Category Archives: Photographs: Coastal Redwoods

Photographs from the coast redwood forests of California

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest
Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest. Muir Woods National Monument, California. July 11, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Redwood trees growing in a gully at Muir Woods National Monument

I had a couple of primary goals on this visit to Muir Woods National Monument: I thought it might be a good location to shoot on this overcast summer day since the high fog softens the light that can otherwise be quite challenging inside the redwood forest. I also wanted to play with a new ultra wide-angle zoom lens, and I figured that this would be a better place for that activity than spending time in an urban setting… even though the latter might allow for more objective lens testing.

I typically arrive at Muir Woods very early in the morning, partly for the quality of the light in the forest at that time of day and partly for the very practical reason that the hordes of tourists from San Francisco are still mostly having coffee back at their hotels! However, I did not get there quite as early this time, and as I entered the park I could tell that it would not be too long before those hordes finished their coffee and began arriving. So I took a side trail up out of the valley of Redwood Creek (the location of the popular nature hike loops) and climbed up towards higher ridges. I was not alone on this trail but there the number of other hikers was reasonable, and for reasons ranging from aesthetic to objective (e.g. – testing that lens) this turned out to be a good choice. As the trail climbed, the views opened both above and below my camera position, and it was possible to shoot straight toward the trees and show a bit more of their height. Here a group of younger redwoods grows closely together in a small valley.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Ocean View Trail

Ocean View Trail
Ocean View Trail

Ocean View Trail. Muir Woods National Monument, California. July 11, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Ocean View Trail traverses a grove of young trees, Muir Woods National Monument

First let me get a few preliminaries out of the way. Despite the title of this photograph, there I no “ocean view” here, and despite hiking a good distance up this trail I never saw one — perhaps due to the fog but also to never getting high enough above the valley or out of the trees. Second, and perhaps of more interest to some who use Canon equipment, I had a chance to work with the new Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS lens for the first time on this shoot. I’ll have more to say about that in a separate post, since I know that quite a few folks are interested in this lens. All I’ll say on that technical subject here is that I was not disappointed! (Link goes to site sponsor B&H Photography.)

The conditions on this morning were those of a typical San Francisco summer day — in other words, it was foggy! There are, at least from my point of view, significant advantages to this. It can be quite warm in Northern California this time of year, especially if you get away from the coast, so the cool coastal fog is almost always a welcome relief. The fog also softens the light, and when shooting in a forest like this one that is often quite important — brighter sunlight can send light beams to the forest floor that make for very wide dynamic range and a harsh effect. And, not insignificantly, the fog means that this photographer doesn’t have to get up quite so early to have this wonderful, soft light. This trail branches off from the very popular (absurdly popular  at the wrong times on the wrong days) main trail up the valley of Redwood Creek, with its easy access to the redwood trees. The Ocean View trail climbs, steeply at times, at first through redwoods and then at times through more open vegetation. In this section all of the trees appear to be very young and packed together closely. I liked the patterns of their dense trunks and also the slight glow of light on the trail.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Young Redwood Forest

Young Redwood Forest
Young Redwood Forest

Young Redwood Forest. Butano Redwoods State Reserve, California. June 1, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A forest of young second-growth coast redwood trees, Butano Redwood State Park

Today’s post will swing in essentially the completely opposite direction from yesterday’s, which featured a photograph made in one of the very driest and most desolate areas of a very dry and desolate place, Death Valley National Park. So today I share a photograph from a lush and green location, one of California’s redwood state parks—this one the Butano Redwoods State Park, near the California coast between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay.

The first day of June was a foggy one in the Bay Area and along the Central California coast, so it seemed like I might be able to find the fog-sun boundary a bit later in the morning that usual. With that in mind I drove over the hills to the coast and then headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Cruz, eventually turning onto a road that heads back up into the coastal Santa Cruz Mountains range. A few miles back from the ocean, I found the edge of the fog at this state park, where I walked up the valley of a creek running through the second-growth redwood forests, stopping frequently to make photographs of the lush green terrain until the fog cleared and the light became too intense.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Redwood Forest, Spring

Redwood Forest, Spring
Redwood Forest, Spring

Redwood Forest, Spring. Butano Redwoods State Park, California. June 1, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dense spring growth and fog-filtered light in the forest at Butano Redwood State Park

I’ll stick with the redwoods theme for a bit longer and share another photograph from my recent first-time photography visit to the Butano Redwoods State Park along the California coast between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. I had not visited this park before, much less photographed it, though I had photographed along the access road that leads to it from the Pacific Coast Highway. It is a pleasure to actually “discover” a new park so close to home!

I chose to visit on this day at least partly because of the promising light. It remained foggy and cloudy along the coast pretty much all day, so I figured that if I went inland a few miles toward the redwoods I might catch the thinning fog and the soft light that it can produce. I found a trailhead, loaded up the camera pack and tripod, and headed out. There was so much to see in this lush forest that I made very slow progress, stopping every couple of minutes to consider and sometimes make another photograph. From this spot along the trail I found a view past closer trees and on into more distant growth, and I stopped to make a few photographs. In this one I chose to work with a vertical composition to emphasize the slender forms of the second-growth redwoods and other trees reaching toward the light.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.