Elizabeth Kreutz photographs ‘Ironman’ with the EOS-1D X
© Elizabeth Kreutz
Documentary sports photographer Elizabeth Kreutz has been spending time with Canon’s flagship DSLR, the 18.1 Megapixel EOS-1D X, and recently put it to the ultimate endurance test – shooting the 2012 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Here, in her own words, she writes about the camera and how it has changed her way of working…
When I opened the box, pulled out the EOS-1D X body and held it in my hand I immediately knew my world was about to be rocked. The EOS DSLR has evolved over the years, and I remembered my own EOS journey that originally started with the D30 an incredible 12 years ago, back in 2000. From there I moved up to the EOS-1D Mark II, then the EOS-1D Mark II N, and as the years ticked by I used EOS-1D Mark III, EOS-1Ds Mark III and latterly the EOS-1D Mark IV.
With the EOS-1D X, though, I knew I was holding a whole new beast of a camera. However, I didn’t know just how different it was until I started experimenting. To be honest, at first I was overwhelmed by all the different menu settings and Custom Functions and found myself confused with even the simplest of tasks, like the change in placement to open the card slots (I kept trying to open it with the joystick!) and pushing the wrong button to change ISO.
I am not a ‘techie’, manual-reading type of gal, but prefer to learn by doing it, so I put on my EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, popped in a card, and started shooting. I knew straight away that I was experiencing a highly advanced camera and that I needed to hunker down, read the manual, and get some one-on-one education to fully appreciate exactly what it could do for me.
I have shot triathlons for over 10 years and love having three different disciplines (a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 marathon) and over 10 hours to shoot many different types of pictures. I could think of no better test than the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. I have a documentary style and love to shoot wide, so I had been longing for a camera that would combine the speed and low-light ‘awesomeness’ of the EOS-1D Mark IV and the full-frame advantages of the EOS-1Ds Mark III. What I learned (and what I’m still learning) is that there is much more to this camera and on the event it very quickly started making my life easier as a photographer; helping me to create better images.
My passion is to shoot behind-the-scenes and give the viewer a glimpse of the world of the athlete in and out of competition. For the Ironman event I was granted exclusive access to photograph defending 2011 Ironman Hawaii World Champion Craig Alexander from Australia. When I met up with Craig the Tuesday before the race, he was interviewing with NBC television and they were getting some great footage of him on the lava rocks by the beach with the waves crashing behind him.
I photographed him while he was being filmed and then grabbed a couple of frames before we headed in. When I thanked him and started to walk away, he said: “Wait, here comes a big one…” and he was right! I saw the massive wave crash behind him, and knew we were about to get pummelled. My first thought was ‘Uh-oh’, but I photographed right through the wave and then held the camera up out of harm’s way. Luckily we didn’t get knocked off the lava rocks and I got a fantastic series of shots. It wasn’t until after the wave had gone that I checked the camera – it was fine and didn’t miss a beat, so I kept on shooting and got a great reaction shot of Craig laughing at our situation.
NBC captured the footage and ending up using the clip of us submerged by the wave instead of the scenic ones of him by himself. Everyone who saw that clip asked: “Did your camera survive that?” and I replied, “Absolutely, with no problems!” That is a prime example of what I need from my equipment: complete trust. Trust that I can shoot in extreme conditions and complete confidence that the camera can withstand the storm and keep on working.
For the next few days before the race I followed Craig with his technical advisor Mat and got some nice moments between them during a bike fitting session. We were shooting in some tight spots in their hotel room with very low-light, so it was nice to have the full-frame and the confidence to shoot at much higher ISOs than I'd used before.
There are a few important factors that go into photographing an all-day event like an Ironman and certain requirements I need from my equipment. I begin shooting before sunrise and require superb high ISO performance because I love to shoot with only available light. I never thought I’d be shooting ISO 4000 and higher with such confidence, but the EOS-1D X inspired that faith. I also never had to worry about battery life, either. It just seemed to go on forever! Plus, I love the larger screen and dual CF card slots since I tend to go through a lot of cards very quickly and must always have one ready to go.
I move my focus points a lot when shooting, especially when photographing bikes from a motorcycle and I really love having 61 AF points. And, yes, I use them all! I set the magnification to just under actual size so it goes right to where the focus point is located. Perfect! The more I got to use the camera, the more I began to appreciate how much of a game-changer it is, and how much faster it is to shoot right from the word go. I don’t have time to be scrolling through the menus when I need to format a card, so I love that I can go directly to ‘My Menu’ (coloured in green) and have the features that are pertinent to my workflow. I not only love shooting full-frame with my wider glass (the EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens) but on my longer lenses as well.
It’s funny, but in over 12 years as a professional photographer I had never shot with my longer telephoto lenses on a full-frame camera before. I tried on the EOS-1D X and absolutely loved it! The depth-of-field I got when shooting with telephotos was beautiful. In the past I always combined different cameras and lenses for different uses and effects but now I can have the same body doing exactly what I need.
When shooting on the bike course I like to take a lot of panning shots of the triathletes riding through the lava rocks, to convey a sense of motion. I also like to get shots taken with a faster shutter speed to stop the action as this shows off the harsh terrain and details of the lava as well as revealing the athletes’ different bikes and wheels. Before life with the EOS-1D X I had to switch bodies that were individually set to different settings and risk possibly missing a shot. Now thanks to the camera’s custom setting (found on the M-Fn button) I can switch between two different settings at one touch.
So, for instance, I can shoot AV wide open with a fast shutter speed and then hit the M-Fn button next to the shutter and immediately go to TV mode with a slow shutter speed for those dramatic panning shots. I can now capture two completely different shots in one pass. It’s like having two bodies in one camera. Brilliant! Every photographer has their own way of shooting and with all the Custom Function buttons on the EOS-1D X, it lets you tailor the camera to your own individual style.
The EOS-1D X is definitely the supercar of cameras and as a supercar takes time to understand and master, so does the EOS-1D X. And when you do... life is so, so, sweet! After shooting with the camera now for a few weeks, I’ve had a couple of tutorial lessons and learned so much more. I’ve also swapped information and favourite features with my Canon colleagues that have in turn led to more ‘ah-ha’ moments. With all these amazing advancements and new features I wonder what Canon will do next or how it will improve again... We’ve come a long way in such a short space of time!
Biography: Elizabeth Kreutz
Elizabeth Kreutz is a freelance documentary sports photographer from Austin, Texas, USA, who studied photojournalism at the University of Texas. She shoots many of the world's leading sports events and specialises in photographing cycling events, including the Tour de France, and triathlon championships. Her work has featured in leading publications including Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, L’Équipe, Stern, The Guardian and La Gazzetta dello Sport. In 2010 she won first prize in the World Press Photo Contest in the Sports Feature Stories category and first place in the Pictures of the Year International Contest in the Sports Picture Story category.