Bootlegged In Baja

Santa Felipe Baja 250 Poster

Photo: 2013 San Felipe Baja 250 (unofficial) race poster

Last month, while my brother was down in San Felipe, Baja, for the Baja 250 – I was also supposed to go, but due to my flight delays out of San Franscisco, I missed my ride – my brother’s friend noticed a poster with his picture on it while walking down the street.  So my brother haggled down the price to $5 and picked up a copy.  Turns out, there are half a dozen of my photos on the poster – circled in red.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a penny for my efforts.

So it goes these days as while trying to earn a living as a photographer.  Lots of people looking for free stuff, with few willing to pay.  No wonder why I’m 32 years old, and for all intents and purposes, homeless…

Thieves In The Night

Festival-Mediaval campground, Selb, Germany

Photo: Campground at the festival, Selb, Germany.  September 2012

Selb, Germany.

1 AM Friday, Sept. 7:  I say my goodbyes for the night and leave the campfire and head back to my tent.  The hour was still early for a night camped at a German music festival, but my body was still short on sleep from the last couple days of travel.  I entered my tent and zipped the door shut to the cool night air.  Earphones in, sleeping bag cozily around my head, I was tuned out to the noise and festivities that continued on late into the night.

4 AM:  I stir from my sleep to the sounds of a few shouts and some distant yelling.  I don’t think much of it, probably just some people with a little to much to drink doing something stupid.  I’m soon asleep again.

7 AM:  I awake to the lightening sky on my second morning camped in the farmers field turned makeshift campground for the 3 day music/medieval festival that would be occurring over the weekend.  I unzip my sleeping and look to grab my pants to get dressed.  Hmm, they’re not there?  Maybe under my backpack? Nope.  Hmm.  Then I look up at notice my tent is slightly unzipped.  Hmm, I don’t think I would have left it like that, but did I?  Then I start to get a feeling of panic as both my wallet and passport were in the pockets of my pants.  I hop out of my tent into the frosty morning air and look around.  I spot my neighbor and tell him that my pants are missing along with my wallet and ask if he’s seen anything during the night.  Nope, he had gone to bed early with his kids.  Shit I think, not only is my wallet gone and passport gone, but that was my only pair of pants.

A few moments later I’m looking around a see a dark shape in the bushes about 20 feet from my tent.  My pants, minus my wallet.  Shit.  As luck would have it though, my passport and cell phone remained.  But still, shit!  My cell phone battery was almost dead, but I make a quick call to my brother to contact my dad to cancel all my credit cards, but as it was 11pm in California, there wasn’t much that could be done at the time.

I walk to the entrance booth and in my bad German explain what happened.  Yes, they already know, and there were several others standing around that also had everything from cash, cameras and cell phones stolen during the night.  A group of thieves, 3 or 4 of them had come across the field during the night and raided the campground full of unsuspecting festival goers.

The screams that had woken be up during the night were from a woman who’s tent one of the men entered.  This alerted others which led to a chase through the campground.  A tackle and swift elbow to the head led to one of the thieves being knocked out and taken into custody by the police.  Unfortunately he didn’t have anything on him.  The man was from [insert name of eastern European country starting with an S which borders Poland and Czech Republic] so he didn’t speak German for the police to try and interrogate.  At least they got one of the bastards, I though.  Too bad someone didn’t give him a few more kicks though.  And my wallet was still missing, which didn’t help my situation much.

Later in the morning one of the police inspectors showed up and I stood in like with nearly a dozen other campers who’d also had stuff stolen and gave my report.  They didn’t offer much hope that anything would be recovered.  I heard some comments that they had supposedly located a car associated with the men some 40km to the north, near Hof.  But of this I heard nothing further.

Now some hours later and my mood thoroughly soured I sat talking with my neighbor about the night’s events.  Then I saw one of the festival workers walking by with something that looked my my wallet.  ‘Mein Geldbeutel!?’ I ask. Yep!  He says to try not to touch it much as the police want to come back to try and collect some evidence from it.  I opened it enough to confirm to my great relief that all my credit cards, drivers license, and other items are still there.  Missing, about 250 Euros in cash.  But at that point, after thinking about how difficult it would be to try and get my credit cards and drivers license again (I’m traveling and won’t really have an address to ship anything to until mid November), I was actually relieved to ‘only’ have lost cash.  Still, I wouldn’t have minded if the police let me give a few comments to the bastard they had.

As it turns out, a woman found my wallet in her tent.  When one of the men came in she let out a scream, maybe the one I had heard during the night.  Perhaps at that point he tried to quickly get out of the tent and must have dropped my wallet in the process.  Or perhaps he had everything in a bag and it simply fell out.  All I know is that I’m glad I got it back.  It’s one thing to loose money, and it sucks.  It’s an entirely bigger pain in the ass to try and replace documents while traveling.

Friday afternoon the festival begins and I try not to let any bitterness get to me as I listen to the music and enjoy some good food.  As I go to bed that night, I make sure that my wallet is securely in my sleeping bag this time.  Not that the thieves would be back again…

Saturday morning as I’m walking out of the camping area to go to the bakery I see a few people standing around the entrance.  Then, one of the men with whom I’d had some contact with told me that the thieves had been back again during the night and stolen more stuff.  Shit I think….

Saturday night I had a party to go to about an hour away.  I packed up most my belongings in my backpack, leaving only my sleeping bag, mat, and a few other worthless items.  I wished my tent a safe night, but I can’t imagine that the thieves would be back again.

I hear the news from my neighbor while arriving back to my tent late Sunday morning.  They had been back again during the night…

Going to bed Sunday night I tie a few objects to the guy lines of my tent to make a bit of noise where they to be moved.  Unfortunately I had a rather early train to catch, or I would have liked to stay up a bit and wait.  Early in the morning I see the lights of a flashlight flicking off my tent.  I yell out and ask what’s going on.  Men had been spotted again trying to get into the camp.  Four nights in a row? Fucking Hell!

Now, the fact that the police were unable to catch a group of men who raided the same small area with limited access points for 4 nights in a row leaves me quite disappointed.  I understand not being prepared for the second night, not imagining they would be bold enough to return again.  But on the third and fourth nights, they should have been there.  And being a fairly small town, I doubt they had any other pressing matters to attend to.  When I’m back in Germany in a few more weeks I’ll give them a phone call to find out if anything has developed since, but I kind of doubt it.  And I wouldn’t even be surprised to hear that the man they have in custody had been released with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.  Probably using my 200 Euros to by a big screen TV from Saturn…

Being so used to travel, I think I’ve let my guard down a bit.  Prior to this, I considered the inside of my tent while I was in it as a ‘safe place.’  When sleeping in hostels or elsewhere, I’m always sure to keep my valuables well hidden, but I guess I was a bit lax in my tent security.  Also, as I’m usually a fairly light sleeper, I’m not sure why I didn’t hear anyone enter my tent.  Possibly because I had my iPod earphones in as well as having the sleeping bag fully zipped around my head as it was a rather chilly night.  And with other campers in such close proximity, it is also hard to distinguish the distance of various noises from within in the tent.  So perhaps if I did hear the sound of a zipper in the middle of the night, I would just have likely associated it with my neighbor opening his tent as opposed to imagining someone entering mine; something that was not anywhere on my mind as I went to bed that night.  From now on, I’ll trust nothing as safe…

Omnia Live at Festival-Mediaval 2012, Selb, Germany
Photo: Omnia Live at Festival-Mediaval 2012. Selb, Germany

This and That

Winter sun over VæroyPhoto: Winter sun over Værøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

It seems that whenever I return to California my ideas for blog posts disappear down some black hole.  Half the problem is I get the stupid idea that I need to work on other projects, like an eBook on the Lofoten Islands that I’ve been unsuccessfully attempting to write for several years.  If someone else would go ahead and write one I would actually be thankful and finally give up.  Yet at this point in time no one has, so for some reason I feel the duty to.  Though I really am not good at writing.  I have the ideas in my head of what I want to say, they just never seem to make it to the keyboard in any coherent fashion.  I usually do better with good old fashioned pen and paper, yet I’m not even sure there’s any in the house here.

I also need up update my now 3 year old website to something a bit more current.  If I were more successful I would just pay someone, but I’m not, so I spend my afternoons trying to relearn CSS, HTML, PHP and all that other fun stuff.  I like the design part of it, just the coding is a bit of a pain and takes way to long for me to get anything done.

I don’t have anything planned other than sitting around Santa Barbara for the next months so hopefully I can make progress of a few things.  Though I’m sure summer will be here before I know it and I’ll be needing to go out at stretch my legs somewhere.  I’m trying to get the blog on some sort of regular schedule from now on, but I’ve also said this in the past and didn’t quite manage so no promises…

I ordered a few test prints for some new images a few days ago.  Hopefully they arrive in the next day or two and if they look good then I’ll add them to my print gallery.  Might also be time for a print sale 😉


Lofoten Islands Travel Article

Reinebringen View Lofoten Islands Hiking

Photo: View over Kjerkfjord from Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Oct. 2011

A few months back I wrote an article about the Lofoten Islands for a new travel website.  As I’ve been on the road, I never got around to posting a link, so here it is finally.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.  Though please don’t try and tell me I have a future in writing.

SWITCHBACK TRAVEL – Lofoten Islands by Cody Duncan

Lofoten islands article


Lofoten Islands mountain landscape

Photo: Maervoll, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Oct. 2011

PDN Great Outdoors 2011 Contest Winner

PDN great outdoors contest winning image 2011

My image from Haukland beach, Lofoten Islands was selected as a finalist in the 2011 PDN Great Outdoors photo contest.  It was printed in the Sept. issue and now the contest website is live.  I’m quite honored to appear next to quite a few other photographers whom I myself admire.

CLICK HERE:  for 2011 PDN Great Outdoor photo contest

Not to promote myself too much, but if you’re interested in purchasing a print of this image: CLICK HERE


Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Frozen tide on Haukland Beach in winter, Lofoten islands, Norway.

I’m pleased to announce that I now have a number of my images available for purchase as prints.  It is only a small number for now, but I will be adding new images in the following months.  I’m also open to requests, so if there is anything in particular you might be looking for, let me know.

CLICK HERE to view my print gallery

10 years

Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Boats at rest in Ågvatnet, Å I Lofoten, Norway.  2001

I know the above photo kind of sucks.  I shot it 10 years ago within a couple hours of stepping foot on Lofoten for the first time.  It’s taken with an old Nikon FE and a crappy 35-105mm lens on Fuji Provia 100, hand held sometime shortly before midnight.  I made a print of it, where it hung on my wall for 5 years before I was able to return again.  Over the years I’ve tried to take a ‘better’ version of this photo, but I’ve never encountered proper conditions.  Despite all its faults, it’s still one of my favorites.  I can remember those moments with stunning clarity; it was the point where I knew I had ended up someplace special.  With luck and hard work, Lofoten will be my home by the end of the year.  Something I’ve dreamed about all those years, yet never managed to make much progress towards.  Maybe I just needed to get a little older.


schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Schmitsch – Smicz

schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Photo: Freshly plowed fields in autumn, Schmitsch/Smicz, Poland

[UPDATE: April 2014 – I have written an updated post about with further information into the Hindera (and other) families – CLICK HERE ]

Rarely do I visit a place that I have a personal connection with.  The tiny village of Schmitsch/smicz is an exception.  It’s the place where my great-great grandfather, Albert Hindera, was born.  In those days it was part of Prussian Silesia.  Today it now lies in Prudnik county, in the south of Poland.

This history of Schmitch, now named Smicz in Polish, is a complex one.  At the center of Europe, the Silesian region (Schlessien) has fallen under the rule of numerous duchies, kingdoms, and empires throughout the centuries.  By the mid 18th century the Prussians gained control over the region from the Austrian Habsburgs.  In 1871 Silesia then became part of the newly formed German empire (Deutsches Reich) where it remained a part of Germany up until the end of WWII, when a majority of the region was transferred to Poland.

In 1879, at the age of 17, Albert, along with several brothers and sisters, left the German port of Bremen for America.  Landing in Baltimore he took the train to Nebraska, eventually ending up with land in western part of the state.  He built himself a house out of sod and started a farm.  After 5 years, he was awarded the deed to his land, upon which he sold it and bought another farm in the southeast of Nebraska near the town of Steinauer, where the soil was better.  There he married another Silesian immigrant, Anna Lempka and in 1889 my great-grandfather George Hindera was born.  Looking at family records it seems like half of Schmitsch must have traveled to America during that period.  The names of the Nebraska census closely match those from the war memorials, cemetery, and church records in Smicz.

I was granted the privilege to look in the hand written church birth/baptism registry where I saw the names of long forgotten family and the records of their births from centuries past.  Even finding a few new names of my family line further back in time.  It was somewhat difficult to read the old German handwriting.  Especially once I got used to one persons writing style in the book, and then a new person took over with even worse handwriting!

I unfortunately was not allowed to take any photos of the books, not sure why not.  It’s a bit frustrating to realize how much information is locked away in those old books with their deteriorating paper and fading ink.  And there is no real access to it outside of going there, and hopefully having someone who speaks the language of the local priest.  I guess I should also be thankful that my family records have survived two wars and dramatic political changes.  Hopefully I can return in another few years and keep looking back further in time and maybe try and get permission to take some photos.  The records go back to the 1500’s.

Looking at the war memorial in the city center, I guess it is a good thing my family left.  The names Brinsa, Hindera, Mellar, and Peschel are all of direct ancestry to me, and probably nephews/cousins of Albert.  It seems a large toll was taken from this small town of 500 souls.   The cost of the second world war was even greater.

Schmitsch smicz poland bilingual sign

Photo: Bilingual Polish/German city sign.  The region where Schmitsch/Smicz lies is one of the few areas in Poland where German has recently become an official recognized language once again.

Rural road in poor condition, Smicz, Opole, Southern Poland

Photo: Main road into town.  Could use some paving.

Schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: Downtown Smicz.  Other than the asphalt and power lines, it probably hasn’t changed much since Albert left.  When I return I’ll see if the family home still exists.

German war memorial schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: WWI memorial.  A lot of names, both German and Polish, for a village of 500.


Summer day, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite national park, California

It’s kind of sad to think that after today the days are getting shorter again.  Though here in Santa Barbara at 33˚ N latitude, we don’t really get long summer days anyhow.  Nothing cool like walking along the beach at 10pm and watching the sun sink into the North Sea from and Ostfriesland island.  Or the simply endless days of the arctic.  Here, summer generally means less sleep.  I need to set my alarm for all too early in the morning, and need to stay up far too late in the evening.

At the beginning of the year, it had been my plan have been living on the Lofoten islands right now.  I wanted to start a book project today of 1 photo a day for an entire year, showing the dramatic transition of light and dark that occurs every year.  I still have hopes of getting back to Lofoten before the end of the year, but things are still up in the air.  It was probably too ambitious of an idea anyways, and would have stretched my creativity to the limit while trying to produce a unique image after the 3rd straight week of rain.  I might try and complete a more scaled back version of the idea, focusing more on the seasonal changes of the islands.  But it all really depends on if someone at the Norwegian embassy believes in me enough to grant me a work visa, or if they just consider me some lazy dreamer.  I’m also getting the feeling that I need to call myself an artist rather than photographer.  People seem to get more street cred as an ‘artist’ for some reason.

I’m heading up to Tuolumne over the weekend for a short family trip.  Will have to miss the Santa Barbara solstice parade unfortunately, which is about the only interesting thing us Californians do for midsummer, as opposed to the cool festivals/bonfires all over Europe.  The photo above is from a couple years ago, of a nice and green (and mosquito filled) Tuolumne meadows.  This year I should return with a more wintery collection of images.  The pass just opened last weekend, so winter still hasn’t quite heard the news, it’s summer now!


Reflecion in window

I was going to post something of a rant today which had been brewing most of yesterday afternoon.  A nights sleep and I’ve thought the better of it.  Wasn’t anything of much importance anyhow, mostly just frustration at the giant wall I’m staring at.  Instead, a reflection.  One of my favorite photos for some reason, from one of my favorite places.