A perfect moment, captured in pin-sharp detail – with this image, Ben Ward was the deserving winner of the sixth week of our #WexMondays competition
Image by Ben Ward
We love seeing a challenging subject in our weekly #WexMondays competition on Twitter, and red squirrels are a fantastic example. In the sixth week of the competition, Scottish photographer Ben Ward (also known as @BEEandN on Twitter) produced a fantastic split-second image of one of these gorgeous animals.
Ben’s pin-sharp image wowed the judges with its composition and its expert technical skill – look at that sharp squirrel against that beautifully shallow depth of field. We wanted to know more about the shot, so we got in touch with Ben to find out the story behind the shot...
Wex Photo Video: Congratulations on a fantastic winning shot! Can you tell us when and where you captured it?
Ben Ward: I had heard about a new solo wildlife hide at a place I had visited before called Argaty Red Kites. They have reintroduced red kites and have a daily feed you can visit and photograph. The new hide was designed for red squirrels, which they were also encouraging and are now flourishing.
WPV: What were the main challenges of grabbing this shot?
BW: The biggest challenge, I'd say, was the light. It was a cloudy day and it made the forest pretty dark, I knew for the jumping shot I wanted, I’d need as fast a shutter speed as possible. However, the faster shutter speed meant I’d have to bump up the ISO, and I didn’t want the image ruined by noise.
My lens was an f/4.5, so I had to keep playing about as quickly as possible to balance the settings. These types of situations are why I'd encourage anyone learning photography to start off using manual settings – it’s what I was encouraged to do by a friend, and it has helped so much
WPV: What kit were you using when you snapped it?
BW: I was using a Canon EOS 6D with a Tamron 70-300mm lens. No tripod, just shooting handheld to try and turn quickly to where the squirrels would be.
WPV: What post-processing (if any) did you do on the image?
BW: The shot was pretty much as is from the camera. The Tamron lens gives a really warm feel, which can make colours too saturated at times, so all I used was Lightroom, both to cool the colour a little and to try and sharpen it up even more without losing the look or adding more noise.
WPV: You seem to shoot an interesting mix of landscapes and wildlife. What do you enjoy about these two disciplines, what keeps you coming back?
BW: I'm a huge animal lover, but growing up in Scotland has always had me in awe of the landscape here. It's so vast, I love how different the disciplines are and how it challenges your skills. Landscapes I love, but it’s definitely easier to get the set of circumstances needed for a good landscape shot compared to the challenge of getting wildlife to cooperate with you I'm fortunate that I live within two-hour driving distance to some phenomenal scenery that also houses some stunning wildlife, so a lot of the time when I go on a photography day, I'll try and combine both.
I think that a lot of the time, the wildlife gives an emotive aspect to the landscape it is in, however I also love landscapes because they vary so much in different lights. You can continuously shoot the same area, yet every time, different light or weather conditions will make it look different, and I think as a photographer it’s our job to try and show that to the viewer.
My main ethos about photography is to try and capture how I felt when I was there. Nature and landscape connect with something deep inside us, something that's not always connected to a photo. So the best photography – the pictures that stand out to me – are the ones where that feeling is brought out by the way the photo has been taken and edited. It's easy to knock editing if you've never done photography before, but once you know what it can unlock, it really helps you bring that feeling to an image.
WPV: Do you have your next #WexMondays image planned?
BW: I have a few types of images I want to try. As photographers, we should always be trying to create – I have some filters and would love to try some abstract images, especially with water. I'm inspired by a lot of the other entrants to #WexMondays, and it really makes me want to push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things!
See more of Ben’s images at www.benjaminwardphotography.com.
Want to be the winner of our next #WexMondays competition? Head here for all the rules and everything you need to know to enter. We’re looking forward to seeing your entries!