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07-25-2009, 06:22 AM   #1
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What a polarizer does

Taking a walk up a stream recently, I had a nice opportunity to take two pictures which really illustrate what a polarizer does to reflections, and the colours of foliage. A polarizer also deepens the blue of the sky, but you cna't have everything in one picture...

First shot:



Polarizer rotated 90 degrees:



07-25-2009, 10:12 AM   #2
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Frankly, I do not think you got the best effect from your polarizer. The most noticeable thing with your polarized shot is that the highlights are blown out. I hate it when people do this, but here goes anyway. I have cropped your image and did some dodging and burning just to see how I could improve the image to my taste ...this is of course subjective.

07-25-2009, 04:09 PM   #3
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The highlights in the top red corner are blown for both shots Although I like this (these) shot (s) a lot, they are not technically perfect. But I don't see what you mean by "not getting the best effect". the point was to show the effect on water and foliage. To me it looks obvious, the green is much more saturated when the polarizer is oriented so as to block the reflected light from the water.
07-26-2009, 05:56 AM   #4
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I have mixed feelings about using a polarizing filter. Your shots are a good example why, the foliage gets a light green that is not really pleasing IMHO. The color balance is often changed and sometimes it gives the rich highly saturated color look but sometimes it also look a bit unnatural.

It would be interesting to see the effect on various objects:
- cut the reflections on water
- darken the blue skies, the clouds are more defined
- glass reflections are cut
- reflections on foliage
etc.

07-26-2009, 09:30 AM   #5
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I'm a big fan of using polarisers for landscapes..they can transform an otherwise flat image into something quite striking. The colours aren't always to everyones taste but personally I'd never be without one. Here are a couple of shots to illustrate the effect further, taken seconds apart - 1st with no polarisation, 2nd with full effect

Simon



07-26-2009, 09:47 AM   #6
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I use a polarizer for almost every landscape shot but there are times when the saturation can get a little too intense. It depends on the shot I suppose. I just wish somebody would make a quick release or something alternative to a screw mount. Although they are secure they take a long time to attach and detach filters. I'm rambling.

Polarizers are great. Obtain one.
07-26-2009, 10:38 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by petercrane Quote
I use a polarizer for almost every landscape shot but there are times when the saturation can get a little too intense. It depends on the shot I suppose. I just wish somebody would make a quick release or something alternative to a screw mount. Although they are secure they take a long time to attach and detach filters. I'm rambling.

Polarizers are great. Obtain one.
Peter,

The 2 shots I posted were both taken with the polariser in place, I find that it only produces the effect when rotated to the desired position and the effect can be easily made stronger/weaker as it's rotated - the only slight negative I find with permanently having the polariser screwed into the lens is that you lose 1 stop of light, not much of a problem during peak daylight when a polariser is probably at its most useful anyway

Simon
07-26-2009, 11:47 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by petercrane Quote
I use a polarizer for almost every landscape shot but there are times when the saturation can get a little too intense. It depends on the shot I suppose. I just wish somebody would make a quick release or something alternative to a screw mount. Although they are secure they take a long time to attach and detach filters. I'm rambling.

Polarizers are great. Obtain one.
The Quick release can be achieved if you use Cokin-P system or similar design.
On the other hand it takes much more space, you have to buy expensive, large size polariser and it makes you buy special cap for quick operation and are less safe (many parts, easier to drop something when outside).

Maybe if you could find something like this:
New 52mm Snap-on Wide Angle Lens Hood - eBay (item 200358237058 end time Jul-30-09 04:46:00 PDT)
but one which has its own filter thread, it would make for a nice solution.

07-26-2009, 12:56 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ManuH Quote
I have mixed feelings about using a polarizing filter. Your shots are a good example why, the foliage gets a light green that is not really pleasing IMHO. The color balance is often changed and sometimes it gives the rich highly saturated color look but sometimes it also look a bit unnatural.

It would be interesting to see the effect on various objects:
- cut the reflections on water
- darken the blue skies, the clouds are more defined
- glass reflections are cut
- reflections on foliage
etc.
Thats a good way to say it, i have mixed feelings too.

I bought a cir polarizer for my walk around lens, and hardly ever use it now. The best application, i think, is if you want to punch through the surface of the water to photo something underneath.

The worst surprise i had is that polarizers take out the minute reflections that make up a long exposed water flow picture. I noticed in the examples above, that there wasn't a lot of white in that flowing stream. My experience is that is due to the polarizer.

On wide landscape images, there is also a tendency for the polarizers to show a sky darkening gradient from left to right or vice versa as the polarizer reacts to the direction of the light.

As to the beautiful landscape image (kudos to the taker of that image), i don't have any problem punching up an image without polarizers. With Lightroom, adjustments of the contrast, tone curve, clarity, and others seem more than able to punch up images.

I do have a friend that i met in the local photo club, that keeps a polarizer on his camera most of the time, but i don't see any improvement in the quality of his images over my images.

I'm sure that there is still a case that can be made for the use of polarizers, but i'm thinking that modern software has eaten away at some of those advantages.
07-26-2009, 02:27 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
Thats a good way to say it, i have mixed feelings too.

As to the beautiful landscape image (kudos to the taker of that image), i don't have any problem punching up an image without polarizers. With Lightroom, adjustments of the contrast, tone curve, clarity, and others seem more than able to punch up images.

I'm sure that there is still a case that can be made for the use of polarizers, but i'm thinking that modern software has eaten away at some of those advantages.
I agree that it's possible to improve images using PP there needs to be something there to work with to start with regarding the lighting, the landscape shot I posted with the polariser (vs the one without) would be near impossible to reproduce or at least require major & extremely time consuming PP to get close to.

IMHO a polariser is probably THE only filter that imaging software just can't replicate.

As I said though it's not for everyone and certainly no replacement for good lighting, it just helps turn an otherwise ordinary shot into something more eye-catching

Simon
07-26-2009, 02:33 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
On wide landscape images, there is also a tendency for the polarizers to show a sky darkening gradient from left to right or vice versa as the polarizer reacts to the direction of the light.
In this case it's up to you whether to use the polariser, not use the polariser, or change your photo's angle. At worst, the polariser is pointless and your photo will be the same as it was anyway.

QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
As to the beautiful landscape image (kudos to the taker of that image), i don't have any problem punching up an image without polarizers. With Lightroom, adjustments of the contrast, tone curve, clarity, and others seem more than able to punch up images.
Post-processing might be able to replicate some of the the polariser's effects but it will also cause a drop in image quality - which I think is over-played but which does really matter in landscapes.

QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
I do have a friend that i met in the local photo club, that keeps a polarizer on his camera most of the time, but i don't see any improvement in the quality of his images over my images.
What kind of photos does he use the polariser for? If it's left on for everything, I think it's just an effective way to lose a couple of stops of light.

QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
I'm sure that there is still a case that can be made for the use of polarizers, but i'm thinking that modern software has eaten away at some of those advantages.
While some photos can be given polariser-type effects in post-processing, many of the polarisers effects cannot be reproduced, and if reproduced, mean a drop in image quality. There's no way to bring out detail from burnt highlights, or increase saturation or contrast without degrading the image (if only a little bit). This may be exactly what you mean, and as you noted, the water-reflection use you noted is one of the effects that is almost impossible to reproduce.

I just think the emphasis should be the other way, if a polariser will create a higher-quality image as the camera saves it - then there's little reason for not using one. Mostly referring to landscapes here.
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