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Sequoia trees are special life forms. They live for millennia, can grow as wide as a small house and they’re majestically beautiful beyond words. For me, I have a deeply personal connection with these trees because I used to live in one of their cousins, the coastal Redwoods.
In my younger days, I was an environmental activist, and part of our protest was to keep the very last of the Redwoods from being logged out of existence. Part of that protest required us to live hundreds of feet up in the trees at all times. The logic was that a logger could not cut these extremely precious trees down without cutting us down with them. The tactic was highly effective.
So, you can understand why I would have a deeply spiritual and personal connection with Redwoods and Sequoias. I can tell you what it is like to sit in the canopy of a tree like this, and I can tell you what it is like to actually call a tree "friend".
Because of this, I am still working to capture the perfect photo of these beautiful giants. This photo represents being one step closer in that journey. I got up before dawn and entered into the Mariposa Grove in Southern Yosemite National park well before dawn. I was searching for the perfect composition, but wasn't having much luck.
Suddenly, I walked past a sunbeam that shot into my eyes and realized I’d stumbled upon the perfect first light location! I set up my tripod as fast as I could, positioned my camera, set my ISO as low as it could go, stopped down my lens f22 and snapped a single shot.
When I saw the resulting photo I literally shouted out in joy! (This got me a couple of funny looks from people around me). I had captured the scene perfectly exposed in one shot; it was a good feeling!
(Note: To capture the sunburst, there are two things you have to keep in mind. First, the sunburst will be the most pronounced when the sun is is either peaking past something. It could be a thick cloud, the horizon or as in this case, a tree. This helps to project the light and accentuate the sunburst effect. Secondly, stop down your lens to f16, f18 or f22. Imagine squinting your eyes towards a street lamp and seeing a burst pattern in the light, this essentially works the same way when a camera lens is set to a low aperture. It creates a smaller hole for the camera to see through, similar to squinting)
Image Code: A028