There are a lot of parameters that photographers need to keep in mind while out on the field clicking. Here is one of the lesser known ones.
On my last tour to LRK (Kutch – The barren land) we spotted a rare and elusive Hoopoe Lark. It was around 10:00am in the morning and the ground had started to warm up or bake up as it happens in Kutch. We were a group of 8 photo enthusiasts and all of us knew the basics of our cameras in terms of getting the exposure right with the correct shutter speed for this bird that likes to scamper around.
The Hoopoe lark is a bird that when given enough time, gets really comfortable with your presence as long as you don’t make too many sudden movements. So I had all the people steady and waiting for the bird to allow them some clicks. As it happens with the Hoopoe Lark, it did get busy with its task of finding something to eat within a short span of around 10 minutes and roamed around in front of the cameras for a good 10 minutes after that. Once everyone was on the ground waiting, I moved back to let the others click while I go back and not cause any interference.
The moment I stepped back and went close to our vehicles (some meters away) I saw a problem. A problem that the guys lying on their stomachs waiting for the birdie probably didn’t.
It was a special obstacle that hits photographers once the earth starts to heat up.
The Heat Waves!
It is a speciality of the grassland ecosystem. Once the sun starts getting stronger, the earth bakes and the hot air starts rising up causing heat waves that are not visible from up close, but look at a slight distance and you would realize.
The Heat Waves ensure that the photographs, even though well focussed would end up blurry and there is very little that you can do. During the very initial stages, it does help by changing your level. For e.g. shooting from the vehicle will cut through lesser density of heat waves than shooting from the ground but once the heat waves are set in well, its time to pack up and wait for the earth to cool down before picking up that camera again.
Take a look at the image below. If you notice the 100% view of the head. It is not at all sharp. It has suffered a lot in terms of clarity due to the heat waves.
I am sure most of my friends who have been to Kutch or have been into grassland photography would be aware of this problem. For those who are new to wildlife photography, keep this one in mind because sooner or later you will have to visit the grasslands of the world and this would help you in understanding why your images went blurry.