Fall Foliage Photography Tip: Polarize

There aren’t too many filters that I use on a regular basis with one notable exception, my polarizer.  If there is one piece of equipment that I simply couldn’t live without for outdoor photography it would be my polarizing filter (and of course my tripod).  Most folks already know that a polarizer can be used to darken blue skies and make clouds pop in landscape photos.  But my favorite use of the polarizer is to cut unwanted glare from the surface of vegetation as well as wet rocks and water.  The result is more saturated color from leaves, which during Autumn is a real bonus and more contrast in the surface of water, particularly in stream shots.  There’s no secret formula or recipe for deciding when to use the polarizer, simply pull it out of the bag, hold it up to your eye and rotate the ring.  If you like what you see then use it, if not then put it away until the next shot.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.  In the first set the polarizer cut unwanted glare from the forest canopy and really brought out some great color in the leaves.  In the second series the effect was to cut the glare from the stream side rocks as well as the surface of the stream creating a more pleasing color palette as well as tonal range.

adirondack photography

with polarizer

without polarizer

vermont photography

with polarizer

without polarizer

There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when using a polarizer.  First, the filter reduces the amount of light entering the lens (usually anywhere from 1-2 stops) necessitating longer shutter speeds than without the filter.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially if you are shooting moving water or want to create some kind of motion blur.  Second, make sure to buy a circular polarizer and not a linear as the latter tends to interfere with the camera’s autofocus system.  Buy the best quality filter you can afford to ensure high image quality and always keep it clean.

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~ by kurtbudliger on October 4, 2010.

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