Now we’ve already discussed how a circular polarizer can be used to manage the love-hate relationship filmmakers have with reflections. Well, this time, we want to discuss how polarizer filters can also be used in landscape settings – specifically, to control the appearance of water, sky and trees in the background.

So let’s start off with water. Water is a beautiful subject matter and always good for creating some interesting and dynamic images on video. Whether it’s capturing the night light reflections of boats in the marina or just shooting a surfer catching a wave.

You can’t usually go too wrong with water. But just like that other film making force of nature, the sun, you’ll need the proper tools to help you control how water looks on screen. And that of course is a polarizer filter. For those shots where you want to see the reflection of the sky, and the scenery and the subjects near the water, you don’t need a polarizer. If water reflections and glare is what you want, you’ll get them with no problem in most daylight situations.

However, you’re going to want a circular polarizer for theses situations:

If you want to reduce some of that glare.

If you want to clearly shoot anything below the surface of the water, such as goldfish feeding, a subject’s feet in the water, or say an octopus arm about to grab your hero.

So anytime that we need to shoot in or around water whether it’s a pond, ocean or swimming pool or a puddle, a polarizer is the way to go.

But wait there’s more. Not only will a circular polarizer help you manage reflections on the water, it will also help you manage the colour of the water.

Remember whenever you are shooting water, the colour the water appears to be, at any given moment, is influenced by at least two things.

First, the actual colour of the water.

And secondly, the colour of the things reflecting off the water.

A lake surrounded by green trees will often appear more green.

An ocean beneath the clear, bright, blue sky will look more blue.

In this shot of the surfer, we’re getting some beautiful reflection from the sky. However, when we put on our circular polarizer and adjust it accordingly, we can now see more of the true colour of the water itself.

Sometimes you’ll want to capture all those beautiful reflections off the water. Other times you just want a partial reflection and some things in the water to be visible. And still other shots may call for no reflection at all.

So we can see exactly what’s under the surface of the water or render it closer to the water colour we prefer. And we can do it all in the camera.

Yet another cool way the polarizers can aid you when shooting water is anytime you want to shoot at a slower shutter speed.

To get some motion blur on moving water like a stream, waterfall or breaking wave.

When you go at a slower shutter speed, of course, it’s also going to increase the brightness in your camera. So a polarizer can help you control that. Of course, you can do this with your camera’s standard filter as well. However, you may find that a polarizer actually gives you more of an ability to subtly tune the look. As you turn it incrementally to increase or decrease the amount of light coming into the lens. Now, a moment ago, you may have noticed on that shot of the surfer the sky also appeared a deeper blue, and the clouds had a lot more detail. That’s because not only do you get less glare and truer colour on the water, but you also get less haze.

Bluer skies and more detailed clouds when you shoot with a polarizer filter. But wait, I’m not done yet with the amazing polarizer. You can even get greener foliage on landscapes when you use a polarizer.

Look at these dull and lifeless leaves, beat down by the hazy, diffused reflection of sunlight. Would you put these in your nature documentary? No. Instead, with the handy-dandy circular polarizer on your lens – in just seconds – you can simply twist your way from a hazy, dull green to a shimmering rich emerald green that even the Wizard of Oz couldn’t match.

If the haze in that valley is keeping you from getting an Oscar for best cinematography, I say polarize it, and watch all your film dreams come true. And, with no post production.

So let’s look at everything you get with the circular polarizer filter.

You get reduced reflections in glass and water.

You get the true colour of the water.

You get bluer skies and more detailed clouds and you also get greener leaves and foliage and less hazy landscapes.

So a polarizer filter can help you do all that in the camera.

So stick around for the next exciting instalment of the great polarizer spectacular. We’ll close it out by talking about some of the different types of polarizer filters. And what to consider when buying them.


Artis, Anthony Q. (2014) Controlling reflections in glass. Retrieved from