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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Do More With Your Polarizer

It’s the ultimate outdoor photography landscape filter, and we’ll show you how to do more than just darken skies

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Gary Hart's Recipe For Using A Polarizer
> Always on (unless it's night)
> No other filters except a graduated neutral-density filter, when needed
> Compose my shot and lock it in place on my tripod
> Turn the polarizer to get the
effect I want

> Expose the scene
> Check for lens flare, and shield,
if necessary

> Click
> Vignetting. Another problem a polarizer can introduce is vignetting. With two pieces of sandwiched glass in a frame, allowing the top glass to rotate relative to the bottom glass, a standard polarizer is fairly thick. The field of view of ultrawide lenses can be so large that, at their widest focal length, they risk including the polarizer's frame. Polarizer vignetting manifests as dark edges on your images, particularly at the corners.

Most of the best polarizer manufacturers offer a low-profile version that minimizes vignetting. Low-profile polarizers typically cost more, they sometimes require a special lens cap, which can be a minor annoyance, and they don't have external threads to accommodate another filter.

How I Use My Polarizer
> It's almost always on. Since I'm all about simplicity in the field, and determining whether I need a polarizer and then installing or removing it as needed is more trouble than it's worth, each lens has its own polarizer that never comes off during daylight hours. I remove my polarizer only when I need more light; but remember, I'm always on a tripod, so unless it's night or I'm dealing with wind or water motion, the light lost to the polarizer isn't a concern (Image 6).

But shooting with no polarizer is better than using an incorrectly oriented polarizer. If you're going to follow my "always on" polarizer approach, you must be diligent about rotating the polarizer and checking its effect on each composition or risk doing more harm than good to your image.

> Protection. Like many photographers, I always use a filter as protection for my front lens element; unlike many photographers, I don't use UV or skylight filters. While it's possible to stack a polarizer with a UV or skylight filter, I don't. Instead, because it almost never comes off, my polarizer doubles as protection for the front lens element.

How To Stretch Your Polarizer Budget
If you have a lot of different-sized lenses, buying a polarizer for each can get expensive in a hurry. Not all scenes benefit equally from a polarizer, and photographers on a budget can't always afford one for every lens. A viable solution is to buy one for your largest-diameter lens and use step-up/step-down adapters for your other lenses. As long as you're shooting on a tripod, another solution is simply to hold the large polarizer in front of the smaller lens as you shoot. Just take care not to have your hand in the shot!


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