Review Trouble Shoot Blurry Image

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Jan 3, 2021
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Just joined Nikon Cafe so I hope this question is appropriate.
In my opinion the following photo is in "pretty good" focus.
However, there is a horizontal band of blurriness just above where the water meets the shore.
For example, the gold colored building below the Tower.
If you zoom-in, you'll also see "fragments of water" on top of the bottom of the buildings !
The photo was shot with a D500, on a tripod, using the timer as a trigger, F10, 1/80 sec, ISO 200, focal length of 340mm.
Why is this part of the image so "smudged"?
(My apologies if this a dumb question!)
Appreciate your wisdom.
DHill-1.jpg
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I suspect this is a bad file/computer error. Did any of the other images you took at the same time give this type of artifact?
This is sometimes seen with a bad card or a failing card reader, giving a band of abnormal data. In my humble experience, this is rarely a camera or lens issue.
Again, look at the pictures you took right before and after this image- do they have similar artifact?
You will likely get other ideas, I hope this helps some.
Welcome to the cafe.
gary
 
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While everyone else is trying to figure out what caused the characteristic you noted, I'll mention that your photo is absolutely marvelous on several levels. The way my eye sees this image, the so-called problematic band is just one of many attractive layers in the image. Print it. Frame it. Hang it in a very prominent location. Put a spotlight on it.
 
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Thanks to everyone for your thoughts on this question.
Really appreciated.
The photos of the skyline taken before and after this image showed the same problem.
If it is distortion caused by the atmosphere is there a way to minimize the affect, such as a particular type of filter?
Thanks again.
 
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If it is distortion caused by the atmosphere is there a way to minimize the affect, such as a particular type of filter?
Sadly, not really. This is caused by the humidity in the air, causing light to make turns travelling.

On hot, humid days you'll get a lot of this.
On cold, dry days less so.
 
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Thanks to everyone for your thoughts on this question.
Really appreciated.
The photos of the skyline taken before and after this image showed the same problem.
If it is distortion caused by the atmosphere is there a way to minimize the affect, such as a particular type of filter?
Thanks again.
I agree that it is atmospheric distortion which is often particularly bad over large stretches of open water. There isn't a filter that can correct this distortion. Understand that atmospheric distortion is caused by heat waves rising up when the ground (or water) temperature is different from the air temperature. Humidity and haze can also cause problems over telephoto distances.

The best way to minimize this kind of distortion is to pick a time (or day) when there is the least differential between the temperature of the ground (or water) and the air (low humidity helps too).

It's still a nice image. The atmospherics are just part of it.
 
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No cure, only elevating your position and changing the angle will fix.
 
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Jan 3, 2021
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Sincere thanks to everyone.
There seems to be a consensus that this problem in not a malfunctioning camera or lens.
This makes me sleep better!
(In this part of the world the lake is often warmer than the air so it makes sense that there is humidity coming off the lake. I just wish there was a "technical" solution, like a filter, because that time of the day is when the sun sets and it is ideal for trying to take memorable photos.)
Thanks again.
Dave.
 
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Air distortion of the image, AKA mirage, is VERY common on long shots.
People don't notice it because with a short lens, it is such a small part of the image.
You can often see it when looking down a street on a HOT day. The image of things down the street will "shimmer."
This is one of the things that makes LONG distance shooting difficult.

Notice that the air distortion is closer to the source of heat (the lake), than higher up at the top of the tower.
One problem is, you at ground level are IN that heat distorted air.
And the longer the the shot, the more of that heat distorted air you are looking through.
As @West said, getting higher will get you above that distorted air. But your image point of view will change.

BTW, it is NOT a dumb question.

The other thing that you will run into with LONG shots is "air pollution."
There is "junk" in the air (dust, pollen, smoke, water vapor, car exhaust, etc.), and the more air between you and the subject, the more junk you have to look through. It is like looking through a pair of dirty glasses.
Here it can get so bad that I cannot even see across the bay, I just see a brown band of smog.
For air pollution, I try to shoot right after a rain (which washes most of the pollution out of the air). If you pay attention, you will learn when the weather clears the air.

These are two reasons why astronomical telescopes are put on tall mountains and in space, to get away from the imgae degrading effect of the atmosphere.
 
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Air distortion of the image, AKA mirage, is VERY common on long shots.
People don't notice it because with a short lens, it is such a small part of the image.
You can often see it when looking down a street on a HOT day. The image of things down the street will "shimmer."
This is one of the things that makes LONG distance shooting difficult.

Notice that the air distortion is closer to the source of heat (the lake), than higher up at the top of the tower.
One problem is, you at ground level are IN that heat distorted air.
And the longer the the shot, the more of that heat distorted air you are looking through.
As @West said, getting higher will get you above that distorted air. But your image point of view will change.

BTW, it is NOT a dumb question.

The other thing that you will run into with LONG shots is "air pollution."
There is "junk" in the air (dust, pollen, smoke, water vapor, car exhaust, etc.), and the more air between you and the subject, the more junk you have to look through. It is like looking through a pair of dirty glasses.
Here it can get so bad that I cannot even see across the bay, I just see a brown band of smog.
For air pollution, I try to shoot right after a rain (which washes most of the pollution out of the air). If you pay attention, you will learn when the weather clears the air.

These are two reasons why astronomical telescopes are put on tall mountains and in space, to get away from the imgae degrading effect of the atmosphere.
Thanks very much. This is good information and it makes sense.
The reason I wasn't thinking of the "mirage affect" is because it was "freezing" outside when the shot was taken and I think of mirages as (only) occurring when it is very warm. With that said, the lake is always much warmer than the air temperature at this time of year, so I suppose the lake is like the "hot pavement" you describe.
The other comments about pollution are also valuable.
Thanks so much!
Dave
 
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Thanks very much. This is good information and it makes sense.
The reason I wasn't thinking of the "mirage affect" is because it was "freezing" outside when the shot was taken and I think of mirages as (only) occurring when it is very warm. With that said, the lake is always much warmer than the air temperature at this time of year, so I suppose the lake is like the "hot pavement" you describe.
The other comments about pollution are also valuable.
Thanks so much!
Dave

There's always heat everywhere. There's just different amounts in different places. And being 'freezing' simply means there's less heat than when it's "hot".
 
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Great Photo, but I think the problem is heat mirage rising from the street between the Water and buildings. Trust me, it's there!
That sounds like a possibility I simply don't have the experience to recognize.
The road in front of the buildings in undoubtedly much hotter than the air, as it was 28 degrees Fahrenheit at the time. Furthermore, the lake was much warmer than 28 !
Thanks for your input !
Dave
 
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In distortion of this type the absolute temperature doesn't matter. What matters is the difference in temperature in bodies of air between your camera and the subject. Pockets/layers of air at different temperatures have different densities. When light passes through fluids with different densities it is refracted(i.e. it bends) The longer the distance between the camera and the subject the more opportunity for bodies/pockets of air at different temperatures/densities. Because of this phenomenon landscape photography is almost always sharper shot at closer range with a shorter lens. A fact that I'm painfully aware of myself because being primarily a wildlife shooter I see things in telephoto and much prefer shooting that way. This is the phenomenon commonly known as mirage also called fata morgana. Below is an example of it shot with atmospheric temperatures near zero F at the location of the camera and well below zero F at the mountains. The blue at bottom of frame is Cook Inlet, a body of salt water full of huge blocks of ice. You can see the tops of the mountains are seriously distorted/elongated. Rather than pointed top mountains it looks like a city of tall buildings on the horizon. In this case you can also see the atmospheric layers in the bands of magenta color. There were no filters used or extreme processing done on in this image. It's pretty much SOOC with a boost of contrast.

p4101388415-6.jpg
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In distortion of this type the absolute temperature doesn't matter. What matters is the difference in temperature in bodies of air between your camera and the subject. Pockets/layers of air at different temperatures have different densities. When light passes through fluids with different densities it is refracted(i.e. it bends) The longer the distance between the camera and the subject the more opportunity for bodies/pockets of air at different temperatures/densities. Because of this phenomenon landscape photography is almost always sharper shot at closer range with a shorter lens. A fact that I'm painfully aware of myself because being primarily a wildlife shooter I see things in telephoto and much prefer shooting that way. This is the phenomenon commonly known as mirage also called fata morgana. Below is an example of it shot with atmospheric temperatures near zero F at the location of the camera and well below zero F at the mountains. The blue at bottom of frame is Cook Inlet, a body of salt water full of huge blocks of ice. You can see the tops of the mountains are seriously distorted/elongated. Rather than pointed top mountains it looks like a city of tall buildings on the horizon. In this case you can also see the atmospheric layers in the bands of magenta color. There were no filters used or extreme processing done on in this image. It's pretty much SOOC with a boost of contrast.

View attachment 1676809
Thanks for this explanation.
Your photo really drives home your point, as it is clear there are different "bands" of air temperatures.
Am wondering if the photographer can see this "problem" through the view finder (Live View), or do our eyes adjust to the the refractions and this give us a better view than the camera can reproduce. (Sort of like white balance ... our eyes automatically adjust to changes in light to make us think a white piece of paper is always white.)
Again, thanks for your experienced perspective.
 

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