When I started out in photography, I almost exclusively shot landscapes. There was always something about being in the great outdoors, chasing the light and scoping out vistas that would make for a nice photograph that satisfied something deep within me... Something about the peace and tranquility of natural areas that spoke to the nature-lover within me to such an extent, that I often found myself walking home in the dark, in the middle of nowhere after losing track of time and getting carried away while trying to make the best of golden hour and twilight.
I found however that my images looked a little bit flat straight out of camera. The images I brought home with me didn't always come out the way the landscapes had been recorded in my memory and in some cases required a bit of tweaking in photoshop to give them a bit more punch. Although I do enhance the vast majority of my images either in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop CS5, I have always tried to get my images as close as possible to the way I envisioned them at the moment I pressed the shutter, with minimal post-processing.
While studying photography as part of my masters degree I undertook a project on the wetlands of Cuckmere Haven, located in the Seven Sisters Country Park in the South of England. After reading up as much as I could on landscape photography, I decided to invest in a circular polariser (spelled "polarizer" for any Americans reading this!) and my images were almost immediately brought to a new level. They were rendered more colourful, contrasty, and the skies burst with the deep blue hues in camera; something I had only ever managed to achieve through use of photoshop, often pushing my images to the point where they looked unnatural. Through use of the polariser, I was able to achieve results which were much closer to what I wanted to show and as a result, I had a lot more freedom when processing my files.
A polarising filter will enhance pretty much any landscape, but is particularly effective when it comes to watery landscapes. Polarising filters cut out polarised light which is reflected light. It is by cutting out reflections that the polarising filter works its magic. The sky is full of different particles (mainly water vapour) which reflect light and can make the sky appear brighter than it actually is to the naked eye (or lens). A polarising filter will cut out the reflection from such particles, thus revealing a deeper colour and more contrast between the clouds and sky. In the case of watery landscapes, a polarising filter can either enhance reflections, or in certain conditions (usually when held at a certain angle) can eliminate reflections entirely.
In recent years, I've turned more towards portraiture and events where polarising filters aren't as useful or beneficial, but can still yield some interesting effects, particularly when it comes to photos that include the sky. I haven't found myself in a situation where I would imagine a polarising filter enhancing my event photography, but have found myself using one for wide angle portraits in particular.
All in all, I find that it's an excellent filter for any landscape photographer (although it also has applications in other types of photography as well). It can be kept on the lens at all times, being that it doubles up as a UV filter and protects the front element of a lens, but one should bear in mind that it also cuts out up to 2 stops of light!
Below you will find a video that I made years ago for my old blog, which contains further information and sample images.
Peace Advocate Blogography
Welcome to the Peace Advocate Photography blog, where you will find everything from gear reviews to my opinions on photography and recaps of my recent shoots!