Worst. Filter. Ever.

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Big beautiful eyes, large bushy tail and striking dark legs, all professionally lit with my truck’s headlights.

It is almost discouraging this photo appears reasonable … despite the terrible filter. How could this happen?

I admit to spending some money getting quality lenses. A huge factor with each purchase was trying to figure out which lens would provide a sharp image.

After I buy a lens, I meticulously keep it clean, so dust or smudges don’t take anything away from the final digital image. I have even taken the advice of wildlife photography gurus and removed the protective UV lens from all my lenses because another layer of glass could potentially remove some sharpness. I figure if the lens is heading for the drink, the UV filter won’t save it.

No I am not trying to bore you with my quirky photography habits – that’s just a bonus. Context is important for what happened next.

I was driving around a national park and suddenly a fox appeared directly in front of me at the edge of the road. I slowed down and grabbed my camera at the same time. The fox was caught in the proverbial headlights, looking straight at me. More likely it was getting blinded by the lights!

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This is where I could wax poetic about the symbolism of the fox travelling down a different road. Or I could tell the truth and say I took a quick photo after the fox left.

I had to make a quick decision. It was high risk to take a few seconds to lower the side window and stick my head out to take a photo. So many times wildlife will stop and take a quick look before turning away and disappearing into the bush. I didn’t have time to open the window. So I cringed and did the unthinkable – took the photo through the windshield.

I can’t begin to imagine all the glass imperfections, bug guts and dirt specks that I was looking through. So much for high quality when the windshield is my defacto filter! Combine that with the effect of the low light and it was quite easy to lower my expectations of image quality.

When I got home and looked at the photo, I was surprised. The photo was reasonable, maybe even blog worthy. Then I began to wonder whether I could have saved some money and some time cleaning.

For a second there I was almost disappointed the photo turned out so well, but it quickly passed. I love this fox and I’ll keep my lenses. Of course it wouldn’t surprise me if I have perfect conditions and a clean lens next time and get a worse photo! Photography can be full of surprises.

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Latest Comments

  1. Frank Roy says:

    Lyle: This is one of your best blogs, well written and funny. The photo turned out well. I don’t see any evidence that it was taken after dark. Or Is that photo taken at another time? Your archive of red foxes is replete with some excellent shots. Frank Roy

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Why thank you. The photo did turn out well despite being taken through the windshield. My surprise at the result prompted the blog. And I’m glad you enjoyed my humour. I appreciate the comment.

      Like

  2. Christopher Martin says:

    I love foxes and this is a wonderful image Lyle.

    Have a great day!

    Chris

    Like

  3. whichwaynow101 says:

    I read your whole post to see why your thought this was a bad photo. Only it isn’t. And you didn’t think so either. Why did you make me do that? 😉 Love the shot of his big bushy tail too.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I must confess to enjoy teasing people – perhaps a little too much. It truly is a wonder people keep coming back! Glad you liked the shot. It was a beautiful fox.

      Like

  4. Marco Pesaresi says:

    That first shot turned out well, personally I’ve never shot though my windshield before but if you had not you would not have got the shot … and a fine shot indeed.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I think it was my first time trying to get a shot through the window so that added to my surprise. I keep learning to keep shooting and the surprises keep coming – some of them good ones. I appreciate the comment.

      Like

  5. Judy says:

    Well that was unexpected!! I was all ready for what was that terrible filter!! The image does have a lovely muted color scheme..window or just time of day or headlights…pleasant tones and wonderful expression on the part of the fox!! Pretty really!!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad I’m not entirely predictable – that would be boring. Your observation about the colour scheme is exactly right. I think it might be hard to replicate that with all the factors you mentioned. I guess that’s why I keep taking photos. Glad you liked it.

      Like

  6. Suze says:

    I love it! 🙂

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  7. Lavinia Ross says:

    Those are beautiful fox photos, Lyle. Quite healthy looking. Some tail!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I was fortunate to find such a beautiful specimen with a gorgeous tail. Foxes are quite special to me. Glad you liked the photos.

      Like

      • Lavinia Ross says:

        I seen fewer here than back east, but there are more open spaces here for them to hide. Several years ago, I did hear a strange yipping bark one night near the back of the old house about 3 AM. A small greyish colored fox was sitting on our back steps, commenting into the night! I watched for a little while, until he became aware of me watching out the window and moved on.

        Like

  8. Phil Lanoue says:

    Just imagine the studio photographers that not only already spent a ton of cash on quality cameras and lenses as you have, but also invested significant amounts in lighting as well.
    Well forget all that.
    Truck headlights are clearly where it’s at!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’d hate to be the one to tell them! The funny thing is that this past weekend we ended up using the headlights to light a bison in near darkness. The results were nearly so good so it might need a light fine tuning.

      Like

  9. Sonya says:

    Sounds like your windshield is much cleaner – and less covered in bug guts – than mine. I wouldn’t dare shoot through the glass after our most recent road trip! Love the photo.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Glad you liked the photo. It was taken in fall so maybe there were fewer bugs that day. We were driving this past weekend and needed a major windshield clean every few hours so that sounds similar to you. I think I’ll still keep using an open window as my primary option for the future.

      Like

      • Sonya says:

        Great tip. I’ll plan on riding with the windows down next time we venture through YNP. Thanks for the reply! I love reading your articles. They always make me chuckle, and I appreciate people who can write with a bit of humor.

        Like

  10. My Heartsong says:

    That is one beautiful fox! A story wonderfully told in Krahn-esque style.Question…why no glare in the eyes?.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I’m happy to hear that I have a style. Now that you mention it, I would have expected glare in the eyes. Another confusing part of this tale. More questions than answers on this post!

      Like

  11. Steve Boer says:

    I stopped using UV filters on my lenses as well for the same reason. Can’t really say for sure that my images are any sharper though as I never did any side-by-side tests.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m happy to hear there’s someone else – I was getting lonely. I haven’t done a test either and I’m probably scared to after the windshield episode. There always seems to be an x factor that makes these logical decisions confusing.

      Like

  12. 1107photography says:

    Great story, Lyle! Hmmm, wonder if Canon or Nikon might manufacture car window glass someday–might be a market for wildlife photographers…

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the story. That would be an interesting concept but I can’t imagine the price. Maybe they need to have a windshield that drops down or slides away with the push of a button. That would give the sales folks something to talk about!

      Like

  13. Susan Portnoy says:

    Too funny. I had this UV filter discussion in Africa. One chap swore it reduced image quality, but I’ve never found that to be true. I also have had more than one occasion when it’s saved my lens from a chip, dutifully giving it’s life to a stray pebble thrown up by the jeep or to a twig or some other unexpected object that wasn’t supposed to make it to my lens. :))

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’ve never tested the image quality difference but the theory makes sense (until the windshield episode). It also makes sense to avoid the scratches. Once the decision was made (with some pause) I just went with it and so far so good. The other unmentioned truth is that I hate buying them and it adds yet more glass to clean which is one of my least favourite things about photography. Glad you found the humour in the post.

      Like

  14. donna213 says:

    Shooting though the car’s front window is something I do often, especially with hawks. I make sure and get an image first. When I get out, they almost always fly away. Your fox photos were certainly worth getting and turned out great. I would have liked your poetic story about the fox traveling the lonely road.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I might just try the windshield again (and it will probably be a disaster with the bugs around here). Getting an image first is a good strategy since an empty card is no fun. I have found hawks to be unpredictable creatures. Sometimes they are easily spooked and other times much more comfortable. It’s hard to guess. I may just have to follow up the poetic story some day. I had run out of gas when I thot of that at the last minute.

      Like

  15. Mike Powell says:

    Wonderful images, insightful lesson. Your last sentence sums up well the fate of a wildlife photographer–doomed to a life in which surprises, both good and bad, often play a bigger role than planning and professional equipment. For me, that means I take lots of shots, even when the conditions are less than optimal. Who knows, I may get some great shots in those conditions. Still, many of us are driven to push on in pursuit of an elusive perfect image, however we choose to define “perfect.”

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Many years ago I was with a professional photographer and was surprised at the number of shots he took to get one good one. I decided if he needed that many, who was I trying to kid taking one shot and expecting it to turn out. So I try to figure it all out and then fire away.

      Like

  16. Mike Powell says:

    Your last sentence succinctly summarizes the life of a nature photographer and especially a wildlife photographer–a life full of surprises, both good and bad. It is a source of both gratification and frustration that I get some of my best shots without planning or preparation under less than optimal conditions. Searching for perfect locations and lighting conditions (or keeping lenses perfectly clean) doesn’t seem to increase the odds of a good shot, but somehow we seem driven to pursue the perfect image. The fox looks amazing and I like the way that the second shot highlights the beautiful tail

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I really like the pleasant surprises when a shot turns out despite all previous experience showing that it won’t work. The surprises keep it interesting and part of the reason I keep going back despite the regular misses. Glad you enjoyed the photos and the post.

      Like

  17. Steve Gingold says:

    Sometimes all the spots are in the right places. Luck was with you….or the windshield was much cleaner than you thought. Either way, I’d be pleased.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Just about the time I seem to know something for sure – I get a result like this. Sometimes it’s better just to take it than try to figure it out.

      Like

  18. lilmisspoutine says:

    ah, so true 🙂

    Like

  19. Victor Rakmil says:

    Excellent lesson, If that is the only way at least try, it could work.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I would thot that by now I would stop getting surprised by results but it still keeps happening. It’s nice when the surprises are good ones. So I shoot first and finesse later.

      Like

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