Well in my last entry I said that it was raining and a week or so later it still is. The talk in the vast wheat belt metropolis that is York is all about rain gauges and how much has fallen in the last 24 hours. Serious stuff round these parts are rain gauges. We at Paul Amyes Photography (PAP) Towers don’t have a rain gauge as Frida, my bull terrier, ate it and so we’re now no longer able to participate in conversations about precipitation but just have to listen and nod sagely.
Speaking of things rain, this neatly segues into rain forests – notably the temperate rain forests of Tasmania. Before I went to Tasmania the only experience I’d had of rain forest was of the tropical variety which have voracious thirsty insects the size of small helicopters making you anaemic and the heat and humidity has you drowning in your own sweat. So the temperate rainforest came as quite a nice surprise. Cool temperate rainforest is characterised by an open and verdant, cathedral-like quality; a silent, cool, dark and damp place where both the trunks of trees and the forest floor are festooned with a luxuriant carpet of mosses and lichens. The first of these forests we encountered was at St Columba Falls, which is really just a short walk to the base of the waterfall which is quite impressive. But the best bit for me was walking along the creek amongst the myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) and tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) and rock hoping on the boulders in the stream. The creek is home to duck-billed platypuses (platypi?) and they make their burrows in the banks but we didn’t see any. This heavily forested area was once home to the thylacines, commonly called the Tasmanian Tigers, which was once Australia’s largest carnivorous marsupial and has been listed as “presumed extinct” since 1986, fifty years after the last documented thylacine died at Hobart Zoo in 1936. There have been some 4,000 reported sightings of thylacines over the past 50 years, many in the north-east region and St Columba Falls was the scene of one famous 1995 sighting, when a local ranger reported spotting a tiger sitting on a rock ledge near the falls. It is very easy to imagine that this incredibly primeval environment could be home to the last of almost mythological creatures.
The next place we experienced the rain forest was in Mount Field National Park. The park is one of Tasmania’s oldest national parks and within its boundaries has a number of different ecosystems ranging from temperate rain forest, eucalyptus forest and alpine heath. The rain forest is located in the lower reaches of the park and probably the most visited area as there are a series of short easy walks that take you to such features as Russell falls, Horseshoe Falls, Lady Baron Falls and Pandani Grove. There is an excellent campsite within the park which allows visitors the opportunity to stay for a few days to really explore. True to its name – rainforest it was raining and my gore-tex was completely overwhelmed by the rain and I was soaked through to the skin. The sights and sounds were overwhelming. The sound of flowing water was never far away and this quickly turned into a roar as we approached the water falls. The tree ferns towered above us, I had always associated ferns with being pot plants and seeing these altered my perception. The tree trunks are so covered in lichens and mosses it is like they have a green fur coat on. These forests are the last remnants of those found the supercontinent of Gondwana and date back an incredible 110 million years. Again like Columba Falls this area was home to the thylacine and the last known wild one was captured in the park in 1933.
Photographically speaking these were quite challenging conditions. Firstly under the tree canopy not a lot of light reaches the forest floor so high ISO and or tripods are the order of the day. Occasionally you’ll frame up a scene that has a small clearing which allows sunlight to shine through and this plays havoc with your metering as the highlights in the clearing to shadow can exceed 13 or 14 stops far beyond what any camera sensor or film (if you’re old school) can record. If you meter for the shadow the highlights are lost forever, and if you meter for the highlights the shadows block up. I’m quite addicted to HDR photography at the moment (as if you hadn’t noticed!) so I was easily able to overcome those problems. The other problem is that there is a fair amount of moisture in the air especially near the waterfalls. I don’t baby my equipment at all, and have never cocooned my equipment in plastic and have never had a problem. The was beads of water forming or condensation on the front element of the lens. The only solution is to keep wiping this off with a lens cloth. I was wearing shirts by Rohan and one of the ingenious features of these shirts is that on the shirt tail on the button edge they have sewn in a lens cloth. They market the feature for glasses wearers but I reckon it is great for photographers. It means I can never lose my lens cloth as nearly every shirt I have has one built in. Brilliant!