The location: Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park, located in southeast California, is home to the world’s largest collection of giant sequoias. One of the park’s main attractions is General Sherman, the world’s largest individual tree by volume. Yet, the number of annual visitors is just under a million—significantly less than its northern companion, Yosemite. The park shares a border with King’s Canyon National Park and the two are run under common management.
Giant sequoia trees have an uncanny knack for staying alive. Their bark can be two-feet thick at the base, protecting the trees from fires, and contains tanin that fights insects and disease. Toppling is the main reason the trees ever die. Those in Sequoia NP range from hundreds to thousands of years old!
The story: the land before time
We visited Sequoia NP after Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove and we found Sequoia to be the far superior experience. Entering the park from the south, we could see Moro Rock as we wound wound our way into the park. I remember pointing it out in the distance before Josh told me we were going to hike it!
As we drove into the Giant Forest, I felt like we’d stepped back in time. When we first caught a glimpse of the base of giant sequoia, we both let out an audible, “whoa.” Something about the massive red trunks made me think we were going to see a dinosaur around the next corner. And yes, we drove our car through a humongous tree; however, these days it’s technically a fallen tree “log.”
The sequoia photo spot: Giant Forest
The sequoia groves in Giant Forest are a surreal sight to behold. Mixed into a forest that’s beautiful in its own right—lush ferns and little trickling creeks everywhere—are the largest living things we’d ever seen. We saw dozens of giant sequoias on just a few easy hikes near the Giant Forest Museum. We also hiked down (yes, you actually work your way down) to General Sherman, seen below. Our brains struggled to process the size of this tree since you can’t take it all in at once!
Even with a wide angle lens, it’s very difficult to photograph the giant sequoias in a way that communicates their size. Our favorite shots focused on giving context more than capturing the whole tree. Think about catching the base of the massive sequoia surrounded by more average-sized pines. Or use a tripod to take shots straight up toward the canopy. When you do take shots of a whole tree, which you’ll have to do from a distance, know that others will not be able to grasp the fact that these trees are the size of a grand hotel from your pictures.
The scenic photo spot: Moro Rock
Moro Rock is a granite dome that looms over Generals Highway. Unlike the much larger Half Dome in Yosemite, you can climb Moro Rock somewhat easily. About 350 steps take you to the top of the rock—350 windy, narrow, awkward steps. From the top you can see the entire San Joaquin Valley and surrounding wilderness. While stunning, the view isn’t picture perfect. Haze perpetually sits on the horizon due to the area’s weather patterns. That said, it’s an exhilarating experience and the handrails keep you safe enough. Bring your wide angle lens for shots on the rock itself and a tripod and telephoto lens for catching details in the distance, as the haze allows.
The gear: Canon
These photos of Sequoia National Park were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with either a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L telephoto lens or Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L wide lens, both with a polarizing filter or neutral density filter.
All images are copyright of Josh Schaulis and may not be reproduced or used in any way without written permission.