Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Photographing the California Redwoods

California RedwoodsAs I headed back from Mt. Rainier to Los Angeles I took a chance and went to the California Redwoods. I was there as a child and I had a vague recollection of it. The best time to visit is late May through early June. Since it was August I knew I wouldn't be seeing any blooms, but there would be plenty of fog and a beautiful coastline.

I stayed in Klamath which is about dead center of the 40 plus miles of the various redwood parks. The State and National Parks have combined and now act as one big park. The 101 Freeway runs right though the park, but there's the old highway and many dirt roads off the beaten path.

False Klamath CoveOn the first night I went to False Klamath Cove. The fog rolled in and I only had about 10 minutes of color. I got a few good shots but I would not see another sunset. The fog came in every afternoon starting around 4.

California Redwoods - Coast Highway FogThe fog was so thick it made it tough to shoot along the coast. At times I wasn't able to see past the pullout. But fog and redwoods are a perfect mix. An early morning hike into the foggy woods is a surreal experience. The fog gets so thick it seems like you're walking though a painting. I went along the Coast Drive. It's a dirt highway off the 101 beginning at the south corner of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. It hugs the cliffs along the coastline. You can see some of my photos here on a previous post. All fog no coast.

Paul Bunyan - Trees of Mystery
Sky Trail - Trees of MysteryI headed back to Klamath around 11 and stopped in at the "Trees of Mystery". It's a tourist trap to be sure. Years ago as you traveled up the coast you couldn't miss all the cardboard bumper stickers tied to each and every car. They were yellow with "Trees of Mystery" in bold red type. The park has made improvements but it's trademark 49 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue with a 35 foot Babe the Blue Ox along his side remains out front. Loud music is playing and Paul Bunyan shouts over the P.A. to the all little kids. They look up at in amazement at Big Paul as if he was really talking. My favorite part (as if that wasn't enough) was the Sky Trail a tram ride up the mountain. On a clear day you can see the ocean from here. It was still foggy so I couldn't see the ocean but there are plenty of other views right from the platform. You can hike the trail that winds around the top too.

Trees of Mystery
ElkLast but not least there are several herds of Elk in the park. They're usually right off the 101 on Davidson Road. There are many pull outs to shoot from. I found that for days 3 bucks stayed in front of someones farmhouse. You better not get close. They're wild and (at when I visited Canada) they have been known to run down joggers.

California Redwoods
With it's rocky coastline, towering trees and plentiful wildlife you'll have a wide variety to shot. It's also one of the easiest parks to photograph as long as you play along with the weather. A rule of thumb is to shoot the redwoods in the mornings and check out the coast at sunset. Of course a foggy coast can look great if the fog isn't too thick. I hope to return one spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. They would add a little extra sparkle.

For more photos see my Redwood National Park Gallery.
For an excellent photo guide on California's Redwoods see Photograph America
Don Gale Workshops is planning a trip to the California's Redwoods in late spring 2008