Humboldt County Redwoods and Fern

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. 

Small in Comparison. f/6.3, 1/15s, ISO 400
Coniferous Trees and Fern. f/6.3, 1/15s, ISO 320
Fern Canyon.f/4.5, 1/15s, ISO 400
We Made It. f/8, 1/500s, ISO 400

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.

Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

15 thoughts on “Humboldt County Redwoods and Fern

  1. How beautiful! You’re lucky to have places like these within reach. I love old-growth forests. There are some in my native country, Romania, but here in Belgium there’s almost no primary forest left.

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  2. I’ve been to Prairie Creek twice, and never managed to do the Fern Canyon hike (always just passing through). Your photos and story are a good reminder that I need to spend a week or two in that area. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Good for you for being so adventurous.
    You’ve got a strong diagonal in the first picture and a good vertical upthrust in the fourth.
    A few words came through in the Ukrainian including flora i fauna and California.

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    1. It sure was a lot of fun, but no time to think it over. I would love to spend more time there! I also understood a few words, and wondered if I had to survive in the Ukraine, if I would be able to at least learn the words money, food, water and beer. This are the most necessary I think 😉

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  4. Wow! What a beautiful way to feel small. Though I work from home in Connecticut, the company I work for is based in Redwood City, California and I used to travel to headquarters fairly often. Unfortunately, I really didn’t get back into hiking in the woods again until this past year when the woods were pretty much the only place I could go, but traveling to California was out of the question (before that, my last foray into the woods was in uniform). They plan on opening the offices back up starting next month and, hopefully I’ll be taking week-long trips out there again and I’ll plan a couple of day trips to places nearby – or maybe a weekend where I can do the six hour drive to Prairie Creek.

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    1. Cool. If you don’t have time to go North there is always Muir Woods, not too far from Redwood City and some impressive trees. Get there early for solitude (reservations requires). If you need any tips on where to go in Northern CA. You can always ask the expert me 😎

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