October 10 – 12, MiNDFOOD co-hosted a fabulous photography weekend at Uluru with Voyages Ayers Rock Resort. Four of the country’s top photographers were on hand, hosting workshops and sunrise/sunset sessions, and chef Mark Olive prepared meals using native ingredients. More than 20 people signed up for the fabulous event, including Claire Choquet, our official blogger for the three days. Here, her report on Day 1.
“This weekend is all about creativity, getting to know each other and asking questions.” With these words, Michael McHugh, Mindfood editor-in-chief, set the tone for the Uluru in View Photography weekend, a project that has been 12 months in the making between Mindfood and Voyages. We were introduced to the four photography experts: Sally Brownbill, Grenville Turner, Wayne Sorensen and Wayne Quilliam. Each has a different area of expertise, but they all mentioned one common theme: sharing their passion for and knowledge of photography. We are also introduced to the weekend’s competition, with prizes provided by Canon for the best photos in three categories: Landscape, Spirit and Taste…Lens on, everyone!
Introductions out of the way, the Anangu welcomed us with an Inma, a traditional welcome-to-country ceremony. After the women performed Wiru and Kuniya dances, we jumped straight in to our first photography lesson: everyone immediately started photographing thanks to Wayne Quilliam breaking the ice between photographers and dancers, sharing his tips on portrait photography and how to make it a little less invasive than simply shoving a camera in your subject’s face. Afterwards, we witnessed a dot painting come to life thanks to artist Rosemary Armstrong and Maruku Arts who gave us an introduction to the symbols and Tjukurpa (stories, laws) of the local people. Some hidden talents were discovered as we all turned our hands to creating our own dot paintings, while Rosemary’s serene, steady hand filled her canvas with patterns and symbols telling a story that put our efforts to shame.
With the sun setting, we were whisked away to a remote dune overlooking Uluru and Kata Tjuta and greeted with sparkling wine, canapes and traditional dancers. Between mouthfuls, we had plenty of opportunities to capture the colourful landscape or take portraits of the infinitely patient dancers, and the four photographers were always on hand to provide advice or tips. Over drinks, the guests also got another chance to mingle and get to know one another, everyone getting along famously thanks to our shared interest in photography, the wonderful welcome we had received and beautiful setting. As the sun sank behind the domes of Kata Tjuta we strolled down the dune to the Sounds of Silence dinner set under the stars, a three course feast featuring native produce, even crocodile! The menu was designed by “The Black Olive” Mark Olive, who was on hand to talk us through the dishes and introduce us to some new ingredients and flavours… although he wouldn’t quite answer all our questions, keeping a few things up his sleeve for his masterclass the following day.
As the last plates were being cleared, we were suddenly plunged into darkness as all the lights went out. It wasn’t a problem with the generator, it was so that we could fully appreciate the night sky. Our star “guide” Emma, with an immensely powerful torch pointed out some of the planets and key constellations, shared with us the indigenous creation story of the Milky Way. By now a bright full-moon had risen and drowned out much of the night sky, but that just gave us an opportunity to view the craters on the surface through the telescope on hand. At this point the two Waynes started joking and teasing each other, and one of them (we won’t embarrass him by specifying which) cracked the Uranus gag – clearly they were having as good a time as the guests!
At the end of Day 1, the overwhelming impression is the generosity we experienced today. Generosity from the Anangu people in welcoming us in their land and in sharing their stories and traditions; and from the photographic experts who are genuinely keen to help, and share their knowledge with us, whatever our level of expertise. Day 2 starts before 5am, and combines a sunrise and sunset photography tours in the National Park bookending editing workshops and a masterclass with Mark Olive at Sails, all capped off with a gala dinner to review our shots… so we’d better get some rest!
With thanks to Maruku Arts for hosting the dot-painting workshop.