Matheson State Park
Photograph by Andrea Santamaria
In April 2010, 15 students from Miami's South Dade Senior High School got the chance to participate in a National Geographic Photo Camp. For four days, the teenagers explored South Florida's Biscayne National Park, creating a portrait of local water use, conservation, and marine biodiversity through photography and writing. They were mentored by National Geographic magazine contributing photographer Raul Touzon and other leaders. While at Biscayne, the students also chronicled the 2010 BioBlitz, a 24-hour inventory of the park's plant and animal species. This photo gallery features the students' photos and writing.
"Through the lenses of these cameras, the wonders that lay behind the tiniest of leaves, beneath the smallest of ripples. How the tiny blades of grass turn into your newest fascination, even if for only a few minutes. I appreciate the things that were once right underneath your nose. I have seen, the way you learn how to understand the ways the planet has bestowed us with its unbelievable beauty. I have seen in only two days, what would take me a lifetime to take notice of. I have seen the astonishing ways the ecosystems keep trying to provide us with such remarkable beauty, and how we proceed with sending it to its grave. I have taken regard for our planet’s silhouette, and how our eyes pass by them with absolute disinterest in what our world can offer us, which is more than any one person or even millions of people could give us."—Photo Camp participant Andrea Santamaria
Photograph and text by Chavely Gonzalez
I have seen the beauty of water and life mixed together. We need it, we use it, and we abuse it. Beautiful water falling from the waterfall, splashing its neighbors with cold, refreshing drops. Then again, what are we going to do when those beautiful scenes that amaze you with how precious life is are gone forever?
Photograph and text by Elizabeth Coule
I have seen “today.”
And its tropical glamour continue to astound me.
With strange faces upon my head,
I’ve discovered a new way to breathe.
Floral dragons appeared before me,
But I catch them before they buzz away;
Their narrow striped wings beating the air.
I can’t take back such few days that I’ve seen
I’ll store them away in boxlike frames,
So that every day they’ll smile at me through their framed contraptions.
I can only see more from here on in.
Here I go …
Photograph and text by Stefan Rhoades
Within the photos I have taken lies several truths about the Earth. The first scenic take on this planet is about the beauty of it. Water, trees, the atmosphere itself, all have an important place in our planet. Water is flowing and graceful. But at the same time, it can be rough and unforgiving. Trees and all other plant life on Earth add magnificent colors and unreal monuments. Our atmosphere provides the beauty of imagination. Another benefit to this planet is that it provides us with what we need to live. Water is 75 percent of our body, and without it, there would be no life for any living creature that inhabits Earth. Our trees and plants give us oxygen for us to breathe. Without breathing, how would we take in the beauty of the atmosphere? Finally, I also found that there are people in this world who neglect the ground we walk on. Cups in the water, trees and entire ecosystems cut down to build cities and houses—and these cities are graying the skies with pollution. Recycling can help our Earth live and thrive to its fullest potential.
Photograph and text by James Kendall
I have seen millions of things on this trip of cops and robbers. I am the cop, and the world my robbers. The camera my handcuffs to capture and portray the robbers I have caught and brought back with me to the jailhouse. Only to go back out and use these handcuffs to capture more robbers. But I can’t capture everything on my own—I have the help of my other officers to also capture the crime of these lawbreakers. And at the end of the day, I long for my next assignment of robbers to catch.
Photograph and text by Carey Jester
I have seen things that I have seen before, but this time with a different perspective—through an Olympus 14-42mm lens. Looking not only forward, but up, down, into, and away from the sun. Close-up and far away, through shadows and reflections, and I feel that now I have a better understanding of how to show the environment to people. I’ve captured the water, where it is, where it goes, and what lives in it, and I show its great importance.
Elliott Key, Florida
Photograph and text by Kameronn Stopher
I have seen many faces. Faces of people and other animals. They are laughing, they are smiling, they are sad, they are happy. I’ve seen them close-up and far away, underwater and above. Some were in a tree, some were in my arms. These are the things I’ve seen at Photo Camp.
Photograph and text by Henry Iraheta
I have seen up, down, straight, and through things
Magical creatures like turtles and spiders,
And cheerleaders flying into the beauty of water
Flowers that look like something you’ve never seen before
Blood, sweat, and pain were going in to the photos
Magical trees with good sense of texture and details,
Also the beauty of the moon beaming light into the water.
Photograph and text by Kayla Kelley
I have seen new places, new faces. I have seen things that seem repetitive and redundant to me, but new, exciting, and enticing to others. I have seen things through my eyes and captured what I find beautiful through my lens. I have seen things at new angles and in new lights. I have seen myself become more appreciative of the beauty that is South Florida. I have seen and enjoyed places I would not have imagined. And mostly, I have seen what was always there and neglected, and finally understood the meaning of it.
Scaling a Fish
Photograph and text by Jacqueline Muao
The wisps of clouds in a blue sky
Remains of trees that once were
Natural mirrors made by lakes and ponds
Scampering critters across a log
Running from bigger animals in a field
Droplets of liquid fall in
Causing the ripples we see
A few paces away a frog croaks
Signaling the end of today
The sun’s light begins to fade
As the crickets begin their songs
Insects wander astray
Snails slither across moist ground
The water still clear, but dark
Is that a croc or a shark?
Beware it’s nighttime, nature’s dark beauty
Do you see what’s seen
In the dark, but not in light?
Photograph and text by Nick Saldivar
I have seen three UFOs and what the inside of a pool looks like upside down … my own blood and my own shoes underwater. I’m pretty sure that was lunch I saw this morning in the bathroom. The moon looks like cheese without ketchup, so I’m pretty sure when our ship hits the moon it will be made of pepper jack and cheddar. On the ship will be friends who rode the four-day, three-night trip all the way to the very end without sleeping.
Photograph and text by Zolangel Tamarit
I have seen beauty, in such things you have seen beauty too. Such as a monarch butterfly fluttering through the mild breeze, and the waves crashing on the shore on a sunny day. But there is something you haven’t opened your eyes to yet, and that is the gift of finding beauty in EVERYTHING. No matter whether it’s old and worn down, or just plain unattractive to the eye, it has some beauty in it. And I capture it through the lens of my camera. I have seen beauty, I can see it in everything.
Photograph and text by Robert Collura
I have seen life. From life until death. Water plays a big role in life. I grew up around water, I’ve played in it, even hurt myself in it. As much as most people don’t see how much water affects them, then in their life, they will be ignorant.
Most conceive life as horrid, terrible, and unbearable. Most don’t even see that even death can be beautiful. Life creates your surroundings? No, you create it, water helps everyone, whether they see it or not.
I have seen life. So next time, take the little things in life, whether it be a trip to Grandma’s, or even wasting water, appreciate what you have now.
Photograph and text by Benny Angene
I have seen sun rays hitting the ripples of the ocean and the palm fronds on the beautiful trees moving in such a perfect precise way. I have seen the way water flows, while the mixtures of different colors of the reflection and how it hits the water, in such a way that it makes me capture it in a photo as what I think is art.
Photograph and text by Misty Glisson
The hidden beauty, which is revealed only to those who open their eyes to it. The treasures this world beholds are free. All you have to do is turn on your camera.