The 900 miles along the California Pacific Coast, strewn with dramatic rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, majestic mountains, desert lands and redwood forests, offer enormous opportunity for photography.
Coastal redwoods occupy a narrow strip of land approximately 470 miles in length and 5 to 47 miles in width along the Pacific Coast; the most southerly grove is in Monterey County, California, and the most northerly groves are in southwestern Oregon. Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks and Redwood National Park are all close to each other. To the south of these is Humboldt Redwoods State Park. For those seeking a comprehensive list of all redwood hikes, check out redwoodhikes.com.
Weather At Del Norte Coast Redwoods
Temperatures range from 40 to 60 degrees throughout the year. Snow isn’t unusual in some parts in winter. In summer, the warm weather brings in the much-sought-after fog through the forest. When the coastal fog rolls through the forest, it has a profound impact on simplifying the composition and creating an overall ethereal feel to the scene. Distractions are reduced, light is softened, and tonal contrast is subdued, making it possible for strong, simple patterns to emerge. Fog is a frequent occurrence in the mornings.
The challenge we often face while photographing a forest is the complexity of the scene before us. The opportunity to simplify the composition presents itself with increased frequency—although with unpredictability—in the early morning, when the coastal fog rolls in. Fog has the transformative power to change the mundane to magical. The depth of field is reduced, distractions eliminated, ethereal light diffused through the scene, and voila. What was a random concoction of visual elements is suddenly transformed into an aesthetic arrangement.
Late mornings on days that the fog lingers, the rising sun pierces its warmth through the fog, and the “god beams” are formed. This creates a both challenging and rewarding experience in photographing the coastal redwoods. Unlike conventional landscape photography, where it’s possible to arrive in time to set up your composition and then wait for the light to change, the “beam chaser” has to react instantaneously to the light. It’s hard to know exactly where in the forest the beams will emerge. When they do, there’s a short window of time to create the image.
It’s best to use a wide-angle lens to capture these mammoth trees and to get low to the ground in order to convey the feeling of their immense height.
Best Times To Visit
In late May and early June, the rhododendron bushes are adorned with the lush light green of fresh leaves punctuated by the bright pink of the delicate blooms. Be it a foreground component to lure the viewer into the composition or to add a beautiful accent color, the “rose of the forest” provides intense visual appeal.
Contact: California Department of Parks and Recreation, parks.ca.gov.
See more of Sapna Reddy’s work on Instagram @sapnareddy.