Naim Chidiac

A biker races through the desert at the 2023 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Naim Chidiac.

Shooting extreme sports is no mean feat. It's a high-pressure environment, where sports and action photographer Naim Chidiac often has only a few minutes to capture an image. Taken during the 2023 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, this image is a favourite of his as it conveys the sheer size and emptiness of the desert, and how solitary the riders are who navigate it as part of the race. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 125. © Naim Chidiac

Hanging outside a fast-moving helicopter as it crosses the sun-kissed dunes of the Arabian Peninsula sounds like the kind of adventure reserved for the likes of spy heroes in Hollywood thrillers. But for extreme sports photographer Naim Chidiac – who regularly covers motor races that cross the desert – it's just another day at the office.

Even when you're shooting in the sky, you need to keep calm and remember the fundamentals. "I try to design my pictures in many ways," says Naim. "To see lines, guidelines and compositions. This is very important – even when you're on a helicopter, moving at high speed, you need to be able to see it."

Though he now lives in Dubai, Naim was born in Lebanon, and it was there that he got his first taste of the photography industry. "From 1998, I was an assistant to one photographer," he says. "I was driving his car, carrying his cameras, and I started to get attached to the cameras."

As he continued with assistant work, he took every opportunity he could to practise taking photos. Eventually, he became confident enough to enter a photo competition in Lebanon, where he won the first prize. "After that, the guy I was working with felt that I could be part of his team as a photographer," says Naim. "I started shooting weddings. You learn a lot from weddings because the whole time your eye needs to be everywhere; you need to not miss a moment."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Naim Chidiac resting his hand on a Canon lens.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Specialist areas: Extreme sports, motor racing, advertising

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM
A motorcycle rider performs a wheelie at the Dubai Mall Aquarium, with different species of aquatic animals in the background. Taken on a Canon EOS R3 by Naim Chidiac.

Sam Sunderland of the United Kingdom makes his way through the Dubai Mall Aquarium during an advertising shoot. Taken on a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 16mm, 1/320 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 800. © Naim Chidiac

Naim had long been a huge fan of extreme sports, regularly competing in skiing and windsurfing events. Inevitably, his passions intertwined, and he started to capture dynamic imagery of his sports friends and colleagues. As he grew in confidence, he had the idea to approach extreme sports sponsor Red Bull about shooting these events professionally.

"It took years," he recalls. "A year and a half to two years – I was putting my number in every second week." Eventually, he received a call from Red Bull Lebanon to shoot part of an adventure event that would involve a cross-country run, a bike race and a kayak race. "It's a funny story," he says. "I was only supposed to take care of the running, but after I shot the running, I did the bicycles too. I stopped a car on the road, the guy took me down and I shot the arrival of the kayaks as well."

A photo of spaghetti falling down onto a plate. Ingredients above look like they're being dropped on the spaghetti. Taken against a black background on a Canon EOS R5 by Naim Chidiac.

Naim likes to mix things up with food photography as well as sports, but makes sure that his images are different from the norm. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 43mm, 1/160 sec, f/9 and ISO 50. © Naim Chidiac

A photo of a burger in mid air, with the individual layers of vegetables and slices of cheese visible. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Naim Chidiac.

Naim's approach to food photography results in high-concept, striking and distinctive images. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 50mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 50. © Naim Chidiac

This self-starter spirit got him noticed, and Naim was able to keep working with Red Bull even after he moved from Lebanon to Dubai. He kept shooting, covering more events, and his work was noticed by Red Bull Austria, who asked Naim if he could fly to Fuschl for a six-month internship. Of course, he said yes. "After Austria I did six more months, travelling all over Europe to cover big events," he adds.

Naim's passion never sits still. In addition to his extreme sports work, he has also branched out into advertising, where he has shot campaigns with sports legends such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. "I just go and enjoy it," he says. "I really enjoy everything. I love my job."

You've said before that "the adrenaline keeps me clicking". Could you expand on that?

"I'm the official photographer for the Dakar Rally, and there was one moment last year that really brought tears to my eyes. It's moments like that when you want to thank God for all of it. We were chasing one car, flying low in the helicopter, and I was hanging outside in a harness. We were moving at high speed, going between big rocks. We came around one curve and I saw people climbing on the rocks, above and below us. I could hear them cheering. It was all very emotional. The adrenaline makes you want to keep clicking because you're so excited about what's happening and you don't want to miss anything."

How challenging is it to capture sharp, dynamic shots while hanging outside of a fast-moving helicopter?

"It's very scary because of the high speeds and everything that's going on, but I just focus on my camera. The helicopter will manoeuvre left and right very fast – you'll go from facing the ground to facing the sky in one second. So I just focus on my viewfinder, but there is always the adrenaline. When you get back down, you feel goosebumps."

Is your process different when shooting for advertising clients?

"Advertising is five or six creatives and clients on your head and you need to deliver. You cannot just go there and 'try' – you have five minutes, sometimes 10, because during a television commercial shoot, the priority goes to the video, not the photos. There's no trial and error; you have to know what you're doing."

What would be your dream commission?

"It was being on Netflix, and now I'm on Netflix! On Drive to Survive, the F1 series."

One thing I know

Naim Chidiac

"Shadow someone, and be patient, because you will learn a lot. You need to sacrifice – I put in 10 years of my life carrying seven or eight bags, helping to put up lighting, and I learned photography the hard way. I learned to shoot one image, rather than shooting a hundred and choosing one. You learn to notice before you click – and once you start seeing before clicking, it will be the first step for you and your photography. So, my advice is to shadow someone, sacrifice a few years of your life, and you will become what you want to become."

Instagram: @naimchidiac

Naim Chidiac's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Naim Chidiac's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS R5

The Canon EOS R5 is a mirrorless camera that delivers uncompromising performance across the board. For Naim, it's everything he could want. "My favourite camera is the EOS R5," he says. "It has amazing resolution, and with the electronic shutter it can give you up to 20fps. I've done so much printing with this camera, and never received one complaint."

Canon EOS R3

Naim's second camera is the EOS R3, a pro-spec model that offers even faster shooting than the EOS R5, with a top shutter speed of 1/64,000 sec and the ability to burst-shoot at 30fps with simultaneous AF/AE tracking. "What's extra useful is that the EOS R3 has a lower resolution of 24MP," he says. "This makes for smaller file sizes, which is extremely useful when shooting a large volume of images."


Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

When Naim talks about lenses, he likes to make one thing clear – he doesn't play favourites. "It depends on the situation," he says. "I use all my lenses equally." He employs the classic "trio" of professional zooms, the widest of which is the RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM. This wide-angle zoom captures dynamic scenes with fast focusing and exceptional control of distortion.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

The 24-70mm lens is the middle member of the professional zoom f/2.8 trio, providing a flexible focal range that runs from wide-angle to short telephoto. With L-series build quality, it's also up to the task of being taken into challenging shooting environments.

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

Many pro photographers swear by a standard prime, and Naim is no exception. With an f/1.2 maximum aperture, this lens excels in low-light situations, and the 50mm field of view provides a naturalistic perspective. "Sometimes, I use the 50mm lens all day long," he says.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Completing the f/2.8 zoom trio, the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM is a lens that offers crisp sharpness throughout its zoom range. Naim often favours this lens while he's hanging out of helicopters. "The 70-200mm is a must," says Naim. "I use it so much."

Canon RF 400mm F2.8L IS USM

A super-telephoto prime that delivers outstanding image quality at long range. "This is not an everyday lens, but one to pull out when I'm working at a distance and nothing else will get the job done," says Naim.

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