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Since In a New Light’s inception several years ago, the young men and women of Northwest Passage have spent literally thousands of hours exploring the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, the watery wilderness we’re so lucky to call our backyard. On foot and with paddles, the photographers have captured countless stunning images of the riverway’s landscape and wildlife, they’ve revealed this land’s ever changing textures, and they’ve helped us all understand our place within it.  Hundreds of thousands have seen their photos and read their reflections in exhibitions all around the country. Yet, an enormous piece of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway’s story has remained untold. An essential dimension of its character has been hidden. Until now.

Through a National Park Service Youth Partnership Program grant, the artists of In a New Light are now heading underwater in Northwest Passage’s newest program, New Light under the Surface. Armed with waterproof cameras, high-powered lights, wetsuits, snorkel gear, and more than a little grit, the young men of Northwest Passage II have spent the last few weeks trailblazing a new realm experienced by incredibly few.

Initially delayed almost a month by spring’s unusually high, cold water, the young men are now making up for lost time, and are producing a flurry of astonishing images.

We’re thrilled to partner with Dr. Toben LaFrancois from Northland College for this project. Seemingly part fish himself, Toben is instrumental in coordinating all ecology, snorkeling skills, and water safety aspects of the program. He also bakes darn good chocolate chip cookies. Other staff on the team are Pete Ducos, Rodney Felt, and intern Corey Gipperich, who is producing a short film about the project.  We’re proud to once again partner with the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and look forward to working with their dive team in coming weeks.

Enjoy a little sample the New Light under the Surface’s early images below. Many more to come throughout the summer as we explore the depths of more than just a river.

Ben Thwaits, project coordinator

"Mussel Siphoning" by Jaden

“Mussel Siphoning” by Jaden

"Luminescence" by Jacob

“Luminescence” by Jacob

"Glowing Algae" by Tyrone

“Glowing Algae” by Tyrone

"Softness" by Tony

“Soft” by Tony

"Dancing Damselflies" by Dan

“Dancing Damselflies” by Dan (we can’t resist sticking the cameras above the surface when an amazing shot presents itself)

"Hiding" by Jaden

“Hiding” by Jaden

"Bluegill" by Jason

“Bluegill” by Jason

Tyrone cruises the shallows.

Tyrone cruises the shallows.

Toben, Isiah, and Pete inspect a mussel shell.

Toben, Isaiah, and Pete inspect a mussel shell.

Tony at the very edge of the Namekagon Headwaters

Tony at the very edge of the Namekagon Headwaters

Felipe and Jacob

Felipe and Jacob

Jaden sums up the experience:  “During underwater photography it feels like I’m in a whole different world than above the water. There are so many things under the surface that we normally don’t see. It’s really peaceful under the water and all you have to worry about is taking it all in. All the worries I have go away when I’m underwater.  It makes me feel at peace.”

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