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on Feb 26, 2019 in Wildlife Photography

Polarizing Critters

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
captured by D5 / 800mm / polarizer

“Do I need a polarizer?” This is a really common question that truly has no right or wrong answer. It’s truly up to you and the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. This question rarely if ever come up when photographing critters though which kinda surprises me. This is because when photographing critters, there are many times when a polarizer can dramatically make a difference. Here’s a recent example of that, this Black-bellied Whistling Duck in a pond full of lily pads. If you look at the two photos, you can see how the polarizer removed from the majority of the pads the reflected gray skies. If you look at the duck’s bill, you can see where some the reflection was removed from it as well. The overall photograph has a “richer” look to it just from using the polarizer. So why not use it all the time then?

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
captured by D5 / 800mm / no polarizer

The first issue is the polarizer isn’t a cure-all. If you look, not every lily pad has the reflection removed. That’s because the physics of it is, they don’t all face the same direction so don’t all polarize the same at the same time. You have to rotate the polarizer to maximize the effect to your taste. Next, some think they are expensive. I was shooting the D5 / 800mm / 52mm drop-in polarizer which is $199. It’s an essential tool to me. Lastly, it does suck up a stop of light which sometimes we can’t afford to lose. Added to that is I typically at +.03 exposure comp to “dull” the color saturation of the polarizer. It can make a difference, your option is whether it’s a tool for your story or not.

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