Flicking through our surf & travel guides or sliding around our socials, you’re likely to linger a bit longer on some images that show the landscape, vibe or ocean-feeling beautifully. And as we’re so grateful to work with talented and creative people around the globe, we’d like to introduce them to you.
In this episode, meet Ben Battell, filmer/photographer based in Newquay, Cornwall, who shot some amazing photos for our Great Britain & Ireland guide. Ben talks about living in Cornwall, pursuing his passion, the search for the right light and the perks of being a sociable chap.
“I’m originally from Kent but my family and I used to go on annual holidays to North Devon and North Cornwall. I quickly fell in love with the ocean, surfing and the region in general. When I finished school, I worked for a summer at Chy Bar in Newquay, which used to be the locals place to go. Newquay is quite a different place now, though, as it slowly shakes off its past reputation for stag and hen parties. Nowadays you’re far more likely to stumble across a good restaurant or decent coffee shop than a late-night dive bar.”
Following his summer in Newquay, Ben went to university in Exeter; a deliberate choice to stay close to the ocean. He joined the local surf club and, along with the rest of his housemates, ended up surfing a few times a week around Cornwall and Devon. After uni he lived in London for 5 years, working as a chartered surveyor, only making it down to Cornwall about once a month, true weekend warrior style.
“Photography and filmmaking have been passions of mine since I was young; beginning by making skate films with my friends and becoming the self-appointed team videographer on multiple ski trips and surf trips when I was living in London. I left London to travel and surf in Indonesia, (on my way to Australia, where I lived for a year) and I found it almost impossible to put my camera down.”
Returning to the UK in January 2018, he realised that he didn’t want to return to London and decided it was the right time to pursue photography and filmmaking, and what better place to do it than Cornwall.
“I can’t say it hasn’t been hard, or that I haven’t missed London and the fantastic friends who are based there, but for me I know this was the best choice I could have made. I couldn’t be more stoked than to be living by the ocean pursuing my passion as a career.”
What was it that attracted you most to a life in Cornwall?
“Deciding to move to Cornwall was something I didn’t overthink. It just felt like exactly the right decision to make. Despite not knowing anyone in Newquay itself, I was lucky that some of my best mates from uni lived around Cornwall, which made the move a lot easier.
The communities down in Newquay and Cornwall are fantastic; tight-knit and so supportive! When I first moved down, I got a part-time job in a coffee shop, Box and Barber, which was the perfect place to meet people and really helped me to feel integrated in the local community. I love that you can walk along the street or drive through town, and more often than not, are stopping to speak to people or waving as you drive past people you know. I find this is especially the case when I’m surfing or swimming out with my camera; there will always be friendly faces in the water. Overall, the southwest feels like such a hub of creativity, it’s a real inspiration!”
Looking at your work, it seems you’re always there at the right time with the right light. What do you think is the most important factor in your work?
“I do love searching for the right light, and it can often be easier said than done. I tend to shoot in the morning or afternoon avoiding the harsher midday light if I can. I most enjoy being submerged in the sea, as I can get some really unique angles and can play with the light in ways that are impossible on the land. Light presents so many unique opportunities and challenges that I absolutely love.”
There are 2 shots in our guide that stand out, backdrop-wise. They have Newquay landmarks and houses in the background, can you tell us a bit about that day, and how they came about – did you plan it with the surfers portrayed, or was it a lucky shot?
“When shooting surfers in the water, I love the angle from the shoulder of the wave, essentially sat where the surfer is aiming to be. This way, I can achieve a strong connection between the surfer and observer of the photo. Luckily with the shots of Olly and Jonny, they were on the ideal waves to capture the iconic backdrops of Fistral Beach.”
Aren’t you keen to go surfing yourself, when you’re in the water taking photos?
“Oh wow, in short yes! When the surf is firing, I often try to get in for a surf around any photo/film sessions I have on that day. However, in general, if the light is good for photography/film I often end up shooting, and if it’s raining and overcast, I surf.”
You’re a sociable person, that must help being a photographer. Do you get many spontaneous shoots, or do you almost always plan ahead, with maybe a model at hand?
“Yes, that’s true, I love that I get to work with people all the time, I think being a friendly presence behind the camera helps people relax in front of it, which makes for far more engaging content. The majority of shoots are planned, however, I do love to carry my camera with me on days when I’m out and about exploring, so that can often lead to impromptu shoots too.”
What’s next? What are you most keen on, what would be the best growth for you as a person and a professional?
“I am really excited about the projects I’m currently working on, which includes a fantastic video project, ‘Challenging Behaviour’ with Luke Dillon. This is an ongoing Vlog, exploring the life of a UK pro surfer competing on the WSL Qualifying Series. I’m also working on a number of projects with the brand Figure Creative, who keep me warm in the ocean with their sustainable handmade custom wetsuits.”
What are your fav places around Cornwall, and why?
“Wow, that’s a hard one, too many to mention in one article. My local Watergate Bay with its imposing cliffs, especially at dawn, on a calm high tide is one of my favourites!”
Thanks Ben, see you out there!
In real life, out and about in the ocean, currently in North Cornwall, until travel dreams become reality again!