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Archive 2013 · Photographing the forest giants?
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Photographing the forest giants?

Well, yes, we've done gone and done it... moved the to Pacific Coast, as I have mentioned before. A host of new photographic environments awaits. The coast is right at hand, and I've found my way into it's tide pools, flower beds, dunes, rocky vistas, misty intimacies, and powerful surfs. Also nearby are the forest giants. Coastal redwoods, Douglas fir, Port Orford Cedar... and more... I dream of the coming spring, when the rhododendrons bloom in the mist among these wondrous marvels.

But I find that when I try photography among the giant trees that I always fall short. Of course, it is usually dark in the groves, cool and wet. A tripod is a necessity. But, even so, dynamic range has so far tripped me up. That bit of sky in the background, that bright mist, those illuminated rays tend to be over exposed if I get the carpets of redwood sorrel, sword ferns, and trees properly exposed. Yes, blending and HDR techniques would solve that problem, but I am curious what others do to handle dynamic range under these circumstances?

Beyond the problems of good exposure though, lie the matters that really strike fear in my heart: Framing compelling images. I have tried a few approaches. The ground shot through the undergrowth, the straight up shot, the wide-angle get it all shot, the close-ups and macros of interesting things. So far, I have not made an image that meets my expectations.

So, I am looking for tips. Anyone care to share an idea, or an image and a few words about how you came to make it?



Feb 18, 2013 at 03:46 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Photographing the forest giants?

Hey Jan,

I think we have all been there. I know I have... To me, the best advice I can give, is what has helped me... I simply kept my eye open when people posted cool looking Big Tree photo's in here and took notes as to what it was that appealed to me, so when I went back out, I could try to duplicate what it was I had seen. Also, I used google a lot, and again the same thing. I looked through the images, took note of the ones I liked, and tried to work those things into my images.

It will be cool if some will post their shots in here, but in general, there is no quick short cut. There is no magic recipe, and I am not saying you are asking for that. But for me, it was simply looking, learning, and then going out and shooting and shooting... I think it took me 10 or 12 years until I was really happy with a forest shot that I took for instance... I think big trees and forests are amongst the hardest shots to really nail...

So go shoot some... post them here, and we can help with hopefully some good advice on your shots to see what might help you in this endevour.


PS... that is an awesome location you have moved to! It's one of my favorite areas in the world.

Feb 18, 2013 at 07:09 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Photographing the forest giants?

I found exposure inside the Redwood forests very tough during any kind of direct light. Fog seems to be what everyone wishes for there because it works to simplify the scene and make exposures very easy. My best example:

Cloudy days can also help you with exposures. Without very very soft light it is just a real challenge. It might be worth waiting until just after or around sunset where there is no strong direct light filtering through but instead using the sky as a big umbrella to reflect light. You should still be able to capture some of the sunsets warmth. This image (not mine) seems to show that:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4803350085

And also here:


You can see in Marc Adamus' trees gallery a few prevailing points. Not many photos under direct sunlight. Fog, clouds, and late late evening seem to be the lighting conditions in most. Though, in the sunlit ones there is as perfect use of multiple exposures as you can get:

I was caught chasing lightrays when I was there, for better or for worse. They are very captivating but hard to photograph in the early evening/late day. HDR can help but I feel it is easy to take it too far and automated software falls very short, in my opinion. Too much compression of the scenes brightness range gives the photo a very flat and, to me, unpleasant look. Luminosity masking would be your best bet I think and is also quite easy to do as the PS action will partition the image for you. I underestimated my film and could have used its great capabilities of holding highlights to better use had I known what I do now.

I always find it helpful to look through many many images from the area to get an idea of what does and doesn't work. Flickr hivemind is a great way to do that. Even searching among all the images on there for redwoods I really am not finding many that are truly stimulating, just a tough place to photograph. I was disappointed with my efforts as well.

Framing is tough too, as you know. I tried to use some of the larger trees as a framing device to kind of ground the outer edge/s of the frame and add solidity to the composition. The Redwoods are nice though in that there isn't as much underbrush 'riff-raff' as some forests around here. The trees extend so high that the ferns and other bushes seem to kind of recede in the composition, at least to me. Another option is to try and organize the chaos in a different way. Tim Parkin does this tremendously:

He composes beautifully in what I'd consider an absolute mess of a scene. Finding those elements that tie the scene together visually is tough and what separates a crap photo from a successful one. It just ain't easy it seems.

Feb 18, 2013 at 07:32 AM

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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Photographing the forest giants?

Thanks for the help guys!


Feb 18, 2013 at 06:45 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Photographing the forest giants?

I find, that like Jim, other excellent images inspire me. But I never actually try to duplicate or emulate other's work too much. The excitement of it gets me out there to the scenery with anticipation, but once I'm there my own vision automatically takes over and soon I forgot all about the image I had viewed while retaining the excitement it provided me. I remember a particular image from a well known artist that I thought of for years until I final was able to shoot the same subject. Once at the site and shooting, I forgot all about 'his' image. and never could remember it again once I had created mine.

Feb 19, 2013 at 03:27 AM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Photographing the forest giants?

i've been to the Redwoods a handful of times and during my visits, I tend to have had luck with after rain in the morning. This was taken north of Crescent City.

I used my Tamron 17-50mm at f/2.8, I know it would be sharper at f8 or so but, it was a bit dark.


Exif data
Camera Nikon D300
Exposure 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture f/2.8
Focal Length 17 mm
ISO Speed 800

Feb 20, 2013 at 05:41 AM

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