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Sails target: capturing the excitement
of sailing

June 2016

British photographer Mark Lloyd works in the specialised world of sailing and over the last 15 years has won himself a reputation for exceptional action images of all manner of watery pursuits. His latest assignment, to photograph the America’s Cup catamarans as they ‘fly’ across the race course, is being made infinitely easier thanks to the EOS-1D X Mark II, as he explains to CPN Editor David Corfield...

© Lloyd Images
© Lloyd Images

'Fenetrea Cardinal' Multi 50 skippered by Frenchman Erwan Le Roux. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens plus an EF1.4x Extender III; the exposure was 1/4000sec at f/5, ISO 1000.

Reaching speeds of up to 50mph (80kph) across open water, the multi-hulled craft taking part in the America’s Cup World Series are a sight to behold. But so is sailing photographer Mark Lloyd. He works quickly and precisely on board, capturing the brave souls who pit their skills against the elements in one of the world’s most famous sailing events. And he does it all without a harness...

“I need to move quickly and precisely,” he explains. “These vessels are more like flying boats and for 2016 they are all new. They are called AC45fs and are really fast, right up there with the latest developments in the sailing industry and there’s a real buzz about them. I’m going to have one hell of a job to show just how exciting it is without trashing my gear, myself or falling off!”

The craft are designed to lift out of the water on foils, and essentially fly rather than sail, which makes Mark’s job even more exciting. “Essentially the boat is a ten metre by six metre wide foiling catamaran. It is one of the world’s fastest racing vessels.”

Mark explains how he found his niche: “I used to work for an agency in the Midlands called Raymonds, running around developing films for the good and the great of the sports world. I look back and realise how lucky I was at that time in photography; I almost had to fight my way to get out.”

© Lloyd Images
© Lloyd Images

The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series. New York, USA, May 6, 2016. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/4, ISO 400.

“I ended up leaving and going to America, then coming back and freelancing for newspapers like The Daily Mail and much to my colleagues’ dismay, I left the Mail and tried to set up as a sailing photographer, focusing on that. You have to try something different to what everyone else is doing, and I tried a different angle and it worked.”

“The pivotal moment for me came in 2001 when I was given an assignment to cover the homecoming of Ellen MacArthur who had come second in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world sailing race. At 24, she was the youngest competitor to complete the event. I got the shots and from there my career was established.”

Moving to the EOS-1D X Mark II

On his love of Canon, Mark says: “I’ve always used Canon, for a good 15 years now. I swapped to Canon for the speed of the autofocusing and have never swapped back. I’ve got quite a collection of lenses now; they are like old friends.”

Moving to the EOS-1D X Mark II was to prove a decisive moment for Mark. Having used the original EOS-1D X along with the EOS 5D Mark III, he was keen to discover the improvements in Canon’s new flagship DSLR. He was not to be disappointed. “It’s a big jump. The colour is stunning. I thought that the colour profile of the 5D Mark III was amazing anyway but the 1D X Mark II matches that and more with a fabulous dynamic range. Plus the autofocus speed is also incredible; a real move forward especially when I’m using longer lenses at f/8.”

© Lloyd Images
© Lloyd Images

The UK’s Land Rover BAR America’s Cup team skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie with team mates David Carr, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell James, Ed Powys and Matt Cornwell reach New York, USA. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/4000sec at f/5, ISO 320.

“The one thing that struck me was having the ability to tailor it to make it what you want it. It’s like having a tailored suit. That to me is new and I am still finding my way. I started off leaving it on its standard settings but discovered the focus points could be adjusted and I could adjust the fire rate as well. I don’t need 16fps in Live View for instance, but it’s good that Canon have built a camera that caters for every eventuality.”

“About 90 percent of the shots that I take are sailing but through that world that I move around in I have also done some car work, clothing shoots, and portraits. It’s a kind of cross pollination thing. The long and the short of it is that it’s a creative business and as long as you are making shapes that people like, then you move through progressively.”

“When [Land Rover] Ben Ainslie Racing was formed I worked with them and I have done that now for a good few years on their America’s Cup entry. And that’s how it evolved. It’s a hugely competitive race series that has venues all over the world from where the different teams are based. So you have New York, where the BMW Oracle team is; Portsmouth, which is where the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing team is situated, Toulon in France, which is the host of Groupama Team, France, Tokyo for the home of SoftBank Team Japan. It’s a three to four day event and I would describe being on-board it as something like standing on the roof of your car with somebody throwing water at you at 40mph.”

Getting the best from a situation

Mark is quick to point out the real appeal of capturing the excitement of sailing: the drama of people involved. “It’s about the people. The sport is great but there is always someone in control, there is always someone driving it forward and that’s what is important to capture. I took what I had learnt in the studios of London and New York and mixed it up with the sport.”

One of the real creative challenges in shooting sailing is space on board, as Mark explains: “The problem is trying to show the dynamic of what’s going on. So you can do one of two things: you can shoot wide, and that can be amazing especially when it’s a wet day or you shoot long either from a helicopter or on land as the teams sail close to the shore.”

© Lloyd Images
© Lloyd Images

The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton visits Land Rover BAR the British America’s Cup Team and the 1851 Trust, Portsmouth, UK. Here she is helming and sailing the team's foiling race catamaran close to the shore. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/5000sec at f/5.0, ISO 320.

“My basic kit consists of the EOS-1D X Mark II, plus two EOS 5D Mark III bodies as well as the 11-24mm, 14mm, 24mm, 50mm, 70-200mm and 500mm EF L-series lenses. The 500mm is without a doubt my favourite lens. I have the latest version, which is beautiful and quite light for those times when I’m handholding. I just bought the 11-24mm lens, too, which is stunning and helps keep the amount of kit down because on a boat you don’t get a second chance and if you have to change a lens you leave yourself open to all sorts of dangers; from spray getting into the camera to missing the moment, to dropping a lens overboard. I used to use all primes, from fisheye right up to wide-angle, but these new zooms are just so sharp now, I have complete confidence in them. I also have a pair of Speedlite flashguns too but if I’m on a commercial shoot I use studio lighting on location.”

He remarks on a particular accessory that he’s found to be hugely advantageous when shooting on location. “I was lent the new WFT-E8 wireless transmitter, which attaches to the side of the EOS-1D X Mark II and this totally transformed my workflow. The software that Canon has developed called Camera Connect is really amazing because it meant I could shoot and upload to my iPhone, pulling images off the camera instantly so Land Rover BAR could use them for its social media live updates.”

© Lloyd Images
© Lloyd Images

British yachtsman Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 yacht with the spectacular One World Trade Centre building in the background, New York, USA. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/5.6, ISO 200.

“I was grateful to Canon Professional Services who let me try the 1D X Mark II. But I’m sure they know it was a guarantee sale,” he laughs. “CPS offers great support and the repairing side is hugely professional. I’m quite methodical in looking after my kit but it’s nice to know the backup is there; I’m a one man band so to be able to try new stuff is invaluable. Trying out the 1D X Mark II convinced me that I had to buy one. The focusing, dynamic range and that WFT-E8 accessory made it a winner in my book. So naturally I had to go out and buy one.”

As the America’s Cup sails into Chicago, USA, this week, Mark will be aboard the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing catamaran doing what he loves. And after that he will focus on other commercial assignments for the teams’ sponsors: “I have spin off work for Hugo Boss and Alex Thomson Racing, and of course Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight in August. Life is good and I work hard but I don't want to shout too loud because in this business you can be afloat one minute and capsized the next...”

EOS-1D X MARK II – KEY FEATURES

  • Continuous shooting at up to 14fps for full resolution RAW or JPEGS; up to 16fps in Live View mode.
  • Burst rate of up to 170 RAWs in single continuous burst at up to 14fps and 4K movies using CFast cards in new CFast 2.0 card slot.
  • New 20.2 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with ISO range of 100-51,200; expandable up to ISO 409,600.
  • 61-point High Density Reticular AF II system with 41 cross-type points; improved centre point focusing sensitivity to -3EV and compatibility down to f/8.
  • Accurate subject tracking for stills and video with new EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF with 360,000-pixel metering sensor.
  • View and control over stills and video via the 3.2-inch touch panel LCD with 1.62 million dots.
  • Increased resolution and fine detail with lens aberration correction and diffraction correction via new in-camera Digital Lens Optimizer technology.
  • Built-in GPS provides geotag information including auto time syncing with Universal Times Code (UTC) via satellites.
  • New optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8A is compatible with IEEE 802.11ac/n/a/g/b; supporting both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands.
  • Durable and rugged magnesium alloy body with dust and weather resistance for demanding shooting situations.

Biografia: Mark Lloyd

Mark Lloyd

Mark Lloyd is a British commercial photographer with extensive experience working with luxury boat and yachting brands, media agencies, advertising campaigns, prestigious boat designers, high-end manufacturers and owners of some of the world's most celebrated yachts and boats. Past clients include Volvo, Hugo Boss, Musto, Boat International, The Vendee Globe and AVIVA as well as superyacht and luxury boat brands.



Showcase

Frenchman Francois Gabart celebrates after winning the Transat Bakerly solo transatlantic yacht race on  May 10, 2016. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24mm f/1.4L USM lens; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.