Hobart, Strahan, Corinna, Cradle Mountain, Bay of Fires, Freycinet etc.
24th February - 10th March
I can vividly recall Joe Cornish showing me a book of images of Tasmania in the mid 1990’s. It was clear that Joe felt this photographer’s work was important. The images were quiet yet powerful; skies were often blank white, and images made in the golden hour were notable by their absence. The thing that most strongly struck me was that this photographer had truly connected with his subject. Refreshingly, the photographer seemed almost absent. Yet this absence marked him out, rather than forcing on us “images with impact” he was offering depth and a concise grace. He seemed simply to be saying, “I love this place.” His name was Peter Dombrovskis.
I was determined to visit Tasmania to see this extraordinary place for myself and meet the author of these lyrical images. Over ten years on, my first visit to Tasmania remains indelibly etched in my memory.
It is a truly extraordinary place with a wide variety of landscapes. There are snowy mountains, empty white-sand beaches, thousands of hectares of temperate rainforest filled with weird otherworldly plants and very odd animals (like the spiny echidna and the Tasmanian devil). I’m really excited about the prospect of helping other photographers explore these landscapes.
Mount Field National Park, just a few hours north of Hobart, is perhaps the best place to try and get to grips with the differences between Tasmania and the UK. It is the plant life that first strikes one as being profoundly different. A short walk from the visitor centre is a large stand of swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans), which can grow to an incredible 114m, making it among the tallest tree species on Earth. Working out how to portray the size of these trees is a challenge!
Nearby, one can walk through a densely packed forest of tree ferns (relics of the Carboniferous Era that can grow to 15m). One almost expects to see giant dragonflies flitting between the trunks. Tasmania’s geography, flora and fauna are all very ancient. Many of its plant and animal species are survivors of the epoch when most of the landmasses in the southern hemisphere were joined together in the lost super-continent of Gondwana.
Further north, the road through the Central Highlands and the Western Tiers hardly seems to stay straight for more than 100m at a time, ducking and diving through the forest, across open moorland of button grass before dropping down to Queenstown.
This small mining settlement comes as a shock after so much pristine wilderness.
The hills around the town have been deforested by toxic chemicals from a copper smelter, leaving behind starkly beautiful mineral stains and patterns. This might have been the fate of much of the mineral rich western half of Tasmania, if not for a series of ecological campaigns in the early 1980’s sparked by a proposal to dam the Franklin River. Dombrovskis’ image “Rock Island Bend, Franklin River” presented so powerful a vision that it became the rallying cry for the preservation of this huge tract of wilderness.
Strahan, on the west coast, faces Macquarie Harbour, the largest natural harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. Native bush fringes it on three sides but the open ocean lies to the west, where kilometres of empty white-sand beach are backed by high dunes. The sand is slowly marching inland, and at places such as Henty’s Dunes, smothers the forest creating hauntingly beautiful scenes.
The Tarkine, a vast area of temperate rainforest, begins just to the north. Trees crowd so closely together that one can imagine losing one’s bearing after only a few meters. It is home to many ancient tree species, from a time when most of the world’s land masses were joined together in Gondwanaland. The buttressed trunks of these ancient presences are covered in mosses and epiphytes. Days must be as seconds to these forest dwellers, a flittering of light and dark, and the years seem as days.
On the northern bank of the Pieman River stands the long-abandoned mining settlement of Corinna. Here, the MV Arcadia II carries passengers along the Pieman and through the heart of the forest to the Tasman Sea. Disembarking at Pieman Heads you can witness the enormous surf at the river’s outfall. Any boats seeking to enter or leave the river have to battle with waves which average over 2m in height!
As the Buchaillie Etive Mor is to Scotland, so Cradle Mountain is to Tasmania. The summit of this icon is just shy of 2,000m, high enough for snow even at these latitudes. The mountain’s wonderfully craggy silhouette stands in the centre of a national park with a fascinating variety of landscapes, from moss-covered ancient rainforests and deep river gorges to wild alpine moorlands and glacial lakes.
Tasmania is famously an island but we haven’t seen much of the ocean yet…Travelling east we reach the Bay of Fires, a huge sweep of white sand with orange lichen encrusted granite outcrops. As well as being a great location for conventional vistas, the possibilities for abstract images are countless.
A couple of hours drive further south, the Freycinet peninsula is famous for the view of picture-perfect Wineglass Bay but there’s much more to explore in this extensive area of wilderness. There are no roads through most of the National Park so we will walk for the majority of our photography. The distances are not particularly long and the rewards easily outweigh the effort required to reach the locations.
Our final stop will be at historic Port Arthur. This World Heritage Site was once a model prison. The sandstone for the buildings was cut by the prisoners under hard labour conditions. Unlike its contemporary institutions, corporal punishment was not used. Instead there was a system of rewards for good behaviour, with inmates given extra food and luxuries (such as tobacco). This was seen as enlightened in its day. However, the treatment for bad behaviour was solitary confinement which led to numerous cases of mental illness. The remaining prison structures are fascinating, if somewhat melancholic given their history.
The peninsula on which Port Arthur sits joins the rest of Tasmania by a 30m wide isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck. On the eastern side of the isthmus lies a tessellated pavement, a rare geological feature, which is exposed at low tide. The weirdly geometric patterns look manmade but are entirely natural. If the tides are favourable, the pavement makes a great subject at either dawn or dusk.
Sadly, I never got to meet my hero, Peter.
He died of a heart attack in 1996, not long after Joe first showed me his images. I would have loved to talk to him about his abiding love for his adopted homeland and about the passion that drove him to make such inspiring photographs.
This is your chance to explore just a part of the landscape he loved.
Airport transfers to/from Hobart International Airport
All transport during tour
National Park fees
Bed & breakfast accommodation
Photo tuition from David Ward
Lunches and dinners
Laundry service and other personal expenses
Additional optional activities
£6,950 for single occupancy
Prices to be confirmed
£2,000 fee payable at time of booking
David Ward Photo Tours is a Safe Travels provider, certified by the
World Travel & Tourism Council.