You’ve seen photographs and films, but nothing compares to the sensation of gazing upon Uluru with your own two eyes.
This monolithic sacred rock gives off a sense of majestic power as it dominates the horizon, changing with the shifting light as the sun moves across the sky. When you visit you’ll want to capture your own experience of this incredible beauty with your camera, so here are some tips for getting the best possible Uluru photo.
What Time of Day?
Uluru is beautiful at all times of the day, as the light and shadow on the rock will change and give the scene a different mood. It’s worth viewing the rock from as many vantage points as you can during several different times of the day, so that you can get the best range of photos.
If you are hoping to capture the classic picture postcard view of Uluru, head there at sunset. This is when the sun will be reflect off the rock and it will have that stunning warm orange glow that fades to a deep red. Most people set up their tripods at the sunset viewing car park, so if you want to have your pick of the best spot you should try to arrive about an hour before the sun starts going down.
You can set up your chair and your tripod and bring a few snacks to enjoy as you watch the sun sinking below the horizon. Remember, you must exit the park before sunset, which is at 7:30pm in the winter.
Sunrise is the other best time to photograph this amazing rock. There is a viewing platform called Talinguru Nyakunytjaku located closer to the Olgas which is around 20 minutes drive into the park. You’ll be facing Uluru into the sunrise and when you turn around the Olgas will be bathed in light from the sunrise. Another great sunrise photographing location is the Ewing Lookout which is located near the camel farm. Bring a jacket – it will be cold before the sun comes up.
Technical Tips: How to Photograph the Rock
The natural instinct when photographing this rock is to use a wide angle lens, which can help you include everything you see in one photo. However, if you go back far enough this might not be necessary. Experiment with a few different lenses so that you can capture both Uluru and the desert around it – you may need to zoom in from some of the viewing platforms.
However, never change your lens while you are out in the desert! The blowing sand can damage the inside of the camera, so always wait until you are back in the hotel to change it.
Photographing in the early morning or late evening will make the light feel softer in your photographs, which can give the rock a stunning glow and bring out the colours. It is a good idea to use a tripod if you are using a slow shutter speed during this time of day.
Whenever you are photographing in a hot and dry desert setting, it is very important to take care of your camera. The wind will blow the sand so keep your camera wrapped in a cloth or in a protective case when you are not using it. A UV filter on the lens can help you to protect the glass, as it is cheaper to protect the filter than to repair a scratched lens glass. Take an air blower so that you can clean out your camera at your hotel room at the end of the day.
You might also want to bring a fly net, as the flies in your face can be very distracting when you are attempting to take a photo. Don’t forget the sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and plenty of water – it’s sweltering hot in the desert.
Try photographing Uluru and its surroundings with HDR, or High Dynamic Range Photography. This style can be best for capturing dark shadows, bright sunshine and intense colours. It is a strategy for overcoming the dynamic range limits of your camera by combining multiple images of the same scene.
Each image is exposed differently, so that you can use the highlight details from one and the shadow details from another. You can do this by taking multiple exposures and blending them together with software such as Adobe Photoshop. Here is a great guide on how to do this.
Getting a Unique Photo
So you’ve captured the typical view of Uluru, but what if you want to take a few photos that are a little more creative? Be inventive and approach the subject from a different angle so that you can get a unique photo of Uluru and the surrounding landscape:
- Pay attention to the natural patterns in the sand dunes or the rocks. Use a macro lens to focus on these textures.
- Include people in your photos to give the rock a sense of scale and to create a point of focus for the viewer’s eye.
- Change the position of the horizon line. It doesn’t have to be in the middle of the frame. Try playing the rock and the horizon at the bottom of the image and including lots of sky, or vice versa.
- Try shooting from the opposite side as everyone else. So, at sunset head to the sunrise platform or go to the sunset viewing platform at sunrise. You’ll avoid the crowds and get a shot of Uluru as a silhouette against the changing colours of the sky.
- Take a sunset camel ride for a chance to snap photos of Uluru and the desert landscape with these strange and elegant beasts in the foreground.
Don’t Climb It
Even if you are seeking an exciting angle for a photograph, whatever you do you should not climb Uluru. First of all, it is dangerous. Over 30 people have died climbing the rock in recent decades due to the heat and the lack of water. Also, the rock itself is a sacred site and climbing it is disrespectful to the Aboriginal people of the area.
Remember that this is a national park so roaming around and walking through the off-path areas is not allowed. Also, there are certain sacred areas and features of the rock you should not photograph, as they are sacred to the aboriginal people. If you aren’t sure, ask your local guide.
If you are an amateur photographer and you don’t plan on selling your images, then you are free to photograph the area without a permit. If you are a professional photographer, you will need to obtain a permit through the Media Office by filling out an application form. The guidelines will explain clearly which areas are restricted for photographs.
Have you photographed Uluru? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.