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Tips & Tricks

What Is Heat Distortion, And How To Keep It from Ruining Your Images

By Anthony Thurston on October 2nd 2014

Have you ever been driving down the road on a hot day, and looking ahead, following the road, you see these “waves” of distortion? This is a heat distortion, and it is caused by the the sun heating the road and the hot air from that rising into the colder air above it. It’s not limited to roads though, and if you experience it, a heat distortion can absolutely ruin any images you take through it.

heat-waves

In many cases, there is little to nothing you can do to avoid heat distortion, but here are some steps that you can take to avoid having heat distortion affect your images.

Prevent Heat Distortion From Ruining Your Images

  1. Change your position: While the heat waves remain constant, if you move closer or try a a different position/angle it can help alleviate the effects.
  2. Don’t try to shoot over hot surfaces: Don’t shoot over the hood of your car, or out of your car window. This also includes rocks or other natural objects that can be heated easily by direct sun.
  3. Shoot in the “golden hours” just after sunrise and just before sunset. Heat distortion is more rare during these times.

heat-distortion-diagram

Steve Perry, whom we have featured before for his wonderfully produced photography tips and tricks, just put out a great video warning about heat distortion and how to avoid it. As always with Steve’s videos, it is thorough, informative, and easy to follow.

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Have you ever run into this heat distortion issue in your images? Were you able to find a way around it? Leave a comment below!

[via Steve Perry on Youtube]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  2. Lorenzo Luengo

    Most of the times you will want to avoid heat distortion, when shooting a subject, but sometimes when shooting landscapes, you will want the heat ‘look and feel’ to show up in your shot.

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