In the presence of the coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), I felt small and ephemeral.
This post is about a long hike in a Redwoods forest of Humboldt County, what I took for photography, and my photography settings while there.
Background: Ten years ago, before I started calling myself a photographer, I camped with my son at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA, in Humboldt County. One day we hiked ten miles to the beach and back, on one of the most beautiful hikes of my life, through redwoods, other coniferous trees, and fern. A reason to go back presented itself this year when a couple of young friends visiting from the Ukraine expressed the desire to see the redwoods. My son and I, remembering the beauty and isolation of Humboldt Co., offered up to take them to Prairie Creek on the 4th of July weekend.
The Hike: The hike started in a redwood grove, went down through redwoods and coniferous trees and fern, and ended in a fern canyon by the beach. I was going to post details about the hike but upon researching on the internet I found a fairly complete guide (with photos) on this link. The only difference between our hike and the one described on the link is that we did the loop clockwise and they did it counterclockwise. Besides my equipment (see below), my son and I carried the famous “ten essentials” in case something happened. We walked at a good pace but stopped here and there for a shot. In total, we were on our feet and moving for seven hours and rested for about 40 minutes on the beach, to eat our lunch.
The weight of Photography: The redwoods forest is thick, which means that not much light goes through the canopy. I knew that I was going to need a tripod if I wanted decent photos. I have a lightweight carbon fiber tripod from RRS with a central column. I decided to take my mirrorless Nikon Z50 and my 24-70mm and the weight of this combo plus the tripod and what I carried on my backpack was about 10 pounds. Since my son is young and strong, I had him carry the extra water for two people (about half a gallon), and one extra battery for my camera.
The Photography: We were lucky that it was an overcast day with some fog. Despite the overcast, photography in the forest was challenging. The leaves of the ferns do shine quite a bit and the dew on them originates tiny highlights everywhere (no I did not use a polarizer; it cuts off light). The breeze, although neglectable, was hard to deal with in my “long exposures.” For example, although the photo of my friend looking at the redwood tree was taken with ISO 400, I needed a shutter speed of 1/15 s with aperture set at 6.3. The tinies breeze, with these settings, will translate into a slightly blurred vegetation. Narrower apertures, to get more D.O.F., were generally impossible with ISO at 400 and lower. The performance of my Nikon Z50, a cropped frame mirrorless camera, at 400 ISO, DID disappoint. My photos are definitely noisy.
Our friend Kristina ( on the right hand side of the frame) made a short video about our trip (link below) , in Ukrainian. Although the words are difficult to understand, the images speak for themselves. She is a journalist so the whole thing sounds like a documentary.