When All Else Fails – The Gold-N-Blue Polarizer

Equipment & Techniques

As a amateur photographer and working man, achieving quality time for my hobby is more often than not quite difficult. For me, the main opportunity often turns out to be the family summer holiday. However, unless you’re off to sunnier climes and spectacular scenery overseas, here we have to put up with the unpredictability of the British climate. Many’s the time I’ve crawled out of bed at some ungodly hour, half asleep, and set off in the dark to some distant location only to be greeted with a sunrise that’s hidden behind a thick carpet of grey cloud. Welcome to the English summer! Once more, when I return, the rest of the family is just settling down to breakfast and I’m then expected to ferry them around and entertain them for the rest of the day and well into the evening. It makes for long tiring days, often without the reward of at least one good photograph.

Embleton Bay

But what to do when that sunrise doesn’t materialise? It’s disappointing to put it mildly, and after several days in a row it can be down right maddening. It’s easy just to give up, go back and may be even try and catch a little more sleep before the rabble awakes. But hey, us photographers have to make the most of things don’t we?

Well exactly that happened to me whilst up in Northumberland last week. For several mornings in a row I ventured out from our holiday cottage in Craster to the fabulous Dunstanburgh castle, only to be faced with dull lifeless skies. At least some mornings there was a bit of a breeze and then my Lee Big Stopper (10-stop ND) filter could be put to use. Then I remembered my little used, Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue polariser.

Embleton Bay (Sep 2010) 1035

Like most photographers, I’ve been through the coloured filter phase, and have sunset and tobacco grads and a whole host of other enhancing filters that reside within a CD wallet somewhere. But they seldom see the light of day and these days and seem considered almost bad form by some. I’m not knocking them though; they do have their place, but I just don’t seem to use them anymore. I’m certainly not adverse to adjusting my pictures in Photoshop or Lightroom however, and firmly believe that I want to produce a picture that is pleasing to me, not just a photographic representation of the scene at the time. I certainly don’t like over cooked images, if you know what I mean, but see nothing wrong with adding a bit more colour, vibrance and contrast.

During my ‘Cokin Filter phase’ I also acquired, at some not inconsiderable cost, a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer, but initial experiments with it’s use seemed, to my eye, a tad unpleasing. It too remained at the bottom of my filter wallet.

Well, if there was ever a day for experimentation this was it. I was at a great location but with lifeless skies and poor light. Out came the Gold-N-Blue.

The Gold-N-Blue filter works like a normal polarizer excepts that it enhances blues or yellows as it’s rotated, and both to a lesser degree somewhere in-between. I found it possible to add some yellow to the skies and blues to the water which I though helped the scene tremendously. The gold certainly brought out the barnacles, shells and seaweed on the rocks, and added interest to the sky. The blue extreme enhanced the blue in the seas and when dull adds magenta.

Embleton Bay (Sep 2010) 1056

Lastly I added the Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND filter and took some long exposures of some rocks. Both these are exposed for 100 seconds with the above picture taken at the blue end of the polarizer at F/1,1 and the one below at the gold end at F/11. Both have enhanced vibrancy, clarity and contrast within Lightroom 3.

Embleton Bay (Sep 2010) 1060

I hope you’ll agree, both are far more interesting than dull grey skies. The Gold-N-Blue polarizer should now remain a regular in my Camera bag.

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3 comments


  • Doug Chinnery

    Another fine and useful blog John (just put a twitter link up to your blog on the Mormon Barns – what a stunning shoot you had. Any advice on where I can buy one of these gold/blue jobbies to have a play with?

    September 12, 2011
  • John Birch

    Jens,

    Mine is from Singh-Ray. I've never seen the Cokin version. To use the Singh-ray with the Lee filter kit you need to attach the gold-n-blue polarizer first then attach your Lee adaptor ring (mine's the wide angle adapter). I generally rotate the polarizer to suite first, then clip on the Lee holder and add my grads. It's a bit fiddly but works. The Singh-ray is a pretty chunky filter and will protrude at least another 8mm from the front of your lens. If used with a primes you're going to get vignetting so will have to crop. I tend to use with zooms so you can zoon past the vignetted area. The first two shots above were taken with a 16-35mm, zoomed to 20mm. Hope this helps.

    Regards

    John

    September 16, 2010
  • Jens

    Hi John,

    I'm really interested in this filter. Is yours from Singh-Ray? I've got a Lee System and also a Big Stopper, but my question is, how can you use those filters toghether? This Singh-Ray Blue Polarizer has a Cokin P-Mount, but the ND Lee Filters have are similar to a Cokin Z-Pro Mount?!
    Thank you for your answer.. 🙂
    Nice shots – by the way!

    Greets from Switzerland.
    Jens

    September 16, 2010

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