Sunbeams in a redwood forest along the northern California coast, USA

Sunbeams in a redwood forest along the northern California coast

We always hope for fog when we go to the redwoods. Fog helps to simplify busy forest scenes, but also adds a touch of mood and mystery that seems to fit the primeval feeling of these groves.

Before our workshop last week we found fog along the Klamath River, and valley fog in some meadows, but none of the coastal fog that typically envelops the California coast in summer. The coastal fog is much more widespread than the other types of fog, and it’s the only kind of fog that gets thick enough and high enough to penetrate into the redwood forests. That coastal fog typically forms when it’s hot inland, but temperatures just hadn’t reached summer levels yet.

Finally last Thursday, after several scorching days inland, some fog formed along the coast. Early that morning I took our group along a trail into a redwood forest, and we soon found some fog. And then it promptly disappeared. We hiked further, and found more fog, but that didn’t last long either. That’s the way it goes with fog: it moves and shifts in unpredictable ways, so it can disappear at any time.

But it can also reappear. After awhile the fog started to move in again, and got thicker. By then the sun was high enough to penetrate down into the forest, and we found some gorgeous sunbeams radiating through the trees. And we kept finding them. Sunbeams like that usually don’t last long, but on that morning we were able to photograph sunbeams for over 90 minutes. That gave everyone time to find many compositions and try different ideas, which was quite a treat. Our initial disappointment when the fog disappeared turned to joy as the sunbeams radiated through the fog, and lingered. It was a wonderful, magical morning.

— Michael Frye

Sunbeams and an old road in a redwood forest, northern California coast, USA

Sunbeams and an old road in a redwood forest, northern California coast

Photographer in the redwoods, northern California, USA

Photographer in the redwoods, northern California

Related Posts: Along the Klamath River; Back in the Redwood Country; Planning for Flexibility

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.