Day 21 – Australia (28 June, 2000)
After the success of our Oceania and first two big moments in Australia, (first day at Uluru and the underwater Flame on the Great Barrier Reef) I decided to let my hair down a little and celebrate in Cairns. I’d been shooting everyday, non-stop, for 35 days. Our Day 21 schedule was to fly with a reduced core team of about 8 crew to Thursday Island in the morning and then another small aircraft flight back to the mainland, landing in Katherine. The rest of the crew were also celebrating, knowing they had the day off while our little core crew flew off for the day.
I got caught up in the laid back, late night revelry of the main crew – forgetting I was flying out early. At around 4am I was dragged off the dance floor of the hotels attached nightclub and reminded we were boarding our flight in 45 minutes! The core team were already assembled in the lobby ready to move out. Shit!! Panic and fear are the best antidotes to intoxication…
I packed (well, I never actually unpacked when I checked in – but that was standard when you are only in a hotel for about 7 hours on any given day), grab my camera gear (wisely having set my batteries on to charge before I started dancing) and ran back to the lobby, with all of about 30 seconds to spare.
The core team, who I had formed a pretty tight bond with over the last 40 days, giggled and then poked fun of me for the rest of the day.
But to my credit, my photography never skipped a beat. We landed on Thursday Island, relayed for a few hours then flew off again to Katherine in the Northern Territory.
We traveled deep into the wild and remote Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) by boat. It was another magical moment, and our Aboriginal Torchbearer Monica McDonald was so photogenic. At a point deep into the Gorge, elders from the Jawoyn tribe were waiting for us high up on a rocky outcrop. There was something very spiritual about bringing a flame to this ancient land. The connection to the Aboriginal story telling and the story of carrying a Flame was a very poignant fit.
Photographically it was a challenge. We had traveled a long way into the gorge, but time, as always, was restricted down to the minute. Monica got off the boat and walked up to the elders on the outcrop. But we could not get off the boat, so I had to shoot the whole moment from about 100metres away. And she couldn’t take any directions from us over that distance , so we had to just rely on the pre-event brief we gave her to pose with the elders, pass the torch around, hold it up high, look proud etc. Within about 4 minutes the Flame was back on the boat and we were heading back. Another magic moment where you had to get the best shot you could in a tiny window of opportunity.
I’m pretty happy with the images I got from the moment, but it is one of those times where if I had more time and more freedom to move around and position people I could have had some truly iconic images.
By the end of day Day 21 I was really exhausted. No sleep (with only my self to blame for that) 2 flights and another two or 3 boat trips. I reminded myself to check the following days schedule before making any decision to ‘let my hair down’ again.