Art of the Ocean, Kian Bates

Kian Bates captured the striking vortex image on the cover of the Spring 2018 issue of our magazine. We caught up with him at home in Boomerang Beach, just south of Forster.

Cb: Kian, please share with our readers a little bit about yourself.

I’ve loved surfing, fishing, bodyboarding and spearfishing since childhood and I’m lucky to have always lived near the ocean. The formation of waves and ever-changing light have long fascinated me. To capture a moment in time and share it with people is very rewarding.

I first came to this region about 20 years ago on a surf trip with friends. I remember being blown away by the diverse coastline and amazing lake systems. At 21, I bought a block of land at Smiths Lake and moved here with my wife Ashley in 2007.

The Bates Family
The Bates Family

These days, our family is based at Boomerang Beach and includes our two very energetic, beach loving kids, Kayla and Cody. We recently built our home and gallery. The gallery is open to the public and we sell our images there and online. Ashley and I consider ourselves extremely lucky to live in one of our favourite places in the world.

Cb: You’re particularly passionate about oceanic photography. What do you find so captivating about the ocean?

No two waves ever break the same way. The ocean is forever changing from crystal clear water with small waves to out of control, storm-generated swells. The colours, shapes and twisted formations allow me to be creative with my photography.

Cb: Is there such a thing as a bad day in the office given your love of the workplace environment?

Ha ha – a bad day in the office would be if I don’t have a ‘keeper’ (a photograph I’m happy with). The ocean is my happy place, free from any stress that the day-to-day life may throw at me. I love the sound of waves erupting and exploding onto shallow reefs or beach breaks and generally go to locations with few people around.

Soaring wave

Cb: Our cover image is part of your vortex series. How challenging are these shots to capture and can you explain how this phenomenon occurs?

I’d be lucky to capture a vortex image once among 1,000 images and even then, I may delete that one image because it’s not good enough. Clarity and heavy waves breaking onto shallow sandbanks is key to a great vortex image. You have to be committed and ready for a beating with some long hold downs as these are very powerful waves.

I’m no scientist but as I understand it, as the wave is breaking towards me and the lip impacts the surface of water in front of it, the wave creates these air pockets beneath the surface that form into vortex rings that only last for a split second. This brevity is the reason that even those who have spent years surfing or swimming in the ocean have yet to see a vortex.

Cb: You’ve been into photography since high school. What first piqued your interest?

I wanted to document the surfing trips I went on with mates and I’ve always been amazed by the impact weather conditions and wind patterns have on the ocean. Mum bought me my first underwater camera at the age of 17 or so. Swimming out with only 24 images available on a roll of film was very challenging but I wasn’t deterred.

Cb: How do you ensure that such a long-term career remains interesting and varied?

By exploring our amazing coastline and finding new breaks and reefs. I’m lucky enough to be involved in annual trips to Tonga too where people swim with the humpbacks.

Golden Dancers photo of wave

I also experiment with different lenses and equipment with the aim of producing fresh, unseen images – my own interpretations of ocean art.

Cb: Any advice to budding young photographers?

Turn off the gaming console and put down your mobile phones! There is so much beauty to discover and we are spoilt in having some of the cleanest beaches in the world. Camera
gear and equipment is now much more advanced and so accessible, making it easy for everyone to have a go. You can take hundreds of photos in a session and view them while
you’re still in the water.

Cb: What do you love most about life on the coast?

The healthy, happy and relaxed family lifestyle it offers. We can walk or ride to four different beaches within five minutes. The beaches face different directions and produce completely different wave conditions too so there’s something for everyone.

There are always beaches and lakes to explore here and it’s wonderful to watch the kids grow up really appreciating their natural environment. Kayla and Cody always do ‘Take 3 for the Sea’ before we leave the beach which is something I hope all parents teach their children. We all need to step up to keep our oceans free from waste.

Follow Kayla and Cody’s lead and Take 3 for the Sea –

Meet Kian and see his work at The Boomerang Beach Gallery at 61 Boomerang Drive, Boomerang Beach. Kian also runs ocean and landscape photography workshops for anyone wanting to learn or improve their photography and editing skills.

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