And One Filter To Rule Them All

The One Filter You Can’t Live Without.

The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Landscape, so rather than simply share a few landscape photos I’m going to talk about the one filter that should be in every nature and landscape photographers camera bag.

The one filter that cannot be duplicated in the computer, and the one filter I never leave home without.

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Straight out of camera, without polarizer.

 

That filter is the Circular Polarizer.

You can duplicate graduated neutral density filters all day long in Lightroom.

You can even simulate the effect of a straight neutral density filter simply by photographing in lower light, using smaller apertures, or lower ISO settings, thus allowing you to get longer exposure times.

However when it comes to removing the glare on shiny reflective surfaces like wet rocks and leaves, or the reflections on the surface of a flowing stream to reveal the stream bed below, there is only one way to do it. And that is with a good quality Circular Polarizer filter, or CPL for short.

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Same scene and camera settings, this time using a polarizer.

What does a Circular Polarizer do?

A circular polarizer is a filter that attaches to the front of your lens, usually by screwing onto the front filter threads. (Now you know why those threads are thereūüėČ )

What does a CPL do?

Notice how in the first image the colors are much less saturated and the details below the waters surface are much less visible. The is cause by glare. Notice how in the second image, shot using the same exposure settings,* the colors are richer, more saturated, and there is more visible detail under the water.

While a CPL can also help increase contrast and saturation in a photo, ¬†both of these¬†can be duplicated in the computer, glare and reflection removal can’t.

*Note: The second image is darker due to the ability of the Circular Polarizer to reduce the amount of light by as much as 2-stops. This is an added benefit when trying to use longer exposure times to capture flowing water with that silky smooth look.

The Benefits Continue Into The Final Image.

The better the image you get straight out of the camera the better the final image will be after post processing. The following are the above two images, processed as identically as I could. While this is totally subjective on my part the second image, the one where the circular polarizer was used, is the better final image.

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Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured without the use of a CPL

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Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured using a CPL

Tips On Buying And Using A Circular Polarizer.

1 РBuy the best you can afford. 

Cheap CPL filters can cause image softness as well as impart a color cast on your photo. I’ve used CPLs from B+W, Lee, and Singh Ray with excellent results. Be forewarned, good filters are not inexpensive, though in my opinion you get what you pay for. For more budget friendly CPL filters, check out Tiffen, or Hoya. I have no experience with the latter two, but I have read good things about their line of filters.

2 – Avoid using a CPL when photographing wide scenes.

One thing polarizers do very well is darken blue sky. Too well if you over adjust the filter. BUT, and it’s a big but, the effect of a CPL is greatest at 90¬į to the light source, for a landscape photographer this is likely the sun. The effect is reduced more and more as the angle to the sun changes. This is a big problem when photographing wide scenic landscapes with a lot of sky. The result will be part of the sky will be noticeably darker when gradually fading across the frame. This is a royal pain in the backside – by that I mean darn near impossible – ¬†to correct in the computer.

3 – Don’t for get to readjust when you recompose.

You can adjust the amount of polarization on the image by rotating the filter. As mentioned above the greatest effect is at 90¬į to the sun. So once you adjust the amount of polarization you want in an image and then move the camera for another composition, don’t forget to readjust the filter. I find it to be much easier to see the effect in live view rather than looking thru the viewfinder, but that could just be my aging eyes.

4 РYou only need one.  

Some of you may be thinking, “I have more than one lens that I use for landscape/waterfalls. Do I need a filter for each lens?” The answer is no.

Buy a filter that will fit the lens you own with the largest diameter filter threads. The buy inexpensive step-down rings to fit the filter to all of your other lenses.

 

Half Light

The blue hour over the rocky seacoast along Prouts Neck in Scarborough, Maine

 

Peaceful moments between dusk and dawn,

Life still asleep starts to awaken,

When the world is colored blue.

My Favorite Plugins Are Now Free!!

 

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I had to share this exciting news as soon as I could.

The Nik Collection by Google is now FREE!! 

That’s right, the plugins that I use on virtually every image are not $299, the price before Google bought Nik.

They’re not $149, the price after Google bought Nik.

They are FREE!!

Run, don’t walk, and get your copy today!!

Notice: these plugins require that you have either Lightroom or Photoshop as host programs, this is not stand-alone software. 

 

NH Waterfall Workshop June 17-19

Cairn At Beaver Brook Falls

Join me for 2+ days of wet and wild waterfall fun as we photograph some of the amazing waterfalls in and around the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Curves Of Time

On this 2+ day workshop we’ll visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls anywhere, some will be well known and popular, with a few secret treasures thrown in for good measure.

Hobblebush Flower

Let The Fun Begin!

The workshops start on Friday afternoon with a short meet and greet where we will go over the weekends itinerary with the possibility of getting in a few waterfalls that evening.

Then each morning we will rise bright and early in order to photograph under the best light. With any luck it will be overcast and drizzly, ideal conditions for waterfall photography.

After each mornings shooting we’ll take a mid-day break to get some rest, go over the mornings images, as well as work on some post processing techniques using Adobe Lightroom*, Photoshop*, and the Nik Collection by Google* suit of creative plugins.

*If you don’t have any of these I strongly recommend downloading the free trial of each just prior to the workshop. (I have no affiliation with any of these products, they are however what I use to creatively enhance¬†my images).

Then, after we’ve had a much needed rest, had a bite to eat, gone over some of your images and created a few masterpieces, in the afternoon we head out to do it all over again!

The only downside to the waterfall extravaganza is that there are so many spectacular waterfalls located in the area there is no way we could possibly visit them all.

Workshops are based out the very clean and extremely friendly White Mountain Hostel in Conway, NH. While it is not required to stay at the hostel( I know the hostel experience is not for everyone) I strongly recommend it to get the most out of your workshop experience. A limited number of private rooms are available.

Join me June 17-19, 2016.

Space is limited in order to be able to provide the maximum amount of personalized attention per client.

Your investment in this photographic adventure is $725*. Please use the contact form if you have any questions or to reserve your spot today.

*Meals and lodging are not included. Transportation during the workshop is provided be me.

Dance

Color In The Waves, Autumn Color Reflected On The Swift River

To the soft sweet music of the forest the water shall dance.

The Changing Face(s) Of Jeff Sinon Photography

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Remember that guy who said he’d never photograph people?

Well we had to fire him.

Turns out he(okay, it was me)¬†didn’t know what I was missing and just how much fun photographing people can be. Not to mention the challenge of stepping WAAAY outside of my normal comfort zone and photographing a subject that talks back!

Let me tell you, landscapes are easy when compared to photographing people. I don’t need to know anything about posing, the light I’m given by the sun is, like it or not, the light I have to work with. And if I botch a photograph of a waterfall that waterfall isn’t going to judge.

But those challenges have also been the unexpected fun of it all.

E-Session Anyone?

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My first engagement session was a lot of “fun.” And by “fun” I mean I was a nervous wreck. Being paid by someone to take photos of them, the whole time¬†trying to capture the love they share, adds a whole new meaning the the term “performance anxiety!”

By the end of the session I was much more at ease than when things started out, with both myself and my very patient clients being quite happy with the photos.

Practice, Practice, Practice. 

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Getting my lovely wife in front of the camera was a tough sell, but she finally caved in.

I’ve been reading everything I can and watching pretty much any video I can find on using off camera lighting, but all that knowledge was useless without being able to put it to the test on a real person. Thanks, Sweety!

All in all I think I just might be getting the hang of this whole people thing.

And for those of you wondering what the heck is going on around here, where are those beautiful landscape photos? I’ll leave you with this, just so you know I haven’t completely lost my photographic mind!ūüėČ

Sunrise and Rough Seas at Nubble Light