Creating the Photograph: Donald Bowers “Why Here! Why Now?”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they created an image with minimal use of post-production and all about their lighting. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Here’s how you can submit.

Photographer Donald Bowers is based in New York City with over 12 years of professional experience. And for “Why Here! Why Now?” Donald decided that he wanted to play around and experiment a bit. For a bit of background on Donald, he’s a contributor to Getty Images and has had a wide variety of clients including Cohn & Wolfe, Grey Advertising, CNN and Heineken. He describes his work as inspired by polished photography with elements of rawness and unpredictability. He loves collaborating with clients and is always eager to find innovative solutions to challenges that arise during the process. To put it more concisely, he says that it’s “mildly wild and slightly styled.”

The Concept

I shot this a few years ago and my idea was simple in that I had been doing a series of spills and splashes. I wanted it to look accidental but out of nervousness or fear. The idea of the model set up a nice space to relax on the beach and then upon seeing (you know) her divorced husband with his new girlfriend, family member she hasn’t seen in a long time (or doesn’t want to) or anything just over the photographers back and out of scene. I picked the model who was genuinely attractive and fit but had some great character and was personable and fun and funny individual which she was. She was actually great in that sense. The funny thing is she actually did see someone on the beach she didn’t want to interact with or had a history that wasn’t the greatest. It didn’t occur during these splash series photos, but it did add to the happen-chance that I kind of like. It’s a simple idea, but it’s like a picture of someone falling or sneezing, the ability to stare at what usually is a split second before it just disappear so quickly. I was a big fan of MAD magazine as a young person and love satire comedy improv and general silliness. Behind it is somewhat of a “dark” theme but not the darkest–just your general run of the mill would you say awkwardness? That’s what it is: the awkwardness of life’s silly moments were no one necessarily gets hurt emotionally or physically; it’s just this slip trip or fall into the realm of surreal.

Gear Used

  • Canon 5D MK II
  • Canon 17-40mm f4
  • Paul Buff Einstein Lights
  • Orlit battery operated lights (use these more now)

The Shoot

In Image BTS1 you can see some light placement and the beginnings of the scene layout. I first shot the model, as I do all models, in a very loose and comfortable way. In this case I had her ride her bike on the beach around me as I worked the first shot. Images Bike 1 and Bike 2 show this beginning stages of allowing her to feel comfortable with a complete stranger that is photographing her on the beach. I’m a friendly person; but still, it’s nice to warm up to people right? Once she felt warmed up we moved on the the second shot under the umbrella. I shot this alone as it wasn’t exceptionally difficult amount of gear. Plus I didn’t have the funds to really splurge on an assistant at the time. As you can see in images Outtakes 1, 2 and 3 I also had her work though some physical movements to help in the humor side of the image and different types of spills and container props to add variety.

I shot with Canon 5D Mk II, a Canon 17-40 F4, and two strobe lights I believe they were Paul Buff Einsteins with the vagabond two battery which at the time made lugging this equipment to the beach somewhat tolerable. 600 Watts definitely captured the splash even on the bright Sunny day on a Florida beach. I aimed the Open Dished light at the splash area from my left and slightly behind her, and put the other light with an open dish slightly high to my right not directly above camera and not too high as you never know what will happen with the wind on the beach. You can see a little drop shadow from the left light that I used to capture the drink spill. I styled the shoot myself with random Walmart and target products just to give a cozy little beach set up

Post Production


Not to much PP as you can see. Remove some people from background, clean up image.



Model: Emily Pennington

Donald’s Website:

Donald’s instagram: djbphoto71

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.