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07-18-2019, 05:16 AM   #1
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Photographying in summer with polarizer or sunglasses?

It is mid summer here in Europe, very sunny days, early sunrises and late sunsets, also a period of the year when a lot of people become tourist traveling to nice sight seeing destinations (you see what I mean...).
Lots of sun is nice, set your camera to 100 ISO, unfortunately daylight shots don't look good, intense highlight, black shadows, with atmospheric haze on top.
You will say: "it's easy, just screw a polar filter on your lens".

Using a CPL means:
- losing 1 stop of light (Ok, if there is plenty of sun)
- having to rotate and double guess what the right amount of rotation should be
- getting a little less haze, a little more saturation, not a huge improvement
- and, non uniform effect with a wide angle / wide field of view

On the contrary, I'm impressed by what I see with my sun glasses, the pictures taken by the camera even with using a CPL are never as good as what I see with sunglasses, often lead to being disappointing by the photographs compared to what I saw when wearing sunglasses. So does anyone know what the difference of secret recipe between sun glasses and photographic polar filters sold? Should I bring my Pentax K1 to the eye doctor and ask for a special summer monocular prescription?

07-18-2019, 05:50 AM - 4 Likes   #2
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It depends on the sunglasses but many seem to include some color filtration that removes shorter wavelengths light common in haze and that give the lens a brownish tint.

If your sunglasses are prescription glasses, you might well be able to find a friendly optician who could order an uncut 0-diopter lens made with your sunglass's materials and coatings. I think they are available in diameters of 50mm and maybe 70mm.

P.S. Step 1 might be to try to shoot a picture through your sunglasses to see if they really help. The difference between the CPL and your sunglasses could be the difference between a silicon CMOS sensor and a carbon-based retina sensor.

Last edited by photoptimist; 07-18-2019 at 06:14 AM.
07-18-2019, 05:58 AM   #3
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It's the same for me: I much prefer the way things look through my sunglasses, and I've never found a photographic polariser that works as well. I think I did get better results with linear polarisers back in my film days than I do with modern circular polarisers on a DSLR, but that might be more because of the differences between film and digital sensors than because of the polarisers themselves.
07-18-2019, 06:14 AM - 2 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
It's the same for me: I much prefer the way things look through my sunglasses, and I've never found a photographic polariser that works as well. I think I did get better results with linear polarisers back in my film days than I do with modern circular polarisers on a DSLR, but that might be more because of the differences between film and digital sensors than because of the polarisers themselves.
Polarizers vary in quality. Cheaper ones have poor polarization performance in shorter wavelengths (the opposite of what is needed for cutting haze.)

If you stack two polarizers (Note: if the front one is a CPL, it will have to be reversed) and rotate one, the scene should go pitch black. If either polarizer is of low quality, the scene might just become dark blue or purple.

Also, some TVs, laptops, and LCD screens have extreme good polarizers in them (which are required to get the blackest blacks). You can test your polarizers by looking at the screen through the filter, and rotating it. If the polarizer is high-quality (screen goes black) or low quality (screen goes blue/purple/muddy gray). If the view of the screen doesn't change much, then the screen either doesn't use LCD or it has a quarterwave plate on it.

07-18-2019, 06:23 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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I suspect some (a lot? most?) of this is a psychological effect.

When viewing with your eyes in real time, there is a lot of processing going on in your brain, because you "know" what things should look like. So, the variation in intensity across your field of view due to polarization effects get compensated for.

Whereas, your camera records (more or less) exactly what the light intensity is across the FoV.

Try comparing wide angle views/shots (where the polarization is likely to be variable*) with narrower FoV views/shots.

Are your sunglasses polarized? If, as photoptimist suggests, they are in reality mostly tinted/absorbing (of UV rays in particular - which are what contribute most to the scattered light due to haze), they do not cause any effects due to polarization, and hence won't see the scenery as does your camera with polarizer.

*Polarization of scatted sunlight depends on the angle of view with respect to the position of the sun. The polarization effect is most pronounced (highest fraction of the scattered light is polarized) for light coming to you at an angle of 90 degrees from the sun. If the sun was exactly straight overhead, polarization would be maximum along the horizon - and a photograph with a polarizer might look almost "normal." If the sun is rather low in the sky (conditions for early morning and late afternoon - especially at higher European latitudes), and you are shooting with a wide angle lens in a direction at ~45 degrees from the sun, there will be significant variation in the intensity of the polarized light across the FoV - maximum near the edge away from the sun and minimum on the edge near the sun - the effect being biggest if your FoV happens to be around 90 degrees.

CPL versus linear makes no difference - that has to do only with how the filter achieves polarization filtration and passes the light on to the sensor - not the effect of the impinging polarized light.
07-18-2019, 06:38 AM - 3 Likes   #6
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The human visual system (eyes plus brain) should be getting more credit than the sunglasses get.

Our vision is wide angle but we only concentrate on a small part of the field. As you shift concentration between bright and dark features your vision reflexively reconfigures itself. We have 20+ stops of dynamic range. We aren't limited by a viewing screen or printer.

Cameras vs. The Human Eye
07-18-2019, 06:45 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
- having to rotate and double guess what the right amount of rotation should be
I just rotate until I achieve maximum contrast between the clouds and the clear blue sky, or when the green of the vegetation achieves maximum colour saturation. I don't use a polarizing filter on overcast days.
07-18-2019, 06:49 AM - 1 Like   #8
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" there's [ an article ] for that "

Polarizing Filter Basics - Articles and Tips | PentaxForums.com

well, it talks about polarizing filters at least

07-18-2019, 08:20 AM - 3 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
So does anyone know what the difference of secret recipe between sun glasses and photographic polar filters sold?
The difference is the additional tint (usually minus blue) with the sunglasses plus the superb detector in the back of and behind your eyes.


Steve
07-18-2019, 09:25 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
It depends on the sunglasses but many seem to include some color filtration that removes shorter wavelengths light common in haze and that give the lens a brownish tint.
I have an old pair of sunglasses made to correct vision, has polarizing filter layer + color filter (more like green/yellow) and it give the visual impression of lots of contrast, colorful without haze. I have seen ND filters, ND grad filters, CPL filters, and B&W color filters for photography, but never seen any filter optimized for photography in harsh summer light.

---------- Post added 18-07-19 at 18:27 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
P.S. Step 1 might be to try to shoot a picture through your sunglasses to see if they really help.
Ah ah, I've tried step 1 already (with old glasses) but those glasses aren't flat, and they are too small to cover the front of the lens, not an easy task.

---------- Post added 18-07-19 at 18:32 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
Polarization of scatted sunlight depends on the angle of view with respect to the position of the sun.
Yes, that's what I see in the skies with a CPL on the camera on a wide angle lens. I suppose my two eyes behind the sunglasses are also wide angle but I do not seen a the blue sky fading on the corners like it is with the camera.
07-18-2019, 10:27 AM - 1 Like   #11
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I have never seen an optical filter that produces post card color intensity. I am happy that I have never seen one.
Use PL, play in Lightroom...
07-20-2019, 12:15 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by zapp Quote
I have never seen an optical filter that produces post card color intensity.
Thanks for pointing that out. It's perhaps that sunglasses set unnatural expectations for how the scenes looked like, from memory.
07-20-2019, 01:28 AM - 2 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
The difference is the superb detector in the back of and behind your eyes.
YES.
Our brain sees what it wants to see. The camera sensor sees what is actually there.
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