Uluru – Northern Territory June 2016 (12 photos)
On the second morning of my trip, I was assigned to patrol the skies over Uluru at dawn.
Above, you can see the helicopter I flew in.
Have you noticed? Only the pilot’s door is on. All the others have been removed.
Our pilot, Annika was a bit too slow to run out of the field of view of my camera.
Moments before takeoff, I was filled with a sense of uncertainty. On the ground, the temperature was practically 0C (32F). The window of the helicopter was completely fogged up by the body heat of us occupants.
Draco: Surely, you can’t be serious? You can’t see where you’re flying.
Annika: Yes, I can. And don’t call me Shirley.
I checked my seatbelt for the tenth time. A quick wipe of the windscreen and we took off into the perfectly clear skies of that morning without problem.
“This is Romeo Foxtrot. Shall we dance?”
“Roger that. We got your six.”
Watching the dawn from about 1000 metres (0.62 miles) up is a spectacular sight. It almost made me forget the windchill as the cold air displacement from the rotor above blasted through the doorless cabin. It was below freezing inside the cabin.
I remembered my rules of training:
1. No lens hoods, lenscaps or other loose items that could fly out, hit the rotor and cause a sudden plummet back to the Earth.
2. One lens only. No time to change lenses – remember rule 1.
3. Watch the shutter speed. It must be fast enough to allow a still capture of the view despite the down force of the rotors, the vibrations of the helicopter and the shivering of my hands.
Annika: Smell that? You smell that?
Annika: Uluru. Nothing else in the world smells like that.
Draco: I love the smell of Uluru in the morning.
In the distance is the lesser known third monolithic icon of this region: Mount Conner.
Mount Conner is a flat-topped and horseshoe-shaped inselberg/mesa, part of the same vast rocky substrate thought to be beneath Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It can easily be confused with Uluru, since it can be seen from the road to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, when approaching from Alice Springs.
We turned around and my strafing run began.
Do you hear it?
“The Ride Of The Valkyries” echoed in my mind. The prelude to Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas by German composer Richard Wagner that comprise The Ring of the Nibelungs (German Der Ring des Nibelungen) rung clear and vivid as I started shooting.
Uluru is actually somewhat triangular in shape. The golden light and the long shadows make for a spectacular view.
“I love the smell of Uluru in the morning.”
Having secured the skies over Uluru, we turn our attention to Kata Tjuta next.