Glow sticks turn campers into ghosts at night

10 photos

On the western side of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, about 200 acres of land becomes the home for hundreds of kids and young adults each summer — Camp Seneca Lake.

An old stomping ground for my brother and sister who attended the camp when they were young and are now part of the staff, I spent time there this month documenting the camp’s annual climactic event ‘Color War.’

Color War is a term used at many sleep-away summer camps in the Northeast and refers to the time when everyone — campers and staff — is split into teams and compete. They compete in sports, creative events and other events that you might only see at camp, like the one shown in these pictures that they called the “Illumination.”

The Color War “break” is a signature that many camps take pride in. No one is ever supposed to know where, when or how Color War begins until the big reveal. Camp Seneca Lake chose to do it at night, in an empty field and with thousands and thousands of glow sticks.

These pictures were taken after the “break,” where campers were given glow sticks (either red or blue, depending on their team) to wear around their necks and arms. I used a tripod to keep the camera steady for these long exposure shots, but no other effects were used. They were shot at ISO 1600 and about a one-second shutter speed. Other pictures I saw taken without a tripod resulted in color blur created by the cameraperson’s movement.
Below is a video of some of the events during Color War.

Camp Seneca Lake Color War 2012 documentary preview from Camp Seneca Lake on Vimeo.