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"Seconds are precious in wildlife photography” – Marina Cano on her Kalahari Desert wildlife shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Two baby meerkats peering out of their burrow, taken by Marina Cano on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.
Using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, Marina was able to shoot close to skittish wild animals and capture breathtaking images, "I think it's the best camera on the planet,” she says. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 1/1300 sec, f/2.8 and ISO5000. © Marina Cano

"When I started photographing wildlife, I was just focusing on achieving beautiful pictures," says Canon Ambassador Marina Cano. "But in the time I spent with animals, little by little, I really fell in love with them." Gradually her whole approach to wildlife changed: instead of making purely artistic images that celebrated different species, conservation became much more central to her work.

"I started to understand what is going on for wildlife in this crazy world we live in," she continues. "I realised that, as photographers, we can create awareness about issues. We go into animals' lives, we capture unique moments and we have to tell people what is going on. I want to show pictures that say: 'This is a beautiful animal but look behind what you see – a lot of terrible things happen to them.' More and more my thinking is moving towards conservation and how I can help wildlife."

Marina, a pro photographer for over 10 years, has always been particularly fascinated by African wildlife. She has photographed extensively across the continent. For the first wildlife shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, she travelled to a region she had never been before: the Kalahari Desert.

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The Kalahari covers over 900 square kilometres of southern Africa, including large areas of Botswana plus parts of Namibia and South Africa. On the shoot, she was based in the Tswalu game reserve in South Africa's Northern Cape province. Her goal was to use the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's advanced range of features to photograph more familiar animals such as meerkats, cheetahs and giraffes as well as rarer and often endangered species such as pangolin and wild painted dogs.

Marina's Kalahari shoot took place over five days in November, when temperatures can soar to 38°C. "It was very hot during the day, but also the driest place I've ever been," she says. "I loved it and I'm very happy in that kind of weather. Tswalu has red soil and a spectacular landscape. Also the rangers and trackers were very professional and really brilliant with their work. Everything about it makes it a very special place."

To shoot a range of wildlife subjects at different distances, Marina took lenses from wide-angle to telephoto. Her kitbag included a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM, a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x, a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM and a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM.

Marina Cano with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III on the desert plains of the Kalahari with a wild giraffe in the background.
Marina says the fact that the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III’s build and controls are similar to the Mark II’s made it easy to switch to the new camera. © Fergus Kennedy
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III vs Mark II

Take a deep dive inside the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III and discover 12 key ways the new flagship pro DSLR improves upon its predecessor.

Swift and smart autofocus

Marina only had a few days to get used to using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III before going to Tswalu, but found it very easy to operate. "I've been using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II for a few years, and when you hold the Mark III in your hands, it's almost exactly the same as holding the Mark II," she says. "Physically it feels the same except for a new AF point smart controller button, plus the illumination on other buttons on the back of the camera."

However, while the camera is physically similar to the Mark II, the numerous state-of-the-art innovations inside resulted in a big improvement in performance. "Seconds are precious in wildlife photography, so the autofocus on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is fantastic because it's so fast," she says. "It's probably the highlight of the camera for me."

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III covered in red desert sand.
"The red sand and dust was everywhere, all over the camera. However, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's weather sealing meant it wasn't a problem at all,” says Marina. © Fergus Kennedy

AF points can be selected with the new AF point smart controller, built into the AF-ON button. The button makes selecting the correct AF point faster and simpler than ever before. Coupled to this is the new advanced iTR X AF tracking system, which locks focus on a subject and tracks it even if it goes behind another object such as a tree or bush.

"One time I was photographing a flock of birds, pressed the button and the camera tracked focus on one of them," Marina recalls. "It didn't matter what they did or how erratically they flew, I could still keep them in focus in the frame. It's amazing. Previously, it was much more difficult for a camera to do that."

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III offers faster frame-rates (16fps with full AF/AE tracking, compared with 14fps on the Mark II, and 20fps with AF/AE tracking in Live View, compared to 16fps on the Mark II without AF), which greatly enhanced Marina's ability to shoot fast-moving subjects such as wild dogs on the hunt.

Four wild painted dogs run through the desert plains.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III’s AF tracking system locks on to moving subjects and follows them, even if they stray behind trees or other animals. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 1/2700 sec, f/8 and ISO2500. © Marina Cano

Detail in harsh highlights and deep low lights

Another time, she was photographing the dogs in the shade of a tree with the sun in the background – a situation that would be challenging to most cameras – but the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's enhanced dynamic range enabled Marina to get well-exposed images.

"I could really see that the camera is dealing with these situations much better than the previous model," she says. "There's much more detail in shadows and highlights than before."

The low-light performance was also noticeable when Marina was shooting a mother cheetah with five cubs at sunset. "After the sun went down, the light was critical," she says. "Sometimes with other cameras you just cannot focus because there's no contrast. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III focused really well in very low light, even when I was shooting at ISO52000.

"The camera gave a really good high ISO performance. Obviously, at very high ISO the images aren't the same quality as at ISO1000, but there's no colour noise and that makes a big difference."

Marina Cano lying on the desert floor photographing a rare pangolin by the undergrowth.
“More and more my thinking is moving towards conservation and how I can help wildlife," says Marina. Marina waited three nights to capture images of a pangolin – considered the world's most trafficked animal. © Fergus Kennedy
A close-up of a pangolin, taken on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III’s ability to shoot in low light helped Marina to photograph the rare and elusive pangolin under cover of darkness. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM) lens at 135mm, 1/200 sec, f4 and ISO12800. ©Marina Cano

For Marina, the most exciting moment of her trip to the Kalahari came at night, photographing a pangolin, also known as a 'scaly anteater'. This solitary, nocturnal animal is endangered because of widespread hunting for its meat, scales and other body parts.

For three consecutive nights, Marina got up at 2am to go out looking for pangolins with a tracker, then on the third night she finally saw and photographed one.

"They are really vulnerable animals and very difficult to find," she says. "The first two nights, we found one in some bushes and waited for hours, but it didn't come out into the open. But on the third night, one did. It was completely dark and although I don't usually like working with artificial light, with the pangolin we had to, so I used continuous light. It was really exciting to photograph this beautiful animal."

Marina Cano lying on the sand photographing surrounding meerkats.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III’s silent shooting mode helped Marina to get extremely close to animals such as meerkats without startling them. © Fergus Kennedy
A close up of a meerkat and its pup shot on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.
"I'm used to hearing the sound of the camera's shutter,” says Marina, “So at first when I was pressing the button and not hearing anything, I couldn't believe I was shooting. I kept my finger on the button and suddenly had hundreds of pictures!" Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 1/6400 sec, f/8 and ISO2500. © Marina Cano

Silent shooting

Marina says the camera's silent mode was also a bonus when shooting animals she didn't want to alarm, such as a family of meerkats she photographed at close range.

"If you're close to an animal and don't want to disturb it, this mode is fantastic," she says. "I'm used to hearing the sound of the camera's shutter, so at first when I was pressing the button and not hearing anything, I couldn't believe I was shooting. I kept my finger on the button and suddenly had hundreds of pictures!"

Marina took all her Kalahari images with the camera handheld, which is how she prefers to work, and didn't need a tripod or monopod to get pin-sharp shots. "I was lying on the ground most of the time and the red sand and dust was everywhere, all over the camera," she remembers. "However, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's weather sealing meant it wasn't a problem at all. It's a very solid, robust body. We tried it out in extreme conditions and it performed perfectly."

Looking back on her shoot, Marina says the only way the trip could have been improved was by being longer. "The experience was totally breathtaking," she says. "I'd love to spend a month in that place, because what you achieve while you are there is really different to every other thing in life."

And will the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III be Marina's first-choice camera in the future? "Of course, there's no doubt," she says with certainty. "I think it's the best camera on the planet."

Napisal David Clark


Marina Cano's kitbag

The key kit for filming wildlife

Marina Cano’s photography kit, including a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

Camera

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The EOS-1D X Mark III is the successor to the EOS-1D X Mark II flagship pro DSLR respected by sports and wildlife photographers the world over. "I think it's the best camera on the planet,” says Marina.

Lenses

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