Seeing the interplay between sunlight and the surface of Uluru at sunset is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see in your life. There’s absolutely no doubt. Uluru is pure magic.

Start of the Uluru base walk also called Mala Walk by the locals.

I have never contemplated visiting The Red Centre. It’s just not something I wanted to do when I moved to Australia slightly over two years ago. I’ve got quite a lot of places on my list I want to visit and photograph but Uluru was never one of them.

I had numerous opportunities to come here with European friends who came to visit and wanted to see as much of Australia as possible in the same three-week-see-everything-on-a-continent holiday window, but I was always very quick to shoot the plan down.

It’s a rock in the middle of nowhere.

Why would you want to go there?

What springs to mind when you think about Uluru is how iconic the place is. In my view there are two things that people associate immediately with Australia; The Harbour Bridge and Uluru.

You’d be hard pressed to find a person on the streets of Europe who wouldn’t know where the rock is located. As a symbol, it’s right up there with Grand Canyon, the Pyramids and Mount Roraima. It’s been around for 500 million years and people know about it.

It’s unique, majestic, beautiful, and has something incredibly powerful and intangible. To feel it, you need to meet two conditions. Be there on the ground and have an open mind to the experience that is Uluru. And make no mistake, the rock is mystical.

One of the vertical walls partially covered in shadow on the north western side of the monolith.

To conquer or not…

When I first looked at the rock from the distance, I instantly thought it would be amazing to conquer it and place my proverbial flag. I like physical challenges and welcomed this idea without even thinking about it too much: I haven’t done any research or reading about all issues associated with climbing at this point: issues both cultural and related to physical dangers of climbing

Uluru rises 348 meters above the plain and more than 860meters above sea level.

Upon my arrival, I realised that climbing Uluru wasn’t a good idea. While a chain was installed some time ago to aid climbers up the incline – an incline so steep it looks almost vertical – the fact remains that the traditional custodians of Uluru don’t want people to climb it. Respect the traditional law and do the base walk instead. You’ll see and experience substantially more that you would if you were to climb it.

The base walk is a 10.6 km loop and takes approximately 3.5 hours to walk it. The meandering journey through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans is incomparable to anything I’ve seen in other parts of the world

By virtue of the heat, which ranges 38 – 42° in summer and 18-22° in winter, I saw relatively few people doing the walk when I did it (particularly for such a landmark) – just a few murmured hellos to small groups every 45 minutes or so.

Archaeological evidence proves that Aboriginal people have lived in Central Australia for at least 30,000 years.

The intense red colour of Uluru is due to the oxidization or the rusting of the minerals containing iron – a natural process that takes thousands of years – but underneath the red is grey composite that hasn’t been in any contact with the atmosphere.

For this reason, when the sun is rising or setting, Uluru tends to change colour as it’s being hit with different types of light. It’s an incredibly beautiful spectacle that’s best experienced from a distance and a chat with locals can give you a couple of good spots no more than few kilometers from the rock where you can admire this amazing show. In the three times I saw it, I must have shot 100 photos each time.

Beautiful night sky 10 minutes after the sunset.

Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara word and apparently means ‘many heads’ which makes a lot of sense when you see it. The domes of Kata Tjuta lie approximately 50 kilometers by road or 32 kilometers if you were to walk it in a straight line from Uluru.

Walpa Gorge – Kata Tjuta

One of the most astounding facts about Kata Tjuta and Uluru is that both formations form only a tip of a huge slab of single rock which continues underground for 6 kilometers. Imagine that sticking out of the ground in front of you. Size of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta is amazing. It’s impossible not to be in awe of it realizing how small a person is next to it. At it’s highest point Uluru stands taller then The Eiffel Tower in Paris slightly over 340m. Photos don’t quite do this place justice no matter how well composed. You just have to be there and feel the place with every fiber of your body to appreciate it. Photos somehow don’t translate its majestic magnitude.

Kata Tjuta amazing Mars-like ground texture.

Essentially there are two walks you can do at Kata Tjuta. The shorter journey into the Walpa Gorge which is a 2.6km return walk or the longer and more challenging Valley of the Winds walk (7,4km). Entering Walpa Gorge is quite an experience with its high, almost straight line vertical walls basking in the desert sunlight. The left wall partially covered in shadow and the right wall glowing with a hot intense and over saturated red was very great to shoot.

It was impossible for me not to photograph this place. Everywhere I looked I saw something amazing, something worth capturing. With the quality of light and the clarity of the atmosphere in that part of Australia the entire National Park is a dream location for any photographer.

Normally I shoot on a 5D MKII with either a 24mm 1.4 or (my favourite glass of all time) a 50mm 1.2, but just before the trip I acquired a second hand Fuji X1-Pro with a 18mm 1.4 and a 35mm 1.4 lenses.

I wanted to get something lighter that I can just pop into my bag and not worry about carrying 10kg of glass with me everywhere. Fuji is nowhere near the 5D technically speaking, but for what I needed in this location it was a perfect traveling companion. It’s a really great little camera and the prime lenses Fuji makes for these boxes are phenomenal.

Uluru and the surrounding parklands that includes Kata Tjuta about 50 kilometres away was the perfect testing ground. If you’re a photographer and enjoy capturing landscapes, make sure you bring your good gear with you. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is not a place you want to be shooting with an iPhone.

Sun setting over Kata Tjuta.

Going back to the opening paragraph and answering my own question “Why would you want to go there?” is fairly easy after the trip.

The place is amazing. It’s significant, it’s iconic, it’s mystical. But it’s the attitude you bring with you that will define what you get out of visiting the Red Centre.

I only have one little regret: I wish I brought my running shoes with me and did a quick circle around the rock. A swift 10 kilometre on a flat surface in this amazing setting would easily be one of the most memorable runs I’ve ever done.

But it’s a good reason to go back one day.