WILDLIFE

Rare beauty: photographing the elusive Iberian lynx with the Canon EOS R7

Find out how wildlife photographer Dani Connor used Canon's groundbreaking EOS R System APS-C camera to capture images and footage of one of the world's most endangered cats.
An Iberian lynx stands on an almost vertical branch, looking alertly towards the camera. The background greenery is out of focus.

Wildlife specialist Dani Connor used the Canon EOS R7 to photograph endangered Iberian lynx in Spain's Sierra de Andújar Natural Park. Capable of capturing full-resolution RAW files at up to 30 frames per second, the APS-C mirrorless camera proved the perfect choice for the shoot. "This lynx was in front of the hide for around three and a half minutes, and I managed to get 300 photos," says Dani. Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1250. © Dani Connor

When weeks of careful planning produce a photo opportunity that lasts just a few minutes, literally every second counts – even more so when the subject is one of the planet's most endangered animals.

That's the situation British wildlife photographer Dani Connor faced when tracking Iberian lynx in Spain's Sierra de Andújar Natural Park. Fortunately, she was equipped with the Canon EOS R7, a light and versatile EOS R System camera that can shoot at up to 30fps with animal tracking autofocus and outstanding in-body Image Stabilisation (IBIS).

Dani had caught a glimpse of a lynx on just two occasions over several days on the shoot, so turned to photographing some of the other wildlife she was there in the park to capture. "I was photographing a buzzard from a hide set up for birds of prey, and the lynx just appeared," she says. "I had no idea where he came from, as I was concentrating on the buzzard. Less than four minutes later, he was gone."

Faced with such a brief window with the elusive cat, Dani needed to work fast. It was the perfect moment to test the EOS R7's intelligent autofocus and rapid, silent shooting.

The EOS R7 is ideal for wildlife photography. Its 32.5MP APS-C sensor provides 1.6x greater reach than a full-frame sensor – perfect for capturing images of animals that you cannot approach closely. As well as taking photos at either 15fps with mechanical shutter or 30fps with the electronic shutter, it is also capable of recording detailed 4K 60p video and slow-motion Full HD video at up to 120fps. Dani regularly uploads vlogs and wildlife films to her social channels, making the video capabilities of EOS R7 as important to her as its photographic prowess.

With its lightweight, weather-resistant body, the camera is also easy to accommodate on hikes and long shooting days. "The EOS R7 is quite a bit smaller than my full-frame cameras," Dani says, "but it feels very comfortable in my hands. When you're on the go, especially for a trip like this where you're moving around a lot, it's really nice to have a lighter camera. It was great that I could comfortably handhold it and vlog or just walk around with it."

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Dani Connor sits on a rock next to a lake taking photos with a Canon camera and white telephoto lens.

Dani's regular kit includes a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and a Canon EOS R5, along with her "beloved" EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, which she uses on the EOS R5 via a Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. For this trip, however, she attached her 300mm lens to the EOS R7. The EOS R7 has an APS-C sensor, delivering 1.6x additional reach compared with a full frame sensor, thanks to the APS-C sensor's "crop factor". "That means if I'm shooting with my 300mm lens, the sensor makes this the equivalent of 480mm, and I'm still able to use the lens's maximum aperture of f/2.8," explains Dani. "And if I added a 2x extender, I would be at 960mm!"

Connecting with wildlife

Walking around with a camera is how it all began for Dani. She took up photography at the age of 14 when she started borrowing her father's DSLR to take pictures of the family dog on walks in the forest near their home in Wimbledon, Greater London. This led to her noticing the nature around her, and she became fascinated with it – so much so that she went on to complete a degree in zoology.

Pursuing her interests in both nature and photography, Dani went to Sweden in March 2020 to work as a volunteer with wildlife photographer Conny Lundström. She'd planned to stay for just a month, but the Covid-19 pandemic kept her there in lockdown. Over the months that followed, she formed a connection with a family of orphaned red squirrel kits, for which she began leaving food after finding their mother dead by the road. A 15-second video she made of one of the young squirrels eating seeds, capturing the animal's rarely-heard squeaks, went viral on Twitter with more than 16 million views.

Today Dani says she's not sure whether to describe herself as a wildlife photographer or a social media creator. She explains that her mission is to engage people who don't necessarily go out and see wildlife, particularly young people, which is why she is focusing on platforms such as TikTok.

An Iberian lynx stands on a rocky outcrop, looking alertly towards the camera.

Dani spent a week looking for lynx in the rugged Sierra de Andújar Natural Park. Although she had one other close encounter with a female cat, the male she spotted from the bird hide provided the most successful photography session. "This particular lynx was quite charismatic. He was just watching the buzzards fly over me, so I got some really nice photos of him looking up." Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1600. © Dani Connor

Professional mirrorless performance for wildlife photography

Ahead of her brief encounter with the male lynx, Dani had two cameras set up in the hide. One was fitted with the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens and the other was paired with her EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM via a Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. "It doesn't matter how much you prepare yourself, there's still a moment of panic when an animal appears," she laughs. "So, I quickly made some adjustments to the settings and then just started shooting."

The EOS R7 can record full-resolution RAW files in continuous bursts of up to 30fps – and it can do so in total silence, thanks to its electronic shutter. "Naturally, the silent aspect can be really important for wildlife photography," says Dani. On this shoot, she adds, it was particularly helpful when photographing buzzards, which were frightened by noises.

The EOS R7's Dual Pixel CMOS AF II was able to track the animals even at high continuous shooting speed. It's driven by the same Deep Learning AI technology that's proved so effective in the Canon EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6. The camera can rapidly detect and track animals and birds in a scene, and lock on to their eyes where these are visible.

Dani Connor inside a bird hide with a Canon EOS R7 on a tripod facing outside.

Animal detection and Eye AF were the primary reasons that Dani added an EOS R5 to her kitbag around a year ago, and she says that the enhanced tracking, which is also featured in the EOS R7, has opened up new opportunities for her.

A bird of prey frozen in flight as it comes in to land on a branch.

Dani set the Shutter mode to Electronic First Curtain when shooting birds in flight, as a full electronic shutter can create some distortion on fast objects such as the wingtips of a bird. "I was still able to shoot at 15fps, though, and that was more than enough," she says. Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/5000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO640. © Dani Connor

RAW burst to capture the perfect moment

The EOS R7 also brings innovative new features to the EOS R System range. One that Dani found particularly useful is the RAW burst option. This saves a sequence of images captured at 30fps in a single file, from which individual frames can be extracted and saved as full-resolution RAW files later. A big advantage here is that pre-shooting can be enabled for these bursts. Half-press the shutter release, and the EOS R7 starts capturing images and buffering them. Then, when you fully press the shutter button, the camera will save the images in the buffer at that moment – up to half a second's worth of shots – to the memory card.

"I mainly used RAW burst and pre-shooting to capture shots of birds bathing and flying," Dani says. "You can never predict when a bird on a branch will fly off. It might give some indicators, such as stretching its wings, but it could just as easily fly off with no warning.

"Normally, if you press the shutter release as the bird flies off, you'll probably miss the moment and end up with an out-of-focus shot of it in the air. But with pre-shooting, when you press the shutter release fully as the bird flies off, you've captured half a second of the action before that point. It blew my mind. It's just incredible for wildlife photography."

A buzzard, with its wings raised, prepares to take off from a branch.

The best cameras and lenses for wildlife photography

Wildlife specialists Markus Varesvuo, Marina Cano and Dani Connor reveal their favourite kit for producing stunning images of the natural world.
A close-up of Dani Connor shooting with a Canon camera and RF lens.

Shooting with an RF lens on the EOS R7 gave Dani the opportunity to work more successfully without a tripod, she says. "I've always been able to shoot handheld, but the difference now is that more footage is useable. Before, I could get only a couple of seconds that were relatively stable, but now I can use so much more because the image stabilisation is so good."

Dani Connor stands taking photographs in a field with a Canon camera and RF lens.

Dani says she finds the vari-angle screen on the EOS R7 incredibly useful, especially when she's shooting video. "When I'm filming at a low level, I don't need to angle my neck in an awkward position. Also, if I'm tracking an animal and I want the camera to quickly focus on something else, I can just tap the screen. Or if I'm photographing multiple subjects, again, I can just tap the screen on the animal I want to be in focus, and then it locks on to the eye."

RF lenses and IS

The EOS R7 has in-body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) that works in tandem with the optical stabilisation in RF IS lenses to deliver up to 8-stops of stabilisation, depending on the lens used. Dani was shooting with a number of RF lenses, including the Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM, and found the IS very effective. "It was incredible when I was photographing a golden eagle flying," she says. "Even though I was handholding a heavy lens and tracking the bird, I was still getting stable shots."

Dani also used the RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM – a perfect partner for the EOS R7, packing a versatile range of focal lengths into a lightweight zoom. "It's super-light, and I was amazed by the IS performance of the lens and camera together," she says. "I was getting shots of the landscape as we were driving, shooting from a moving car, and even though we were driving on bumpy roads, the image was smooth."

In addition, Dani used the RF-S 18-150MM F3.5-6.3 IS STM for capturing landscapes in the park. "The EOS R7 has a Panoramic shot option, where you move the camera while pressing the shutter release, and then the images are automatically stitched together," she explains. The camera's in-body IS can also stabilise the image during panoramic shooting, even when a non-IS lens is used.

A small bird sitting on a branch.

Dani took advantage of the extra reach delivered by the EOS R7 to capture skittish creatures from a distance. In this instance, she even added a 1.4x lens extender to her 300mm lens, bringing the lens to 420mm – which, thanks to the APS-C sensor's 1.6x crop factor, produced an effective focal length of 672mm. Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and Extender EF 1.4x III at 1/400 sec, f/4.0 and ISO320. © Dani Connor

Dani Connor standing in a field recording herself with a Canon camera.

The EOS R7 is capable of shooting 4K video at up to 60p with Canon Log 3, which allows an expanded dynamic range to be captured. "I think Canon Log will also be very useful for my workflow," Dani says, "because I usually have a second camera set up for vlogging or documenting what I'm doing when I'm shooting wildlife. Sometimes, with other setups, you can notice a difference in the footage, and you can see that two different cameras have been used. But being able to have both cameras set to Canon Log allows you to match up the footage in post so that it looks very similar."

Video versatility

Dani also found the image stabilisation invaluable when shooting video on the move. During video recording, the EOS R7 offers coordinated control of Movie Digital IS, the camera's IBIS, and the optical IS of an RF lens, combining the physical movement of the lens, the sensor and digital correction – each method can counteract and correct different types of camera shake.

Dani appreciated the dial for switching between movie and photo mode on the top of the camera. "Having the ability to switch quickly between photo and video is really important to me as a content creator," she explains, "because I want to share the whole story. Animals rarely do things twice, and I like to capture their behaviours with both photo and video." What's more, the fact that the EOS R7 has no 30-minute individual clip limit when recording video meant she could shoot for longer and avoid missing any action.

Dani made use of the three custom modes available on the EOS R7 so she could switch between different 4K video setups on the fly. She set one to 4K UHD at 50fps, and another to 4K UHD Crop. "It gives more reach but retains its 4K resolution," Dani explains, "and it's incredible." For the third custom slot, she used 4K UHD Fine, which delivers extremely high-quality 4K movies from 7K oversampling. "It gives such a nice image," she says.

"I also tried the Full HD at 100fps to film birds preening and shaking their feathers, and it gave a lovely slow-motion result."

Video continues to be an important aspect of Dani's work, and she has set herself a goal to create more conservation-focused films over the next 12 months. "I'm spending two months in Baja California in Mexico, where I hope to be following a female conservation group. They've been able to empower young women to study marine biology, and I want to create a film about them and how they're conserving the mobula ray. I'll also be shooting wildlife in the sea for the first time. Shooting underwater will present a whole new world to me."

Hear more about the impressive capabilities of the EOS R7 and the EOS R10 in this episode of Canon's Shutter Stories podcast:

Dani Connor sits cross-legged on the ground with a pair of binoculars in her hands and a Canon EOS R7 on a tripod in front of her.

Dani says one of her core rules as a wildlife photographer is always to respect the wildlife. "Never touch wildlife. Let it come to you, never chase it." She notes that she never hand-fed wildlife, even the squirrels in her viral videos, who became so accustomed to her that she could film them eating – "I put the food down and moved away, so they could forage as they would naturally." The APS-C sensor in the EOS R7 increases your lenses' reach by a factor of 1.6x, making the camera ideal for getting close shots of wildlife without having to physically get too close to it.

Dani Connor's wildlife photography tips

Dani shares some of her techniques and advice for aspiring professional wildlife photographers.

Tap into local knowledge

"Being able to find animals, especially quite elusive creatures, is the most important and most difficult aspect of wildlife photography. So it pays to follow a guide or an expert in their field. For this shoot, I had a guide, José Luis, who has lived in the region his entire life. He is an expert in lynx, so he knew their territories and where certain individuals were likely to be."

Even with José’s help, Dani’s encounters with the elusive Iberian lynx were fleeting, so having the EOS R7 helped her to make the most of the chances, thanks to features including a RAW burst mode of up to 30fps, in-body image stabilisation, intelligent autofocus and an APS-C sensor that effectively extended her lenses’ reach by 1.6x.

Create vlogs

"Share your personality and the work you do to get your wildlife photos. Behind-the-scenes photos or vlogs really help to engage your audience in your work. It strengthens the story you are trying to tell, and often with wildlife photography, actually being with the animal only happens for a few minutes, so sharing the process really helps keep people interested.

"With the EOS R7 I can change the AF tracking priority to People when I start vlogging," Dani adds. "For example, I was getting ready to photograph an otter, so I set up my second EOS R7 on a tripod so that it was pointing at me. I could then press Record, and even if I moved around, I could trust that the camera was going to continuously track me."

Be sensitive to animal senses

"Field craft is obviously very important," Dani says. "Understanding an animal's ecology, behaviour and anatomy can be crucial for wildlife photography. Some animals have sensitive hearing, for example, while some have a heightened sense of smell. Understanding how an animal senses the world can really help you to get your shots."

Camera features such as the EOS R7’s silent shooting are invaluable here. "Sometimes you can make a bit of noise while you're in a hide. On this shoot, the lynx didn't really care, but the buzzards could be a bit nervous. Being able to take photos silently meant that they stayed comfortable."

Create your own opportunities

"My first big success was a film I created about baby red squirrels, titled The Squirrels & Me. In the UK [where I’m from], red squirrels are not doing that well because of grey squirrels, but in Sweden [where I lived at the time], they're everywhere and very accessible. So, I picked what a lot of people might assume is an easy subject, but I focused solely on them and recorded a series of unique moments as a result. The film I made about my adventures has gained over one million views, and that helped to open doors to work with organisations and companies."

Autor článku Marcus Hawkins


Dani Connor's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

A Canon EOS R7, tripod grip and various Canon lenses lying on a carpet of leaves on the ground.

Camera

EOS R7

An advanced EOS R System camera built around a 32.5-megapixel APS-C sensor, able to capture fleeting moments with ferocious speed, precision AF and superb 4k/60p video. "The EOS R7 is quite a bit smaller than my full-frame cameras," Dani says, "but it feels very comfortable in my hands. When you're on the go, it's really nice to have a lighter camera."

Lenses

RF-S 18-150MM F3.5-6.3 IS STM

Reach further and get closer with no more lens swapping. This light and compact zoom lens for EOS R System cameras with APS-C sensors offers a 4.5-stop optical Image Stabilizer with support for up 7-stops when used with EOS R7 plus a powerful 18-150mm range for stunning images, near or far.

Accessories

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