Working as a professional sports photographer, Canon Ambassador Samo Vidic shoots the world's top athletes for world-leading brands and publications, showcasing the physical feats and prowess of the sporting elite. But in his latest project, Samo wanted to shine a light on a sometimes overlooked group of sporting heroes – disabled athletes who've overcome the odds to rise to the top of the sports they love.
Slovenian photographer Samo has focused on sport throughout a busy career, which began in 1999. A keen sportsman in his youth who enjoyed ski-jumping, football and tennis, he initially qualified as a mechanical engineer before discovering a fascination for photography.
Samo considered a career in reportage before attending a sports photography workshop and realising he could combine his two passions. "I loved photography and everything connected with sports and the outdoors, so I was immediately hooked," he says.
"I'm self-taught as a photographer so learning the best techniques for different sports was challenging but, at the same time, it was really enjoyable. I worked hard and would have done anything to become a sports photographer. I started with an ambition to shoot sport for a local newspaper and went on from there, always pushing the bar higher, which I still do."
In 2005, Samo’s hard work paid off when he was hired by Red Bull to photograph the football and motorsport teams that the company sponsors. Now, in addition to this work, he covers sports events for Getty Images, is a team member for global freelance network Limex Images and shoots advertising campaigns for major sports brands.
Samo also shoots editorial for French sports newspaper L'Equipe, American outdoors magazine Outside and sports title ESPN. "I like to have a good mix of work, including advertising and editorial, events and special projects with athletes," he says. "I shoot a range of sports so I never get bored. For me, it's the best way of working."
One special project that's close to Samo's heart is photographing disabled athletes. It began recently on a shoot with one of his friends, paralysed mountain biker Nino. Samo shot Nino using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM wide-angle lens attached to his bike as it moved slowly, and used a flash and 1/8 sec exposure to create the impression that he was travelling at speed.
I wanted to show different kinds of sports people, to tell their amazing life stories.
"Disabled athletes are rarely seen in the media in comparison with non-disabled ones," Samo says. "The Paralympic Games gets relatively little attention – probably 5% of what the Olympic Games gets. I wanted to show different kinds of sports people, to highlight them and tell their often amazing life stories."
For this next series, he arranged to photograph several disabled athletes. He wanted to emphasise both their sporting prowess and the considerable obstacles they have had to overcome. To fulfil this creative vision, he photographed them in two contrasting ways: one image was a portrait, revealing their personalities and showing the physical challenges they faced; the other was a dynamic action shot that put the focus on their courage, determination and achievements.
Slovenian swimmer Darko Duric, who was born with one arm and no legs, features alongside Felipe Nunes, a Brazilian skateboarder who lost his legs in a train accident as a child. The other two athletes Samo chose were London-based climber Anoushé Husain, born with no right arm below her elbow, and visually impaired sprinter and Paralympic gold medalist Libby Clegg, based in Leicestershire, UK (click through the tabs along the top of this article to read the stories behind these shoots).
Wanting to push creative boundaries, Samo chose two camera bodies for the shoots: the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, fitted with Canon's EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, and the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM. The combination of bodies and lenses enabled Samo to explore a range of creative approaches, from colourful motion blur to underwater action shots.
"Both of the cameras are very light, full frame and easy to work with," Samo says. "An important advantage is that they both have Wi-Fi, so I could connect the camera with the Canon Utility program on my computer or with the Canon Easy Connect app on my iPhone.
"That means that when using a camera remotely, I could apply all the settings on my computer or phone, trigger the camera and send images back to my computer or phone immediately for checking. It's a really useful facility and one I've never had on my previous cameras. I also found the battery life was excellent and the high ISO is great for the low-light work we encountered in some of the portrait sessions. The cameras were perfect for helping me realise my vision on these shoots."
Samo's resulting dynamic, creative and visually striking images celebrate the personalities, skills and sheer determination of some truly inspirational people.