About W Brian Duncan

HDR Photographer, techie, vegetarian, fitness enthusiast, dreamer, creative and all around nice guy. Lover of wine.

The Dry Sierra Nevada Mountains, July 2014

California Drought

I was really surprised by just how bad the drought is in California. During our visit to Fresno we took a picnic with some of Pamela’s family up to Grant’s Grove in King’s Canyon. It and the Sequoia National Monument are some of my favorite places on the planet. There is something powerful about those giant trees, something about their eternity. We are born, and we die, but it’s only a moment for them. They are ever living.

All things though, have weakness and as we drove towards King’s Canyon (away from Grant’s Grove and into the Sierra Nevada), it became apparent the rampant danger California faces with the years long drought (since nearly 2010). The entire landscape of California seemed scorched, ravaged by the unrelenting sun and the lack of precious water. Much of the produce we enjoy around the country is kept alive on irrigation and water rights. I worry for the farmers who make their living in California. I am sad and disgusted by the pollution we have created. Mostly I fear for my trees, if our wanton greed and destruction should damage the Sequoia Groves we not only lose one of our greatest National treasures, we lose part of eternity.

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Jumbled Buildings in Hong Kong

So Much Going On

Big cities are always interesting to my small town mind. I grew up in a city of less that 7000 people and when I look back I longed for the “Bright Lights of THE Big City”. I remember collecting maps from National Geographic magazine. Those maps were the only part I recall looking at and I would pour over the details of the Amazon or some medieval European city. We didn’t travel much as a family, for one reason or another, which might well explain my life-long fascination with travel. As a child, travel seemed a magical journey, fought with excitement, and peril. As an adult, I can’t say much has changed in those old attitudes, but one thing I do know…THE Big City is an exciting place to see.

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Old Signs in Fresno, CA

Finding Your Way

I found these old signs in Fresno, CA when visiting Pamela’s family. They took us to a place called Simonian Farms where there is a wonderful collection of random old stuff.

Perhaps it’s the raw amount I travel, but I have found myself fascinated with signs. I seem to photograph them all the time. When I was on my first trip, my Mom said, “Brian, just look up at the signs, follow them and you will be OK.”

That’s good advice for traveling and life in general really. Keep your head up. Be observant (read the signs). Everything will be OK.

I have always remembered that piece of advice and I have always seemed to find my way.

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Multnomah Falls in the Rain

Another Kind of Work

I visited Washington and Oregon on a work trip for my day job. When I realized that Malthomah Falls was close by I was so excited I couldn’t hardly contain myself. I kept dropping hints to my co-worker Drew that we HAD to stop at some point (we drove by several times). Luckily we had time on one of the return trips and despite a pretty steady rain, I somehow convinced everyone to stop. The wind was very strong that day and was causing a huge amount of spray from the falls. I ended up cleaning my lens every shot to try to get something without smears. In the end, especially given the weather, I think I found something interesting.

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Sunshine on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Late Morning in Venice

I got up really early on a rainy morning in Venice to shoot St Mark’s Square when it was devoid of people. I was sick with my general post travel lung disease. I had returned home from Oahu, worked one day, then flew to Milan where I took the train to Venice. Once the sun came up, I found why many consider Venice one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This view is looking across the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace is to my back, I can’t think of a more wonderful way to start a sick day. If you go, just look out for the tourists!

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Odd Table Out in Bangkok, Thailand

Strange Mix

Bangkok seemed to me a hodgepodge. I was only in the city for a few hours, but I was struck by the heat (I cant take the heat) and by the mix and fury at which things happen. There are new structures next to old dilapidated ones. The train system was very clean and interestingly had signs directing passengers to give up your seat to monks. There was noise and commotion and people seemed to literally make a living from discarded junk like many of the water taxi boats had what appeared to be auto engines made into boat engines (radiator and all). I felt like rules were arbitrarily applied. I feel like I need to give the city another chance. It was alive and vibrant and an interesting mix of things I didn’t understand. These tables made me think of all of this.

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The Ossuary of San Bernardino in Milan, Italy

Stunned Meditation

My visit to the Ossuary of San Bernardino in Milan was one of the most profoundly impactful of my life. I often steer clear of places where large numbers of human remains have been laid (visibly) to rest. My presence somehow seems disrespectful as I and others gawk in our tourist’s stupor, so acutely aware of how quickly our vacation is slipping away. Truth be told, I have always been a bit freaked out by the idea as well. I have always been a bit…sensitive to things many others don’t seem to pick up on. I’m not talking about some sort of Shirley MacLaine, out-of-body experience, but I also don’t so much discount people and their other-worldly experiences.

When I entered the small chapel, I was overwhelmed. It’s hard to describe what went on there. Mostly it was quiet. I sat down. Many people came and went, some were solemn, some giggled, some prayed. I sat there for perhaps an hour and a half before I even realized what had happened. Thousands upon thousands of hollow, vacant eyes stare down at you, no matter where you are. The gaze of the dead is inescapable, it closes in on you and somehow they WERE ACTUALLY watching me. I could feel those eyes penetrate to my very soul, my walls were no use in this place. The interesting thing was, how un-judged I felt…and that feeling was very specific.

Two things permeate the space; that eternal gaze of the dead and the sacred heart. Both of these overwhelm. The message is clear to Catholics, but it had a different call for me. Life is so very, very short. Find your heart Brian, before it’s too late.

The people in the Ossuary didn’t die especially good deaths, nor were they in many cases good people, but I so desperately hope they have found peace.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 4 April, 2014
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Location: 45° 27.7483′ 0″ N 9° 11.7518′ 0″ E
  • Shutter speed: 3.2s
  • Title: The Ossuary of San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan, Italy

Curb Your Dog’s Enthusiasm

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

I have to admit that I really love taking photos of odd things, and these oddities do occasionally make it onto the blog. From street art in Buenos Aires, to The Post Alley Gum Wall in Seattle, oddities that make me stop and go…hmmmm I wonder why someone did this…are some of my favorite travel finds. Technically, these street art masterpieces are graffiti or considered defacement by many. Enter this little sign…Curb Your Dog. I don’t know if this New York City sign is standard (it’s the only one I saw) around NYC, but someone had a clever idea to deface it.

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Footprints in the Sand of Honokalani Black Sand Beach in Maui, Hawaii

Footprints in the Sand

Maui was the first Hawaiian island Pamela and I visited. We went before I started traveling heavily and it’s still easily one of my favorite places on Earth. Looking back, many of my favorite places have been one’s I discovered with Pamela. I love exploring on my own. I think it is a basal need for me, but when you share your journey with the right partner, it makes life better.

This particular beach in Maui, Honokalani Black Sand Beach is located near the town of Hana in the Wainapanapa State Park. We took the road to Hana that day and found this gem towards the end of a day of magical Hawaiian wonder. Easily, this beach was our favorite part, not only of the Road to Hana drive, but our entire trip! This place was pure joy the day we visited. Like footprints in the sand, so too are our lives. Enjoy those moments of bliss no matter if you find them on a black sand beach half-way around the globe or if they materialize in your own backyard.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 23 July, 2012
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Location: 20° 47.3383′ 0″ N 156° 0.2118′ 0″ W
  • Shutter speed: 1/3200s
  • Title: Footprints on Honokalani Black Sand Beach in Maui, Hawaii

London Tube Station Sign Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3

Symbols of London

You can probably personally come up with a bunch of symbols of London, even if you have never been there! Big Ben and Parliament, the helpful look right signs painted on streets, the bobbies and their awesome hats, but another symbol stands out in my mind and it might well in yours…the symbol for the London Tube. Often around Europe, the subways are called Metro’s and often represented by a M. BORING! For some reason I just love the London tube symbol. Perhaps because it does actually look like you are looking down a tube…practical and awesome looking…who could ask for more! What are your favorite London symbols?

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