Green centre

I’m back in Alice Springs this week after a ten-day break to see friends and family down south.

I had a great holiday; celebrating Christmas (West Fest) with my family in Hobart and spending New Year’s Eve with my sister and her husband in Melbourne.

West Fest is what we called Christmas for my mother’s side of the family — the Wests — this year. We had about 40 of them at my parent's house for Christmas lunch. My sister and I came up with the concept after our brother’s wedding this year. We wondered why we put lots of thought into weddings but not other family occasions like birthdays and Christmas.

We discussed the idea further over a champagne breakfast to celebrate my new job, and by the end of the morning had came up with a logo, marketing campaign, and two day festival running sheet (for more information you can see our website here).

Everything was pretty awesome until Christmas morning when we had to cook and set up for lunch for 40 people with the power cutting out whenever we turned the oven on. Dad came to the rescue and was soon set-up on the deck with pots of potatoes, beans, peas, and carrots boiling on every gas cooker he could find in the garage.

I would have taken a photo but life was particularly challenging that morning.

Our moods started to improve by about 11.30am, just in time to greet our guests and issue them with their mandatory West Fest lanyard and commemorative cup. Here are a few of my favourite photos from West Fest to give you an idea of what went on.

West Fest Nib-Off: everyone was required to bring a plate of their best nibbles and we all had a vote to determine "best nibble". 

West Fest Nib-Off: everyone was required to bring a plate of their best nibbles and we all had a vote to determine "best nibble". 

Left: Best dressed (team category), Peter's clan. Right: Best dressed (individual category), Maritta

Left: Best dressed (team category), Peter's clan. Right: Best dressed (individual category), Maritta

Most of the gang squeezed into Mum and Dad's lounge room so we could all sit together for Christmas lunch

Most of the gang squeezed into Mum and Dad's lounge room so we could all sit together for Christmas lunch

After lunch my brother put on a red suit to distribute gifts we bought for the kids 'from Santa'. The kids could see Don's ginger whiskers under the fake beard, and thought it would be more fun to shoot him with water pistols rather than open presents. Hilarity ensued.

After lunch my brother put on a red suit to distribute gifts we bought for the kids 'from Santa'. The kids could see Don's ginger whiskers under the fake beard, and thought it would be more fun to shoot him with water pistols rather than open presents. Hilarity ensued.

Pass the parcel is a tradition at West gatherings, my Auntie Pam is always in charge. Usually the person with the most buttons wins but in this case it was the person wearing the most yellow. Logan was beside himself when he opened the wrapper and saw the box of chocolates.

Pass the parcel is a tradition at West gatherings, my Auntie Pam is always in charge. Usually the person with the most buttons wins but in this case it was the person wearing the most yellow. Logan was beside himself when he opened the wrapper and saw the box of chocolates.

The water fight continued into the afternoon with many casualties. When the crowd dissipated we put a paddling pool on the deck so Pop could cool down. He was very surprised at the temperature when he first put his feet in!

The water fight continued into the afternoon with many casualties. When the crowd dissipated we put a paddling pool on the deck so Pop could cool down. He was very surprised at the temperature when he first put his feet in!

Okay, enough about West Fest.

On my return to Alice Springs I discovered that referring to this part of the country as the ‘red centre’ probably isn’t appropriate at the moment because everything is green! Approaching Alice Springs airport on my flight I couldn’t believe that the landscape, which ten days earlier was bone-dry, was lush and green.

With my camera in the overhead locker during our descent all I could do was admire the view while writhing in pain thinking “I should be taking photos”. I’m sure the lady sitting next to me thought I was mental.

Here's a comparison between two photos taken in the same spot two months apart.

Left: Taken on November 8 2016 at 5.30pm. Right: Taken on January 3 2017 at 5.30pm

Left: Taken on November 8 2016 at 5.30pm. Right: Taken on January 3 2017 at 5.30pm

Further along the river — so much green!

Further along the river — so much green!

A few days before I arrived back in Alice Springs there was a strong flow of water down the Todd River, but that had eased by the time I returned. Still, there was a considerable amount of water left in the riverbed; just enough for locals to swim in and cars to drive safely through.

I found Pearl and Lachlan splashing in the river at the north of town and took this photo for the paper. I got very wet.

I found Pearl and Lachlan splashing in the river at the north of town and took this photo for the paper. I got very wet.

I also made a special trip out to the Ilparpa claypans to see what they look like with water in them. You might remember the first time I visited the claypans for the supermoon (see blog post 'Mooned in Alice' for photos).

The claypans were beautiful and serene with water in them. Well, that was until one of the locals started fanging his remote control boat around the water, it sounded like a belligerent lawnmower with PMS. How's the serenity?

Still, up until that point it was very calming, and I was lucky enough to be there during a spectacular pink sunset. I took the below photo, which went off like a frog in a sock when I posted it on the Centralian Advocate's Facebook page.

Pink sunsets in the outback are like living inside a Namatjira painting

Pink sunsets in the outback are like living inside a Namatjira painting

There isn't much news at the paper because I've only just gotten back to work, but I thought I'd highlight a cool story I got to photograph late last year at Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage. The low humidity in the region is perfect for plane storage, and the business uses a large area at Alice Springs Airport to store and maintain commercial vehicles that aren't in service.

My colleague (and aeronautics nut) Andrea and I got to walk around the facility, including a wander under the big plane in the photo below, and stroll inside another. It was pretty cool (in a nerdy aviation kind of way).

My photo of Tom Vincent, Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage Managing Director, in front of a plane in storage at his facility

My photo of Tom Vincent, Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage Managing Director, in front of a plane in storage at his facility

That's it from me for now. I'll be taking the next month off blogging and Facebook to focus on a new project, and come to terms with my new year's resolutions of becoming a full vegan and giving up alcohol.

If I don't disappear up my own arsehole my next update should be posted in the first week of February.


Emma Murray is a documentary photographer based in Alice Springs. The Alice Years is a personal project documenting life in and around the red centre.