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

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Lighting the Princess – Going Simple High Key for the Prom Lighting the Princess – Going Simple High Key for the Prom

With 9 students planning to arrive for prom pictures within a short period of time, I had to be ready. The entire week preceding the big day was extra cloudy with lots of rain. The forecast for the Saturday afternoon shoot was calling for clouds with a 30% chance of light rain. Clouds would be perfect for afternoon outdoor lighting, the grass was very green and the new spring leaves on the trees were a great color for a background, but that chance of rain required a studio setup be on standby.
White matches everything, so ... I went with white this year.
Setting up for a high key white background is not hard nor is it expensive. If shooting partial body portraits, a white wall, white reflector or white foam core can work well as the background. For full body portraits, rolled paper is often the best option and it works great. Savage Widetone Seamless Paper Background is what I use.
To hold the rolled paper in place, a background stand (I have Impact and Manfrotto brands) is needed. The rolled paper slides onto the top bar of the background stand and rolls out onto the floor to the front (get another person to hold the background stand up while unrolling the paper as the stand could easily tip over during this step). I gaffer tape the paper to the floor to keep it from rolling back up and clamp the roll of paper to the top bar to keep it from further unrolling.
High Key Lighting Setup
More complicated than the background setup is the lighting and the balancing of the lights. I typically start my light balancing setup with the camera exposure settings. With powerful strobes in use, I have a lot of flexibility even at the lowest noise ISO setting of 100. With the EOS 1D X Mark II and similar-resolution full frame cameras, I generally start with f/11. This aperture gives me a lot of depth of field, keeping much or all of the subject in focus along with room for error (it is rare to get an out of focus portrait at f/11) without compromising image sharpness to diffraction. Note that, when using a solid-colored background such as rolled paper, there is little benefit to blurring the background via a wide aperture. A 1/160 shutter speed is about as fast as I trust the PocketWizards to trigger the first strobe and for the rest to optically trigger while the shutter is fully open, so that is what I go with. The f/11, 1/160 and ISO 100 combination is generally enough to overwhelm any ambient light present.
For lighting with consistent requirements, manual flash settings are ideal and ... the only option I have with my Elinchrom Digital Style studio monolights (Elinchrom ELC Pro HD Flash Heads are the current models).
For the high key background, I place a softbox-fitted strobe on each side of the paper with the power set high enough to blow out the background in the selected exposure (but not higher than necessary as flare could become an issue). I was tempted to place a 4x8' piece of clear Plexiglas on the floor under the subject to better reflect the bright background, but ... I feared that the parade of subjects flowing through my studio would not be kind to this relatively-expensive piece of plastic's useful lifespan.
To keep the background reflection from strongly influencing the lighting on the subject (a wrapping light the softens the transition from subject to the background), the subject should be positioned well in front of the background. The subject to background distance was about 10' (3m) in this example.
Prom is all about the dress (or tux) and a 54" octagonal softbox angled just slightly downward and directly at the subject from camera-left created an even light emphasizing the dresses. This light was adjusted to the output needed for proper dress brightness with care taken to not overexpose the dress as reducing brightness during post processing can reduce the background's whiteness. A 24x24" softbox on a Manfrotto boom was positioned above the subject to light their head with the appropriate brightness setting used for that.
While it takes multiple lights to effectively create a high key effect and light the subject, the light sources do not have to be studio strobes. I have done the same many times with Speedlites and constant lights, can also be utilized. And, the background does not have to be pure white as long as your background lights are bright enough to make whatever color is available bright enough. I've even shot high key corporate portraits using a light-colored wallpaper background. Hit it with enough light and it turns white.
Umbrellas can be used in place of softboxes.
By the time my first subject arrived (my own daughter was first and about 1 hour late), the day was bright, sunny and unfavorable for lighting in my preferred outdoor locations. It didn't take much thought to know that the indoor option was best.
With the lighting and camera settings all dialed in before any subjects arrived, I was able to take lots of photos in a short/compressed amount of time.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is an excellent portrait lens and 70mm is just wide enough for comfortably shooting full length portraits in my studio space. The just-arrived Canon EOS-1D X Mark II was my camera choice for this shoot. This scenario was a walk in the park for this camera.

80mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Bryce Canyon National Park at Sunrise Bryce Canyon National Park at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon National Park is a photographer's dream location. Once finished shooting the hoodoos (rock spires), streams, and other details, move on to the wildlife including Pronghorn, Mule Deer and Prairie Dogs.
This image was shot at sunrise from Sunset Point. The reflected light creates a great color on the backlit spires.

105mm  f/11.0  1/10s  ISO 100
Beach Sunset Portrait Beach Sunset Portrait

This is a casual portrait shot as the sun set over the US east coast. The setting sun delivers a warm-colored light onto the subject while a little natural vignetting and a blurred-by-f/2.8 background combine to draw the viewer's eye to the girl. ISO 100 would have been an even better choice for this shot, but the 1/1000 shutter speed was being used to capture fast action at the time.

200mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 200
St. John Iguana St. John Iguana

The Westin Resort is the place to shoot iguanas in St. John. A daily feeding brings them in by the dozens. Finding an attractive composition is a much more difficult task than finding the subjects.

200mm  f/2.8  1/100s  ISO 160
US Navy's Blue Angels US Navy's Blue Angels

The United States Navy's aerobatic flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, performs the Diamond 360 at the Andrews Airforce Base Joint Services Open House. In this formation, the wing tips are 18" from the canopies.
Air show photography tip: Because of the distance air show craft are typically performing at, even the widest apertures on most handholdable telephoto lenses will provide enough DOF to deliver an all-in-focus subject. More important may be to stop down the aperture enough to eliminate any vignetting that will be noticeable on an evenly-colored sky.

280mm  f/6.3  1/1250s  ISO 320
Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon National Park

Shooting distant landscapes, especially in the Grand Canyon, often involves air clarity issues. Plan on adding a lot of contrast to your images to counter these conditions. Shooting early in the day often helps.
Another challenge visible in this photo is the flat plateau. Like water, this flat surface is unforgiving to a non-level camera - and illuminates lens distortion. Lens distortion also makes it hard to level the camera in the first place.
This picture was taken near Yavapai Point. Note the late May snow in the background.

85mm  f/11.0  1/25s  ISO 100
Braces and Braids Braces and Braids

A little girl in braces and braids poses for a 200mm f/2.8 closeup portrait. When photographing a person with such a narrow DOF (Depth of Field), align the plane of focus with the subject's eyes and mouth. If the eyes are out of focus, the shot goes in the garbage can.

200mm  f/2.8  1/400s  ISO 100
B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 Flying Fortress

This B-17 Flying Fortress was part of the ground display at this particular air show.
Air show photography tip: Don't forget the ground displays. But with 100,000 people attending this air show, avoiding spectators in the pictures is challenging. As I was framing shots of this plane, a small kid reached up and put his finger into one of the gun barrels. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough with the shutter.
Shooting over the bystander's heads with telephoto focal lengths is one technique for shooting the ground displays. Add a little motion blur to the prop and it would look like the plane was in the air.

75mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Violin Recital Violin Recital

A young violinist plays to a harpsichord accompaniment. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens is an ideal indoor event lens.

95mm  f/2.8  1/125s  ISO 1000
Cute Couple on the Beach Cute Couple on the Beach

A mature couple takes in the sights, sounds and smells of the beach. Even at this distance, 200mm f/2.8 on a full frame lens will create a nice background blur. And the quality of the blur from this lens is very nice.

200mm  f/2.8  1/800s  ISO 100
Sand Fence, Island Beach State Park, NJ Sand Fence, Island Beach State Park, NJ

A sand fence at Island Beach State Park in NJ and the shadow it creates provide a photo-inviting pattern in the sand. Image stabilization is especially helpful at the beach - where the wind is typically strong-to-fierce. This shot was taken handheld.

102mm  f/10.0  1/30s  ISO 100
Is the Canon EOS R a Good Sports and Action Camera? Is the Canon EOS R a Good Sports and Action Camera?

There are a few features that make a camera especially well-suited for capturing sports and other challenging action.

A fast frame rate is one such feature. A camera that can capture images in rapid succession is more likely to capture the perfect subject position than a camera that captures images at low frequency. For this feature, the EOS R has a relatively fast frame rate, but only when not tracking and adjusting the focus distance. Not all action involves changing focus distances (such as the wave crashing example in the Canon EOS R review), but if your subject is moving enough to leave the camera's initially-focused depth of field, as is typical for many sports, continuous focusing is required and in that focus mode, the EOS R's 5 fps frame rate is on the slow side of the spectrum.

Another feature required for photographing subjects in motion is maintaining a continuous view of that subject in the viewfinder. Optical viewfinders have a short blackout period for each image captured (while the mirror is raised) and cameras with short blackout specs are more-highly desired than those with long ones. Electronic viewfinders, with few exceptions, have a pause in the EVF video feed as each image is captured and the duration of this pause can hinder a photographer from keeping a subject properly framed. This pause is only a minor issue for subjects moving directly toward or away from the camera, but keeping subjects properly-framed as they are moving from side-to-side or moving erratically becomes a challenge with most EVFs, including the EOS R's.

If the subject focusing distance is changing, especially if it is changing rapidly, autofocus tracking and prediction performance becomes critically important. If the subject is out of focus, the image, regardless of the frame rate it was captured at, is likely going to be deleted.

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and its just-introduced replacement, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens are ultra-popular sports lenses and I mounted one on the EOS R to photograph a cross country meet with. While this lens is not going to create the focus challenge that, for example, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens will when compared at the same distance, focusing on a very close and fast-approaching runner at 200mm f/2.8 is quite challenging to an AF system. I thought the EOS R did a great job on this cloudy day that included some light rain earlier in the meet. A high percentage of my images were sharp (when I kept the subject properly framed).

Note that, while the image shared here appears very sharp at this resolution, my 1/1250 shutter speed was not quite fast enough to stop the lateral motion at this distance. Though the image is properly focused, the motion blur degraded image sharpness slightly at full resolution. I was starting a burst capture when the subjects came close to being ideally framed and continued to photograph until they passed by.

Another feature that is often helpful for action photography is the ability to sustain the frame rate for a large number of images. The EOS R's buffer depth, when using a fast memory card, is very good, allowing a relatively long period of action to be captured. While usually not as desirable as a fast frame rate, a large buffer can increase the number of great shots captured in a burst and I can credit the image shared here to that feature.

For those using the shutter release to time their captures or to time the first capture in a high speed frame rate sequence, a short shutter lag is important. The EOS R checks that box and the fast AF makes timing single shots quite successful.

Overall, the EOS R is lacking a few key features to make it the ideal sports and action camera. It is not that camera, but it can certainly do that job if needed. I don't recommend purchasing an EOS R for dedicated sports and action photography, but the EOS R stands ready to fill in for the occasional action needs it encounters. Of course, if your action is not leaving the established depth of field, the EOS R can do 8 frames per second and that rate is quite fast, making it suitable for such needs.

200mm  f/2.8  1/1250s  ISO 250
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park

These reflected-light illuminated hoodoos are as-seen from near Sunset Point at sunrise. I used the gently rolling, hoodoo-less ridge as the foreground base in this shot.

200mm  f/11.0  1/40s  ISO 100
Flower Closeup Picture Flower Closeup Picture

Listen up guys! Want to make the spouse happy AND get a great subject? Bring flowers home with you.
This sample photo was taken at near the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens' minimum focus distance. A Canon EF 1.4x Extender was used for this full frame shot - an APS-C/1.6x DSLR would be able frame this shot even slightly tighter than this.
Lighting is from studio lights and reflectors.

280mm  f/4.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Pennsylvania Maple Tree in the Fall Pennsylvania Maple Tree in the Fall

I have to confess. I'm a fall leaf color addict. If the leaves have changed to their fall colors, I'm struggling to resist being outdoors 100% of the daylight hours with a camera in my hands. Fortunately, I don't have to go far from home to find some of the best color available anywhere.
Even with colorful trees being easy to find, photographing the fall color can be very challenging and one of those challenges is to create a compelling composition. Many of the most-brilliantly colored local trees, primarily old maples, are found in town, where houses and other buildings, power lines, signs, etc. interfere with the natural look I'm typically seeking. A picture of a complete tree may capture the color, but the likelihood of something undesirable being in the frame is quite high. Even in the countryside, the ideal trees can be difficult to work into great compositions for a variety of reasons including a lack of supporting elements.
One fall foliage technique I like to use is isolation of the colorful leaves of one tree with other parts of the same tree or another tree filling the rest of the frame. Find an attractive leaf or set of leaves that are in good condition and then determine what could be a good background for the composition.
Determine the focal length of your lens based on how large the foreground leaves should be in relation to the selected background. The focal length decision will also be affected by how large the selected background is and the space you have to work in with a longer focal length requiring less background area needed. The longer the focal length selected, the easier it will be to make the background blurred and of course, the vice versa is also true.
Determine the aperture used based on how much depth of field is desired with a very wide aperture capable of putting the background into a primary-subject-isolating blur. Also note that a wider aperture makes a faster shutter speed easier to obtain (at a lower ISO setting) and a faster shutter speed may be necessary to stop any wind-imparted motion of the primary subject leaf or leaves.
Don't stop with your first setup. Continue to refine the shot until you have it perfected. Then find another composition to work on.
The brilliantly colored maple tree in this picture was on the corner of an in-town street intersection with power lines and houses directly behind it. I moved in close to the foreground leaves and aligned the angle of view with the lines created by the trunks and limbs. The backlit leaves on the other side of the tree and some green grass across the street complete the composition. The result is a brilliantly colored fall photo that is, at least somewhat, unique.
While photo trips to grand landscapes with brilliantly colored trees are awesome, knowing the isolation technique can land great fall foliage images much closer to home (for many of us) and in many more locations (for all of us).

200mm  f/2.8  1/15s  ISO 200
Salty Girl Portrait Salty Girl Portrait

A headshot of a salty girl on the beach. I don't know what the hair braid style is called, but I thought she looked a little like Celia in Monsters Inc.
The close minimum focusing distance of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens makes it a great closeup portrait lens - even on a full frame body.

200mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 200
Barnegat Jetty, Island Beach State Park Barnegat Jetty, Island Beach State Park

The Barnegat Jetty in Island Beach State Park heads out to sea, separating natural ocean waves from boat waves. This photo was taken handheld in the wind.

70mm  f/16.0  1/30s  ISO 100
3/4 Portrait 3/4 Portrait

At 120mm, an f/2.8 aperture leaves the background blurred but recognizable in this sample picture.

120mm  f/2.8  1/400s  ISO 100
Spring Garden Street Bridge View of the City of Philadelphia Spring Garden Street Bridge View of the City of Philadelphia

When planning for a big photo daytrip, I usually have a packed-full itinerary carefully planned out and select the day based on the desired weather matching the forecast along with various other factors. But, sometimes even very careful planning does not work out.
This particular day had set up perfectly and I executed the plan, making the roughly 6-hour round trip drive to Philadelphia.
Upon arrival, I immediately discovered that preparations for the NFL Draft ceremonies, including installation of multiple enormous covered stages, had completely taken over the art museum, including the parking area I was planning to use. The backup plan was implemented for parking and the art museum, one of my intended subjects, quickly hit the questionable list.
The morning and early afternoon were forecasted to be cloudy and I drove in rain during much of the trip into the city. While that might not sound like the ideal forecast for city photography, the cloudy skies were going to provide ideal light for interior photography at a large church. Soft light coming in the windows would add life to the interior, but direct sunlight burning highlights into an image would be avoided.
Upon arrival at the church, I found the doors ... locked. The church's website said it would be open. The city employees watching over the area contacted their superiors and were told that the church was supposed to be open. Some church employees were even trying unsuccessfully to get in. About two hours later, the church was still locked and I gave up the wait, moving on to scout for later opportunities.
A blue hour ultra-wide angle view of the art museum entrance was on my to-photograph list for the day, so this was the next shot to be scouted/planned for. Because this view faces somewhat into the setting sun, the ideal blue hour timing was slightly later than another blue hour photo I had planned. I worked through the NFL Draft construction project and a security worker permitted me to go to the top of the art museum steps (the ones "Rocky" climbed) behind the main NFL Draft stage. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the top of the steps, I discovered more large tents covering most of the main entrance. Scratch primary photo #2 from the list.
Scouting the view from the Spring Garden Street Bridge was next on the list. The goal was to photograph the downtown skyscrapers bathed in the warm late day light and a clear sky to the west was needed for that. The skies were forecasted to clear in the afternoon but I was not optimistic of the clearing happening in time. Finally, in late afternoon, the heavy clouds quickly moved past, showing a beautiful blue sky.
I arrived at this location quite early and set up two tripods with a pair of Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lenses mounted. I waited, watching the perfectly clear sky with highly anticipated success, but alas, just minutes before the sweet light happened, a cloud bank rolled in and shut down the light, erasing major photo goal #3.
With three of five planned image series already failed, the day was not shaping up well, but two photo goals remained. Fortunately, the cloud bank that shut down the city-in-sweet-light image did not make it past the city before darkness and photo opportunity #4, the image shared here, was a home run.
The ideal blue hour light only lasts a few minutes and the ideal time is often easier to best-determine when reviewing the images on a computer at home, so I simply shoot constantly through that short time window. However, a clue to when the time is ideal is when proper f/16 exposures are between 15 and 30 seconds.
Why f/16? Live View with DOF preview showed that I had enough depth of field at f/8 and the images would have been sharper if captured at that aperture, but ... I like the star effect that a narrow aperture creates from the city lights. The straight lines from the city buildings sharpen nicely even at f/16 and I seldom regret this aperture choice for this purpose.
Because I was shooting from an elevated bridge, the camera was able to be leveled (for both pitch and roll), a requirement if keeping the edges of the buildings vertically straight is desired. Another takeaway from this image is that telephoto lenses are great for cityscape photography. Telephoto focal lengths keep distant subjects large in the frame and the city skyscrapers were a primary subject, so keeping them large was desirable.
With the blue hour past and a good set of images captured on two cameras, it was time to make photo #5 happen. The goal was a nighttime photo of City Hall from the center of S. Broad St. and getting there required a 1.6 mi (2.6km) walk. I had been carrying a heavily-loaded MindShift Gear BackLight 26L (including two tripods) all day, but ... whatever it takes is the motto of many photographers. I could rest on the drive back home.
Upon arriving at City Hall, I discovered huge – you guessed it – NFL Draft banners adorning each side of City Hall. While a photo with the banner may have been good for memories of the event happening in this city, it was not what I wanted. I was tired and opted to simply walk back to car.
So, out of 5 potentially great series of photos, I brought only one home with me. While that batting average is not very good, I'm happy with the images I did get and another positive spin is that ... I will not need to do much research to make another day-filled photo itinerary for this city with a hopefully-more-productive result. Alas, the NFL Draft will forever be a memory as there it is, advertised on the large blue billboard near the center of every frame I captured here.

88mm  f/16.0  20s  ISO 100
Layers and Rays During Grand Canyon Sunrise Layers and Rays During Grand Canyon Sunrise

A telephoto focal length isolates a set of Grand Canyon National Park layers. Due to haze, the layers increasingly lose contrast as they become more distant. Light rays streaming through small openings in the clouds add another element of layers to this shot.

145mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 100
Dune Grasses at Island Beach State Park Dune Grasses at Island Beach State Park

Light from a setting sun illuminates the top of the dune grasses at Island Beach State Park near Seaside Park, NJ.
Good landscape photos do not need to have the entire frame in sharp focus. But, what is out of focus probably needs to look like it is supposed to be out of focus.

155mm  f/2.8  1/200s  ISO 100
Studio Head Shot Portrait Studio Head Shot Portrait

If you have a big softbox (or umbrella), lighting a headshot portrait in the studio is very easy. Simply move the light in close. Use the reflection in the subject's eyes to see the lighting angle used for this image.

200mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
2010 Infiniti QX56 SUV Portrait 2010 Infiniti QX56 SUV Portrait

A spring 2010 Infiniti QX56 SUV portrait taken at 85mm. Telephoto lenses are for cars too.

85mm  f/8.0  1/25s  ISO 500
Reflected Light Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon Reflected Light Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

Reflected morning light casts a warm glow on these Bryce Canyon Hoodoos.

142mm  f/16.0  1/13s  ISO 100
Big Hair Girl Big Hair Girl

She just combed the fishbone braids out of her hair and wanted a picture of the results. Throw a 70-200mm L II Lens and bounce-capable flash on the camera and move to one of those go-to locations in the house. And a nicely-lit, cute picture that took nearly no time to setup is the result.
In this example, the go-to spot was a hallway with white walls and a white ceiling. I bounced the flash into the wall behind and above me - making the wall act as the light source - like an umbrella or softbox. Manual exposure mode was used.

200mm  f/8.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Piano Recital in Concert Hall Piano Recital in Concert Hall

While this university venue has very good lighting available, I cannot count on the lighting manager to always use all of that capability. An image stabilized f/2.8 lens is insurance for less-than-full lighting being provided. In this case, I could have used an f/4 aperture at ISO 1600 for a same-brightness but noisier image.

88mm  f/2.8  1/125s  ISO 800
Blue Angels Knife-Edge Pass Blue Angels Knife-Edge Pass

A pair of Blue Angels perform the spectacular Knife-Edge Pass in their F/A-18 Hornets.
Air show photography tip: The Blue Angel's and Thunderbird's opposing passes are really impressive to watch and very difficult to photograph. With a closing speed in the many hundreds of MPH, the exact moment of crossing is nearly impossible to predict if you are using a reasonably long telephoto lens.
A camera with a fast frame rate is a good solution to this problem. The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV shooting at 10 frames per second makes the hit rate about 75% for these shots.
Here I am tracking one jet and catching the other jet blurring past.

180mm  f/6.3  1/1250s  ISO 320
Violin Recital Action Violin Recital Action

When shooting quiet events - and/or those events where the sound of the event is the main attraction, I try to keep my shooting to a minimum - focusing on the insurance shots. The 5D Mark III's Silent mode is quiet enough that I can keep shooting - and go after more unique (and lower success rate) shots such as this violinist in motion-blurred action.
Of course, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II Lens' IS was integral to being able to shoot at 1/15 second and 200mm.

200mm  f/2.8  1/15s  ISO 160
Crocus Clump Crocus Clump

A short focus distance, long focal length and wide aperture results in a completely-blurred background - and makes your subject pop.

200mm  f/2.8  1/800s  ISO 100
Eye On It DJ Eye On It DJ

Rock concert lighting combined with smoke provides constantly changing colors. These colors are of course welcomed by photographers.
I was obviously capturing the high-above-the-crowd DJ in this image. I liked the particular colors and their balance in this frame.

200mm  f/2.8  1/400s  ISO 800
Bryce Canyon NP at Sunrise Bryce Canyon NP at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon hoodoos glow in the early morning sunlight - with much of the warm color coming from light being reflected from the canyon. With wide angle through telephoto focal lengths available, the available Bryce Canyon compositions are nearly endless. A 200mm telephoto focal length was used to isolate this set of hoodoos from the thousands of others.

200mm  f/11.0  1/15s  ISO 100
Portrait in the Grass Portrait in the Grass

This is a very easy pose to make your high school senior look great. Simply find some grass being lit by a late-day sun and have your senior take on this pose. The slightly tipped head causes her hair to flow nicely. The crossed bare feet are framed just to the side of her head – but not intersecting her hair line. The jeans form a border around most of her visible shirt.
This amazing lens with an f/2.8-selected aperture takes care of the rest.

180mm  f/2.8  1/250s  ISO 200
Violin Performance Violin Performance

In this situation, I chose to let the bright windows in the background become overexposed so that the subject was strongly contrasted against them.

165mm  f/2.8  1/125s  ISO 320
Horse-Loving Kid Horse-Loving Kid

Wearing a horse shirt and sitting on her horse (this horse is obviously not in the frame) shows this girl's true colors. This shot was taken in good light - a wide aperture lens was not required for the capture. But, the wide aperture creates a strong background blur that clearly separates the girl from the background.

95mm  f/2.8  1/4000s  ISO 100
Blue Angels in Precision Double Farvel Formation Blue Angels in Precision Double Farvel Formation

Two upside down, two right side up. Impressive precision flying by the US Navy's Blue Angels.
Air show photography tip: Because many of these passes are made at low elevation, it is extremely helpful to have a front row (against the fence) shooting position. In this location, you will not have heads in your way as you swing with the action.

260mm  f/6.3  1/1600s  ISO 400
Beach Sunset Portrait 2 Beach Sunset Portrait 2

Warm light provided by a setting sun illuminates this young girl wearing a full mouth of braces. F/2.8 and 200mm create a smoothly blurred background for this heavily braided young lady.

200mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 100
Blue Angels in Diamond Formation Blue Angels in Diamond Formation

The US Navy Blue Angels fly in a tight diamond formation over Andrews AFB.
Air show photography tip: Jets fly fast and have no fast-moving visible parts (such as a propeller), so use a fast shutter speed to get sharp shots. Try to shoot at 1/1000 sec or faster and always pan with the aircraft.
Or get creative - try a panning motion-blur shot to show speed.
Notice the clouds framing the diamond formation.

175mm  f/6.3  1/1250s  ISO 320
Braces and Braids Picture Braces and Braids Picture

A tightly-framed portrait of a girl with braces and braids. Once again, the background is rendered a blur from a close-focused, wide aperture, telephoto lens. Lighting for this shot is from a cloudy sky (acts like a giant softbox) with subtracted light courtesy of a patio roof.

100mm  f/2.8  1/250s  ISO 100
Blue Angels in Delta Formation Blue Angels in Delta Formation

The Blue Angels fly in delta formation over Andrews AFB.
Air show photography tip: I usually want my subjects to be moving/looking into the frame - often from 1/3 of the way into the frame. When shooting aircraft with smoke on, I like the subject leaving the frame to capture the trails.

265mm  f/6.3  1/1600s  ISO 500
The Old MapleTree The Old MapleTree

This old Maple tree turned red long before its counterparts. I liked the immense trunk with its various lines and, of course, the brilliant red leaves. I used a perspective that would frame the red leaves in green.
A wind-less day was necessary to capture sharp leaves with a .8 second exposure.

102mm  f/11.0  .8s  ISO 100
Rim-lit Violinist Rim-lit Violinist

In this classroom setting, I aligned the strongly-backlit subject with a large chalk board. The back-lighting created a rim light around the subject. Expose for the subject and let the windows partially blow out.

160mm  f/2.8  1/125s  ISO 400
Chorus Picture Chorus Picture

From the back of this medium-sized auditorium, a 75mm focal length on a full frame body will frame the entire group.

75mm  f/2.8  1/200s  ISO 800
Wearing Black and Having Red Highlights Wearing Black and Having Red Highlights

You have 20 minutes to capture a complete set of homecoming pictures. And, there is a complication. Actually, three of them. A palomino horse, a blue roan (black) horse and a dog are to be included in most of the photos. And, one of the horses "needs" to be bridal-less for a segment of the shoot.
It was a crazy day (I know, that is not unusual), but high on one daughter's priority list was getting pictures of herself dressed up for homecoming. Having been through this scenario before, I knew what to expect. Primarily, there would be no time remaining for those pictures. I also knew about the desire to include the animals, but the specifics had not yet been communicated to me (even though I had asked).
Oh, I forgot to mention – it was lightly raining and with horses involved, the shoot was of course outdoors. Looking on the bright side, the heavy cloud cover made lighting easy with no harsh shadows and a reasonable level of dynamic range in the scene which included a black dress along with the black horse. Also positive is that with animals in the picture, the subject always seems to find it easier to smile naturally.
None of the subjects remained completely still at any point, meaning that my timing, framing, focus distance, etc. was always being challenged. In the end, I "borrowed" 10 minutes from the next-scheduled homecoming event and came away with an adequate number of keeper-grade photos. And, I thought that I would share one of them with you today.
For low light outdoor portraits with a variety of subject framing required, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens was my choice. It was a rather easy choice for me to make. It has only good portrait focal lengths in it and a nice range of them. The wide max aperture was ready for the low light levels and that this wide aperture was available over the entire focal length range, meant that I could lock in an exposure and, as long as the light levels did not change, all images would have identical brightness. While a right-on exposure was my intent, any adjustments needed could be globally applied for very fast post processing. The wide aperture combined with the telephoto focal length range created a nice background blur, making the subjects stand out in the scene. Being weather sealed made the light rain a non-issue. The Canon EOS 5Ds R behind this lens allowed me to shoot with framing slightly loose if I needed to, with cropped images still having very high resolution remaining.
As the animals were not overly cooperative, I tried to work with the positions that were available at any given time. Of course, the handler's position was partially dictated by the animal's position and ... there was a constant challenge to keep the subjects in attractive and complementary positions while keeping the background aligned in a pleasing manner. We didn't quite get the left hand position right, but all things considered, it was good enough.
Notice the low-to-the-ground camera position? There had been a long drought and the grass was thin with lots of brown spots showing. By shooting from low to the ground, the grass appeared thicker with a better-colored foreground being the result. As I was shooting downhill slightly, the low camera position was also complementary to the subjects.
After we finished, Brittany's hair was flat (due to the light rain), over two inches of her heels were covered in mud (shoes sunk into the grass) and the dress was dirty (the horse gets the blame for this one), but ... she made it to the big event and the photos I sent her later that evening made her day. So, all was good in the end.

95mm  f/2.8  1/200s  ISO 400
Jamie Grace in Concert Jamie Grace in Concert

What do you do about a highly reflective silver guitar strap? I did nothing in this case. Hopefully you didn't notice it until I revealed the blown highlight-causing guitar accessory to you.
Don't expect to be permitted to use flash when covering an event like this one. Fortunately, this concert had, for most of the sets, very bright lighting.

200mm  f/2.8  1/400s  ISO 1000
Concerts are All About Lighting Concerts are All About Lighting

At least as far as us photographers are concerned, concerts are all about lighting. And some concerts deliver photo intrigue lighting in a big way. Find a way to work the smoke-machine-enhanced light colors into your compositions.
I had a special access pass for this event, but that does not mean you can be in front of the bike rack for the entire night. Access was limited to the first 2 songs in each set.
The 70-200mm focal length range is a good choice for getting the full stage from a long distance as shown here in this 70mm sample photo.

70mm  f/2.8  1/500s  ISO 2000
Firsthand Example of Why Backup Gear is a Requirement for Wedding Photography Firsthand Example of Why Backup Gear is a Requirement for Wedding Photography

I advised my daughter and then-future son-in-law that something would go wrong with the wedding and that they should be ready to adjust plans as necessary.

What went wrong started with my youngest daughter waking up at 3:00 AM with a fever of 101.7° F (38.7° C) on the day before the wedding. I was so sad for her and expected the virus to have her in its grasp through the wedding day and beyond. Fortunately, after many prayers and sleeping much of the morning, she was feeling much better the same evening and was able to enjoy the wedding rehearsal and dinner afterwards.

That rehearsal dinner afterwards (at our house) became the next issue. The food was all out and everyone was ready to eat (and hungry), but ... the rolls needed to hold the main course were missing. Apparently an assignment was missed and a 40-minute round trip to the grocery store ensued, resolving this relatively minor issue.

As I mentioned, I was (mostly) not photographing this wedding, but received a request to "just" set up a video camera. I assembled the gear I intended to use (multiple cameras, tripods, mic, sound recorder, Pelican cases, extra batteries, etc.) the day before (amidst plenty of other chaos) and ran a gear check late in the day. I planned to use the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II as the primary camera, recording the entire ceremony in 4k. Strangely, when attempting to record video with this body, all I saw was black. After checking for an installed lens cap multiple times and verifying that live view worked in the still photo modes, I resolved to call Canon CPS in the morning, hoping that there was some obscure setting I had missed. Unfortunately, the phone call determined that the camera had a failure of some sort (I was not surprised by that news) that was preventing the shutter from opening in video mode.

So, it was wedding day for my daughter and the primary camera I intended to record video with had failed. This is the perfect example of why a backup camera is mandatory when photographing weddings and other important events.

I had a 4k-capable Sony a7 III with a Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, the focal length range I needed, sitting on my desk. That setup was untested, so I opted to double-record using a Canon EOS 5Ds R and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. I set up the two cameras immediately next to each other, one on a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head and the other on a ProMediaGear TR344L Tripod with a UniqBall UBH 45X Ball Head.

A relative captured other video angles handheld using a Canon EOS 80D and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. Audio was recorded with a Tascam digital audio recorder positioned under the flowers near the pastor, on a Rode Stereo Video Mic mounted on the 5Ds R in the back (closer to some of the musicians) and in-camera on the other two cameras. The setups appear to have all worked great and there is plenty of audio and video available to assemble a nice edited movie.

While I had time to put together a revised camera setup prior to leaving for the wedding, that is not always the case with equipment failures. I had an additional camera and various accessories (including batteries) along to cover any on-site failures (OK, I had enough to cover any of the contracted photographer's equipment failures as well).

Then there was the tomahawk injury that required a trip to the medical center and 8 stitches on the groom's ankle on the morning of the wedding. Don't ask – but it involved fruit. I'll just say that there was little spring in the groom's step as he walked his bride down the aisle, but the wedding worked and I now officially have a son.

As I said, I was mostly not photographing the wedding, but ... the girls happened to be ready just before the official photographers arrived and I happened to have rolled paper on a background stand and two lights in softboxes (one large octagonal overhead, a medium-sized rectangle on the back/left) ready. I needed time to set up and dial in two more lights, including one on a boom, but with a very rushed schedule, I accepted a compromise.

Overall, the wedding was awesome. Thanks for sharing in my excitement!

70mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
My Recommended Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens Retailers Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered, and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my purchases. Get your Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens now!
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