I realized when I was at Karlu Karlu in 2016 hat I found the country in the northern part of South Australia (ie., north of Port Augusta) that we had passed through on the way to and from Lajamanu to be as interesting as the destination itself. I realized that wanted to explore this country rather than travel though for 12 hours a day to get to a particular destination. It was the journey, not the destination that was crucial for me.
But how to explore the northern part of Australia? Aerial photography was too expensive; I didn’t have a 4 wheel drive; I wasn’t prepared to go into this semi arid county on my own; I wasn’t interested in just sticking to the main highways, stopping for a break and a quick photo; or just taking photos through a car window as I travelled through the landscapes limited.
The landscape looked interesting through the window: there were the salt lakes either side of the Stuart Highway, the various deserts, the pastoral landscapes north of Goyder’s Line, the Flinders Ranges themselves, and the country of the northern Flinders Ranges. This was a landscape that I didn’t know.
How then to photographically explore it? Many of the standard images that I had seen of this northern South Australia landscape on the internet were in colour, touristy and very highly saturated. Most of the images were centred around the lower Flinders Ranges around Wilpena Pound, or Arkaroola as these were prime tourist spots and easily accessible from Adelaide or Melbourne with 4 wheel drive vehicles.
I knew that other photographers had work on various projects. I knew of the colour work of Stravos Pippos or that of Peter MacDonald. Both had been exploring this landscape and I found the prints of MacDonald’s salt lakes images, which I’d seen at Atkins Photo Lab, to be impressive. I didn’t have the resources to camp on Lake Eyre itself and take colour images with an 8×10 field camera be able to do what Murray Fredericks had done. I had to be very modest.
The only possibility was what Suzanne had been doing with her ARPA friends on the Heysen Trail: self-funded and walking the country. But their ARRPA bush walking model was destination orientated and involved walking 15-20 kilometres a day. This kind of walking model was based on staying in hotels or cabins in the country towns as a base for the walk rather than camping, and it allowed very little time or space for taking photographs, other than than a quick snap whilst walking, and then racing to catch up with the group.
So I was stuck. How could I do the walking, photography and the camping out in this kind of remote, semi-arid country? I knew that it could only be done with experienced guides, transport to get to and from the remote locations, and some form of logistic support for food and water that would allow me to carry a day pack and hand held cameras. Some research was needed.