Photographing Redwoods

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.

Coastal Redwoods, California

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.

Coastal Redwoods, California

In the Stout Grove, the ferns were quietly lit by the speckled light coming deep in the forest. ©Kit Frost

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.

Coastal Redwoods, California

I have to admit that many times while experiencing these giants, I cried, cheered, worshiped, kissed them, hugged them and walked around them. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California

Possibly the greatest forest experience of my life was visiting this Titan. The trail leading through the forest was stunning, green, vibrant, and a true example of an old growth forest. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California

Amazing, in more ways than size. I was amazed at the speckled sunlight coming down into the forest from the tops of the coastal redwoods. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California Coastal Redwoods, California Coastal Redwoods, California

Coastal Redwoods, California

Hiking along an Old Growth Forest Trail. Sometimes a large (in this case, about a 15 foot tall) downed tree becomes a “nursery” for further forest growth. It takes time to hike around these Titans. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California

Hoping to coincide this adventure with the Rhododendron bloom in May. I was pleasantly surprised to see these beautiful flowers. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California

The giant rhododendrons are stunning. I enjoyed photographing them in the rain. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California
A combination of fog, and blooming rhododendron was the reason I chose to travel to the forest in mid-May.   I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to upload, organize, edit and export collections.

Coastal Redwoods, California Coastal Redwoods, California

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.

Coastal Redwoods, California

A hike along the Mill Creek Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park. ©Kit Frost

Coastal Redwoods, California

As I was leaving Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, along Highway 101 a tree fell, delaying travel south. I turned north again and spent time in the early morning drizzle and fog, photographing forest compositions. It was challenging to hit the road in this precious light. I especially like the distant highlighted redwood in this composition. Bring a clamp for your umbrella! ©Kit Frost

All images ©Kit Frost, all rights reserved.  Contact for usage.  Or visit to purchase a photograph.

Additional reading and information:   America’s Next Idea.

The Final Forest: The Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest
by William Dietrich

A Good Forest for Dying: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Wars
by Patrick Beach

Deep Ecology

Old Growth Forest

Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP)

9 thoughts on “Photographing Redwoods

  1. I like your pose in most of the pictures, just in awe of the size of the trees along with the wildlife living around them still. Just awesome.

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