Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens Sample Pictures

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Flying Quarter Horse Flying Quarter Horse

A young girl races her quarter horse through a field near the top of a ridge. This is my go-to location to photograph late in the day at this time of the year. The setting sun delivers a beautiful light to this area. I had especially good conditions on this day. Two thunderstorms were converging overhead, resulting in a dark sky behind a well-lit subject.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 400
Preparation for the Shot Preparation for the Shot

I shoot a lot of pictures at soccer games and end up deleting a high percentage of them. The player's position is one of the factors I look at when selecting down these photos. What I really like is when the player is in a position that nicely fills out the frame as in this example.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 200
Regulus, Diamond Ring and Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Regulus, Diamond Ring and Total Solar Eclipse 2017

One of my goals for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse was to bracket exposures ranging from no-blown-color-channels to as bright as I could create. Using three custom modes set for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing), I was able to capture 21 images with exposures ranging from 1/8000, f/8 ISO 100 to 1 sec, f/4 ISO 800, covering over 18 stops of exposure difference.
You may have noted that I was using an f/2.8 lens and could have opened up one stop wider. I decided that vignetting at f/2.8 took away most of the wider aperture advantage in the periphery and, with the sun creating the most light in the center of the frame, I periphery brightness was what I needed most from this frame. So, I opted to stay with f/4.
A number of the darkest images in the set proved too dark to be useful. In the brightest image, all three channels were blown in nearly half of the image. Thus, I felt successful in meeting that goal.
There was of course a purpose to that goal and that purpose was to create an HDR image that made as much of corona visible as possible. While I also had a 200mm lens deployed with the same purpose, the 400mm angle of view fully contained the maximum corona able to be captured under the slightly hazy Tennessee skies.
To create this image, I stacked 14 exposures using (essentially) the solar eclipse bracketing procedure I recently shared. I think that I could continue tweaking this result indefinitely, but ... it is time to label it "finished" and move on to all of the others.
In this case, you could say that I got a "star" for effort.

400mm  f/8.0  1/1000s  ISO 100
Converging Thunderstorm Picture Converging Thunderstorm Picture

Two thunderstorms converge to create a beautiful sight. A super telephoto lens is definitely not needed for sky shots such as this one, but it works very well for this purpose. I handheld the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II Lens at 1/50 second for this shot. The weight of this lens makes this task FAR easier than with its predecessor.

400mm  f/5.6  1/50s  ISO 100
Super Telephoto Portrait Super Telephoto Portrait

To say that I love how the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens blurs the background would be an understatement. Use an f/2.8 aperture an find a reasonably close subject to make the background melt away.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 320
Taking the Shot 2 Taking the Shot 2

A soccer player gives it her all in this shot. I shoot sports with lens set to a wide open aperture most of the time. The background distractions turn into smooth blurs of colors. The wide f/2.8 aperture also allowed an action-stopping 1/1600 sec shutter speed at only ISO 200 on this cloudy day.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 200
Setup for the Shot Setup for the Shot

A soccer player prepares to send the ball toward the net, but is appearing twisted up in the process. Shooting with a long lens, wide aperture and a full frame body creates a very shallow depth of field that requires accurate autofocus for success - especially when the subject is in fast action.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 500
Mid-Distance Runner Caught Mid-Stride Mid-Distance Runner Caught Mid-Stride

Shooting track and field is great fun. You know when and where your subjects will be and can setup for the best lighting and background. This location gave me front lighting from a setting sun, lines from the track sweeping around in the image and a background distant-enough to be blurred.

400mm  f/2.8  1/2000s  ISO 100
Sport Photography Under the Lights Sport Photography Under the Lights

I generally consider under-the-lights to be a worst-case lighting condition for shooting sports.
One problem at this and many other venues is the quality of the lighting. Flickering of the lights affects color balance and image brightness throughout a burst of shots, making post processing a requirement. Full spectrum lighting is only to wish for. Lighting conditions also change based on the location on the field (corners are dark, center field is bright).
Perhaps the biggest problem is getting a shutter speed fast enough to stop the action without going up to an unacceptable ISO setting. An f/2.8 aperture delivered a 1/800 shutter speed at ISO 3200 - this particular shot was still too dark and required brightness increase during post processing. I also shot at shutter speeds as long as 1/400 for much of this match, but these shots of course resulted in more motion blur. Mode 3 IS was very helpful for this shoot.

400mm  f/2.8  1/800s  ISO 3200
Ready for the Pass Ready for the Pass

A soccer player preps to make a pass. I usually like a player's face in the picture, but I like how this shot shows a play unfolding - and I like how the players are positioned in the frame.
Although I can't think of a reason why a shutter speed can be too fast when trying to stop action, the 1/4000 setting used for the shot is faster than necessary. I prefer to shoot sports in manual mode with my settings locked in, but this day had a partly cloudy sky that produced highly variable lighting conditions. I set the ISO high enough for the f/2.8 aperture in Av mode to give me an acceptably fast shutter speed when the clouds came over. I could then focus on getting the shots.

400mm  f/2.8  1/4000s  ISO 250
Braids on #3 Braids on #3

When setting up to shoot a sports event, I attempt to predict the area my subject will be in, adjust my distance as much as possible and attempt to align with the best combination of light direction and background. Natural tree lines are one of my favorite backgrounds - as seen here.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 200
Hooves in the Air Hooves in the Air

Nothing touches the ground in this frame pulled from a 12 fps burst. The 1D X delivers an incredible focus hit rate to go with its incredible frame rate, making capture of the ideal subject position easy (as long as I do my job of course).

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 320
Track and Field Relay Race Track and Field Relay Race

In track and fields events, you know where your subject will be. You can only hope that they are not blocked by another competitor, but positioning near a corner can allow a clear shot even if there is a runner in front of your subject. This position in the corner also allowed me to keep the curve of the track line running through much of the frame.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 100
Swamp Soccer Swamp Soccer

Always be looking for something unique to add to your shots. This post-rain-storm game added a water uniqueness to this shot.
Keeping an action shot level in the frame is not easy (for me at least), and man-made structures in the frame are unforgiving in their revealing of levelness. At this angle, the cross bar may show some diminishing line effect, but the upright post should be straight up and down in most shots.
The 400 f/2.8's background blur hides some of the revelation, but I was close to level in this shot.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1250s  ISO 200
Red and White Hurdles Red and White Hurdles

Rows of juxtaposed hurdles combined with a shallow depth of field camera setup creates nice patterns and colors.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 500
Girl and Her Dog Portrait Girl and Her Dog Portrait

Most people are not going to spend the money for a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens for only portrait photography use. But, this is an incredible portrait lens. If you have one of these lenses, don't be afraid to assign portrait duty to it.
For this image, I had the girl and dog positioned against a distant fall-colored hillside with a modestly cloud-diffused late day sun providing nice lighting. Green grass anchors the frame.

400mm  f/2.8  1/640s  ISO 100
The Final Turn The Final Turn

A runner rounds the final corner in her leg of the 4x400m relay. My track position was selected for the angle of the sun and layout of the track - to have the curved lines running through the frame.
As normal for action shots taken with a fixed focal length (prime) lens, some cropping was done to this image. It is better to frame slightly loosely than than to cut off an important part of the subject.

400mm  f/2.8  1/2500s  ISO 200
Opponents Meet Opponents Meet

I like having a face and ball in my sports pictures, but an opponent in the frame adds to the drama of a shot. I mostly avoid posting sample shots to the site with other recognizable people in them (which is also why I post mostly vertically oriented sports shots), but I actually like these shots best.

400mm  f/2.8  1/4000s  ISO 200
The Finish Line The Finish Line

The 400mm focal length will typically provide this finish line view from a full frame DSLR when standing just outside of the track fence.
When runners are directly approaching the camera position, the stub-leg syndrome (fully bent leg appearing cut off at the knee) should be strongly avoided. Unfortunately, if the runner's leg pace matches the camera's frame rate (which can happen at the 5D III's 6 fps), you can have opposite legs stubbed in consecutive frames. No problem in this shot.
The aperture was intended to be f/2.8 - f/3.2 was an accident. Just in case you were wondering.

400mm  f/3.2  1/2000s  ISO 500
Cooling Down the Horse Cooling Down the Horse

A horse and her rider leisurely walk across a field after some hard running. In this shot, I was timing the tail swish with my shutter release. A horse and rider approaching is a relatively narrow/tall subject and the tail swish adds some width.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 400
Dog Sled Race Dog Sled Race

Not the typical dogsled race, but a dog racing a sled in this case. I don't remember who won, but I don't think the dog had trouble keeping up with the sled.
I was tracking the sled with the center AF point (I didn't know the dog was going to show up). This meant that some cropping was necessary for the final image shown here.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 320
Player Number 3 Player Number 3

When shooting girls sports, I like to catch the player's hair in a position that reflects the action taking place. I think that the flowing hair in this picture adds to the composition.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 800
Action Sports Under the Lights Action Sports Under the Lights

Let's talk about shooting action sports under the lights as doing such is fraught with challenges. The big problem is of course the lights themselves. They are seldom bright enough, usually light the field unevenly, typically lack a full light spectrum and often have a nasty flicker that times horribly with the frame rate of your DSLR.
Unless you have the means to have ideal lighting installed, you need to deal with what you are given to work with. And for some reason unknown to me, most consider photography secondary to the sport being contested.
I usually want a shutter speed of 1/1250 or faster to stop field sports action with a 400mm lens. Even with Canon's widest aperture 400mm lens mounted, the conditions on this field required ISO 12800 for the shutter speed I desired. This resulting image is not an amazing capture, but impressive for the conditions it was captured in.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1250s  ISO 12800
Distance Runner Photo Distance Runner Photo

For this shot, I aligned the subject with late afternoon sunlight and a bright red jumping mat. The camera's mid-range 5 fps burst rate worked fine for capturing this composition.

400mm  f/2.8  1/2000s  ISO 100
Full Speed Full Speed

Soccer opponents go full speed after the ball in this soccer action. When using a prime lens and your shooting position is limited, cropping of your pictures is frequently needed. Cropping is not a big deal if you are shooting in RAW format with a high resolution camera. Those shooting in JPG format should insure that the cropping program they use supports "lossless" JPG cropping to insure that a second generation of data loss/compression does not occur.

400mm  f/4.5  1/1600s  ISO 125
Ball is on the Wrong Side Ball is on the Wrong Side

The ball is on the wrong side of this player. When shooting sports, you seldom have any control over the time of the day, the lighting conditions the game is being played under and the direction the players are facing. And direct, mid-day sun is one of my least favorite situations. Your job as photographer is to make the most of the situation.

560mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 320
Soccer Fear Soccer Fear

A girl protects her face as a soccer ball is being kicked in that direction. This shot utilized the Canon EF Extender 1.4x III for a 560mm of focal length and an f/4 max aperture. This is a great combination for capturing sports action.

560mm  f/4.0  1/640s  ISO 200
Backlit Bug Bokeh Backlit Bug Bokeh

I had somewhat unusual circumstances at a cross country meet I photographed recently. It is not uncommon to find an insect in an outdoor photo, but the gnats were so thick at this event that I was making keep/delete decisions based on the location of the little insects in front of the competitors. A backlit gnat in front of the eye? Trash the image. Surprisingly, in the end, I found the gnats to be a welcome addition to my photos (though not so welcome was that they were biting me).
When photographing typically-late-afternoon cross country events under full sunlight, my preference is to photograph with the sun at my back. I don't have control over the finish line location (where I usually go prior to the first competitor finishing) and this finish line meant that the sun would be in my face. This is my second most-preferred lighting position as I don't have to deal with the partial harsh shadows that side-lighting creates, shading parts of faces and bodies. Back lighting also creates a rim light that adds a positive dimension to the images, sharply separating the subject from the background.
The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is an incredible lens and is often my first choice for sports. This lens mounted on a Canon EOS-1D X creates a venerable combination, with the ability to create a diffusely-blurred background that make the subject pop.
In this case, also blurred to varying extents were the gnats. Combine backlighting with thick clouds of blurred gnats and the air becomes sparkly, with a slightly magical look. I'm guessing that re-creating this effect artificially would be challenging and ... most will not appreciate a huge release of gnats into the air at public events. So, I'll take the effect when I can get it.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 400
Ball and Player in the Air Ball and Player in the Air

When your camera captures frames at a rate of 12 per second, it becomes easy to capture a moment such as the player and the ball in the air at the same time.

400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 1250
Reaching a Goal Reaching a Goal

The Canon EOS 70D arrived at the top of Canon's sports-capable APS-C DSLR camera list in terms of performance. Here a young club soccer player is being tracked by the 70D's AI Servo AF as she heads to the goal. Tracking fast action at near-frame-filling distances with a narrow depth of field aperture poses a serious challenge to camera autofocus system. The 70D is up to this task.
My favorite sports images include the ball (if there is one), the player's face and a good background. All of these are not always possible, but I was fortunate to get both here. Her standing teamates and the sitting opposition team nearly frame the player in this image. The amazing lens blurs the background so that the player and her ball pop in the image.
And yes, after carrying the ball nearly the entire length of the field, she made a short cross to a teamate in front of the goal for a score. This of course was icing on the successful image capture cake.

400mm  f/2.8  1/2500s  ISO 250
Perfectly Timed Soccer Photo Perfectly Timed Soccer Photo

The 70D's 7 fps frame rate is very good at capturing a precise moment, but sometimes the right timing on the shutter release (along with a short shutter lag) rules the day. In this case, I was tracking the action and pressed the shutter release at just the right time.
Please – just let me keep thinking that I'm highly skilled – not just lucky. :)
With the 70D in horizontal orientation, I had a left-side focus point selected. This kept the player being followed facing into the frame and allowed the opponent to be also-included for an increased sense of drama.

400mm  f/2.8  1/3200s  ISO 800
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