The 5.00 a.m. alarm wasn't a problem since it was the equivalent of 7.00 a.m. Sydney time and my body hadn't adjusted to the different time zone. The air was cool, so I wore a light jacket, but there was not a breath of wind.
The group car pools, so two to four people per vehicle, and we drove 15 minutes up the road to Oxers Lookout. Below are Hancock and Weano Gorges, but this morning we are going to remain up top, watching the light show over the gorges below.
Oxers Lookout is one of the iconic locations, but unless you're shooting it at dawn or dusk when the sun is low in the sky, you don't experience it at its best. There are a number of viewing platforms, allowing you to shoot down into the gorges below, or across to the spinifex spotted hills. The light raking across the folds in the landscape as the sun rises is a pleasure to behold, but there's lots more to photograph, from trees clutching to the vertical gorge walls to distant silhouettes of red headlands catching the morning light.
Photographers ask what equipment they should take to Karijini and the answer is everything. Wide-angles are great for capturing vistas and for stitching panoramas, while telephotos let you zoom into the landscape, simplifying the composition. And don't forget a macro lens so you can focus on the great details at your feet.
Around 8.00 a.m., we returned to the Retreat for a hot breakfast. As it turns out, this was to be our only hot breakfast as on the following mornings we were too engrossed in photographing to worry about food. An early lunch was quite sufficient.
The Retreat has an outdoor dining area which we turn into a classroom. It's relatively cool underneath the sailcloth roof and by keeping the windows open, we enjoy a refreshing cross breeze. A half dozen extension leads and power boards keep our laptops powered and everyone downloads their files. The leaders then assist the guests with their files, offering advice and assistance appropriate to their level of expertise. Some guests have returned two or three times and are quite advanced, while others have only owned a camera for 12 months and so appreciate more introductory advice.
In the Pilbara, the middle of the day is usually quite hot, so the plan is to shoot early and late, and then hide from the heat during the middle of the day. After lunch, we provided some short course-work, from critiques of guests' work, to short lectures on various aspects of photography.
Around 3.00 p.m., we bundled into our cars and took our longest drive in the workshop out to Hamersley Gorge. We were treated to an amazing sky of tiny white pillow clouds, while down below the waters of the gorge and the smooth, curvaceous rocks provided some amazing landscapes. It was a challenge to shoot the big overview, but much easier to concentrate on some of the smaller details, such as an incredibly beautiful cascade.
We photographed until well after sunset, then bundled back into the cars and headed off for dinner and another early night.