PROFILE

Vladimir Medvedev

A long-exposure shot of a deer in Jasper National Park, Canada, taken by Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
One of five shots that won Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, this was taken in Jasper National Park, Canada. "I wanted to show how the natural world often exists so close to us, yet is so often unseen," says Vladimir. "I positioned my tripod, set the shutter speed low – so the headlights would leave the longest light trail possible – and waited for a truck to thunder by, hoping the deer wouldn't move. I set the ISO at 100 to get the longest possible exposure and so that the headlights left that trail across the shot." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS USM) lens at 144mm, 5 secs, f/10 and ISO100. © Vladimir Medvedev

Focusing on the series rather than single shots, Russian photographer and Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev's emotionally engaging images aim to show the natural world in a deeper, more honest light.

Sensing the world had grown tired of brightly coloured landscapes and close-up wildlife portraits, Russian nature photographer Vladimir Medvedev decided to make his images stand out by filling them with emotion rather than special effects. "At the beginning of my career I shot a lot of dramatic landscapes with the setting sun – picturesque clouds, bright colours and a very wide dynamic range," Vladimir says.

Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev.


Location: Moscow, Russia
Specialist areas: Nature, landscape, wildlife
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

"I cannot say these shots deceived the viewer, because the scene itself was impressive, but many of my early works were very bright and loud. Now I believe photography is going in another direction. Dramatic landscapes no longer impress the aesthetically savvy audience. You can't constantly 'sell' creative work simply by using 'wow' effects. This devalues it. I believe that the viewer can be moved more by emotion and experience than by bright paints. It's difficult to stand out now; the world is getting smaller, all the main 'peaks' have been conquered, and all the best locations appear on Instagram. What I do is immerse myself in the atmosphere of the places that I shoot. You can repeat one shot, but you definitely cannot make the same series, with the same atmosphere, emotion and inspiration."

Landscape photography isn't the only genre to have evolved in the past few years, according to Vladimir. He believes the same is true for wildlife. "Long gone are the days when it was necessary to take a close-up of a bird or animal. The sharpness, the quality of the picture, all of this is now secondary. It has become more important to capture the life of the animals – their environment, their emotions – all within a single shot."

Reflections of a mountain in Lake Minnewanka, taken by Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
"The first time I got to Lake Minnewanka in Canada, I was lucky to find it completely calm with a crystal-clear reflection," says Vladimir. "I came back to the lake a year later to shoot Beyond the Mirror. It was still as magnificent, but the calm weather was gone, breaking the reflection. But I found a nice shooting spot and used a wide-angle lens, shooting down by the edge of the lake to shoot to get the perfect reflection." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 16-35mm 2.8L II USM lens at 23mm, 1/80 sec, f/11 and ISO400. © Vladimir Medvedev

As with many photographers, Vladimir's interest in photography began as a teenager when he was given a digital camera. He gained experience shooting in the parks near his home in Moscow and got a job as a photographer on his student newspaper. "When I first picked up a camera, I knew immediately that I would shoot nature," he recalls. "Later on, my approaches varied, my dreams came true and my aims changed, but my favourite genre always stayed the same. That allowed me to focus right from the beginning, and meant I didn't waste energy on other genres."

In 2005, with the money he had earned from the student newspaper, Vladimir upgraded to the newly released Canon EOS 20D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 90D) and bought several lenses. Aged 17, he set out on his first photo tour: two weeks in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Four more expeditions followed, and in 2010 he released his first book, World of Wildlife: Amazing Mongolia.

Vilyuchik volcano in Kamchatka at sunrise, photographed  by Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
"Vilyuchik volcano is one of the most beautiful places in Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East. I woke up an hour and a half before dawn and went walking with my gear," Vladimir explains. "The sky started clearing up while I was still in the lowlands, so I frantically climbed the hill – meanwhile, the sky was getting brighter. My heart was pumping and I couldn't steady my breath. Against the rules of landscape shooting I opened the aperture to the maximum and set the ISO to 400 so the shutter speed was short enough to get the blur-free shot. The colours on the photo, entitled Unexpected Luck, only lasted for three minutes, after which the landscape changed entirely." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO400. © Vladimir Medvedev

After leaving college, Vladimir worked as a cameraman for Russia's national TV and radio company VGTRK, all the while pursuing photography as a hobby and educating himself with information he found on the internet. He began to compose his own articles, using them to promote his own blog and later his PhotoCompass podcast. After working as a cameraman for seven years, he was ready for a change, taking the reins at the photography department at Moscow's Synergy University. In 2017, he co-founded the Russian Union of Wildlife Photographers, and was elected chairman.

As well as selling prints, Vladimir has held exhibitions all over his homeland, and produced two more books, Russia: The Best Country in Photos and Magic Canada. He is a seven times finalist of Russia's Golden Turtle international photo contest and has won twice (2007 and 2012). In 2012, he also scooped the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Eric Hosking Portfolio Award. Instead of compelling Vladimir to compete more, the triumph inspired a change of direction. "The most important thing that the victory gave me was the understanding that I needed to look for my own way, and not follow the trodden path," he reflects. "At that time I had no idea what to do next, but I was sure that I did not want to limit my creative activities to the formats of competitions. Looking back, I realise that it was a very good decision. By giving up one thing, you find new ways to develop."

A herd of bighorn sheep surrounded by snow and pine trees, taken by Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
"I took this image, The Snow Herd, at 1,800 metres in the mountains of Canada's Banff National Park. Initially, I took a series of portraits of the bighorn sheep, but then I realised that the context was missing. Using a wide-angle lens, I could show the whole herd in its environment. In order to include everything – from the snowflakes in the foreground to the pine trees in the surrounding landscape – I closed the aperture to increase the depth of field." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 16-35mm 2.8L II USM lens at 35mm, 1/250 sec, f/9 and ISO400. © Vladimir Medvedev

What's your view on publishing work in magazines?

"I only publish my pictures in magazines as part of the promotion for my personal projects. It may sound strange, but every author has their own ways. I admire photographers who do amazing things with big magazines but, for my personal brand, I'd rather distance myself from the image of a magazine photographer. The genre certainly has its own romance, but it seems to me that this industry is now being eroded by amateur photography and is losing its audience and influence."

Do you ever use flash?

"I rarely shoot with artificial light, however one of my winning shots for Wildlife Photographer of the Year was an illuminated porcupine photographed with a narrow beam of light, because there was absolutely no chance to capture the shot any other way. For those situations I have the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT."

What are the biggest issues when photographing landscapes at night and what's the best setup to use?

"The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II IS USM has a bright aperture that's useful for shooting night landscapes with stars, and the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM is a very sharp and light prime lens, which is ideal. A big problem with shooting a starry sky or the Northern Lights is low light. Another problem is that you can't greatly increase the shutter speed because the light from the stars is constantly moving in the sky, and even with a wide angle, after 10 seconds the stars begin to blur. If you shoot at an aperture ratio of f/1.4–1.8, it will give you an image twice as bright as one taken on a classic zoom lens with an f-number of 2.8. In turn, this means that you will have half as much noise, a clearer picture and the opportunity to print the image in a larger format."

What lenses do you traditionally go for when capturing landscapes?

"I like the wide angle of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens [now succeeded by the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM]. It allows me to shoot almost any standard landscape, and the top end often gets me close enough to snatch out the details. I sometimes use the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM for landscapes, as well as animals, because it has very convenient focal lengths, so you can make the necessary framing without switching lenses."

Instagram: @medvedevphoto
Website: vladimirmedvedev.com

One thing I know
Vladimir Medvedev

"The most important things today are not sharpness or exposure. What holds much more value are the emotions and meaning that you put into your work. Do not be afraid of doing something that is not accepted by 'respected photographers' or that breaks the established rules. Don't be afraid of showing blurred shots or pictures with a strange composition. Do not be afraid of experimenting: photography is a means of self-expression. Be honest and open with your audience – they will appreciate it."

Vladimir Medvedev's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Vladimir Medvedev's kitbag.

Cameras

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

This accomplished all-rounder is engineered to give high quality performance in every situation. "It offers great dynamic range at low ISO and allows you to shoot landscapes without HDR," says Vladimir. "Also, there's very little noise, even at high ISO. Plus it has GPS, which automatically registers the location of each photo, which is a big help."

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Vladimir's backup camera is the rugged predecessor of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. "A fantastic backup camera, and it helps that it has the same battery and similar control buttons as the EOS 5D Mark IV," says Vladimir.

Lenses

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

This versatile zoom lens offers photographers and filmmakers an ideal balance between performance, portability and image quality. "It is a good thing that there is an Image Stabilizer – it allows you to shoot without a tripod, so you can take images at bold angles," says Vladimir. "Another bonus is that it's waterproof, because I shoot in the rain all the time."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM

This workhorse telephoto zoom lens is equipped with a four-stop Image Stabilizer and specialised lens elements, allowing for excellent image detail. "The high quality and sharpness allows it to be used with a 1.4 teleconverter with almost no loss of quality. An incredible lens offering high contrast, high sharpness and the ability to emphasise textures," says Vladimir.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II IS USM

This fast, ultra-wide-angle zoom lens offers excellent optical performance throughout the zoom range, and an f/2.8 maximum aperture make this an ideal lens for low-light photography. "It's a really great wide-angle zoom that is not too big," says Vladimir. "Waterproof, durable housing and high quality – everything a professional could need."

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

The ultimate in fast aperture wide-angle lenses, with aspherical elements to eliminate distortion and aberrations for stunning results, and an f/1.4 maximum aperture that's great for low-light shooting. "This is a very sharp and light prime lens, ideal for shooting night landscapes," says Vladimir.

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