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Old May 18, 2009, 2:56 PM   #1
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Default Big Trees

With this month's challenge in mind, Saturday I headed to find some really BIG trees. The closest place for me to find them is Sequoia National Park, so we visited the Giant Grove.

A number of the more spectacular trees have names. This particular one is the General Sherman Tree:

It looks like a nice tree in this picture. It doesn't exactly look like what it is, there is no other tree in the world with greater volume. There are trees that have a larger diameter and trees that are taller. But none that have a greater volume. You start to believe it when you see it in relation with a person at it's base:

Here's another tree. As you can see, it is very much alive. The picture is titled, "Big Foot" - that's what I think of when I saw the picture.

Most of the trees are scarred by fire - a testament to the history of the area. The trees are well adapted to living with fire around them.

Looking toward the crown of the trees:

I had thought about using this for the challenge, but I can take a similar picture of a normal sized tree using the same lens and it will look as tall. You just wouldn't get the feeling about how much more massive the Sequoias are to normal trees:

This particular national park has more to see than trees - but that's another thread.
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Old May 18, 2009, 3:13 PM   #2
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You've captured the perspectives nicely. Definitely awe inspiring. I'm envious of those of you who live relatively close to scenic areas such as this. For me it usually means a trip out west! I'm will be visiting Bryce Canyon NP and Zion NP in early October and am looking forward to it very much.

BTW, what lens did you use?
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Old May 18, 2009, 4:24 PM   #3
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Beautiful pictures of the most awesome trees in the world.

I visited Sequoia and King Canyon 2 years ago and felt when reviewing my pictures from that trip that they did no justice to the size of these trees. After being in the park a while I began to feel like a Lilliputian.

The most surprising thing for me was the size of the Giant Sequoia pine cone. They are tinny in comparison even to the cones of common white pines of the East. When viewed next to the Western Sugar Pine cone it is laughable as they are as large as the Sequoia cone is small.

You did a nice job of capturing these behemoths.

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Old May 18, 2009, 6:42 PM   #4
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Love your photos Harriet,
sure bring back the memories! Its been a lot of years since I've been there... was it sequoia where they had the tree you could drive through? I know it was destroyed a while back, what a shame...

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Old May 18, 2009, 8:01 PM   #5
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Bringing back memories, Harriet. My roommate and I used to take off on Friday nights and head up there to camp. We'd set up camp in the dark and always wonder what we were thinking when we got up in the morning and saw we'd set up right next to a creek or something.

Anyway, nice images. It is definitely hard to portray the size of these in photos without something to compare to. They are giants.

Lou - my last visit to Kings Canyon was 28 years ago with my fiance and his son. We got caught in a snowstorm and had to caravan down the mountainside the next day with about half dozen other campers who got stuck. That was the night we saw a bear in our campsite. Luckily we were sleeping in the car because of the snow! It's beautiful country up there, but I don't think I could be on that road again with my vertigo now.

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Old May 18, 2009, 10:11 PM   #6
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Jelpee - Most of these shots were taken with the DA 12-24 (the ones that were obviously taken with a wide angle), the other couple of ones were taken with the DA*50-135. I love Bryce and Zion - I never tire of going there and don't visit half as often as I would like. There's so much to see in that area - not only Bryce and Zion but several interesting state parks. I could go on and on about places to visit there, but that's for another time.

Lou - This was not the first time I've tried to capture these trees. The first time I was using film and had better success than I've had with a digital camera. These trees have always presented two main problems to me, and another one I hadn't thought about. The first problem is the shear size - having the 12-24 really helped to capture the whole tree (mostly). The second problem is the lighting - it seems like I'm always photographing these trees around noon (I'm always driving in from somewhere else and usually have a couple of hour drive, especially if I'm going to Sequoia). I got around this second one by taking the tripod and bracketing, then using Photomatix for HDR pictures. The detail of the burned bark and the last one are the only two from this set that aren't HDR (and the one I posted for the monthly challenge is also HDR).

I've never taken a photography class (sure would like to!) and find composition often quite difficult. At one time Kodak put out some really nice small, general photography books, and so I picked up a modern book put out by them that deals with composition. I'm still digesting what I read, and haven't had a chance to try/apply it all yet. However, I thought about what the book said about vertical lines when I was shooting Saturday. The book suggested that you shouldn't have a bold vertical line (like a tree) that goes all the way through the frame. He said for trees you should capture the ground on the bottom and if you can't get the top, make sure you get part of the canopy to break up the vertical trunk line. The only picture that doesn't follow this "rule" is the last one. But I broke up the strong vertical by the tree that's in front of it, so it doesn't quite break up the picture into two parts, like it would have otherwise.

GW - you are right, you used to be able to drive through one tree. It finally died and then was blown over in a big storm, you can still see it.

Patty - setting up next to a creek is better than finding out you pitched the tent on an ant hill. My sister has a similar story - one day they were driving from Monterey to Las Vegas. Her husband had never seen the Giant Sequoias and something was on his "bucket list". He had developed a physical problem that that they feared was the return of cancer, so they decided to make the side-trip up to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon. It started raining when they reached the grove, but they walked around anyway. He loved seeing the trees, though the rain turned to snow as they started down the mountain. They crawled along, wishing they were driving a Suburban instead of a Prius, but my sister was forever grateful that they had taken the time to stop - he passed away 6 months later.

Yosemite may be more famous (and more crowded!), both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are just as charming, have beautiful scenery and are well worth visiting.
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Old May 18, 2009, 10:21 PM   #7
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Wow, Awesome Trees. Wonderful shots, thank you so much for sharing.

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Old May 19, 2009, 6:03 AM   #8
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Harriet -
You had mentioned you were jealous of all our waterfalls...now I'm jealous! We do have some big trees here in the southeastern mts, but nothing like these. Thanks for showing us these truly grand trees, in some truly grand photos!
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Old May 19, 2009, 10:44 AM   #9
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Great shots of great trees Harriet.

We have got some of them in parks ... but I'll have to wait long before they become that majestic.

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Old May 19, 2009, 1:35 PM   #10
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These trees are so large that it is really difficult to get a picture that captures the essence of their size when they are surrounded by so much other dense vegetation. Harriet has done well under those conditions. Although the age of the oldest of these living Sequoias is measured in hundreds of years, the species seems to have been unchanged for millions - they are true "living fossils" as specimens preserved in the old rocks appear to be identical (the same is true of the Coast Redwoods of the moist Pacific coastal forests). The Sequoias are what forest ecologists call fire pioneers, as they only seed after fires, when the ground is burned bare, which explains why in a grove of large trees there are few if any young ones - only second growth trees of other species. The secret of their longevity in spite of their dependence on fire is that the living bark is fairly fire resistant, and frequent fires burn off the accumulated leaf litter rapidly (fire suppression only makes the fires less frequent, hotter, and more damaging). The heartwood, however does burn, and some of the trees are more or less hollowed out as Harriet's pictures show, as these fires can smolder within the living trees for years once the protective bark has been breached in a hot fire. In the neighboring Kings Canyon National Park there are groves of younger Sequoias where they have seeded in after fires that have cleared the ground of other vegetation - Sequoia seedlings are not shade tolerant, and cannot grow beneath a canopy of taller trees.
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