Polarized sunglasses make water look prettier?

Especially if the sun is shining over the water. Has anyone else noticed this? Is there a reason for it?

I don’t know about “prettier”, but they certainly cut the glare and can let you see into the water, which is why they’re so popular among fishermen - this site explains a bit about how it works:


Photographers are very careful about using polarizing filters when shooting water because when you take away the reflected glare, it doesn’t really look like water anymore. Sometimes you want to remove the glare but sometimes you want to leave it there. See photo 3 of 5 here for a great example of when polarizing enhances water.

I have polarized glasses and my car’s side windows also have…something…maybe polarized…and it leads to a fine rainbow array of cars in cross traffic when I’m waiting for a light. They change color! In reality these are boring car colors (grey, charcoal).

All I notice with water though is less glare.

Birefringence. You’re seeing a representation of the internal stresses in the glass.

The entire reason they make polarized sunglasses is that light that bounces off of flat, horizontal surfaces gets polarized in one direction, and if you make the orientation of the glasses’ polarization at a right angle to that, the glare will be filtered out.

Some vehicles have some sort of windshield coating that makes their windshields have a sort of rainbow effect when viewed through polarized sunglasses- not all cars though.

I imagine if you were sitting on the inside wearing polarized sunglasses things might look pretty interesting.

Another interesting effect: If you’re wearing polarized glasses and look at a rainbow, you’ll see the near-vertical parts at the sides, but you won’t see the near-horizontal “bridge” connecting them. This is because rainbows are completely polarized, in a tangential direction.

I had always assumed that the cause of that was the plastic film between the two panes of shatterproof glass. The glass does not cause that effect, it’s the film inside the glass structure that polarizes the light. Looking through plain window glass does not produce the same effect. Someone probably knows better, and can fight my ignorance.

It’s not the film in the laminated windshield that causes the rainbow effect. Windshields are made of tempered glass, and what you’re seeing is the stress pattern in the glass as revealed by the polarizing filter.

My cellphone screen turns black in widescreen orientation with my polarized glasses.

I actually had two sets of sunglasses, one polarized and one not, and I swapped the lenses out so now I have glasses with one polarized lens and one unpolarized. I get some interesting 3D effects sometimes. And now I can turn my phone to the side and still see the screen with one eye.

I can never see the display on the fuel pump when I wear my polarized driving glasses. Annoying.

That really annoys me as well, mostly because there’s no reason for it to be so. I can look at my LCD watch in its normal orientation just fine with my polarized glasses on. It seems like anyone making an LCD screen that they know some people would be viewing with polarized glasses, would orient the polarization so that the glasses would work with it.

And, of course, if you have two pair of polarized glasses, you can put one in front of the other and rotate one 90 degrees for an interesting effect - it shuts out virtually all light. More fun, but nowadays much harder to do: if you have some actual, REAL, cellophane tape, put a strip on the polarized glasses. Then put another strip across that strip at some angle. Put several strips down. Colors ensue. Rotate the glasses. Different colors ensue. Problem is, it’s really hard to find actual cellophane these days. Maybe wrapping cellophane would work. It’s a very cool effect.

You can do even more fun experiments with 3D glasses.

And if you put a third polarizing filter in between the other two with its axis at, say, 45 degrees between the other two, you’ll be able to see through them again!