Photography 101: Using a Polarizing Filter:

A Simple Tool That Can Produce Amazing Results

Photo of pink water lilies and lily pads with all the glare removed by the polarizer. AFTER: Waterlilies and pads shot with polarizing filter.
AFTER: Waterlilies and pads shot with polarizing filter.

By F.M. Kearney

Back in the days of film, I used to carry a complete assortment of filters in my camera bag. I had warming filters, cooling filters, neutral density filters, graduated neutral density filters, special effect filters and, of course, a polarizing filter. The digital age had made life much easier. Most of these filter effects can now be applied in post with much greater precision and in varying degrees of intensity. Not having to carry so many filters is a definite plus, but there are some filter effects that can’t be created digitally… yet.

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New River Gorge National Park

Photo of the New River Bridge, a long, tall, arched bridge spanning a large tree-covered canyon at dusk. Not exactly a Nature subject, the New River Gorge Bridge spans this wide river with a huge central arch framework and is a featured calling card of the new National Park. © Jerry Ginsberg
Not exactly a nature subject, the New River Gorge Bridge spans this wide river with a huge central arch framework and is a featured calling card of the new National Park. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

America’s 63rd and newest national park was created earlier this year when the Congressional resolution authorizing it was buried deep in the text of legislation intended to address financial issues related to the COVID pandemic. Not one to look a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, I am just grateful that these 73,000 scenic acres have been awarded the nation’s highest level of protection. Just 10% of this territory is included in the actual national park. The remaining 65,000 acres make up a national preserve. So, what makes this area special?

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Karen Gordon Schulman

Painterly effect applied to image of grasses. Morning Grasses, Yampa River Botanic Park, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Altered Reality © Karen Schulman
Morning Grasses, Yampa River Botanic Park, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Altered Reality © Karen Gordon Schulman

Artist’s statement

Peace, beauty, balance and humor are what I hope my art expresses and how I would like it to affect others.

I feel that Morning Grasses fits my creative philosophy and my mission as a photographic artist and leaves room for the viewer’s interpretation and wonder. I’ve always been interested in alternative styles of creative photography, including hand painting silver prints, Polaroid SX-70 manipulations, digital multiple exposures, and currently, Creative iPhoneography.

I love capturing moments in time with my camera. I am drawn to whatever resonates with my creative soul. I think as much about the design, light, shadow, pattern, texture, or gesture in the image as I do about the subject itself. I search less and let my awareness draw me to what I can use as my canvas, and I often add layering of texture or color to my original image, as I have done with this one.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Anita Ross

Photo of thee burrowing owls. Two are perched on a branch and the third is in the air, flapping its wings. “Burrowing Owls, One Levitating,” San Bernardino County, California, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Birds © Anita Ross
“Burrowing Owls, One Levitating,” San Bernardino County, California, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Birds © Anita Ross

Artist’s statement

I started photographing burrowing owls in 2016. They’ve become one of my favorite subjects. I can’t resist these little characters with all their expressions. After a session, I can’t wait to get home to look through the images to see what I’ve captured. When I got to these three owls, their interactions with each other were amazing, but what really stood out was this little owl showing off his ability to levitate. The two things I strive to capture in an image are emotion and/or moments you wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Mary Louise Ravese

Close up photo fo lotus blossom seed pod. Lotus Blossom Seed Pod Resembles an Alien Landscape, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C., Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other © Mary Louise Ravese
Lotus Blossom Seed Pod Resembles an Alien Landscape, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C., Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other © Mary Louise Ravese

Artist’s statement

While my intention that day was to photograph one of my favorite flowers, lotus blossoms, I like to keep my mind open to whatever opportunities arise. Lotus blossoms, buds, leaves, and spent seed pods are all things I had photographed many times. But this seed pod was in an in-between state I hadn’t ever noticed before. The surface of the seed head seemed like an alien landscape, or some sort of mythical multi-eyed creature. I was fascinated by the textures and shapes and just had to photograph it, even if it was outside my normal subject matter. By isolating just this portion of the seed pod, I’ve made an abstract interpretation of it, adding a sense of mystery about what it could be.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Jeremy Burnham

Photo of a pelican floating in the water with a beer can in its beak. Pelican Not "Living the High Life,"  Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham
Pelican Not “Living the High Life,” Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham

Artist’s statement

This photo is special to me because it evokes emotion. My goal as a photographer is to capture pictures in such a way that the viewer will feel the same thing I feel at the time of the photo. There are some pictures that I think are great as a photographer, but they don’t resonate with others. I could tell immediately after sharing this picture that it evoked the kind of emotion in others that would help facilitate positive change. It has been used by conservationists throughout Louisiana to help clean up our stormwater collection system and bring attention to our litter and pollution problems.

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Savannah Rose Burgess

Artist’s statement

“Cougar Country,” Photo of a mountain lion leaping down a snow-covered cliff chasing magpies off her kill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Savannah Rose Wildlife
“Cougar Country,” A mountain lion leaps down a cliff chasing magpies off her kill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Savannah Rose Wildlife

This experience was one of the most incredible spectacles of nature I have ever witnessed, in some ways fulfilling dreams I have had since I was a child. I have always been fascinated by the mystique of big cats—the more elusive the better. Some of my earliest artistic memories are drawing big cats out of the well-worn photography books I adored, which gave me my initial interest in pursuing wildlife photography. After what had been a slow winter for wildlife sightings, this mountain lion was such a gift to me as she spent about a week of her life in Jackson Hole, feeding on a mule deer she killed during the night. It was of crucial importance to me when I arrived on scene to capture an action shot of this sleek creature as it was a situation I had dreamed of my entire life.

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Conservation Kids

Photo of a group of young conservation photographers in the making on a Conservation Kids outing. © Daniel Dietrich
A group of young conservation photographers in the making on a Conservation Kids outing. © Daniel Dietrich

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Today’s young people will become tomorrow’s conservationists and nature photographers if, and maybe only if, they are able to get out and experience the wonders of nature. They’ll be the ones whose dollars keep camera companies innovating, whose votes protect the wild and beautiful, and whose vision and aesthetics take photography in exciting new directions if they learn to appreciate our precious natural world. But too many young people don’t have easy access to wild places and aren’t getting the transformative experiences that will inspire them to take up the challenges of documenting, advocating for, and protecting nature. That dilemma inspired Daniel Dietrich to create Conservation Kids.

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The Web of Life

Closeup photo of a grizzly bear enjoying a salmon in the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska. The bear has the salmon it its mouth and is in the river. © Jerry Ginsberg
Grizzly bear enjoying a salmon in the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

We humans take ourselves far too seriously. Out of habit, we allow the minutiae of our daily lives to block our ability to see the big picture. That picture is one in which our species is but one of a multitude of creatures eking out a living on the crust of this still molten rock hurtling through space. Like it or not; choose to admit it or not, we are all interrelated to some degree. As for how these ruminations connect me to my role as a nature photographer? Hang in there. I’ll get to that.

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Photographing in North Cascades National Park

Park Creek Ridge high up in the Cascade Range in North Cascades National Park, Washington. © Jerry Ginsberg
Park Creek Ridge high up in the Cascade Range in North Cascades National Park, Washington. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

This remote park is revered by backpackers and climbers, but often overlooked by most other folks, even though it’s just 120 miles from the Seattle metropolitan area. Covering more than 500,000 acres, North Cascades National Park includes its namesake mountains at the northern end of the Cascade chain, virgin forests, countless alpine lakes and meadows, glaciers and more than 360 miles of wilderness hiking trails. There are very few roads within the park, so most visitors travel east and west on State Route 20. Whether folks want to hike in remote wilderness, embark on a family-friendly road trip or camping vacation, North Cascades National Park is a remarkably underrated destination that shouldn’t be missed.

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