Adventure is Out There

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 26, 2017) – Years ago, when anyone asked biology alumna Anai Colyer ’14 what she wanted to be when she grew up, she dreamed of a life as a wildlife documentarist.

She didn’t view it as a practical choice – rather, a choice of the heart. A self-taught photographer, Colyer’s hobby has led to an Instagram portfolio filled of magical moments underwater in the springs outside of Gainesville; endangered Key deer in Key West; Wyoming moose and hugging monkeys.

Now, she’s about to get the summer adventure of a lifetime after winning a National Geographic short film contest with the first film she ever produced.

“What I’ve learned from this experience is never underestimate yourself,” she said. “If you have a passion for something and really want to do something, do it. Don’t hold back. Just go for it.”

Colyer’s love of wildlife and the world began when she was 8 years old. Her father took her underwater for the first time, sharing his tank with her, when they two spotted a pack of dolphins.

Colyer still remembers trying to reach out to the pack as they clicked sounds to communicate. From that moment, she was hooked.

A few years later, she became fascinated with photography after picking up a camera spontaneously to photograph dolphins jumping in the wake of her aunt’s boat.

“I got addicted to capturing that moment,” she said. “I wanted to share that experience and what I was seeing and maybe get people to get outside themselves and witness it.”

Photography by Anai Colyer ’14

After graduating in 2014, she struggled to find the first open door to a full-time job and a career. So she started working part time at a local dive shop and kept snapping photos.

This past February, a friend called her to suggest she enter herself in National Geographic’s WILD TO INSPIRE filmmaking contest. The grand prize was a trip to Africa to document wildlife for “Nat Geo WILD” viewers.

Disheartened about her struggle to find a job, she did not feel confident about entering the contest.

“I was reluctant. I told him, ‘You’re out of your mind. I’ve never done a film in my life. I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s only two weeks left to submit,’” she recalled. “He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, you’re right. You don’t need to go to Africa. Just forget about it.’”

In those two weeks, a sleep-deprived Colyer filmed everything she could while she also learned how to edit audio and video and create a script for her short film.

As she considered storyline options, she connected with one friend’s piece of advice: “The only story you’re going to be able to tell well is the story that you know.”

“That really hit home,” she said. “I thought, well, the story I know is I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before.”

When she learned she was one of three finalists in the contest, her immediate reaction ranged from tears to pure joy to wondering if the message she received was a mistake.

Two weeks later at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Fest in Idaho, she heard her name called as the first female winner in the 4-year-old competition.

“My whole world opened up,” she said.

She won’t know where she is headed in Africa until two to four weeks ahead of her trip. She does know for sure she wants to extend her time there and take in as much as possible.

“I probably won’t come back,” Colyer somewhat joked of her first trip overseas.

Until then she is continuing to practice her film-making skills and still always dreaming of what lies ahead.

“I don’t want to go through my life, look back and say, ‘What if?’ At this stage of life, I just want to travel. I want to experience things,” she said. “It’s the beauty and the awe of nature that keeps me going.”

Anai’s pro tips for your own photography:
1. If you’re new to photography, you can only learn so much from the internet. The best way to learn is to get out there and practice, practice, practice.

2. With wildlife photography, my No. 1 tip is to study the subject and learn to predict its behavior so you’re ready to capture the “wow moment” when it happens.

3. With underwater photography, my No. 1 rule is to get close to your subject. Rule No. 2: get closer. Rule No. 3: when you think you’re close enough, you’re not! Get closer! Water reduces color, contrast and sharpness. So to achieve a better photo reduce the space between you and your subject as much as possible.

4. Every photographer, no matter how good they are, still encounters missed shots and gear malfunctions. The key is to never give up.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — June 22, 2015

(Photo: Eric Gutierrez, Central Florida Future)
Knightro makes his entrance at the 2015 Mascot Games. (Photo: Eric Gutierrez, Central Florida Future)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Friday, UCF’s Alpha Phi Alpha Chapter held a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting.
  2. UCF Student Health Services has created a new support group for students in recovery from alcohol, drugs and other addictions. The Collegiate Recovery Community is in its infancy and will grow to a more comprehensive, wrap-around support system transitioning students from recovery to college.
  3. UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program was ranked as the second-best sports business provider in the world by SportBusiness.
  4. Congratulations to UCF’s very own Knightro, who tied for second place in the 22nd annual Mascot Games, held at the Amway Center on Friday.
  5. Traveling the U.S. this summer? Wear your UCF gear and tag your photos with #50statesofUCF or email them to [email protected] (include the city and state you’re in), and help cover the map with black and gold!

Orlando REP and UCF Theatre Offer Summer Camps on Campus

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Orlando Repertory Theatre, in partnership with UCF, announces its popular summer camps held on the UCF campus.  Designed to foster self-confidence, creative thinking, collaboration and trust through the medium of performing arts, The REP’s UCF camps are held in the state of the art Performing Arts Center.

There are 25 camps for rising 1st through 10th  grade students, including creative dramatics and musical theatre camps. After Care is available. Advanced training camps in Acting or Musical Theatre are also available for rising 9th – to graduating 12th grade students. Weekly camps are June 15 to August 7.  All camps are taught by professional Teaching Artists.

More Info

Summer Camps
Orlando REP (Click on: Youth Academy -> Summer -> Summer Camps @ UCF)

Additional camps are available at The REP’s Loch Haven location and in downtown Celebration. For questions, please contact Ashley Bigge in The REP’s Youth Academy at [email protected] or 407.896.7365, ext. 219.