There is a local dam here in the town where I live that happens to look very nice during the coldest winter days. Because the air is so cold, -20° Celsius (-4°F) in this case, the rapid underneath the dam lifts up a lot of vapour steam. To get a good shot of it one needs to be there on a well-timed moment when the sun is behind the dam and shines through the steam. Though in my case, the most demanding challenge was to find some free time from work and family-life so I could actually try to get a shot of it. While I missed couple of cold sunny days, I finally managed to be there right on time (with Aura sitting on a carrycot while I did the shooting).
It's a nice shot on its own, but I feel it does repeat some of the most used visual motifs out there and doesn't exactly represent my own photographic eye. In fact I felt very much the same when I did similar shots at the same location few years back. The real reason why I wanted to do it again is of course testing the Batis 1.8/85. This kind of shot is really a stress-test for any lens and doing it reveals how the particular lens works under challenging circumstances. What makes this a challenging scenario is the strong contrast scene with a lots of backlight. There's a human figure on the bridge that needs to be all black and very sharp against the light background. The sun is just out of the frame which can introduce all kinds of flares and reduced contrast in the image. On top of everything, there are lots of small details, especially that chain-link fence around the bridge, that are difficult to render right in these circumstances. So I naturally wanted to see how the Batis 1.8/85 manages in this situation.
Now, when it comes to judging image quality I believe there are two kinds of photographers out there. There are those who pixel-peep small details like corners, aberrations, etc. and others who try to evaluate the contrast, colors and other characteristics affecting the overall image quality. While I belong the latter group, I sometimes check the small details as well. So when I finally put the kids to sleep on that same day and had time to check the image from the computer, I was very curious to see what came out of it.
Starting with the small details the human figure on the bridge and the details around it are essentially perfect. Even the trees behind the steam look very nice and detailed. The backlighted fence on the right side showed some moire around the small details, which was easy to fix with the software thought it shows a bit reduced contrast even after fixing it. Bricks on the wall are rendered nicely and one can even find a one single bird from sky. But what did impress me the most was the effortless overall quality of the image. No congested tones, other artifacts or signs that would show that the lens is on the edge of its performance (except the fence on the right side). While I'm very satisfied with this performance, it does make me wonder how this scene would have been rendered with the ZEISS Otus 1.4/85. The only thing I regret with this shooting is that I didn't try this scenario with Batis wide open. I was so determined to get a good shot out of it that I forgot the test it with the f/1.8 too. Maybe I need to revisit that dam again, though I think the current image came out pretty well.
Ps. you are free to judge the quality of this frame by yourself by downloading the hires version of the image from here (7 mb).