Redwood Tree Panoramas

Humboldt Redwoods SP11 Panorama

Panoramas of redwoods can, of course, be primarily horizontal in nature, such as the above photo; but the most intriguing one’s are vertical and are focused on a single tree. Redwoods are tall and lean, and you need a tall and lean photo to accurately portray them. There are, however, several problems one runs across when trying to make a vertical panorama or a redwood. To begin with, the trees usually exist within forests of other trees, which make it difficult to get a clean look of a redwood from top to toe. Often, you have to get real close to a redwood to see the whole tree, and if you try to make a panorama of so tall a tree when you are only fifteen feet or so away from it you end up getting something like this:

In other words, you get a boatload of distortion and you don’t get the whole tree. Plus, you are liable to run into light problems. This panorama was stitched together from a series of HDR photos, and it shows in the washed out colors of the sky and the yellowish redwood foliage. To try to get around this, it is best to photograph a redwood on the edge of a forest, where one step back and get a good look at it, as below:

But even this doesn’t get it quite right. The image was made from a series of images taken with a zoom lens at 55mm. Because of the height of the tree, the photographer is much closer to the base of the tree than to the top. This creates perspective problems. The only way around that is to use a long lens. The following image was made from a series of photos taken with a 300mm lens:

Perspective issues are solved here. It might be better to find a tree that provides better balance; that is, a tree by itself, without any nearby redwoods to distract the eye. But that is difficult to find. The edge of most redwood forests often are choked with smaller trees, which cover the bottom portions of the larger ones. Finding a good tree that can be photographed from a distance from the roots to the top is difficult. Moreover, lighting issues present problems as well, as a sunny day will create contrast problems whereas a cloudy day will present an overly bright sky. What one really hopes for is veiled sunlight, and blue skies behind the redwood.