Sport Monday, August 29th Words by: Lauren Rogers, pictures by: Ben Rodford

Photo Gallery: Ross Rowing Regatta

Sport Monday, August 29th

Photo Gallery: Ross Rowing Regatta

Ross Rowing Club is one of the Herefordshire town's great success stories.

Each year it holds its regatta over the late August bank holiday, drawing boat crews and spectators from all over the UK.

As well as captivating those with a serious interest in rowing, it appeals to those intent on capturing life through a lens.

We caught up with photographer Ben Rodford who has combined a love of both rowing and photography to produce a record of the 2016 regatta. 

Hey Ben, tell us a little about your background. How long have you been rowing? Where are you based?

Rowing has been a big part of my life since learning to row as a junior at Gloucester Rowing Club in 1995. I moved to London for university and continued rowing while there.

That was a very different experience, with a dozen clubs situated within a couple of miles of each other, and it really pushed my rowing forwards.

I came back to Gloucester and, at my peak, won several national races including the British Championships.

I now live in Broadway, Worcestershire, with my wife Zara. We met through rowing and we race together at Masters level in local events right through to world-level competitions.

Credit: Ben Rodford

How did you get into photographing the sport? Do you need special kit?

It actually took me a while to combine my loves of photography and rowing.

I was always in the boat so there was never an opportunity to take photos. A few years ago I picked up an injury which meant I couldn’t compete for a few months.

I decided to take my camera along to some events my team-mates were racing in. I put the pictures online, got some great feedback and had rowers from other clubs asking me if I could take their photos.

It all grew from there and now I’m doing more photography than racing!

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In terms of kit it helps to have a long lens, especially for multi-lane events where boats can be on the other side of the lake, but you can capture the excitement of a regatta and the crowds with just a camera-phone. Rowing happens all year round and rarely stops for the weather.

Photographing races during the winter season can mean standing on bridges or by rivers for several hours so the most important kit which keeps me working is good outdoor clothing, rain covers for the cameras and a flask of coffee!

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Muscles straining, the movement of water… what do you want to capture?

Rowing is an intriguing combination of power and precision. I think it’s this that makes it a really interesting subject to photograph.

The movement of the rowers, oars and boats gives plenty of opportunity to capture something new in an image.

You can focus on the detail or take in the landscape the river carves through. Recently I’ve been working on bringing motion into my images to show the speed of the boats during racing.

Important question now because dropping an iPhone into a pint/bath/down the loo is bad enough... Have you ever dropped a camera into the murky depths of a British river?

Not yet, but I always think about my insurance policy as I’m leaning out off a bridge to get an overhead shot of a crew!

So far the worst equipment accident was ruining a lens when I was caught out in a storm without rain covers. Since then the covers always live in my camera bag.

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It looks like you did some work during the London Olympics. How was that? Amazing, I assume…

That was all thanks to my sister, Beth, who has always been a big inspiration to me. Beth is a recently retired two-time Olympic rower and raced in Beijing and London. I was lucky enough to be there to support her both times and, of course, took the camera along.

Being right in front of the medal pontoon and seeing how much it means to win or lose after so much dedication to the sport was phenomenal.

My favourite rowing photo is when I captured Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins celebrating their win at London 2012. Katherine had won three Olympic silver medals up to that point so to finally get the gold was a massive moment.

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Where has your work been featured in the past?

It’s always fantastic to walk into a rowing club and see a photo I’ve taken hanging on their wall.

My photos have been used in rowing magazines, online publications and newspapers as well as advertising for makers of rowing equipment.

I’m currently working with Queen B Athletics, who make awesome rowing kit specifically for women. They’re a small business too and great fun to work with. British Airways used one of my images for a social media campaign earlier this summer.

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I speak to artists and illustrators getting commissions through their Instagram feeds. How do you think social media is helping to promote and sell work? Or is it making it harder?

Rowing has always been a tight community but it’s now easier than ever to get my photography known across the sport.

I’ve had enquiries and work from Europe and further afield which has only happened due to exposure on social media. Everyone has a smartphone and social media makes it easy to share images, so as a photographer it’s important to keep things fresh and make your work stand out. Each social media platform has a different use and a unique feel, so it’s a big job trying to manage each one effectively.

There’s a great network of rowers of Twitter, and Instagram is fantastic for photography. I use Snapchat to show a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the events I’m photographing, to tell a story and give people something a bit more exclusive.

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Finally, how can we see more of you work? 

On my website: www.benrodford.photoshelter.com

You can find me on Facebook: Ben Rodford Photography, Instagram & Snapchat: benrodfordphoto, and Twitter: @Ben_Rodford.

If you stumble upon a rowing event, look out for me and come say hi!

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All photos by Ben Rodford.

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