IT’S Saturday morning, 6.30am and 6 degrees. We’re at the base of the Yang Yang Ranges in the outer Barcoo, at the tiny outback town of Yaraka, population 16.
Despite 12mm of rain yesterday, which muddied the roads and raised concern about traffic getting in, it has dried out, and all but one of the 16 people booked for a weekend photography course – backed by Arts Queensland’s Regional Arts Development Fund and the Longreach Regional Council – will make it to town.
Those of us already here race off before sunrise to the base of Mt Slocombe, a rocky escarpment overlooking the town.
Cloaked in fog and surrounded by Mitchell grass downs country and gidgee trees, we are spell-bound by the outback panorama.
The landscape is flecked with cattle and horses, windmills, corrugated iron sheds, abandoned machinery, rustic vehicles; and there are eagles, hawks, emus and wallabies – throngs of them.
I’m so excited; in my rush to get snapping I drop a lens and it smashes on the thin strip of bitumen.
After breakfast at the Yaraka pub, run by new owners Christopher and Gerry Gimblett and their son Nick, we start work in the town hall, right next to the Flying Doctors facility, where fortnightly clinics are held.
Photographers of all levels are here to jump-start their creativity, learn new ways of looking at the world to enhance their images, and essentially, to hone their photography skills with like-minded buffs. And what a place to do this.
It dawns on me, here in Yaraka, that the photographic workshop is a great vacation option. As people become increasingly refined travellers and storytellers, they want to do more with their photography.
Spending time in a place that offers unique photographic opportunities is not only a great way to learn, but also a chance to experience something extraordinary with others.
Workshop participant David Freeman from Longreach says all considerations aside, a workshop is a great excuse to go out and shoot photos for an entire weekend.
“It’s always nice to share information and ideas with others, and the motivation levels get a real spike,” he says.
After a morning of tuition and with a focus on portraiture, the afternoon is spent taking people shots. Candid outback character Alan Milton volunteered to pose, enabling us to capture some remarkable images. And we find endless extraordinary locations around town for myriad portrait opportunities.
Late afternoon we head up to the top of Mt Slocombe for the 360-degree panoramic view, sunset shots, silhouettes and landscapes.
The excitement is palpable andwe stay until dark.
Tonight the Yaraka Pub is packed with local and visiting photographers and station hands from surrounding properties who are in for a Saturday night at the pub.
The food is fabulous and with a good selection of wine and beer on tap, the conversation is lively.
In a remote place and without mobile phone coverage, we’re acutely aware of time and place, and feel lucky to be here.
Sunday morning and it’s out for more sunrise shots, portraits, abandoned trucks, landscapes, sheds, railway station and more.
Photography workshop co-ordinator Mary Killeen, from
Navarra Station, 56km south-west of Yaraka, says it’s great to share different perspectives and to pick up new skills.
“Times like these allow us to learn a great deal, particularly from each other,” she said.