Have you ever shot football, soccer, rugby, etc. outside?  It’s not too tough to do and I am sure you remembered to get as low as possible in order to make the athletes look larger than life.  Then, you get back and import your photos for post processing and noticed your photos were soft and unusable.

This can be very frustrating and you aren’t sure what happened.

Many times it’s not your fault and it may not be because you don’t have the most expensive gear or the correct settings.

Heat waves might be the reason for your poor photos.  

Yes, even though you were shooting on artificial turf. Artificial turf can cause havoc when shooting sports.  I have even seen problems shooting on grass during a hot summer’s day.  And it goes without saying that black pavement is notorious for heat waves.

These heat waves create optical distortion.  This distortion will diminish the quality of your medium and long distance photos.  Heat waves can negatively impact AF (auto focus) performance as well on both phase detection and contrast detection systems.

Keep in mind that this problem can not be fixed with a sharper lens and or a better camera.  So, what can you do about this problem?

    1. Select a different location.  The closer the better. If you minimize the amount of heated air between you and your subject, you will likely have less distortion.
    1. Stand up.  Yes, you should get low but in the case of heat waves, it’s ok to stand up.  It’s better than getting low quality photos.
  1. Take lots of images.  Though not the best solution it does allow for more chances of getting usable photos.

To summarize. Using long focal lengths to photograph distant or medium-distant subjects on a hot day, must include looking for the effect of heat waves.

Looking for a sub $1,000 sports photography set up? Maybe the Sony a6000 is the way to go.  Check out the article and video HERE.

This function has been disabled for Sports Photo 101.