Tips - Using a Polariser for Landscape Photography

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  • 8/12/2019 Tips - Using a Polariser for Landscape Photography

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    The right skyPolarisers are ideal for when youre shooting

    architecture in scenic surroundings and under

    blue skies youll get the best results with blue skies

    that have some light cloud to create interest. We

    headed off to Wells in Somerset to photograph thecitys famous cathedral on a sunny day.

    Camera setupFor this shoot youll need to set your camera up

    on a tripod; as well be shooting with a narrow

    aperture to keep everything sharp your shutter speed

    will be fairly slow to compensate for the reduced light

    entering the camera, and polarisers also reduce the

    amount of light reaching your sensor, which will further

    slow your shutter speed.

    Shooting settingsSet your camera to Manual mode for full control

    over the aperture and shutter. Set a narrow

    aperture of f/11 and keep your ISO low, ideally at 100,for top-quality images. Half-press the shutter to meter

    the scene, then turn the dial to adjust the shutter speed

    until the exposure indicator is in the middle to obtain

    a balanced exposure you may need to adjust the

    shutter speed once the polariser is fitted.

    Fit the polariserFor this shoot we used a circular polariser that

    screws on to the end of the lens. There are many

    brands available, and SRB Photographic has a full

    range, with prices starting at 16 for Canon kit lenses.

    Make sure the filter is the correct size to fit your lens

    (see Phrase Book). You can adjust the intensity of thepolarising effect by rotating the outer ring of the filter.

    Compose and focusFor the best results your subject needs to be at

    90 degrees to the sun. To help you compose your

    shot, and so that you can see the effect of the polariser

    as you adjust the outer ring, switch to Live View mode;

    this will also help with focusing. Switch your lens to

    manual focus, zoom the Live View image and scroll

    to an area of detail, then adjust the focus using the

    manual focusing ring until the detail appears sharp.

    Shadows and highlightsWith the polariser fitted you may need to tweak

    the shutter speed to obtain a balanced exposure.

    If your subject is in shadow you may also want tobracket-expose two or three shots to ensure that you

    capture the full range of shadow and highlight detail

    in the scene, and then combine the images in post-

    production if need be. Refer to your cameras manual

    for how to set up AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing).

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    ACR adjustmentsOpen polariser_start_1.dng and polariser_

    start_2.dng in Camera Raw in Elements. Select

    polariser_start_1.dng by clicking its thumbnail in the

    film strip; as were combining two images, we only need

    to get the sky looking right in this shot. Set Exposure to

    -0.15 and Blacks to +6 to darken the sky a little, and setVibrance to +20 to boost the blues.

    Combine the imagesNext target polariser_start_2.dng thumbnail; forthis shot were focusing on the cathedral and theforeground. Set Contrast to +15, Shadows to +8 and

    Vibrance to 20. Click Select All, and click Open Images

    to open both shots in Elements Expert/Full Edit mode.

    Add the start_2 image to the start_1 image as a new

    layer (see Super Tip!, right), then take the Magic Wand

    tool, set Tolerance to 55 and tick Contiguous, and click

    on a mid-blue in the sky to select the entire sky. Go to

    Select > Feather, enter 3 pixels and click OK.

    Contrast and colourClone out the people in front of the cathedral aswell if you want. Next add a Levels adjustmentlayer, and set the Shadows slider to 20, the Midtones

    slider to 1.07 and the Highlights slider to 237 to boost

    the contrast. Finally, to give the blue sky a bit more of a

    boost, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, select

    Blues from the menu and set Saturation to +20.

    Polarisingfilter prosand cons

    WITHOUTPOLARISER WITHPOLARISER

    WIDE-ANGLEEFFECT

    Although a polarising filter is

    great for darkening blue skies, you do need to be aware of

    how wide youre shooting. If youre shooting with a wide-angle lens

    the filter can affect some areas of the sky more than others, so its

    advisable not to shoot too wide, as the uneven polarising effect will

    produce unnatural-looking results. For the best results set your

    camera up on a tripod, and activate Live View mode so that you

    can preview the polarising effect; if youre shooting fairly wide you

    may need to rotate the filter to avoid an uneven effect.

    Reveal the polarised skyThe mask will be based on the selection, so the

    sky will be revealed and the rest of the image

    hidden. We want to reveal the filtered sky on the layer

    below, however, so press Ctrl+I to invert the mask. Next

    click the top layer, and press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to createa merged layer. Take the Clone Stamp tool, and clone

    out the two blurred birds in front of the cathedral, on

    the left and in the centre. Alt-click to sample suitable

    areas of detail, and clone these pixels over the birds.