Click! Goes creation
Award-winning nature photographer Ken Duncan specializes in dazzling scenes of creation
Don’t expect to flip through a regular family photo album when Ken Duncan shows you his photographs. Put one of his huge two-metre long panoramic colour prints on your wall, and you’ll think you’re staring out a window at one of the most magnificent scenes in God’s creation. From sparkling Australian beaches to icy mountain lakes … from lush green tree-ferns in a misty Victorian valley to sunrise in the rugged heart of central Australia … . Most of these photographs seem so real that you feel you are inside the picture you’re looking at.
At the age of 38, Ken Duncan is probably Australia’s most acclaimed landscape photographer. He has won numerous awards—in Australia and internationally. His photographs have fetched record prices for Australian photographic work, and a book of his photographs published in 1987 has sold more than 65,000 copies.
‘I’m simply showing people the beauty of creation’, Ken says. ‘It’s not to show people how great Ken Duncan is—he’s a very average person. If God can use me then He can use average people—believe me.’
Ken was born in Mildura, on Australia’s Murray River, and spent most of his early life in country towns.
‘I was very bad at school’, he admits. ‘But I went to a Christian camp as a kid—Camp Technology—and they taught about electronics and photography. Electronics, as far as I was concerned, involved too much head knowledge. But photography … as soon as I saw a black and white print come up in the developing tray I thought, “Wow! This is where I want to be."
‘After that it was all downhill for me as far as schoolwork was concerned, because I used to goof off all the time taking photos.’
He moved to Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, when he was 16. During his years among the hubbub, smog, and hectic big-city life of Sydney, he fostered the dream of returning one day to the ‘bush’ … the Australian countryside … to photograph the natural wonders and people of Australia.
In 1982, he set off on a journey around Australia to capture on film the beauty of the vast nation he loves. He gave up his house, cars, and everything he owned. After five years on the road he had taken 30,000 images with his special wide panoramic cameras. He uses no tricks and no filters … just natural light.
‘I wasn’t a Christian when I started my journey’, he says. ‘I didn’t even believe in God at that stage. But as you’re taking photos of creation you are challenged. You start looking at things and you start realizing that this is more than an out-of-control science lesson.’
He says he began to see the order and design in the beautiful scenes he was looking at and photographing. ‘It gave me a new belief in creation, not evolution’. Ken says.
He is now a joyous Christian.
‘I love reading the Word of God. I love going to church. Wherever I go, I seek out a church. Jesus is no longer hanging on that cross. He’s off and He’s doing fine. The God I serve is alive and well.’
Ken says he sometimes gets amazing help in knowing what to photograph.
‘When I’m out in the bush I sometimes say, "This looks good", "Oh, this is great!" And I’m shooting heaps of shots — click! click! click! Then all of a sudden God goes "tap! tap! tap!" and says, "Look this way!" And I may have only one image left. I get only one go at the really good ones.’
Ken says that through all the wonderful scenes he manages to capture on film, God always lets him know who is in control.
‘It’s a continual exercise in humility. If you think you’re something special you’re kidding yourself, because He will just say: "See how close it is between success and failure?"’ An example of how close it can be between success and failure came when Ken was asked to do some photography for the Australian music group Midnight Oil. He had a particular afternoon allocated to get the shots he required for the band’s promotions. He had prayed about it and God had given him a peace about the coming shoot. On the day though, it was 46 degrees Celsius (115°F) in the shade, and big thunder clouds began to roll in. It seemed all was lost.
‘I had all these film crews waiting around to prove me wrong. And I said, "Don’t worry! I’ll do this shot in the last half of the day." And this was over four days, and I had only the last half of the last day. So the last half of the day came and it was massively overcast—clouds, and everything like that.’
The non-Christians he was with kept telling him he wasn’t going to get the shot he was after. But they were puzzled why he was so calm about everything despite the gloomy weather.
‘Anyway, that particular day I wore a T-shirt which said, "Don’t be caught dead without Jesus"—and all these rock-’n’-roll people were around. They’re a great bunch of guys, but some of them were saying, "Oh, mate, this weather is not looking good for you." They had packed away their gear and were just waiting to see God let me down.’
But they were all caught.
‘About half an hour before sunset, a huge wind suddenly came and seemed to blow a hole in the clouds about 150 feet away. We all ran to this section. And it was like a window of light that was being kept open. All of a sudden we had rainbows, wild light … God just put on an amazing show.’
And Ken got the shot he had waited for.
‘I’m not saying God’s up there as my personal lighting technician or anything, but God really pulled it out that time. It was just fantastic.’
‘I don’t get fanatical or anything like that’, he says. ‘I just let God use me to show people His beauty.’
Ken believes that whatever Christians do they should try to be the best at it.
‘They should make sure their Christianity is shown in whatever they do in their work. The eyes of the world are on us.’
How does he see his life now as a creationist Christian?
‘Exciting. Being a Christian is not for wimps. It takes guts to be a Christian. In Heaven, God’s not going to say to me: "Hey, I loved your pictures!" He’s going to ask, "What did you do about my Son?’"
So Ken shows people and tells them about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the beauty of God’s creation all around them. He dedicated his most recent book of photographs, Australia Wide: Spirit of a Nation, in these words:
‘This book is dedicated to a friend who died and rose again that we may have life in Him. His name is Jesus.’
Ken says he is saddened by people who think all the beauty of nature is a product of chance evolution. He included a creation verse from the Bible on the printed program for a recent exhibition of his photographs on Australia’s Gold Coast. (It was Romans 1:20: ‘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.’ [NIV])
‘Some people say to me, "Show me God." And I say, "Open your eyes—what’s wrong with you?’"
He says the evidence for creation is all around. ‘Look at an ant. With all our technology we cannot produce an ant that can do what an ant can do. There is a power behind creation that is bigger than we are.’
Through his unique panoramic photographs, Ken is prodding people to think about who that power is.