Columbia Gorge Teen Camp Award Winner, Amber Dwyer visits Visual effects studio in Hollywood of Academy Award Winner, William Mesa, during her spring break

Two time camper at the Columbia Gorge Teen Camps, Amber Dwyer was given our camp’s highest honor last fall:  The William Mesa Award of Excellence in Photography and Video.  This unique award was unanimously awarded to Amber based on nominations from all camp faculty,  including  none other than William Mesa.  It was based not only on the quality of her photos and video but on her resourcefulness, attitude,  work ethic,  helpfulness and consideration to others, and making the most progress from beginning of camp to the end of camp.  This award included a framed award presented at her high school, local media coverage, and a $500 gift certificate to B & H Photo in NYC.  It also included a visit to meet a living Academy Award winner, in his visual effects studio in Hollywood.

During her spring break Amber, her mother Patty and brother Dakota took turns driving to Hollywood and back from their home in Salt Lake City.  Here are a few words from Amber about the experience:

“So when we first ventured out to California, I didn’t know what to expect. My family and I lived in southern California a couple years back, but I didn’t know how much of it had changed or what I still remembered from it. My mind was completely blown when we first got into Los Angles because I forgot how expansive and vast it is. Just driving through the narrow, glistening streets was very intense and a bit overwhelming. Once we got into  William Mesa’s studio, called “Film Flash Works,”  we  were greeted by one of the editors and finally got to meet him. I was surprised at how soft and child-like his mannerisms were when we walked around his studio and how genuine and invested he seemed in his work and as a person in general. We were lead up the stairs and were introduced to other employees of his, where they  showed and explained the work they do, which includes more films than I can name:  Rambo, Stand By Me, The Fugitive, etc  . A lot of the creative work they do surprised me, because of how much work and effort was put into a single shot. They kindly showed me a lot about the different computer programs  they used and explained a lot about what they do in their everyday job positions. Around lunchtime, Mr. Mesa surprised my family and me by treating us out to lunch at a local café down the street from his studio. Overall, the experience was much appreciated and I learned a lot from his employees, being in the Flash Film studios and being able to converse with Mr. Mesa himself.”

In large part, the Columbia Gorge Teen Camps are about helping  the dreams and passions of our campers come to life!

CGTC Camper, Gabrielle Robinson, Receives Eight Prestigious Scholastic Art Awards

Gabrielle Robinsons

Gabrielle Robinsons - Scholastic Art Award

The Columbia Gorge Teen Camp is proud to announce 2014 CGTC camper, Gabrielle Robinson has received eight Scholastic Art awards; four Gold Key Awards, two Silver Key Awards, and two Honorable Mention Awards.  Four of MS Robinson’s winning images were taken while attending the Columbia Gorge Teen Camp in 2014.

The Gold Key and Silver Key Awards will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, from March 16- May 17th.

For over ninety years The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have been considered the most prestigious recognition and scholarship program for teenage artists and writers in the U.S. with over 11,000 submissions in the NYC Region in 2015.

In reflecting on the impact of her CGTC experience Gabby stated, “I can’t thank the staff of the Columbia Gorge Teen Photography Camp enough. I’m thrilled to be going back to camp in 2015 to learn and develop my style more and more….”

Gabby will be returning to the Columbia Gorge Teen Photography and Video camp in 2015 as a C.I.T. (Counselor in training) and anticipate both learning and sharing with fellow campers.

2014 Camper Photos by Amber Dwyer

Check out these awesome photos from 2014!

Photos by  Amber Dwyer, who won our first annual William Mesa Award of Excellence in Photography and Video.  William Mesa, has an Academy Award and three Emmy’s for his visual effects work on major films such as Rambo, Stand by Me , The Fugitive, Holes, Clash of the Titans, The Pacific, Dolphin Tale, among many others. His work may be seen at William reviewed the camper portfolios that received the most nominations from all of our photography and video instructors and Program directors. 

Congratulations Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson

Congratulations Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on their historic ascent of the Dawn wall of El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley, California. As many of you have recently seen on national television or radio or on the internet on January 15 just after 6p.m. Tommy and Kevin topped out on their free climb of the Dawn wall in Yosemite Valley. The climb was 7 years in the making and the dream child of Tommy Caldwell, a world renowned and Yosemite big wall climbing veteran. The climb has been called the hardest free climb in the world with many pitches of 5.14 climbing, the hardest there is. The route ascends 3000 vertical feet in 31 pitches up the largest part of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley and these young men spent 19 days on the wall completing their historic ascent. Their ascent was a mighty feat of extraordinary human skill and perseverance.

Rock climbing in Yosemite has a long history and this kind of attention hasn’t been given to a big wall since the golden era of the 70’s when big walls were first free climbed. For those of you who may not know the original ascents of these big walls were done in the 50’s and early 60’s using pitons to construct a ladder effectively to the top by hammering iron spikes into the cracks. During the 1970’s with the advent of better climbing equipment and a clean climbing ethic, piton craft was abandoned and free climbing these huge walls became the challenge of the day. With harder and harder climbs to free climb climbers began to practice or “hangdog” routes as rehearsal and then send the route cleanly after much falling. This was the beginning of sport climbing. Since that time climbers have pushed the limits of what is humanly possible moving over stone. This most recent ascent by Caldwell and Jorgeson marks the apex of sport climbing combining technical wall skills and the incredible gymnastic feats of thin face climbing. Even though Caldwell and Jorgeson spent many days on the wall and fell many times they arrived for the most part unhurt because of the safety systems of rope they constructed as they ascended the Dawn wall of El Capitan.

At the Columbia Gorge Teen Camps we go outdoors to climb and learn to be safe, have fun, challenge ourselves physically and mentally and enjoy the spirit of camaraderie that climbing brings. Learning to be safe on the rock is paramount to having fun. I think that with Tommy and Kevin’s free ascent they have shown us that anything is possible with the necessary skills, attitude and perseverance. Understanding that fear is perceived and not real allows us to dream big and go bigger, no matter what you are pursuing in life. With Columbia Gorge Teen Camps you will learn the basic rock and rope skills to be safe while climbing and get to climb single pitches of any grade. We are all about having fun while learning to climb safely and certainly not a climbing camp to train for competition or to learn to climb extreme routes. I hope you can join us this summer for another excellent climbing adventure in the sun at Smith Rocks, Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge. Once again CONGRATULATIONS Tommy and Kevin from the climbing camp at the Columbia Gorge Teen Camps,

Article by Rick Harrell, climbing instructor and Program Director, Columbia Gorge Teen Climbing Camp

Columbia Gorge Teen Camps grants the William Mesa Award of Excellence in Photography and Video to Salt Lake City teen, Amber Dwyer.

Principal Muse, Amber Dwyer & Camp Director Jan Mayer

The Columbia Gorge Teen Camps  presented the first William Mesa Award of Excellence to Salt Lake City  teen, Amber Dwyer, for her outstanding performance in photography and video at the Columbia Gorge Teen Photography and Video Camp which took place this past July.   The award includes a $500 gift certificate from B & H Photo in New York.  Academy Award winner and three-time Emmy Award winner William Mesa made the final selection after the camp presented nominees.

The selection was awarded based in part  on the camper who made the most progress from beginning to the end of camp.  Mesa said the qualities necessary to be successful in Photography and Video – a cooperative attitude and resourcefulness – apply in any field.  Creativity alone in today’s world is not sufficient.

Amber received the most nominations for her essay “What Photography and Video mean to me.”  A scholarship recipient to the camp, Amber won using limited equipment.  She works two jobs, yet maintains high grades and citizenship marks. Jan  Mayer, Camp Director,  presented the award today (12-19-14)  to Amber at Taylorsville High School shown her in this photo with the school principal, Mr. Muse.

In addition to the $500 gift certificate Amber will have the opportunity to  visit the William Mesa visual effects studio in Hollywood someday.

Jacob Weber receives Honorable Mention for the William Mesa Award

Jacob Webber - William Mesa Award Honorable Mention

Jacob Weber - William Mesa Award Honorable Mention

Jacob Weber, from Novato California received Honorable mention for the William Mesa Award of Excellence in Photography and Video. This award comes with a $250 gift certificate for B & H Photo in NYC.

Here’s what Jacob had to say about his time at Columbia Gorge Teen Camps:

Columbia Gorge Teen Camps is an excellent camp. The campgrounds are located in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenic places I have ever seen, and I’ve traveled to some fantastic places. Being in Lyle there is such an abundance of photos to be taken. One day we ventured to take photos of fish and the next it’s of kite surfers getting air off of a ramp. The landscapes were incredible and no matter your skill set you’ll leave with beautiful photos. Of course CGTC wouldn’t be the same without the counselors. They were extremely helpful and very talented in their fields. I’m looking forward to going back in the summer of 2015.

Enjoy some of Jacob’s excellent photos below.


C.I.T. PHOTOS by Nick Sadigh:

Nick was a Photography Camper with us in 2012, 2013, and a C.I.T. in 2014, and will be a counselor with us in 2015. Nick lives in Seattle and besides photography is interested in computer science, science, history, medicine, lacrosse, and crew! Thanks Nick for these Awesome photos!

Special Thanks To William Mesa of FlashFilmWorks…

William Mesa, founder and owner of FlashFilmWorks, a Hollywood  based special effects studio, was for two years in a row  one of our leading donors to our annual  scholarship fundraiser with crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo.  William is considered one of the most innovative visual effects director’s  in the film  industry.  He has three Emmy’s and has done  award- winning  work for The Fugitive, Outland,  Stand By Me, Rambo, The Karate Kid III, to name just a few of hundreds of his film credits.

You can read all about William and his amazing special effects company, FlashFilmWorks here:

William attended a YMCA summer camp in Griffith Park near Los Angeles, as a teen, and some 50 years later still remembers this experience  not only as inspirational but  life changing.  Time- permitting William has kindly offered to visit our camp this summer, no promises, but there is always the possibility!