A Photographer's Guide to Capturing California's Giant Redwoods

Zach Louw / © Culture Trip
Zach Louw / © Culture Trip
Photo of Zach Louw
Hub Photographer6 February 2018

Redwoods, weighing in as much as 1.6 million pounds and as tall as 350 feet, are a must-see if visiting California. These giants lie on an easy detour off Highway 101 in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. They’re great fun to photograph; here we give you tips for the perfect shot.

The largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world, Humboldt Redwoods State Park has a 31-mile route winding through it, running parallel to Route 101.

The creaking branches swaying in the wind, dappled sunlight painted across the black tar of the road and muffled rustle of the leaves make photographing these giants a memorable experience.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. … It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.’ —John Steinbeck

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

However, shooting these beauties on camera is reputably difficult. When taking landscape photographs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the landscape. But if you break it down, you will find stunning compositions easily captured. Here are a few tips for photographing the redwoods.

Take in the scenery before you start taking photographs

By walking around and observing your environment, you’ll get a feel for the landscape’s atmosphere and which scenes you’d like to shoot.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Use people to add to the scene

Not only will a figure draw the viewer’s eye into the photograph and provide a sense of scale, but a pop of colour from a jacket or scarf can make a big difference to the composition.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Capture the small moments to make the bigger ones better

The redwoods are the main attraction, but quiet moments which set the scene are equally important to capture.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Follow the path

A well-trodden path offers a different texture to leaves and bark, and its leading lines help give depth to the image.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Play with your angles

Different angles of the same subject produce very different results. While you may not be able to get above the redwoods, an elevated position can highlight their sheer height.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Set your camera to manual

This gives you the ability to underexpose your shot, allowing you to capture in detail bright areas where the canopy opens up.

Zach Louw | © Culture Trip

Colour, form, texture, scale and the small moments – keep these at the front of your mind and your photographs will be sure to be as memorable as the gargantuan giants themselves.

Zach Louw is self-taught photographer from South Africa.

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