A Week in Nature. / by Luke Cheng

Every year I take a group of 6th grade students to Science Camp. We have gone to a location that lasts 2 1/2 days the past four years... but we switched to a different venue this year. And this place lasts the entire week! Truth be told, I'm not the outdoorsy type, but giving these students an experience like this is worth it. I buckled up, got all my gear ready, and set out to beautiful Boulder Creek, Ca for Science Camp.

It took about 3 1/2 hours to get to New Horizons Outdoor School. The school is located between Big Basin and Little Basin near Santa Cruz. The students stayed in cabins located in a forest area like the photo above. They were surrounded by huge redwood trees. For many of these students, this was their first time away from home. And let me tell you... this was NOTHING like what they were used to.

The outdoor school is the habitat of many creatures including deer, monarch butterflies, and BANANA SLUGS! We saw quite a few banana slugs slithering around the ground. Believe it or not, yours truly puckered up his lips and gave one a kiss! I definitely had to be the first so that the students would open up and also give it a try. I'd say half the kids in my group went ahead and gave the slimy one a slimy one. Fun times!

The students hiked and hiked and hiked while at the same time learning about science and nature. Each day was a new eye opening experience for them. We were guided by an expert team of naturalists that had intimate knowledge of their field. The students soaked up so much knowledge from these leaders. The naturalists and their high school counselors were pretty much with them the entire morning, afternoon, and night for the entire week. It was a dedicated bunch of people fo sho'!

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One of my favorite parts of the trip was going to Natural Bridges Beach in Santa Cruz. We took about a 45-minute bus ride down to the beach area and walked our way to the tide pools. Students were given the opportunity to explore the numerous creatures that lived there. Seeing how vast the ocean is was a breathtaking experience for the kids who have never been there before. It must have been a sensory overload for those students... but in a good way. Their brains had to be stimulated with all this awesome stuff around them to behold.

This was my favorite shot of the trip. I think it really encapsulates the trip. As wild and crazy as sixth grade students can be, when they are engaged in something that captures their attention they can really settle in and concentrate. I gave this photo to the fine folks at Exploring New Horizons and they used it on their Facebook page! Sweeeeeet.

Being at the ocean was so incredible. The crashing of the waves, the sand in your feet, and the view. I hadn't been to the beach in such a long time. Ahhhhh... so nice to be back.

My last capture of the ocean was of a surfer who was out that day on the waves. It was funny because I just watched a video on photographing surfing a couple of weeks ago. He was pretty far away but I think I was able to get a few nice captures in. I used a relatively cheap 55-210mm Sony telephoto lens to get all my surfing images.

Night's at science camp were extremely peaceful. Besides the sound of the students, there was nothing... just nothing but stillness. I sort of wish I brought a tri-pod with me to get some better night shots, especially of the night sky. The stars were absolutely gorgeous, and it would be have great to practice some night photography.

The kids had campfire each night to end their day. They sang songs, watched skits, and participated by just having some good, clean, fun. This was such a valuable experience for the students... and I know it's something that they will never forget.

All my photos from this trip were taken with my Sony crop sensor cameras. I used my Nex-5 and a6000. The a6000 came in really handy this time around because the viewfinder was a must-have during the bright sunlight. With only an LCD screen, the Nex-5 was very difficult to use. Both cameras performed well when called upon to do so, and I've got to give them props for being real work horses during this trip.

Well, that was Science Camp week for me! I missed a Kings game (a pretty good one too) and some possible job opportunities, but doing this was something I just couldn't pass up. I am so glad to be back home! I'm here for your photography needs, contact me to book!