A wintry scene on the North Platte River is refracted in a lens ball. (Larissa Benson)

One January day after Natrona County High School student and photographer Larissa Benson got a new camera accessory, she ventured outside to experiment with it.

She messed around with the lens ball — a glass orb that refracts light — on an old wagon in her yard, then set off down a nearby path that follows the North Platte River. As she walked, the scene of the river arrested her.

“It was in perfect light and the ice was beautiful,” Benson, 19, told WyoFile in an email.

Benson placed the lens ball in a leafless winter tree nearby, she said, “and got the perfect image” of the waterway fringed in ice.

That image won Benson first place in the “Wyoming Waters” category of The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming’s 2019 student photo contest. As part of a special Photo Friday series, WyoFile will highlight first-place winners from all four categories.

Benson, who shot the picture on a Canon 70D, first took a photography class in school for the credit.

“But soon I really got into capturing the moment, or what I see,” she wrote. Benson said she enjoys finding new perspectives on the world.

“You can look at things that are plain that everyone sees the same, but then you can find a new way that is more interesting,” she wrote.

She also said photography can play a big role in conservation. “If you photograph what things look like in their natural way of life and how beautiful it really is, people will see its TRUE potential and beauty,” she wrote.

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Now in its tenth year, the Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s student photo contest is open to photographers between the ages of 14-19 who attend high school in Wyoming. Students are urged to submit images of Wyoming nature that convey their connection to conservation of the state’s land, water and wildlife. The 2019 contest drew more than 500 entries, according to TNC.

More information on the photo contest, along with entries and winning images, can be seen here.

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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