The plane touched down in Newman with a bump, the hot afternoon thermals providing light entertainment as we dropped altitude. The doors opened and we descended the stairs into a pleasant 33 degree evening, not a cloud in the sky.
Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Bruce Pottinger and I were driving up to Karijini in the heart of the Pilbara region for our fourth annual workshop in one of the world's undiscovered photography wonderlands. While many visitors walk the same paths, it's a matter of knowing when and where to go and Christian, having produced the Karijini coffee-table book that is sold in the Karijini Eco Retreat store, knows Karijini like no other photographer.
We picked up a hire car from the airport. Travelling to Karijini is not difficult, but it does require some planning. To drive up from Perth takes one or two days, or you can fly into Newman or Paraburdoo, hire a 4WD and drive two or three hours up to Karijini. A 4WD is not essential if the weather is good, but the dirt road can be challenging if it has been wet and if you want to take some of the lesser-used side roads, essential.
Driving out of Newman past the various mines, the landscape gradually returns to a fully natural experience, the rolling hills punctuated by bright white scribbly gums (someone will probably tell me they are a different species) and raw red escarpments. Karijini is a feast of colour and photographers are often desaturating their files to make their photographs more believable for people who haven't visited the Pilbara before.
The sun was setting into some dense cloud on the horizon, so we left our cameras in their bags and arrived at the Eco Retreat just in time for dinner.
The Retreat is a collection of 'tents' surrounding a central dining building. The tents have a solid metal frame, wooden floors, private bathroom and comfortable beds, protected by zippered fly screen windows and doors, but you can't keep the small frogs out of the toilet!
Three meals are provided and each year the food gets better and better. When you consider where we are (in the middle of nowhere), the dining experience is positively first class.
Some guests camp in the attached camping ground and self-cater for meals. This also works very well and guests simply join the photography group after meals. It's all very seamless.
After dinner, we hit the sack early, but not before getting our camera gear ready for the dawn shoot the following morning.