An Ideal Day For A Polarising Filter

Facade and Columns, Pantheon, Paris, France

What's you favorite kind of weather? I like diversity but, if put to it, I'd choose a warm day with little or no wind. I live in Melbourne, Australia where the weather is mostly mild. That's not to say it doesn't get hot. Most summers include scorching days with maximum temperatures above 40 degrees celsius. Fortunately, we don't tend to get more than half a dozen of them per season, and normally not more than 2 or 3 such days in a row.

My Ideal Day

Personally my ideal day, at least as far as temperature goes, would be in the 18 to 27C degrees range. And I'm talking maximum temperatures. I feel this relatively moderate range of temperatures is ideal for folks like me who, when we're outside, like to be relatively active. Clearly those involved with sports, with the exception of water-based and winter sports would agree with this. But for the rest of us, involved in more leisure-based outdoor pursuits like bushwalking, cycling and photography this temperature range allows us to spend extended hours in the fresh air without the risk of overexposure to the elements. And I'm sure you're aware of the positive benefits of sunlight, particularly during the cooler months of the year.   

If I was running the world this would be my ideal range of maximum temperatures throughout the year.

  • 18C in Winter
  • 18-24C in Autumn
  • 21-24C in Spring
  • 24-27C in Summer

One Last Effort

The above photo features the Pantheon, a classic building in Paris, France. I made the photo near the end of a beautiful, sunny day on the last day of an epic 6-week photography trip to Europe, Iceland and Greenland. I was exhausted, but the warm sun and clear blue sky called me outside for one last adventure.

Now while I love to be out and about on days like this it's by no means my favorite weather for photography. The bright direct sunlight hits leaf, grass, tree and stone alike and reflects much of the color and texture off the surface in question. The light is scattered in a way that adversely affects the impact of the image. In particular contrast, sharpness and saturation are diminished.

The More Things Change

The solution, just as in the days of film-based photography, is to secure a polarizing filter to your camera. Simply rotate the filter, while looking through your camera's viewfinder, until the desired effect is achieved. In addition to maintaining color and texture on the surface of things photographed, you'll often notice blue skies rendering a deeper shade of blue and clouds, when present, will appear fluffier and more three-dimensional. 

The filter, as it's actually two layers of dark grey glass, will result in a loss of light reaching the sensor. Fortunately your camera's light meter adjusts automatically.

To maintain image quality and reduce the chance of vignetting (in this case significantly darkened edges around the image) ensure there's only one filter in front of your lens at a time.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru