Dillon Murphy's picture

Can a trash filled creek be pretty?

I have a cheapish VND filter but no polarizing filter, would a polarizing filter make this kind of picture look better? I plan on doing backpacking in the Sierra Nevada this summer and am wondering if I should pick up a polarizing filter.

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11 Comments

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

It looks pretty!
The polarizing filter would help in the parts on water with glare and perhaps increase the green color and brightness on the plants in shadow.

Dillon Murphy's picture

I might have to pick one up. Ill need to check to see if I am able to thread it on top of my ND haha

Phillip Breske's picture

I’ve shot water with a polarizing filter and without and I would caution you to not put too much emphasis on its use. In this case, while it would probably bring out the colors in the foliage, the loss of the water reflections might make the surface too dark for an effective photo. All those reflections give the surface some texture and a lot of that is lost with a polarizer.

Having said that, I do recommend owning a high quality circular polarizer. They can be very handy for certain shots and there is no way to fake their effects in post. And of course you can dial in the amount of glare reduction you want with the filter, so there is that. And they reduce the amount of light entering the lens by about 2.5 stops, so you can use a longer shutter opening for buttery water movement.

Dillon Murphy's picture

Thanks for that! I will look to see if I can find a reasonably priced one

Phillip Breske's picture

Don't go too cheap. I use a B+W (German-made, approx. $85) filter and there is still a slight, though minimal, degradation of the image. You're shooting through a piece of glass, so this can't be avoided, but a cheap filter is worse than nothing.

Also, you don't want to buy more than one of these, so get one that is big enough to fit the largest filter diameter you're likely to own. In my case, my lenses are 77mm or smaller, so that's the filter size I bought. I use adapter rings to fit the smaller lenses.

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

I agree with Phillip, that sometimes it fails in its purpose, but it depends on the angle of the light and how wide your lens is. For me all wider than 20 mm gives strange results.

Phillip Breske's picture

This is true, especially when shooting skyscapes. The polarizer will have maximum effect at right angles to the sun, so the sky will be dark in the middle of the frame with the sun to your right or left. As the angle from the sun becomes more acute, the polarizing effect minimizes and the sky brightens again. At longer focal lengths, you probably won't notice it, but with a really wide lens, there may be a noticeable band through the sky.

Or if you're shooting vertically and using the polarizer to reduce glare on the the water, a wide angle lens might have a narrow band of glare-free surface while the foreground and background are full of glare.

Chris Jablonski's picture

For me, from bitter experience, I'm very careful using a polariser on a sky with any lens from 35mm and wider. What can look OK in the viewfinder or LCD can be a nightmare to even out in post.

I almost routinely use one, usually with 3- or 6-stop ND for running water, often using what looks like very minimal polarising at the time of taking. It's all too easy to get inky dark water and blown-out foam and froth, creating a harsh, highly unnatural look.

Chris Jablonski's picture

Nice image, Dillon! I can't make out the trash.

I'm not sure if you managed your 30s exposure just with your low ISO and small aperture, as the scene looks fairly bright, but I'm guessing you didn't use your filter here, especially judging by the bright reflection at left.

Your VND consists of two polarisers. By the time you screw it on, the inner one is giving you an uncontrollable degree of polarisation, and the variation is caused by varying the angle of the outer part. When they're parallel, you get maximum transmission, when they're perpendicular you get minimum.

So on a sky, or water, you get essentially uncontrolled polarisation whether you want any or not. I bought a VND, and regret the purchase, for my needs. And as other posts point out, polarisers can cause trouble for the unwary.

You've spent money on decent gear. You'll regret cheap stuff when it lets you down in the field. I'd recommend a good polariser (I use Hoya - not extreme $ by any means) and 3-, 6- and 10-stop ND filters, in the size to fit your largest lens, as Phillips says, with stepping rings to fit smaller lens mounts. I screw all four together with a screw-in rear lens cap, and a regular snap-on front one.This sandwich covers all my eventualities, and once out of my pack, I can keep it in my pocket, using whatever I need at the time. I keep a spare set of pol/3/6 in the pack after scratching one early on a trip out of town (try buying a 6-stop ND in a small country town!).

The 10-stop ND in particular needs to be a good one, as they introduce colour casts. I eventually got Breakthrough Photography 6- and 10-stop filters, ($$$!) and take care with them. My spares are all Hoya.

Dillon Murphy's picture

I actually was using my variable ND with an apurature around 11, I will definitely look for one I like, thank you for the recommendations and being aware of the sky is a great point!

I've just started using a polarizer and I will say that it works great for bright skies when colors may get washed out, but this image has good color as it is.