Kian Bates Ocean and Wildlife Photographer

Kian Bates Ocean Photographer From Raw Edge Photography

INTERVIEW WITH KIAN BATES @rawedgephotography

Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?

My name is Kian Bates and I live at Boomerang Beach in NSW with my wife and two beach loving kids.

I have been in and around the ocean all my life, surfing, spearfishing, bodyboarding, free diving and shooting waves.  My first waterproof camera was in high school which I used to take images of waves and surf trips, then I moved to video cameras to document our surf trips in Indonesia, The South Pacific and Australia.  As technology changed from film and analogue to digital I transitioned back to photography.

I consider myself extremely lucky to live in my favourite part of the world, within walking distance to four amazing beaches each facing different directions and working in different swells and winds. We are surrounded by national parks, lakes, over 25 beaches and amazing waterways within 1/2hr drive in each direction north or south.

Kian Bates Ocean Photographer

What equipment do you use to create your images and why did you select it?

I use an Aquatech water housing to protect my cameras, an array of lenses and flashes. I love the ease of use and functionality of these products.

I shoot with a canon 70D, Tokina fish eye, Canon 50mm and 600 ex flash

Nikon D810, Nikon 16mm fish eye, Nikon 16-35mm f4, Tokina 70-200mm f4 and a Samyang 14mm

I also use Nisi filters for my landscape images and a Benro carbon fibre tripod.

Kian Bates Ocean Photographer

What would be your favourite lens and why?

I don't really have a favourite lens as I use each lens for capturing different styles of images above and below the surface.

Which photographers have inspired you and why?

Mickey Smith - For his dramatic imagery of crazy empty and icy cold slabs in Ireland.

Checkout 'Darkside of the Lens' it's mind blowing, very creative and unique and he says it how it is.

Warren Keelan - Great guy and extremely talented with his creativity of Ocean Art and capturing the different moods of the ocean.

Phillip Thurston - Creativity, passion and style of images.

Do you think you need to be a surfer to shoot the ocean?

I don't think you need to be a surfer to shoot the ocean. However I believe it's a huge advantage for knowing how to read the waves, conditions and for your personal safety.  Additionally, it helps to understand where and what to shoot in all conditions. I've been in the ocean since I was four and on all crafts around Australia and overseas,  Time, knowledge and a huge respect for ocean is a must.

Kian Raw Edge Photography Interview

What is something you wish people understood about making a career out of photography? 

Since social media has become popular in the last six years, I never tell people of secret waves or slabs.  I have always believed in keeping my favourite hidden gems to myself.

Who want's to rock up to your favourite spot and find a crowd..

Don't give images away to magazines, companies etc.

As photographers we put in huge hours, from planning a shoot, keeping an eye on weather charts and sometimes driving long distances or flying around the globe.  

If photographers continue to give away images for the sake of bragging wrights it ruins the industry for people trying to make a living out of it.

What inspires your creative vision?

No two waves ever break the same way and Mother Nature provides some amazing weather patterns and spectacles.

I have a huge respect for the ocean. I love viewing and capturing the ever changing condition's of the seasons.  To create and capture images of waves, storms and seascapes in different light and share my interpretations of art is rewarding.

How would you describe your current photographic style?

My style is based around everything water and weather. Waves, Ocean Art Landscapes and Storms. Photographing my local region and sharing the beauty of our area for people to enjoy.To be original in this day and age is very difficult as so many people are turning to photography as a hobby, passion and lifestyle job.  

Have you ever had an experiences in the ocean that really scared you?

A few.

Probably the turning point was when I was 11 surfing at Cabarita on the point in northern NSW with my dad.  It was a decent sized swell and we were having a comp for who would catch the biggest and most waves. In this session I had a bad wipeout which was the easy part the scary part was when the rest of the sets came in I was being washed along the rocks and being swept north to the beach.

This lasted for about 5 minutes. I managed to come out with only a few cuts and bruises.  Over the years with experience I have learn't a lot about the ocean. Now I feel a sense of calm and am really relaxed in the water even on the larger days, this just kicks the excitement and the adrenalin kicks in.

Kian Bates Ocean Photographer

Talk to me about these incredible whale workshops in Tonga?

I run trips to Vava'u, Tonga annually. 

The trips are an 11 day expedition to the Polynesian Archipelago to swim with majestic Humpback whales and their offspring in the warm, crystal clear waters of Tonga.

It is truly mind blowing and such an amazing experience to get up close to these beautiful animals. The Humpbacks migrate to Tonga annually from Antarctica to mate and give birth.  There are so many experiences you can have in the water.  Singing, sleeping, spy hopping, breaching, mums and their calves and heat runs.

Vavaʻu is the island group of one large island and 40 smaller ones in Tonga so there is usually some great sheltered bays in case of rough weather.  We also stop off at small atolls to snorkel and capture images as well as a few different caves my favourite being 'Swallows Cave'.

This is a photographers dream as the cave has natural light shining through a canopy from above which allows the light to bounce and dance across the surface and underwater with thousands of baitfish below.My trips are all inclusive including airfares, accomodation, breakfast and transfers with 4 days on the water with a 5th day option also.  These trips are departing from Sydney, Australia.


How do you maintain your enthusiasm for photography?

I love the chase.

When there is a new swell arriving, or severe storms on the radar my camera gear is packed and I'm off.

It keeps you outdoors and exploring new and some untouched areas.  

Each shoot i hope to create or capture something new and hopefully have an image better than the last time I went out.  

Pushing the limits in bigger swell or crazier storms is a real adrenaline rush.

If I fail in capturing something amazing it inspires me to go again and I learn from previous mistakes.

What’s it like having your own gallery?

Having a gallery is great for showcasing my work and it's a great feeling knowing that people are proud and happy to have my images hanging in their homes.

It's taken a few years to build my business and to know what my customers want to view and own for there home or office.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a successful gallery in our small coastal town as it's mainly driven by holiday trade. 

There are slow periods throughout the year especially in winter.  

For me this works well as all the best swells and conditions hit the east coast of Australia and I run my trips to Tonga.

Kian Bates NSW Photographer

What is something you wish people understood about making a career out of photography?

It's not easy and does take a lot of time and persistence.

As photographers we need to stick together and not give images away too cheaply or for free to small and large companies as we work hard at our craft.  It's an industry that more and more people get into as either a hobby or profession and hand over images for some social gain which in turn can ruin the industry for others that solely rely on it as an income.

For myself I don't do weddings or real estate and these are the 'bacon' so to speak for a lot of photographers.

I feel if I had to shoot weddings or real estate I would lose the excitement and love for what I do.

Be prepared to put in huge hours both on the camera and behind the scenes for example updating websites, emails, post processing follow ups etc. 

Finally do you have any advice for aspiring ocean photographers?

If you want to be creative and spend time in the ocean capturing your interpretations of art then give it a go.  

Camera's and water housings are more readily available and affordable these days.

Start off in the smaller shore breaks and work your way up over the years.
Don't get out of your comfort zone trying to shoot big waves or slabs as it is very dangerous. I run photography workshops if you are interested in learning how to shoot and post process your images.

Please respect and look after our beautiful oceans for our next generations to enjoy.

Kian Bates Website

Instagram @rawedgephotography