I Can See Clearly Now (Not the Johnny Nash 1972 song)
By Dirk Dixon
I could wax poetically about the sparkle of sunlight off the water on a warm summer day, but what I want to address here is how that reflected light impedes your visibility and how you can easily improve it. Polarized lenses have been around for decades, but it has only been the past five years or so that the eyewear industry has actively promoted them. This is especially true for the water sports industries (boating, fishing, etc.). I won’t go into the extended scientific explanation of how they work, but it suffices to say they dramatically reduce the level of reflected glare without significantly reducing the light level of the scene you are observing. For the paddler, it means you can read the water better and actually see deeper into it (ref. the attached photo comparison). It could make the difference between a clean passage and smacking that rock you should have avoided. Polarized sunglasses allow you to see the world through unsquinting eyes without having to wear shades that are so dark you lose clarity as soon as the sun goes behind a cloud.
Non-Polarized Lenses Polarized Lenses
There is an easy way to tell whether or not a pair of glasses have polarized lenses. By comparing them to a pair that are known to be polarized, you can look through both pairs at the same time while holding one pair behind the other. You will be able to see through both pairs when both are held horizontally to each other, but when you rotate one pair vertically the polarizing effect will block out light trying to pass through both pair and the overlapped area will black out (see diagram).
For those of you who enjoy photographing your outdoor adventures and your camera lens is capable of using threaded filters, you should definitely consider getting a circular polarizing filter. A polarizing filter will provide the same visual enhancements to your camera that polarized sunglasses do for your eyes. Water surface glare will be eliminated from your paddling photos and landscape shots will be dramatically enhanced with sharper clouds and darker blue skies.
(Dirk is a member of the Canoe Club of Greater Harrisburg, and regular contributor to their newsletter.)