Tag Archives: heat distortion

Golden Gate Transam

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Transamerica Pyramid framed inside the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Detail of Transamerica Pyramid framed in the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge showing the effects of heat distortion on the image.

This photo was taken from a unique spot where the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco is framed in the top opening of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also a lesson in photographing things far away for those photogs who look at this blog (you know who you are 🙂 ). At the time I was making this image there was a very strong wind blowing. I could see image shake in the viewfinder despite the camera being mounted on a sturdy tripod but by using a high shutter speed (1/800 sec) I was able to deal with this OK. What I did not take into account was heat distortion of the air. At first look the image may appear reasonably sharp but on closer inspection (detail image) there is a waviness to things especially evident in the straight lines of the cables and the edges of the tower. I have to say I was a little surprised to see this as it wasn’t a particularly warm day. But the sun was out and still relatively high in the sky apparently heating objects and, when this warmth mixed with surrounding cooler air, distorting things. Most other images of this view (it is a rather common one) have been done at night, when fog is present or the sun is low in the sky. Times when the heating effects of the sun are minimal or absent. And these other images are much sharper as a result. Something to think about when trying to make a photo of a scene far from the camera.