• John Gregory

The Redwoods of Rotorua

The Redwoods is a forest on the doorstep of Rotorua, New Zealand. There are over 5600 hectares of trees and walking/mountain biking tracks, but one of the main attractions for visitors is the stand of Californian Coast Redwoods.

Capturing an image to convey the immense size of the redwoods isn’t easy in the confines of the forest. It is a challenge to get far enough back and of course difficult to show their height also.

Along one of the paths I wanted to capture a panorama of the redwoods showing the mix of introduced trees together with the native bush that has regenerated over many decades. To create a wide angle shot and avoid converging lines I took a series of shots - 7 in total and merged them in photoshop to create the image.

I included the path on both sides which helps lead the eye from one side of the photo to the other. Lighting was a little flat. I arrived at the Redwoods to try and capture some late afternoon light coming through the trees and you can see this coming through the trees in the background which give a sense of depth to the image.

On one of the many paths, quite close to the information centre of the redwoods is a path over an old thermal pond. The blues in the water were very vibrant, however the scene was very cluttered, and it made for a difficult exercise to create a composition that worked.

As the light changed, I found a spot where the sun shone through the trees, with the side light adding depth to a group of Redwoods along a small path. For an alternative look I wanted to try a square crop, so took 2 images, one above the other and merged them in Photoshop. The software did a great job. Especially considering the 2nd image taken – pointing upwards created a definite converging of the trees at the top. But with a little software magic I was able to straighten them all out.

One of the objectives of this shot was also to ensure the patches of sky coming through the canopy wasn’t blown out. This image is one of my preferred ones from my time in the forest. I think there is a nice amount of depth to the shot, the redness of the trees is hinted at, and there is nice light throughout.

The only thing lacking here was the ability to express the size of the trees. The redwoods were planted in 1901 and some now reach over 70 metres in height.

I wanted a photo that showed a lush forest with really big trees – but I didn’t want any people in the frame. Of course, including someone walking along the path would easily give perspective to the size of the trees – but I tend to avoid images with Humans. I tried one shot with a section of wooden path and as the path wrapped around one of the larger trees a true feeling of the size of the trees was apparent, but ultimately I didn’t want to include a man made path in the final shot.

Eventually - instead of seeing where I could step back from the trees to include as much as possible of a large specimen, I took the opposite approach and got up close to one.

Here I was able to highlight the detail in the bark, present the immense girth of the tree and use common New Zealand tree ferns alongside to create an idea of scale of the tree. While the light was not as good as I would have liked by this time – it was soft and there was still just enough hint of colour from the sun in the background also creating a richness and depth to the greens. By getting in close like this I was also able to avoid any annoying highlights from the sky.

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