In dreaming up our ideal cover for this issue, we wanted to feature two icons of the outback: Uluru and, if possible, a McLeod’s Daughter. So when the delightful Zoe Naylor agreed to come on board to model for our little desert adventure, it really was a dream come true. The lackadaisical Bob Barker from Roving Eye immediately signed up to reprise his role as photographer (he shot last year’s super-successful outback cover), so it was left to AT Art Director Jane Abma and myself to round out the team, before it was off to the Red Centre!

To be fair, I knew precious little about McLeod’s Daughters before the shoot.

As another interesting aside, Hamish Blake of Hamish and Andy fame and happened to be visiting Longitude 131 as a treat for his Dad’s birthday.

But as luck would have it, one of our local fixers (Voyages PR assistant Kristy) turned out to be the biggest McLeod’s fan on earth, so she quickly filled me in:

She played Regan McLeod?

Who’s like, a geologist?

She’s Hugh’s daughter, who’s Jack’s brother, and she came in pretty late in the season as a baddy to begin with but then she came good and went out with Dave for a while oh my God, I love her?

So with that sorted, we spent the next three days, pre-dawn to post-dusk, shooting Zoe in front of dunes, with hat, no hat, vest on, long dress, no shoes, with Uluru, without Uluru and every other conceivable wardrobe and location permutation we could think of.

As another interesting aside, Hamish Blake of Hamish and Andy fame and happened to be visiting Longitude 131 as a treat for his Dad’s birthday.

He hopped off the same plane as Zoe, and the entire airport arrivals section (which happened to be filled with about eight different visiting school groups) absolutely wigged out. He signed autographs and posed in photos for about 20 minutes before being whisked off to his luxury digs.

Later, as we were preparing for our first location shoot with Zoe, we bumped into Hamish again, looking a bit baffled by his camera. He couldn’t work out why his 1-gig memory card was already maxed out after only 12 shots, and since I was standing there loaded up with camera gear and must have looked like I knew what I was doing, he asked me for help.

I provided exactly none, considering his camera was a Nikon, and if you’re at all used to Canons you’ll know that navigating between the two is virtually impossible.

Eventually all I was able to provide was the loan of a larger memory card, and he was away. But not before posing for a quick shot with yours truly.

The entire exercise was gruelling, exhausting, satisfying, and none of it would have been even remotely possible without the wonderful assistance from Tourism NT, Voyages Hotels and Resorts, and the rangers and officers from Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Extra special thanks must also go to Mel and Kristy from Voyages who assisted us so professionally, acquiescing to every little demand we could dream up. Mel,

“never work with small children, animals or giant, looming, 400-million-year-old rock formations.”

I made you promise me a Thorny Devil sighting; we saw two. McLeod’s fan Kristy, your RM Williams belt buckle will now be famous forever on our Outback 2009 cover.

And to all readers, let us know whether you think this cover really says iconic outback I was happy with Zoe’s performance but to be honest, I’m not sure if Uluru was really putting in its best effort.

But, you know what they say: never work with small children, animals or giant, looming, 400-million-year-old rock formations.

Greg Barton
editor@australiantraveller.com