Behind the lens with Kent Ward

Leading livestock photographer Kent Ward shares his favourite photos

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Photographer Kent Ward reflects on his career and top snaps.

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Visit the beef selling centre of Rockhampton or just Queensland's premier cattle show, the Ekka, and you are bound to see a man silently watching the movements of the cattle in front of him, a Canon camera under his arm.

He goes by Kent Ward, but more affectionately, those in the local beef industry there don't shy away from labelling this man, the Bull Whisperer.

Spend a few moments watching Kent, and you'll understand why that title isn't underestimated.

Even the most uncomfortable beast can't withstand the silent charm of this experienced photographer.

Kent's success behind the camera became about almost accidentally.

Australian All Breeds Record priced Brahman bull, the $325,000 NCC Justified bred by NCC stud, Duaringa, Queensland.

Australian All Breeds Record priced Brahman bull, the $325,000 NCC Justified bred by NCC stud, Duaringa, Queensland.

Working as an agent on the stud stock department for Primac, Kent would often send clients' images of a bull or bulls that they may have been interested in for either artificial or natural breeding.

"Being based at Biloela for 10 years and having an artificial breeding centre located there gave me a great opportunity of getting to see and photograph bulls (either colonial or imported) and forward those pics to certain clientele," he said.

His first camera was a Kodak, either gifted or bought himself, before progressing to an Olympus model and Nikon and Canon whilst employed with Rural Press through the Queensland Country Life.

But for the last decade Kent has opted for Canon cameras in his own consultancy role and company.

Just like the saying 'never work with animals or babies', Kent has had his fair share of memorable moments behind the camera that still stick with him.

Getting chased by bulls, cattle falling asleep while trying to get their attention, children picking their noses just at the wrong moment, a nose ring breaking while you're attempting to get that 'money shot' and being chased by a very protective mother with a fair distance to the closest assistant or vehicle are among the challenges Kent has faced during his photography career.

A stockman at one of the the last St Lawrence cattle sales, St Lawrence, Queensland.

A stockman at one of the the last St Lawrence cattle sales, St Lawrence, Queensland.

But, nothing phases him.

When asked about his top tips for taking a good stand up shot, Kent's response so often referred to a connection between man and beast.

It doesn't matter how hot the Queensland sun is beaming down at the Ekka or how tired the owner of a top priced bull is getting, Kent doesn't rush the connection he can establish with an animal.

He aims to have them in his confidence, try to portray their best attributes and features on screen and make them 'pop'.

The $80,000 Droughtmaster bull, Glenlands D Winchester bred by Glenlands stud, Bouldercombe, Queensland.

The $80,000 Droughtmaster bull, Glenlands D Winchester bred by Glenlands stud, Bouldercombe, Queensland.

"We so often think and refer to the fact that they are 'dumb animals'," he said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth.

"For every action there is a reaction. Do not rush them, get their confidence, have them settled and take their picture ... quite simple really. Also remember the world's best equipment doesn't mean you will get the worlds best pic either."

In a world with so many opportunities for photoshop and editing, Kent has always got in the back of his mind the saying, "the camera never lies".

Quarter Horse filly, Good Time Chic, photographed at the Smith familys Weatherford Equine, Emerald, Queensland.

Quarter Horse filly, Good Time Chic, photographed at the Smith familys Weatherford Equine, Emerald, Queensland.

He believed fixing up minor edits was standard practice nowadays, but nothing more.

"Minor blemishes, flies, manure, straw and such like are part of the presentation," he said.

"Background replacements for cataloging and the removal of 'noise' from an image I think really helps certain images as you are not physically altering the animal/animals.

A Mt Ascot Merino ram exhibited at the Queensland State Sheep, Barcaldine Showgrounds, Barcaldine, Queensland.

A Mt Ascot Merino ram exhibited at the Queensland State Sheep, Barcaldine Showgrounds, Barcaldine, Queensland.

"Apart from those minor alterations and colour adjustments I would think that is all that is needed as far as editing purposes go.

"I think that in this day and age and current climate, altering imagery as far as an animal is concerned is fraught with danger and brings a host of legal scenarios that could be tested legally."

Bill Geddes, Doonside Brahman Stud, Barmoya with his mate, Doonside Mr C Eagle. This image is one Kent said was the right place, right time.

Bill Geddes, Doonside Brahman Stud, Barmoya with his mate, Doonside Mr C Eagle. This image is one Kent said was the right place, right time.

So with so many images under his belt, which one stands out as a favourite?

"That's like asking who is your favourite child," he said.

"It's hard as some of those that I get most pleasure from could be an animal that really was difficult to deal with or a bull that really isn't the 'gun' of the team and he just performs and is so collected that he just oozes charm and stands up without fuss or fanfare.

"There are certainly those shots or times that resonate with you up till this day.

"I suppose I could say that I have that many favourites that I couldn't really choose.

"One of those 'right place, right time' images would have to be the Bill Geddes and Doonside Mr C Eagle image ... the planets really aligned that day."

The story Behind the lens with Kent Ward first appeared on The Land.

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