Muir Woods, California US

Muir Woods is a Redwood grove 30 minutes North of San Francisco, California.  You will have the thrill of driving on one of the windiest roads you have ever seen (that is, until you take the back state highways into the Sonoma wine valley).  However, the drive is fun and the trees will be a religious experience.

Although these coastal redwoods are not as large as the Sequoia's further North, they are taller, reaching 370 feet (30 stories) and are up to 20 feet in diameter. Interpretive trails near the park entrance are paved and accessible by all and you will get to see the largest trees.  The upper trails are dirt and are well maintained.  These are day-hike trails with easy-to-moderate climbs.  Expect rain. 

These photos were taken in the Spring, 2014, along the Ocean View Trail.  Leaving the Visitor's Center, the trail loops up into the forest for 5 miles and will take about 2 hours.  On this morning it was a thin overcast with a soft, warm light.   

Ocean View Trail, Redwood Grove.  Click for larger view.

This is a lightly-processed HDR (High Dynamic Range), taken with a grey-card, a tripod and no polarizing filter. Of the five exposures that make up the photo, the center frame was taken at f8, 1/8", 1600 ISO, with no exposure compensation; the outlying frames were +/- 1 stop.  Taken with a 38mm APC stock zoom lens, no polarizer.  Details on HDR photo techniques can be found in the links below.

In post-processing, I was surprised to see the camera's ISO setting at 1600.  At the time, I had manually set ISO 200 and did not notice the shift.  On the Nikon D5100, there turns out to be two controls:  The (manual) ISO and an "Auto ISO Sensitivity Control".  The Auto-control will override manual settings, within a specified range. 

My camera's auto-sensitivity range was set to a maximum ISO of 1600 and a minimum shutter of 1/30. But since a tripod must be used for HDR shots, I have now set slower speeds because I never want to see ISO 1600 in a landscape photo.  The new range is ISO 800 and 1/4".  There are benefits to allowing the Auto ISO, especially when not using a tripod because the camera can sneak up the ISO when the shutter falls too low and I guess this is useful when taking snapshots and can save mistakes when you are not paying attention to shutter speeds.

The photo below is a small pine stand a few hundred yards north of the grove shown above.  Apparently damaged by lightning, it is hard to believe anything could burn in this forest, given how damp it was.

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