2022 WEEK 02: Photoelasticity

Dictionary.com describes Photoelasticity as…the phenomenon of double refraction of polarized light by a transparent substance under elastic stress, used to measure strain in elastic, transparent materials.

Photo Credit: Dunk

I’m not a scientist and I don’t entirely understand the dictionary’s definition. I know that we have some photographers who totally understand this. What drew my attention to Photoelasticity was the colors and the creativity I noticed in other photographs.

To get a better understanding of Polarized light and how you can use it in photography, I highly encourage you to watch this video by Eric Mickelsen.

What You Need:

In this challenge, we are going to play with the artistic side of Photoelasticity. To complete your Photo Challenge, you will need a few things.

  1. Clear plastic object/s
  2. Polarized light source / Optional Polarizing filter to polarize your own light source.
  3. Polarizing filter (Circular Polarizer for Autofocus)

Clear Plastic:

Find all the semi-transparent and clear plastic that you can. This will be part of the hunt and fun because not all clear plastic will work. Play with the plastic around your home or use the different clear plastics from a variety of packaging.

Photo Credit: RHiNO NEAL

Polarized light source:

OPTION 1: LCD screens of cell phones, tablets, computer screens are a good source of polarized light when turned on. Make yourself a pure white background photo and use it as the screen.

Here is an example without and with a polarizing filter of the plastic packaging my lens cleaning cloth came in:

OPTION 2: With an additional Polarizing Filter, you can polarize the light from any light source such as a flashlight or a flash. For this purpose, you can use older linear polarizing filters, gels and sunglasses.

Polarizing filters:

A polarizing filter helps cut the glare and is often used in landscape photography to cut reflections from the water’s surface. If you don’t have a filter then you can go the DIY (Do It Yourself) route. I saw a person use polarized sunglasses. They simply held them in front of their iPhone lens. (Note that a circular polarizing filter is necessary to maintain autofocus on most cameras. A linear polarizing filter in front of the lens will make autofocus difficult. You Will need to remove it to set your focus and then reinstall it in front of your lens.)

I gathered many different clear plastics around the house and some worked very well and others didn’t. I could turn my filter and get different effects with the colors. Even moving the iPad around helped. The above two photos are straight out of the camera. A helpful tip is that the plastic had to be in front of the white background or laying on the screen.

Using your camera in manual mode will give you more control. Tonya Bender gave great examples and explanations of this in the 2021 Week 3: Exposure Triangle PhotoChallenge.

Tonya Bender 2021 Week 3: Exposure Triangle

If you choose to go High Key/Low Key, Eric Minbole gave us examples in 2019 Week 38: High Key/Low Key that is excellent.

Eric Minbole 2019 Week 38: High Key/Low Key

ExpertPhotography.com gives a tutorial on YouTube:
Here is a 17-minute video that may help inspire you.

You can also find some inspiration on Instagram.

What you can come up with will be endless and exciting to see. Looking forward to seeing your creative flow.

Challenge Summary

  • Take a new photo based on the Photoelasticity Concept
  • Take care to illuminate your object in a way that it does not melt into the black background
  • Add a description of your setup, lighting and used background
  • Post your newly taken photo during the week of Sunday, January 9 and Saturday, January 15.
  • Please remember to comment on at least FIVE photo submissions this week by answering the question “why?” in your comments. In other words, “why do I like (or not like) this photo?” or “why did this photo catch my eye?” Thank you!

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple

  • Take a new photo for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Post your photo each week to our active communities on Facebook or Flickr(or both). Tag the photo:  #2022photochallenge #photochallenge
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2022 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

Cover Image by Forest Simon on Unsplash