The Circular Polariser Filter – I get it now

Those of you who know and have been out shooting with me will have heard me say that I “don’t get” polarising filters. I’ve had a Hoya Circular Polariser for some time and it’s sat in a drawer looking forlorn, because every time I use it I seem to get no noticeable difference in the shots and as a result don’t use it unless I want to stack filters for long exposure shots.

Speaking to a friend recently about the problems of taking shots on holiday where the sun is bright and the sky somehow bluer got me thinking about my forgotten filter so I dug it out of the studio before we headed to Florida. Having used it for a few days I can honestly say that I fully appreciate the filter now. It is a godsend and during the day helps the outdoor shots I get no end.

The sun is directly overhead here in Florida and toasty hot by late morning, so the shadows are harsh and the light bright. Using the Polariser I’m getting a deeper blue sky and a reduction in the amount of reflection by a significant margin. Without it I’d be consigning even more shots to the junk folder, and I’m not taking as many this year anyway.

The Benefits of a Polarising Filter

The Benefits of a Polarising Filter

To demonstrate what I mean the image to the left shows just the difference a polarising filter makes. This shot is taken in aperture-priority mode with the aperture at f/4.0 and ISO 100. I used the Nikon D610 with the Nikon 24-70mm lens.

The left half is without the filter and is 1/1250 exposure while the right half with the polariser is down at 1/400 exposure. The colours are sooooo much better in the sky and the lake while leaving the boat (well, soda sales kiosk) pretty much untouched. Except for cropping and a tiny bit of sharpening there have been no other edits to this image which shows the difference that the filter is making.

The key thing to remember is that I MUST take it off when I shoot indoors – the filter gives about a 1-stop reduction in light, so when I venture indoors and shoot a dark ride at ISO 3200 and yet still can’t get a sensible shutter speed it’s time to think about what I’ve left screwed onto the front of the lens…caught me out twice this has already, d’oh.

The experts say that it is best to get it right in camera and they aren’t wrong. I’ve not yet found a filter or plug-in which works as well as this to reduce the glare and enhance the colours, and as a result the Polarising Filter has pride of place in my new little camera bag, and will stay with me all holiday – and back home if we ever get blue skies in the UK!

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2 Responses to “The Circular Polariser Filter – I get it now”

  1. HH says:

    The only thing I use a CPL for in the UK is controlling reflections (including in the studio). I use one all the time when we’re abroad though. Love what they do to clouds. 🙂

  2. Macgeth says:

    Great article Adrian.

    I too use a polariser, but sometimes the conditions have got be just right. The Florida images look so much richer with the polariser.

    Also, like you i leave it on, not so good for indoors!!

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