Student captures lighter side of nature with a lens
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Colton Fischer is terrified of snakes.
But he has spent hours crouching in the grass, just feet from a rattlesnake, peering through the lens of his camera in his quest for the perfect shot.
"I'm scared of snakes, but I feel sorry for them because everyone just wants to kill them. I keep hoping people will see my photos, see something beautiful that will change their minds," Colton said, his brown eyes shining.
By day, Colton is a 17-year-old West High School senior but his love of animals sets him apart.
He photographs wildlife, taking pictures of birds, animals and insects that freeze their beauty in detailed images.
A deer standing beneath a tree in the morning fog, its coat smooth brown velvet in the glow of the rising sun. The skin of a lizard, showing a vibrant lime green against pink flower petals. His images make it impossible to ignore the beauty of even the most prosaic creatures.
It all started four years ago, when he got his first camera for Christmas.
He started taking pictures of everything, especially the animals around the house.
He spent a lot of time hunting with his family. Soon he would grab his camera along with his gun, taking the opportunity out in the wilderness to photograph deer and other wildlife.
Now, his entire life revolves around photographing wildlife.
As a senior in high school, he takes only the required classes, opting for the work program offered by the school district. In the afternoons he works at a gas station to make money to pay for his equipment. His days often find him in the fields surrounding his home, camera in hand, clicking away as he searches for that perfect shot.
For Colton, it's all about making people look closer, showing them the beauty of the creatures around them.
"It's amazing how many people don't know what a deer looks like or the other kinds of wildlife that are around here. They're so stuck in city life they have no idea what's around here," he said.
Colton prefers being out in nature.
"I like the open spaces. I don't like how confined things are in the city, and being out in nature gives me some space," he said.
Still, he doesn't mind returning to civilization to get one of the biggest thrills -- seeing someone react to one of his photographs, especially his grandmother.
"She looked at this one picture I took, and she said it was the best photo she'd ever seen, that it was beautiful. It really made me proud," he said, grinning. "There are eight grandchildren in the family, so it's nice to stand out a little bit, and get noticed."
Over the past few years, he's won prizes at different contests and stock shows in the area. Last year, he was one of 10 high school students selected from across the country to attend the North American Nature Photography Association conference in Reno, Nev.
The experience left him determined to follow his dream of becoming a nature photographer and conservationist. He hopes to attend Texas A&M and study wildlife biology and photography. He'll continue taking pictures to show people the beauty of the creatures they share the world with, even snakes.
"You can see things on a dark side or a light side. Even though snakes kill people, they don't have feet, they can't talk, they can't walk away. I just want to show people the beautiful side of things. Maybe they'll step in and protect them then," he said.