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In the Wild: Photographs and Paintings

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Carole Lazo doesn't foresee stopping her art anytime soon. Her dream is to be completely immersed in her painting and photography, traveling to her favorite places like Alaska. "As long as I can carry a big lens and tripod I'll continue," she said. "I f

Carole Lazo's passion for photography stretches back to her childhood near London, England. She recalled "always running around with a brownie box camera," often taking pictures of her five siblings.

When she came to America as an adult she began to realize the beauty and serenity in our country's parks and wilderness areas. Now wildlife is her camera's subject of choice.

Lazo starts with an idea of what animal she wants to photograph and where they frequent. Even at her home in Crawford she pays attention to the patterns of creatures on the property -- like badgers, birds and deer.

Sometimes she'll read about a species and study their habits such as whether they recluse to dens and if they're out during specific times of the day or year.

Then, she chooses her spot and waits -- once for more than six hours.

For her, though, capturing the shot is just part of the process, not the end goal. "Even if I'm out all day and don't get great photographs, I love being in nature and just watching," said Lazo. "It's exciting even if you capture something small like a pika."

Her favorite mammal is the bear.

"I'm respectful of not going into their space but allowing them to come into mine," she said. While many become fearful around the animal, they put her on edge and spark a feeling of truly being alive.

Once at a photography workshop in Alaska, Lazo even photographed polar bears.

"I'm used to being with bears but when you're with polar bears it's a different feeling. People feel fear around brown bears and others but you can read their signals. With polar bears you feel like you are literally on the food chain," she said. "And when they look you in the eyes the depth is bottomless."

Expanding Her Art

In addition to photography, Lazo also has a passion for painting.

"Photography has helped me with composition in painting," she said. "Sometimes I'm out to photograph wildlife but will end up taking a picture to paint."

Painting is a relatively new adventure for Lazo. The desire was always there she said, but as is often the case, time and resources were limited. Four years ago she discovered Carol Bowker in Crawford who specializes in oil painting.

Now Lazo takes lessons every winter and finds herself flourishing. "I didn't even know the color names when I started," she joked. "But now I can get lost in my studio and spend hours painting. I become totally absorbed. It's therapeutic."

Lazo also has a similar experience with loss of time when it comes to photographing wildlife. When working in Grand Junction she took vacations to Alaska to "get away and be in wild places that are unspoiled and untouched."

She becomes so concentrated when scouting for wildlife that after she's finished, she's flooded with excitement and adrenaline. "I do what I do because I love it and enjoy the challenge," she said.

Her dream is to one day adventure to Antarctica.

Sharing Her Passion

Lazo's favorite aspect of her artwork is getting to share it with others. Any money she makes goes right back into her passion.

Extensions of her artwork include cards, prints on metal and canvas, a children's book about bears titled "Bears for Young and Curious Minds" and even puzzles from her pictures.

The Pack Shack in Hotchkiss is the closest local store where all extensions of her artwork can be found. She also has prints and paintings on display at Outpost Gallery in Westcliffe, The Main Street Gallery in Grand Junction, and AppleShed in Cedaredge.

Her children's book features original photographs of bears from throughout Lazo's career. "I get thank you letters from grandparents and it's been special to think a child might look at that book and be interested in bears," she said.

Her wildlife images have also been published in National Wildlife Federation Magazine and Calendar, Grand Valley Magazine, and one of her images was on the front cover of Colorado Outdoors. Selling images and being published, however, isn't Lazo's goal. Instead she wants to share the special moments she experiences.

"I'm just trying to capture the essence of what I see," she said. "I think art is valuable because it's a way of expression and healing. If I can share the beauty and emotion of a moment and have people feel like they can just walk into it then I've done my job."

More of Lazo’s artwork can be seen at carole-lazo-art.com. Her website is still in process; email or phone is the best way to contact her — carolelazo@gmail.com or 970-640-8711.
Once in Alaska Lazo lost track of time while watching for bears. Heading back to the lodge she kept a 50mm lens around her neck “just in case.” She heard trees rustling and a “huge bear” came around and up the path — directly toward her. Lazo quickly knelt down, took two photos and side stepped off into the tall grass. “I remember my mouth was dry and my heart was pumping up in my head. That photo has been remarkable to look at but it was an experience,” she said.
Much of Lazo’s art is based on local landscapes, such as “Sheep Drive in Smith Fork Canyon.” She keeps the titles simple and easy to identify so that locals can know where and what inspired her.
Lazo’s been to Alaska eight times. Once in Hoonah with a friend they stopped and got out of the car to look at some bears. Another person came up and warned them that the bears were not used to humans and were potentially dangerous. Lazo said they “quickly got back in the car,” but not before capturing a photo which she used to paint this image.
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