If you use a long lens, you may be unaware that shooting on a hot day can decrease the quality of your images. Intrigued? Heat can cause image distortion. In this video, Steve Perry explains this issue for landscape and wildlife photographers:
You might have already experienced issues with your lens on hot days. In situations where your camera looks over a patch of land that is exposed to the sun, the result is often shimmering views through the lens, distorted proportions, and a confused auto-focusing system that finds it hard to lock focus.
When the sun beats down on an exposed surface—land, water, the hood of your jeep, whatever—the resulting heat is transferred from the surface to the surrounding air. In turn, the air is heated up, and it rises, causing cooler air to descend. The difference between densities of cool air and hot air creates a shimmering effect. It does not even have to be an exceptionally warm day. This can happen anywhere and in any month. Perry cites an example where he photographed a grizzly bear when the temperature was in the upper 20s; the image was still affected.
The problems with poor image quality and difficulty locking focus tend to worsen when you shoot subjects over greater distances. In other words, longer lenses compress the heat wave between you and the subject. This results in very soft looking images.
Though hot air can be an issue with any lens, you’re more likely to see problems if you are using a lens that is in the range of 150mm to 200mm or beyond.
Here are some of the tips that Perry shares to counter the problems that heat causes with your photos:
- Change your position to a location where heat does not emanate from the surface as much.
- Shoot as close as possible to your subject.
- Shoot in the early morning and late afternoon light when there is less chance of encountering heat waves.
- Shoot on overcast days.
- Don’t shoot from over your car hood on a sunny day!
“Just being aware that the problem exists has allowed me to avoid it on a very regular basis.”
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