We are now into the beginning of Summer , for those of us who are now busy chasing after those birds that breed and raise families on our beaches and estuaries , our old enemy heat shimmer has raised its ugly head.
Once you hit a focal length of 300 mils and above, heat shimmer starts to play a major, if not the dominate role in robbing us of our beloved detail we all crave in our images.
Many of us love to get down low and shoot at the bird at about its head height as this often gives the most pleasing pose. Sadly this is where most of the heat is being bounced off the hot surface back into the air, this is where heat shimmer is most apparent.
Sadly, often we cannot see the mirage effect through the view finder, esp if we are close to our subject and everything looks fine until you get home and load your beloved images into your favourite image processing program and desperation descends on you as you frantically search your images for one single sharp one.
So what does heat shimmer look like ?
One word of warning here. most times you will NOT see the heat distortion through the view finder, everything can look just dandy and pin sharp, but don’t be deceived the heat monster lurks.
Posted here is our model Mr Steve Wass demonstrating how heat shimmer robs us of clarity and detail and distorting the entire image.
Notice the worst of it is close to the ground and in the far background, so the closer you are to the ground and more distance between you and your subject the more heat shimmer effect will be visible.
So what does it look like.
This image below is an extreme example, nothing is pin sharp even though the bird was very close.
I was low to the sand which was rising slightly between the Dotterel and myself resulting in nothing being in perfect focus.
A long range shot.
The Kingston Flyer out of Queenstown on a hot summer morning.
Next to hot sand, grass has to be the next worse reflector .
Even on a cool day here, the grass robbed me of sharp detail on this Hawk. Because grass has a shiny surface this makes for a great heat reflector notice the effects further back in the image, the characteristic blotchy, squiggly, chaotic, mess instead of a smooth out of focus background, nothing is sharp in the image.
Sometimes heat shimmer looks cool but mostly it makes you want to say bad, bad, bad words.
So what can we do about it ?
1. Shoot only in early morning is your best chance of avoiding the heat shimmer demon , even late evening wont be enough to cool sand down.
2. Avoid shooting from a low position when it warms up.
3 Go swimming and take up sun bathing over summer without a camera.
4. Try opening up your aperture as wide as you can.
Common wisdom says the least depth of field or depth of focus the less chance you have of distortion ruining your image.
I have found this never work’s for me but perhaps you will have better luck.
5. windy days have less surface heat but no guarantees, the same goes for over water.
6 . Get up early in the morning and shoot when the light is best anyway is the best remedy then go swimming snooze or sunbath.
Bless you guys and gals heaps.