Autumn Pacific Dogwood & Giant Sequoia in Cloud Mist

Autumn Pacific Dogwood & Giant Sequoia in Cloud Mist

full print size of 23.6x29.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Mountain Home State Forest, Tulare County
mid afternoon Tuesday October 25, 2005, slide 05-BB-2
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
ICG Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 200mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature mid top right

Failing to capture an adequate image in past seasons, in the fall of 2005, I set out to find a photograph that combined dogwood undergoing fall leaf color changes and giant sequoias. The two tree species often grow together in sequoia groves however any photography in forests of tall dense trees presents illumination problems. In periods of blue skies, scattered midday sunlight often shines down leaving harsh shadows. One thus explores about for more open areas where sunshine can penetrate down unblocked to the forest floor. Unfortunately that eliminates most of the potential tree scenes one might find. With thin overcast cloudiness, tall forest still blocks most diffuse light from high above cloud levels leaving target scenery too unevenly dim. A more workable situation occurs when the cloud deck occurs right at forest level where sunshine causes cloud mist that appears like fog, to glow from within.

Thus during a visit to this state forest I found myself in this ideal situation if only I could locate a suitable scene. The cloud deck was however variable, above the trees in many areas, below in others, dense in some areas, and thin in others. The weather situation that caused this phenomenon is not too unusual for this region and something I had noticed before my visit. The sequoia grove lies atop a relatively tall ridge where the atmosphere moving in from the San Joaquin Valley to the west has to rise up several thousand feet. With temperatures cool enough as they often are in October, that can result in cloud formation right at the ridgelines.

The large state forest is innervated with a network of narrow lightly used dirt logging roads on lands partially logged over decades ago. Consequently unlike in most other Sierra sequoia groves, there are sometimes areas adjacent to large trees that have small open clearings that at certain times of day provide adequate illumination for photography.

For several hours I drove around and around in circles and loops. I found some possible subjects, would drive off, and then return hours later to see what the clouds were doing. Given size differentials, one cannot realistically expect to photograph a whole mature giant sequoia beside a dogwood but rather a dogwood next to the impressive trunks of a sequoia. Finally I located this subject and it appeared conditions were promising for eventual good illumination. I set up the shot and waited, and waited, and waited, then after about three hours in mid afternoon had my opportunity over a brief interval to take a single image which I managed to nail a perfect exposure under a quite difficult dim exposure choice situation.

California dogwood, cornus nutallii, grow on moist western Sierra slopes at 2500 to 7000 foot elevations as a dense under story below higher conifers. One often finds dense groups of trees along seeps and small streams. These small often bushy trees are usually 10 to 30 feet in height. Conspicuously veined leaves are 3 to 5 inches narrow oval shaped with a pointed tip. In the fall leaves turn to beautiful shades of pink, yellow, red, and purple. Magnificent giant sequoia, sequoia gigantea, are the world's largest single trees. The specimen in the image has a trunk about five feet in diameter. The conical canopies of younger sequoia can be seen silhouetted in the mist. Below are dense thimbleberry, rubus parviflorus, the leaves of which turn a wonderful yellow on the forest floor adding yet another aesthetic component to these landscapes. They also provide a tasty red berry I was regularly enjoying during my visit. A few small berries are visible including one about three inches to the left of the lower right frame edge.

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   David Senesac

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