This and That

Random bits of my life

Four Things I Learned about Polarizing Filters

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 4, 2010

This photo, Strands of Light, has nothing to do with this blog posting. It’s just something I shot the first day I got my polarizing filter, when I went out into the courtyard at work to play.

Strands of Light

I was catching up on my podcasts and listening to the Photography Podcast, a somewhat irregular podcast  recorded by Marko Kulik in Canada. In episode 77,  Marko interviewed Darwin Wiggett on polarizing filters, neutral density filters, and graduated neutral density filters. Darwin Wiggett shoots wonderful landscape shots in Canada. His images almost make me wish that I hadn’t left the country. (On the other hand, downtown Kitchener, Ontario, isn’t as photogenic as the prairies in a storm.)

I’ve had my Canon Rebel XSi since May 2009, so I still consider myself a photography newbie (maybe an obsessed newbie, but still a newbie). So these tips were new to me.

  1. Use a polarizer for photographing someone who’s bald in the sunlight. I could really have used this tip when I was photographing the marketing guys at work. I never thought about the reflection off a bald scalp as glare, but that’s what it is, so it makes sense that a polarizer would work.
  2. Use a polarizer for rainbows. Darwin writes:

    Any time you see a rainbow, immediately slap a polarizer on your lens! Spin the polarizer around and you’ll see the rainbow disappear totally and then reappear with great intensity. Obviously you want to rotate the filter to give you the best intensity in the rainbow. A rainbow is polarized light so a polarizer either kills the rainbow or it pumps up the colours enormously, depending on how you rotate it.

    As soon as I saw this rainbow in Photo 2, I knew I had a winner. But by the time I got my gear out and the composition set up, the rainbow was already fading. To recover the intensity in the rainbow, I simply used my handy polarizer. A side benefit to the polarizer is that it removed reflective glare from the road and saturated the colour in the yellow line.

    The rainbow photo with the yellow line is in his Seven Rules article.

  3. Use a polarizing filter on cloudy days to cut the glare from an overcast sky reflected on wet trees and the ground.
  4. Wiggett uses a thin LB polarizing filter to protect the front element of his lens, the way other people use a UV filter, and turns it around until he gets a pleasing effect. I use my polarizing filter when I shoot in bright sunlight but I admit that the filter spends more time in my bag than on my lens.

For more tips about using polarizing filters, check out his article, Seven Rules for Effectively Using a Polarizer.

Don’t miss Darwin’s photography site, Darwin Wiggett – Natural Moments Photography.

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One Response to “Four Things I Learned about Polarizing Filters”

  1. pam said

    Funny thing, I never, ever take a serious landscape shot of any kind, rain or shine without at least one of the “big three” – and sometimes more than one – but I would have never thought to use the polarizing filter for portrait photography! We struggle with glass glare and bald spots all the time – so you can bet we will be giving this tip a try!

    And thanks so much for the link!

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