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the sun, the sand and a polarizing filter
I will be heading south soon. I will be spending most of my time on the beach and in the boat in what I hope will be blazing bright sun! I have a polarizing filter that came with my camera, but I have never used it. I assume now is the time to break it out. Can someone give me some suggestions on to how to best use this filter?Thanks..

Comments (32)

Not much too it. Put it on, spin it around until the image looks like you want, done...

Comment #1

Kathleen, the best thing to do is experiment, as already said..

If your camera has live view, you will instantly see the difference the polariser makes. Be advised, the effect can be more profound depending on the quality of the filter - you get what you pay for as they say..

Also, blue skies become darker blue depending on the angle your are at relative to the sun - about 90 degrees or thereabouts is best..

I have lots of fun with polarisers and I'm sure you will do too. When used correctly, their effects are striking and also, one of the few effects that it is still difficult to replicate with software after the photo is captured..

Scott...

Comment #2

Polarizers can help to reduce glare off of the water and increase the color saturation. Don't over do the polarizing effect. A bit of glare can add an accent to your shot..

Second, you didn't mention which brand and make of polarizer you have. Some filters are better than others. Cheaper ones may have optical imperfections or color shifts. Do some test photo's before vacation. If you're displeased ask for advice on this forum and factor in enough time to react and retest...

Comment #3

Hi Kathleen. Here's an excellent article on polarisers that may help you to understand their usage much better.http://www.popphoto.com/pdfs/2002/0902/Polarizer.pdf.

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #4

If you want to get familiar with a piece of equipment, do your homework and take lots of pictures WITH the equipment BEFORE you go on a trip. Learn how it works first. Know your equipment so you can get the good shots in the limited time you have on your trip. Unless you're okay with coming back with lots of missed/poor/ruined shots, that is..

[ e d @ h a l l e yc c ] http://www.halley.cc/pix/..

Comment #5

Polarisers can be nice, but have limited usefulness..

If you want dark (not saturated) skies, and saturated seas (due to reduction of reflections), they can be good. Overall you will get increased contrast and that is bad in many situations. Overall your photos will look too dark if you're not careful..

Can you guess which of these shots use a polarising filter?.

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Comment #6

With the polarizer on you can see the effect in the view finder. But I highly recommend you learn about neutral density and split density filters, I can guarantee you, over exposure is going to be a problem for you.Rationally I have no hope, irrationally I believe in miracles.Joni Mitchell..

Comment #7

Thanks for the photos...I would assume the photos that were taken outside in the sun with the deeper colors were the polarizer shots...

Comment #8

Thanks everyone- I will start practicing as soon as I see some sun!!!!Never know in Ohio...

Comment #9

Kathleen clayton wrote:.

Thanks for the photos...I would assume the photos that were takenoutside in the sun with the deeper colors were the polarizer shots..

Nope, only the first three shots used a polarising filter! So if you want shots to have deeper colours, you don't need one...

Comment #10

Martin Caie wrote:.

Kathleen clayton wrote:.

Thanks for the photos...I would assume the photos that were takenoutside in the sun with the deeper colors were the polarizer shots..

Nope, only the first three shots used a polarising filter! So if youwant shots to have deeper colours, you don't need one..

This is very misleading..

There are circumstances where nothing will give you a blue sky; there are others where the simplest P&S on Auto would give you a great sky; and some where negative exposure compensation is the key to success; and some where a polariser is the best or easiest solution. Showing a few pictures which happen to show one or another of those, without a word of explanation, is pretty unhelpful..

But maybe your jaundiced view of polarisers is because you don't know how to use one. A polariser has no effect on blue sky when pointed directly at (or away from) the sun, as in your first two shots...

Comment #11

Steve, I think you need to do a bit of research if you haven't had much experience. These pictures are not results of happenstance, and the effect is clear on all the polariser shots. Your denial and misinformation on orientation is not helping..

If Kathleen has any intention of shooting pictures in similar environments, she ought to take notice...

Comment #12

Martin Caie wrote:.

Steve, I think you need to do a bit of research if you haven't hadmuch experience. These pictures are not results of happenstance, andthe effect is clear on all the polariser shots. Your denial andmisinformation on orientation is not helping..

Don't talk rot...

Comment #13

Martin Caie wrote:.

Steve, I think you need to do a bit of research if you haven't hadmuch experience. These pictures are not results of happenstance, andthe effect is clear on all the polariser shots. Your denial andmisinformation on orientation is not helping..

If Kathleen has any intention of shooting pictures in similarenvironments, she ought to take notice..

There is no apparant polarizing effect in your first 3 images. Since your pictures are not the result of happenstance perhaps you could explain what effect the polarizer had on the first 3?.

Or could you explain how ALL reflected (from a 'mirror-like source, e.g. water or glass) light is polarized and explain which plane the polarization actually takes place in?I'm sure that would help Kathleen more!..

Comment #14

Martin Caie wrote:.

Kathleen clayton wrote:.

Thanks for the photos...I would assume the photos that were takenoutside in the sun with the deeper colors were the polarizer shots..

Nope, only the first three shots used a polarising filter! So if youwant shots to have deeper colours, you don't need one..

Hi Martin. Your first two examples were pretty much directly into the sun where the effect of a polariser is minimal, plus your camera is likely to underexpose because it's seeing the bright light of the sun. The situation there is also one in which contrast/colour satutation is going to be terrible pretty much regardless of what you do. The PL may in fact have conributed to contrast issues with lens flare. The third image is a much better example of how a polariser can help..

I don't totally disagree with you. A PL is a tool that's best used judiciously and in an informed way. However, there are plenty of situations where it's not possible to get results anywhere near as pleasing without a polariser, even if you can get saturated colours in some situations like your other examples. I think the trick is to get enough experience and be smart about using a PL to take advantage of it when it makes sense, just like any other tool..

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #15

Tony Sx wrote:.

There is no apparant polarizing effect in your first 3 images. Sinceyour pictures are not the result of happenstance perhaps you couldexplain what effect the polarizer had on the first 3?.

#1 and #2 obviously aren't candidates for a PL, but #3 maybe well have been better with that without, even with ovrhead sun..

Or could you explain how ALL reflected (from a 'mirror-like source,e.g. water or glass) light is polarized and explain which plane thepolarization actually takes place in?.

Hi Tony. While I agree that Martin's examples and statements are misleading, especially without some explanation, he didn't suggest that all reflected light is polarised, and in fact it isn't. Smooth metallic surfaces, including mirrors (it's not the glass that reflects) don't polarise light. However, metallic surfaces can reflect light that is already polarised, which can then be subjected to screening by a PL on a camera..

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #16

Martin Caie wrote:.

Nope, only the first three shots used a polarising filter! So if youwant shots to have deeper colours, you don't need one..

Ok, given the way this discussion has gone, here's the text which I'm saying should have accompanied the shots you posted. If you don't agree with what I say, provide your own commentary. I'll omit some, where the same point would just be repeated..

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Shot directly into the sun. Blue sky is most intensely polarised (and therefore most affected by a polarising filter) at right angles to the sun. That's right angles in 3D terms, not necessarily 90 degrees on the compass. This is a very wide angle shot, but as it has no EXIF data I can't say how wide. But wide enough, perhaps, that the extreme right of the photograph is probably close to 90 degrees from the sun - and it is much darker as we can see..

The reflection on the road/paving surface hasn't been filtered out. I wouldn't expect it to be, since the crystalline surface would most likely reflect scattered light, somewhat like a metallic one. However the polariser may have had some effect - without a comparison shot with no polariser it is hard to say..

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Classic polariser shot - blue sky and clear water..

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Nice example of a shot where no polariser is needed. But just because it wasn't needed on this occasion doesn't mean that a polariser wouldn't transform this shot on a different day with different light. It exemplifies the point made by others, that a polariser is a tool, to be used when needed and not all the time..

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I'm not sure why you included this one, it doesn't show anything relevant to the discussion - unless I'm missing something?.

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Another example of a polariser simply not being needed - but it also demonstrates something else - how underexposure can increase colour saturation. It also illustrates how much difference good light can make..

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Hmmm. This shows reflections on glass not being removed by not using a polariser. If I had a whole bagful of polarisers I wouldn't have used one for this shot - because the reflections are part of the composition..

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The sky is blue, the camera is capable of recording blue, and if you expose for the sky you will record blue. This shot is grossly underexposed. It is quite likely that a better shot could have been obtained by using a polariser and not underexposing. But I wasn't there so this can only be a guess..

It also nicely demonstrates what happens to buildings if you point a very wide angle lens upwards..

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Again, by any objective standards that is heavily underexposed. I'm not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, it's your composition and maybe you wanted it very dark..

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Very nice shot, best one you posted by far. Good example of a polariser not being needed or wanted...

Comment #17

John down under wrote:.

Hi Tony. While I agree that Martin's examples and statements aremisleading, especially without some explanation, he didn't suggestthat all reflected light is polarised, and in fact it isn't..

I agree he didn't. I was helping to prepare the hole.....

Smooth metallic surfaces, including mirrors (it's not the glass thatreflects) don't polarise light. However, metallic surfaces canreflect light that is already polarised, which can then be subjectedto screening by a PL on a camera..

Hi John, I was under the impression that light reflected by shiny transparent materials is partly or fully polarized, except when reflected perpendicularly. But it's been a long time since I took any physics classes.I was just lending Martin a shovel........

And the article that you directed Kathleen to provides a very good explanation for using a polarizer!..

Comment #18

Hi Kathleen, get your polorizer out now and start practicing on bright, sunny days. It's an excellent tool not just for removing excessive light or reflections it's a great tool for saturating reds and greens too. I've included an example below where without the polor - the true colour of the sand would have been whjite-washed and you wouldn't see the rich, colour of the sea as the sky's reflection would have removed much of the colour. The polor removes this excessive light. Good luck..

Http://www.flickr.com/...exemplaryphotos/2091944896/in/set-72157600054190906/Jason, London UKhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/exemplaryphotoshttp://www.exemplaryphotos.com..

Comment #19

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #20

Steve, I did find your analysis amusing. But it reinforces what I said, and I think your death by analysis could be revived by going back to the OP..

When you make mistakes such as thinking an image that features colour channel clipping is "heavily underexposed" and another that is right on the edge is "grossly underexposed" (forget about the idea that the camera was "pointing up") then I think it sums up pretty well just how far off your technical understanding is..

There is no need for explanation or commentary for any of the shots. They simply demonstrate, as has already been stated, what you don't need a polariser to accomplish. Unfortunately you seem to be in geek mode and want to talk tech. It's not necessary, but unfortunately you have put your foot in it with misinformation...

Comment #21

Martin Caie wrote:.

When you make mistakes such as thinking an image that features colourchannel clipping is "heavily underexposed" and another that is righton the edge is "grossly underexposed" (forget about the idea that thecamera was "pointing up") then I think it sums up pretty well justhow far off your technical understanding is..

There is no need for explanation or commentary for any of the shots.They simply demonstrate, as has already been stated, what you don'tneed a polariser to accomplish. Unfortunately you seem to be in geekmode and want to talk tech. It's not necessary, but unfortunately youhave put your foot in it with misinformation..

If you honestly believe that those two shots are not seriously underexposed - and that the colour of the sky is not the result of that - then there is something wrong with your eyesight, your monitor calibration, your judgement - or all three..

I've just spent the afternoon photographing white plastic bags and black plastic bottles. I understand exposure perfectly well, thank you...

Comment #22

Martin Caie wrote:.

Steve, I did find your analysis amusing. But it reinforces what Isaid, and I think your death by analysis could be revived by goingback to the OP..

When you make mistakes such as thinking an image that features colourchannel clipping is "heavily underexposed" and another that is righton the edge is "grossly underexposed" (forget about the idea that thecamera was "pointing up") then I think it sums up pretty well justhow far off your technical understanding is..

There is no need for explanation or commentary for any of the shots.They simply demonstrate, as has already been stated, what you don'tneed a polariser to accomplish. Unfortunately you seem to be in geekmode and want to talk tech. It's not necessary, but unfortunately youhave put your foot in it with misinformation..

We're getting into the realm of subjectivity with exposure of high DR scenes. You can argue either way with high DR scenes that you should avoid blowing highlights, or that you should sacrifice highlights or other tones, or use a different curve in processing, use HDR techniques, or whatever you like. Some of the darker skies do appear to come from a low exposure that also makes some other elements in the scene darker than many people might like..

I don't think the samples support the argument for not using a polariser. Finding situations where you DON'T need a polariser proves nothing about the benefits of using a polariser in situations where they CAN improve an image in the opinion of the photographer..

There are plenty of situations where the average photographer can benefit from using a PL to create images that are more to his/her liking than not using a PL. Darkening skies (under certain conditions) to balance the sky exposure better with the exposure of the rest of the scene is a classic example, and can often make the scene come alive and be much more dramatic..

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #23

John down under wrote:.

We're getting into the realm of subjectivity with exposure of high DRscenes..

Yep, exposure is completely subjective, and by the same token it is not accurate to make an absolute statement that something is underexposed if the camera is unable to handle any more exposure. I can imagine Steve mailing National Geographic to tell them their photos are too dark....

Finding situations where you DON'T need a polariserproves nothing about the benefits of using a polariser in situationswhere they CAN improve an image in the opinion of the photographer..

Sure, but the OP isn't in this situation. The OP says "I assume now is the time to break it out", which wrong - primarily because it's not going to help in the situation described, but also because of a lack of practice and preparation...

Comment #24

Exposure is like salt. Some like a bit more, some like a bit less. Some dishes need a lot, others much less, and most are somewhere in between. So to that extent it is a matter of personal taste..

But it *is* possible to say, objectively, that a meal has been over-seasoned or under-seasoned. Ask any skilled chef, they will all tell you the same...

Comment #25

A polariser is an essential filter for anyone interested in landscape shots - be careful though as too much polarisation can create unwanted effects.

Simonhttp://www.landscapephotographyuk.com/.

North Wales photographs - Snowdonia & Anglesey..

Comment #26

Steve Balcombe wrote:.

But it *is* possible to say, objectively, that a meal has beenover-seasoned or under-seasoned. Ask any skilled chef, they will alltell you the same..

But you got it wrong, so does that make you unskilled?..

Comment #27

Martin Caie wrote:.

John down under wrote:.

Finding situations where you DON'T need a polariserproves nothing about the benefits of using a polariser in situationswhere they CAN improve an image in the opinion of the photographer..

Sure, but the OP isn't in this situation. The OP says "I assume nowis the time to break it out", which wrong - primarily because it'snot going to help in the situation described, but also because of alack of practice and preparation..

Hi Martin. Kathleen is going to head south where there will be blazing sun. Maybe she said elsehwere in the thread that she only has grey skies now (I could have missed or forgotten that), which would support your idea that there's only so much to be gained from trying to get to know it now. Is that what you meant? There are still some principles that she could try out, eg reflections off glass and water, or even foliage, for example, even if the results would be different with clear skies..

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #28

Martin Caie wrote:.

Steve Balcombe wrote:.

But it *is* possible to say, objectively, that a meal has beenover-seasoned or under-seasoned. Ask any skilled chef, they will alltell you the same..

But you got it wrong, so does that make you unskilled?.

Maybe Steve's not a chef. Are you? ;^).

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #29

?simonkit wrote:.

A polariser is an essential filter for anyone interested in landscapeshots - be careful though as too much polarisation can createunwanted effects.

Hi Simon. You weren't thinking about providing any examples of those unwanted effects to make your post even more useful were you?.

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10..

Comment #30

John down under wrote:.

?simonkit wrote:.

A polariser is an essential filter for anyone interested in landscapeshots - be careful though as too much polarisation can createunwanted effects.

Hi Simon. You weren't thinking about providing any examples of thoseunwanted effects to make your post even more useful were you?.

Cheers from John from Adelaide, South AustraliaJohn Harvey Photography http://johnharvey.com.auCanon 40D, Canon 20D & Fuji F10.

Sorry, don't have any unfortunately - I tend to delete shots I'm not happy with..

What I meant specifically here is that strong polarisation can produce "banding" or very uneven colour in blue skies, it can also make them look unrealistically dark too..

I usually take 2/3 shots of the same scene with the polariser at different positions & then use the one with the "best effect".

Simon.

Http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com/.

North Wales photographs - Snowdonia & Anglesey..

Comment #31

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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