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July 19, 2017

Polarizing Filters: What are they and
why you should use them?

Adventure

What is a polarizing filter and what does it do?

A polarizing filter removes light that has been reflected in the scene you are trying to shoot. For example, sun or light glare off a lake or remove glare from a car window. By modifying the reflected light through the polarizing filter it allows a cleaner more contrast shot. You can use a polarizer to eliminate reflection or enhance them by turning the dial until the desired setting is achieved.

When you reduce reflections the polarizer really goes to work. Reducing reflected light makes the shot more vibrant. The skies become more blue, deeper greens in landscape shots and other objects appear slightly more saturated. A polarizer’s advantage is mostly seen outside and not typically used indoors unless you are dealing with reflections in a window. The reduction of light also under exposes the shot so the necessary adjustments must be made in order to compensate and expose your shot properly. Without it the photo below would be blown out in the background.

Hang Son Doong Cave Garden of Edam from below

Which one do I use and why?

Whenever I travel, whether it’s for an expedition, hike or any style of travel, I always bring some form of filters with me. I like to use screw on filters which make it easy to get shots and use hand held. It suits my run and gun style of shooting. Finding a high performing filter for your DSLR can be a massive challenge. One of the filters I bring with me and shoot as often as I can is the HOYA HD3 CIR Polarizer. It is my Polarizer of choice. It can transmit 2/3 stop more light than other filters I have tried in the past. The film with UV absorbing is second to none for performance. Another big thing I appreciated was the ultra-thin filter frame to help avoid vignetting on wide-angle lenses and reduction in any reflections. Other filters I’ve used seemed to always have that blue vignetting around the edge which can present a huge challenge for non-full frame DSLR cameras by cropping even more on shots to remove the vignetting in post.

Polarizers are often said to be similar to ND filters, but that’s not accurate. Think of it as adjustable polarized sunglasses for your lens. If you want more glare you turn the polarizer one way until this result is achieved or if you want less glare you turn it until the desires results is seen in your frame. ND filters block light coming in from all directions, polarizing filters cut out light coming in from one specific direction, hence the term “polarizing.”

When on expeditions especially Hang Son Doong Cave in Vietnam I didn’t have much time to mess with filters and usually the only lights I had were my headlamp to light my camera, tripod and backpack. A screw in shallow profile filter like the HOYA HD3 CIR Polarizer was my filter of choice.

I remember hearing you could wipe these filters with anything and they couldn’t scratch. I thought to myself, is that true? I’ll destroy the filter and its coating using my shirt or pants. I recently was able to test the durability inside Hang Son Doong cave where I was constantly covered in gritty dirt and my gloves were always gritty. With the moisture of humidity and being inside a massive dark cave, it was literally impossible to find a clean wipe cloth at times making a quick wipe of condensation off with a clean piece of clothing to get the shot without one scratch!

Below, is an example of me shooting one of our team on top of a massive stalagmite and where I used a HOYA variable ND filter to help bring in the background block that additional light coming in from the opening in the distance.

Hang Son Doong Cave Vietnam

Another reason why I use Hoya’s polarizer is for richer landscape contrasts when shooting and less reflection on water based shots. It helped boosting the overall shot with remarkable accuracy in colors.

Here is a shot of Hang Son Doong Cave and where the HOYA HD3 CIR Polarizer came in super handy to help with the rich colors of the biggest opening inside the cave called “Garden of Edam”. Notice the accuracy of the greens and not a “blue” image which can happen using lower quality Polarizers.

Using HOYA filters has been a game changer for me. Due to the high quality and technology of these filters it has dramatically improved my photography. I highly recommend trying HOYA’s HD3 CIR Polarizer, HOYA’s IRND (Infrared Neutral Density) and HOYA’s variable ND and have them in your arsenal at all times because light is ever-changing in outdoor photography.

by Gregg Jaden