On Learning & Teaching — An Interview with Tim Duncan of Second Stage Garage
Are you somewhat new to photography? Not really sure what you’re doing with your camera? Are you intimidated by social media, especially short form video like TikTok and Reels? Do you like cars? Fast cars? Do you appreciate conversations with interesting people? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, this interview is for you, and you’re going to want to keep reading!
Those who refurbish rusty Toyota Corollas into fast racing cars likely have heard of Tim Duncan and know of his garage, Second Stage. Perhaps you’ve seen him on TikTok or Instagram, where some of his videos have been watched by millions. Otherwise, let me introduce you: Tim Duncan is an up-and-coming photographer from Adelaide, South Australia. He has a thirst for learning, and isn’t afraid to try (and fail, and try again). He also has a passion for teaching. Oh, and he’s creative. All of it comes together in this article, where Tim and I discuss all sorts of things, including Fujifilm cameras and Film Simulation Recipes.
FXW: How did you get started turning rusty Corollas into track cars? Where did your passion for cars, mechanics, and racing come from?
Tim Duncan: The very beginning would have been my cousin taking me to drag racing when I was 14, then I watched the movie Gone in 60 Seconds at the cinema—after that I was pretty much hooked on all things cars.
The passion comes from what cars can teach. Everyday I am looking for ways to learn something new, and with cars it really is never-ending.
When I was younger I was obsessed with all things muscle car. My first project car was a Chrysler Valiant Charger with a 265 CI straight six engine—I bought that when I was 17 and spent years trying to fix it up. During this time I learned that I actually really enjoy driving cars on tight twisty roads. Where I live in South Australia we actually have some amazing driving roads right near the city in the Adelaide Hills. So I wanted a new project car that was great around a corner, but I was still so attached to muscle cars. Then I discovered that Toyota made a factory engine that came with a supercharger: the 4AGZE! A friend was selling a shell of an AE86 and all it needed was a supercharged 1.6L engine, so I bought that and never looked back. The rusty Corollas are really the end point of what I enjoy about cars
FWX: Tell me about your Corolla panel van project. How did you get started with that, what’s your current progress, and what’s the goal?
Tim Duncan: It’s actually a silly story where the idea came from. My friends all had drift cars and they were trying to encourage me to build one, too. My good mate, Ash, did this terrible “Photoshop” picture of me sideways in a Corolla panel van. Life happened and I never built any drift car, but for some reason that stupid silly photo always stuck with me. Then years later a shell popped up for sale for $150 and it was just a perfect time for me to start a big project, to build the drift car that never happened. Never underestimate the power of a meme! The end goal is to have a reliable easy-to-maintain-and-run drift car for having fun with my family and friends.
Current progress: I have mounted a 3800cc GM v6 from a Holden Commodore, then a stronger diff from a R31 skyline. Full custom suspension for extra lock in the front and 4 link equal length rear. A complete weld-in roll cage and mounted fixed back seats for safety. The next step is to get the exhaust finished—I got a little carried away trying to make a 6-1 exhaust that collects behind the motor.
FXW: Tell me about your passion for teaching—where did that begin? What is your teaching outlet?
Tim Duncan: It’s just something that has always come very natural to me, but only recently I have realized it’s a core value of mine. I was saying before I love to learn, and the old saying is you don’t truly understand something until you can explain it clearly to someone else. So I guess my love for learning works together with the love of teaching others.
I basically have two outlets: I like to make short form videos for TikTok and Instagram and now YouTube Shorts, and a lot of my content is teaching trade skills and basics about cars; my other outlet, which is really important to me, is my nephews coming to my workshop to help build the drift van. We try to do a session once a week where they come to the workshop—if I can teach them some basic skills and work ethics for when they head out into the real world, that would make me very happy.
FXW: You’ve had some success with short form video. What advice would you give to someone interested in making short form videos but are not really sure where to start or are maybe too insecure to try?
Tim Duncan: You have to make videos about something you are passionate about, and you need to be yourself. What makes it work is being authentic. If you are trying to follow trends or just make videos purely to get views, there is no way you can sustain that. I can already hear the response, “Thanks for the super vague cliché answer, Tim—this does not help me!” (ha ha). So here’s some practical advice: the most important thing is to focus on your hook at the start of a video—you literally have 0.5 to maybe 1.5 seconds to grab someone’s attention, and if you can’t do that they’re going to keep scrolling. It’s very hard to hold someone’s attention. I started out forcing myself to only make 15 seconds videos—think back to Vine where you only had seven seconds to get across a point. Short form video is definitely hot right now, but don’t get fooled into thinking that this is easy.
FXW: Your grandfather was an accomplished painter. Tell me about him. What impact did he have on your life?
Tim Duncan: He had such a huge impact on my life! I have fond memories of him trying to teach me how to draw and paint, how to play chess. When I was 12 he handed me a welder and taught me how to do my first welds. He always talked so passionately about being a tradesmen—he made being a boilermaker sound so exciting and interesting, that’s all I wanted to be when I grew up. I ended up being a maintenance fitter instead, but I have always loved fabricating with metal as much as I can. He loved my Nanny so much and wanted nothing more than to provide and give her the best life possible—I believe he did that. On top of all of this he was always painting. My whole life I had his paintings hanging up around my house. He tried his best to get me started, but it just never clicked—yet I feel the concepts he was trying to teach me has certainly shaped how I see the world. He showed me how an artist sees the world, that an old building or a tree or a small boat on a shore can be beautiful. Painting is definitely not my thing; taking photos is my artistic outlet, and I owe most of that to my Grandad.
FXW: How did you get started in photography? What was your first camera? Why Fujifilm?
Tim Duncan: I would definitely call myself an amateur/hobbyist, but I would say I am only just now getting started. Growing up I had a few point and shoots, and I would borrow my Dad’s Canon DSLR, but my first real camera is the one I’m using now: a Fujifilm X-T30 with a 27mm f/2.8 lens. I was wanting to get a “real” camera for a little while and was looking at a few options. To be honest I was searching for a better way to record audio for YouTube videos and wanted a mirrorless camera that I could plug a mic into. For some reason I was always attracted to the Fuji cameras—for me, they’re like Nintendo. While you have Playstation and Xbox trying to be the biggest, best, and fastest with spec sheets (just look how powerful we are!), Nintendo is making console and game experiences that are fun and with way more character—that’s my Fuji camera. I get loads of comments asking, “Is that an old film camera?” It has dials that I love adjusting, it’s nice to look at, and I just really love using it.
When I got the X-T30, I decided to start taking a few photos with it to get the hang of the camera, then I’d start filming with it. But I just found myself really enjoying taking photos, and I fell in love with photography!
FXW: Do you use Film Simulation Recipes? If so, which ones do you use?
Tim Duncan: The film simulations were a huge selling point when looking for a camera. I first used one I found on YouTube called Muted, and I also tried his B&W settings—for the life of me I can’t remember the channel. Those were the two main ones that I had been using, but recently I tried the Nostalgic Print recipe (modified for the X-T30) from the Fuji X Weekly App and instantly loved it, and I can see this becoming a regular. I also had a crack with the Kodak Vision3 250D recipe and can see why it’s a favorite! After watching the film The Batman, I attempted to make my own recipe, but I’m not sure I really know what I’m doing (ha ha), so I definitely appreciate the Fujifilm camera community making recipes available. I’m very grateful for everyone who posts up their recipes on YouTube and explain how to set the camera up—it’s extremely helpful, especially for someone just starting out.
FXW: What are your photographic interests? Describe your method for learning photography.
Tim Duncan: I feel like I’m only just really getting started, so up until now I have been sticking with the basics, focusing mainly on my compositions—placing interesting things in the right spots. I also set my camera to B&W for a good few months to learn about lighting and to understand contrast better. So I’m just trying lots of different things, and making many mistakes, to see what I like—for instance, I discovered that I’m not really interested in landscapes, but I love street photography.
I also have zero interest in sitting down and editing photos. Everything I shared today is straight from my camera—I like the challenge of trying to get it right when I take the photo. I love that, on the Fuji, I can see exactly what I’m taking because the screen and viewfinder match the film simulation settings. I do my best to get the framing correct, exposure, etc., and take the photo. That’s it! That’s the photo, and if it’s good, it’s good; if it’s bad, it’s bad. I’d really like to encourage everyone to get out there and make as many mistakes as possible, and don’t be afraid to learn from them.
Thank you, Tim, for your willingness and openness to do this interview, and for all of your time!
Find (and follow) Tim Duncan on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube!
The photographs in this article are © Tim Duncan