Canon EOS-1D X Sample Pictures

Canon EOS-1D X
500mm Soccer Action Picture 500mm Soccer Action Picture

The Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS II USM Lens is an excellent choice for soccer photography with a full frame DSLR. Aside from having spectacular image quality, this lens' AF system has no trouble keeping up with the fast-moving action of this sport.
Unfortunately, sporting events are not usually scheduled around a photographer's time-of-the-day lighting preferences. I strongly prefer bright cloudy days to direct sunlight when shooting action in the middle of the afternoon - as exampled in this picture.

500mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 800
Night Sky in Maine Night Sky in Maine

In this picture, the Milky Way is reflected in Island Pond in the North Maine Woods as a pair of ... satellites streak through the night sky.
Island Pond is in the Deboullie public area of T15-R9 in northern Maine. This location is a 1 hour drive from the grid and from paved roads. Along with natural beauty, what you get here is a dark sky.
The Milkway itself is beautiful and with the right gear and settings, it is easy to capture a beautiful picture of the Milky Way. Taking this simple picture to the next step means adding foreground. For this example, a silhouetted tree line provides a very nice and not-too-hard-to-find foreground. The reflection of the Milky Way and tree line in the completely calm Island Pond takes the image to the next level.
By coinciding the trip schedule with the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, the hope is to get streaking Perseids as another detail to add to the image.
Adding all of these pieces together results in one of my favorite images from the trip. Here are some considerations from the making of this image:
One of the biggest issues with shooting stars at night is that it needs to be very dark. Obviously, the sun must be set - that's easy to schedule around. The moon phase and its location in the sky (no moon is best) can also be scheduled around. I had about an about-2 hour window to capture my star photos prior to the moon lightening the sky on this night.
Because it is dark out, a wide aperture lens is strongly prefered. I recommend an at-least f/2.8 lens and the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens is typically with me when I travel to dark sky locations. Wide angle focal lengths work best for this type of shot.
Even when using a wide aperture lens, long exposure times are needed. While the night sky appears very motionless when looked upon, stars are a subject in motion (from our perspective - due to a rotating earth - the earth is really doing the moving) and subject motion blur becomes apparent at the exposure times needed to generate a bright-enough night image. While an equatorial mount solves that problem, this solution does not work as well with a foreground included in the frame. These mounts are also a significant added cost.
High ISO settings are what I use. You need to select an ISO setting high enough to allow an exposure short enough to control the star trails. At 24mm, I prefer to keep exposures at 15 seconds (though I can accept 20-25 second images). Wider angle lenses will tolerate longer exposures - Longer focal lengths will show star trails more strongly at 15 seconds. Longer exposures also make a meteorite more likely to become part of your image. Or satellites (as shown here). Or an airplane (I cloned one out of this image)
I used ISO 3200 for this image, but pushed the sky exposure an additional stop and the foreground an additional 2 stops during post processing. An f/2 aperture was used for this image. The lens used has an f/1.4 max aperture, but I was experimenting with the reduced vignetting at f/2.
I highly recommend enabling long exposure noise reduction (an in-camera setting) when shooting the night sky. For each image captured, the camera takes a second, same length, exposure without the shutter open. The dark frame is then used to mask noise out of the first frame. Of course, all of the meteorites will show up during the dark frame.
Long exposure noise reduction, when used in conjunction with very long exposures, means that there is a lot of time spent waiting. Getting to this particular location had a relatively high cost - especially including time and energy. So, having two cameras simultaneously in use nearly doubled my take home from this night shoot.
The Canon EOS-1D X, with its incredible low light performance, was my primary DSLR for this shoot. Again, you are looking at an ISO 3200 long exposure picture that was pushed by 1 and 2 stops. I used the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens on this camera.
On my second tripod was a Canon EOS 5D Mark III - another excellent-performing camera. The 5D III had a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens on it much of the time.
The two camera setups gave me more compositions and more meteorite captures per hour. Both performed spectacularly. The viewfinder horizon level feature found in these two cameras was especially useful when framing the extremely dark scene.
I use Live View manual focus (find a bright star at 10x) and the 2-second self-timer with mirror lockup for shoots such as this one.
Shooting the night sky is a lot of fun - both from a results perspective and from the simple experience of watching the beautiful starry sky.

24mm  f/2.0  15s  ISO 3200
Close Perspective Horse Jumping Close Perspective Horse Jumping

When looking through the viewfinder and in-the-zone after the ultimate picture, it is easy to lose our normal cautions and place ourselves in harm's way. While I would have liked to get even closer for this shot, I kept my sanity and shot from a low position behind the jump standard not seen in this frame. This virtually assured that I would not have a 1,000 animal land in my lap.
The 1D X's 12 fps burst rate made getting the perfect subject position easy - and it's even more amazing AF system made most frames from this very-fast-focusing lens sharp options to select from.

24mm  f/2.8  1/2500s  ISO 100
If I Were a Fly ... If I Were a Fly ...

... I would be dead. This American Toad appears that it might be fly hunting. Don't be afraid to move in close to your subjects - to gain a different perspective/look in your images. Macro lenses make moving closer very possible - as long as your subject doesn't hop away.

100mm  f/3.5  1/100s  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
Layers of Plant Leaves Layers of Plant Leaves

By placing the camera's line of sight perpendicular to the plane of the plant leaf, much of the leaf remains in focus even with the shallow DOF producted by the f/2.8 aperture at this close distance. The more distant leaves obviously go out of focus. The primary leaf is fully contained in the frame, but the background leaves go beyond the frame into the corners.

100mm  f/2.8  1/125s  ISO 100
Sending the Ball Sending the Ball

A young soccer player delivers the ball to her forward teammate.
I find it easier to properly frame larger field sports images when using longer focal length prime lenses than when using shorter focal length primes due to the longer focus distance sweet spot the longer lenses have.
Still, when shooting sports from a distance with a prime lens, cropping is frequently necessary. I try to stay with the native aspect ratio (3:2 or 2:3) when cropping, but sometimes free cropping gives the best result (as shown here) - as long as the intended output method supports the size ratio.

600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 160
Luna Moth on Green Luna Moth on Green

The green leaves complement both the color and the shape of this luna moth.
The secret for the ultimate butterfly and moth pictures is to raise your own subjects. When they emerge from the chrysalis/cacoon, their wing are perfect (no tatters) and they are happy to rest for long periods of time. I am blessed with a daughter who has a passion for raising my subjects. This shot was taken in my studio using a large planter and studio lighting.

100mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Backlit Horseback Riding Backlit Horseback Riding

Backlighting highlights the dust particles in the air as a young girl rides her horse around the ring.

300mm  f/2.8  1/1000s  ISO 400
Intense Soccer Player Intense Soccer Player

Part of the challenge of shooting soccer (and many other sports) is how the natural lighting is falling on the field. In this situation, my player was moving toward a late day sun (my favorite situation). Unfortunately, the sun was setting behind a woods near the field. This meant that a solid shadow was encroaching onto the field.
Because I had a long focal length lens, I could move forward with the shadow until the ideal focus distance would have put me onto the field.
In this frame, the soccer player is moving into the shadow. The direct sunlight is still hitting her face, drawing the viewers eye to her eyes – and that flying hair.
This photo also benefits from the ball in the frame, an opponent chasing and a coach standing in the background.

500mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 200
Vintage Military Plane Vintage Military Plane

The new-at-this-time, lighter Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS II USM Lens is going to be a good choice for air show photography. I have not yet had the opportunity to shoot an air show with this lens, but ... I was sitting on my Walkstool shooting a soccer match when this large vintage military plane flew overhead. I quickly reduced the shutter speed enough to allow some prop blur (showing that the plane in indeed flying), lifted the camera and lens (and monopod), tracked the plane and grabbed a few shots.

600mm  f/4.0  1/500s  ISO 100
Fast Soccer Action Fast Soccer Action

The Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM Lens is a great choice for large field sports when using a full frame DSLR. This lens allows action ocurring deep in the playing field to be framed tightly. Of course, you might want to have another camera body with a 70-200mm lens mounted if the action you are following gets close.

600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 1250
Imperial Moth Imperial Moth

Raised from a caterpillar, this large Imperial Moth has just emerged from its cacoon - and is quite happy to pose for its in-studio portrait.

100mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 100
Teaching Kids to Steal Teaching Kids to Steal

Stealing the ball during a soccer game of course. I like sports shots that are tightly framed. I like them even better when I don't have the choice to crop as was the case in this picture. The distance to the action was as close as I could capture reasonably-composed shots at.

500mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 200
Double-Crested Cormorant Drying Wings with White Pelican Background Double-Crested Cormorant Drying Wings with White Pelican Background

It is not unusual to find double-crested cormorants drying their wings. Images of these birds doing so are often entertaining, but I am always looking for positive additional elements in my images.
The first positive additional element in this image is the still, shallow, reflective water the bird is standing in. The reflection doubles the primary subject of interest and brings in the blue sky color.
The reflection also pulls in the white and orange color of a flock of white pelicans standing in the water behind the cormorant. White pelicans are not so common in the places I frequent, so having a large flock of them behind my wing-drying bird provides me a positive additional element. That the light-colored reflection provides higher contrast on the cormorant's dark head, where the viewer's eye is to be drawn, is also positive.
The location for this photo was Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. The choice of the 600 f/4 L IS II Lens with a 1.4x III behind it was made for maximum reach for the 1D X (along with the superb image quality the combo provides).
I love tightly framed bird portraits, but in this case, my 1D X was focal length constrained, limited to the angle of view provided by the 840mm lens combo (unless I cropped and that option still remains). Composing good environmental bird photos is often more challenging tightly-framed portraits, but when done well, they can look great. In this example, I chose to have a clean bottom border of water and a mostly-white top border. If you follow my work, you know that I like how borders free of contrasting lines keep the viewer's eye within the frame. Beyond that strategy, I was trying to balance the elements remaining in the frame.
While that last sentence may sound easy, the cormorant was constantly changing its head angle. If the bird was looking to my right, I needed to frame farther to my right. And, vice versa. That meant that I had to either change the selected AF point very quickly or that I had to recompose after focusing. My choice here was to quickly select the AF point to one that landed on the bird's head. I made this choice over the recomposing options because I was counting on capturing more than one image before the head moved to another position.
I ended up with many keepers from this short session, but ... I think that this image is my favorite.

840mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 320
85mm f/1.2 Sports Action Sample Picture 85mm f/1.2 Sports Action Sample Picture

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II Lens is not highly regarded for its autofocus speed, but it can work fine in some sports action photography. And the look this lens can create is matched by few other lenses - a relatively close perspective with a strong background blur. The subject will pop from the image.
Of course, keeping the thin f/1.2 DOF placed on your subject can be a challenge to both the photographer and the camera. Keeping the image dark enough is another challenge when shooting under full sunlight. Plan on needing 1/8000 and ISO 50 - or plan on using a neutral density filter.

85mm  f/1.2  1/8000s  ISO 50
The Net Says Soccer The Net Says Soccer

I spend a lot of time near soccer goals and am often looking for creative ways to portray the game. The strong white lines of a soccer net against a strongly-blurred background clearly says soccer to me.

500mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 200
Facial Expressions of Soccer Facial Expressions of Soccer

Shoot enough soccer action pictures and you will notice a trend - this sport causes funny facial expressions.
A big benefit of using long focal length wide aperture lenses is that the distracting background can be blurred away.

600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 1000
Big Black Pond, T15 R9, Maine Big Black Pond, T15 R9, Maine

Getting to Big Black Pond in T15 R9, Maine is a bit of a challenge. While this evening provided only a non-dramatic scene, it was very pleasant nonetheless. I of course wanted to remember it and decided to create a handheld panorama to capture the view in very high resolution. This choice was helped by the fact that I had the 70-300 mounted and only had a very short time to get the shot and the 70-300 L was the lens I had mounted. I grabbed a serious of shots encompassing the entire scene and quickly hit the trail again. I would figure out the final composition(s) later. And what I liked best was the majority of the scene.

70mm  f/8.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Cold Weather Soccer Cold Weather Soccer

A young, warmly-dressed soccer player appears to have the ball on the wrong side of her in this picture.
My Canon EOS-1D X's Custom Mode 1 is set to f/2.8 (automatically goes to f/4 with this lens), 1/1600, Auto ISO and AI Servo with high speed frame rate. When I'm shooting action with a long lens, I simply select Custom Mode 1 and I'm ready to shoot. If the lighting is constant (typically a clear sky), I will sometimes select a specific ISO value to use.

600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 160
Small White-tailed Buck Feeding Small White-tailed Buck Feeding

Looks like a simple photo to capture right? Guess again. I'll explain.
Often, the best height to shoot wildlife from is level with the subject. Typically, the head is the most important part of that subject. And when that head is on the ground feeding, level means shooting from right down on the ground. shooting from the low position has the benefit of a more distant background that becomes nicely blurred.
Usually, the best wildlife lighting is a low sun at your back with your shadow pointing directly toward the subject. Since wildlife does not care about your lighting needs, patience is often required to get good lighting on a particular subject. And sometimes a LOT of patience is required.
The young white-tailed buck shown here was constantly moving. Its path was unpredictable and the head was constantly moving back and forth. I spent a lot of time trying to predict where it would feed to, aligning my position with a clean background for the predicted subject location and focusing immediately when taking the shot just as the head moved into a frame of the deer's front legs.
The narrow angle of view a 600mm lens provides makes this challenge even harder. I happened to cut off the tip of the buck's antlers in the fast-framed shot, but was able to piece the rest of the image together using another image.

600mm  f/4.0  1/500s  ISO 100
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
Horse Jumping Action Horse Jumping Action

A black horse against a bright white sky becomes an autoexposure challenge. Since the lighting levels were stable on this very cloudy day, I opted for a manual exposure. Every shot in this session was perfectly exposed. Or nearly so.
I also took advantage of the white sky to create a high key look from this high altitude location. Using a low camera position emphasizes the height of the jump.

300mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 250
Three-Dimensional Environmental Portrait Three-Dimensional Environmental Portrait

Environmental portraits, by my own definition, are usually captured with a wide angle focal length to show a subject's "environment". But this girl's riding gear tells me the full story.
The strong magnification of a telephoto lens makes the distant trees a nice blurry backdrop that makes the subject pop.
Note that I did not need a 1/1600 shutter speed to stop the action in this image, but the difference between ISO 160 and ISO 100 is not significant. I simply used the action settings I had been using.

300mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 160
Challenging AI Servo Autofocus Challenging AI Servo Autofocus

I know there are lots of galloping horse pictures on the site, but there is a good reason for that. Because I can usually round up a rider and because galloping American quarter horses are very fast (called "World's Fastest Athlete" with some capable of over 50 mph), I have a consistently available and very challenging subject for testing camera and lens autofocus capabilities. Because I shoot this subject regularly, it is easier for me to differentiate the abilities of various DSLR cameras and lenses. Mix in some other scenarios and I can get a solid feel for a camera and lens' capabilities.

300mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 160
Portland Lighthouse at Sunset Portland Lighthouse at Sunset

The setting sun lit up storm clouds to the north in a great display of color on this evening. A telephoto zoom lens provides a wide range of composition options for many landscape scenes. With the 70-300 L mounted, I was able to quickly capture this great view in a wide variety of shots. My favorites filled the frame with the great cloud color.

135mm  f/8.0  1/20s  ISO 100
Silhouetted Horse, Rider & Dog Silhouetted Horse, Rider & Dog

To get a silhouette requires a bright background. The sky is typically what I use to create silhouettes, and when using a wide angle lens, a low shooting position is often needed to get enough of the subject surrounded by sky.

24mm  f/2.8  1/1600s  ISO 100
Sunset Over Deboullie Mountain Fire Tower Sunset Over Deboullie Mountain Fire Tower

Once again, a telephoto zoom lens finds great use at sunset. For this shot, I used a silhouette of Deboulie Mountain and the fire tower on its peak for an interesting foreground and image base. I zoomed to 207mm to allow a break between the top of the clouds and the top of the frame. This provided a clean top edge of the frame.

207mm  f/8.0  1/60s  ISO 100
Watching the Game through the Player's Eyes Watching the Game through the Player's Eyes

When I'm shooting field sports, my favorite images are very frequently tightly cropped shots that include the subject's face and the game ball. Because these fields are generally very large and invariably, my subject is deep in them, the Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM Lens is what I'm usually using.
Tracking action with a narrow angle of view is somewhat challenging, especially when implementing the tight framing I'm referring to. When the framing is ideally-tightly cropped (in camera), it is extremely challenging to release the shutter the moment the ball enters the frame. That is where another strategy combined with the Canon EOS-1D X's 12 fps frame rate comes into play. I follow the subject in the viewfinder and watch the game through the player's eyes.
In this photo example, I knew that the opposing keeper was going to kick the ball and that my player was in position to potentially receive of that kick. I half-pressed the shutter release to begin focus-tracking in AI-Servo mode. As I watched her eyes and facial expression (sports bring out the best of these), I could tell that she was about to intercept the ball. I fully-pressed the shutter release and, along with a few before and after shots, captured 3 with-ball frames of the player's approximately .3 second interaction with the ball. One frame had the ball entering (shared here), one included the ball just after impacting her foot and the third included the ball leaving the frame in the same position it entered from. Using a wait-until-I-see-the-ball strategy to begin shooting and estimating a .2 second reaction time as being best-possible, I would have been very fortunate to get even one frame with the ball included.
This image is actually a composite of two of those frames. The image with the ideal-for-compositional-balance ball position was framed so that the ref's face was cropped at the eyes. This was no problem since I had a handful of other images captured at the same time and some had more of the ref's head included. I simply aligned one of those other images under the main image to add to add the missing details to the top of my preferred image.
Another comment I should make about this image is that it was captured under full sunlight at a terrible time of the day for lighting (1:18 PM). This lighting typically creates harsh shadows under eyebrows, creating the raccoon-eye look (see the ref's eyes for an example). Unfortunately, photographers do not usually get to schedule sporting events around their ideal photographical lighting times. You must deal with what is available. Because my player was looking upward in this photo, her face is fully lit.

600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 200
Joy in the Face Joy in the Face

This little girl is either really happy or she is trying to create a parachute effect with her mouth. Either way, the brightly-colored snow clothes and toys stand out against the white snow background.

35mm  f/2.8  1/1250s  ISO 1000
Struggle for the Ball Struggle for the Ball

I take a huge number of soccer photos, but of course share the only ones I like best or think have a good teaching point.
Here I have captured the entire primary subject in action (hair flying) and moving into the frame (slightly). The ball is there. A pair of white-shirt defenders, at different distances, frame the primary subject and her teammate in the background. There is enough of the frame filled with players to knock down the obnoxious white building roof background. And the white actually adds contrast to the primary subject's shirt.
When you need to reach out into the big field action with a full frame camera body, the EF 500 L II and EF 600 L II lenses are the best choice.

500mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 160
Bedded Button Buck Bedded Button Buck

I have a lot of pictures of this little Shenandoah National Park white-tailed button buck, but most have the deer appearing less alert. To momentarily get the deer to direct his ears toward me, I threw a small handfull of leaves into the air and shot quickly. Try this trick with other animals - including horses.

600mm  f/5.6  1/200s  ISO 400
Riding at Sunset Riding at Sunset

My favorite natural outdoor light is from a rising or setting sun shining under heavy cloud bank. The background will go dark and the subject will pop. This light generally does not last very long, so you need to be ready for it.
On this particular evening, I was testing the AI Server AF capabilities of this lens. Images like this are some of my reward for such work.

400mm  f/4.0  1/1600s  ISO 1250
The Background Element The Background Element

When you know where your subject will be, align your shooting position to get a good background for your image. Sometimes, an additional element that you didn't plan on enters the background and elevates your shot to a new level.

35mm  f/2.8  1/1250s  ISO 640
Stand in the Corner Stand in the Corner

When shooting track sports with multiple laps involved, the participants will often get into a line and, especially at the beginning of the race, will be bunched tightly together. If the participant in first place is your primary subject, you can generally get a clear front-on shot from anywhere on the track. But, if you are shooting a second place participant or beyond and want a front-on shot, minimally the person in first place has great potential to block that shot.
That is unless you are in the corner. As the racers break into the corner, visibility of the next person in line becomes momentarily clear for a front-on shot or shots. Yes, you can often get a clear side view on the straights, but the corners are better for a clear front-on shot. Also, passing happens most frequently on the straights, meaning that even the side view is more likely to be obstructed.
While this advice applies to multiple sports (including motorsports if safety permits), I most frequently use this strategy for shooting distance running on the track. I most frequently choose the first corner, just past the start/finish line (so that I can photograph the finish of the race as well), on condition that the background and lighting are good. In this indoor venue, access to turn 1 was not available and a wall of windows would have created a blown white background or silhouetted subjects, so I opted for turn 3. In this corner, a second wall of windows provided a great broad, shaded light source.
Taking a very low-to-the-ground position helps keep the runners looking large/grand and often aids in keeping the background relatively clear of distractions by positioning ground-based distractions below the subject's head. Using a wide aperture telephoto lens at max aperture on a full frame body also helps create a strong distraction-eliminating background blur.
Those of us in the northern hemisphere are in the dead of winter as I post this photo. Motorsports are mostly in hibernation and track and field events are indoors. Indoors usually means very low and potentially spectrum-starved light and, in the case for this track venue, mixed light sources were present.
Mixed light sources often mean white balance trouble. By positioning near the wall of windows, the outdoor shade light source became primary on the subject. While auto white balance keeps getting better in-camera and I nearly always use this setting while shooting, the key to easy white balance for this image was the neutral colored number label on the runner. Selecting the custom white balance eyedropper and clicking on the white part of this label brought the subject into nearly ideal color balance with a very slight warming being the only additional post processing color change I made.
It is a race and that means participants are going fast. This means that the duration of the into-the-corner visibility is going to be very short and this is where a great sports camera and lens combination is going to make a big difference in your results. A great AF system is needed to quickly lock onto the just-exposed subject and track them into the corner and a fast frame rate increases the odds of catching the perfect subject position. In this case, I was anticipating the shot. I positioned the camera (on a monopod), leveled using the electronic level in the viewfinder, pre-focused the lens to the expected need and then tracked the runner. As soon as the view opened, I pressed the shutter release and relied on AI Servo AF tracking and the fast frame rate to capture the ideal shot.
The Canon EOS-1D X is an awesome sports camera choice and the EF 200mm f/2L IS is an equally impressive lens for the task. This combination rocks for indoor sports action and that the 1D X Mark II promises to bring us a significant upgrade ... I can't wait!
Hopefully you were not told to "Stand in the corner!" very often during childhood, but ... I'm telling you to do this today. Take your great sports camera and lens and go find a corner to stand in!

200mm  f/2.0  1/1250s  ISO 2000
Perseid Streaking Through Milky Way Perseid Streaking Through Milky Way

A clear night in northern Maine presents an ideal opportunity for shooting the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. They don't make lenses with apertures wide enough to be ideal for night sky photography, but the 24 f/1.4 L II's f/1.4 aperture is about is good as it gets. You likely noticed that this shot was captured at f/2. I was experimenting with stopping down to reduce vignetting.

24mm  f/2.0  30s  ISO 3200
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
Dog Catching Ball Dog Catching Ball

Summer is perhaps best known for heat and when the heat is great, it is most comfortable to be in an air-conditioned building or ... to be wet. The latter sounds more fun to me, but ... water and electronic camera gear are at odds with each other. Unless you have a waterproof housing for that gear.
While the high end dedicated rigid housings are very nice and may produce better image quality, a PVC underwater housing such as those made by EWA-Marine are far more affordable while still allowing unique photo opportunities.
In this photo, I was standing near the side of the pool with camera ready. Because capturing the perfect position of a normally thrown tennis ball is very challenging, I opted for a toss-straight-up technique. The dog wanted the ball, but didn't want to jump into the water to get it. I tossed the ball straight up so that it stopped moving at the ideal height and just far enough out so the dog couldn't reach it. The latter part mattered because it was game-over when the dog caught the ball and ran away with her prize.
Make this the summer that you waterproof your camera. Add wet shots to your portfolio. Capture the fun memories of the summer water activities. Get an underwater housing.
Read also: Underwater Photography Tips for Snorkeling.

22mm  f/6.3  1/1250s  ISO 400
2010 American Eagle Proof Silver Dollar 2010 American Eagle Proof Silver Dollar

The hardest part of capturing this shot was getting the coin to stand on its side at the right rotation. Otherwise, this is a an easy shot.
The coin is a near-perfect, highly-reflective 2010 American Eagle Silver Dollar in proof condition. The background is black velor draped over a box. The coin is sitting on very clean back-painted black glass (my desk). A tiny piece of card stock is under the coin to prevent it from rolling. A Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT in a small softbox was triggered by a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT. The softbox was directed downward onto the coin (I should have moved it back slightly to get an even reflection across the entire top of the coin).
Insure that nothing reflects back onto the coin. Then use a macro-capable lens to capture your shot.

70mm  f/16.0  1/200s  ISO 100
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