The most observant among you will have noticed occasional specks in my photographs. Here’s what an unaltered picture looks like right now from my camera at f/22:
Drives you crazy, doesn’t it? All those honkin’ HUGE specks all over what would otherwise be a nice image?
A DSLR is the digital version of a film SLR (stands for Single Lens Reflex, basically means the image is being reflected off a mirror so the photographer can see exactly what image is being captured). One of the biggest ways in which they differ is that a DSLR works off an image sensor and not film. When you change lenses (the biggest advantage of any kind of SLR), you are exposing the sensor to the elements. Dust. Dirt. Moisture. Salt. All getting inside and onto your beloved pictures.
You can clean up the specks, of course. Lightroom has a fantastic spot removal feature. But it takes time, and if there’s nothing exact enough in the rest of the photograph to replace that speck-spot with, it’s going to look odd and obvious and annoy you for the rest of your life anyway. (Okay, maybe not that last one… unless you’re also an obsessive-compulsive.)
So there’s no debate about it; the camera has to go in to be cleaned. And could there be a more inconvenient time for cleaning the sensor than when you’ve just embarked on a long-term project? I don’t think so.
For those who are wondering; no, I didn’t notice it before I started. Mostly I use f/5.6, and the spots don’t really show with the Field Of View (FOV) that short. But for sunrises, in order to get that capture of the sun’s rays streaming earthward, you need the greater detail of f/22.
Fortunately, I have a very generous and kind friend by the name of Ivan. He’s also a shutterbug, though his interests range more toward people-portraits and some lovely nature photography. (You should totally check out his page on Capture Minnesota.) Ivan has loaned me one of his cameras to replace mine while the Canon is in being cleaned.
(Yes, I could attempt to clean the sensor myself. No, I’m not going to. Forty dollars once a year is not too much to pay for professional service that protects the sensor from a ham-handed amateur, it really isn’t.)
So the photos for the next week or so will look a bit different – they’ll be shot with a Sony A57, which is quite a bit different from the Canon 30D! But, in keeping with my philosophy of “play, play, play,” I spent some time with the camera and the online version of the owner’s manual last night, and I think I might have a feel for the little beauty.