Tree Photography in the Blue Mountains

September 03, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

This is the final post in my 4-part series sharing the photos from my trip to Australia, in October 2017. I split the wildlife posts between Kangaroos and Wombats, and I've split the landscape photography between classic landscapes, and trees. I think most people who follow this blog would know that I love trees, so I was always going to be giving some attention to the trees in Australia. They're iconic in their forms, and very characteristic of the environments in which they're found.

Glenbrook GumGlenbrook GumOne gum tree gets the light, down on the floor of Glenbrook Gorge.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I'm not going to quote statistics, as I'm encountering all kinds of contradictory numbers online, but it's safe to say that the vast majority of Australia's native trees are eucalyptus trees, also known colloquially as 'gum trees'. And such is the nature of evolution, they span several hundred distinct species of eucalyptus tree within that umbrella term. Some are obviously different from their neighbours, but many are so subtly different you'd need some expertise to distinguish them.

The most immediately noticeable thing about the trees, compared to Europe, is their colour. They're not the same green as we have here. The leaves are much more of a grey-green. At first I found that quite strange, but in fact that more subtle colour palette lends itself quite well to photography.

My favourite varieties were those with bare white bark, which made them stand out beautifully. This enormous tree must be very old indeed, and posed very nicely for his portrait. I even managed to catch a sulphur-crested cockatoo perched in the branches of this old timer.

Gum Tree PortraitGum Tree PortraitClose-up of a very large gum tree, which has lived for many many years, and still stands strong today. I love the endurance of mighty trees, and the idea that they'd seen many things come and go in their time, outlasting them with quiet serenity.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The scale of the subtropical rain forests in The Blue Mountains is breathtaking, and the sight of so many trees carpeting the canyon floor is what draws people to the area. The Blue Mountains themselves take their name from the cumulative effect of the oil in the eucalyptus, which rises on humid mornings, blending with dust and water droplets in the air, to give the mountains their blue glow.

I have an ongoing project called Only Trees, which is a collection of frame-filling treescapes, so I took the opportunity to add to that in The Blue Mountains.

Eucalyptus TreesEucalyptus TreesThe texture and colour of a eucalyptus forest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The greyer shade of green is evident in these wider shots. But it's the white tree trunks which really make them distinct from forests I've seen elsewhere.

Eucalyptus TreescapeEucalyptus TreescapeOne tile in a jigsaw puzzle of gum trees that make up the subtropical rainforest.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I took this one from Olympian Rock lookout, in Leura, during a cloud inversion, just as the cloud was lifting.

Misty Blue Mountains TreesMisty Blue Mountains TreesEarly morning mist hangs over the subtropical rainforest near Leura, in the Blue Mountains.
Nature Photography, New South Wales, Australia.

Down in the valleys, the trees are so dense it can be difficult to pick out much of a view. But this photo gives some sense of the rainforest environment. I took this along the way around the Grand Canyon Circular Walk, near Blackheath.

Canyon Forest TreesCanyon Forest TreesThese trees inhabit the forest floor of the so-called 'Grand Canyon'.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

The next photo was taken in an ornamental park in Katoomba, featuring non-native maple trees, which here surround the large native gum, and the forest behind. It also highlights the differing shades of green between the eucalyptus trees and those from the Northern hemisphere.

Gum Tree + MaplesGum Tree + MaplesAn old native gum tree sits between two introduced maple trees, in this ornamental garden in Katoomba.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

Lastly, I have a set of photos taken on a misty morning in the Blackheath / Govett's Leap area. There are some nice hiking trails around GL which vary in difficulty and terrain, and they're well worth exploring.

Twisted GumsTwisted GumsGum trees in the mist. Govett's Leap.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I love the combination of twisted tree trunks, branches, and thin grey-green leaves in these forests.

Eucalyptus RainforestEucalyptus RainforestA misty morning in the subtropical rainforest, at Govett's Leap.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

This photos features a red waratah; the state flower of New South Wales.

Waratah BloomWaratah BloomA red waratah flower, the state flower of New South Wales, blooming in the October spring.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, Australia.

The last two are really just straight-up portraits, which is a style I like; giving a tree the same space and photographic respect as a person or an animal.

Green and GreyGreen and GreyThe green leaves of this tree have recently sprouted, in the New South Wales springtime.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.

I feel like I've missed a trick with the processing of this final image, but I can't quite put my finger on how. Maybe it could be a little darker. I love the composition, and the diagonal lines, and the low contrast from the mist. It has the potential to be my favourite of the lot, but maybe it's missing that something special.

Eucalyptus ForestEucalyptus ForestClassic gum tree rainforest, forming the Australian bush, in New South Wales.
Nature Photography, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales.


The great thing about focusing on trees, whether that's portraits or forest scenes, is that the compositions feel much more your own - compared to wider views from the more popular lookout points. You can't go in with compositions in mind, and you know that each shot was made yourself. That's another reason why I like to wander the trails in these areas, and why I enjoy combining photography with hiking. The photos I've shared here may lack the colour and impact of the grand vistas I took elsewhere in the Blue Mountains, but they've never been shot before, and will never be reproduced in the future. So I feel a much greater sense of pride in them. They're also closer to the kind of picture I'd want on my wall, which is always the aim of my nature photography.

This was my last post featuring photos from Australia. If you liked these, check out the classic landscapesKangaroos, and Wombats, all taken in New South Wales, in October 2017. And I have even more photos up on Flickr, which I didn't have room for on the blog. I'd like to think I'll manage to get back to Australia at some point. I loved the combination of familiarity and other-worldliness, as well as the abundance of wildlife and the fantastic trees.


Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.




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