A BMX rider performs a stunt in a giant rust-coloured tube, casting a shadow against the side. Photo by Jaime de Diego.
Canon Ambassador Jaime de Diego likes to highlight the contrast between light and shadow in his sports photography, using up to seven off-camera flash units. "My photography is very contrasty and aggressive," he says. "I aim for a high colour saturation, as if I am shooting against the sun." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 105mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5 and ISO400. © Jaime de Diego

As the BMX rider leaps into the air, he's frozen in motion, suspended inside the giant tube like a puppet dancing with its shadow. The shot looks effortless, but setting up Jaime de Diego's action sports photographs involves time and planning, and the artistic results are testament to the skill and experience of both photographer and rider. To capture tricks in tack-sharp detail, Jaime uses up to seven flash units, which help to freeze the action and make the colours even more saturated.

"It's very important to have a deep knowledge of each sport before shooting it, and to capture the perfect moment, the perfect trick," says Spanish photographer Jaime, whose portfolio includes motorsports, mountain biking and running. Since turning pro in 2003, he has lent his distinctive high-end style to campaigns for a roster of big-name clients, from Adidas and Nike to Red Bull, BMW and Ford.

With so many variables to manage, Jaime needs kit he can rely on, and he has always chosen Canon for speed, reliability and the quality of its optics. "I need autofocus with a very fast reaction time and lenses that retain their extreme sharpness," he says. "Canon's L-series lenses are perfect for me." Jaime often uses longer telephoto lenses, such as the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.6-5.6L IS II USM lens, or the super-wide Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens for its exaggerated perspective. But the absolute workhorse he relies on, like many sports professionals, is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens.

A BMX rider rides up the inside of a giant tube.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is Jaime's lens of choice. A 3.5-stop Image Stabilizer reduces the risk of blurring from camera shake, and the fast f/2.8 aperture lets in twice as much light as an f/4 lens, making it ideal for shots taken in low light. "There are lots of things in the frame, but your eyes always go to the rider," says Jaime. "I thought the best way to create a great composition would be to use the rule of thirds." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 130mm, 1/1250 sec, f/7.1 and ISO200. © Jaime de Diego
Canon Professional Services

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services

A workhorse of a lens

"I would recommend the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens for any photograph where you want a shallow depth of field or a tighter angle in composition, when you want to be far from the subjects you are going to shoot, or need fast autofocus and sharpness," he says.

"I like the effect you get when you use a telephoto lens – the shallow depth of field, knocking out the background, and the perfect perspective and lines without distortion. The bokeh is appealing and of high quality. The lens performs as you expect it to, every time."

A BMX rider jumping off the inside of a large tube.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II features six AF Case study settings, which means Jaime can choose the most appropriate option for his subject. If he's shooting fast-moving action shots such as this, the AI servo AF III+ delivers precise and accurate focusing. "It's a strange picture because there are so many things to look at: the plants, the concrete tube, the rider…" says Jaime. "I used a dramatic light to draw your attention." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 70mm, 1/3200 sec, f/9 and ISO1250. © Jaime de Diego
A man in an empty industrial space balances on the back wheel of the BMX he is riding.
Jaime often shoots in dirty environments, such as this abandoned industrial site. So the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens's sealing against dust and moisture is key. "I used a high shutter speed to get this picture, because I wanted to freeze all the movement," says Jaime. "Have you seen the strings on his sweatshirt?" Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 135mm, 1/2500 sec, f/2.8 and ISO400. © Jaime de Diego
A close-up of a skier preparing to launch himself down a slope.

Alessandro Trovati's essential lens for sports

Find out why sports photographer Alessandro Trovati shoots with just one light, versatile zoom: a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.

Jaime usually relies on autofocus, customising the settings for different subjects. "The AF settings depend on the sport," he says. "When I want to shoot action sports I use the continuous AI servo AF III+ focus to lock on and follow the complete movement, but sometimes I prefer the autofocus to be more or less responsive."

Using a zoom with a wide range of 70-200mm paired with a constant fast f/2.8 maximum aperture at all focal lengths gives flexibility of composition without compromising on exposure – especially useful in demanding outdoor situations where things move quickly.

"The best aspect of a zoom is the ability to quickly change the framing without having to change your physical position," says Jaime, who says he doesn't only work at the extreme 70mm or 200mm ends of the zoom, but often uses 135mm instead, as each focal length gives a unique look.

"I also work with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens," he adds, "and the 70-200mm feels much lighter by comparison. For photographers who work outdoors, it's very important to have lenses that are highly resistant to impacts and weather conditions. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is well built, so it is ideal. It really is a perfect lens."

A man balances on the back wheel of the BMX he is riding. The dark clouds in the background are streaked with orange.
Jaime uses sophisticated lighting techniques to pick out the action at the centre of the frame. "For this picture, I used the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes and triggered them with the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT," he says. "This allowed me to synchronise at high speed." Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 200mm, 1/2500 sec, f/3.2 and ISO640. © Jaime de Diego

Lighting up action sports

Jaime's photography is as much a product of his sophisticated lighting style as his choice of lens. "My photography is very contrasty and aggressive," he says. "To highlight the action and the impact of extreme sports, I like to create strong differences between lights and shadows, aiming for a high colour saturation, as if I am shooting against the sun."

To achieve this, Jaime relies on multiple flash units used off-camera. "Flash gives me the power to express my creativity," he says. "At golden hour, I sometimes shoot with Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT [now succeeded by Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT] flashes. These work very well off-camera, and the workflow with the Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT is fast and easy."

If the light is very bright, the flashes need to be further away from the athlete, and if Jaime wants to use a lighting modifier, such as a softbox, he often uses large external flash units. "If I need a lot of power I use an Elinchrom ELB 1200, as it allows me to close the aperture up to f/5.6, and I can have the flash at least four metres away from the subject for safety."

Whatever flash system Jaime is using, he works in the same way to ensure perfect exposures every time. "I need to have everything under control, so the only option for me is to control everything manually," he says. "The first step is to think about shutter speed as I need to freeze the movement. In these BMX pictures the lowest shutter speed is around 1/640 sec."

If he needs to go wider on the aperture to get the exposure right, that is his next step. But if the wide aperture – for example the f/2.8 setting of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens – would not deliver the required depth of field, he raises the camera's ISO. In the case of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Jaime says, noise is so well controlled that he doesn't need to fit all the other settings around an acceptable ISO value, but can adjust ISO last of all.

It’s the final piece of a puzzle that includes lighting, composition, athlete and location, all of which must work together to create a masterful action shot. Using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, along with the fast f/2.8 maximum aperture of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens, gives Jaime the options he needs to create dramatic, sought-after images that keep his clients coming back for more.

Autor: Adam Duckworth


Jaime de Diego's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their sports photographs

A selection of Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.

Cameras

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon's flagship pro DSLR with 20.2MP full-frame sensor, 61-point AF system, up to 14fps and ISO to 409,600. "I need strong cameras for the projects I take on, with fast autofocus and high frame rates," says Jaime.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. "I use it when I need a higher resolution and less weight," says Jaime.

Lenses

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

A favourite lens with professional photographers: fast, flexible and built for any assignment. "The shallow depth of field, knocking out the background, and the perfect perspective and lines without distortion are really great," says Jaime. "The lens performs as you expect it to, every time."

Accessories

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Engineered for fast frame-rate shooting, this flash performs in the most demanding situations. Used off-camera or in the hotshoe, its versatility allows you to take complete control over lighting.

Related articles

View All

Get the newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro

Sign up now