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July 7, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Introducing Barrie

Barrie Brewer

Hi everyone! My name is Barrie and I am a big Disney World fan. As a child I received a book about Disneyland from an aunt in California. It was a photo book of all the rides and attractions with small descriptions of each. I'm sure you've seen similar books for sale in the parks. I used to spend hours looking at that book and dream about being able to hang out in the Swiss Family Robinson tree house and ride on the monorail. But I lived in Ohio and California was a long way away. There wasn't much chance of me going there.

Disney World opened in Florida when I was in my twenties but by then I was, of course, way too cool for Disney. I was so cool in fact that I decided to move to Oregon to become one with nature. A few years later my mother moved to Florida, only two hours from Orlando. Oh my gosh, I could barely contain my excitement. I guess I wasn't so cool after all! That was about 17 or so years ago and since then I have lost count of how many times I have been a guest of the Mouse.

In the past few years I've become a bit of a photography buff as well. I've always been interested in photography. Now that I think of it, it's probably because of that book! Until recently I couldn't really afford it as a hobby though - it just cost too much to develop roll after roll of my not-so-great photos!

But once digital cameras came onto the scene I was bit by the photography bug. I started out with a cheap little 1.5 megapixel point and shoot camera. A little over a year ago I graduated to a Nikon D50, my first real dslr camera. Disney World is absolutely my favorite place to take pictures and when I am there I am rarely without my camera to my eye. I still consider myself a novice and as I learn more I like to share what I've learned with other Disney World fans. That's why I'm so excited that Deb asked me to join the AllEars® team of bloggers.

I hope you'll enjoy my view of Disney World. Along with sharing some of the Disney World photos I've taken, I plan to offer up some tips for taking great photos on your next trip. I will also share a few resources and fun photo projects I've discovered. We may even play some photo games. I'd love to hear from you if you've got comments or suggestions - just use the feedback form. And as I close this introduction I'd like to offer my gratitude to Deb for the opportunity to connect with you all - thanks again Deb, this is going to be fun!

Focus on Disney World - Astro Orbiter - Magic Kingdom

Astro Orbiter
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 8s shutter, f4.6

Although many people will tell you what a great view there is while riding the Astro Orbiter, I think the best view is of the ride itself, especially at night. This retro looking rocket ship ride is located in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.

I decided to start with this photo because it is one of my favorites. I just love all the bright colors against the night sky. In fact, I love night shots in general and will probably be posting many in the future. If you haven't spent much time exploring Disney World after dark, I highly encourage it. They do such an incredible job with lighting. It's just beautiful at night. It can be a little challenging to capture it all on the camera just right, but what a great time I have practicing!

Quick Tip: Whether you are using your camera's manual functions or you're using an auto setting, the key to getting nice crisp night shots is to stabilize your camera.

A mini tripod works well at Disney World. It can sit on top of a trash can or bench - both of which are everywhere in the parks. A really cool gadget is a Gorilla Pod which is a small, bendy tripod that can be wrapped around fence posts and railings. You can even set your camera on a wall.

If you don't have any of these things available, do your best to brace your body against something stationery before you click your shutter. The more stable your camera, the sharper your photo will turn out.

July 10, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Donde esta Donald?

Donald Duck
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/200s shutter, f4.9

Say hi to Donald Duck, star of the new Mexico attraction "Gran Fiesta". This was taken outside of the Mexico pavilion at Epcot where Donald was doing a meet and greet with park guests. In between posing with children Donald turned and gave me a quick wave. I was so glad I already had my camera focused on him.

Captain HookQuick Tip: When taking photos of characters, be sure to get some close-up shots. Try to fill the bulk of your frame with the character's face. Be careful with your zoom though. It's easy to lose important detail if you get too close.

This picture of Captain Hook would have been much better if I had gotten his hook in the picture. The photo of Donald works because I got some of his sombrero and colorful tunic in the frame to give context to the shot. When in doubt, take your shot at a slightly longer distance. You can always crop it tighter later.

July 12, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: More than a Dining Guy

Scottwdw. Copyright© Scott Thomas Photography 2007

You may know me as the webmaster of the Disney Planning Strategy Calculator for Disney Reservations. What you don't know about me is I've been an avid photographer since I received my first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera at the age of 16. I've burned up a lot of rolls of film, took a correspondence photography course and read many books and articles since then. With the technological breakthrough of digital photography, the hobby of photography has taken a huge leap and me with it. A couple of years ago, I purchased my first digital SLR camera, a Nikon D70. I can say I have learned more with this camera then all the film based ones I've used over the last 30 years.

I would like to thank Deb Wills for inviting me to contribute to the Picture This! photography blog here on AllEars. I will be giving you my views, examples, and ideas for taking photographs at Walt Disney World. I have recorded thousands of images at Walt Disney World over the last 24 years. Some great and some not so great. I hope my experiences can help you to improve your photographs at home and on your Disney vacations.

While at times I will be writing about specific pieces of equipment, most of the articles will cover intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant to both Point and Shoot (P&S) and digital SLR cameras. As a starter, you can improve your pictures today by taking the time to get more familiar with your digital camera by reading through it's manual. Have your camera with you as you learn about all the different settings, menus and picture review capabilities. I was surprised at all the different things I could do with my camera by just changing a setting or menu option. I think you will too.

For me, digital photography brought back the fun of photography. I will be sharing the fun with you here.

Photographic Innoventions: Stablizing Lens Technology

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/13s shutter, f5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EC

In a previous blog entry, Barrie talked about ways to stabilize your camera when shooting in low light at Walt Disney World. Camera system manufacturers now have another alternative for you. New lenses which compensate for image blur caused by small, involuntary movements (wobbly hands, shooting from a moving vehicle, etc.) called camera shake. Manufacturers have various names for this technology. Canon calls it Image Stabilizer (IS) technology while Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) system help give you sharp images with their digital SLR cameras. Other manufacturers and third-party lens makers like Sigma and Tamron have their own versions.

The links I've supplied above will give you the technical details of how these lenses work, I just know that they do. The picture taken during the first scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at the Disney-MGM Studios is an example of a Nikon vibration reduction lens at work. This image was captured using available light at a shutter speed of 1/13 second using the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom lens fully extended to 200mm. The best part is, I was sitting in the third row of the theater and hand holding my camera. One must still take steps to stabilize the camera by holding arms in close to the body, holding one's breath and slowly pressing the shutter, however, these lenses will produce a higher percentage of great images in low light conditions. So, the next time you are told, "No flash photography". Smile knowing your VR or IS lens will allow you to capture the show.

You do know photography can be an expensive hobby, right? These new lenses are no exception, ranging in price from $250 to over a $1,000 depending on the focal length, zoom range and speed of the lens. Nikon claims and I have been successful getting an extra two stops without the need for a tripod. This means while I would normally not use shutter speeds below 1/60th of a second. Using the VR lens, I get excellent results at 1/15th of a second or lower hand holding my camera. These lenses will never replace a tripod but they do give you more flexibility for those times you can't or won't carry one with you.

July 13, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Mechanics of Exposure

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Cinderella topiary at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EC, 18mm Focal Length

In digital photography, exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on to an image sensor. It's really quite simple even though there's a lot of science and engineering behind how your camera does it. I leave that to the engineers and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

In the time ahead, I will be going more in-depth into the photographic terms of exposure and how they effect our photographs. These terms are: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO (or Sensor Sensitivity) and Exposure Compensation.

Aperture is how wide the lens' iris is opened. Like your eye, a lens has an iris. You can tell how wide it is by the f-stop number. Those funny numbers you see on your lens or through your viewfinder often designated with an f/ in front of them. In the photo of a topiary taken during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, the aperture setting is f/11. The lower the number, the wider the aperture is and the more light is transmitted through the lens. Reciprocally, the higher the number, the less light comes through. Aperture controls the zone of focus or depth of field in your images and can be used in very creative ways.

Shutter Speed is how long the camera's shutter stays open to expose it's sensor to the subject being photographed. Most of the time it's just a short fraction of a second. The photo above used a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. The dimmer the light, the longer the shutter speed is to get a well-exposed picture. Low light and night photography can sometimes take seconds or minutes to capture a scene. For fast action like children playing or theme park rides, you'll want to use fast shutter speeds like 1/500th or faster to capture the action. Playing with various shutter speeds is a lot of fun!

ISO is how sensitive your digital camera's sensor is to light. You want to use the lowest ISO you can to get shootable apertures and shutter speeds. The higher or faster, as it is referred to, ISO number, the more sensitive your sensor is to light. With a lot of light available, the topiary image was taken with an ISO of 200. As day turns into night, I will increase my ISO from 200 to as high as 1600. This does increase what's called noise (they look like little specs) into the images. Unlike film, the noise is not nearly as bad as film grain was and there are software products available, which can clean up most of the noise.

Exposure Compensation or Bias is a way for digital photographers to dial in their exposure. Most digital SLR and some advanced Point & Shoot cameras have an exposure compensation button which allows you to do slight adjustments to your cameras image sensor. Usually in one half to one third intervals, this little button can make the difference between an image with too light or too dark areas into a properly exposed gem. In this blog's photo, I made a slight -1/3 (or -0.3) adjustment to keep from over exposing or "blowing out" the light background behind the topiary.

For an excellent book on this subject, I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure which has been updated for digital photography.

July 16, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #1

The magic is in the details.

A visit to Disney World is like no other experience. From the moment you arrive you are engulfed by the atmosphere. Seems like every step you take provides a new treat for your senses, from the sound of beating drums to the sight of spectacular colors in every direction. There's so much to absorb that your brain focuses on the big picture rather than on the details. And that's the plan - Imagineers don't just create a set for us to look at, they immerse us in the set so that we actually feel something magical. For them it's is all about the detail. It wasn't until I started photographing Disney World that I really began to see the amazing intricacies of their work.

Let's see how well you focus on the details. Each week I'll post a photo of some small bit of Disney World. See if you can figure out where it comes from. The following week I'll let you know the answer. Let's start.

Where in the world is this?
Where in the world is this?

July 18, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Hungry Anyone?

Norway Pastries
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/60s shutter, f5.6

I've had a wicked sweet tooth lately and I couldn't resist posting this photo. These yummy looking treats are Cloudberry Horns. You can find them at the Kringla Bakery in Norway at Epcot. Those are Berry Tarts in the foreground. So far I've been satisfied to just photograph these pastries but I think I'm losing my will power. On my next trip I'm definitely going to have to see if they taste as good as they look.

Quick Tip: Some things just need to be photographed super close. I think food is one of those things. These pastries wouldn't look nearly as tempting if you couldn't see the sugar crystals and the lightness of the filling. Here's a secret: My original photo was a bit bigger and further away from the goodies. I set my camera to the highest resolution possible. Then after taking the photo, I cropped it to get the look of a macro shot.

July 20, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Exif Photo Data

What do all those numbers mean under our pictures?

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Disney's Yacht Club Resort Lighthouse.. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EC, 26mm Focal Length (Exif Data Line)

One of the first comments we received was to include some of the Exif (Exchangeable Image File) format information with the photographs we were using in the Picture This! blog. We decided to standardize this information so it's in the same place and format each time. Using the picture of Disney's Yacht Club Resort Lighthouse, here is the explanation of the Exif data line:

Nikon D70/18-200VR (Camera Make and Model / Lens Used (if applicable))
1/500s (Shutter Speed Used in Seconds)
f/11 (Aperture or f-stop Used)
200 ISO (ISO Setting Used)
-0.3 EC (Exposure Compensation or Bias Used)
26mm Focal Length (If known, this is the Focal Length when a Zoom lens is being used)

All of this information plus much more is attached to a digital image when you press the shutter release to take a picture. Not all of this information is available for every image you will see but we will always try to give you the Camera Make and Model, Shutter Speed and Aperture. In upcoming blog entries, I'll be defining and explaining each of these Exif terms.

Somethng else you may find helpful is, if you click on an image, you'll get a larger image if the author has one available. Try it on the picture above.

July 23, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #2

Answer to last week's Where in the World challenge:
Light String
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/1250s shutter, f4.6

If you guessed Asia in the Animal Kingdom you're right! This string of lights crosses the path on the way past the restrooms disguised as a mountain trading post. That's Expedition Everest in the background.

Quick Tip: Head to Asia in the afternoon to get good photos of Expedition Everest. Later in the day the sun will be at your back, shining brightly on the mountain.

This week's challenge: Where in the world is this?
Where in the world is this?

July 25, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Boardwalk

Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 1/400s shutter, f4

Early evening is a great time to enjoy the Boardwalk in the Epcot resort area. I just love the feel of the area at that time of day. Whenever I go to Disney World, I always build in time to hang out there, even if I am staying somewhere else. I think what I like best is that people linger on the boardwalk throughout the late afternoon and well into the evening. Even though it's bustling with activity, it's a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. There are kids playing everywhere. Many people are out walking just for the pleasure of it. There's always someone sitting in a rocker with a good book. Friends have a beer together at Big River Grille and laugh about the fun they had earlier in the day. The Boardwalk just feels good. I like the energy of it.

Quick Tip: The best photographic subject is not always in front of you. While waiting in line to ride the Friendship water taxi to Epcot I turned around and saw this scene. For me, it captured some of that lazy summer evening feeling that I love about the Boardwalk. When you're walking around the parks and resorts remember to look at what you might be missing in the opposite direction.

July 28, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Creative Uses of Aperture

As we learned earlier, aperture is the size of the opening in the camera's lens measured in f-stops. I know it sounds weird but the smaller the f-stop number the larger the opening. I want to show you today how you can take advantage of apertures to create outstanding photographs.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Maximum Depth of Field or Hyperfocus. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/11, -1.3 EC, 18mm Focal Length

The first technique is called hyperfocus and getting the maximum depth of field in a photo. This is where everything in the photo is in focus from the closest to the farthest objects out to infinity. Searching on hyperfocus will bring up all kinds of calculators on how to figure out where to focus when using a certain focal length (18, 28, 35, etc. in mm) and f-stop. By setting the aperture to an f-stop of f/11 or f/16 and focusing on a close subject, you'll get the hyperfocus effect. In the photo taken from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival of the floating flowers, I wanted people to view this photo starting with the floating flower pot at the bottom and continue upwards to the clouds in the sky. This is how imagineeers use forced perspective throughout the parks to makes things look bigger than they actually are.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Selective Focus. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, -0.3 EC, 200mm Focal Length

What do you do if the background of the subject you want to photograph is busy? If you used a high f-stop, your subject could get lost in that busy background. For this situation you want to use a smaller f-stop or do, what is called, shooting with your lens wide open. This is done by setting the aperture at it's lowest f-stop. For my 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 200mm, it's wide open f-stop is f/5.6, which is what I used to separate and selectively focus on the meerkat at Disney's Animal Kingdom from the foliage in the distance. In this way, you are focused on the meerkat and not what is behind him. This is a great way to take human portraits at Walt Disney World and not get all those other humans in the background.

Quick Tip: I know some of you are thinking how do you set apertures using a digital camera. You do this by setting the camera's shooting mode to Aperture Priority. Refer to your camera's manual on how to do this. Once done, you set your f-stop and the camera calculates the shutter speed. Be careful here. If the aperture chosen is making your shutter speed to long, you may need to either make your aperture bigger or use a tripod.

July 30, 2007

Focus on Disney World - DiVine

Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 1/250s shutter, f5.1

I remember reading about DiVine on some of the Disney forums and I had no idea what people were talking about. People talked about how beautiful she is and how gracefully she moves. When I finally saw her last December I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was mesmerizing.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, DiVine is a stilt figure who hangs out on the path to Asia in the Animal Kingdom. If you don't know to look for her you may easily miss her because she blends in quite nicely with the vegetation along the path.

Quick Tip: When photographing the entertainers at Disney World, or anyone for that matter, be sure to focus your camera on their eyes. It sounds pretty simple but I can't tell you how many pictures I have of people with perfectly focused noses and blurry eyes! To make sure that doesn't happen to you, lock your focus before taking the photograph.

Here's how: First, focus your camera directly on the person's eyes. Then press your shutter halfway down. This will lock the focus on their eyes. With your shutter halfway pressed, move your camera to reframe your photo the way you want it. Now wait for the right moment and then press the shutter the rest of the way down to capture your perfect shot. As long as your subject doesn't move closer or further away before you fully press your shutter, you should get a nicely focused picture.

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About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Picture This! in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.