Fine Art Photographer Baden Bowen shares some of his thoughts and images with James Robinson Photography Blog. Thank you Baden for sharing this time with us.
Baden Bowen: Thank you for inviting me!
JRP: Where do you call home Baden?
Baden Bowen: I was born and bred in South Wales and I’m passionate about my beautiful country, but home is where the heart is and home for me is in Kent where I moved in 2010 to be with my wife.
JRP: What led to your interest in photography?
Baden Bowen: I always had a camera like most people, but only used it for snaps of the family. The only time I ever really thought about ‘photography and wished I was better at it, was when I used to keep marine aquariums. I became quite successful at them and started winning competitions, but couldn’t quite capture their beauty for the online photographs the way others did!
When I moved to Kent myself my wife wanted a hobby that would help me get to know the area better and to meet people, so in 2011 I bought a second-hand Canon 350D, and we joined a camera club, so I guess it started there.
JRP: Is there any formal training in your background?
Baden Bowen: Not at all, I am self-taught. I read a lot when I want to find out how to do something, or watch tutorials. Failing that I keep trying!
JRP: Who are some of the photographic artists that have influenced your work?
Baden Bowen: I have so much to learn yet I think I am influenced by every photographer! I see so much fantastic work out there, in so many different genres of photography. I think how did they do that? I go and try until I work out the technique, or I try a subject matter I’ve not tried before. I am doing a lot of film work now and in my typical manner, I started to read up about some of the great masters of film photography. I came across the work by Ansel Adams and was blown away by it! I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about his work process and the “Zone System”. One day I’ll find a landscape worthy of trying to do justice to Ansel’s incredible black and white landscape work.
JRP: What steps did you take to develop your vision and technique early on?
Baden Bowen: I started like most people, shooting anything and everything, but found that I enjoyed shooting people and in particular the creative side of the editing which I had some experience in but not particularly editing photos. My vision, if anything, was to be different, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. There is not much that has not been tried, and done well. The best I can hope for is the one thing that is unique is my own imagination. I like to think that comes through in most of my work.
JRP: What would I find in your camera bag for a typical shoot?
Baden Bowen: As much as I can carry! I try to limit it but never do! I have my basic kit which consists of: my Canon 5DII, Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, a couple of flashguns, triggers, light meter, grey card, spare memory card, spare batteries, and a ground sheet. Because I love doing film, I can’t go without a film camera as well. I have a huge collection of vintage cameras so one always comes with me along with spare film. My favourite at the moment is a hefty 1951 Graflex Speed Graphic 4×5 which is fabulous.
JRP: Do you prefer, artificial or available light and why? What are your most often used light modifiers?
Baden Bowen: Outdoor natural light every time if possible, but sometimes you just have to use fill in flash or a pop up reflector just to give it a boost. If I’m doing a studio shoot at home I use a 30-year-old Bowen’s Monolight with a 3 foot sq soft box and a reflector on a boom arm.
JRP: I admire your image processing. Please describe your digital work flow and the software you use? What do you think one must do to master image processing and manipulation especially surreal imagery?
Baden Bowen: Thank you, my work-flow changes depending on what kind of image I am processing but I do my first adjustments in camera RAW and then move in to Photoshop. If it is a surreal composite, firstly I cut out all the main elements (people, objects etc.) using quick select tool and then refine edge. Then I prepare the background of the image by using tones or texture on my choosing.
I take photographs all the time of anything I might want to use one day (landscapes, walls, skies, clouds, sea, grass, fields etc.) and save them to my stock library. After the background is complete, I start bringing in the cut out elements and get a feel for the composition of the image, resizing, checking the lighting is right on each element, and generally moving them around until I start seeing the final arrangement.
Then its all about blending and toning to get a uniform feel, and to make each element look like they “belong”. A few final tweaks and maybe some textures layered over, and gradient maps, and I may have a finished piece. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and more often than not, the image ends up being totally different to what I had originally planned! To master the process and make it look good takes practice, time and effort. Some of my simplest have been only one or two layers, but I’ve done some with over 100 which have taken many hours to create.
JRP: When you look through the view finder when is the most critical moment in the capture of your images?
Baden Bowen: I’d like to come up with something fancy, but in reality, I’m just happy if it’s in focus! Seriously, I tend to pre-visualize images and know the look I want. If it means waiting for the right emotion from a model or waiting for the perfect light, whatever it takes to get the shot!
JRP: Was there a shoot or project that revealed to you the distance you’ve come as an artist?
Baden Bowen: My first gold medal in an International Photography Exhibition (45th Howrah India) was about sixteen months after I first started. I’ve had a few more since then, it was pretty special, not just because it was my first gold medal, but because it meant others liked what I did too. It was used on the front cover of the exhibition catalogue. The image was called “The Warrior”. I had a beautiful model, a great MUA, and, I used a chain mail coif in the shot. It was incredibly heavy but looked great on her. I can remember trying to get a really specific look in her eyes to suit the scene, and the end result was really powerful.
As a digital artist, my image “Low Tide” was a turning point in my creative ability. I challenged myself to take an image of an area very well-known and well photographed called Dungeness on the South Coast, and do something that had not been done before. I took all the elements of that image and created something unique and distinctive to anyone who has ever seen or photographed Dungeness. It’s been incredibly well received.
JRP: If not photography what would Baden Bowen be doing with his time?
Baden Bowen: I still have a full-time job away from photography, but all my free time I live and breathe photography. There are so many different things to try to master, so many cameras, so many images waiting to be taken. I can’t imagine doing anything else! I love taking apart old broken cameras and fixing them, so maybe if I wasn’t actually taking photographs I might be doing that!
JRP: So far what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Baden Bowen: Practice, practice, practice! Its true, nothing comes overnight and everything I have learned so far is a result of hours and hours of practice every single day and night! Read everything you can about what interests you, watch tutorials and then go practice some more.
JRP: What advice would you share with other photographers?
Baden Bowen: Anything they want to know! I have no secrets and if anyone comes to me for advice or asks how something has been done, I am happy to share it. I often see photographers being cagey about their work-flow as if it’s a big secret!
Actually, I have another piece of advice. In Portraiture, only one image in every set is the best, don’t put out a twenty shots that hardly look any different. Only one or two are best and you want people to focus their attention on them, not the other 18 that were not as good! Do not over saturate a shoot with the images which water down that best shot.
JRP: Thank you Baden for sharing this time with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you, and continued success.
Baden Bowen: You are very welcome, come back next year and see how I’m getting on, that will be interesting!
JRP: To view more of Baden Bowen’s photography please follow these links: