Heat Shimmer & Long Glass
The difference between these two photographs are clouds and a breeze and that’s all. But that’s enough to make the top image sharp and the bottom image soft. Why? The bottom image was taken around highnoon when the heat was at it’s highest and the afternoon breeze was yet to kick in. Even though this little RV was above the runway, the heat shimmer was enough to cause the bottom photo to not be tack sharp. Both of these photos along with the video was captured by the D800 attached to 600VR w/TC-14e. The biggest challenge is seeing heat shimmer when you’re shooting. For many, they simply don’t know what it looks like. I hope the video helps you recognize it. You see it the most when using long glass but it can appear with any focal length.
I’ve been pinged by a lot of photographers asking me about the quality of the files I’m getting out of the D800. So far, all claims from the users is that it’s the camera and not the photographer that is at fault. I have not seen one photo from one of these problem bodies but after asking a few questions, I highly suspect it’s what I like to call pilot error. Just as I warned with the D3x, the image quality of the D800 will show up every single wart in your photography and the first one will be your ability to get a sharp image. Talking with a dear friend who is getting along in years, he told me he will always shoot his D800 on a tripod because he knows he can’t handhold and get a sharp image. I’ll have more on this as time goes on but as I was told long ago, if you have just one sharp image then more than likely the problem is not the camera/lens but the pilot.
As you watch the video, you’ll see two segments. The first, as the sport taxis, you’ll see it taxi right into the heat shimmer and become out of focus until the rpms crank up and I pan with it minimizing a little the heat shimmer but detail in the fuselage is blurred. The end of the segment shows how heat shimmer can make the image dance and if shooting a still, causing the image not to be tack sharp.