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Interview: Tesni Ward on life as a professional wildlife photographer Lion

Tesni Ward is a young and accomplished wildlife photographer and Camera Jabber contributor. We thought it was time she told us a little more about herself.

What first attracted you to wildlife photography?

There’s something magical about spending time amongst nature and wildlife. When you spend your time working with the same individuals for some time, you can see their trust develop as they recognise you’re not a threat and they give you a unique insight into their daily lives.

How did you get started in wildlife photography?

Initially I started as a general nature photographer, spending time photographing anything and everything I would see when on holiday and around the Peak District which I lived on the border of. As time passed, this narrowed down to landscape and wildlife, but the challenge I faced was that the best time of day for both of these genres clashed. In the end, wildlife became my biggest passion and love, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to focus the majority of my time on that.

How to photograph badgers: locating and seeing them

How do you see the market for wildlife photography evolving?

I think much has changed over the past 10-15 years in so much that photography is more accessible than ever before. How photographers earn a living through photography also seems to have evolved and changed, with less focus on prints and stock.

I do the occasional market, craft fair or event, along with selling prints through my website, but this is rarely a focus for me as the majority of my time is spent teaching others or working on my own personal projects.

How to photograph badgers: camera settings

What challenges do wildlife photographers face in the near future?

It’s very clear that wildlife across the globe is struggling, with many species being reclassified as at risk of disappearing in our lifetime. There has also been a significant and noticeable increase in the number of tourists and visitors to places that had previously been quiet and secluded wildlife reserves, increasing the potential human pressures on wildlife. I think the time will come when photographers have to ask themselves from a moral and ethical point whether or not they want to contribute to this.

What are the best ways to promote your photography and get yourself seen?

As I’m only just moving into my second year as a full time photographer, I wouldn’t say I have all the answers or have cracked this conundrum. Getting your name out there is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges when it comes to developing photography from a ‘business’ point of view, but so far I have found that social media has been my best avenue. This being said, with algorithms and policies constantly changing on various platforms, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach people through social media, so how long this will remain a viable option is questionable.

Do you take commissions?

Yes, but again I do not focus my time on them. The difficulty with wildlife for commissions is that clients are often looking for very specific things and we have no control over the behaviour of wildlife.

Wildlife photographer Tesni Ward on switching from Canon to Olympus

How did you set about developing your own style?

I think my style is in a constant state of change currently, it’s by no means fixed. When photographing wildlife, I’m always looking to try and capture the personality and character of a subject, however I have a tendency to always look to fill the frame. This year, I’m trying to work on capturing images that show the habitat and environment that the wildlife lives in.

As a young photographer do you feel like you’re taken seriously by older, more experienced photographers?

Not always; I would definitely say I have experienced ageism in this industry. Whilst many photographers are respectful and recognise photographs at face value, I have been subjected to people doubting my knowledge or abilities because of my age.

How do you decide what to shoot?

Sometimes it can be a snap decision on the day, but I usually have a target list of the species I’m most eager to work with during a season. Currently a lot of my focus is on badgers; they are my absolute world and I’m extremely passionate about them. With a controversial cull slowly spreading across the south, I’m eager to raise awareness on why this cull is completely inappropriate and to try and show badgers in a positive light.

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Can you describe your typical day or week?

I rarely have a set plan across a week and it also varies from season to season, as my work schedule is heavily influenced by the number of daylight hours. In winter I run a handful of workshops a week, working on my own personal projects around them. In summer, I am able to juggle personal projects and workshops on the same day due to having a much longer day. Once home, my time is usually spent editing images from the day, working on the business and admin side and planning ahead.

How much time do you spend processing images vs shooting?

I easily work at a 90% shooting 10% editing ratio. For me, I try to go for a minimalist approach to processing, so most images take a minute or less for me to work on. The hard slog is going through them initially.

What kit do you use?

I use the Olympus OMD EM1 MKII as my main camera body, with the following lenses:

Olympus 300mm f4
• Olympus 40-150mm f2.8
• Olympus 1.4x Converter
• Olympus 12-40mm f2.8

• Benro Mach3 28C Tripod
Benro GH2C Gimbal

Using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II for wildlife photography

Do you have a favourite location or subject?

As I have spent over 10 years visiting the Peak District, long before I started photography, I would say this is one of my favourite sites. Despite having spent so long exploring, there’s always somewhere new that I’ve not yet seen or visited.

The next key species I want to spend time photographing are tigers and polar bears.

What’s the best thing about being a wildlife photographer?

Spending time in and amongst nature, being able to witness and photograph individuals as they go about their day to day lives is extremely rewarding.

What’s the worst thing about being a wildlife photographer?

The number of failures you will undoubtably experience. Sometimes you can go weeks without even seeing wildlife, let alone photographing it. This can be extremely disheartening at times.

Visit Tesni’s website to find out more about her workshops.


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