Summer weather means lots of sunny days but also means lots of heat haze. I was at Boeing Field one sunny afternoon and there were two jets parked across the field that I wanted shots of – one was an Illinois ANG KC-135R and the other was a Falcon 20. Looking through the viewfinder, both of the were shimmering in the heat haze that a warm and reasonably humid day brings. This is the downside of summer in the Pacific Northwest.
Not long before I had watched a video on YouTube about photographing Saturn through a telescope. The image of Saturn was all over the shop but they were using a software technique to take multiple images and build a more stable and sharper final image. It worked reasonably well and this got me thinking about how to do something similar. In the past I have used Photoshop to blend together multiple images to remove the moving elements of a shot like people or traffic. I wrote about it in this post.
I thought I would see if something similar could be done. I put the frame rate on to high and steadied myself before firing off a few seconds of shots. I wanted a lot of images to provide the best opportunity for the statistical analysis to find the right solution. Importing this in to Photoshop as layers and then auto aligning them allowed the analysis tool to do its thing. I don’t think the result is quite what I want and I may experiment with different analysis methods – median versus mean for example – to see which ones are most effective. However, there is clearly a smoothing out of the distortion and, if I needed to get a shot on a hazy day when there wouldn’t be another chance, I would definitely fall back on this approach to see whether it produced something more usable.
What is one of the basic lessons of photography? Walk around a bit and see the different angles available to you before taking the shot. Given how often I have thought about this idea, I am quite annoyed at myself about the lesson I learned with my friend, Roger, recently. We met up by SFO for a relaxing morning of shooting. If you have followed the blog, you will know the various different places I have tried in the past when shooting at SFO to try and get a different perspective. Given all of these different locations, I have missed an opportunity that should have been obvious.
The bayshore trail near the Marriott hotel has been a regular spot for me over the years. When you look at the map, it is a place that brings you as close as you can get to the runways. Moving along the bay gradually takes you further away and, consequently, I had not given much thought to heading that way. Roger wanted to shoot along there (he has been shooting at SFO for years so his experience should not be overlooked) so I joined him. Turns out I have been overlooking a great location.
It is true that you are slightly further away from the runways. However, you are up near the threshold so have a different perspective on the approaches. Also, anything taxiing out comes past a backdrop of downtown San Francisco. You are further away from the cross runway departures but, with clear weather and less heat haze, the airborne jets are in front of the skyline. It makes for quite a nice shot and brings to mind the photos from Las Vegas that have the skyline in the background.
Another benefit comes as the tide goes out. The mudflats at low tide can be problematic from a heat haze point of view. Further along the shore, the water doesn’t retreat too far so you have more water and less distortion. I imagine summer will still be a problem but for winter shooting it works well. A different angle, a nice background, less haze and still not to far away. This is a good option. Also, you can park close by without trouble which is certainly not always possible at the bayshore given how popular a place it is. I am late to the game but glad to have learned my lesson.
The Creative Cloud version of Lightroom drops new features in to the software when the updates are installed. This is a nice thing to have happen but, unless you are paying attention, you might not be aware of some of the new features. It took me a while after the last update to learn that a new filter had been added that was designed to take haze out of images. This is a great idea. I have experimented with trying to remove the effect of haze in shots before but, because the effect varies by distance, it can be quite tricky to get something that doesn’t look totally wrong.
I have not played with the filter a lot but I did decide to try it out on a shot I took at Crater Lake a few years back. Wildfires had resulted in smoke in the air which meant the usual clear view across the lake was obscured. I thought I would see how the filter worked out. Above are the before and after shots. It is an improvement but obviously isn’t going to rescue a totally messed up shot. I did try a more aggressive setting but that looked wrong itself so this was the one I went with. We shall see if this has other uses for me over time.