How One Team GB Athlete Turned to a Career in Wildlife Photography

tesni ward

It may seem a strange career change, but one champion javelin thrower has swapped the sport for a telephoto lens. Now focusing on wildlife photography, Tesni Ward is proving to be one to watch in the world of nature photography.

Born in Wales and now living in the Peak District, Tesni enjoyed a promising career in athletics. When competing in the UK championships, she won the Shot Putt, Javelin, and Discus events in her age group. She even went on to represent Team GB in the Loughborough International competition. Despite being the Senior Welsh record holder for Javelin, Tesni unfortunately had to cut short her sporting career due to injury.

“It opened doors for other opportunities and adventures though,” Tesni told Nature TTL.

We were lucky enough to hear from Tesni about her new career and how she is excelling in the world of wildlife photography.

tesni ward wildlife photography

Are there any parallels that you draw on from your sporting days that apply to wildlife photography?

Tenacity is probably the best trait that stemmed from my athletics career. When people try and tell me that I won’t be successful or won’t be able to achieve something, I usually take this as a challenge to prove them wrong. It also helps when it comes to photographing the animals themselves. Wildlife photography can be extremely challenging. Not only do you need to find the animal, but you also need to hope for suitable light and behaviour to all come together, Sometimes it can be days, weeks or even months and years before you start getting results, so you need to have the patience to keep going and not give up.

When did your interest in wildlife photography start?

I dabbled in photography, like most people do, when on holiday with my parents. I loved seeing and photographing wildlife, but it wasn’t until 2-3 years ago when things really took off and I started to recognise how truly inspiring and captivating wildlife is.

tesni ward wildlife photography

Why did you choose the path of a professional wildlife photographer?

I found myself in the dreaded situation of losing my job unexpectedly just under two years ago, after having made a significant financial investment in photography gear and trips. I spent a few weeks with my head in the clouds trying to ignore the issue but in the end decided that I loved photography and was OK at it, so why not give it a go!

I don’t want to live life with any regrets and was never equipped to live a life working in an office.

tesni ward wildlife photography

Have you found it hard to ‘make a name for yourself’ off the field?

Yes and no. As with any new venture into the world of being self-employed, there will always be obstacles and challenges you have to overcome, and wildlife photography as a career has never been described as smooth sailing. With this in mind, the first few months were slow, but I was simply enjoying a new stage in life and having the opportunity to get out with the camera whenever the urge appeared.

Nowadays I’m comfortably busy and enjoying the opportunities that come my way, but I’m sure I’m still relatively unknown in many circles. Hopefully as time passes, and if I produce work good enough, this will change!

tesni ward wildlife photography

What would you say encompasses your photographic style?

For me, it’s important to try and capture the personality of the animals I photograph. I’ve always been fond of frame filling portraiture and behaviour, but I’m still very much learning and my style is not fixed. Over the past year I’ve been focusing more on environmental and wide angle photography and will continue to try and expand and adapt my style.

tesni ward wildlife photography

What is your favourite image you have taken?

It’s difficult to pin down a single image for me, as many have a story behind them which is often just as important as the image itself. If I had to choose I would say the image of Hamish, a Mountain Hare in the Peak District, sat bolt upright and looking alert. Two years of failures and challenges up on the moors working with these incredible animals was finally rewarded with some images I was truly happy with.

tesni ward wildlife photography

Where would you like to go with your camera next?

I’ve been meaning to sit down and arrange my next big trip but have unfortunately still not had the time to sort it out. I have some smaller trips to Greece, Norway and Scotland arranged over the next couple of months, but I’m really eager to return to Alaska later in the year.

tesni ward wildlife photography

What’s your favourite camera and lens combination, and why?

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II with the 300mm f/4 is always my go to combination, both with and without a 1.4x converter depending on the species I’m working with. With a 2x crop on the camera, I can achieve up to 840mm of equivalent focal length so it gives me the reach I need for most species. I also use the 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8 for my wider angle or habitat images.

 

You can view more of Tesni’s work on her website, Instagram, and Facebook Page.

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will’s images have won a string of awards, including the title of “Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year” in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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