A macro shot takes the eleventh week of our #WexMondays competition – we find out exactly how James Ewer put it together
Image by James Ewer
In lockdown, many photographers can’t rely on their favourite landscape locations to get a great shot, and are having to get extra creative. The winner of the eleventh week of our #WexMondays Twitter competition reflects this – a snail shot created in the back garden of its photographer, James Ewer (@jamesewer on Twitter).
As James is a hospital doctor with a young family, his time for photography is limited, so we were hugely grateful to him for taking the time to chat with us about how he produced his winning image. Read on to hear from James how this stunning capture was put together...
Wex Photo Video: Congratulations on a fantastic winning shot! Can you tell us when and where you captured it?
James Ewer: Thank you. This was shot in my small south London back garden. Lockdown had just started, so I wanted to find a subject that didn’t require me to leave home. The great thing with macro photography is you can create the illusion that you are somewhere more remote and beautiful.
WPV: What were the main challenges of grabbing this shot?
JE: Snails are much harder to photograph than you would think. They might be slow, but their unusual anatomy means focusing is tricky. The eyes being on stalks means that they are rarely on the same focal plane as the rest of the body.
The other challenge was controlling the reflections in the water. There was a risk of capturing distracting elements from my garden in the shot. To avoid this, I held a sheet of card, with woodland tones printed on it, above and behind the snail.
WPV: What kit were you using when you snapped it?
JE: I take all of my photographs with a Canon EOS 600D; my lens is the EF-S 60mm F 2.8 macro. I love this lens – it was the first one I ever bought and it performs nicely as a portrait lens, too.
I set the camera on a GorillaPod – this works well when your camera/lens setup isn’t too heavy, and allows you to get really close to the ground. I experimented with a Nisi Circular polariser, but in the end I didn’t use it.
WPV: What post-processing (if any) did you do on the image?
JE: I use Lightroom for processing. I applied some tone and contrast adjustments to bring out the golden highlights. I slightly reduced the exposure in the lower right half of the image to exaggerate the sense of light coming in from the upper left corner. I cloned out a distracting blade of grass, and there was also a bit of spot removal needed to clean up the water.
WPV: Your entries for #WexMondays show lots of different disciplines - landscapes, cityscapes, and this latest close-up wildlife. How do you approach the challenge of working in different photographic disciplines?
JE: My approach is to have lots of backup plans. My day-job is a hospital doctor, and I have a young family, so I am lucky if I can find an hour or two for camera time each week. My passion is landscape photography, and I have noticed that the Monday competition attracts many incredible photographers from this genre. It is tough to be noticed in such a high-quality crowd, so my goal is to submit something unique each week.
I keep a diary with location ideas, and when I head out at dawn I try to be prepared for a change of plan if the conditions aren’t right. If I have an image I am happy with, I will immediately scout next week’s location. It is often the case that I come back empty-handed. In those situations, I will try and capture an after-work shot in the city. If all of these things fail, then I rely on a macro shot in the house or garden. I haven’t tried portraiture or street photography yet; I think they require a completely different skill set, and I have nothing but admiration for those that have mastered these difficult genres.
WPV: Do you have your next #WexMondays image planned?
JE: I had planned to head into the woodlands now that spring has arrived, like everyone else. However, things have been put on hold due to the pandemic. Photography is a welcome distraction from what I am dealing with each day in the hospital. I consider myself fortunate that I can still go to work, but leaving home to take a photograph is not essential travel. I will stick to the home or garden macro projects for now, the woodland bluebells will still be waiting for me next year.
James Ewer is a photographer based in south-east London, see more of his images at jamesewer.myportfolio.com.
Think you’ve got what it takes to win #WexMondays? Head here to find out how to enter, and we’ll see you next week!