Comfortable behind the lens of a camera, El Campo High senior Brisenia Flores loves capturing images of her hometown as well as those abroad. Most recently, one of her photos, which was taken while in Africa on the National Geographic Student Exhibition last summer, was selected photo of the day by the Smithsonian online magazine, Smithsonian.com.

“I thought my work would never be noticed,” Flores said. “I never thought it was good enough.”

The photo, which was selected from 479,000 entries, is a double exposure image entitled “Free as a Bird.”

“It represents that the mind is free like how birds are free to travel wherever they please,” the online caption reads.

The double exposure image is two photos Flores took while on the exhibition, one of a woman in Zimbabwe and the other of a tree and vultures in the wilderness.

“Vultures were feeding ... they were flying out of the tree,” she said. “There were 200 vultures.”

Flores applied for the exhibition, stating her skills and the camera equipment she uses, and was one of 11 picked for the trip.

“This was my first time overseas,” Flores said. “I was the only one from Texas ... it was such a diverse group. One girl was from Columbia.”

On the exhibition, Flores and 10 other students spent two weeks in Botswana and Zimbabwe wilderess where they roughed it. There were no hotel stays with a comfortable bed and all-you-can-eat complimentary breakfast. They slept in tents and dared not to venture outside after sunset for fear of dangerous wildlife like the howling hyenas who were sometimes a short distance away.

“The hyenas were the scariest. They were about five-foot away,” she said. “We were told if we go outside ‘do not run,’” because wildlife would consider them prey.

Far from civiliation, the small group camped in tents with temperatures getting into the 30s and 40s at night.

“We were three hours from the nearest city,” Flores said. “We were not allowed to go out at night ... one person did and got chased by a water buffalo.”

Each day the group ventured out to get a closer look at wildlife and scenery to photograph.

“We were super close to the wildlife,” she said. “We were told to be careful of the hippos. If they see you they will come at you.”

Flores’ photography experience began four years ago when she was a freshman in Molly Kresta’s photo journalism class. She has also been in yearbook classes.

She is hoping more of her photos will be published.

Smithsonian is “currently having a photo contest ... I submitted more and hope they will be accepted,” she said.

National Geographic will be hosting a student exhibition this coming summer in Australia and Flores is hoping to be able to go.

“Once you have been accepted you do not have to reapply,” she explained. “You just have to sign up.”

Some of the photos Flores took while on the exhibition have been posted on the National Geographic website.

To view photos on the National Geographic website, visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/student-expeditions/destinations/africa/high-school/photography-botswana-victoria-falls-student-expeditions-safari/?cmpid=org=NGP::mc=crm-email::src=ngp::cmp=exp_student::add=ngpexp20191025-student-wildlife&rid=%7BProfile.CustomerKey%7D#opi3284354088

Flores is the daughter of Amy Samaripa and the late Ramon Flores.

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