How to Take Great Photos in the Redwoods

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. 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

As Steinbeck noted, time spent among the redwoods is a uniquely memorable experience. The calm hush, fresh air, towering trunks and dappled light all seem to lend themselves to recollections that remain clear and vivid for years.

While we’re inclined to agree that no image can fully convey the feeling of walking among ancient giants, it’s hard to resist the urge to capture the experience on film. However, the enchanting ambiance of the forest also makes it notoriously difficult to photograph. But it’s still fun to try, and some truly gorgeous and interesting images can result.

To ensure that your pictorial endeavors in the forest are fun rather than frustrating, consider brushing up on some outdoor photography tips before your next visit to the redwoods. Whether you’d like to try macro photography — perhaps to capture the subtle but unmistakable spirals of giant sequoia cones — or capturing landscape-scale images, you’ll feel a lot more confident armed with some basic information.

The first rule of nature photography is to take in the scenery before you begin snapping shots willy-nilly. This will give you a feel for the scenes you want to capture. Once you have an idea of a few photos you’d like to get, set up for them and take your time with each one. The intention behind your images will show through when you get home to view them.

What’s so special about redwood forest photography? In this captivating setting, the possibilities are endless. Simply shooting from ground level can make for an excellent shot because of the symmetry of the straight, tall trunks. Try getting people in the scene to give the viewer a sense of scale. Or you can point your camera skyward to capture both the trunks and canopy high overhead. Both angles provide opportunities to capture the unique way that sunlight and fog filter through the redwoods. Learning the basics of exposure will be a great help with this endeavor.

Photographer Neville Elder recommends setting your controls to your camera’s manual exposure, then setting your exposure just under, and also just over that exposure, so that you have some slightly overexposed and underexposed options to choose from when you examine your photos. View this infographic for more information on perfect exposure. For more tips on outdoor photography, including the “sunny 16” rule and some tips on shooting at magic hour, view Neville’s full article on

The photo gallery above showcases some of the many varieties of redwoods photography. Check out even more interesting forest photos. Then, share yours with us on our Facebook page! We feature one every week for #MagicMonday.

About the author

Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.


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