talkin bout camerasa blog by Branden Frederick

Polarizing the Ocean

Published 23 Jul 2018 – Updated 23 Jul 2018

How a polarizing filter can affect photos of the ocean

A few weeks ago I was able to see some dramatic differences between polarized and non-polarized light with regards to photographing the ocean. In case you're unfamiliar with polarizing filters, they are the same as polarizing sunglasses, taking advantage of some optical physics trickery to cut down on light specifically from reflections – reflections from glass, from asphalt, from the surface of water, from any source – at the cost of a 1 to 2 stops of light darker image.

In this particular instance, the polarizer was able to cut through the reflections on the surface of the ocean and see down through the water to the sand beneath, dramatically altering the composition of the photo. Whether the effect is desirable or makes the photo "better" is subjective, but here we can at least see what the effect does.

The particulars of the hardware here involved a Fujifilm X-Pro2, the XF 55-200mm lens, and Hoya NXT Circular Polarizer.

Sample 1

With no polarizing effect With the full polarizing effect

Sample 2

With no polarizing effect With the full polarizing effect

Sample 3

With no polarizing effect With the full polarizing effect

You can see in these examples how the polarizer was affecting the colors and contrast in the image, primarily in the surface of the ocean, but also in the trees and even slightly on the rocks.

Thanks for reading!

about Branden Frederick

I am a photographer: I have fun taking photos, and I always have.

I've had a camera in my hand my whole life, a 110 camera as a kid, and the high school's 35mm SLR later. In 2008 I spent six months doing nothing but taking photos and loved it. From that point on I've had my camera surgically attached to my hand (I lie). I went digital in the year 2000, and I came back to film in 2013. My parents tell me my photos are "nice".