An Australian Traveller Magazine Exclusive — legendary landscape photographer Ken Duncan shoots the Kimberleys in northwest WA.
Dubbed Australia’s Panoramic Prince, the legendary Ken Duncan is an international pioneer of landscape photography. Although his work has taken him all the way to the glitzy streets of Hollywood, the remote Kimberley remains his favourite region. It’s easy to see why.
When Ken Duncan first decided to photograph Australia’s vast landscapes in 1982, he did it by the seat of his pants. The young businessman sold his car, chucked in his job and went on a trip to the Kimberleys with his father, who was returning to the Kunmunya Missionary Station. The two went searching for a hidden cave with Aboriginal rock paintings, first described to them by their friend Howard Coates. They didn’t find the cave, but Ken returned with a knowledge of bush tucker, a love for the region and its people and – after five more years of travelling – a whopping 80,000 photos.
Ken’s eye for natural beauty, and for that special moment when a landscape transforms into something almost surreal, have taken the country-town boy all the way to Tinseltown and back. His limited edition prints are famous throughout the world and have earned countless awards, while his pioneering use of wide panoramic format for landscape photography has earned him the title of Australia’s Panoramic Prince.
But Ken’s love for the Kimberleys remains unspoiled. Travelling the remote area just after the wet season, when lush green and pumping waterfalls transform the pristine wilderness, is “probably one of the most spectacular trips you can do in this country. You could be blind and still take fantastic pictures.” And last year, a quarter of a century after his first photographic journey, Ken finally discovered the cave with Aboriginal rock paintings he and his father were searching for. Incredibly, he also found a message in a bottle from his late mate waiting for him.
Ken normally roughs it in true outback style, which makes his latest trip to the Kimberleys onboard the True North pretty decadent. “The boat has a helicopter on board which can drop you into the most remote locations in the world,” he says. Although creature comforts, like Neil Perry-style dining, ice cold drinks, warm showers and the company of his family, didn’t turn Ken into a lazy holidaymaker. And, as you’ll discover in these pages, he’s managed to capture one of Australia’s finest regions in all their beauty, as only Ken Duncan can. For more of Ken’s incredible imagery, go to www.kenduncan.com
Deeper into Ken’s photos
1. True North & Helicopter, King George Falls // “I put the boat in there because it gives perspective to the size of the waterfalls. Here’s this luxurious boat in the middle of nowhere and they drop people off by helicopter. You just say: “Can you please put me here? Thank you very much.”
2. Atlantis Falls, Kimberley // It’s quite a hike to get into Atlantis Falls. What makes it special is the yellow rock. That ochre rock and the beautiful waterfall in the background stand out. It’s like a sanctuary.
3. Ocean River, Montgomery Reef // I liked this shot because it’s got the boat in the background doing a u-turn, which makes a question mark in the water. It also gives the perspective.
4. Wet Season, Mitchell Falls // Normally it’s not as wild as this at Mitchell Falls; this is a huge flow of water. I love the little rainbow at the bottom – to get that I was hanging right off the cliff, over the edge.
5. Tranquil Bay, Kimberley // Look at the greenness of this area. We tend to think of outback Australia as being a parched land. Then you go up to this beautiful gorge country and it’s like Eden.
6. Sapphire Pool, Bat Crack Falls // Normally it’s really hard to photograph something like this; the reflections normally blow out the water, but because it was moving the sparkling threw light on the walls.
7. Glycosmis Falls, Kimberley // I had to get dropped up here by helicopter. If you look hard you can see a person sitting to the right of the falls. I put him in there to give you an idea of just how large the falls are. This is just a pristine place.
8. King George Falls, Kimberley // Again, those two specks to the right of the right-hand falls are people. Doesn’t that just give you an idea of how large these amazing waterfalls are? They were just sitting there, they weren’t going anywhere, and I thought: “Perfect!”
9. Montgomery Reef, Kimberley // I liked the blue of the light. In the background you can see the sunlight coming in. They actually call them “ocean rivers”, between the reef and the land. You have waterfalls coming off the reef into those channels and there’s lots of wildlife.
10. Kimberley Reflections, King George Falls // I’m using a large format camera in this one. I’m handholding it as we come up the King George River, then there was this perfect still light. The key is not getting the waterfall too close but focussing on the ambience.