Each time Kevin McNeal teaches a photography workshop, he knows one of the most-asked questions he’ll get is when and where to use Singh-Ray polarizers. “For the most part, the students don’t exactly know what a polarizer does so they’re not at all sure when to use it. I start by explaining that Singh-Ray offers four different polarizers; two ‘standard’ types, the LB Warming Polarizer and LB Neutral, as well as the Gold-N-Blue and ColorCombo Polarizers. (Each of these filters is fully described on the Singh-Ray website.) Since my personal choice for about 85% of my images is the ColorCombo, that’s the filter I demonstrate and talk about most in my workshops.
“Singh-Ray created the ColorCombo by combining the LB Warming Polarizer with its LB Color Intensifier to make one very versatile filter. It allows me to control reflecting light and improve the color contrast in each image while maintaining an entirely natural look. No other company makes anything like it.
“Here’s an interesting quote from a booklet published back in 1945 by the Polaroid Corporation introducing its invention of the first commercially available polarizing film; ‘For outdoor photography, a polarizing filter over the camera lens can suppress or reduce the brilliance of a prominent highlight in a scene, provided the axis of the filter is set at the proper angle.’
“At this point, I like to use actual images to help explain how the ColorCombo works for me. Although I must always remember that the polarizer in the ColorCombo requires my continuing attention as I set up and fine tune each shot, I don’t need to concern myself with the Color Intensifier component. It is always on and working for me. So we’ll discuss mostly how I used the polarizer to improve each of the following images.
“The scene at the top of this story didn’t look at all like this final image when I first found it. The reason was that there were so many surfaces bouncing light back at me and the most dominant reflection was coming from the broad expanse of water in the foreground that would have completely hidden the array of stones resting below the surface. But as soon as I saw the scene through the ColorCombo, I knew I had a winner. The glare was eliminated and I could see through the shallow water to the stones on the bottom.
“Here’s another example of how the ColorCombo enabled me to photograph below the surface of the water. This time I wanted to show the textures of the coral rock in this colorful tide pool. By positioning the camera down close to the water at a 45-degree angle, I was able to really bring out the depth of the rock and submerge the viewer into the image.
“When composing a waterfall image it is always good to find a strong foreground. I look for textured features like rocks and moss. To really pull detail and textures out of the rocks it was important to use the polarizer. Without the polarizer on my lens, reflections from the countless specks of water and wet rocks would have combined to create a hazy glare that would greatly reduce the color saturation in the foreground.
“In each of these first three images, you can see how the ColorCombo’s built-in Color Intensifier gently and naturally brings out the greens and earth tones in each image. Using the ColorCombo allows me to really get the viewer’s attention with the saturated greens and the earth tones. This helps me create a visual tension that gives the image more visual impact. Without the vibrancy of the greens it is hard to really get the viewer connected to the image.
“This image reminds me to always use a ColorCombo to cut through the haze that exist in almost every outdoor scene. Reducing the glare of distant subjects like canyon walls or mountain ranges is important even under the sunniest conditions because it reduces the haze and allows more detail and depth in the image. If the landscape can be seen in full detail, a viewer can more quickly relate to the image.
“There is no other nature scene that relies as heavily on capturing strong autumn landscapes. The power of the fall image is in the color and the way it is harmonized. By using the ColorCombo, I will capture as much vibrant color in the image as I can. The addition of the polarizer and especially a warmer polarizer can really add a higher level of visual impact. Ideally the best lighting occurs soon after there has been some precipitation.
“The ColorCombo really adds impact to almost all my outdoor images. That’s why it’s become my favorite filter to use in the field. I never hesitate to use it any time and in any situation. Through years of personal experience, I have gained complete confidence in its unique advantages. It’s never let me down.”
Kevin continues keep busy as a photographer, author, and teacher, while still frequently updating his website, portfolios, and social media with new images and valuable information.