In 2012 I visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees while on a trip to Yosemite National Park. Like most of us I grew up seeing pictures and marveling at the size of these trees , but not quite comprehending it. It takes walking up to a living tree that large before you start to grasp the magnitude. As a photographer, the challenge is how to capture and convey the size. The image here was the one I liked best, but it still doesn’t convey the size of these amazing, living creations.
National Geographic set out to try to capture the enormity of “The President,” a 247 foot tall Giant Sequoia in Sequoia National Park. These trees grow between 5,000 and 8,000 foot elevations, scattered in groves along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The Mariposa Grove is in Yosemite, while The President is in Sequoia National Park, part of the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. The Giant Sequoia is a redwood species and is naturally resistant to most pests and even fast-moving forest fires. These characteristics allow the tree to fend off attacks and survive for thousands of years. The Presidents over 3,200 years old, making it one of the oldest trees on the planet.
National Geographic is known for amazing photography and the plan for The President was nothing short of ambitious. What is interesting about the National Geographic plan, was the desire to capture The President in a single final image by stitching together numerous photographs. By using this method, it would be possible to have a single final image of the tree without the distortion that come from photos like the one at the top of this post. They used a pulley system to take a camera up along side the tree and the result is magic.