Butterfly and Yellow Flowers
Photograph by Jessica Alvarenga
In May 2008, 20 students participating in a National Geographic Photo Camp workshop got a unique assignment: Document and photograph a 24-hour BioBlitz in California's Santa Monica Mountains. The students, from EcoAcademy High School in Los Angeles, chronicled the event from setup through the closing moments, joining scientists and volunteers as they combed the park counting species.
The group produced hundreds of images, including this photo of a colorful butterfly sipping nectar from a flower.
"It was really just a great experience," said participant Richard Kelley. "I know I'll never forget it."
Pelicans in Flight
Photograph by Brenda Sunux
"You automatically feel the fresh air," said Photo Camp participant Marcos Cardenas of working at the 2008 Santa Monica Mountains BioBlitz. "You actually feel healthier just breathing the air. You can just feel your lungs are cleaner."
This Photo Camp image captures some of the California shore's many pelicans soaring from a rocky outcrop.
Sun Eclipsed by Flower
Photograph by Evelyn Gomez
A unique perspective allows a flower bud in California's Santa Monica Mountains to eclipse the sun.
"I didn't really think about ever seeing everything in a different way, behind the lens, like how I did at Photo Camp," said one student.
Owl at Night
Photograph by Marcos Cardenas
An extreme close-up reveals the intricate markings on an owl's feathers.
"Nature to me is Earth," said Photo Camp student Marcos Cardenas. "Nature is the wind blowing in my face, the trees as tall as the eye can see, the crystal clear water running through a stream. Earth is alive. My existence relies on Earth."
Millipede on Wood
Photograph by Zury Benitez
Photo Camp student Zury Benitez captured this image of a millipede on a piece of wood at the 2008 Santa Monica Mountains Bioblitz.
One participant said the workshop taught him "how a picture could be enhanced if you took it from a different angle."
Photograph by Debbie Romero
Wildflower buds look ready to pop in this close-up by a Photo Camp student.
One participant said the instruction he received during the workshop helped him "see everything else in a different way."
Wildflower and Barn
Photograph by Mitchell Hernandez
Photo Camp "was something new," said student Angelo Golden. "Something I haven't done before: Work with a camera."
Here, an extreme close-up shows the tiny buds of a wildflower.
Dog on a Horse Saddle
Photograph by Karen Ibarra
This quirky photo of a dog on horseback was taken at a stable in the Santa Monica Mountains during the 2008 Photo Camp and BioBlitz.
"You can express yourself by taking pictures," said student Crystal Dickens.
Portrait of a Park Ranger
Photograph by Crystal Dickens
A park ranger in the Santa Monica Mountains poses for a portrait by a Photo Camp student.
"At first, I didn't appreciate how beautiful and important nature was," said participant Crystal Dickens. "But without trees I can't breathe. Without the park next to my house, I would not have a place to calm down. So, as I experience it more, I see how important nature is ... to me and the world."
Photograph by William Estrada
Two young BioBlitz participants pose for a portrait.
"It's all about the camera," said one Photo Camp student. "It's all about taking pictures. It's all about getting to know people."
Guitar Player on Stage
Photograph by Joshua Benitez
Entertainment during the 2008 Santa Monica Mountains BioBlitz included a performance by Billy B., the "Natural Science Song and Dance Man."
Photograph by Yader Rivera
A BioBlitz participant holds a small bird for identification during the 2008 Santa Monica Mountains event.
"It was cool seeing all those scientists and how they were working," said one Photo Camp student.
Students Crossing Rocky Shore
Photograph by Natalie Pineda
BioBlitz participants wade through tidal pools on the Santa Monica coast looking for species to catalogue.
"Just being out in nature is a good day for me," said Photo Camp participant Angelo Golden. "You can collect yourself and think about things you can't really think in L.A."
Students With a Seine Net
Photograph by Angelo Golden
"I believe that nature is the beginning of everything, and we've taken advantage of it," said Photo Camp student Angelo Golden. "Humans often don't care about the animals and organisms that live around them. We need to start caring about life in general. If we don't start now, it's possible the beauty around us today might not be around tomorrow."
Here, BioBlitz volunteers use a seine net to catch and identify fish species.
Photograph by Roxanne Amezquita
Photo Camp students were told to experiment with different angles and perspectives in their photography.
"Wow, I really got a good picture by laying on my back and getting a different view from it," said Photo Camp participant Crystal Dickens.
Here, a view from below shows two volunteers adjusting a bird-catching net during the 2008 BioBlitz in Santa Monica, California.
Photograph by Jose Arreola
Photo Camp participants worked at BioBlitz as part of an intensive four-day photography workshop in which students got expert training in photographic vision, equipment and technique, and the process of creating a story.
Here, student Jose Arreoloa captures a close-up of a BioBlitz volunteer measuring a fish.
Snake in Pail
Photograph by Richard Kelley
By the time the 2008 BioBlitz in Santa Monica, California, was over, volunteers had discovered 1,364 unique plant and animals species, including this large snake.
"BioBlitz was like a countdown of insects, plants, animals," said one Photo Camp student. "Anything they found they would take pictures of, and then they would write down how many they would find. I was taking pictures of them doing their search."
Photograph by Waldir Valladares
The theme of this Photo Camp was conservation and the environment, focusing attention on youth perspectives on their generation's connection to the natural world.
"When I spend time in nature and connect with it, I feel more comfortable and relaxed," said participant Richard Kelley. "Nature makes it easier to hear myself think and deal with my problems."
Photograph by Byron Villagran
"It was one of those rare moments in the final exhibition of the student work, the excitement that the kids had," said EcoAcademy Principal Laura Genholm. "It was kids that have been told over and over again that they're messing up or they don't have what it takes, and here they are with their professional work in front of their peers and their parents. It was a life-changing moment. They will remember this for the rest of their lives."
Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available for as little as $12.