Lake Eyre's kaleidoscope of colour



Over the last four years Lake Eyre has transformed from a vast white salt pan into a thriving oasis, teeming with technicolour tones...

From the moment Peter soared over a filling Lake Eyre in 2009, he was hooked on this outback phenomenon.

Like a wasp hovering over the lake, he hung out the side of the helicopter, photographing the dreamlike scene.

"At that stage the water was only just entering the Lake Eyre basin for the first time, and it was fanning out, an incredible sort of mirrored, almost like mercury, effect.

"Sunbeams were streaking through the clouds, reflecting off the water, the whole thing just didn't look at all real."

With the scene surged a desert awe which was sparked during Peter's childhood.

He had grown up with a photojournalist father who had done aerial photography of the Middle East during the Second World War.

"I had seen little black and white pictures of the desert from a very young age, and I think it instilled a certain awareness of the desert being an abstract and very unique environment."

Now a professional photographer himself, Peter's memories were invigorated by Paul Lockyer's ABC reporting of the water entering the Lake Eyre basin for the first time in several decades.

"Passionate about the way he was reporting, it instilled a deep memory of all my father's photos, that was it, I was off.

"It's not only a beautiful place, but a unique event in Australia's history."

However, capturing the Lake Eyre essence was no easy feat.

"You do anything and everything within your means; take the door off the helicopter, harness yourself in, hang out the side."

"You're always doing 100 miles an hour, you've got wind blasting at you, the blade wash, the gyrations of the helicopter.

"Every single thing about it stretches your technical capabilities to the limit, not to mention the camera's capabilities."

He said it was a costly and logistically tough task, and sometimes he spent weeks out there trying to get the perfect shots.

Along with the beauty, Peter was also enthralled by the science behind the 'kaleidoscope of colour'.

Accompanying the rich green and blue algae tinged waters, were expanses died pink by brine shrimp.

Parts of the lake were also turned yellow, red and purple by minerals that had laid dormant for many years.

"It's almost like a rainbow on the ground sometimes, you think, is this real?"

Peter's awe is evidently translating through his images, with the public flocking to see his Lake Eyre works on display in Sydney this month.

Overwhelmed by the popularity of the pictures, he expected some local Lake Eyre tour operators will 'want to buy him a beer' when an influx of people soar to SA, wanting to see the natural phenomenon for themselves.

"50% of the people coming through have certainly expressed an interest in visiting it, if I had a bunch of brochures from the charter companies I'm sure they'd be disappearing in a hurry."

Peter Elfes' current exhibition, The Green Desert, is on display in Sydney this month at Palm House in the Royal Botanic Garden (February 1 to 28), and Customs House in Circular Quay (February 2 to May 28).