Monday, September 29, 2008

[The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind] Polarize me!

Now, it's been a while since I talked about the actual ins and outs of photography as I've learned them through what can only be described as my completely blind swan-dive into amateur picture snapping. So, I'm due, people! I must have learned something along the way...

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned polarizers in the past. They're expensive, but very handy things, if you're looking to really make your pictures look deeper and and richer and all-around nicer. The thing is, here I sit talking about photography, but I rarely post any pictures of what the hell I am rattling on about, and that makes me look like a gurgling pedant.

Weird how that happens, I guess.

Anyway, here's a picture taken without a polarizer:

Now, it's not without its charms insofar as a picture of a bunch of bowls of dribbling water can be, and hey! I think I see a quarter in there that missed its wishful pitch into the fountain (that would probably explain why that big, fat check from that nice man in Nigeria hasn't shown up yet).

So, that's without the polarizer. What does it look like with a polarizer? Well... Have a look for yourself.

Notice anything different?

If you said, "Wow Dan! Your thumb really stands out a hell of a lot better against that grass with the polarizer on the end of your lens. That's just amazing," you'd be right.

Polarizers do wonderful things to colors since they cut out certain waveforms of light that can mute or dull colors which would normally be rich and vibrant.

Let's call it glare. Polarizers get rid of glare. I think anyone with a pair of Foster Grants could tell you this. For example, look at the water. Without the polarizer, none of that is really visible since the reflection on the surface of the water covers it like a blanket. However, put the polarizer on, and now you can see the scum and stones that lay beneath the surface.

Other than that, circular polarizers can be pretty damn expensive, and the one I used here was somewhere around $100 to fit on my superwide 10-20mm lens. That's a little insane, but I also have one to fit my lenses which have a 52mm filter ring, and I grabbed that one from Best Buy for $20 (and I think they're all around that price regardless of filter size).

It's a steal!

Now, it's not the best, but it's cheap, and it works much better than its pricetag would suggest. So, if you'd like to fiddle with these things, I'd recommend starting there.


Posted By Dan to The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind at 9/29/2008 12:06:00 PM


  1. Question: I like how the glare on the water is gone on the second photo, and the color of the grass DOES look more vivie, but it seems that the brick patio looks less defined. How would you compensate for that?


  2. Hi Beth!

    The glare was taken out of the photo, and, yes, the patio did lose detail since it also took the glare off there as well.  The cool thing with a circular polarizer is that you can turn it to adjust the effect, and what you see in these two pictures are simply the extremes.  

    But, yeah.  I could have dialed it back to keep some glare or reflection in the patio.  But, this was just for an example.  

    Rock on!


  3. Thanks for the lesson.  I did pick up a polarizer.  I am going to need to spend some time experimenting soon :o)