This 275-foot Tasmanian Eucalyptus regnans—named Gandalf’s Staff—was one of Pearce’s first tree shoots. The 500-year-old wonder is still at risk for logging: It falls just shy of the country’s legal protections for old growth, which kick in at 278.8 feet. It took Pearce two months of camping to get four days without heavy winds that would disrupt the camera’s sensitive pulley system. His lenses repeatedly fogged, as the cold metal and glass caused condensation as they rose through multiple climate zones. Steven Pearce
It takes centuries of slow growth for the world’s tallest trees to reach heights far beyond the tops of their surrounding forests. As they stretch for the sky, the giants nurture ever-changing ecosystems of plants and animals. Since 2015, Steven Pearce and Jennifer Sanger, a Tasmanian photographer-and-ecologist duo, have been documenting Earth’s unique and underappreciated behemoths. The pair use rock climbing gear to ascend hundreds of feet from the trees’ roots to their wind-punished crowns. With the help of a homemade dual-camera rig attached to a pulley system, Pearce shoots dozens of photos over several weeks at each site and combines them into massive gigapixel panoramas. The resulting images capture the long-standing beauties before human interference can diminish or destroy them.
This story appears in the Winter 2020, Transform issue of Popular Science.
Sara Kiley Watson is a News Editor at Popular Science, where she has led sustainability coverage since 2021. She started her tenure at PopSci as an intern in 2017 before joining the team full time as an Editorial Assistant in 2019. Contact the author here.