As the competition progresses, James Ewer is the first photographer to notch up two wins! We chat to him about another fabulous shot
It had to happen sooner or later – the first photographer to grab two wins in the 2020 #WexMondays! James Ewer’s fantastic macro composition wowed the judges a few weeks back, earning him the top spot, and now he’s only gone and done it again with an exceptional abstract construction for the fourteenth week.
Everything about this shot works – the colours, the composition, those clean, sharp lines – and it’s a real exercise in skill that shows off the possibilities of lockdown photography. We had to know more, so we pinned down James for another chat so we could learn how this all came together...
Wex Photo Video: Congratulations on another win! Did you know you're the first person to rack up two wins in the 2020 competition?
James Ewer: Thanks, my goal for the year was to get one win so I could meet everyone at the exhibition event next year. To get more than one has completely surpassed my expectations.
WPV: Talk us through this particular image – did you craft this composition yourself? Where was it taken?
JE: Given that we are stuck at home, the aim was to recreate the views of the South Downs but on a macro scale. The parallel lines represented the green hills, while the white edges mimicked the hedgerows zigzagging through the scene.
It was a complex thing to put together. I rigged it all up with a Lego scaffold and Blu Tack. The lighting was simple; I just backlit it with window light to give the greens a luminous quality. The white flower was an afterthought. I knew it needed a focal point, and tried a few other things before settling on this. Someone has suggested it looks like a windmill in the fields. I quite like that.
WPV: How are you finding the challenge of being creative in these unusual times? Does getting out there to take pictures require more mental energy?
JE: Even though I am allowed out every day for work [n.b. James works for the NHS], I have made a deliberate decision to keep all my photography at home. Like many others, I have found it to be a real challenge, and it has definitely forced me to think more creatively. I have noticed that as the weeks pass, my entries have progressively become more abstract. This can only be a good thing. When the landscape becomes available to us all again, I hope to be able to approach it with a fresh set of eyes.
WPV: You talked about your kit setup last time we spoke – I was wondering if there's anything you had your eye on for the future? Any lens, camera or accessory that seems like it might be your next move?
JE: I have owned my current camera (Canon EOS 600D) for nine years. It is definitely time for an upgrade. The problem is I am paralysed by all of the choice out there. Obviously the momentum is towards mirrorless systems right now, but I am yet to be convinced that they are the right tool for me. (Having said that, I will probably find an excuse to come into the store and play with the Canon R5 when it lands in the UK.)
WPV: Are there any other entrants to the #WexMondays competition whose work you particularly enjoy?
JE: That’s a really good question. There are masters of almost every genre in this competition.
I originally wrote an answer with a list, then deleted it. It might be a cop-out, but I truly get inspiration from the whole Twitter community; subconsciously I probably learn something from each image I see. #WexMondays is like a hive mind.
WPV: Is there any advice you'd give to someone entering the competition for the first time?
JE: There are so many finer photographers than me contributing to the competition, I am not sure I am qualified to give any meaningful advice, but I will share my strategy for what it’s worth.
Firstly, stick at it. It took me nearly a year before I achieved my first #WexMondays shortlist. I try to contribute regularly, and engage with the fantastic Twitter community. The feedback I get from other photographers has set me on a steep learning curve.
Secondly, I try to put myself in the position of a competition judge. I imagine that they have to look at thousands of images submitted throughout the year, so I try to do something different to stand out. If I want to shoot a famous landmark, the chances are that the judges will have seen all the obvious compositions before, so unless there is epic light (which rarely happens for me) I am going to have to find a new angle.
WPV: And finally, as ever... do you have your next #WexMondays image planned?
JE: Now we have a partial lift of the lockdown, I hope to go and shoot some shoreline stuff. I am slightly anxious about heading out with the camera for the first time in two months. It might take me a few trips to reacquaint myself with the surroundings.
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!