A polarizer is an indispensable tool when it comes to landscape photography. The ability of a polarizer to reduce and even remove glare from water and foliage can still not be reproduced in post processing. That's why many photographers swear by always using one when photographing waterfalls. However, there are certain instances where a polarizer can create problems in your images. Let's look at a problem I recently stumbled upon when photographing a waterfall and stream and what I did to correct it.
Like any good photographer, I put my circular polarizer on when photographing a small cascade located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I set up my composition and then turned the polarizer until the maximum effect was applied to the image. After taking the image I studied it on the back of my camera for the usual suspects: sharpness, composition, exposure and detail in the water. I quickly realized an issue with my image. The water in the middle of the image was completely gone and thus not connecting the upper pool with the stream below. See the image below.
Water disappears when using a polarizer
The polarizer completely removed the glare from the water and thus allowed only the rock below it to show up in the image! How can I get the effect of the polarizer on the rest of the image while bringing back the water in the one section?
Easy! I took the same image but this time I turned the polarizer until the effect was completely removed from the scene. BAM! The water in the middle section was back!
Without polarization the water reappears
To bring the final image together I brought both images into Photoshop as layers and quickly masked in the water from the non-polarized image into the polarized image. A little more processing and I ended with the final image below, complete with a continuous stream of water!
Final image with the polarized and non-polarized image blended together in Photoshop
A circular polarizer is a great tool and definately should be in your camera bag if you are a landscape photographer! But just like any tool it can have negative effects. Just be aware of them and you will get the image you envisioned.
Explore | Compose | Capture | Publish
Keywords: create, creativity, j. silkstone photography, landscape, learning, north carolina photographer, photography tip, polarizer
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