Youngsters enjoy playing football as the sun sets at Balgo. All pictures: Adam Crane

IS BALGO'S much-loved footy oval more striking, more beautiful, more utterly breathtaking at ground level or from a birds-eye view far above its iconic red dirt?

It's a question that Adam Crane hadn't pondered before he had the good fortune to visit the remote Indigenous community on the Western Australian side of the Tanami Desert that stretches deep into the Northern Territory.

Even after his life-changing experience, Adam is not quite sure what the answer is.

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Balgo's amazing oval is the permanent centrepiece of its tiny Indigenous community, with school, airstrip, general store, houses and police station huddled around its perimeter. 

The magical sporting arena was the stage for an uplifting series of games that proved a fitting finale to the inspirational week of workshops, storytelling and training sessions of the Making Her Mark program, facilitated by Garnduwa, in association with Fremantle FC, Claremont FC and the WAFL.

"It's extremely remote, as remote as I feel like you can possibly be, but it is one of the most stunningly beautiful places that I've been fortunate enough to see first-hand," Adam said of Balgo.

"The beauty of the Tanami Desert is just something else.

"The culmination of that week was a round-robin footy carnival on what we were calling the Balgo Cricket Ground or the BCG!

"Not one player on any of the teams had a pair of boots or shoes, a couple had a sock or two to protect their kicking foot, and they were playing on straight-up red dirt and stone.

"And there was absolutely no self-preservation or concern for harm to their feet or bodies in playing a full-blown game of footy on that surface.

"It just showed their resilience and strength of character, to be able to take a hit on gravel, dirt and rock, but also the skill level to be able to bounce the ball and handle it on that ground … it was just sublime.

"So, I was just so fortunate to see such amazing skill, natural ability, resilience and a pure love and joy of the game."

The touring party, that included Indigenous AFLW players Jasmin Stewart (Fremantle/Port Adelaide) and Mikayla Morrison (Fremantle), took the best part of two days to fly from Perth to Broome, drive to an overnight stop in Halls Creek, then head south into the Tanami Desert.

"It was amazing for the girls to have two identifiable AFLW role models to help teach them to play football, and also help provide safe spaces to yarn and break down some of the barriers to participating in sport," Adam said.

"There was a fair bit that went into the visit."

This Making Her Mark program took in the townships of Billiluna (just south of the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater featured in smash hit horror movie Wolf Creek), Mulan and Balgo, with girls from all three towns playing alongside each other in composite teams on the final day.

But before the first ball could be bounced, there was the small matter of marking the boundary line, centre square and the rest of the requisite lines, in the baking hot sun, without a specialised line-marking machine.  

"The line markings were actually flour," Adam said.

"They had bags of flour and stepped out the dimensions of the ground and marked it by hand with flour.

"It was a challenge, but they did a great job."

As far as a photo shoot is concerned, Balgo and its surrounds, and the utterly engaged and overjoyed program participants, were a snapper's dream.

"From a sports photography perspective, it was about trying to capture the beauty and emotion, the fun and enjoyment, everyone was having either while they were training, in workshops or in games," Adam said.

"What I wanted to try to do was best capture all of those emotions in each frame.

"Added to that is the background of the beautiful sunsets and landscapes and the different area that I was in … putting that all together in one frame was a challenge because I really wanted to capture the essence of it all."

Adam's skilled use of a DJI Mavic 3 drone to capture the scene from above added a completely different perspective that helped underscore the sheer, gobsmacking spectacle of it all.

"It's a wonderful piece of equipment that captures a far different perspective than people are used to," Adam said.

"To be able to show the remoteness of the community, it's smack bang in the middle of the desert, your mind just wanders to thousands of years ago."

Adam's photography journey started many years before his trip to Balgo, with a surfing trip up the coast from Sydney to Byron Bay, labelled the Salt Diaries, turning into a full-time photography business. 

"The challenge to capture the moment that people will remember, a moment whether it be good, bad or otherwise, no matter what the discipline, field, or sport, junior level or elite, for me the great aspiration is to keep trying to capture great moments that people will remember for a lifetime," Adam said.

"Those moments are unique and they don't ever happen ever again, so if I can get a moment that people will cherish then fantastic."

#FootyFocus23, thanks to Toyota's Good For Footy program, is now open for entries! Here's your chance to shadow and shoot with Michael Willson and Dylan Burns at a game in 2024.  We want to see your photos that capture the essence of our great game at a grassroots level. To enter, upload your best community footy photos taken during 2023 to: