Shooting Giants

Several old growth giants rise high in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwoods National Park, near Eureka, CA.

I have seen the California Redwoods in person just twice. I can tell you, twice is not enough. From Muir Woods all the way up to Jedediah Smith Park, I envy people who live close enough to see them more frequently than the 15 years between my visits.

Redwoods, you know, are really tall. Maybe too tall to photograph so that the enormity of the trees comes across.

Low angles, wide angles, bird’s eye shots, fish-eye shots; they’ve all been done many times by photographers better at such things than I am.

Capturing the “big” part is daunting.  I know, I tried.

I laid on my back at the base of these trees several times, braving the Banana slugs, shooting straight up into the canopy. I positioned human subjects near the base to give some scale to the tree trunks. I shot distant views of Redwood groves at river bends. I shot hollowed out trees you could walk through upright. I even found a long dead, horizontal Redwood which had become a 100-foot planter for other vegetation.

None of it gives you the idea of how tall these trees really are–many well over 300 feet.

It would be easy as a photographer to become disillusioned with the task. It may actually be impossible. I’ve never seen a shot that really nails the height of these trees, even by experts like National Geographic’s Nick Nichols.

I do have a very specific image in mind that I would like to create that might work. And I found a decent spot for it on this last trip, but for now it remains an image in my mind only. The Redwood gods didn’t cooperate for me with the right weather, the right light…this time.

So many things will have to fall into place for the photo to happen that it may always stay in my mind’s eye.  That’s OK. I’m fine with dreams and illusions.

In the meantime, I have these photos to show you:

When they come down, Redwoods continue to nurture the forest around them. This tree, located in Humboldt State Park, formed a natural trough in which several plant species were growing.
The sun peaks through old growth Redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, near Weott, California.
A visitor is dwarfed by a giant, old growth Redwood in Humboldt State Park, near Fortuna, CA.
Old growth Redwoods (left) tower over smaller trees along the Eel River near Weott, CA.
The aptly named “Avenue of the Giants” winds it’s way through the Redwoods in Humboldt County, CA.
Numerous hollow, downed Redwoods form natural tunnels throughout Redwoods National Park, near Eureka, CA.
Banana slugs, which can grow up to nine inches in length, are the master recyclers of the Redwood forest detritus.

A giant Redwood rises high along the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County, California.

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