Yes, you can shoot at midday!

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We’ve all had the “golden hour” concept drilled into our heads – those times around sunrise and sunset when the light is long and lovely, creating beautiful conditions in which to capture our photographs. So does that mean your camera has to languish in its bag during the midday hours? No, it does not!

All you need is a circular polarizer, and tiny bit of tweaking in Lightroom.

When my husband and I go on our weekend Jeep adventures, we leave the house at around 8:00 in the morning and usually get on-trail at about 10:00 for a four- or five-hour journey. That puts me smack in the middle of the so-called “worst” time of day to shoot. To accommodate these conditions, I bought a Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizer to attach to my go-to lens, a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS.

Using a circular polarizer is pretty simple. Just screw it onto the front of your lens – you’ll notice that it doesn’t “tighten”, there is still room to rotate the filter. That’s because, depending on how the light is hitting your lens, the filter can be rotated around to achieve the effect you want. It works best if you’re standing at a 90-degree angle from the sun – then just look through the viewfinder and watch the effect on the scene as you rotate the filter around. Skies should become a deeper blue, greens a deeper green, water a deeper color, etc. If you’re not seeing the results you want, try shifting your position in relation to the sun.

Keep in mind that you may have to use a slower shutter speed, or increase your ISO, to accommodate for the decreased light hitting the sensor. Just as any other filter, once you put something in front of the lens it blocks a certain amount of light. On this particular day, I shot in aperture priority f/16 with an ISO of 400, in bright sunlight.

Once I got to post-processing, I found that I just needed slight adjustments to exposure, contrast, blacks, saturation and vibrance. Then I applied a bit of sharpening and achieved the photos that you see here, of the Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona, Arizona. They were all taken at just about exactly noon. The sky was that blue to my eyes, and the rocks that red. I was happy to achieve near-reality in the photos.

What has been your experience working with polarizing filters? Do you find yourself in circumstances where one would come in handy? Share your experiences with us in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

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  • Craig Mullenbach

    When I first tried my polarizer I learned quickly to NOT wear my polarized sunglasses.  Once I turned it, everything went dark. lol.  Live and learn. 

  • Mateusz Piatkowski

    Last week, Pais Vasco trip (San Sebastian and Bilbao), WE had awesome clouds a lot of water, sea, beautiful landscapes. I used my polarizer first time and the effect is awesome. I’ll play in Lightroom this week, so far I had no time for postprocess..

  • http://www.DOEPhotog.com/ A.Barlow

    I like shooting in mid day. I like the way the colors look, but yes, I do use a CP filter. I also do a bunch of mono, so the hard contrasty shadows you get in mid day tend to work better with what I like to shoot. 

  • http://www.stephaneevras.com/ Photographe Mariage

    Your blog is very interresting, thanks for sharing all these photo tip & tricks.

  • http://www.rhinobldg.com/ Chuck Dee

    Been using a filter for years but I still prefer to shoot when the sun is about to set…at least for portraits