We Spent 67 Days Photographing One of the World’s Tallest Trees

The Australian island state of Tasmania has 4 of the top 10 tallest tree species in the world and is home to the tallest flowering plant in the world, the Eucalyptus regnans, which can measure 99.8 meters (327 feet) tall.

Just for comparison, the tallest building in Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, is only 73 meters high — this should give you an idea of the tree’s scale.

We spent 67 days documenting one of these trees in the Styx Valley for The Tree Projects.

Our home for 8 weeks.

The time was spent finding the tree (an 84-meter-one called “Gandalf’s Staff”), setting the lines, setting up the cameras, shooting the photos, and stitching together images. 1,500 meters of line were used.

We used advanced tree climbing and a specialized camera rig that traveled the height of the tree in the free space between them to create an 87 image composite — due to how dense the forest canopy is, you can’t get a direct line of sight of the entire tree from the ground.

Here are some views of the camera rig we used:

This is all I could see from the ground while triggering the camera rig hanging 80 meters above ground:

A photo of me handling the camera rig.

We broke the vertical height of the tree into 1.2 meter sections and shot a left and right photo pair of each section. We combined the pairs into rows and combined the rows into a photo of the tree.

You can view the full resolution, 1.89-gigapixel zoomable image here.

And yes, we pretty much copied similar prior projects such as National Geographic’s amazing redwood portraits — James Balog and Michael Nichols are both aware of our work — but instead of having a massive budget and a gyroscopic stabilized motorized camera rig, we had a do-it-yourself wood frame and heaps of 3mm string. We acknowledge we didn’t invent this process but rather adapted it to our purpose.

We want to let the world know that Australia’s trees are globally significant. Our dream is to have these trees recognized with the same national awareness and pride as the Americans recognize their Redwood and Sequoia trees. We’ve love to see Ultra Eucalypts in the same sentences as Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, and Fraser Island.

We have no political or commercial interest other than communicating the epic scale of these trees.

I’m also a firm believer in not paying an unhealthy amount of attention to other photographers or worrying about having amazing Photoshop skills. Photographers often forget that viewers want to see the subject, not the photo itself. If we let go of wanting to please other photographers and stop falling over ourselves to manipulate the gee-wiz out of our work, we can just get out and do something amazing just because its fun.

About the author: Steve Pearce is a canopy photographer who shoots in trees all over the world. He’s the creative director at The Tree Projects. You can connect with Pearce on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.