Monday, April 27, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Polarizers -- Don't leave home without 'em!

Photo Credit: Russ Burden

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Don’t Leave Home Without It
My biggest workhorse filter is the polarizer. Most photographers know it as the filter that makes the sky a richer blue while simultaneously making cumulous clouds more prominent. But its power goes much deeper. It’s a great tool for removing glare off reflective surfaces like glass or metal. It also works miracles removing the shine from wet leaves and rocks. When leading my photo tours to the Oregon coast, I use it to photograph tide pool scenics. Rotating the polarizer removes the glare from the pool’s surface and works wonders when we photograph waterfalls in the rain forest.

A polarizer is magical but a photographer can misuse its magic. A sky can be over polarized making it turn black. Back off on its rotation to correct this. Maximum polarization occurs when facing ninety degrees from the sun. The more you deviate from this point, the more uneven the tone in the sky. When turned 180 degrees from the sun, very little, if any, sky polarization occurs. When using 24mm and wider lenses, an unnatural dark blue area appears at the spot of maximum polarization and trails off into lighter tones on either side. When using these lenses, I tend to back off the filter unless the camera is positioned vertically and at a right angle to the sun.


Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

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