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Photo Notes

Gunung Mulu National Park

Paul visited Gunung Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo, to document the site for OUR PLACE. The park is notable for its range of biodiversity and also its karst rock formations. Its large karst caves are inhabited by spectacular quantities of bats and swiftlets.

Borneo’s longest canopy walkway weaves its way from tree to tree through Mulu National Park. It might look substantial, but as soon as you get people on board it wobbles like crazy. I was there in the morning to catch the birdlife – so it was quite dark and, of course, there was no point setting up a tripod. The MEGA O.I.S. optical stabilization got a full workout. Shutter: 1/40 sec. Aperture: f/5.7, ISO: 100.

Langs Cave may be one of the smaller and less celebrated of Mulu’s astonishing caves but the entrance is one of the prettiest, backed by thick rainforest with ferns creeping in through the entrance. I waited a while for people to arrive to give the shot some scale, then held the camera very steady as tripods are banned in the caves. Shutter: 1/30 sec. Aperture: f/4, ISO: 125.

Cave bacon they call it, and the park authorities have obligingly backlit it. Thanks. Handheld at 0.8sec and surprisingly sharp with the LUMIX MEGA O.I.S. optical stabilisation. Shutter: 1/8 sec. Aperture: f/5.6, ISO: 400.

It is great to get photographs of people interacting with the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and here the figure in the foreground really shows up the scale of the flowstone. Shutter: 1/4 sec. Aperture: f/5.6, ISO: 400.

How do you count 5 million bats? Someone has calculated the number of bats that swarm out of Deer Cave each evening (unless it is raining, when they stay home – very sensible). They come out in pulses, such as this one, of a few hundred thousand at a time. But the cave mouth is so enormous that getting close to the bats is near impossible. Shutter: 1/100 sec. Aperture: f/5.8, ISO: 320.

In the lowlands of Borneo it rains every day, and when it is not raining it is so clammy that you pray for rain. I guess that’s why they call it a tropical rainforest – the sort of place where seeds lodged in a thick rope handrail quickly turn it into a lush garden. In such conditions, keeping cameras and lenses dry is a constant struggle. In between the rain showers, when the sun was shining at I’d have to leave the kit in the hottest place to drive out any moisture that had crept in. Shutter: 10 sec. Aperture: f/20, ISO: 100.

I took half a dozen shots of this chameleon, using the viewfinder enlargement on manual focus to get the its eye optimally sharp. I was so intent on the task that it wasn’t until I reviewed the photos a few minutes later and examined the metadata that I realised the chameleon had changed colour from a browny-red to a deep green in less than two minutes. Shutter: 1/100 sec. Aperture: f/5.3, ISO: 400.

A trip to see Mulu’s remarkable Pinnacles involves riding a couple of hours upriver on a dugout equipped with a small outboard motor. That’s fine in deep water but when you hit small rapids the prop has little to bite and the bowman has to stand up and punt through the shallows. On this occasion, he had to jump in the river only once. Shutter: 1/30 sec. Aperture: f/22, ISO: 100.

Absolutely drenched in sweat we finally made it up to The Pinnacles, smooth spires of limestone rising out of the forest. It is virtually impossible to penetrate the vegetation and get down among them, so I had to be content with this viewpoint. Pretty spectacular though. Shutter: 1/160 sec. Aperture: f/5.6, ISO: 100.

Deer Cave is open at both ends making the largest cave passage in the world. A handful of gothic cathedrals would fit inside. Cracks in the limestone roof channel water into a wonderful series of waterfalls that plummet at least 60metres to the cave floor. They’re only gossamer threads but the light from the cave entrance backlights them beautifully. Again, optical image stabilisation was essential here. Shutter: 1/10 sec. Aperture: f/5.6, ISO: 800.

Photo Notes:
Kinabalu Park
Gunung Mulu National Park
Yosemite National Park
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