It’s the filter, stupid!

So, when I packed the camera bag for vacation, I grabbed an old polarizing filter.  By old, I mean “linear”.  But it’s also 30+ years old. (Does that make it old old?

(Hint: if you’re buying a filter, buy the best filter you can afford.  They don’t go bad.  Indeed, they usually meet their maker by being dropped.  Or being sat on and bent.  Not that I know anything about that – I’ve just heard…  Seriously though, if a filter’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is.)

Anyway, what’s the big deal about a linear polarizing filter?  Well, linear filters were just fine back in the days when autofocus cameras were a fantasy and Kodachrome ruled.  You rotated the filter to get your desired effect, pressed the shutter release, and went on about your business.

These days, with autofocus cameras, one needs to think and buy a circular polarizing filters  Why?  Your contemporary autofocus – autoexposure camera’s meter likes circular polarizers.  It’s all about physics, and I’m not a physicist, so I’m not even going to try to explain it here.  However, Bob Atkins does a pretty good job of explaining things, so if my word isn’t good enough, you can click here and read his article about linear and circular polarizing filters.

So why am I talking about this and why are you reading this?  Well, there’s one other problem that you can have besides the meter producing bad exposures, and I encountered it.

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If this image looks fuzzy, it’s not you.

On the other hand, if this image looks in focus, it’s you!  Please visit your eye care professional immediately.

So… what’s going on here?

A linear polarizer can confuse a multi-point autofocus system, and this is proof positive of that.

I was shooting using the linear polarizing filter to remove glare on the water without a problem, perhaps because the sun was behind me.  However, I found my camera not focusing on two subjects the next day in situations where the sun was at a 60-90 degree angle to me.  Being totally relaxed on vacation, I didn’t think about the filter being the problem.  Instead, I was annoyed / mad / worried thinking my lens had decided to break. I tuned the camera off, removed the lens, put the lens back on, turned the camera on, and same problem….!  After repeating that twice (which usually resets everything), I’d given up on the lens for the rest of the trip.

The Frog was not laughing.

And then, later in the day, I looked at the lens.  And saw the filter.  And realized that I’d had that filter since the early 1980’s…

I took the filter off.  I turned the camera on.  It focused.

And, I said to myself, “it’s the filter, stupid…!”

If you’re interested in learning more about what a polarizing filter can do for you, click here and here to visit two prior posts on the subject.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store when you go to get your polarizing filter!

Polarizing Filters, Part 2

A long time ago in the blog, and far, far away… we talked a bit about polarizing filters and the technical details of how they work.

Well, it might have only been a few months, but that sounded like a good opening!

Anyway, we talked about polarizing filters and how they can help with glare, but we didn’t show you anything about them in the blog.

The least we could have done was to have shown you how they work right here in the blog!  We’re going to fix that transgression compliments of back lighting and a koi pond.

First up, here’s what happens if you try to take the picture in these conditions without a polarizing filter:

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[Nikon D5100, 60mm f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/200 sec., f4.5, no filter.]

Not so hot, eh?

So, let’s see what happens when you use your polarizing filter – this is the next image I shot:

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[Nikon D5100, 60mm f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/200 sec., f2.8, polarizing filter – notice that I lost a stop on the exposure due to the polarizing filter.]

Impressive, isn’t it?  If you’ve never seen this demonstration before, you might say it’s amazing.  The technical details are found here.

I don’t claim to fully understand everything about the physics behind a polarizing filter – I just know that they work, and can help you get an image you couldn’t otherwise get.

If you can get your hands on one, they’re a great addition to your camera bag.


What does the Frog process with?

Another recent question was “what software do you use to process your images?”

My current image processing software is ACDSee Pro 8 available from ACD Systems.

I also have Corel Paint Shop Pro (came with the computer), Microsoft Photo Gallery (free for Windows 7 & 8 users), Picasa (free, from Google), an older version of Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Nikon’s View NX2 that came with my cameras.  Each of these is good – I’m not slighting any of them.  But I’m currently using ACDSee Pro 8.


I’m simply not that good at post-processing.  I can’t process an image file and take a cloudy sky and make it blue, or swap out a foreground, or anything like that.  I process very simply (for the most part) and stick to the basics, and they do the basics very well.

Disclosure: occasionally, I do find that I can pull off a mini-miracle with this software and salvage a slide or botched exposure.  These are adventures in trial and error, and always involve working with a copy of the image file and not the original file.  Sometimes, it can take hours to save an old slide – but it’s the only way.  It’s much simpler on most digital images.

Three key things that I really, really like about this software:

The Light EQ tool is absolutely fantastic when working with an image – you can set up to nine (9) individual tone bands when adjusting the lighting on an image.  When you’re working with old Kodachromes, that means you can bring out shadow detail very discretely, as well as tone down clouds and the sky.

I find the Hybrid tool for noise removal to be (1) fantastic and (2) equally effective with scans and RAW files.

And, the Sharpening tool is intuitive and easy to use.

Overall, the software is very easy to use as an image organizer and as an editing software.  And, it’s intuitive.  Very intuitive.  I find myself looking at the manual every so often, but you can be up and running in a short time without reading the manual.  One of the hardest things for me is establishing a consistent workflow, as I only seem to work on images on the weekends, and then, not every weekend.  I tend to forget workflows and processes once in a while.  I guess I could take notes…

So, if I sound like a commercial for ACD Systems, I guess I am.  If anyone knows anyone there who can hook me up with a sponsorship deal…  If anyone has any questions about how I got to ACDSee among all the other programs, please ask!  If you’re considering (new) processing software, it’s definitely worth a look.

Oh, before I wrap this post up, there’s one very, very, very important thing – you need a good mouse.

There’s a companion post to follow on what I call finishing software (a program that does not cease to amaze me).

Happy shooting / scanning and processing!





Gallery Spotlight: Fall Foliage

Fall foliage is happening in New England, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other places I’m not…  And can’t be, so…

The next best thing is putting the spotlight on the Fall Foliage Gallery at Laughing Frog Images!

This is Silver Cascade near Crawford Notch, NH.

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This image used a tripod, cable release, and a polarizing filter as have been discussed here on the Frog’s Blog.  The camera was a Fuji S-9000.  Most of the images in this gallery at this time used this equipment.

This image looks great on a white mug, and also on a white water bottle (it’s one of the samples I have that I’m still wrestling with how to post and share)!  And – for most of the regular readers, it’s cheaper than getting to New Hampshire to see fall foliage in person!  (Although a trip to New England in fall to check out the fall foliage should be on everyone’s Bucket List.)

Don’t forget that Laughing Frog Images gives you over 170 ways to enjoy an image that calls out to you, and in most cases, you control the cropping and the position of the image on the media.  There aren’t many photographers that give you some many choices and that degree of control.  We think it’s all about the image and how you want to enjoy it.

Holiday shopping starts in less than 60 days, so start browsing and planning now!  We’d like to help you shop for unique gifts this holiday season without ever setting foot in a store!





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!