Shake Paws talks to pet, horse and equestrian sport photographer Lesley Ward
Born in Australia, Lesley Ward has an English lecturer for a father and an American attorney for a mother, so it became pretty clear early on that she was going to enjoy a life of travel. Aged 13, she moved to the UK, where she continued her education in Leicestershire before moving on to a career in publishing. Later she would return to her ‘native’ United States where she would launch Young Rider magazine.
It wasn’t long before a large publishing company bought Young Rider and Lesley spent the next 20 years as the editor of the No. 1 North American magazine for pony-mad teens and tweens. Today, Lesley is a freelance writer and photographer. She lives on a farm in the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass with three horses and two cheerful mutts that were adopted from the Friends of Jessamine County Animals.
Describe your path to becoming a photographer.
I was an editor in chief for several American horse magazines and websites: Young Rider, Horse Illustrated, Your New Horse and www.youngrider.com. Most horse people have a dog or two and I had plenty of chances to shoot great pictures of dogs out on my horse and farm shoots.
What was your first job?
My first job that involved photography was as a section editor for a part work named Horse Sense. Horse Sense was published by Eaglemoss Publications in London. Although I had never worked in publishing, Eaglemoss gave me a chance because I had horse knowledge and no one else on the team knew anything about horses. They knew I could write as I had freelanced for the American horse magazine The Chronicle of the Horse. Eaglemoss was a wonderful place to work. I was surrounded by bright people, and most of our days were spent laughing. I loved it there.
What are some of your favourite places for photographing dogs, and what is it that makes them special?
I like photographing dogs in and around their homes with their owners. No fancy dress costumes for me. I also like taking pictures of them at horse shows.
Did you have any mentors – people you look up to – on your way to becoming a professional photographer?
I’ve known Canadian photographer Shawn Hamilton of CliX Photography for more than 20 years. Although she is best known for equine photography, she is versatile and will shoot anything. She has travelled all over the world and has taken some amazing photos. She is always willing to help out another photographer and can be counted on for great advice. Here website is at www.clixphoto.com.
Who are your favourite photographers?
Pam Langrish is a fantastic British photographer who lives in the Cotswolds. Pam specialises in dog portraits and action shots. She is a lovely person. If you need a photo of a particular breed, she’ll have it. Visit her website.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I often get up early and head over to Keeneland Racecourse to shoot the Thoroughbreds being exercised in the morning. It’s a beautiful location and the morning is a lovely time to shoot. Many of the trainers and track employees have dogs so I never know what I’ll be shooting. This morning I bumped into a Great Dane named Alexander the Great and an adorable terrier mix named Petie.
You’re from Kentucky. Do you venture much further afield for clients?
I live near Versailles, KY, in the United States, but I will travel for photographic jobs.
What would you say is the biggest mistake amateur photographers make when taking pictures of their dogs?
Trying to get a dog to pose and getting annoyed if he doesn’t cooperate. I feel like this just stresses out the dog and makes him look unhappy.
How might they rectify this?
Grab a ball or treats, or the dog’s favourite toy, and use this to get his or her attention. You might try using a digital recorder to record a dog barking and turn this on so the dog being photographed can hear it and react. This always works for horses whinnying! Also, having the owner interact with the dog is always a good way to get a great shot.