Friday, August 3, 2018

Walking with the Redwood Trees: Landscape Photographs of Muir Woods National Monument, California.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, 
we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
John Muir

Have you ever walked in a forest in which the average tree was already alive when Christopher Columbus discovered the "New World"?  During a recent week-long visit to San Francisco, I had the pleasure to twice visit Muir Woods National Monument.  This beautiful forest is 25 minutes from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (in Marin County, California), and it is home to giant old-growth redwood trees.  My first outing was primarily for photography.  I arrived at 8 a.m., when the park opened, and I brought by tripod, DSLR, and backpack with assorted lenses.  On my second trip, several days later, I greatly enjoyed a walk through the woods with my wife and two sons (21 and 18).  All of the photographs below are from the first of these trips, in which I went around the main trail, which hugs Redwood Creek down to the fourth bridge.

The average age for the redwood trees in Muir Woods is 600 to 800 years old, and the oldest is over 1200.  The tallest is about 258 feet - not too much shorter than the length of a football field. But numbers cannot reflect the feeling one gets from walking along these beautiful giants.  John Steinbeck said:

"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." (John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America).

I have been to Muir Woods only a handful of times in my life, usually with decades in-between, but each time I walk under these giants, I am filled with awe.  While the constraints of photography make it difficult, if not impossible, to capture the magnitude of these trees, I hope that a few of my photographs hint at the tranquil and humble feeling one has at Muir Woods.

For those who may be planning to take photographs during your visit, here are a few random suggestions:

1. Presently, you need to make parking or shuttle reservations ahead of time.  Use this LINK to get information and make a reservation.  If you choose to drive yourself, you reserve a half hour window in which to park.
2. If you are planning to take photographs, I suggest you go when the park is less crowded.  I arrived at 8 a.m., when Muir Woods first opens, and I had the place largely to myself.  A few hours later, it would have been impossible to get photographs of the paths without hoards of people.
3. I suggest that you bring a tripod for landscape photographs.  Although you are outside, the place is fully canopied, so you are shooting in heavy shade.  If you do not want to raise your ISO too high, you will need the stability of a tripod.
4. All of my images below of Muir Woods are taken with wide angle lenses.  If I had more time, I am sure that there are photographic possibilities with other lenses (e.g. macro shots of the fern). For me, these will have to wait for another visit - Hopefully I will not have to wait another decade!

The early morning view from Muir Woods Road,
on the way to Muir Woods.
Muir Woods National Monument (1).
Muir Woods National Monument (2).
Muir Woods National Monument (3).
Muir Woods National Monument (4).
Muir Woods National Monument (5).
Muir Woods National Monument (6).
Muir Woods National Monument (7).
Muir Woods National Monument (8).
As a long-time fan of our American National Park System, and I am grateful that this grove of magnificent redwood trees has been carefully and lovingly preserved. To conclude, here is a comment by John Muir regarding conservation:

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools, — only Uncle Sam can do that."

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