After an action-packed day, we gathered for the gala dinner where we could finally wear something without worrying about the heat and red dust, and got a chance to see the images captured over the weekend. Everyone was able to submit their favourite captures for three themes: Spirit, Taste and Landscape. The photos were projected onto the screen while we enjoyed another delicious meal of Mark Olive’s native-food-inspired dishes along with music performed live by Marcus Corowa, who will go a long way with his silky voice.
Finally, it was time for Michael McHugh to reveal the winners in each category: Peter Pengilly’s portrait taken during the Inma on day one was a stand-out for Spirit; Nancy Tear won the Taste category with a shot of a Rosella flower that could have come straight from a food magazine; and Jenny Binfield took out the Landscape with a stunning and unique composition. Michael also announced that he had given an Editor’s Choice award to Philomena Pingiero, whose shot of everyone else taking shots, silhouetted against the sunset, perfectly captured the weekend. The dinner also gave us a chance to thank our four experts for all their help over the weekend, and also to Michael Neaylon and all the staff at Sails for making the event run so smoothly.
The final morning gave us one last chance to meet together and pick the brains of the experts. When the two Waynes returned from a morning helicopter flight over Lake Amadeus, they were full of yet more inspiration and tips for aerial photography, happy to share right up to the last minute. People also presented their dot paintings, bringing the event full circle by describing the stories we had recorded back when we first met at the Inma. Everyone in the group, although from diverse backgrounds, had really come together over a shared passion for photography, and having shared such an incredible experience was keen to keep in touch and keep the conversation going.
Being the first time MiNDFOOD and Voyages had collaborated on this event, it was also our chance to provide feedback on the experience. The common response was “more time!” More time to digest and practice what we’d learnt, and more time to connect with the country. It sounds like Uluru In View is set to become an annual event with an extra day, time which the location well deserves. Almost everyone at some point found themselves forgetting the camera and simply soaking in the landscape. A lot of guests stayed on after the weekend, and even though we had already done so much, there are still so many ways to experience the land here whether it be on foot, by bike, camel or helicopter.
At the close of such a full weekend, it felt like I had been away for weeks. I have discovered so much over the past three days, not just about photography, but also about this land and its food, and discovered new connections with like-minded people. The generosity and patience of the experts and Mark Olive was touching, and the efforts of Michael Neaylon and all the team at Sails in the Desert were incredible. As well as looking after our group, they hosted a conference and Bangarra Dance Theatre over the same weekend. Some of the resort staff even volunteered to act as models for us during the portraiture workshop.
Many thanks to the two Michaels, the two Waynes, Sally, Grenville and Mark, and all the staff at Voyages and Sails in the Desert who gave so much of their time to create such a fantastic experience, it’s one I will never forget. If you’re passionate about photography and interested in experiencing this special place in a unique way, then I can’t recommend it enough. 2015 will be the 30th anniversary of the hand-back of the land to the Anangu, and it will no doubt be a very special time to be in a very special place.