Selective Polarization!

September 26, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Many years ago, when I was shooting Kodachrome slide film, I got into the habit of underexposing my pictures a bit to bring out the colors. I also used a polarizing filter quite often to enhance color. However, this approach usually led to an unrealistic sky. The sky would sometimes turn such a dark blue that it almost looked like a night sky.

In the digital age, this wasn't so problematic. Whenever shooting a clear blue sky, particularly at high elevations, I remove the polarizer and then adjust the tone and color of the sky to my liking during post processing.

During my last road trip, I was faced with a different challenge. I was shooting some old rusty cars at the Bodie Ghost Town in the high Sierras. I wanted to use my polarizer to bring out more color in the cars, grass and buildings (by minimizing the glare from the bright sunlight). But, from past experience I knew that the polarizing filter would destroy the sky by turning it practically black.

Since I've been experimenting with so many different blending techniques in Photoshop lately, I came up with this solution:

#1

I took two pictures of this scene. The first was shot without a filter. The second was fully polarized.

Rusty carRusty carRusty car in the desert at the Bodie State Historic Park near Bridgeport, California on July 23, 2016

No filter

Rusty carRusty carRusty car in the desert at the Bodie State Historic Park near Bridgeport, California on July 23, 2016

Fully Polarized

Of course, both pictures were taken with the camera secured to a tripod to eliminate any movement between exposures.

#2

Then, using Photoshop I was able to take the best parts of both pictures.

I placed the fully polarized picture in a separate layer on top of the first photo. Then, I masked out the sky (painted it out in black) so that everything except the sky is polarized.

The effect might seem subtle, but this approach enabled me to apply a filter effect selectively within a scene to enhance the colors and bring out more contrast right where it was needed.

Here's the finished product:


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