Well, you have done it. You have spoken and selected the best of my Redwoods photographs from 2014. I chose my eight favorite photographs from trips to the magnificent redwood groves of Northern California and offered them to you for your consideration.
It was exciting to watch the results come in. At one point there was a tie for 1st and 2nd, another tie for 3rd and 4th and, believe it or not, a tie for 5th and 6th, all at the same time. But eventually, with your help, it all got sorted out.
So here are the results.
Starting with 8th place, we have Wondrous Tree.
Sometimes it’s worthwhile to stop looking for the forest (or the grove in this instance) and take a penetrating look at the trees or, better yet, one tree at a time. There are incredible details that are so easily missed, even by the attentive wanderer – the rough crevasses in the bark, carved by the hand of time, the surprising color palette laid down from the brush of the ultimate artist. There are revelations waiting to be discovered when we slow down and look harder.
In 7th place is Life – Grand and Delicate.
Sword ferns are the companions of the giant redwoods, growing profusely on the grove floors. They seem so delicate and fragile next to the massive trunks of these towering trees. And yet they add a graceful beauty, a lovely contrast to the strength and might of their protectors. And very interestingly, the laciness of their fronds are reflected in the redwood’s needles. Interesting.
In 6th place is Rhododendron.
The redwood groves are inspiring with their massive trees that stretch to the heavens. Walking the trails and pondering their age and size can be humbling and can put the toil of life and society into perspective. Then, amidst all these deep thoughts, round a bend in the trail and there before you are splashes of joyful colors. The rhododendrons are in bloom. In late spring or early summer the groves are generously sprinkled with festive pink and for a few weeks the solemn, often somber forest dances for joy. Let the party begin.
Quiet Giant landed in 5th place.
It was the pattern of roots beside the path that drew me to this moment. I was fascinated with the way the roots swept across the forest floor at the base of an adjacent redwood – that, incidentally, has some pretty interesting roots of its own. This photograph is more abstract than representational and I’m looking forward to returning next month to further explore its possibilities.
It took a while to settle on which photograph would occupy 4th place. The two photographs that ended up in 3rd and 4th place jockeyed back and forth for quite some time. But eventually 4th place went to Trail in the Grove.
I vividly remember coming across this scene as we explored one of the many nature trails off of US-199 along the Smith River. I simply couldn’t pass up the drama and energy of this enormous fallen tree that appeared to block the trail. As one grows as a nature photographer, seeing lines and patterns and forms becomes very natural, even second nature. But moving images are not about the elements that make them up but on the way they all come together to elicit emotion. Images like this start with the emotional response, the ‘Wow!’ that came from my lips when I saw it. Following that is the use of composition and light to capture the ‘Wow’ and, hopefully, share it with you.
The photograph that took 3rd place is Lord of the Fog.
The coastal redwoods not only thrive on the dense fog that rolls in off the Pacific, they require it. And fog makes for such an exciting experience. In the life-giving fog the grandeur of the grove is shrouded in mystery. The mighty trees emerge from the fog as you approach and are swallowed up again as you continue past them. There is a definite contrast between the delicacy of the fog and the colossal mass of the trees. What a thrill it is to experience.
If there’s one photograph that for me captures the soul of the coastal redwoods it is the one that captured 2nd place – Serene Forest.
First and foremost, this image captures the serenity and quite that comes over you as you wander through the groves. They are so calming and uplifting. But a closer look shows so much of what makes these forests what they are. There is both fog and sunlight, redwoods and hemlocks and pines, ferns and rhododendrons, all growing together on the slopes of the coastal mountains. For me this vividly captures the experience of being there.
It was quite by luck that I even saw God Rays in the Morning Fog, your favorite photograph (and mine too).
I had stepped off the trail to talk with another photographer. The light was getting really good with a hint of fog rolling through. We were talking about the God Rays and how best to photograph them. When I returned to the trail I passed by the rhododendron bush and from the corner of my eye I saw everything falling into place. One of the qualities I strive for in my photographs (and in my life) is balance and in this image it all comes together. I talked above about compositional considerations which, let me emphasize, play a facilitating role in creating the mood and message of the image. The composition is not the message but rather the vocabulary that communicates the message. Having said that, the rhododendron bush created a triangle with one beautiful flower at the apex. I positioned the flower against the backdrop of the dark tree trunk close to the center of the frame to create balance and peace but not right on it (to add a little visual tension). The broken trunk to the right plays a secondary role but has its own story to tell about the life of the forest. But the most important element of the image are the God Rays that stream down from above. Diagonal lines add energy to an image and in this one when contrasted to the strong and stable verticals of the trees and the balance, grace and delight of the triangular rhododendron bush, provides an intriguing and captivating contrast.
But in the end, this photograph is not about the compositional principles that are used, the tonalities and contrast that are employed or even the color palette used, it’s about how they all come together to draw us into the moment and the joy and delight we feel when we experience it.
A big THANKS goes out to everyone who participated. Some of you left comments with some great insights that I really enjoyed reading.
Up next is Southwest Utah – Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase Escalante. I’m eager to share these photographs with you and get your reactions to them. I’m sure this will be every bit as fun as the Redwoods was. If you would like to get a head start click this link – Best of 2014 Southwest Utah Photographs,