This is the second part of My Photos Aren't Sharp. You may have thought there was only one page of possibilities for unsharp photos, but there are more.
I took a roadtrip with some friends to Las Vegas back in 2002, in February. We traveled through parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. Seeing this country during the months just before spring is absolutely the way to go. Everything is clear, crisp, but of course, the temperatures are very cool.
One of the obstacles in taking a few particular shots, was the wind factor. Regardless of trying to take images handheld in between bursts of wind, I noticed when I got home to review the images, they were not as sharp as I had thought they were. My images looked like I was taking shots from a moving car. Wind is one of nature's elements which can become a pain to deal with if you are not aware of it or think you can manage it on your own. A tripod definitely helps.
Rain is another obstacle. Most of you may not have to deal with it as much as those who are photojournalists ("PJs") or who just like to live life on the wild side, but if you do shoot in the rain, you will need to have knowledge of the Shooting Trinity: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Depth Of Field. Sometimes you may get visible rain drops in your image when you don't want them, and sometimes you may want them when you don't have them in your image. In addition, a nice little rain drop may decide to take a rest right on the front element of your lens, which can distort an image at particular settings. The amount of rain is also something to think about. Be sure to monitor the rain and its behavior when you're shooting in it. It can change drastically, and render an image that would have been just a 15 seconds ago, useless.
Wind and rain can also be a great addition to your creativity and expression of images, so they are not necessarily unwelcome. Shoot with nature. Not against it.
Quality Of Your Tripod
Not all tripods are built the same. Yes, this is true to some extent. However, you can still find a tripod for around $50-$200 that will perform just as well as a $500...and even a $3,000 tripod. Some people don't want to admit this, but hey, it's their money--not mine. In any case, regardless of the money spent on your tripod, make sure the tripod can accept the weight of your camera and lenses on it. Observe if the tripod is having difficulty remaining still when a gust of wind whips up. Depending on your equipment, you may need a tripod that can handle heavier equipment.
You And Your Tripod
This is sort of like the above, but looking at it from a different angle. Be aware of your stance when using a tripod and your camera equipment. I've seen photographers bump their tripods when shooting, accidentally trip over their tripods (I've done this a few times myself). Don't lean into the tripod. Extend yourself OUT to the tripod, and begin shooting. If you just have to have the tripod in your face, read the following...
Your And Your Feet
Suffice it to say, make sure your feet are firmly planted when you shoot. Handheld or with a tripod. The system is only as strong as its weakest link, and yes, photographers themselves are usually the weakest link. Be aware of what you do when you shoot. I've noticed in some cases I actually sway back and forth if I am stationary for a particular time. What I do is gather myself again, and create a new stance. Some photographers have the physical capabilities of having the movement of a stone, and some have the behaviors of a long blade of grass, just waiting to be swayed back and forth.
The Camera Diopter
Most DSLRs have a built-on diopter to match your eyesight requirements. Also, you can buy attachments which have more of a precise and accomodation to your particular eyesight needs. Be sure to adjust the diopter on your camera, regardless if you think you need it or not. You might be surprised.
Yes, I had to mention it. If your eyesight is not particularly accurate, this could be a problem for your images appearing blurred. Be aware of Presbyopia, where one eye could be more affected than the other. This condition is progressive, and you may need adjustments every year. Eyesight issues are generally progressive in nature which could be the explanation for your images looking fine one season, and this season they are just as good as they could be. So, be sure to have your eyesight prescriptions up to date.
We've covered several possibilities for your images not coming out the way you are wanting them to. Overall, if you haven't noticed, the key to eliminating a lot of these possibilities, is being aware of your own behavior, and aware of your equipment. In another articles, we will discuss image processing to reduce (or even eliminate) the effects of unsharp images.