By the light of the Moon

Moonscapes and moonlight – welcome to Australia’s breathtaking west.

It’s the other side of the country, but under the light of a full moon, it could very well be another planet.

Russell Ord

23 October, 2020

It’s here amongst these almost alien landforms that Western Australian photographer, Russell Ord, has captured these wonderful images under moonlight 

The Audi Q range is so irresistibly advanced you'll often find yourself driving well into the night. After all, some technology is just impossible to put down. That's why we've curated a series of our favourite nocturnal adventures around the country in 'Drives After Dark' featuring after-dark experiences from breathtaking natural nightscapes and up-late eateries to weekender getaways and more.

Searching for truly memorable experiences often means making a commitment and travelling some distance. For this instalment of Drives After Dark, the destination requires a really significant commitment if you’re travelling from anywhere in the country other than Perth. Even if the Western capital is your starting point, you’re still looking at the better part of three hours behind the wheel even if you don’t deviate from the course – which is of course no hardship if you’re behind the wheel of an Audi Q7.

This is a drive you can execute at your leisure, as you head north from Perth and drive up the famed WA coast towards your final destination – the Nambung National Park and the truly extraordinary Pinnacles.

It’s here amongst these almost alien landforms that Western Australian photographer, Russell Ord, has captured images using one of the most captivating yet difficult to use light sources you could possibly work with – moonlight.

This irresistible combination of etherial light, The Pinnacles land formations and the Indian Ocean, viewed through the lens of a gifted photographer is captivating, and Ord makes it look so very simple.

I love the serenity of the environment,” says Ord of The Pinnacles and the surrounding Nambung National Park.

“The tourist attractions throughout the day are busy with people, but during the moonlight hours, it feels like a different world entirely.”

Even during the day, The Pinnacles are a sight to behold, hundreds of strange, Obelisk-shaped rock formations rising out of the sand. Some only a few feet, while others tower over a person, their craggy exteriors worn down over thousands of years to create a landscape that is best described as aliens yet undoubtedly stunning and moving in many ways.

Viewed under moonlight, this strange environment takes on a whole new feel and depth, and it is this combination that Russell finds irresistible and a challenge to capture.

The words perfection and photography, in my opinion, do not fit together,” he says.

The Pinnacles are a sight to behold, hundreds of strange, Obelisk-shaped rock formations rising out of the sand

Using the moon as your primary light source presents its own special challenges

“Every time I finish on a shoot, I ask myself ‘how could I have done this better’ and there are always answers. That's the fun in photography. The journey to create the final product, shooting under the moon is an ongoing enjoyable learning process.

Russell has been ‘chasing the moon’ to capture its light on the Western Australian landscape for years. Such is the nature of this part of the country – the remoteness, the vast spaces and the unique land formations – subject matter that is not hard to find in this striking part of Australia.

My favourite place [to shoot] is the ocean and especially if you have an amazing headland or beautiful foreground for perspective, such as Red Bluff in the North West of Western Australia. I love the way the moon highlights the sea.

Of course as anyone who has tried their hand at photography knows, lighting is one of the most important ingredients and using the moon as your only light source presents its own special challenges.

“You have a lot to think about when shooting the moon, all the photographic equipment, timing, weather and the list goes on," says Ord.

But, although it may seem obvious, ‘be ready for the moonrise’ he stresses. 

“Like this photoshoot, I had only one clear night to produce the image. There were no second chances. 

“I use an app on my phone, which gives me the moonrise and moonset times and co-ordinates. This allows me to be prepared because it moves very fast from the horizon … and don’t forget your compass.”

A torch often comes in handy too Russell suggests, recounting one ‘moon shoot’ that was anything but an idyllic night-time adventure. In a remote location with no phone reception, Russell left his phone in the car and made his way to the location, with an idea of timing and direction from the previous few nights.

It was only after he’d finished the shoot and the moon light was fading that he realised getting back was going to be a little tricky. With no phone light and no torch, it made for a long, arduous stumble across uneven ground and scrub, lugging all of his photographic gear to eventually find his vehicle. A memorable excursion for all the wrong reasons and not a mistake he’ll make again.

The moon moves surprisingly fast from the horizon – preparation is everything to get the shot

Make the journey

Situated just over 200 kilometres north of Perth, it is possible to comfortably visit Nambung National Park and The Pinnacles as a day trip, but then you wouldn’t leave yourself a lot of time to take in the many sights and experiences along the way. This approach also won’t allow you to experience a moonlit evening amongst the monoliths unless you plan on driving back to Perth that same night – and that’s not an ideal scenario. So much better to take your time and make the road trip count.

To really make the most of the many attractions along the way, it’s best to book a night or two in Cervantes which is the nearest jumping off point for The Pinnacles and has plenty to offer the traveller in its own right. 

Perched right on the edge of the mighty Indian Ocean, Cervantes is home to the famed Lobster Shack, the tourism arm of the Thompson family’s premium seafood business that has been fishing these pristine waters since the mid 1960s. The prize of the catch is of course the Western Australian Rock Lobster, a delicacy that is prized all over the world for its sweet tasting meat and its prodigious size.

Visitors can take lobster catching tours on one of the Lobster Shack’s state-of-the-art vessels, or even indulge in a little fishing themselves with one of their deep sea fishing charters.

If you’re more for observing than fishing yourself, then perhaps take in a Seal tour where you will see these rare Australian Sea Lions which are likewise drawn to this pristine part of the world by the abundant marine life and crystal waters.

Indeed this entire stretch of coastline is world renowned for its water clarity and diversity of its marine life and as such, attracts visitors year round to fish, dive and snorkel  – or just sit back and toast the setting sun as it too dips into the Indian Ocean each evening.

On your way to or from Perth, a worthwhile diversion are the massive Lancelin sand dunes about half way between Cervantes and Perth. With gradients of up to 45 degrees, you can actually surf these monsters, or tackle them on a dirt bike or even on foot if you’re feeling energetic.

Once back in Perth there is no shortage of wonderful accommodation, but none better than COMO The Treasury. Situated right in the heart of Perth it is a study in luxury and the perfect place from which to base yourself as you explore the many riches of Western Australia. After all, unless you’re a local, you’ve come a very long way to visit.

To learn more about the the Audi Q7 or any of the other Audi Q family, visit the Audi Australia website