Frank taking in the view at Rainbow Valley
The sky was cloudless blue, not ideal for landscape photography, but heartening for us as we would be camping in swags that night.
South of Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley is a medium sized salt pan backed by an interesting mountain top with a very photogenic curve. The light was a little strong when we arrived, so we spent a few minutes introducing ourselves before pulling out our cameras and readying ourselves for the sunset shoot.
Rainbow Valley overview
Small tumbleweed in Rainbow Valley
The classic Rainbow Valley photograph is taken at sunset with the red cliffs being lit up by the late afternoon light. Even better, when the salt pan is full of water, it can create mirror-like reflection, but there hadn’t been sufficient rain in recent months for this to be a possibility. However, the lack of clouds ensured the late light would be clear and strong.
Tony setting up a shot as light fades in Rainbow Valley
Lorri concentrating on the view
We worked until around a half hour after sunset. Walking onto the salt pan itself is discouraged, so we remained at the edges, using some desiccated grasses and low shrubs as our foreground.
The stars at night are amazing - Redbank Waterhole
It was almost completely dark by the time we reboarded the bus. Above was a dazzling display of stars, something only seen miles from civilisation and where there’s crystal clear air.
Our campsite for the evening was by a billabong called Redbank Waterhole. We couldn’t see much as it was pitch black when we arrived, but Dave soon had a roaring fire and we sat around on our swags and enjoyed a hot meal.
What’s a swag? Swags are essentially heavy duty sleeping bags. The outside is made of tough, waterproof material and inside is a mattress, sheets and blankets. A flap at the end can be folded over your head once you’re inside. Being self-contained, there’s no need for a tent and so you are literally sleeping out, underneath the stars.
Setting up our first camp - the swags rolled up and circling the camp fire
We circled our swags around the fire and, after photographing a few star trails, settled in for the night.
Of course, one of the things most people wonder about when sleeping in a swag is what happens if something else comes wandering by? Snakes, spiders and lizards are plentiful in the Australian outback, but in the winter months not so active. Kangaroos and other marsupials are not dangerous, but when we heard a pack of dingoes howling in the distance, some anxious thoughts crossed our minds!
One of our group looking out from his swag later in the night saw three dingoes fossicking around the campfire, but there were no reports of any of our group being removed from their swag and being devoured!
Next: Glen Helen Gorge