors flocked to Ketchum and the Wood River Valley to observe the Total Solar Eclipse.
"It's just an honor for me," Amick said of having his work selected to promote Wagon Days. "What's funny though, is I didn't even know there was a competition for art for the Wagon Days poster. I was just doing what I enjoy and trying different things, and it just worked out I guess."
Amick, 28, grew up in Ketchum and attended Wood River High School. He then enrolled at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where he studied history and political science.
After graduation, he acted on the urge to travel. He spent time in Brazil, Texas and the American Southwest, in the process honoring his growing interest in photography.
"I've always liked taking photos, even when I was a little kid and traveling around," he said. "But it wasn't until I was on a road trip through Texas when I thought I might be able to do this for a living."
Amick invested in a few photography classes, but says most of his skills and learning were self-taught, either reading from professionals online or shooting frame after frame on road trips through New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, Utah and Arizona's Grand Canyon.
"I loved the idea of being able to produce in a photo what I was looking at with my eyes," he said. "I've always wanted to find a way to do something I love. Finding this has put me at peace."
Amick said he's also had a life-long affinity for the stars and relishes the clear window to the universe afforded to those living in Ketchum. He began experimenting with shooting at night, especially the Milky Way, because the jobs that paid the bills occupied most of his time during daylight hours.
In capturing his winning images, Amick tapped deep into his well of patience. After seeing the wagons lined up outside the Ore Wagon Museum last August, Amick knew he wanted to capture the scene, especially since he also knew that the Milky Way would be staging in the background. The first few nights he tried to shoot, clouds obstructed the Milky Way.
The shoot also posed a challenge for dialing in the right exposure. Glow from the streetlamps was just enough to blow out the Milky Way in the background, he said.
"I just couldn't get the right exposure," he said. "So, I took two images, one of the sky and the other of the wagons, then blended those together to compensate for the lighting."
For Amick, the Wagon Days contest win is a first.
"I've had some photos for sale in some art shops, but this is the first time one of my photographs have been used for something this big. I was in the Starbucks in town the other day and they were putting up the giant Wagon Days posters on the wall. It was all kind of cool to see ... to see your work hanging publicly somewhere."