Medical Student Claims First-Place Photography Prize with Celestial Image

By Juliana Bunim on January 12, 2011
“Celestial Patriarch” by second-year medical student Noah Hawthorne took first prize in the UCSF student photography contest.
Second-year medical student Noah Hawthorne clinched the first-place prize of this year’s UCSF student photography competition beating out more than 100 students. 
 
His first-place photo, “Celestial Patriarch,” voted upon by participants at the Jan. 6 photo exhibit, was taken in the Patriarch Grove in the Inyo National Forest of the White Mountains located in California’s majestic Eastern Sierra during a recent break from his medical school studies. 
 
“This past fall break - a unique one-week vacation for second-year medical students - I went with a classmate on a California trip to Death Valley, the White Mountains, and the Eastern Sierras,” says Hawthorne. “We camped for one night in the Inyo National Forest near the Patriarch Grove, and drove in a 4x4 truck for the 20-plus miles up a dirt road.”
 

UCSF Student Photo Finalists

The top 30 photos reflect the beauty and wonder of the world. View them online here. View them at the Faculty Alumni House, 745 Parnassus Ave. through January.

Despite cold temperatures – about 18 degrees with strong winds – the 26-year-old photographer and his classmate walked through the grove and discovered the perfect tree about an hour after sunset. Hawthorne set up the tripod and snapped several shots as the Milky Way rotated behind the tree, keeping the camera shutter open for a long time to let in the light from the stars while walking to the side and shining a flashlight on the tree to show off its details. 
 
“I wanted to wait for the moon to rise, but it was too cold to wait any longer, so the flashlight had to do,” he explains. 
 
The second-place photo was shot far from the California in Cantho, Vietnam. First-year pharmacy student Luong Thai was visiting his birthplace when he captured the photograph of the Mekong delta, part of one of the world’s largest rivers.  His interest in photography actually just began with purchasing a camera for his trip to Asia, first exploring the landscapes of the San Francisco Bay Area before embarking on his travels. 
 
Thai, who was raised in Vietnam and completed his undergraduate work at UC Berkeley, caught the travel photography bug on his recent adventures. “It really gives me chance to appreciate the richness of every culture and country that I have been through,” he says. 
 
Noah Hawthorne
All the images submitted by students this year reflect a rich diversity of people, perspectives and places and offers insight into their lives both on and off campus.
 
Hawthorne’s photography pursuits started as an undergraduate at Stanford, first working as a sports photographer and photo editor at the Stanford Daily.  After graduation and while completing a Master’s degree in Public Health at UC Berkeley and a year with a non-governmental organization, Hawthorne stumbled on the world of wedding photography, which he continues to juggle part time.  
 
Now Hawthorne is exploring yet another creative element to imagery.  “My current interest is time lapse photography, turning a sequence of still images into a high-definition movie,” says Hawthorne. “I'm currently working on a long term project with some friends that we will make into a short film about Northern California and the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area.”
 
While not pushing new boundaries on his photography, Hawthorne continues to move forward in his medical studies, where he is most interested in a pursuing a residency in Internal or Emergency Medicine and exploring the intersection between public or population health and general medicine. 
 
The exhibit presenting the 30 finalists will be up at the Faculty Alumni House on the UCSF Parnassus campus through the end of January.