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September 2007 Archives

September 2, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #4

This was Challenge #3:
Where in the World #3

And here's the answer:
Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 1/1000s shutter, f4.0

This laundry line comes from the set of the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney-MGM Studios. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this show. Having seen the Indiana Jones stunt show I wasn't expecting to be wowed but was I ever wrong. I loved this show! Even though I'm not a big fan of car chase scenes in the movies, it was really fun to learn how those scenes are created. There are some fun surprises in the show. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, be sure catch it on your next trip. You won't be sorry.

Challenge #4: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #4

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer by clicking on the comments link below this post.

September 5, 2007

Light Meter: Keep it Simple

One of the great things about strolling down Disneyland's Main Street is that all of our senses get to enjoy it. The mouth-watering scent of peanut brittle coming from the candy shop. The sound of hooves clunking along the concrete as a horse pulls a carriage. The taste of Fantasia ice cream (R.I.P.) made of pistachio, cherry, and banana.

Walking past shops you touch the smooth buildings and once inside the Emporium feel the soft squishy stuffed Disney characters. Last but not least, we see what is going on around us. Balloons are dancing with each other, children with eyes wide open and mouths forming nothing more than a slow motion "Wow."

With all of these going on at once you can easily miss out on the simplest of things. I had a portraiture teacher who repeatedly told us to keep it simple. You don't need a lot going on to make a great shot. You can also change the mood of an image simply enough by seeing it in black and white. There's something about it that strips the picture down to it's core. Details become more noticeable. Give it a try the next time you're making your way to Tomorrowland or Adventureland. It just takes a moment to stop and see things in a whole new light.




September 6, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Illuminations

Fireworks from Japan
Copyright © 2003 Barrie Brewer, Nikon E3100

One of the things Disney does best is put on a spectacular fireworks show. This photo, although not one of my best, has always been one of my favorites. It's a photo of the Illuminations fireworks show at Epcot, taken from the upstairs deck outside of Teppanyaki restaurant. I took this with a point and shoot camera on the automatic/normal setting. I used the deck railing to steady the shot. At the time, I had no idea how to take good photos of fireworks. Basically I just clicked away, hoping something might come out. This was my one lucky shot out of about twenty.

One of the questions asked most often on photography forums is "How can I take great fireworks shots?" This summer I learned that it's actually not that hard if you follow a few simple guidelines.

1. Pick a good location to shoot from. Choose a spot that is upwind from where the fireworks will be set off so that the smoke blows away from you and out of your photograph. Remember that the fireworks will explode high in the sky, so be sure to look up when choosing your spot. Make sure that your view will not be blocked by trees, buildings or giant torches - although thoughtfully incorporating some things (like the torii gate above or a child on dad's shoulders) will create a nice composition.

2. Use a tripod. It's the only way to be sure you will get a sharp picture. Even better, combine the tripod with a remote shutter release.

3. Turn your flash off. The only thing it's going to light is the back of the head of the person in front of you - not exactly the effect you're going for!

4. Use the right settings. If you have a point and shoot with a fireworks setting on your camera, use that. If not, set your camera to landscape. If you can manually set your camera, the following settings are a good place to start: ISO 100, 2-3 second shutter, aperture f8-f16.

5. Take lots of photos. After the first few, take a look to make sure you're getting what you want. Now enjoy the show!

I used these guidelines to take photos of the fireworks on the 4th of July this year. I was so pleased with the results. Finally, I have fireworks shots that I'm proud of. I can't wait for my next trip to Disney World to photograph Wishes and Illuminations.

September 7, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Landscape or Portrait?

When taking a picture, one of the first elements I think about is whether to use a Landscape (horizontal) or Portrait (vertical) orientation. A lot depends on the subject as people and tall objects like towers or castles look better to me as a portrait. While four legged animals and sweeping vistas look better as a landscape. The second element I consider is what do I want to use the photograph for. Do I want to make a large print and hang it in the living room? Or, as in the case of the crow's nest and sail outside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Magic Kingdom, will I use it as wallpaper on my computer screen.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 38mm Focal Length

I know it's popular to want to share your photography, especialy Walt Disney World photos, with other people as computer wallpaper. Just don't get stuck in taking pictures only for computer screens. When first studying photography and later when doing wedding photography, I read over and over that by turning my camera 90 degrees and shooting my subjects in a vertical orientation, it would make my photos stand out. With that in mind, I often take both a landscape and a portrait version of a photograph.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean Crow's Nest. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-70DX, 1/160s, f/6.3, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 60mm Focal Length

Don't forget to shoot vertical! You'll be glad you did. So, drink up, me 'earties, yo ho!

September 9, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #5

This was Challenge #4:
Where in the World #4

And here's the answer:
Wilderness Lodge Lights
Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 0.077s shutter, f4.5

Apparently, this wasn't really a challenge after all! Nearly everyone got the answer correct. Congratulations go to Melissa N. Wheeler for being the first one to tell me that Challenge #4 comes from the teepee chandeliers in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge. OK, now that I know I'm not dealing with a bunch of novices here, you can bet I'm going to step up these challenges and make them a bit harder!

Challenge #5: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #5
Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer by clicking on the comments link below this post.

September 11, 2007

Focus on Disney World - A Cup of Love

Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 0.333s shutter, f4.2

Accidents happen! Here's one that was a nice surprise when I got home. I was practicing taking night photos of the Mad Tea Party ride and had way more than I actually wanted, but I didn't want to take the time to delete any of the extras while I was in the park. When I got home I was glad I kept them all because I discovered this sweet couple when I was looking at the full size shots on my computer. I love how the all of the teacups are a total blur except theirs. It's almost as if they were the only ones there. I'm sure they thought they were!

Quick Tip: Don't delete your photos until you get a chance to see them in large format. Sometimes there may be a hidden gem that you'll be glad you saved.

September 12, 2007

Light Meter: Point and Shoot 101

There is an abundance of cameras on the market these days for the consumer to choose from. The important question is, which one is right for you? Do you only take photos at birthday parties and family gatherings? Are you at every soccer game cheering on your daughter? Have you found yourself hoping for more control over your images? These and many other questions will help to determine what type of camera you are looking for.

In this chapter, I will go over the basic differences between compact point and shoot cameras and those designated as high end. Afterwards, we'll take a 10 minute break and resume with a whole hearted discussion on why Donald Duck only wears a shirt but after a shower, has a towel around his waist.

Compact cameras come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They have 1 of 2 types of lenses: normal or internal zoom. Since most cameras are small they can be carried around easily. Just like many people wear their cell phone case on their belt, a small camera case can also be worn in the same manner. Compact cameras vary in additional features however they all (less some kids cameras):

Have a timer
Record video clips
Have red eye reduction
Have an LCD
Offer scene modes: Auto, Portrait, Night, Action, Landscape
Have a built-in flash
Have an optical zoom of 3x or 4x and a digital zoom

Additional features may include:

Scene modes: Fireworks, Dusk/Dawn, Beach/Snow, Museum, Copy, Pets, Macro, Copy, Food
Sound with video
Voice recording
Adjustable ISO settings
Aperature Priority
Manual Mode
Shoot in enhanced color, B&W and/or Sepia

Pictured above are two examples of compact cameras. On the left is the Nikon Coolpix S50. That square on the top right of the Nikon is an internal zoom lens. To the right is the Fujifilm FinePix V10. Does anyone else hear "It's Hip to be Square" playing in their head right now?

High end point and shoot cameras are right smack dab inbetween compact cameras and SLRs. They offer more creative control than compact cameras and better lenses yet don't measure up to the quality of an SLR. You also can't change lenses. These cameras are also inbetween when it comes to size. They won't fit in your handbag (well, most anyway) but you could put the case in a duffle bag.

What you'll find on high end point and shoots:

Video recording with sound
Rey eye reduction
LCDs and viewfinders
Scene modes
Built-in flash
Optical zoom of 10x, 12x, or 18x digital zoom
Higher quality lenses
Adjustable ISO settings
Manual Mode, Aperature Priority, Shutter Priority
Image Stabilization

Additional features may include:

Hot shoe for external flash
Macro and Telephoto lens attachments
Custom Functions
Greater range of ISO settings
Advanced metering


Pictured above we have the Sony Cybershot H5 and the Olympus SP-550UZ.

September 14, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Color of Light

Not all light is pure white and will have a certain color temperature. Engineers express this in degrees Kelvin which you might have used in your high school physics or chemistry classes. Our eyes see color temperature as color casts like blue, green or red. Have you ever taken a picture and have it look bluish or greenish when you see it just fine? That is because your camera's White Balance setting sees color temperatures. Our brain "knows" what color you are looking at so it adjusts for color temperatures that are not too extreme. Digital cameras are getting better automatically adjusting white balance with each new model but they are not there yet.

What do we do to get the right color? Digital camera designers and engineers have given us several ways to adjust the white balance and even fine tune it. Depending on your camera, look up white balance settings in the manual. You should see similiar settngs as these with a brief description: Auto or AWB, Incandescent (sometimes referred to as Tungsten or Indoor), Daylight or Sunny, Cloudy, Flash, Shade and Fluorescent. On the camera itself, these different settings are represented by icons. You may want to copy this information and carry it with you for reference. Those icons can get confusing. On most digital SLRs, you can also fine tune these settings further. On my Nikon D70, I can adjust plus or minus up to 3. For example, I often use Auto -3, which gives me very vivid colors, especially reds and yellows. It can sometimes give me too much red as evidenced below in my photo of Ariel during the Voyage of the Little Mermaid stage show at the Disney-MGM Studios. Not only is her hair a flaming red so is her skin!

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Ariel with bad white balance setting. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/5.6, 640 ISO, -1 EV, 150mm Focal Length

Another photographer, Mark Barbieri, shows us how to set the white balance correctly. Notice Ariel's skin color is what we see during the show and how I expect the Disney Imagineers wanted us to see her. I'd like to thank Mark for allowng me to use this photograph.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Mark Barbieri
Ariel with good white balance setting. © Mark Barbieri

As always, you should practice using each of the white balance settings. For instance, the Shade white balance setting will warm up colors in a scene as shade looks bluish to a camera. That doesn't mean you have to use it in shade, it will warm up a sunset just as nicely. Investigate how others are using their white balance settings on the camera you own. Photography forums have lots of information on creative uses of white balance.

Further Reading: How to Set White Balance

September 16, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #6

This was Challenge #5:
Where in the World #5

And here's the answer:
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 0.006s shutter, f6.3

This challenge was a real stumper. Pretty much everyone guessed that it was part of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. That's not a bad guess given that it is a pile of canonballs, but it's actually located off to the side of the Liberty Square Riverboat launch. What I find curious is that it is aimed directly at the people on Tom Sawyer Island. Watch out next time you're there!

Now, I'm sure there's someone out there who knows where this next challenge is located"

Challenge #6: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #6
Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer by clicking on the comments link below this post.

September 18, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Yeti Shrine

Yeti Shrine
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200, 1/1000s shutter, f4.8

If you listen to our friends over at the WDW Today podcast, they'll tell you that an hour or two is more than enough time to spend in the Animal Kingdom. They are exaggerating of course, but their point is that there just isn't that much to "do" there. If it's attractions you're most interested in, then I'd have to agree. The only ones I make sure I never miss are Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Festival of the Lion King.

As a photographer though, I have to disagree. I think Animal Kingdom may be my new favorite park for taking pictures. I think Disney did a fabulous job on the theming in this park. The detail is incredible. At every turn there is something interesting to capture on camera. It's also a very beautiful park. The landscaping is gorgeous and there's water everywhere. Oh, and don't forget the animals. Two hours may be enough time for the attractions, but I could easily fill two days with taking photos at Animal Kingdom.

Quick Tip: I spend a lot of time looking at other people's photos. It's a great way to learn about what kind of photos catch my interest. Once when looking at some Disney photos I came across a photo of the Yeti Shrine with Expedition Everest in the background. It wasn't obvious, but as I studied it I noticed the shrine seemed to have a similar shape to the mountain. In that photo I couldn't be sure so, on my next trip I made a point to check it out. Indeed, as you can see, if you stand in just the right spot you can line up the shrine and the mountain. That was a fun discovery.

September 19, 2007

Light Meter: A Tale of 1 Million Megapixels Porportion

Sit back, relax, and pay close attention as this a true story.

It was a damp and dark night with the fog rolling in from the Atlantic coastline. In the distance, a shrieking owl and the rattling of chains echo in moonlight. Then all of a sudden,

Wait, wait, wait, that's the wrong story. Sorry folks. I left the computer for a few minutes and my cat got ahold of the keyboard.

A woman came into my work today with her Kodak Easyshare C653 wanting to print out her photos. We inserted the SD card into the computer and it said she had 20 photos on her card. She shook her head and told me she had LOTS of photos and she'd taken them recently. Alright, they are probably stored in the camera's internal memory. I put the SD card back into her camera and copied them from the camera to the memory card.

By doing a quick calculation in my head, I guessed the monitor would now show a total of 30 photos, give or take. I reloaded her card into the monitor and it showed a new total of 72 photos! If I was a cartoon character, my eyes would have bugged out, my jaw would have hit the floor and I would have left a mark on my forehead for smacking it too hard. Why, you ask. Because you see my friends, in order to get that many photos into 32 MB of internal memory, you have to reduce the megapixels to next to nothing.

What does this mean? It means that the photos she took of her grandkids weren't going to make good prints because they were shot a 1 MP. That's right, just 1 million megapixels.

What happened when she tried to print her photos? The computer gave her a warning that said her file size was too small to get a decent 4x6 print. In bolder terms, the kids are going to look like they're made out of Legos or if they're toddlers, Duplos.

How does this happen? It's quite simple. Someone lowered the quality level on her camera. Many pepople do this so they can get more photos on the memory card, understandably. However, they're usually not aware of the impending results. I see this happen all too often. Dads who kick themselves and friends who are saddened all by the fact that their great shot won't make a great gift.

How can I get more photos on my memory card? The larger the card, the more photos it will store. The more megapixels in your camera, the larger the file sizes. Today's cameras average 8 MP and either come with a 32MB or 64MB (megabyte) card or internal memory of the same size. That's around 8 photos at the highest resolution. Be good to yourself and get a memory card that is no less than 512MB. That will hold around 160 photos on a 7 or 8 MP camera. To double that amount, you'll want a 1GB (gigabyte) card. We'll go over memory cards in more detail in a future edition of Light Meter.


The best advice I can give you is to always shoot at the highest resolution your camera has. If you have a 6 MP camera, set it to 6 MP. It may also offer a quality level showing a number of stars. Choose the most stars. This way, you'll never have to worry about changing the settings and if you can make that enormous poster of your hubby dressed as the Tooth Fairy for his surprise 40th birthday party.

September 21, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Look Up!

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
The Crown and Crest store in Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, 450 ISO, +1 EV, 18mm Focal Length

While "researching" family crests and name histories in the United Kingdom's Crown and Crest store in Epcot, I suddenly remembered the old Walt Disney themepark fan's adage, "Look Up!". I was rewarded with the view you see above of multicolored flags depicting family crests from Ol'England hanging from the wooden rafters.

Did you know most pictures are taken about five to six feet off the ground or eye level of most people? While I was standing for this photograph, many times after taking an initial photograph, I pause and think how I can make it better. Would a different angle help? What if I move closer? Or farther away? Would getting down on my knees or belly give the picture more impact? How about from above? Is it possible to come back at another time of day when the sun is low or at night?

Now, I do know it is very hard to do this at Walt Disney World with the crowds, kids in tow or rushing to get to a scheduled show or dining reservation. However, I encourage you to practice this exercise with subjects around your home, neighborhood or anywhere you have your camera with you. Thankfully, Disney Imagineers make it easy and all you need to do is look up...

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Flags blowing in the wind above the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 75mm Focal Length

September 23, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #7

This was Challenge #6:
Where in the World #6

And here's the answer:
Toy Store Sign
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/60s shutter, f4.8

Many people guessed Small World for this challenge. I can see why, but it's actually from the United Kingdom toy store in Epcot. Congratulations to Stacey Van Dyke for being the first to send in the correct answer.

Challenge #7: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #7

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer by clicking on the comments link below this post.

September 25, 2007

Focus on Disney World - The Little Things

Mmm... Tasty!
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200, 1/500s shutter, f5.6

I happened upon this little guy having breakfast while walking on the path between Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney. He was so intent on eating that he didn't even mind me taking his picture. If you look really close you can see one of the buildings in the reflection in his eye.

Quick Tip: My tip for today really is a quickie - take time to notice the little things. Yup, that's it. So often we are trying to cram in as much as we possibly can at Disney World. If you're anything like me, you need a vacation from your vacation! Many of my favorite shots were taken when I slowed down and really paid attention to what was around me. And, come to think of it, those are some of my favorite memories as well.

September 26, 2007

Light Meter: Peter Pan Picked a Pack of Pictures

What? I don't know. I was trying to think of a title for this installment of my blog and honestly, I had a brain cramp. Forgive me.

There's one question I hear more often than anything else. How many photos can I fit onto the memory card? For your enjoyment, I have designed a pretty chart that will answer that very question, approximately. Yes, approximately because the precise number of photos per memory card will vary depending upon the camera itself and the image being shot. The chart is based upon shooting at the camera's High Resolution for JPEGs.


Click on the chart to see it larger.

MB = Megabyte, GB = Gigabyte

September 28, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Google's Picasa

Google's free photo editing software, Picasa, is a simple to use way to enhance, clean up or fix your digital photographs. I have been impressed with what I have learned in the few days I have used Picasa. It has given me a way to fix some high contrast images I took during this year's International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot.

As most of you are aware, the midday Florida sun is very bright. When I came upon the Donald Duck and Pluto pirate topiaries at the entrance to World Showcase coming from Future World, it was around three in the afternoon. My first attempts had Donald and Pluto well exposed but the bright sky and clouds were blown out. The clouds looking more like unnatural white bloobs due to overexposure. Using the exposure compensation button on my camera, I adjusted it down to -1.3 EV before the sky and clouds became correctly exposed. Unfortunetaly, due to the extreme difference or contrast in the brightness of the sky and the topiaries, Donald and Pluto were now underexposed. In digital photography, it's best to expose for the brightest parts of the scene which is what I did in the photo you see below.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Donald Duck and Pluto topiaries before editing. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/13, 200 ISO, -1.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

I'm sure you can see why I might toss this image into the trash bin. However, I had downloaded Picasa and had been learning it's capabilities. Maybe I can fix it! With a gleam in my eye, I launched Picasa and went about the task of throwing some added light on to Donald and Pluto.

Picasa has two elements to it. First is the Library which catalogs all your images on your Window's based PC (as of this writing, Picasa does not have a Mac OSX or Linux version available). You scroll through all your images on the right side of the Library's window. On the left you can set up virtual folders and see the aging of other photos by folder. You can watch slideshows, email, print and upload to Picasa Web Albums from the Library.

Double clicking on an image brings it into the Picasa Editor. On the left side, you see Picasa's tools with three tab views entitled Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects. For my pirate topiary photo, I started out by adding some Fill Light in the Basic Fixes tab, moving the slider to the right until the detail in both Donald and Pluto could be seen clearly. This kept most of the detail in the sky and clouds without blowing them out. For this image, I didn't need any of the Tuning tools and skipped right to the Effects tab. In adding fill light, some of the color of the flowers at Donald's feet got a bit washed out or dull looking. I used the Saturation tool on the Effects tab to bring the color back. Don't overdo this effect unless you want a really cartoonish look to your photo. I applied just a bit here. As you'll read in most photo editing books, I applied sharpening as the last step in the photo editng process. Here again, you don't want to give it too much or the photo looks unreal. I clicked on the Sharpened tool just once.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Donald Duck and Pluto topiaries after editing in Picasa. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007

All done! What do you think? For a free photo editor, Picasa did an excellent job. Oh, and another thing, when I saved the edited version, Picasa saved my original in a separate folder. Picasa is far from PhotoShop but you can't beat the price for such an easy and useful photo editing tool.

September 30, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #8

This was Challenge #7:
Where in the World #7

And here's the answer:
Village Beatnik
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/500s shutter, f5.7

And the winner is" Marie Bertini! Marie was the first to correctly identify this photo as the Zendrum played by the Village Beatniks in Animal Kingdom. You can usually find them rocking out near the Flame Tree BBQ on Discovery Island.

Challenge #8: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #8

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer by clicking on the comments link below this post.

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About September 2007

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

August 2007 is the previous archive.

October 2007 is the next archive.

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