My mission: to experience and photograph the Old Growth Forests of Pacific Northwest. Reading about the battles to save some of the largest, most beautiful, diverse, ecosystems left on the planet, and the fight to keep some of our largest trees intact, not only taught me about the size of the Titans, but also taught me to appreciate the work of folks that came before me. Timber companies, timber workers, and Earth First! members alike have written stories about logging in the Pacific Northwest.
Some Old Growth Forests in Northern California are part of Redwood National and State Parks. Purchased and donated groves of big trees exist in their natural, old growth state. The ecosystems are wonderful to experience. Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Redwoods, Jedediah Smith State Park, and Redwood National park are stunning places to visit. I treated myself two a week of exploration and discovery. A road trip across parts of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California brought me to the big trees. And once I reached Eureka, California, visits to the Ranger Stations helped focus me on the biggest Titans, as well as the floor and canopy of Old Growth Forests. This trip also included a visit to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest just east of Yosemite National Park. Some of the oldest living trees grow there. Check out my recent blog about preparing for an adventure like this one.
Coming from the Southwest, where we’re experiencing a multi-year drought, and we live and hike in “pigmy forests” where the cedar trees are only about 20 feet tall, it’s a huge change to be in the moist, immense, rain forests of Northern California. The forests are lush, green and complex. It rained most nights and the pattern of fog feeding the tallest of the trees and the moisture making it’s way down into the floor of the forest was photographically challenging and awesome.
Photographing these trees, and the scale in these forests is a huge challenge. Even the clover on the forest floor is almost the size of my palm. The rhododendrons were huge, the fern fronds are almost as tall as me. Here are a few self-portraits of this TREE HUGGER.
I also concentrated on photographing the floor of the forests as opposed to trying to photograph the height of the trees. The experience is mostly along the trails and near the base of the trunks so my photographs were mostly in celebration of the texture, size and shape of the trunks. I also hope I achieved a sense of “place” by including ferns, clover, oak brush, and much of the “duff” of the old growth.
One of the most stunning hiking trails is the Mill Creek Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park. Around every corner, and switchbacks, are more surprises as the forest is dominated by big trees. The “spotlights’ hitting the forest floor are inviting and seductive for me both personally and photographically. The digital camera really helps to maintain tones in the highlights as well as the shadows. I underexpose most of my images; sometimes to hold detail in the sky, but in the forest, to hold detail in the highlights hitting the ground level plants.
Additional reading and information:
http://www.oldgrowthforest.net America’s Next Idea.
A Good Forest for Dying: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Wars
by Patrick Beach
- Old growth forests win protection (theage.com.au)