silhouette of surfer on wave


Water-sports action

Surfing, kayaking and other water sports make striking subjects for photography. The thrills, spills, jumps, turns and speed mean getting great results requires effort and patience. We've come up with some tips for taking better shots and for printing your results once you’ve got them.

  • Using Sports mode
  • Reducing unwanted blur
  • Using Shutter priority mode (Tv)
  • Using an AF focus zone
  • Using fast lenses to shoot action
  • Image quality settings
  • Shooting moving subjects
  • Presenting your shots at their best
Whether you're planning to head out into the waves, stand on the edge of a local lake or you are going to the beach, do always be aware of your surroundings and consider your safety and that of other people around you. Read on to learn more.

To keep your camera safe around water, and at the beach, use one of the dedicated waterproof cases made by Canon. These hard shell cases will keep you shooting underwater to a depth of 40 metres, so sand and splashes won’t be a problem. The cases also have sealed buttons around them so that you can still access all the camera functions too.

It’s really a good idea to start out with a fully charged camera battery, a memory card with plenty of space free so you won’t have to open the case once you are out shooting. A few small silica gel bags inside the case will keep the humidity down.

If you are not planning to go underwater, use the lens hood to minimise flare and a protective filter to avoid damage to the lens from sand.

Using Sports mode to capture fast action

Fast action sports are best captured when the camera is optimised to track your subject and freeze moving subjects. Turn your Mode dial to the Sports setting or turn to SCN mode and select Sports on the LCD display if your camera has one.

Sports mode will shorten the shutter speed, and this will help to freeze movement. Sports mode also changes the cameras autofocus (AF) system to track moving subjects.

For best results, half press the shutter and keep your finger on it to activate the focus before your subject reaches the ideal position for your shot. Sports mode also switches the camera to continuous high-speed shooting making it take a series of pictures while the shutter is pressed fully down. If you’re shooting a lot of action, a larger capacity high-speed memory cards can help to maximize the number of pictures you can take in a sequence.

Tip: When using Sports mode it is often better to shoot a few frames, then lift your finger off the shutter and find a new subject.

Reducing unwanted blur: Image stabilizer

Longer zoom lenses with image stabilizer help to reduce camera shake, but if you are moving the camera with the action your image stabilizer may be less efficient. Look for a switch on the side of the lens, if there’s a Mode 1 / Mode 2 switch, choose mode 2. Some lenses will switch automatically to mode 2 by detecting the panning movement.

Fast action is often captured with a very short exposure. Set the shutter speed to 1/500s or faster. You may need 1/2000s to freeze drops of water. With the pace of the action you might not notice changing light conditions and if your shutter speed is very fast your lens might not be fast enough to get a good exposure. A fast lens is one with a larger maximum aperture (a small f-number) which can let more light in to capture action with a faster shutter speed. Using either Auto ISO or the custom function for Safety Shift with ISO will help to ensure the best exposure for better results.

Using an AF focus zone

EOS cameras have multiple focus points spread across the frame and the camera will usually focus on the subject closest to you. To be sure of where in your frame your camera will focus, try selecting a smaller group of focus points, and make sure they are kept on the subject.

You may need a bit more skill to do this, but the results are worth it. For most fast-moving subjects selecting a single AF point can make it harder to get sharp shots as it will be easier for the AF point to miss the subject. AF point selection is only available when one of the creative zone modes, P, Tv, Av, M are selected.

AF focus zone on windsurfer
Taken with EOS 5DS R
  • f/5.6
  • 1/2000
  • 500

Using fast lenses to shoot action

Canon professional sports photographers often use the white L-series lenses as they provide fast maximum apertures and the ability to make distant subjects larger in the frame.

Which lenses you choose will depend on how close you are to the action. Being further away needs longer lenses, though an extreme wide-angle view can also be a dramatic alternative.

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Capture the crowds too

The bigger the zoom, the more likely you will be able to make distant subjects larger in your pictures. So take another approach and shoot wider views that show the whole environment of the sport and crowd. If you look in newspapers only a few shots are detailed close up pictures of the sports action, many are wider shots that put the sport in context showing the location and crowds of fans.

Image quality settings

If you shoot JPEG images (as opposed to RAW format images) your camera can take many more pictures in a continuous burst of frames. They will be written to the memory card much faster too.

Combine stills and short movie clips

While you may concentrate on still pictures, a few short video clips will help to create a more powerful story. Many cameras have a dedicated button for video recording to make it simple to start shooting video as an alternative to stills. You can then share both on your favourite social networks.

Shooting a video

When you first arrive, take some wide-angle shots to set the scene. It helps to avoid zooming much while recording. Often, it’s better to pause, change the composition of your scene, plus the framing and zoom, then restart filming. Some LEGRIA models feature a 50p Full HD mode for capturing smoother motion which is ideal for sports, so try using this setting if your camcorder has it.

Sound captured of the event can be useful, but consider that if you’re in the crowd you’ll mostly get the crowd noise rather than sound of the sport, so experiment with changing the Audio Scene to one that minimises crowd noise.

Rather than fix your position and putting the camera on a tripod, try moving the camera with the action. You will find this easier with a wider shot. If there are several competitors one after another, then try different zoom settings for each one. Remember it’s fine for a distant subject to get larger in the frame as they approach towards the camera, so set the zoom to make sure that when the subject is closest they are still within the frame.

When it comes to editing the movie, you might choose a fast dynamic sound track to use as a bed for your film. Mixing in the sound you captured over the top will help to make the film more powerful.

Presenting your shots at their best

For sharp sports and action prints, Canon high-gloss Photo Paper Pro Platinum PT-101 is an excellent match with Canon genuine inks. Use them to create the glossiest images with sharp details and vibrant colours.

For an impactful print, select the borderless option in the printer driver, if your PIXMA printer has this function. Borderless printing means that you will be able to print right to the edge of the paper. For borderless printing, the printer increases the size of the image to fill the page. Check an onscreen preview to make sure details at the edge of the frame are not missed out.

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