When photographing water, it can oftentimes be a good idea to tame the reflections with a circular polarizer filter. A circular polarizer is a filter that rotates on the front of your lens, allowing you to cut through reflections in water and glass. These examples show how different rotations of the filter can have varying effects on a scene.

This is my setup when photographing with a circular polarizer: a 105 Sigma filter attached to a Lee filter holder.

This is my setup when photographing with a circular polarizer: a 105 Sigma filter attached to a Lee filter holder.

For this sunrise photograph of Trillium Lake, I wasn’t quite sure which version I would like better: the one with the full reflection showing in the water (left), or the one with a little bit of the lake peeking through (right). (Click on the photo to view larger.) In this case, I could probably go either way. I ended up selecting the image on the right to do a full process with, as you can see in the feature image of this post, as I did like the little bit of lake peeking through.

Polarizers don’t just affect water, but they can also affect anything with glare or shine. In this case, the rocks were wet and changing the rotation of the polarizer either kept or removed that glare.

I photographed this scene as a classic example of how a circular polarizer can affect reflections in water. In the image on the left, the reflection almost completely blocks out the sand and rocks under the surface of the water, but in the image on the right, you can see through to the bottom of the little puddle. Watch the video below to see this effect change the scene as I rotate the filter on the front of my lens:

Quick Tip: Use live-view on your camera’s LCD while rotating the circular polarizer to see the filter alter your scene right in front of your eyes.

lavender-square-150pxNicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.

You can read more of Nicole’s articles HERE, and view her work and website HERE.

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Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. I thought this was almost like flat pack instructions from IKEA. 6/8 images simple little video not a spoken word, and yet all you need to know is there. I’m going out this weekend for the first time with my Wonderpana Kit and I’m sure it would not have occurred to me to use the live view mode while rotating the polarizer, and I’m not too proud to admit it.
    Thank you for this Nicolesy

  2. You also see the effects of the circular polarizer in the viewfinder, though you have to take off your polarized sunglasses to see it.

    I also like how polarizer makes the sky and clouds look so I use them all the time.

  3. I appreciate the idea of using live view. If the sun is out, I usually have my polarized sunglasses on, and the view through the viewfinder is hopeless.. I never thought about using live view i this situation. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for a well written article.

    I assume the lens is a Canon 24mm T/S. I have a couple questions:
    – Do you experience any vignetting with above setup?
    – With the Polarizer in place can you insert two NDG’s in the available slots without problems?
    Thank you, Ray

    • Yes, that lens shown is the 24mm TS. I also use it with my 24-70, and at 24mm I do get some vignetting with that setup. I can also add two additional filters into the holder with the polarizer in place, it does not get in the way.

  5. One more question:

    I visited the Lee Filters website but cannot see how yo mounted the 105mm Sigma polarizer to the Lee Filter Holder. Can you tell me how you did it?

  6. wonderful Pic : )

    Nice Shot !


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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have written several how-to books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration. You can find more about me on my blog, online store, as well as on Google+ and Twitter.


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