Night Light of the North Coast: The California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove
Post by David Wilson
It is quiet among the giant redwoods late at night, and oh, so dark. The redwood forest has always fed my soul, and my photographic imagination sparks in the dark. Night provides a canvas of black, within which lies a latent image for me to reveal with strokes of painted light.
So it was as I stood before the Hearthstone at Women’s Federation Grove (California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove) in Humboldt Redwoods State Park late one summer night. So still, so black. Without my light I could see nothing, but I felt the great forms of the towering trees around me. Through an opening between their crowns some stars peered down into the scene.
I wanted to photograph the Hearthstone, and use my lighting to make it stand out against its surroundings. In the complete blackness I could selectively illuminate the areas I chose, leaving the surroundings in darkness. I used my flashlight to light the scene, bouncing it off of a warm-toned scarf to soften and warm up the light. Before opening the shutter I had draped the scarf over one arm, then during the exposure I bounced my flashlight off of it while slowly walking from one side of the the structure to the other behind my camera, bathing it in an even light. The 30-second exposure was barely enough time for me to light the structure evenly.
The light in the trees behind the Four Fireplaces wasn’t planned. My friend arrived during the exposure, the headlights of his car shining through the trees from behind the building as he approached along the winding little drive into Women’s Federation Grove. I saw him coming as I made the exposure, and I feared his headlights would ruin the image, but I also hoped that their back-lighting would be exactly what the photograph needed. It turned out to be the latter, another of the serendipitous accidents that so often grace my outings and add magic to the images I bring home.
The California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove is a day use area situated amongst magnificent redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants. With access to the South Fork Eel River, picnic tables and restrooms, it’s an ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon. In the summer a footbridge crosses the river, making both banks accessible.
The Grove entrance is a few miles north of Weott on the Avenue of the Giants. From Highway 101, either from the north or south, take the South Fork/Honeydew exit, and travel a short distance south on the Avenue. The entrance will be on the right immediately after you cross over Highway 101. For more information on the site, and on Humboldt Redwoods State Park in general, the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association Visitor Center is located south of Weott on the Avenue of the Giants, and on the web at http://humboldtredwoods.org .
To see previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. If you’d like to keep abreast of my most current photography or peer into its past, you can follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx . I update my website mindscapefx.com less frequently.