The winners of the 2023 Astrofest Astrophotography Competition and Exhibition were announced at last month’s Astrofest held at Curtin University in Perth.

The winner of the Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award was Virat Shah for his image entitled “Desert Dreams”. Trevor Dobson was runner up with “Sentinels of the Stars”. Both the winner and runner up images were taken in the Shire of Dandaragan, a popular destination for astrophotography and dark sky tourism.

Mr Shah’s image expertly captures the golden hues created when the sand dunes absorb the soft glow of the Milky Way stars. Mr Shah said “This night, I visited the Nambung National Park looking for texture and the patterns in the sand. I looked for curves leading to a rising Milky Way and an undisturbed sand dune. I found this dune and then waited until the night to capture the sand dunes and the Milky Way. This turned out to be one of my personal favourite image that I’ve captured in 2023.”

The Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award, one of 12 awards in the competition, was sponsored by the Shire of Upper Gascoyne, Shire of Perenjori and Astrotourism WA. The award is for the best nightscape image taken in an Astrotourism Town locality in WA.

Runner up award recipient, Mr Trevor Dobson, took his image of the Milky Way arching over The Pinnacles Desert, also in Nambung National Park. He said, “The Pinnacles are such an amazing location for astrophotography. The area is littered with thousands of these limestone monoliths, which means that composition possibilities are almost endless and one of the reasons I keep coming back here year after year.”

The entire competition attracted a total of 482 entries, an increase of 25% from 2022’s competition. There was also a marked increase of the number of photographers who entered with this year’s competition attracting 110 entrants, an increase of 45% from the previous year, showing an increasing appetite in WA for astrophotography.

Curator of the Astrofest Astrophotography Exhibition, Roger Groom, said “The 2023 Astrofest Astrophotography Exhibition displayed at Astrofest 2023 provided the public of WA a great opportunity to see the breadth and depth of talent in our local astrophotography community. Along with the selected 35 finalist images was a display of all entries, from diverse reaches of WA regions.

Enjoyed by thousands at Astrofest, the exhibition will next be displayed at Perth Observatory early in the new year.” he said.

Carol Redford, CEO, Astrotourism WA said, “The Astrofest Astrophotography Exhibition is a highlight on WA’s dark sky tourism calendar. WA’s Astrotourism Towns offer prizes for the Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape which is one of the exhibition’s awards. Iconic images feature incredible landscapes under the Milky Way and promote our world-class dark sky destinations in regional WA.”

Astrotourism Towns
The Astrotourism Towns Project is supported by 18 regional Local Governments in Western Australia. Together they are developing the dark sky tourism sector of the WA’s Tourism Industry and taking steps to protect the dark night sky asset from artificial light pollution.

Astrofest is WA’s largest astronomy event and has attracted approximately 4,000 people every year since the inaugural festival in 2009. Astrofest is made possible with funding from Curtin University, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Scitech and CSIRO – Australia’s national science agency.

Congratulations to the Winner and Runner Up Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape

“Desert Dreams” by Virat Shah

Winner Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award
Sponsored by the Shire of Upper Gascoyne

Virat’s image features the sand dunes absorbing the soft glow of the Milky Way stars in Nambung National Park, Shire of Dandaragan. See more of Virat’s images on his Instagram page.

Prize: trophy and two nights accommodation at the Gascoyne Junction Pub and Tourist Park in a 1 Bedroom Self Contained Unit plus a $75 Gift Voucher to spend at the Gascoyne Junction Pub and Tourist Park Restaurant. Plus one night accommodation at the Mount Augustus Tourist Park in a Self Contained Unit plus a $75 Gift Voucher at the Mount View Dining Room. Total value: $628

“Sentinels of the Stars” by Trevor Dobson

Runner Up Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award Sponsored by the Shire of Perenjori

Trevor’s image captures the beauty of The Pinnacles under the Milky Way, an iconic destination in the Shire of Dandaragan.  See more of Trevor’s images of his Instagram page.

Prize: trophy and two nights accommodation at the Perenjori Caravan Park in a Chalet, plus a voucher of $100 to spend at the Perenjori Hotel. Total value: $370

Shire of Morawa logo
Shire of Perenjori logo

Who Were the Winners in the Other Awards and Categories?

Congratulations to all the astrophotographers who entered into the 2023 Astrofest Astrophotography Exhibition and Competition.

Award Winners

Deep Sky: Carlos Taylor

Deep Sky Runner-up: Michelle Bennett

Solar: Simon Capone

Lunar: Gabriel Ito

Planetary: Christopher Boyd

Nightscape: Trevor Dobson

Timelapse: Luke Hetherington

Aurora Australis: Darren Gray

Mobile Phone Photo: Virat Shah

Astrotourism WA Nightscape Winner: Virat Shah, Desert Dreams: Shire of Dandaragan

Astrotourism WA Nightscape Runner-up: Trevor Dobson, Sentinels of the Stars: Shire of Dandaragan

People’s Choice: Virat Shah

Exmouth Solar Eclipse: William Vrbasso

Best Astro Photo Runner-up: Trevor Dobson

Best Astro Photo: William Vrbasso

Ready to enter the Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award next year?

The Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award is one of several awards within the Astrofest Astrophotography Competition.

To enter the Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award, photographers must include the name of the Astrotourism WA Shire/Local Government locality in the submission; and feature terrestrial elements located in the Astrotourism WA Local Government locality. For the Astrotourism WA Award the eligible Local Government localities include those towns listed on the Astrotourism WA website.

These Local Governments have been instrumental in supporting an effort to raise awareness about WA’s incredible dark night sky.

Over 50 new places for astrophotography and stargazing have been mapped out for each location to encourage visitors to experience WA’s amazing dark country night sky. In a world where light pollution is destroying our view of the stars, WA’s Local Governments have recognised the important value of our natural asset and are working hard to protect and maintain it for generations to come.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s Best Astrotourism WA Nightscape Award. Terms and Conditions for the Competition haven’t been released yet, but you can start to prepare by reading a previous version: Astrofest Astrophotography Competition terms and conditions.

Ready to be inspired?

There are some stunning images from the 2022 Astrofest Astrophotography Competition.