Dawn On An Outback Highway

David McMahon

Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

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.


Artwork Comments

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