James Bowden underwater swimming shot for land&water


Photographer, surfer and lover of adventure, James Bowden lives and breathes what he shoots – and brings us along for the journey. His images have appeared far and wide, from The Guardian and Saturday Telegraph to The Surfer's Journal; Kinfolk to Easyjet Traveller; Visit Britain to Tourism Tasmania. Natural and easy yet full of wonder, we're proud that James' photographs have also captured the land&water lifestyle since the very beginning. He shares some of his favourite shots – and the secret to lasting it out in freezing water...


The idea that 'time outside makes us feel better inside' is at the heart of land&water, and your photography captures this feeling so perfectly. How do you make your images feel so natural and seemingly effortless?!

Thank you, that’s lovely to hear! I’m always striving to make my images feel natural and the easiest way to approach this is to really be part of whats going on, be part of the scene so the camera is less of a barrier between you and your subject. 


James Bowden for land&water


Have you always been drawn to photographing people out in wild environments?

I guess it all started with travelling and surfing. It’s led me to some amazing places over the years and the ones that really struck a chord with me were the wild and natural environments.

Where are some of the most memorable or dramatic places your work has taken you to, and how did they make you feel?

There are a few places that are memorable to me, two of those are Tasmania and Iceland. Tasmania is a place I’ve spent lots of time and it’s one of the places that really cemented my love of nature and wildermess. Iceland too; I’ve had some amazing trips there over the years. Both of these places have such dramatic and diverse landscapes, and ever-changing light. But above all, it's the people I’ve met there or travelled with that have made these places so close to my heart. 

[Image gallery below: selection of photographs shot by James Bowden for Millican and Finisterre. Click on each image to view at full size]



When you’re not working, what’s your favourite way to spend time on the threshold between land and water?

That’s easy, surfing! I've surfed since I was a teenager and I still love it now just as much as I did then. 

Those underwater swimming shots are something else… can you tell us a bit more about them?

I’m always on the lookout for interesting places to shoot the swimming shots; places that might offer something a bit unexpected or different. Clear water is obviously high on the list, but also things like the colour of the rocks or sand, and how the light might react to that. Rivers and waterfalls are great too, bubbles and aeration of the water.


Underwater Penwith photograph by James Bowden for land&water


Then you’ve got to be pretty prepared. The water is usually freezing so I’ve got to think about what I’m hoping to capture and be in the right place at the right time with the equipment ready. Although some of the swimmers in those shots are tough as nails, it’s still only fleeting how long they can stay in the water.

Also, just getting to these places is half the fun, and adds to the adventure. Some of them are fairly well known, but others not at all. Hopefully the images will keep people guessing as I don’t like to give away the locations too much!

Seems like your other signature shots are the jumping/ diving ones? Can you tell us a bit more about those, and why you’re drawn to them?

Who doesn’t love jumping in the water! It’s the movement, excitement and fun of it… we're all smiling and having a good time when that’s going on. 


Jumping image by James Bowden

James Bowden diving image for land&water


What are your ideal conditions for shooting in? And the most challenging you’ve had to deal with? Guess the unpredictability of the elements can make for some amazing unexpected delights, but also some cursing here and there…??

I don’t really have ideal conditions as I’ve got favourite shots taken in all types on conditions! On a day of rough weather you can get incredible light, then on a day of beautiful weather you can feel uninspired… My favourite is just to take what you're given and look out for the opportunities that it might offer. 

[Image gallery below: selection of photographs shot by James Bowden for land&water. Click on each image to view at full size]



What’s coming up? Any travels or jobs in particular this year you’re really looking forward to?

I’m working on a project with some friends about sourcing coffee and surfing. Those things sound a little strange together, but it’ll all make sense!


James Bowden image for Yallah Coffee

[Image above: James Bowden for Yallah Coffee]


Can you pick some of your favourite images shot for land&water, and tell us a bit more about them?

Sure, here goes...

Underwater photograph of two swimmers diving deep down into the depths.

This image (and the cover photo at the top) are taken from the same rockpool. It’s one of the best – it’s so deep and clear, and the rock is quite uniquely dark compared to the surrounding area. Also Sophie and Cat in this picture are amazing, they never seem to get cold and are always up for "Just one more dive?!"


Photograph taken of swimmer underwater, body in sunlight, calves and feet kicking at autumn leaves.

Becky in the autumn river... It really was cold here, but I managed to persuade her to hold out just long enough so that I could try and get one of these leaves I was fascinated with!


Photograph of swimmer floating on the top of lake, smiling, toes out of the water.

One of my favourites, this shot just sings happiness and the joy of being immersed in water (although she’s probably smiling at the thought of getting out, warming up and having a coffee).


Underwater photograph close up of swimmers face, eyes closed surrounded by blurry air bubbles.

This was taken in a small pool, in a rocky gully, at the bottom of a high waterfall. We edged in super-close until it was just so hectic; somehow Cat found a moment of calm in the chaos and I managed to get this shot.


Photograph of children, torso's above the water, playing in the evening light.

This one just sings summer, family and fun to me…


Underwater photograph of woman swimming.

Cat again, in a an autumn river, full of fallen leaves. I wasn’t sure what to expect going out to this river spot in Devon, but it was incredibly clear (and cold), and I was mesmerised by the floating leaves! 




See more at jamesbowden.net / follow James on Instagram @jamesbowdown

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