Ok…so not entirely true. But made you click, right?
Sometimes I’m afforded opportunities to travel the country with a video production group and recently I was out in the Mountain West region of the United States: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and California over the course of 17 days. Though I only had 5 events, it was my job to transport the truck between locations. My co-pilot Teddy and I trekked through the straight and lonely highway in Wyoming that seemed to stretch forever. We took the truck up and over mountains near Lake Tahoe, and managed to sneak away from our transport schedule for a stop in the Redwood National Forest in a Northern California.
As luck would have it, I travel with my Sony A7r Mark II. With Redwoods in sight, we set off on a photo adventure.
I’m not the “outdoorsy” type – to be honest, my idea of camping is in a hotel. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate nature, and the National Parks Service is celebrating 100 years, so why not take a look. Having never been in a National Park like Redwoods, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The detour took about 48 hours, and my gosh we learned a lot.
When I travel for work like this, my primary focus is the job or event I’m working.
I don’t usually know my schedule ahead of time, so I don’t normally plan to see any sights or experiences in the area. Case in point – a week after the Redwoods, I flew out of Fresno, California, which happens to be the official airport for Yosemite National Park. I didn’t know until I landed, but more on that in another post.
Once we found out how close we were to Redwood, now we had to plan our trip. With only 48 hours, every minute was going to count. Not having any experience in a National Park, I made the assumption that there were main gates and you had to go to a specific area to see the trees. Turns out that wasn’t the case. Redwoods are native to Northern California (Sequoias mostly central California), and on the way up, we started to see denser foliage, then one small Redwood, and another shortly thereafter. All of a sudden, they were everywhere. Not every Redwood is a giant tree, yet. We were able to tell them apart by the unique bark, which separates them from a large pine tree or fur tree.
Cell Coverage and Finding a Hotel
Being that the trees covered an entire region, where would we go? As I drove, my co-pilot Teddy tried to research the best tree sightings, but cell service was terrible. I travel with both an AT&T device and a Verizon device, yet neither one had service. While normally I wouldn’t complain about not having service, we were navigating blind and had no idea where we were going.
We were only staying for one night, so we settled on staying in a Crescent City. A beautiful beach town settled in-between two mountains, we arrived just in time for sunset. A short ride from the hotel was a beach at Battery Point. Being from the East Coast, we were excited to catch a sunset over the Pacific Ocean. That night, we did a little research and picked Jedediah Campground to start our morning.
Avenue of the Giants
After finding little to photograph around Jedediah campground, we decided to head back South and pass through the Avenue of the Giants. About 2 hours south of a Crescent a city, we remembered driving by the exit and not knowing whether to stop or not. There wasn’t much around there in terms of a city, so it’s not the best spot to stay overnight unless you’ve got a tent.
As you pass through these giant Redwoods, cars frequently pull off the side of the road and people get out to explore. You don’t have to go far off the paved road to get great images. There were around 10-12 main stops along the Avenue and each had a plaque with a description of the area.
Fog Between the Mountains
We don’t have mountains in Florida, but it was really interesting to see the weather shift as we passed over and through each mountain. Not really prepared for weather, I had to stop and buy some long pants and a rain jacket. We’d pass by the sunny side of the mountain and boom – right at the top, the weather would change and be cloudy and gloomy. Although as the fog burned off throughout the day, the light rays from the sun created some amazing images. These turned out to be some of my favorite images from the trip. It almost looked like an animated movie or video game, but the scenery was all real. It was breathtaking!
Carrying your Gear
I only had the one Sony A7r Mark II with a 16-35mm f4 lens and a 24-70mm f4 lens, plus a few extra batteries, cards, and a tripod. This wasn’t a photography trip…so these were loose in my travel backpack. I’m not used to walking around with a camera, getting in and out of the car, and being quick with my setups. When you’re out shooting, it’s important to have everything you’ll need on your person. At least one extra battery, extra memory cards, and maybe even a second lens. I learned my lesson pretty quick. Shooting the Sony, the 42-megapixel images and 4K video filled up my cards really quick. At one point, I had to stop shooting to go back to the truck and change out memory cards. By the time I got back, the sun had moved and the shot I was trying to get was gone. Luckily we were only hiking about 500ft from the truck. If it were miles, I wouldn’t have come back with any images.
So what did I do? When I went shopping for long pants, I chose cargo pants that had an extra pocket on each leg. One had an extra lens, and the other had a memory card wallet and two extra batteries.
What would I have done? If I was planning another trip like this (specifically for photography), I’d look at either a travel bag like a backpack, sling bag, belt bag or maybe a photo vest. While they don’t always look good, chances are nobody will even see you in such a big forest and who cares what you look like anyway – it’s functional. I think it’s important to always have the camera at the ready, so a bag that requires you to remove the lens is not a good idea.
Planning for the next Adventure
While we got some really great images of the Redwoods, we didn’t roam more than 500 feet from the road. If I was planning another adventure like this, I’d take the time to map out some great photo spots and really do my research. I would look at sites like 500px and Flickr to see where others have gone. We didn’t have the chance to shoot any waterfalls or ponds/lakes that are native to the region because we didn’t know where they were. (Plus I didn’t have an ND filter with me – traveling light, remember?)
All in all, I’m glad Teddy and I had the opportunity to explore some of the Redwood National Forest. I think I’d definitely like to go back and see some more of it, but need to really plan out the trip instead of just winging it. When’s the last time you visited one of America’s great National Parks? Did you plan out the trip or did you just wing it like I did? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.