Pepperwood 1 - Clyde Butcher

Pepperwood 1 by Clyde Butcher shot on ILFPRD FP4+ black and white film

Technical info

Pepperwood Redwood Forest #1

Avenue of the Giants State Park, California

8x10 inch Deardorf view camera 90 Snyder Super Angulon XL lens

no filter Delta 400 film f/45 exposure: 10 minute 

Printed on: ILFORD Multigrade fiber base

Tell us the story behind this beautiful image

Long before I became a photographer, the redwood forests of California left me in awe. The enormous size of the trees - and their feeling of eternity - captured my soul.

In 1964, when photography became a part of my lifestyle, I went north every summer to photograph the redwood forests. During that period of my life, I used color film. When my family moved to Florida, I changed my approach from color to black and white film. As I reveled in the textures and value scale possible in black and white, I developed an intense desire to return to the redwoods. I wanted to photograph them again, but this time in black and white. My return to the redwoods enhanced the connection  I have always felt with these magnificent giants.

Photographing deep in the forest requires even light. If the sun is shining, shadows and highlights create too much contrast. In order to have even lighting in the redwoods, we woke before dawn and drove to the forest. I set up my camera before the sun came up  over the horizon. There wasn’t much light, so a long exposure was necessary. Any breeze could cause movement and spoil the exposure.

As I adjusted my camera toward the scene, I noticed a branch hanging into the frame of the photograph. It didn’t fit the composition. To keep the branch out of the photograph, I asked Niki who was standing next to a redwood, to grab the branch and hold the branch against the tree. It took me an hour and several 10 minute exposures before I captured an image with no movement.

The whole time, Niki kept holding the branch against the redwood tree - hugging the tree. When my photography was done she said that hugging a tree for that long connected her with a living being. It was one of the most spiritual experiences she has had in the forest. Everyone should try it!

Wet Darkroom Technique -Creating the Photograph

8x10 inch Negative on Delta 400 film by Clyde Butcher

8x10 inch Negative


Step 1 - Determine base exposure time

Your can see more of Clyde's beautiful image on his website

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