Sunday, March 23, 2014

When the fagus changes

For a dry, sparse continent Australia has a plenty of interesting trees. We have our own bottle tree (Adasonia gregorii) from the genus of baobabs made famous by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s delightful “Le Petit Prince”;  the ancient, critically endangered and genetically homogenous Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) discovered twenty years ago in a gorge less than 200km from Sydney’s CBD; a remote but hardly redoubtable beech commonly called “fagus” (Nothofagus gunnii) one of Australia’s few indigenous deciduous trees; and to the southwest of the country lie a cluster of Christmas trees (Nuytsia floribunda) known for their striking floral displays and secret parasitic roots.

The “turning of the fagus” is an annual event for bushwalkers, sightseers, nature lovers and fellow travelling tree-huggers. A winter deciduous tree means the leaves of the fagus change colour in April-May just as the days get shorter and the weather less inviting. Particularly relevant in the remote, wet highlands of Tasmania where this small, Australian native happens to be found.

The Autumn landscape in the Tasmanian highlands can be truly spectacular for those that go out of their way to see it. Weather permitting. 

Every year, as I tick off the seasons, I like to think about that.

Gillespie Pass circuit

Holidays are great fun. Especially when you have a new camera. I am no photographer but Mr Olympus has made something that does flatter my ability.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 with M.Zuiko Digital ED f/2.8 12-40mm (24-80mm equivalent) lens.
Something suitable for tramping/ holidays (weatherproof, easily accessible, compact yet versatile, fully automatic) and with the capacity to take me further should I accidentally head in that direction. Something to replace my 10 year old compact that had decided (intermittently and frustratingly) not to turn on. 
I know nothing about cameras but, luckily, I do know someone who does.

The Gillespie Pass is a popular, accessible, 3-4 day alpine walk in the South Island of New Zealand. It is usually walked without a guide but I chose to do it with Aspiring Guides an outfit that caters to mountaineers, trampers and skiers around Mount Aspiring National Park. In addition to a guide equipped with a satellite phone (excellent for weather reports) they also arrange the transfers, the DOC (New Zealand’s Department of Conservation) paperwork, and food. You can carry your own food if you choose. 

This circuit trip was done anti-clockwise.

Walk with me.

Day 1: Walk to Young Hut

Weather update with DOC workers out setting stoat traps.

At Young Hut I discover that there’s an art mode in the camera. 

This is the boomified image using the “pop art” setting.

This is “grainy film”.

This is “dramatic tone”.

Day 2: Young Hut to Siberia Hut

Early start with heavy rain predicted for the evening. Image stabiliser maxed out.


Ka-Boom! A land of pixies, fairies, elves and trolls. Cameras have come a long way over the past ten years. 
(all images are hand-held using full-automatic settings and uploaded in jpeg format with no post-processing)

Ham-fisted approach to image manipulation but it’s good fun.

The storm closes in behind us.

Day 3: Day trip to Crucible Lake

All the gear and no idea.

City boy does not enjoy getting feet wet.

Meet Phil. 

Phil is a 65 year old hut warden that works on the Routeburn. Tomorrow he is walking the Gillespie Pass. 
He has had both knees replaced. 

In his younger days Phil was faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. 
Today he is out there still saving damsels in distress.

Day 4: Walk out 

Brenda, my most excellent guide, has to walk out with extra gear (stashed in secret locations along the way) as the tramping season for this area closes soon. 
Her pack must weigh over 20kg on the last day.