How lens dirt ruined my photos
We just can’t help taking dirty pictures. However, it’s not what I had planned when I crept from the warm covers at 3:45 this morning to see if I could catch the Sunrise falling on Salcombe from Snape’s Point. No matter how fastidious you are, once you start swapping lenses outside the confines of a Clean Room, the world will be trying to get into your Camera body. And it usually succeeds, eventually. I try to be careful changing lenses outside, but short of shelling out several thousand pounds (which I don’t have) for new Camera bodies to keep my lenses on like some expensive mini clothes horses, there’s no alternative.
Normally I’ll try to do it “inside” my camera bag, shielding the process with my back against any wind. Anyone who’s ever eaten sandwiches on a beach will know how ultimately futile this process is. However, I’d rather have sandwiches made mainly of bread with just the odd gritty nugget than sandwiches made of predominantly, well, sand. I try to be quick, to make sure I replace lens caps and lens base caps as soon as I can and leave the innards of my body exposed for as short a time as possible.
It’s not just lumps of beach that get in, it’s any bit of flying dust in the air when you take the lens off. You know what happens to statically charged balloons when you wipe them on a carpet, they give a Dyson a run for it’s money, that’s what. Similarly, any slight static charge on your camera gear will be attracting motes of dust like moths to a flame.
The above intruders are ones that you can ‘control’ in that if you don’t take your lens off in a dust storm, the amount of crud you smear over your CCD Sensor is minimal. However, some cameras (recently the Nikon D600 for one) were so renowned for a bit of DIY, splodging lumps of ‘oil’ onto the sensor that your photos soon look like a Dalmatian dog. In fact Nikon, quietly re-designed the D600 and it quickly morphed into the D610 with barely a feature changed except the (now hopefully oil free) mechanism.
In the featured image above, there are several splodges of lens dirt outlined in red. Obviously these are not wanted. Conversely, you need to look before you leap with the healing brush as the splodge inside the green circle is in fact a seagull! I’ve been fortunate in that my D5000 has been going for over 4 years and I’ve only just noticed the marks on my photos. The dust shows up quite strongly at narrower higher apertures than it does at lower wide open apertures because the wide depth of field causes them to be ‘focussed’ more easily. Ironically because of the wide depth of often field used in Landscape Photography these smotes show up much quicker on your shots than if you’re mainly shooting at lower wide open apertures. The dirt is still there, it’s just not anywhere near in focus so we can’t see it.
In retrospect, looking back at my LightRoom library, I can see the spots a while back, it’s just that they’re not so obvious. There comes a tipping point when enough is enough and so, having had virtually all this morning’s shots include several unwanted mucky additions, it’s round to a mate’s this afternoon to borrow his air spray can and possibly some specialist cleaning kit. Thanks Scot Baston of Zooming-Feet, put the kettle on, I’m on my way around.