Sometimes I wonder why everyone seems to know more camera stuff than I do. Maybe that’s why I’m on my second photography class at San Francisco Community College. This one is Outdoor Lighting Techniques. And just like the Beginning Photography course I took earlier, everyone, but me seems to know this stuff already.
However, there may be a few of you lurking out there who don’t know about Polarizing filters (this week’s lesson), so, for you, I’ll pass on what I’ve learned.
You’ll remember that Tuesday, we had a field trip to Pacifica’s Mori Point to seek out glare and neutralize it with a Polarizing filter. You’ll also remember that the fog came in thick and fast in that Northern California way. No sun. No glare. No dice with a Polarizing filter. So this week has been spent praying for sun and trying to fulfill the assignment.
Here’s the scoop on a Polarizing filter or at least what I’ve learned:
1. First of all, this is one of the most valuable, versatile filters you can have. It allows you to mitigate bright, glarey light. In that kind of light, it brings out details and contrasts that you wouldn’t normally see. And, if you get more advanced and try to create that “fuzzy waterfall” look by shooting in low light, the filter will let you simulate an even lower light to keep the shutter speed slower. (But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.)
2. It’s relatively cheap as camera accessories go. I got one for $40. But it gives you a lot of flexibility.
3. The Polarizing filter is one of the easiest filters to use. Instead of having to take it on and off, you just twist it to select or deselect the effect.
Here is the photo evidence.
Now, I’ve twisted the Polarizing filter to activate Polarization.
So here’s how it works with water. This is a shot of the pond in full sunlight.
Now look at it with Polarization:
In the right light, the Polarizer can change the whole nature of the photo. Here is the barn shot up against the bright sky.
Now look what Polarization does to the glare in the windows.
The interesting thing I learned from this exercise: you don’t necessarily have to be standing out in bright sunlight for your Polarizer to help you. Look at this photo taken under the eaves near the stalls in the barn.
Now check out the subtle, but important difference the Polarizer makes.
I should offer full disclosure on Polarization. It’s not always as easy as twisting the Polarizer to “on” position or “off” position. Light and glare are tricky little suckers. They bounce around from all angles. In my experience, you just have to play with it. Maybe move yourself around at different angles to the light. Then practice with Polarizer off and on to see what works best.
Oh, and note to self: Make sure, as your stubby fingers are fiddling with the Polarizer, they aren’t still in the way when you snap the shutter. (See the non polarized photo of the barn above!)