Acadia Institute of Oceanography

After finishing the shooting for Try This: Extreme, my second National Geographic Kids book last summer (see how I name-dropped right there?) I had something of an epiphany: I really like photographing kids as they learn and explore. Witnessing kids tackling a problem and solving it (in often unexpected ways) is really fun. The experience of shooting both books reminded me of my two summers at the Acadia Institute of Oceanography in Seal Harbor, Maine. The experience had a huge impact on me– not just because of what I learned, but because of the kids I met, the music I heard, and the overall experience of getting out of my small world and exploring a larger (and wetter) one.

Reflecting on all of this, I contacted Sherry at AIO in the summer of 2016 and arranged to head up there to make some images. I was surprised at how it still seemed so familiar—the ping pong table, the salt water tanks, even the tie-dyed shirts! It seemed like very little had changed about the program in the 25 years or so since I had been a camper there. I don't know if the lack of cell phone reception in the area kept most of the modern world at bay or if it was just that the camp philosophy that I remember—relying on your intelligence and observation rather than technology, has held true. However refreshing, this anamnesis presented a challenge right off the bat. Was I photographing kids doing science or just documenting a mirror of my own childhood?  I only had a few days to shoot, so I was worried about tackling too much and coming up with an incomplete story.

In the end, I kind of punted. I decided to pursue the science/learning aspect of the camp, and only document the lifestyle, more personal side of the summer camp experience as it came up. I figured that I could always revisit camp in a year or two. The idea of poking around tidal marshes, climbing mountains, and snorkeling on the most beautiful coast in the world? The things I do for my job.

You can find many images in the Learn and Explore section of my website.  Here are a few other favorites showing the more personal side of camp.