Posted by: kerryl29 | October 31, 2017

California Day 14: Finale

You know how sometimes everything seems to come together perfectly?

Me either.

But on the last day of my trip to California this past spring, it was pretty close.  As I mentioned in the previous post, I discovered the proverbial mother lode of rhododendron blossoms in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, right alongside the Redwood Highway, no more than a half-mile or so from the Damnation Creek Trailhead and I spent an hour or thereabouts photographing this treasure trove.  How could it possibly get any better?

Fog.  And windless conditions.  That would pretty much cap it off.

As I have mentioned, despite being told prior to my 2015 visit to redwood country that morning fog amidst the coastal groves was a virtual given, I’d seen very little of it.  There had been some spotty fog two mornings earlier, but I hadn’t seen anything particularly thick.  As luck would have it, the forecast for this final morning suggested that there might be some fog in Crescent City, so I was hopeful.  When I awoke, well before dawn, and took a peek outside my window, I didn’t see any evidence of mist–to my chagrin–in the light of the street lamps.  But I got up and out before first light, just in case things were different in the groves, approximately 10 miles to the south.

As I was driving on the redwood highway, I started running into some patchy fog, lifting my spirits a bit.  I drove into fog, then out of it and, just as I got near the Damanation Creek pullout, back into it.  I stepped out of the car into a foggy world of dripping foliage, a surreal wonderland.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

And there wasn’t a breath of wind.  It was time to go to town, photographically speaking.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

For the next couple of hours I covered the familiar ground of the Damanation Creek and Coastal Trails, but these areas took on a completely different look and feel due to the fog.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

On several occasions the fog seemed to be lifting, only to see a new wall of mist drift in to replace an earlier wave.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

While I always kept my eyes open for opportunities to photograph rhododendron, the presence of blossoms wasn’t a prerequisite.  If I saw something appealing, with or without flowers, I set up the tripod.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons in Fog, Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The absence of any wind made it possible to produce focus stacked compositions and a number of the images accompanying this entry are examples of the implementation of this technique.

Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Everything in the forest was dripping with moisture, saturating the colors.  With no wind, exposures of several seconds were an available option and, since I was using a polarizing filter to remove glare from the soaked foliage, were requisite.

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons, Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

After finishing along the trails, I did what I had always planned to do–return to the mother lode.  As luck would have it, the fog in this area was even thicker and I spent the better part of another couple of hours photographing the same roadside rhododendron/redwood trunk spots as I had the previous afternoon.  At no point did the fog appear to lift.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As had been the case the previous day, all sorts of compositions were possible here, with the additional mood and mystery afforded by the fog.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I switched back and forth between slightly wider than normal and short telephoto perspectives.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Things that were omnipresent:  rhododendron blossoms, redwood trunks and fog.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I finished that morning shoot with great satisfaction.  After dreaming about conditions like these for two years I’d finally realized my vision.

Epilogue

I was facing a nine-hour drive back to the Bay Area and I’d gotten a later-than-anticipated start, but given the experience with the fog and rhododendron, that was irrelevant.  I figured that the day’s–and, by extension, the trip’s–photography was at an end, but I was in for one more unexpected treat.  About an hour into the drive, as I made my way through the edge of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park south of Klamath, I saw a bit of a traffic jam and immediately discovered the reason why–an elk herd was present, on the other side of a fenced area, right off the road.  I cleared the jam, pulled off on the shoulder, grabbed my tripod and telephoto lens-endowed camera and walked back to check it out.  The elk couldn’t have been more cooperative.

Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

That made the rest of the day-long drive go by even more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

And with that, this long, exhilarating photo trip to California had come to an end.  I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to experience more of the seemingly endless beauty of the Golden State.  Hopefully that opportunity will be sooner than later.

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Responses

  1. Hi Kerry, You sure hit the dream combinations! You’ve captured the serene feeling of being in the redwoods in the fog. Your images are sublime– how wonderful that you had such a fruitful morning. And then the elk! I love this part of California!

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

      Yup, there’s something truly special about that part of the state and when the conditions are right…it’s almost a spiritual experience to meander among the redwoods in the fog. Rhododendron blossoms are a (very) nice bonus.

  2. Thanks for another bountiful display of beautiful images. The combination of fog, trees, and foliage is definitely something to seek, and the results of your efforts do it justice.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  3. Killer photos of the Damnation Creek, Kerry! This may be some of your best work yet, I’d say. At any rate, the iron was hot and your strike was absolutely effective.

    • Thanks very much, Tom!

  4. I love the effect the fog has, especially with the strong verticals of the Redwoods and the ferns. Then the rhododendron blossoms are just the extra icing on the cake – gorgeous! It’s great that you were able to get out and photograph the elk – I love the smoothness and life I see in those images. What a trip!

    • Thanks very much! The experience of being in the groves in the fog…it’s effectively indescribable.

  5. Fantastic Kerry. What a trip! Thanks for sharing it all!

    • Thanks, Mike!

  6. It’s impossible to point to a favorite photo among these, or even favorite photos. Each one has a detail to commend it. I did especially enjoy the combination of the heavy-trunked trees with a lace of flowers in front of them, and the elk really suprised me. They seem much smaller than others I’ve seen in photos, and healthier. I’m assuming they’re young’uns. In any event, their photos are delightful. Isn’t it great when things just keep getting better?

    • Thanks!

      Yes, the elk herd did seem to be a (mostly) younger crowd. Elk in this part of the world (and the Pacific Northwest more broadly) are of the Roosevelt subspecies, which I don’t believe has been impacted by Chronic Wasting Disease (which has impacted the Rocky Mountain subspecies over the past decade or so). During my time in the Canadian Rockies I saw quite a few elk, all of which appeared to be healthy (though that was in the fall):

      http://www.lightscapesphotography.com/p1000916642/h68904848#h68904848

      http://www.lightscapesphotography.com/p1000916642/h6f4c6b20#h6f4c6b20

      • The second photo’s impressive, but the first, with the blade of grass sticking out of the elk’s mouth, made me laugh. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the photos.

        • The one of the bull elk in the river..I followed that elk (at a safe distance) for about a half mile, from a meadow, down a hill, along the river bank…until he meandered into the Athabasca River itself The other one..he was just part of a herd that was grazing in a roadside meadow…slightly later on the same morning that the river elk image was made.

          With me, these wildlife opportunities are always serendipitous; I basically run across them from time to time when seeking out landscape images…or am simply driving from one spot to another, as in the case of the Roosevelt Elk herd in California.

  7. An absolutely beautiful series! The greens are amazing.

    • Thanks, Denise!

      Everything in the forest was literally dripping with moisture that morning; between that and the use of a polarizer, the greens were off the charts.

  8. Nice to come across a cooperative herd. Obviously, they had a copy of your itinerary. 🙂

    Beautiful fog images too.

    • Thanks, David!

      I always try to share my itinerary with the local wildlife. 🙂

  9. I’m still a forever fan of your work Kerry. I just finished viewing your entire California blog posts, and they are all fantastic. Where’s the next trip?

    • Thanks, Carol!

      Next trip…I was in Colorado during the fall color season (last week of September, first week of October), and I’ll start blogging about that in the next week or two.

      As for the next trip looking forward…I’m not sure. Alaska is on the docket for late summer of next year (tail end of August, beginning of September). I’m not sure if I’ll be going anywhere before then, but if I do it will almost certainly be fairly close to home and relatively short. The Alaska trip is going to be a resource-drainer. 🙂

  10. Fog for all tastes! Nice photos with just the right color.

  11. Absolutely Beautiful!

  12. It appears that I missed this post of yours. Thanks for providing the link back to it. Thought you might be interested in a wonderful site that provides some great info on the Redwood area (and others).
    http://www.redwoodhikes.com/DelNorte/Damnation.html

    BTW… that Howland Hill Rd with Stout Grove was a pretty marvelous pocket of Redwoods. I’ll be posting my adventures on it shortly. Stout Grove doesn’t appear to be old growth, but it still has some marvelous specimens and I seem to remember spotting some rhodies in there, but of course too early to be blooming yet. We plan to return… not just once. 😀

    • I used the Redwood Hikes site extensively when I was planning my first trip to the redwoods (2015–same year I shot on the OR coast) and then again when I was back in northern California two springs ago. It’s a great resource.

      Yup, the Stout Grove is very nice. From a photography standpoint, once of its best characteristics is that it’s got some fairly open areas, which is helpful compositionally. There are some rhododendrons in there, but not a huge number. The area along Howland Hill Road–from the eastern end in particular, as I recall, as you head toward the Stout Grove parking area–is remarkable. Some day I’d like to walk that stretch of road, when the sun’s not out.

      A really nice trail for rhododendrons and redwoods is the aptly named Rhododendron Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods SP. Do note, however, that the rhodies there do seem to run at least a week behind the best specimens in Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP. If they’re in full bloom at the latter, they’re probably just budding at the former.

      If you do go back this spring, do let me know how you fare.

  13. […] of adding far northern California to the itinerary was completely forgotten when, on the final morning of my time there, everything came together so marvelously that I couldn’t possibly have […]


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