Ray finds a way to manage all his interests, do prize-winning work with camera By David King, University Marketing
Colter Ray fishes deep into the pocket of his shorts for The Card — or, more precisely, The Fraction of The Card.
The junior public relations major already has scratched 3½ items off his schedule for the day — and added two more — to the 1 7/8-by-3-inch list, and it’s not even 11 a.m. Coming up:
• Stop by Spanish Office Hrs, 1030-1130
• Work: Study Spanish
• Compile Bball
• Rising Star (which is where he is at the moment, in an interview)
• 3 pm — JCM 2nd floor, dress nice
• 4 pm — AWITL
• 6:30 — George’s for PAL meeting
• 7 pm — RHA
Plus, there are more notes, filled in around the top and bottom right corners.
And this is a relatively quiet day.
“My organization system works for me,” he says. “I don’t know if it works for other people, but I have to map out my week. It’s one of the things I have to do, or I’ll miss something for sure.”
It starts with a dry-erase board in his dorm room. Each night, he transfers the next day’s tasks to a card. As the day progresses, items often get added; most days, everything gets scratched.
And there are plenty of things to scratch. Ray works regularly as a photographer in the Office of University Marketing, shooting everything from campus rallies to baseball games. A collection of his photos, taken at events as diverse as a Presidential campaign rally and a Texas State football game, earned him 12th place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program earlier this year, and he also was among the winners in the A Week in the Life Photo Competition, sponsored by the LBJ Student Center, and the recipient of a Grand Prize in a regional competition hosted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education
He’s also the president of his residence hall council and a representative in the Residence Hall Association, a senator representing the School of Mass Communication in the Associated Student Government and a member of the soon-to-be-revived Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Oh yes, and he carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
How does he do it all?
“I’m just an organized person,” he says with a shrug.
Manageable Scale Ray, a graduate of The Woodlands High School, came to Texas State determined not to miss a thing. He was accepted at a wide range of schools but decided to come to San Marcos because of the scale.
“He wanted to be able to start out quick and do what he wanted to do,” says his mother, Roxanne, who is a sales representative for Bristol-Meyers Squibb. “As a freshman, he wanted to get involved quickly, and I think there would have been a delay at the bigger schools, just because there are so many kids.”
He got the photography job the day before classes started his freshman year, taking advantage of experience from both his high school and his hometown weekly newspaper. And he wound up shooting everything from ceremonies involving both a current president — Texas State’s Denise Trauth — and a future one — Barack Obama, who appeared at a rally at Sewell Park in February 2008.
One of the photos Ray took at that event wound up as part of a portfolio that earned him the high finish in the Hearst contest, which was open to student photographers from 110 universities. In the shot, a boy stands on his father’s shoulders, high above a sea of faces, illuminated as though he were the center of attention. He holds an Obama placard that reads “Change we can believe in.”
The future president isn’t in the shot. The child really is the only recognizable person in the image. But it tells the story.
“What makes a great photo is the background, either how clean it is or how it relates to the foreground,” Ray says, noting that the attention to details like the background is a result of his well-honed sense of organization. “I think, honestly, a lot of it relates to how I live my life.”
But he isn’t just organized. For example, when he got tired of shooting essentially the same shots at Bobcat baseball games, he explored for a new angle. He found it — a 2-inch-square hole, almost at ground level, in the backstop. He spent 20 minutes wedged under the grandstands and eventually got his shot — a dramatic frame of a visiting pitcher, outlined against a graying sky, delivering a pitch, with the hitter, catcher and the ample backside of the umpire in the foreground.
“It was something different, and it definitely got people’s attention,” he says. “You don’t see things like that on a regular basis.”
It’s that approach that sets Ray apart from a lot of young photographers, says Chandler Prude, the Office of University Marketing’s professional photographer.
“He’s certainly not afraid to look for a good angle, which makes him a good shooter,” Prude says. “He’s got a good eye for it.”
Differing Paths Despite Ray’s success with the camera, he doesn’t want to become a full-time photographer after graduation.
“What’s great about this job — and I probably shouldn’t be saying this — is that it’s something I’d be doing even if I wasn’t getting paid,” he says.
“But I don’t want to do it as a career. I enjoy it too much to turn it into a job.”
Instead, he’s looking at the range of positions available to public relations professionals in a wide array of businesses, which is somewhat ironic considering that he was the less-outgoing of Dale and Roxanne Ray’s two sons. Travis, his older brother, is a graduate of Sam Houston State and works in television production.
“Colter was quiet, and he would sit back and listen a lot,” his mother says. “When he was really young, he would sit and watch golf on TV. We had to laugh, because how many 3- and 4-year-olds would sit and watch golf?”
But he’s become more outgoing as he’s matured — and he’s certainly gotten busier.
“He finds something and he sticks to it,” Roxanne Ray says. “It’s his nature. He loves to get involved and to do the right thing.”
And keep it organized.
“I keep telling myself I’m going to buy a normal planner someday,” he says as he collects The Card and heads for the door. “But I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.”