Picture of a pink sunrise at Wilpena Pound National Park

Sunrise lights up the sky at Wilpena Pound National Park in South Australia.

Photograph by Daniel R. Westergren

Dan Westergren

Exotic-looking trees, colorful rock outcroppings, and abundant coastlines are just a few of the ingredients that make South Australia a great place to shoot landscape photos. Experienced photographers know that the best time to shoot this type of shot is during the “golden hour,” that magical time just before and after the sun rises or sets.

The point is not to create photographic clichés of a sun-kissed horizon, but to turn away from the sun and capture the low-angled light striking the scenery. This light leads to a magical effect in photographs, especially in such a visually interesting place. Between the abundant sunshine in the outback and a southern coastline that offers both sunrise and sunset views, South Australia is an ideal place for capturing compelling landscapes.

Map of South Australia

Breakaways Conservation Park

This collection of low hills and mesas, which appears to have “broken away” from the nearby higher escarpment, is located 20 miles from mining town Coober Pedy. The Breakaways stand proud from the surrounding desert and catch the day’s first and last rays of the sun. The low light accentuates the red, white, and brown rock layers. Add in a few ancient trees that have adapted to the harsh environment by growing into surreal shapes and you have a beautiful landscape that begs to be photographed.

Wilpena Pound

The Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheater of mountains located in the Flinders Ranges National Park. There are two lookouts, both easily reached by car, where twilight helps accentuate the colored cliffs. Hucks Lookout is the place to be for sunrise and Stokes Hill for sunset. If you’ve had your fill of mountain scenes, head into the valley below to see how the light looks on majestic river red gum trees. Here you will find the famous Cazneaux’s tree, named for early Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux and his award-winning photo of the tree.

For a more uncommon shot head up the road toward the Wilpena Pound Resort, where you will see a dead and leafless river red gum tree, standing majestically by itself at the side of the road. Its bright white branches catch the early rays of the sun before the surrounding landscape, making a perfect photographic tableau.

Kangaroo Island

This pristine wilderness island is located eight miles from the South Australia coast and features over 300 miles of rugged coastline, making it a great place to photograph the intersection of sea and land. Hanson Bay, located on the south shore, has a beach covered with sharp, light-catching piles of limestone that have fallen from the surrounding cliffs. The beach and rocks photograph particularly well in dawn and predawn light. This is a great place to set your camera to a slow shutter speed and capture the action of surf with a dreamy, blurry effect.

Also found on the island’s south coast are the aptly named Remarkable Rocks. These huge sculpted boulders are perched on a rounded granite dome that dramatically drops away to the surging sea below. The boulders, covered in bright orange lichen, are perfectly situated to catch both sunrise and sunset, multiplying the colorful vista that occurs when the light is right.

Photo Tips

Taking advantage of the dramatic light requires you to be in place when other less committed travelers are either in bed or enjoying a nice sunset dinner. In the morning, plan on being on location an hour before sunrise. There’s nothing worse than arriving right when the light is getting good and having to scramble for a good angle while the sweet light fades. In the evening, resist the temptation to leave too soon after sunset. Often, the best evening light occurs 30 to 45 minutes after the sun is gone.


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