Polarizing Filters

Started 11 months ago | Discussions thread
bflood Senior Member • Posts: 1,711
Re: Polarizing Filters

Personally, I use a polarizer for fall foliage and almost nothing else. I have rarely used one for a landscape shot where fall color wasn't involved. Tree leaves frequently have a waxy surface that generates reflections that mute the color of the leaves. A polarizer cuts out the reflections, helping the colors in the image.

A polarizer can also deepen the blue in the sky, but there's a trap door here.

A polarizer has its maximum effect when aimed at 90 degrees to the sunlight, and has zero effect when aimed at the sun or directly away from the sun. Between these extremes, the effect of the polarizer goes through a gradual transition. So a polarizer won't buy you anything if you are shooting "up sun" or "down sun." Also, when shooting with a wide angle lens, look for a change in the polarizer effect from one side of the viewfinder to the other. If the field of view is wide enough, the change in the strength of the effect can be clearly visible in the image, ruining what might otherwise be a great shot.

The polarizer effect also gets stronger with higher elevation. This can lead to an unnaturally dark blue sky that hurts the image you wanted to get. It can even lead to almost black skies when used above 15,000 feet (I am told - haven't done this myself).

No matter how strong or weak the polarizer effect, the filter always reduces the light reaching the sensor to the same degree. You get to decide if that works in your favor or against you when you shoot. Some folks have been known to use a polarizer as a neutral density filter in an effort to use a slower shutter setting.

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