Kings Canyon Photo Workshop: Towering Sequoia Trees and Starry Skies!

Day time photo walks, close encounters with bears, gourmet meals, and night time captures all took place under towering sequoia trees. I had a wonderful time in Kings Canyon National Park sharing photography skills with eager to learn photographers and adventurers alike!

A big thanks to Peak Design for supplying a bunch of camera gear for our us to try out this weekend!

We arrived at our camp site in the afternoon, and Canyon, our trusty trip leader, handed out rental gear. After camp was set up, we all gathered around the table and went over the weekend’s adventures. I gave a brief overview on the basics of photography and then we all set out for our first hike on the Big Stump Loop Trail.

We ended the hike by climbing up onto the stump of the Mark Twain Tree, a 1,350 year old sequoia that was cut down in 1891. It took a team of two men 13 days to saw all the way through it! Sections of the 16 foot diameter trunk were sent to museums in New York and London.

Working up a mighty appetite, we hurried back to camp to prepare our first night’s dinner, Soyrizo Tacos with fresh Pico de Gallo and Guacamole.

As the evening wound down, the stars began to appear above us. I demonstrated how to capture the night sky and what to look for in a good composition. The trees above us looked tiny compared to the expansive night sky.  Our campfire made a great source of organic light that flickered and painted the trees with a warm orange glow. The milky way was in full force this weekend!

We started Day 2 with a hearty power bowl of eggs, arugula, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, zucchini, and bacon!

We packed some sandwiches and caravanned over to the Roaring River Falls Trail. Throughout the hike, we took breaks to practice some photography skills. We practiced capturing the motion of waterfalls using shutter speed and taking portraits to explore the difference in depth of field using aperture.

We decided to skip Muir Rock for a quieter and less crowded spot back on the trail. It was here that we ate our sandwiches, did some cliff jumping, and saw a bear cub! The little guy safely crossed the bridge above us and we were able to continue our hike back to the car; however, we encountered a second bear, this time directly in our way and on the trail! We had to divert back to the road for the rest of the way.

Exhausted from the hike, we made our drive back to our campground. On the way, we stopped at an overlook to stretch our legs a bit and peer down into the ravine below.

Dinner on Day 2 consisted of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches with arugula salad and tomato soup. We then drove for what seemed like an eternity – up a dark and windy road – towards a supposed overlook. Second guessing every turn we wondered if the overlook even existed! We finally came across the parking lot and began walking up the trail. Everybody set up their tripods and began shooting long exposures. The sky was amazing that night! You could even see an orange glowing Mars rising above the distant tree tops. As camera batteries died, we joined Canyon on the ground and just watched the sky in wonder. We counted numerous shooting stars and satellites passing overhead. We packed up shop, took a few group photos by the car, and drove back to camp for warm chocolate-y fire roasted banana boats!

We saved the sweetest breakfast for our final morning together. Canyon whipped up egg-free french toast with fresh berries and whipped cream. After some more group shots in the wonderful morning light, we headed over to give the famed General Sherman Tree a proper salute goodbye.

We had a wonderful experience together underneath the great sequoias and I hope everyone will use the skills learned to further capture their own adventures! Looking forward towards the next one!

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