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Technical

Shooting the Champions League final with the <br class="br_hightlights" />EOS-1D X

Shooting the Champions League final with the
EOS-1D X

© firo sportphoto

May 2013

For Germany, the 2013 Champions League final was one to savour as it featured two of the country’s top teams – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – and it proved to be a great advert for German football. Two of Germany's leading sports photographers – Jürgen Fromme and Ralf Ibing (founders of the firo sportphoto agency) – spoke to CPN writer Mark Alexander about how they captured all of the action and atmosphere of the night with their EOS-1D X DSLRs and a variety of Canon L-series lenses…

Jürgen Fromme set up firo sportphoto with Ralf Ibing 21 years ago and since then they have covered everything from athletics and handball to motorsports and ice-skating. The pair has photographed most of the world’s major sporting occasions, including World Cups, and the 2013 all-German match was their 15th Champions League final. As is the case with many top sporting events the final’s venue had Canon Professional Services (CPS) teams on hand to support all of the Canon photographers covering the event.

The 2013 Champions League final was memorable for Bayern Munich’s dramatic 2-1 win, thanks to Dutch winger Arjen Robben’s 89th-minute goal, and it was a night filled with emotion. It was also the first major European final between two German teams at the home of English football, Wembley Stadium in London, and it proved to be a memorable game for the two German photographers from the firo sportphoto agency.

“It was a curious feeling,” admits Ralf Ibing, who arrived at Wembley with his agency partner Jürgen Fromme armed with an arsenal of EOS-1D X DSLRs partnered with Canon L-series EF lenses. “We’ve photographed the teams in the Bundesliga [Germany’s top division] many times, but going to Wembley was special. It was the first all-German [Champions League] final. There was a feeling in the air that this was going to be a special evening for the teams and for the fans.”

© firo sportphoto

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer catches the ball during a goal-mouth scramble during a tense UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, London, England, 25 May 2013. Taken on an EOS-1D X with an EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1600 sec at f/4, ISO 3200.

With Ibing and Fromme positioned on opposite sides of the pitch and another photographer from their agency positioned in the stands, the night produced some dramatic images, although it wasn’t the outcome the pair was hoping for. “The wrong team won the championship,” Fromme jokes. “We were a bit sad, but the Canon system was very good.”

The firo sportphoto founders have recently returned to Canon after a two-year spell trialling another system. Attracted by the versatility and robustness of the EOS-1D X, they decided to return to the camera system they knew best. “It was like coming home,” explains Ibing. “I was familiar with Canon’s bodies and I felt this one was very robust. When you connect it to the lens, it feels very solid. We need this. After the final when the players come out onto the pitch and the photographers crush together to get their shots, you need a robust combination between body and lens.”

More importantly, the low-light performance of the full-frame EOS-1D X meant Ralf Ibing felt he had a camera he could use for every possible scenario during the night. “When they held up the cup during the ceremony on Saturday, there was very bad light, so I went to ISO 4000,” he says. “That was no problem for the camera. I know that with the 1D X I can shoot at ISO 100 or ISO 6400. That’s very important. I know I have a camera I can use in every situation.”

In fact, the EOS-1D X has a top standard ISO rating of 51,200 – which can be extended to ISO 204,800 – meaning great shots are still possible in extreme low-light situations. During the match, Ibing kept his ISO settings to between 2000 and 2500 to achieve shutter speeds of around 1/1600sec. This, combined with the EOS-1D X’s incredible frame speed (up to 14fps in high-speed mode), meant the German photographers never missed a shot.

© firo sportphoto

Bayern Munich players celebrate by throwing their manager Jupp Heynckes in to the air following the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, London, England, 25 May 2013. Taken on an EOS-1D X with EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/320 sec at f/4.9, ISO 2500.

“If you take a series of pictures, nearly every one is sharp, really sharp. And that’s a big difference to what we’ve had for the last two years. You get more sharp pictures – you get more speed,” Ibing says. “It gives me a chance to get pictures I never got before, and that makes me calm. I can use this camera for everything I want to photograph. The EOS-1D X helps me to stay calm.”

During the match, Ibing took around 4,000 images, with about 400 making ‘the final cut’. Images like Bayern Munich’s out-going manager Jupp Heynckes being thrown up in the air made it… but only thanks to the EOS-1D X’s ability to track the action and capture every moment crisply. “It is a good example,” reveals Ibing. “I have a series of shots of the players throwing the coach into the air, 10 or 12 frames, and this is the best. They tried to throw him very high, but this picture was taken at the highest point. He is also looking happy, which helps.”

As well as the speed of the EOS-1D X, Ibing says he is also impressed with the camera’s ability to reproduce colours faithfully. “I think they have a very good sensor – a brilliant sensor in fact,” he claims. “The images that come out of the camera are excellent, which means we don’t have to make too many adjustments. The standard setting is very good; before I had to make a lot of corrections. I also have an EOS 5D Mark III and, like the EOS-1D X, it creates beautiful, natural colours.”

Jürgen Fromme is also pleased to be back working with Canon equipment and to get his hands on the ultra-high-performance EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM telephoto lens. “It’s not heavy and it is very sharp,” he says. “The image of Bastian Schweinsteiger could only be taken with the EOS-1D X and the EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM as I took it from 60 metres away. It is a cropped image, but you don’t see it as cropped image. I had enough resolution, even though I took it from the other side of the pitch.”

Fromme continues: “It’s important because he [Schweinsteiger] is one of the most famous footballers in Germany. He took the last penalty in 2012 [Champions League final] and was very disappointed when the team lost. He spent all last year dreaming of winning the Champions League, so this is the emotion we see in this image. It was a very important picture.”

© firo sportphoto

After years of waiting, Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger finally lifts the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium, London, England, 25 May 2013. Taken on an EOS-1D X with an EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1000 sec at f/3.5, ISO 3200.

During his long and distinguished career, Jürgen Fromme has used an array of lenses to stop action and capture emotion… and the game between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was no different. As well as the aforementioned 400mm telephoto, he also used the ever-reliable EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and his prized EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM, although he reserves a special place in his affections for Canon’s workhorse telephoto zoom, the EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

“It is a brilliant lens,” he says. “It is certainly the best lens in its category. It’s the same as the 400mm – it is sharp, it is brilliant fully open and you can use it with an extender. It is just fantastic to work with.”

Fromme used the EF70-200mm zoom lens to great effect while shooting Bayern Munich’s post-match celebrations. As the team partied, he stopped down to ensure all the players were in focus. “I needed more depth-of-field,” he explains. “From the players in the front row to players at the back, there were a couple of metres so I used an aperture of f/4 and shot it at 1/1000sec at ISO 3200. Shooting at that sensitivity is like shooting at ISO 400 five years ago – it is that good.”

For Germany, the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley Stadium was a momentous game of football. For the team at firo sportphoto it was also tremendously significant, representing a return to the camera system they know and love the best. “It works really well,” says Jürgen Fromme. “Now we have great cameras and great lenses. I have the camera and the lenses I have dreamed of.”

Technical

Ralf Ibing and Jürgen Fromme’s kitbags both contain:

Cameras:

2 x EOS-1D X

Lenses:

EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF1.4x III Extender

Accessories:

2x Speedlite 600-EX-RT flashguns

Biography: Jürgen Fromme

Jürgen Fromme

Jürgen Fromme got his first camera at the age of 13. He quickly fell in love with the medium and began concentrating on sports photography, capturing all the action at his favourite club Preußen Münster. After seven years working for a local newspaper, he switched to one of the leading press agencies in Germany. In 1992 he founded firo sportphoto with Ralf Ibing. Since then, Jürgen Fromme’s images have appeared in all of Germany’s major newspapers, magazines and in advertising campaigns. He has also shot assignments for football clubs, including Borussia Dortmund and VfL Bochum, and was awarded the Sportfoto des Jahres (Sports Photo of the Year) in 1999, 2007 and 2011.



Biography: Ralf Ibing

Ralf Ibing

Originally from Bochum, Germany, Ralf Ibing bought his first camera in 1984 and started his photography career while studying geography and geology at university, collecting his first commissions as an undergraduate. His love of landscapes has stayed with him and he often visits New Zealand to indulge in his passion. In 1992, Ralf Ibing set up the sports photography agency, firo sportphoto, with his business partner Jürgen Fromme. The company quickly became recognised as one of the leading agencies in Germany with Ibing winning several national and international photography awards, including Sportfoto des Jahres (Sports Photo of the Year) in 2004.



Showcase

Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribéry (hidden) pats the head of Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski during the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, London, England, 25 May 2013. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/3.5, ISO 2500.