Are there any folks out there who use polarizing filters on their cameras? When it comes to nature photos, what are some interesting things that you can achieve with polarizers, and what are some unexpected pitfalls when using polarizers?
A while back, I got a circular polarizing filter for my camera, thinking that I could use it to cut glare on the surface of water when taking photos of organisms in streams and ponds, as I do occasionally. I finally got around to taking the polarizer out of its packaging yesterday and went around this afternoon with it on my camera to take some test shots.
While it definitely could cut glare from the surface of water, on wet surfaces, and on some other reflective surfaces, I couldn’t see many other obvious applications for nature shots. Mostly it just seemed to act as an ND filter (cutting down on available light in general).
Below are shots of the same turtle. The first photo is with the filter rotated to minimum polarization. (It closely matches what I was seeing in person.) The second photo is with the filter rotated to maximum polarization.
What I notice is that with max polarization, I can see a lot more detail in the shell, and I can also see more of the vegetation under the water. On the other hand, it makes the overall image seem very flat, and the colors overall even seem to be just a bit more yellow. (Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but they just look different than what I actually perceived.)
I also took one photo of a fly (Helophilus fasciatus), and the filter seems to have cut down quite a bit on the glare that I was seeing on its wings – in person they looked very white due to the glare – though I didn’t take any max/min shots to compare.
I heard that polarizers are also supposed to be able cut down on the glare on the surface of leaves. So I tried taking some photos of plants with glossy leaves, but it seemed like the effect was very subtle (maybe because different leaves reflect light at different angles?) – not really worth the extra effort.
The only other thing that I can think of that maybe polarizers might be useful for is photographing critters captured in glass bottles or that sort of thing, though that’s not a typical use case for me.
If you all know of any other useful applications for polarizing filters, or if you know of any potential unexpected bad effects of using them, please share.