Torrey Pines in Fog, San Diego, California, USA by Stu Alderdyce

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Picture Story

The Torrey pine grows naturally only along a few miles of the San Diego, California coast and 175 miles north on tiny Santa Rosa Island. This tree doesn’t grow to a great size like a redwood. It doesn’t grow to a great age like a bristlecone pine. The Torrey pine doesn’t even have the distinction of being endangered although it is the rarest pine in North America. So, what’s special about a Torrey pine? The Torrey pines along the sea cliffs suffer from persistent drought. Their roots are growing in poor sand which can hardly be called “soil.” The trees are blasted by storms and baked in the sun. Some trees die, but the species lives stubbornly on. Some trees, like some people, develop character during hard times. That is what is special about the Torrey pine…, it’s tenacious character!

If you can visit a Torrey pine grove early on a foggy day you will see that each tree becomes a little rain cloud, sending water dripping to the ground (and the person) below. Because fog here occurs primarily in the summer when rainfall is often absent, the effect of even a little fog drip appears to be very important – possibly making the difference between survival and death in a difficult habitat. Grooves on the pine needles channel dew and fog droplets to the ground and the waiting roots. Torrey pine needles are among some of the world's longest. They may be up to 13 inches long, but average around 9 inches. The roots of the tree can extend for 200 feet.

Photographing the Torrey pine in the summertime coastal fog is a real joy because of the silent simplicity of the occasion. The breeze and fog are constantly changing the scenes luminosity so monitoring exposure is essential. It is quite easy to get lost in the beauty of the pine forest in the fog and lose the photographic moment.


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