Dawn On An Outback Highway by David McMahon

This was shot with a humble little Ricoh Instamatic, in pre-digital days, back in the autumn of 1999.

I was on the Eyre Peninsula, in coastal South Australia, and rose early to venture out with my camera. It was a mainly cloudless morning, but there was a patch of cloud far off to my left and I wondered idly if the strong, warm breeze would bring the cloud across the highway.

I knew where East was, but I had no way of knowing exactly where the sun would rise. In the dead-quiet of the Outback, I watched as the clouds swung over towards the highway. Several minutes later, I as I spotted the pre-dawn glow of what would become the rising sun, the clouds were almost in perfect position to reflect the sun’s rays.

As it turned out, I got lucky. Very lucky. Just as the clouds straddled the highway, the sun broke free almost exactly where I hoped it would – and a road train (a B-double, we call them here, or a semi-trailer) thundered down towards me, travelling at 100 kilometres an hour, with its headlights still on.

On the horizon, you can see a second road train, with its headlights showing as pinpricks of light alongside the sun just as it breaks free of the flat desert landscape.

This is the Nullarbor Plain, and the reason you cannot see any trees in the shot is that the word Nullarbor is derived from the Latin term for ``no trees’’. A few years later, when I wrote my first novel, Vegemite Vindaloo (published by Penguin) I set two Outback chapters of the fictional tale in the real-life landscape I observed so closely here on the Eyre Peninsula.

Shot on Kodak film, using a Ricoh Instamatic.

Featured in THE WORLD, June 2010.


Walkley Award-nominated journalist, novelist and wedding photographer at davidmcmahonweddings.com

View Full Profile


  • Audrey Clarke
    Audrey Clarkealmost 5 years ago

  • Thank you, Audrey. Very kind of you.

    – David McMahon

  • John Vandeven
    John Vandevenalmost 5 years ago

    This looks terrific David…..Well done mate….The truck really adds something to the shot…

  • Thanks very much, John – I could scarcely believe my luck. I had stood there for about an hour without any sound, without any movement – and then they appeared precisely as the sun rose!

    – David McMahon

  • Shulie1
    Shulie1almost 5 years ago

    Beautiful shot, David

  • Thanks very much, Shulie. It was a stark but stunningly beautiful place.

    – David McMahon

  • Crowmanic
    Crowmanicalmost 5 years ago

    a wonderful shot and a great story/description. +Fav

    Been out there many a time my self (though not for a while now) … have camped at different locales right across to the border, and heard the whales from atop thye cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. Thanks Davo …

  • Thanks very much for all the above, CrowManic. Yes, I spent some hours watching the whales and just taking in the beauty of the Bunda Cliffs – and the scenery simply HAD to make its way into my novel.

    – David McMahon

  • Lesliebc
    Lesliebcalmost 5 years ago

    Beautiful shot, David. I assume what you mean by a “road train” is what we call “big rigs” or “semis” – large double-trailer trucks that travel long distances to deliver their goods. Am I right? Also, I used to have a Ricoh camera before my digital and it took phenomenal shots, too.

  • Yes, Leslie – ``big rig’’ is a popular term up north. We call them semis, too. I still have that Ricoh camera!

    – David McMahon

  • Crowmanic
    Crowmanicalmost 5 years ago

    forgot to mention “… heard the whales at night, in the dark” an eerie and memorable experience … (now I must go check out this novel?)

  • A colleague of mine camped there shortly before my trip – and said the whales could be clearly hear at night. The area I describe in the novel is the actual geograhic location here, as well as the surrounding areas, but I’ve given it the fictional name “Jindaroo Creek”.

    – David McMahon

  • Themis
    Themisalmost 5 years ago

    Great capture, good sense of scale given by the trucks – really nice!

  • Thank you very much, Themis – those semi-trailers could not have arrived at a better time.

    – David McMahon

  • hereforfun
    hereforfunalmost 5 years ago

    Thanks for adding this fabulous image to the Favourite Places You Take Make or Paint Group

  • So glad you enjoyed the image, Trudi.

    – David McMahon

  • Jann Ashworth
    Jann Ashworthalmost 5 years ago

    Beautiful, David, and an instant fave. A few nights ago, we watched a documentary on TV about Australia’s road trains, some of them showed this area and some were up north around Alice Springs and that area. It was quite fascinating, something like the ice trains we have in the Canadian Arctic in the winter. There’s a series running about them also, so we see the hot and the cold of both..lol!

  • Thank you for your kind comment, Jann. I’ve actually seen quite a few episodes of that TV series – and it’s great stuff. A lot of my images are shot in your beautiful country, as is part of my new novel as well.

    – David McMahon

  • kczpics
    kczpicsalmost 5 years ago

  • That’s great news. Thanks for the honour and thank you for letting me know.

    – David McMahon

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10%off for joining

the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.