Let's Learn - Nature Photography Filters Part 1

The Circular Polarizer

The power of your Post-processing software these days is pretty impressive. But, some things are still best to get right in camera. The use of filters can be seen as a dying art, with some of the plugins and features now available in post, but the look of some filters cannot be totally replicated by your computer. In a series of posts we'll take a look at the filters I use in my photography.

First up is the Circular Polarizer.

A circular polarizing filter has a number of uses for the nature photographer. It can:

1. Reduce atmospheric haze in you landscape, sharpening the look of distant items in your shot

2. Help saturate colours in your landscape, adding nice blues to your skies

3. Be used to minimize or change the looks of reflections on surfaces

4. Be used as a Neutral Density filter as well, to help lengthen shutter speeds

In and around Hamilton, one of the main uses of a polarizer might be to change the look of the water and rocks around our many waterfalls. You can minimize reflections on top of the water and see more of what is below the surface. 

One thing to keep in mind, without getting into the science of how the polarizer works, is to keep in consideration that the effect works best when working at 90 degrees from your light source. So if you're not seeing the effect you want, check to see where your light is coming from!

Take a look at the following 2 images. First, taken without a polarizer, and second with one. Look at the rocks to see the differences.


And, looking more at the details, look at this zoom-in on the rocks. Notice how shiny and distracting they look without the polarizer and how much flatter and more of the rock detail can be seen with the polarizer in effect.

You can also use this effect when shooting through or near windows to minimize the reflections on the glass, or when shooting cars to work with the refections on the shiny paint surfaces and chrome to get the look you want.

Next time we'll talk about using Neutral Density Filters!