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October 2007 Archives

October 2, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Composition

Floating Flower Bowls
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/250s shutter, f5.7

Most of us take a lot of snapshots when we are on vacation - quick photos of our traveling companions standing in front of their favorite attractions. We're happy when we catch them with their eyes open or a smile on their face. Then we get home and realize that all of our photos look pretty much the same: there's Barb and the kids in front of the castle" there's Barb and the kids in front of Morocco" that's the kids with Barb in front of Star Tours" oh, there's me and the kids in front of Expedition Everest" hmmm, what's that" I can't quite tell, but it must be Barb and the kids!

Have you ever looked at some people's vacation photos and felt like you could just walk right into the picture, almost as if you were there yourself? How is it that some pictures are so fun and interesting to look at? Some people seem to have a real knack for taking great photos. Well, you don't have to be a professional photographer or have any fancy equipment to take photos that stand out from the typical tourist shots. People who take good photos just know how to compose them in a way that makes them interesting for others to view. There are people for whom this comes naturally, but for most of us it's a simple matter of knowing a few composition techniques.

Over the next few weeks I'll show you how, with very little effort, you can take photos that look like they were taken by a pro. You won't necessarily want to use these tips on every photo you take. After all, those fuzzy, crooked pix of droopy-eyed relatives in front of Tower of Terror make us smile! But it is fun to experiment and it doesn't hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve to mix things up a bit.

Quick Tip: Although there are many techniques for composing a photo, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Don't get too caught up in trying to follow the rules of composition. The photo above was taken at the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot last May. I didn't use any particular technique to take it. All I did to compose this shot was move around, looking through my viewfinder until I liked what I saw. I wanted to capture the contrast between the circles created by the flower pots and the stripes created by the light in the water. When I got those two things lined up in a way that was pleasing to my eye, I snapped the photo.

October 3, 2007

Light Meter: Shoot from Different Angles

As they say, variety is the spice of life. It's easy to "spice up" your photographs by simply taking a few minutes to walk around and shoot from different positions. You may find yourself standing on benches, crouching down or leaning over things. Sure you'll garner strange looks from people but you'll have the cooler photos.
I started shooting near the Rock 'N Rollercoaster restrooms.

Then I moved closer and stood near the wall and shrubbery between the entrances to Tower of Terror and Rock 'N Rollercoaster.

I moved once more over by the CM exit/entrance by Rock 'N Rollercoaster, walking forward and backwards a bunch while swatting bugs.

October 5, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Create a Disney Christmas Card

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Chistmas Mickey & Minnie. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/25s, f/4.5, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

There are many ways to use our photos. Enlarge and frame them for our homes or give photographic gift items like magnets, t-shirts or buttons. With the advent of digital photography and the Internet, you can create online digital albums and slideshows complete with music. Many people think ahead and take unique family photographs and create holiday cards to send to family and friends.

This year, I wanted to use one of my photos taken last year during Mousefest in Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. The figurine of Mickey holding misletoe over Minnie as she is closing in to give him a kiss was a delightful one I couldn't resist. I used available light in the shoppe and got close with the 80-200 zoom lens on my camera. Your feet is your best zoom lens. This allowed me to use the widest aperture and shortest focal length of the lens to get the most light onto the camera's sensor and blurring the busy background of people passing by the shop window.

Many photo software packages today have ways to create and order prints, cards, postcards and other items. I used Apple's iPhoto to place the photo on the front of the Christmas card. I liked this layout with the angled image, old English font for the text and simple blue border. Inside is a place for more text and pictures. From there it was a simple click to order the quantity I wanted.

October 7, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #9

This was Challenge #8:
Where in the World #8

And here's the answer:
Stormalong Bay Slide
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/500s shutter, f4.8

The best resort pool on property, hands down, is Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Clubs. This beached pirate ship, named the Albatross, is the pool's slide.

Darn - no winners this week. I guess this one was kind of hard. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse was the most popular guess. This next one will be easy for you Hidden Mickey buffs - better get your answers in early!

Challenge #9: Where in the world is this?
Where in the World #9

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

October 9, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Germany

Germany at Night
Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 0.8s shutter, f4.8

I think I've mentioned this before - night photos are my favorite, especially from Disney World. This is Germany from the World Showcase in Epcot. I think Epcot is the most beautiful place after dark. I always try to make sure I am as far from the exit as possible at closing time!

Quick Tip: I recently heard someone say that they know their camera so well that they are able to use every function in the dark. I'm working on it but I'm a long way from being able to do that! In the meantime, I carry a small LED flashlight in my camera bag to help me see the controls on my camera at night.

I've been through three different flashlights and finally found one that works for me. The first two had buttons on the side of the flashlight that kept turning on by themselves. The one I have now has a button on the end, similar to a click type pen. It takes a bit of effort to press it on so I don't have to worry about it illuminating the inside of my camera bag.

October 10, 2007

Light Meter: Get in the Picture

Here you are on vacation with your family and you are having the most excellent time EVER! You've dined on yummy desserts, ridden it's a small world 4 times in a row, and shopped till you dropped. Sure you've taken a few photos of your cousin Matthew around the World but where are the ones of you?

It's Tuesday and you've got the day off but all of your pals are busy working. How much more laundry can you possibly do? Time to hit Disneyland and enjoy a pleasant afternoon. You've got your handy dandy $12 purple 35mm camera with you. It's time to play.

Suffice it to say I've been to Disneyland and Walt Disney World a combined amount of...way too many times to count. With solo trips to both parks I've learned to make sure my good times are recorded as well as those of my friends.

There are a few ways that you too can get in the picture.

1. Ask a nearby guest to take the picture of you. I'd be on the lookout for someone who has an SLR with them. Why? It's more likely that this person will take a little more time to get a nice keepsake for you.

2. There are Cast Members all around and they're more than happy to help you out. Don't be shy just ask nicely if they'd please take a photo of you.

3. Put your camera on a flat surface, set the timer, and run! All point and shoot cameras (except disposables and my $12 purple one) have a timer. The average time you have is 10 seconds before it takes the picture. Consult your manual for instructions. It's a great and simple feature to use.

4. Self-portrait. It can be done and can be done even better if you have long arms. For best results hold the camera above your eye level and tilt it down a little bit.

How good will your photos turn out...well that's up to the photographer and your imagination.

Here I am at Pop Century dancing with my shadow on the wall.

This is me at Super Soap Weekend at Disney's California Adventure, poised and ready to meet my adoring fans.

Sometimes I bring props.

On October 21st I will be at The Disneyland Resort walking for Children's Hospital of Orange County. If you'd like to learn more and/or sponsor me, please click here. Thank you.

October 12, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Collage of Terror

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Tower of Terror collage. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/360s, f/7.5, 100 ISO, 0 EV

I love creating new artistic works from my photographs. This one I am particularly proud of as it came together over a couple of years. I first took the picture of the Disney Hollywood Studio's Tower of Terror during a trip back in 2004. I liked the clouds overhead. On a return trip a year later, I was in an hour wait queue to ride the Tower of Terror. Since I had my trusty Nikon Coolpix 995 with me, I passed the time by taking pictures of things I came upon in the queue. Disney Imagineers do a wonderful job of detail and I wanted to capture some of it.

Fast forward a couple of months and I came upon a speciality photo software package called LumaPix FotoFusion which made it very easy to create photo collages. If you are a scrapbooker, you may also want to take a look at this software. FotoFusion has frames in all shapes and sizes. There are backgrounds to choose from or you can use your own graphics or photos as was the case with mine here. It makes it easy to get started creating a collage by selecting the photos you want to use and pressing the Auto Collage button. If you don't like the first layout it comes out with, press it again. Once you see something you like, you can take over for the final arrangment of the images, change sizes of the images, put different frames and borders on them, add text in any font your computer has and use special effects like shadowing and blurs.

Taking my Tower of Terror image from 2004 as the background and grabbing a few from my queue photos in 2005, I started putting together my collage. It's a lot of fun moving the images around, selecting frames, colors and effects, even rotating them. After I got done, I wanted something more. The font wasn't creepy enough. It didn't take me long to find a Twilight Zone font on the Internet which gave an authentic look to the final product.

Photo collages are a great way to create new images from photos you had no idea what to do with.

October 14, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #10

This was Challenge #9:
Where in the World #9

And here's the answer:
Canada Totem Pole
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/55-200, 10/5000s shutter, f5.6

This Hidden Mickey is on one of the totem poles outside of Canada in the World Showcase area of Epcot. Do you see it? Jacquelyn Law did and she was first to let me know. Congratulations Jacquelyn, you're this week's winner!

For more Hidden Mickey fun be sure to check out Steve Barrett's blog here on AllEarsNet.

Challenge #10: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #10

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

October 16, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Framing Your Subject

A Framed View of the Carrousel
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/5s shutter, f4.8

Using objects in the foreground of your shot to frame your subject is a good way to focus attention where you want it and add depth to your photo. While in the Magic Kingdom, I used the arched doorway of Cinderella's castle to frame the passageway and the carrousel behind the castle.

A frame can help give context to your photo. A desert view framed by a rock formation really gives you a sense of place. A frame leads the viewer's eye into the photo and may even encourage the viewer to look at it longer. You are limited only by your imagination when choosing a framing element. Here are some framing ideas to get you started.

" Architectural elements such as archways, doorways, windows, a hole in a wall, bridges and tunnels make great framing elements.

" Natural elements like rock formations, a gap in dense foliage or between trees, the overhanging branches of a tree, and even people can be used to frame your subject. For example, you can shoot over people's shoulders or between their heads. There are plenty of opportunities for this at Disney World! You can even use shadows to frame your subject.

" The absence of objects, for instance a bare wall, can frame your subject by isolating it. This is what photographers do when they use a backdrop. Another way to isolate your subject is to use a very shallow depth of field to blur the background, creating a frame that will surround your subject.

" Patterns are often used as framing devices. Imagine the shelves in the World of Disney filled with stuffed Pooh bears. Now imagine one pink Piglet in the center of all that orange. That's a frame.

Your frame can go completely around your subject or it might just be on one or two edges of your shot. It can be close to the edge of your photo or protrude pretty far into it, even taking up most of the space in it. The key is to keep in mind is that you are trying to focus the viewer's attention on your subject. You don't want your frame to overshadow the subject but in the same instance, you don't want a wimpy frame that just ends up being a distraction. A good practice is to ask yourself if the frame will add to the photo or take away from it before you click your shutter. Experiment and see what you like.

October 17, 2007

Light Meter: Optical Zoom & Digital Zoom

It was not that long ago that digital camera manufacturers advertised their products as having a 9x combined zoom. This led most consumers to believe that cameras had a 9x zoom, period. The box would likely say 3x optical/6x digital/9x combined. This can be rather confusing. People did not know there was such a thing as an optical zoom and a digital zoom.

Nowadays you're less likely to hear digital cameras touted for their combined zooms as it's become apparent that digital zooms are rarely used and for good reason as you'll see.

Below are 3 photos of Katy* all taken with a Fujifilm A900. The image stabilization was on as was the flash. This camera has 9 million megapixels, a 4x optical zoom and an approximate 7.6x digital zoom.
This first picture was taken without any zoom at all. This is a nice and clear photo.

Next, I used the optical zoom here getting as close as possible. The photo is still sharp and can be printed as a clear 8x10, at least.

Finally, I zoomed in digitally. Even in this small example you can see the pixels.

I strongly suggest clicking on the photos to see them larger. You'll instantly see the difference between the results of an optical zoom and a digital zoom. Now, there are some cameras that do a better job than this but the result you see here is extremely commom.

Why does this happen? Simply put, an optical lens brings the subject closer to you through the lens by changing it's focal length. This is what is on all 35mm and APS cameras. A digital zoom kicks in after the optical zoom is maxed out and literally enalrges the pixels. This breaks the image apart.

Let's say Katy is running track and her boyfriend Josh takes a photo of her. He's zoomed in as far as he can but she's still further away than he'd like. His best bet is to take the picture only using the optical zoom and when he gets home, crop it using photo software. He'll get far better results than if he used the digital zoom.

When you're out shopping for a new camera, only concern yourself with the optical zoom and forget about the digital. A good salesperson won't even mention digital zooms. For those of you who have been getting pixelated looking photos, check your cameras. It's quite possible that your digital zoom is turned on. Check your manual for instructions on how to turn it off.

Happy shooting!
* Katy was not harmed in the making of these photos.

October 19, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Adding Light to the Sun

Earlier, I showed how the use of software can add light to a badly underexposed photo. What if I told you there was a way to do the same thing using your camera and not having to do any post-processing in software. Would that be worth something to ya?

Looking at the photo below taken at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, you can see that the background and sky are nicely exposed but the subject is in shadow because of the angle fo the sun in relation to the photographer.

Scottwdw (yep, that's me) at Disney's Boardwalk Resort © Scott Thomas Photography 2005
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/250s, f/6.0, 100 ISO, 0 EV

After looking at the image in the camera's LCD, I instructed the photographer (my daughter) to use the camera's flash to fill in the shadows. The result you can view below.

Scottwdw (me, again) at Disney's Boardwalk Resort © Scott Thomas Photography 2005
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/60s, f/6.0, 100 ISO, 0 EV, Flash Used

This technique is called Fill Flash as it fills in shadow and dark areas of a scene with the use of an artificial light source. In this case, the builtin flash on the camera. In digital SLR and advanced Point & Shoot cameras, you may hear the term balanced fill flash as the camera will calculate the amount of flash needed using the amount of light detected by it's light meter. You don't want the flash to overpower the available light but to add just enough to bring out darkened areas like in this example.

Further Reading: While this article talks specifically about Canon equipment, other manufacturer's cameras work in a simliar fashion. Fill-in flash use with EOS cameras and speedlites

October 21, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #11

This was Challenge #10:
Where in the World #10

And here's the answer:
Gorilla Sign
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/20s shutter, f4

I just love all the creative signs at Disney World. This one is located on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. In addition to gorillas, you'll find birds, fish, monkeys, duikers and hippos on this trail near Kilimanjaro Safaris.

I think the signs are as much fun to look at as the animals. Karen Dresser-Smith from Salem, Massachusetts must think so too - she's this week's challenge winner!


Challenge #11: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #11

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

October 24, 2007

Light Meter: Where to Buy Your Camera

You've been doing your homework about the new camera you want. You've asked your friends what they like and don't like about their cameras. You've been to the stores to check them out and see what they look like and how they feel in your hands. Now you're ready to go out there and buy yourself a brand new camera.

The absolute best place to buy a camera is in a camera store whether it's a retail shop or a professional store. This is because you will find knowledgeable people working there who are interested in helping you get what fits your needs. You can't put a price on experience and knowhow. Sure some shops might be a little more expensive than others but they are privately owned and struggling to stay afloat in a world of Amazon.com and Overstock.com. Personally, I purchase some equipment from my local shop every so often to help them out even though I get a discount at my job. They're good people and I hope they remain open for years to come.

Let's take a look at some stores near you.

Wolf Camera/Ritz Camera is the largest chain of retail camera specialty shops in the US with over 900 locations. Why the 2 names? Ritz bought out Wolf (his cousin) a few years back. The Wolf stores kept their name. You can find a store in most major malls. This company stocks little professional equipment and is geared towards consumers. Check for a store nearby. Please note that the physical stores and online store are 2 different companies although both are owned by the same person.

Calumet not only has shops in the USA but they also operate in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Here you'll find a combination of amateur and professional equipment including darkroom supplies and background seamless paper. Is there one near you?

Samy's Camera has several locations in California. Geared far more towards the professional, walking into a Samy's can be overwhelming for some and heaven for others (points to self). Need to rent a 500mm lens for your son's football game? They've got it. Wanna scan all of your negatives? Samy's Camera has what you need and can tell you how to use it.

Hunt's Photo, Video and Definately Digital serves New England residents with a total of 7 locations. Known for the yearly Hunt's Show in Boston where reps from all of the major manufacturer's offered special deals to attendees (excuse me while I sing "Memories"), it has been downsized and placed in all of their shops. Their next event is October 26-28.
Learn more about Hunt's

A few smaller shops that I personally recommend are:

Pitman Photo Supply in Miami, Florida

The Camera Company in Norwood, Massachusetts

Colonial Photo & Hobby Inc, in Orlando, Florida

October 26, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Online Photo Editing

Running applications on the Internet has come a long way since portals like Yahoo and Google introduced Online Email. Now you can run spreadsheets and word processors as well as figure out when you can call for your Advanced Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World.

NOTE: Since the publication of this post, Picnik has been shut down. Today (April 29, 2014), I would recommend this online photo editor: iPiccy.

Just recently, a new online photo editor was officially launched called Picnik which lets you do many general edits to your photos as well as add special effects, shapes, text and frames. Picnik has two versions. A Basic version which is free to use and a Premium version for $24.95 annually. Picnik currently interfaces with some of the more popular photo sharing websites such as Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Photobucket, Webshots and even Facebook. You'll find links on the Photo Tab of Picnik for more information on how to use photos from those sites.

Before Editing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007

After Editing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/11, 400 ISO, -0.3 EV

I wanted to see just how good such an application might be so I created a free Picnik account and got started. Since this is an Internet application, it doesn't matter whether you are using a Windows, Linux or Mac operating system. As long as your browser supports Picnik, you'll be fine. I had no trouble using Picnik in Internet Explorer or Safari. If you don't use any of the services Picnik interfaces with, you can do what I do and upload a photo directly from your computer. You can only work on one photo at a time.

For our example, I choose a photo I took of Disney Hollywood Studio's Beauty and the Beast Stage Show where I had the wrong white balance setting causing a very reddish cast to the actor's faces. Picnik has tabs across the top for Home, Photos, Edit, Create and Save & Share (see screen shot below). The Edit tab is where you start to improve your images. You can Rotate, Crop, Resize, and even fix Red-Eye. You'll find adjustment tools for Exposure, Color and Sharpen on this tab, too.

To fix my image, I started with the Exposure tool. To enter any of the tools, just click on the corresponding button. In Exposure you can add or subtract exposure and contrast using sliders. An Advanced tool is also available which shows a Histogram and adds sliders for Highlights and Shadows. In this case, I added a little exposure to lighten up the photograph. This is a good place to note that all your editing is done on the entire image. You don't have a way to selectively edit like you would in Photoshop and other similar PC based photo editing applications.

Picnik Application (click for larger image)

The major fix I needed for this example was for color. Under the Color tab, you have Auto Color, Neutral Picker and sliders for Saturation and Color Temperature. Knowing the white balance was my main concern, I slid the color temperature slider to the left which adjusts the color cast towards the blue end of the spectrum. I had to slide it a long ways and ended up at a -65. It looked good but not quite good enough. I hit the Reset button to start over. This time I used the Auto Color button and while it looked a bit washed out at a setting of -84, the skin tones were much better. All the tools in Picnik have a Reset button. In that if you find what you are doing gets a bit odd looking, it's easy to start over. Clicking the OK button, retains the edits. I added a little sharpening in the Sharpen tool, too.

Now the fun begins. While I liked the photo, it needed "something". I entered the Create tab of the Picnik application and started trying various effects. After adjusting the color temperature earlier, I noted the photo looked a bit washed out. Using the Boost tool, I added some color back in adjusting the slider to 5 percent. This brought back a little redness to the faces but it looked more natural. I found I liked the look of adding a Matte around the subjects. You can control the size, strength and color of the matte effect. I emphasized the golden color of Belle's dress and the Prince's suit trim this way. Next, I went to the Shapes tool and added the heart shape. I changed the heart's location, size, color and fading before adding the text in the Text tool.

Once I was satisfied with everything, I went to the Save & Share tab and saved the new image back to my computer's hard drive. Be careful here. Picnik will use the same name for the edited version. Picnik might think about adding some sort of extension in a future update.

I was very impressed with how far Picnik has come in the last three months when I first discovered it. The developers keep adding new tools, controls, effects, shapes and fonts all the time. Being an Internet application, you can access it from any computer in the world. Might come in handy for doing edits from a hotel room in Walt Disney World for all you bloggers and webmasters out there. I suggest giving Picnik a try the next time you need to do some photo editing and see if it might work for you.

October 28, 2007

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #12

This was Challenge #11:
Where in the World #11

And here's the answer:
Public Works
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50/18-200VR, 1/400s shutter, f5.3

You'll see the logo for Hollywood Public Works all over Disney's MGM Studios (soon to be changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios). This goofy guy is one of the Streetmosphere actors who entertain guests along Disney's streets of Hollywood. Although many people correctly guessed that this photo came from MGM Studios, Amanda Campbell was the first person to reference the Streetmosphere performers. Congratulations Amanda, you're this week's winner!

Check out this link for an interesting article on the History of Streetmosphere.

Challenge #12: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #12

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

October 31, 2007

Light Meter: Step into the Shadows

I've just returned from a glorious week in overcast then sunny then overcast then sunny then smokey & windy California where I played with and tortured my dear friends at Disneyland. Good times. Good times. They are good sports as I put a few to work as models for this here blog with you, the reader in mind. I hope you enjoy these images as much as we do. If you don't well then, tough ganoongies. We still laugh at them.

It goes without saying that if you are being photographed while staring into the sun, you will wind up squinting or closing your eyes.


After you wipe away all your tears, step into the shadows being sure your whole face if not entire body is shaded.


Shadows will make you look Smurferific! If you'd rather have a human-like flesh tone, turn on the flash.


Today's model is Yoli. She enjoys quoting "Grease," "Spaceballs," and some movie I don't recognize. You'll find her doing an impression of Bernie's walk ala the movie "Weekend at Bernie's" while walking near Tarzan's Treehouse. Yoli collects pins and popcorn buckets. I do too and it's all her fault.

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About October 2007

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

September 2007 is the previous archive.

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