Monday, 4 May 2015

Filters - The Polarizer

The CPL (Circular Polarizer) essential filter for anyone that that shoots landscapes or travel. Over the years we have worked a lot in the Pacific Islands and this filter practical lives on the lenses. It is great for images where you want to darken skies giving it more drama and emphasizing the clouds, to cut through reflections off glass, or reduce glare from the surface of water or the sea. It also saturates colours to make the scene more vibrant, especially blue skies, bodies of water and foliage. It is one of the few filters that has not really been properly replicated in software.

They are available in standard filter sizes however you can also get slim versions which are a lot narrower and better for wide angle lenses (usually below 24mm) where vignetting can be a problem. The filters are quite expensive so ensure that you always keep them scratch free and clean. Here are some tips to using them -
  1. Always remove your UV(0) filter before attaching a Polariser as the combined filters may cause vignetting, especially on wide angle lenses. 
  2. Really be careful when using the lens on very wide angle lenses. Incorrect use can leave you with uneven polarisation across the image which is hard to correct when editing. 
  3. Great to use when you are shooting in low light and you want to get a slow shutter speed to blur motion such as a waterfall. If the shutter speed is not as slow as you want and you are already using a small aperture (F22) then a Polariser will reduce 2 more stops of light. For example - if you are shooting at F22 and your camera will only give you a 1 sec exposure, using a polariser will give you a 4 sec exposure. Naturally if you have ND (Neutral Density) filters then they would be a better alternative. 
  4. The maximum effect of polarization is achieved when the lens is pointed about 90 degrees from the sun in any direction. If the sun is in front of you, or directly behind you and close to the horizon, you may not see the effect of polarization on the sky at all.
There are many great brands available to purchase however we have been using Hoya since the 80's and they have never let us down. Other brands include Lee, Tiffen, B+W and Heliopan.

These filters are absolutely indispensable for the Travel Photographer (and many other genres of photography) so make sure that it is at the very top of your list when starting out or buying a new lens with a different thread diameter. 

You can find a great selection of CPL filters at great prices on Amazon.

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