Redwood National Park has some of, if not THE most impressive trees on the planet. It’s hard to describe the sheer size of them to anybody. You truly need to see them to comprehend how magnificent they truly are. Early summer is one of the best times to visit the area. The weather is mild, with morning fog typically yielding to warm sunny days. The rhododendron bloom is in swing, and these little pink flowers give some pop of color to the overwhelming lush green of the forest.
I met my group of eager photographers on a Friday evening in Crescent City, California for a fun weekend of exploring the redwood forest, and Oregon coast.
Our first morning we spent exploring two of the more beautiful and popular areas in the park. Redwood National Park is a large park, covering about 125 miles of distance from south of Eureka, to the Oregon Border. Throughout this stretch of the state, many smaller state parks comprise the larger National Park. My favorite area to explore is the northern parts. Here the landscape is more rugged, and the groves of trees are closer to the ocean. This proximity to the ocean leads to a higher density of fog, which creates an amazing mood and atmosphere for photography. On our first morning, we were greeted by an overwhelming lack of fog.
We leave early, so there’s still plenty of nice light in the morning, and the grove we began at was scheduled for a revisit the following morning, so if there’s no fog on one day, there is a second chance. Locations like the redwoods are difficult for photography because there isn’t one iconic spot to shoot. Locations like Yosemite and Arches, for example, have very iconic spots to stop, and the subject to shoot is very apparent. The forest doesn’t have that. Each tree is different, and every year the lighting, flowers, and conditions change to make the “best shots" different. Shots change from day to day, and hour to hour depending on the light. Visiting a specific place more than once can be beneficial to helping photographers get ideas of what they find interesting.
Our first morning we spent on the Damnation Creek Trail and driving along the Howland Hills Rd area of Jedediah Smith State Park. All of these areas have amazing views and wonderful trees. The rhododendron bloom was very nice in some patches, which helped to give everyone some little bits of color to shoot with their redwood images.
After a midday break, we headed north to Bandon, Oregon to give sunset a go. I had checked the weather and the southern area of the coast looked to be flat, and cloudless. Bandon seemed to be forecasting clouds on the horizon. Sunsets are always a gamble anyway, but when the clouds pan out, it can be spectacular. Bandon has one of the best and most iconic photography beaches in the state.
On our way up we stopped at Cape Blanco. I love this area because it has some of the best wildflower blooms on the coast, and the sea stacks and lighthouse give ample opportunity to grab some interesting photos. The flat cloudless skies of the southern coast gave way to crazy wind and fog, which was a little concerning for our sunset shoot.
After a meal in Bandon, we set off for the beach. A huge bank of clouds hung in the sky, and everyone was a little skeptical about the chance for a good sunset. I noticed a gap on the horizon that looked promising, but nothing is a given in this type of shooting, so I hoped that what I thought would happen, actually transpired.
Even though the first 40 minutes of shooting was nice, it lacked punch, but everyone got to find their compositions and work on long exposures, which was fun. Then just as it seemed like it might be time to call it a night, the sun found a gap, and the sky lit UP! We had about 10-12 minutes of amazing, intense color. Which made the long drive worth it!
Morning 2 we met again and left for the Damnation Creek Trail in hopes that we would find some morning fog to give our shots some depth and a ‘wow’ factor. Thankfully the fog had decided to make an appearance, and the clear skies to the east gave everyone hopes that the sun would shine through the fog and give us all the great light beams that make this part of the park so iconic.
In the first part of the morning, we revisited compositions from the previous day, with fog, and everyone was amazed how much that layer of fog improved their images. The beams of light we all wanted looked promising but they sure took their time showing up!
But when it happened, it was amazing! It made an already great morning even better. The show brought out scores of other photographers, and the buzz we overheard was that this was the best show for weeks! Having seen several other shows over the years, I have to agree. Everywhere you turned there were different possibilities to photograph. It was a very special experience!
The afternoon was spent going over-processing, which is super fun. I love seeing the images the group captured and helping them make them sparkle. All the people who brought laptops had really nice images, and the stuff from that morning was really cool to see on a screen. After processing we drove around the southern coast of Oregon and went to a couple of beaches, including one “secret” beach that we set up at sunset. Even though the light shows we had the previous night and morning were nowhere to be seen this evening, it was still very pretty, and everyone got a couple more shots to add to their already great collection of images.
All in all, it was one heck of a weekend, and we had fun, and saw the redwoods at their absolute best!
Until Next Time,
Brian and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
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