The Spirit of Australia – Ken Duncan

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Ken Duncan

Beauty, Creation, and Awe

“Our only real hope is through Christ and in this world I’m not concerned or worried because I know my destiny is not determined by humanity.”

I’ll often wait days or work on shots for years, just to wait for that moment.

‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.’ (Romans 1:20).

Great words. And these are the core beliefs of arguably Australia’s best known photographer – a man who appreciates the finer points of what it is to capture beauty and the driving force behind his creativity.

“It was just so amazing! I shot this shot which is virtually impossible to get. I did what they call a stitch.”

We’ll find out what a stitch is in a moment from Ken Duncan, who without saying a word, has told thousands of stories through the lens of a camera. Legendary, iconic,  but much, much more. And how his pictures have translated into tourism dollars we’ll never know.


Ken would say it’s his deep Christian faith that fuels his creativity, through which he has released more than 50 titles and sold millions of books around the world.

Ken’s latest book ‘The Spirit of Australia’ features some of his best ever landscape photographs with carefully chosen Bible scriptures. It’s these verses that draw attention to the beauty of creation.

How did this latest work from Ken Duncan come about? Ken blames it on the book trade when they did something they rarely do, (unless of course you’re a John Grisham or a Lee Child.)

Ken, you need to put out another book. We need another book from you.

“That’s very rare when they approach you,” Ken said.

This call to work on another book got Ken to thinking because it just so happened he’d been busy working on an inspirational book called Reflections, complete with Scriptures – and of course Ken’s great photography as you’d expect.

‘My favourite one’

“This time I said, Okay, we’ll do one for the trade and that was called ‘Reflections Australia Wide’. And I thought, ‘You know what? I want to do one with just Christian verses.”

“Really, when it comes to quotes and stuff like that you’re not going to get any better than the Word of God.”

So we did a Christian version and it’s called ‘Reflections – Spirit of Australia, and to tell you the truth, that’s my favourite one.

And it’s not just Ken’s preference. Reflections Spirit of Australia has been receiving plenty of attention if Ken’s exuberance at the book’s demand is any indication.

“The uptake of the book has been a huge success, so much so that you can only get it through us or Koorong at this stage.”

Ken shared his own reasons why he believes the Scripture version is moving ahead of the alternative.

‘Life is very stressful’ said Ken

“I think there are so many things going on. If our hopes are in politicians we’re in trouble. If our hopes are in global economics we’re in trouble.”

Our only real hope is through Christ and in this world I’m not concerned or worried because I know my destiny is not determined by humanity, it’s determined by God.

Ken believes we’ve got to get back to the Big Picture. Picture being a word that pretty much sums up Ken, so much so you could put a frame around it and hang it up on the wall, so to speak.

“That’s what we’ve done here. You’ve beautiful pictures of nature that opens your heart and you can pop in a Scripture that really encourages you,” Ken outlined suggesting it’s food for the soul.

“That’s what you need to feed yourself. In these stressful times you need to feed your spirit and there’s nothing better than the Word of God, and your eyes are opened by the beauty of His creation.”

‘How do you know God is real?’

“How do you know God is real?” that’s a question many a person has put to Ken Duncan who responds with some simple, plain truth answers.

“I just say, Listen. Open your eyes. Hello. Look around you. This did not happen by chance.”

Often the only thing blocking the light in people’s lives is their own shadow.

“They’re so in control that they think they’ve got it all covered.”

“Look. Even if you had all the knowledge of all humanity compared to God, you’re dumb!”

“For me, that’s why I call myself an average photographer with a great God. Because when you humble yourself before the beauty of creation around you, that’s when God can start to speak to you.”

“Often it’s our own pride that blocks us. I’m in control! I’m in control!”

‘Throw some prayers out there’

“We’re travelling on a planet at 108-thousand kilometres per hour hurtling through space, and you really think you’re in control?”

One thing Ken avoids at all costs is becoming religious. He said it’s the last thing people need.

All I say to them is just be open. Throw some prayers out there.

“For me it’s talk to the universe if you want to, because if God is real He can show you who He is.”

“And if God is the creator of the universe He can actually show you who He is. But just be open to the possibility that He’s true and He’s real. And that’s all people have to do.”

According to Ken, people often spend so much time fighting it, all they’re doing is blocking the light in their life.

Drawn to beauty

You might think Ken only sees the light, the life, the beauty, everything spectacular that nature can throw up, to be caught in the Duncan lens that capture imaginations worldwide.

But what about images that aren’t so pretty. The ugly things. Too many to mention perhaps.

For example, Ken Duncan is no stranger to hostile situations having done work for the Likes of World Vision. But even in those troubled circumstances Ken is still drawn to beauty.

I’m about focusing on the beauty because as you sow so shall you reap.

“There so much ugliness out there right now the last thing people need is something like that.’

“They need something to give them hope. Something where they can see this amazing moment. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

“I’ll often wait days or work on shots for years, just to wait for that moment.”

‘Stitching’ the Aurora Borealis

“You can see a place but sometimes God does stuff that goes beyond life.”

This was the segue for Ken to mention his new exhibition opening shortly in his gallery.

“We ‘re showing shots of the Northern Lights up in Norway. When the Aurora Borealis happened for us up there it just went off the Richter scale.”

It was just so amazing! I shot this shot which is virtually impossible to get. I did what they call a stitch.

In other words, to get a large sense of space and a lot of detail, and I felt I should try and stitch it.”

Stitch it?

“It’s about three or four shots to get the width and so you get a lot of detail – and I actually pulled one off!”

‘But how can you possibly stitch a moving subject?’ This was the million dollar question photographers were asking.

I know that was God!

But for some reason it stopped for a moment and I got it, and I know that was God!

In fact, all Ken could do after he’d taken that shot was to put down his camera.

“I was there with my mate Ray Martin who was with me at the time and we both stopped shooting and we just looked up and said,”

“How could anyone not believe in a creator when you see something like this? And the light was just dancing over the sky. I got the photograph and I was just in awe.”

The new exhibition is all about showing the awe of God.

“For me I’m more interested in God’s awe than man’s ordinary.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below


Ken Duncan has been at the cutting edge of Australian landscape photography for over 30 years and is well known for his passion to constantly pioneer new frontiers in the photographic world. Whether you are new to photography, or an experienced shooter wanting to hone your techniques or rediscover your inspiration, Ken’s Photographic Workshops provide inspiring, fun-filled adventures, in the most spectacular locations. You’ll enjoy luxurious accommodation and wonderful food while you drink from the font of knowledge.

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