Polarizing Filters

I was asked about polarizing filters recently.  I usually have one with me when I travel.  By usually, I mean that it’s usually in my bag except when I really need it, but that’s another story…

Polarizing filters can do some great things – reduce or eliminate glare, enhance colors, and manage reflections.  If you want more on the how and why of a polarizing filter, click here.

So, when would you want to have a polarizing filter with you?

Here’s a list to consider:

  • Taking a bus or train or plane trip where you’ll be shooting through windows.
  • Shooting shiny or glossy objects in bright sunshine or under bright lights.
  • Heading to the beach.
  • Shooting things on or in the water.
  • Photographing colorful things like fall foliage on a cloudy/hazy day.
  • When you’re going to have to deal with reflections on a glass/clear/glossy surface.
  • When you’re shooting in stark sunlight or mid-day.

In other words, they’re not a bad thing to have in your bag.  All of the time…

One thing to remember is that any time you have a filter on your lens,  there’s a chance for internal reflections between the surface of the filter and the lens.  These reflections can be good – or they can ruin a shot.

The photo below shows a polarizing filter used to help bring out the colors on a gray day, and it shows an unintended “star” effect from the filter.  In this case, the star effect on the headlight and ditch lights arguably helps make this picture.  It wasn’t something I set out to do – but it works in this case.

I had to take a breath and a step back, because I wasn’t happy with this as a “train” picture.  For most people, it seems that this is a fall foliage picture that happens to have a train in it, and the star effect adds to the picture.  The law of Unintended Consequences reinforces the fact that we all see different things in the same picture.


For more examples of a polarizing filter used to enhance fall colors (that would look great on your wall, or on a mug), check out this gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

If you’re interested in getting a polarizing filter for your camera bag, start with your local camera store!  Without your patronage, we won’t have them – and we need small businesses like them!

Happy shooting!

Camera equipment for basic travel photography

Sometimes, The Frog travels lightly, and sometimes not.  This post is an outgrowth of the Buying a DSLR post, as it was part of that same discussion with a friend.  To me, travel photography means getting good results while traveling without a lot of stuff.  It’s easier these days, as the quality of all-in-one zoom lenses keeps getting better – and you can get great results if you know and work within the limitations of your lens.

My travel camera bag is about 10″x10″x6″, and divides into three “slots”.  It’s not huge – but there are times when convenience rules and I don’t want to be dragging a backpack around.  Since there’s not a lot of room for “stuff”, I have to think carefully about what I take because if it doesn’t fit in the travel camera bag, it doesn’t travel!  Camera equipment for basic travel photography isn’t always the same as the camera equipment I take when I’m on a photographic mission (such as trains or a specific landscape objective) – we’ll talk about that in the future.

Here’s a look at what’s in my “light” travel camera bag – camera equipment for basic travel photography.  This might give you some ideas about what you want, and/or how you might want to pack your camera bag for your travels.

The basics, which cover most travel photography:

(1) A Nikon D5100 body.  Compact, light, great low-light capability, and works well in the “idiot-proof” mode where it does everything or in a manual mode where I do everything.
(2) A Tamron 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens.  A great all-in-one zoom with stabilization, and it goes on sale from time to time!  Also comes with a great warranty.
(3) The camera’s battery charger and an extra battery.
(4) A microfiber cleaning cloth.  (Yes, T-shirts work too, but the cleaning cloth is kinder to your lens.)

The basics and indoor/low light: All of the above plus (5) a Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens.  A fast prime lens can’t be beat, especially if you’re taking pictures at night or in low light.

The basics plus: #’s 1-5 plus (6) a Nikon SB-600 external flash.  This can be used for fill flash during the day or a night/indoor flash, and it does a pretty good job throughout the zoom’s entire range.

The basics and landscape photography: (1), (2), (3), (4) and (7) a Tamron 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 Di II lens.  This lens does not have stabilizing or vibration reduction capability – so our friend the tripod often comes along with his friend the remote cable release.  If I really want to stuff the bag, the 35mm lens (5) makes the trip as well.

Good things can come from small places!