Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park, California

Moro Rock is located inside Sequoia National Park, east of Three Rivers, California. The magnificent granite dome formation is situated in the central portion of the park, with easy access via Generals Highway, your main route through the park. A stairway hike built by the Civilian Conservation Corps allows access to the top and rewards hikers with views of most of the park. Of course, Moro Rock is just one of many beautiful locations in this jewel of the National Park System, which celebrates its namesake tree, the giant sequoia, and the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

With elevations ranging from 1,500 feet in the foothills to the mighty peak of Mount Whitney, the highest point in California, which tops out at 14,494 feet, weather can vary dramatically at any time of year. The lower elevations are known for mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers beginning early in June. Middle elevations, where the conifer forest and giant sequoia groves are located, experience typical seasonal weather, with deep snow in winter and occasional thunderstorms during the summer months. Spring and summer temperatures are comfortable, ranging from the mid-40s to the low 90s during the hottest part of the day.

Photo Experience
Experiencing a location like Sequoia can be a bit overwhelming—everywhere you point your camera there are images of natural beauty to be created. Groves of towering giant sequoias, rugged mountain scenery, lush forests, rivers, wildlife and more await you. For this image, my best friend and fellow photographer, Scott Foltz, and I had only three days to visit Sequoia and Yosemite. We arrived at the south end of Sequoia just after sunset, taking a few shots just inside the entrance before calling it a night. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that I had left my tripod behind. Good thing for image stabilization and ingenuity! The next morning, we were surprised to find that a spring snowstorm had blown through overnight, and the higher elevations were covered with a fresh layer of white. Traversing the park, we spotted Moro Rock as the clouds were clearing and pulled into Potwisha to capture the scene before it was gone. The contrast between the fresh snow at higher elevation and the lush green of the springtime forest below combined with the drama of the flowing clouds around the mountain to create an impression of the place that I wanted to capture in my image. Without my tripod, I dialed in a higher ISO on my digital camera, made certain my image stabilizer was turned on and braced myself for the best possible sharpness. The exposure was made based on the white snow being 2 stops above middle tone, and multiple images were taken to guarantee sharpness and a variety of compositions. When time is limited, allow yourself to experience the place and not let your gear get in the way. A simple kit comprised of a wide to short telephoto, a tripod, a circular polarizer and proper clothing will allow you the freedom to explore quickly and take away a variety of images representative of the area. Be sure to visit the highlights, but also allow serendipity and your personal eye to direct your camera.

Best Times
Sequoia presents photographers with year-round photo ops. Spring and fall offer better weather, dramatic light from storms moving through the park and fewer people. Winter offers snowy alpine scenery and unique glimpses of the towering giant sequoia groves wrapped in solitude. Be sure to travel in an AWD or a 4WD vehicle, or to carry chains, if you think snow is a possibility. Wildflowers begin to appear in late spring and can be found at different elevations throughout the park until early fall.

Contact: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, You can see more of Brian D. Smith’s photography at

Essential Gear

To capture this photo, Brian Smith had to pump up his shutter speed to compensate for not having a tripod. In a place like Sequoia, that’s not always possible, so having a sturdy tripod is a good idea. The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT gives you a lot of framing options thanks to its Multi-Angle
Central Column. Contact: Vanguard,

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT