A photography exhibit highlighting pictures taken in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway by a group of troubled teenage boys is making its way around the state.
When 15-year-old Cody of Rice Lake came to the mental health treatment facility Northwest Passage this spring, he was struggling to find his place in the world.
"I had a pretty bad addiction to drugs and I got in a lot of fights. It wasn't going good at home," he says. "There was always arguing and problems...I messed up and I got in a fight with my mom's boyfriend and I got sent off."
Beginning in March, Cody and 25 other teenage boys from northern Wisconsin began spending a day each week in the woods of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway until August.
Cody remembers his first taste of nature photography.
"Red-winged blackbirds...they were just everywhere and they're really pretty birds. They've got this deep, bright-orange on their wings," he says. "We went out there and I was kind of new to photography and I kept trying to snap them in the air. And I couldn't get it but I didn't give up because I wanted it. Finally, I just got this one photo and the bird was soaring through the air and its wings weren't even out. It looked like a rocket taking off flight."
Northwest Passage Program Coordinator Ben Thwaits says the project helps the boys connect with nature while learning more about themselves.
"It slows one's mind down and allows almost a meditative state to be achieved in such beautiful and wild places as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway," he says.
Thwaits says Northwest Passage plans to continue and expand the project by visiting more national parks next summer. They are also looking for camera donations so they can send each boy home with their own camera.
The photographs will be on display for two weeks in January at the Capitol building in Madison. To see the photographs you can visit the "In a New Light" website at InANewLight.org.