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Do I need polarizer when I shoot reflections in Canadian lakes / ponds

Oleg Lempert , Aug 25, 2008; 11:17 a.m.

Hi, I am going to Banff / Yoho NP in September. I see many great oportunities there to take pictures of mountains reflected in lakes and ponds. I have been reading mixed opinions about using Circular Polarizer filter on reflections. Some say it is necessary while others reason that Polarizers only mess up the shot. I purchased the book on photography in Canadian Rockies by Darwin Wiggett. Almost all reflection pics in the book are taken with Sing-Ray Warming Polarizer Plus. By definition, polarizers REDUCE reflection. What am I missing here?


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Randall Ellis , Aug 25, 2008; 11:42 a.m.

They allow you to control the *amount* of reflection, and warming polarizers are popular with many landscape photographers for the effect that they have on light temperature.

- Randy

Peter Mounier , Aug 25, 2008; 12:17 p.m.

Polarizers only reduce reflected glare, not reflections themselves. They may make the reflection of the mountains more visible by reducing the glare coming off the lake. Glare in photos often reduce the saturation, making the colors look dull.


Alex Lofquist , Aug 25, 2008; 12:29 p.m.

Polarizers do not necessarily reduce reflections. They only help control them. In terms of effect, there is no difference between a linear or circular polarizer. Reflections in lakes are a trade-off in that the filter orientation may be at a significantly different angle for maximum effect for the lake, or the sky. Throw a rainbow (which is strongly polarized) into the scene, and you will have a lot of fun trying to optmize the effect that you want. You may wish to consider using a neutral grad filter in combination with the pol.

Frank Uhlig , Aug 25, 2008; 12:34 p.m.

You could leave out the adjective and your query would make more universal sense.

Such as in : " Do I need polarizer when I shoot reflections in lakes / ponds?"

There is no strict need; it can be done nicely without, but you can make good use out of a CF in water photography to de- or increase the reflection intensity. Your choice.

Ross Murphy , Aug 25, 2008; 01:17 p.m.

More important is a GND filter, this shot was used with a .9 Lee soft edge GND and no polariser, it depends on the situation (link)

Mary Doo , Aug 25, 2008; 01:27 p.m.

Beautiful area! I won't mind going back again. Darwin knows where everything is.

Oh yea, be sure to use a CP and grad ND filter (as Ross suggested). I actually used the hard edge more. Here is one.

Have fun, Mary

Robert Chura , Aug 25, 2008; 01:41 p.m.

You could always take one with and one without the filter.

Kin Lau , Aug 25, 2008; 02:47 p.m.

We just got back from Banff/Yoho/Kootenay/Jasper... very beautiful and Mr Wiggett's book is well worth it.

With a polarizer and reflections, you can try it yourself - you don't need Canadian water :) Just try shooting a reflection in a local pond/fountain or in case there's neither, carry a bowl of water. As you rotate the polarizer, you'll see the effect on the reflection in the water.

If you're flying out of Calgary, TheCameraStore.com carries the Singh-Ray GND's.

For a September visit, make sure you bring warm clothing as well, you may very well see sub-zero temps. If you're camping, bring ear-plugs, most of the sites are very near the railway and the Trans-Canada highway runs right thru the park.

Joseph Smith , Aug 25, 2008; 03:28 p.m.

Go to Darwin's web site and read his articles about how he uses the polarizer and Grduated Neutral Density filters and you see that the posters have got it correct. http://www.darwinwiggett.com/articles.html

Start with the articles at the bottom of the list. If you have access to a bookstore loook for a magazine entitled something like Canadian Outdoor Photographer and you will see articles by him worth reading before your trip.

The most important thing for good refllection shots is no wind (get up and be in position before sunrise) and GND filters. If glare is coming off of the water, remove it with your polarizer. Polarizers do not reduce reflections. Blend the "lights" present with your GNDs if needed. I tend to underestimate the strength of the GND needed. I suggest you take 2 stop and 3 stop GNDs with you, both hard and soft. I use mine in a Cokin P holder with a Singh Ray warming polarizer when needed. If you use a holder system like a Cokin P or other brand, make sure it is ready to go at all times. In the Canadian Rockies, the light changes frequently and it takes too much time to assemble it.

While in Banff make sure you go to Vermillion Lakes in late afternoon or for sunrise or both. I have never been to Yoho. Enjoy your trip. Joe Smith

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