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February 2008 Archives

February 1, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Best Lens Aperture

To get the sharpest images possible with your lens, it's best not to use the widest or smallest apertures. Most lenses are optimized in the f/5.6 - f/11 aperture range and give their best performance when stopped down a couple of f-stops from the widest aperture. If you have a 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's best to use it around f/4 to f/8. Most consumer zoom lens have a sliding scale when it comes to their widest aperture. The Nikon 18-200VR lens I use has it's widest aperture of f/3.5 when it's at 18mm. At 200mm, it goes down to f/5.6. That's what it means when you see a lens' description like this: Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens where this lens starts at f/4.5 at 70mm and goes down to f/5.6 at 300mm. Usually, the faster the lens, meaning the lens starts at a very large aperture, the more expensive the lens is.

So, why not use the widest or smallest aperture? The problem with using small aperture sizes is that light waves are affected due to diffraction and though you have great depth of field, you lose out on sharpness. Large apertures are great for low-light, but unless you have an exceptional lens, its just too difficult to produce lenses that are razor sharp when wide open.

Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/8, 200 ISO, -1.0 EV, 20mm focal length

These are good guidelines to start from. The best way to find out the best apertures for the lenses you own is to test them. Set up a small still life with various objects. Include something with text on it like a sign. Watches are also good as they are small and very detailed. Put your camera on a tripod and put it in aperture priority mode. Take a series of photos varying the aperture size with each one from the smallest f-stop to the largest. Download the pictures to your computer and view each photo at 100%. I found the sharpest aperture range for my 18-200VR lens to be around f/8 at 18mm and f/11 at 200mm doing similar testing when available light permits.

Further reading: Creative Uses of Aperture

February 3, 2008

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #26

This was Challenge #25:
 Where in the World #25

And here's the answer:
Cinderella's Horse
Copyright © 2008 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1/60s shutter, f5.6

This beautiful horse lives on Cinderella's Golden Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom. There are 90 horses on this fanciful carrousel and no two are alike. What makes it special is that this is the only one with a gold ribbon on its tail, signifying that it is Cinderella's own horse.

Congratulations to Angie Young, this week's winner. In addition to Angie, 127 people knew that this is the tail of Cinderella's horse. Morgan Tosczak, Carol, Sharon Pierce, Sharon Martinez, Jennifer Kaufman, Cheri Fitz, Miranda Brooks, Sarah Biggs, Brandy White, Lisa Leonard, John Agnew, Vicki Vaught, Amy Szabo, Heather Young, Sarah Smee, Belicia Dawson, Melissa Ruggieri, Jennifer Bourg, Tom Carty, Kelly Scott, Mark Carty, Melissa Wheeler, Vera, Neil Taylor, Robin Fitts, David Lizewski, Hillary, Leslie Budd, Rebecca Rodgers Johnson, Lisa Jones, Tim Rachuba, Lora Myers, Lynn Barber, Bev Carson, Greg Tucker, Bill Sosebee, Sara Lewis, Corey Vail, Marie Bertini, Chris Bertelmann, Patti Sturgis, Amy Cole, Debbie Hudson, Cindy Haley Higgins, Katie Whitehurst, Debra Kuklinski, Judy Brodersen, Kimberly Wilson, Nick Straka, Melissa, Karen Robertson, Ken Fischler, Kari Kane, Kathy Larson, Jennifer Schwing, Gregg Letts, Melissa Blackwell, Julie Ellis, Sharon Lee, Noreen Rachuba, Kathryn Hughes, Bob Hendrix, Megan, Paula Potts, Kelley, Jill Caltagirone, Terri McAleer, Karen Nelson, Kerry Ross, Shiraz Biggie, Karen Litzau, Genevieve Obrien, Brian Yesutis, Marianna Clark, Amber Keen, Jacquelin Schmidt, Paul Ignudo, Jr., Laura Pranaitis, Michelle Raimist, Lynn Brown, Emily Rennie, Kali Murry, Lisa Honard, Jaime Thomson, Karen DeSantis, Phillip T. Stewart, Evelyn Cowdell, Jennifer Cox, Austin O'Blenis, Casey Lawler, Karen Dresser-Smith, Ron Renz, Claudia Rosani, Josh Rohrbach, Ann Fowler, Amanda Campbell, Archie, Annette, Jessica, Nick, Nicholas, Christina Romano, Denise Montgomery, Chip Vermette, Carinne Kight, Kimm Bunch, Paula Chapman, Luis Rodriguez, Eileen Miller, Kelli Vancil, Brian Gallant, Jennifer Henson, Deborah Shauan, Sara Beth Wade, Dave Cole, Heather Fresa, Sue Peters, Peggy Saeger, Matt Brethauer, Wendy Ewing, Robert Lee, Becky Sutton, Dianne Brady, Joy Ludtke, MIke Keneally, Jamie Poynton, Felice Ciccione, Frank Valenti, Michelle Ellis, Leslie Losee, Hollie Hinton and Kyle Ellis all gave the correct answer and will be entered in the February winner's drawing.

Challenge #26: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #26

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for a copy of Hidden Mickeys Walt Disney World by Steve Barrett and some special AllEars® goodies!

February 6, 2008

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

It's that special time of year, the time when retail jewelers advertise non-stop and chocolatiers strike gold. Now is when an infinite number of greeting cards and roses are delivered to loved near and across World Showcase Lagoon. Whether you celebrate Valentine's Day in little ways or big ways, here are a few photo related gifts that you still have time to purchase and create.

1. Cake! Yes, cake. These days it's pretty easy to find a bakery or grocery store such as Shaw's and Stater Bros. that will put an edible photograph on a cake. Just bring them a print and they'll handle the rest.

2. Photo book. You'll need a CD, memory card or images already on your hard drive to create a book online. Most e-commerce companies like Snapfish and Shutterfly can ship your book in time for the holiday. Another alternative is to order your book online at Ritzpix and then pick up your book in a local store.

3. Digitial Photo Frame. These are extremely popular nowadays. With just one memory card inserted, the frame will play all of the images like a slide show. If you're within a budget, check out Target or Staples. Higher quality merchandise can be found at The Sharper Image and Circuit City.

4. Portrait sitting. How romantic would it be to have a professional photographer capture the two of you on the beach, in an arboretum or perhaps in the studio. Treasured memories will last a lifetime.

5. Locket. Certainly one of the most beloved gifts given on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day is a locket with a photo inside of you and/or your children.


February 8, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Castle at Night

Walt Disney World is magical at any time of the day but, at night, it's extra magical. So much so that Walt Disney World resort guests are able to enjoy Extra Magic Hours or EMH in all the parks (see link for schedule and more information). It was on just such a night in the Magic Kingdom when I took this photograph. It was 1AM and the park had another hour of EMH to go so there was still people walking about the hub area in front of Cinderella's Castle.

Cinderella's Castle at 1AM. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/8s, f/3.8, 1100 ISO, -0.3 EV, 20mm focal length

Since night photography is very popular. This blog will have a few entries pertaining to how to get pictures after the sun goes down. This is when the digital SLR camera really shines so to speak. With their larger sensors, better lenses and faster and more powerful processors allowing the use of fast ISO numbers, a dSLR creates much better images after dark. The latest dSLRs get great results using ISO 3200 and even 6400. Couple that with noise reducing software and you can get amazing results.

For the picture above, I used my Nikon D70 with Auto ISO engaged and shot in Program mode. The camera selected the slowest shutter speed I would allow of 1/8 second for ISO 1100 and the widest aperture of f/3.8. The vibration reduction (VR) lens was set to ON and the rest was up to me. I did not have a tripod so I made myself into one. I leaned against an authentic WDW garbage can, used my elbows on the top of the garbage can (thankfully this was not one of the moving and talking variety), put my left hand under the lens to give it a good foundation, my right hand holding the camera firmly but not too tight, tucked my arms in close, lightly pressed the shutter halfway down to set the focus, held my breath and then slowly pressed the shutter the rest of the way. Don't mash the shutter. In fact, you should practice how to press a shutter this way to cut down vibration in the camera. As I've mentioned before, when taking photos in less than ideal conditions, you should take more than one. I took about a dozen of this scene with this being the best in the lot.

Further reading: I have lots of them. It'll be review for our regular readers but, please, read them over again as I'm sure you'll pick up even more each time you do so.

ePhotozine Night Photography Tutorial

Barrie's Astro Orbiter

Barrie's Portrait of Germany

February 10, 2008

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #27

This was Challenge #26:
Where in the World #26

And here's the answer:
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 0.4s shutter, f4.5

This sculpture is in the lobby area of the Impressions de France film in Epcot's World Showcase. I've always thought that this was a gargoyle but I just learned that this replica of a stone carving from atop the Notre Dame in Paris is actually a grotesque. Grotesques were believed to ward off evil spirits.

A gargoyle has its roots in plumbing. A gargoyle is a grotesque that directs water away from a building via a spout in its mouth. Since this carving does not have a water spout, it is technically considered a grotesque rather than a gargoyle.

Language does have a way of evolving though. Nowadays it's common and acceptable to use the term gargoyle to describe both grotesques and gargoyles. Either way, he's still kind of grotesque!

Congratulations to Kathy Love , this week's winner. Jacquelyn Law, Mike Kaczanowski, Brian Gallant, Monica Alderman, Garland Cox, Sharon Lee, Roye Ann Morris and Allison DiBiase also all gave the correct answer and will be entered in the February winner's drawing.

Challenge #27: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #27.jpg

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for a copy of Hidden Mickeys Walt Disney World by Steve Barrett and some special AllEars® goodies!

February 13, 2008

Light Meter: Sequence

There are times when a picture truly is worth a thousand words. When you have several photos in sequence they are worth more than a thousand words, they tell a story. If you just keep shooting, you never know what might happen. Take a look.


February 15, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Bokeh!

No, it's not the name of a new ballroom dance craze. Bokeh is used to describe a certain camera lens characteristic. Bokeh comes from the Japanese word "boke" which means fuzzy. Sounds like a strange characteristic for a lens to have, doesn't it? Bokeh describes how the background looks when shooting with the lens at it's largest aperture. A lens with "good bokeh" has a nice smooth looking but out of focus (or fuzzy) background. Lenses with "bad bokeh" have spherical or other geometrical shapes with hard edges which look bad behind a sharply focused subject in the foreground.

The picture below shows what "good bokeh" looks like. The foliage behind the tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek is softly out of focus and does not take away from the handsome portrait. You will find when taking someone's portrait, this is the best way to separate them from the background. In my previous entry on the Creative Uses of Aperture, you can see another example of what good bokeh looks like.

Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/125s, f/5.6, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm focal length

February 17, 2008

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #28

This was Challenge #27:
Where in the World #27.jpg

And here's the answer:
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1.0s shutter, f8

Sam's BBQ is from the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. This spectacular holiday display can be found at Disney's Hollywood Studios during the Christmas season.

Congratulations to Derek Carty, this week's winner. Jim Thompson, Patty Carty, Nick Romano, Christina, Sarah and Chris Kotcamp also all gave the correct answer and will be entered in the February winner's drawing.

Challenge #28: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #28

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for a copy of Hidden Mickeys Walt Disney World by Steve Barrett and some special AllEars® goodies!

February 20, 2008

Light Meter: The 2008 Spring Line Part 1

While fashion divas and divos have already released their wild and crazy spring line on us, the camera industry is just about to start releasing theirs. OK, so maybe calling cameras wild and crazy isn't quite on spot or is it?

Canon has 4 new PowerShots due out as early as March. Let's take a quick look at what they've got.

The A470 will be the least expensive of the newbies. With 7 MP, a 3.4X optical zoom, enhanced stabilization, and a 2.5" screen, consider this camera for someone who does not use their camera very often or teens. The A470 is silver with orange, blue, pink or gray panels. Suggested price is $130.00

A slightly larger A series with more options is the A580. Highlights include a viewfinder, 8 MP, and a slightly more powerful flash. Anyone who enjoys taking photos will mostly likely enjoy this model. Suggested retail price is $150.00

The last of the new A's is the A590 IS. This camera has Canon's optical stabilizer and will help reduce blurred shots. This model like the A580 has a 4x optical zoom. You may add a wide angle or telephoto converter lens to the camera. Designed for the advanced photographer. Suggested price is $180.00

One new SD series is also on the horizon, the SD 1100 IS. In an assortment of flashy colors like gold, brown, pink, blue and the classic silver, Canon is competing in the newest trend that cameras are fashion accessories appealing to teens and early 20-somethings. Don't let it's cuteness fool you, this camera has the same flash power as the A580 and A590 IS (max 11ft.), the same 8MP with a 3x optical zoom. Retail price is $250.00

To learn more, please visit Canon's website.

Please welcome Pentax to the runway. They too have several new offers for shoppers to discover. Pentax refers to all of their digital cameras as Optio followed by a specific model number. Let's take a look.

The A40 is a sleek camera with a 3x optical zoom, 12 MP and optical stabilization. Packed with features, including a 2.5" screen, ISO 50-800, and a lithium-ion battery, Pentax as always competes with Canon and Nikon by offering more for your money. Average price is $285.00

The S12 is a lower priced entry yet still has 12 MP. Offerred in both silver and black, the LCD screen is coated to be anti-reflective in bright situations. The video mode also records sound. Lists at $270.00

With less megapixels (8) and more zoom (5x) the M50 is the inbetween camera. The M50 is avaiable in silver, pink or blue and works on a lithium-ion battery and has 51 MB of internal memory as well as a SD card slot. Average retail price is $230.00.

Learn more about Pentax.

Please keep in mind that these prices may change before the cameras make it to the shelves.

February 22, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Watch Your Back(grounds)

One of the problems we all have at Walt Disney World is distracting backgrounds. From sharing the resorts with thousands of other guests to uncooperative animals or characters, backgrounds are hard to control. So, what's a photographer to do? First, you have to do some very obvious things each time you look through your viewfinder. Before you press the shutter, look behind and in front of your subject for protruding objects coming out or into the frame, make sure your subject is the focal point of the frame and not a building or person nearby and lines like horizons or buildings are not distracting by being crooked . I learned these points the hard way when I did wedding photography for a few years. Believe me, nobody wants a portrait of a bride with the church's organ pipes protruding from her head.

Another way to control the background at a busy themepark is to move around your subject until you find a more pleasing background. In the photo here of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, I tried to use a wide angle to slightly distort the statue to bring it front and center. The angle is a bit different, however, the background is very busy partially due to the use of the small f/10 aperture. You can see lights in the flower bed , a person kneeling next to a stroller in the upper left and part of the fence leading up to the statue on the right. Not very pleasing to me.

I checked out the previous picture in my camera's LCD display and knew I could do better. Since this was taken during a December trip, Disney had placed poinsettia "trees" around the hub in front of Cinderella's Castle and by moving a bit to one side, I could put one of them directly behind the statue. I tried a few different angles and liked this one the best. I zoomed in a bit here which helped to blur the background some even shooting at f/10. The direction of the light is much better as well but that's a subject for another time.

Further Reading: Getting Backgrounds Right

February 24, 2008

Focus on Disney World - Where in the World? #29

This was Challenge #28:
Where in the World #28

And here's the answer:
Copyright © 2006 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 55-200, 1/400s shutter, f10

The Atlantic Dance Hall is a gorgeous art deco club on Disney's Boardwalk. I originally fell in love with this place several years back when they played swing music. A local swing dance club would liven up the place on weekends. They wore great clothes from the 1940s and were a lot of fun to watch. Now they have 1980s DJ dance music. Most times that I've stopped in recently the place has been fairly deserted. It's too bad because it really is a beautiful club. I'd love to have a big old party there someday" maybe a fiftieth birthday bash" you'll all be invited!

Congratulations to Evelyn Cowdell , this week's winner. Merry Shippee, Kristen Eby, Kim Lawton, Erin, Jim Szlachta, Jude Toups, Gloria Martin, Jaime Thomson, Sarah Haas, Frank F Fincken III, Jennifer Tremley, Noreen Rachuba, Melissa Ruggieri, Gregg Letts, Mike Kaczanowski, Karen Schlumpf, Katelyn Palermo, Nora Beirne, Patty Carty, Chloe' C, Jeanine Yamanaka, Dominic Cooper, Tim Rachuba, Susan, Jared Nishida, April, Leslie Budd, Elisa Dillon, Karen DeSantis, Jennifer Horst, Jane Bradley, Melissa Littman, Ken, Michelle Raimist , Ed Aleszczyk , Sue McDonald , Ann Carr , Jim Senft , Chip Vermette, Melissa DeMonbreun, Heather Young, Neil Taylor, Ruth Cookson, Larry Carter and Suzanne Brown also all gave the correct answer by Thursday and were entered in the February winner's drawing.

Here we are at the end of another month already. We had 191 winning answers this month! Unfortunately, there can only be one prize winner and this month that person is Kathy Love. Congratulations Kathy! You will receive Steve Barrett's newest Hidden Mickey book, along with some other great AllEars gifts.

Challenge #29: Where in the world is this?

Where in the World #29

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for a copy of Hidden Mickeys Walt Disney World by Steve Barrett and some special AllEars® goodies!

February 25, 2008

Focus on Disney World - March Calendar

If you read my December 25, 2007 blog, you know that my holiday gift to you is that each month I will post a photo calendar page that you can print out and use at home or work during 2008.

Here is March's calendar page for downloading. This photo is of the Main Street Philharmonic, a 12-piece brass and percussion band that performs on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Their antics are very fun to watch as they perform old-time favorites like "Take Me Out to the Ballpark" and "76 Trombones".

By zooming in close and filling the frame with the band members I was able to to create the illusion that this was a large marching band. Having band members that extend beyond the frame of the photo tricks the eye into thinking that they go on forever.

You will need to have Adobe Reader on your computer to download the calendar(s). Just click on the photo to download the calendar you want.

This one prints out at 8.5" x 11". It's handy if you need a calendar that you can write on.

March 2008 8.5x11 Calendar

This one prints out at 4.75" x 4.75", the perfect size for a CD Jewel Case frame.

March 2008 Jewel Case Calendar

February 27, 2008

Light Meter: The 2008 Spring Line Part 2

Continuing along with an exploration of new camera models making their way to stores soon, we now take a look at Fujifilm and Olympus. Although they have a combined total of 16 new products, I'm only going to cover 4 from each. Consider this a sample of what they offer.


The J50 is an 8 MP, 5x optical zoom, inexpensive camera ideal for teens. The flash does come across as short range, reaching out a mere 6 feet. Estimated price is $180.00.

Popping out in black, blue, green, and pink is the new Z20fd, a hit with the teenyboppers. This little guy offers red eye removal in face detection mode and 10 MP. Kids can resize their photos in camera for blogs. $200.00 retail.

The F100fd is compact with 12 MP, a 5x optical zoom, Fuji's latest processor, an ISO of up tp 3200 and 3 autofocus modes. Average retail price...$380.00.

For the more advanced photographer, Fuji continues its S series with the S8100fd. With their 18x optical zoom and super close macro, the camera covers all ranges. 10 MP and an electronic viewfinder make this a $400.00 item.

Olympus' website

Their FE-350 camera has a wide angle lens, a 3" screen, 4x zoom, movie with sound, 8 MP, and 17 pre-set modes. List price is $250.00.

Olympus' Stylus cameras have been around a long time and in the digital age they continue along. Stylus 1010 with image stabilization, a 7x zoom, 10 MP, and software to lighten shadows sells for $300.00. Available in silver, pink (looks purple), blue, and black.

Going surfing, snowboarding, or for a walk in a downpour? The new Stylus 1030SW is your new best friend. Waterproof to 33 feet, freezeproof at 14 degrees Farenheit, shockproof for 6 feet, and crushproof up to 220 pounds. $400 is the price tag on this 10 MP baby.

Step-up your game with manual controls, a 20x optical zoom, 10 MP, a hotshoe, and the ability to shoot RAW. The SP-570 UZ should list at $500.00.

Happy shopping. Next week we'll see what Nikon and Sony have coming out.

February 29, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Watch Your Back(grounds) Again

We've all done it. You get off of the Tower of Terror a few minutes before the afternoon parade is to start and rush down Sunset Blvd. You get there and all the curb side places are taken. In fact, people had staked out their places hours before. As the crowd is three deep, you end up having to shoot over people's heads like this.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Lilo & Stitch Motorcar. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/8, 200 ISO, 35mm Focal Length

This is where a zoom lens comes in handy. You can fill the frame with your subjects. Eliminating foreground and background distractions. At full zoom, many times you have to shoot with a wider aperture which will cause the background behind your subject to get that pleasing bokeh like this.

Lilo & Stitch in a Motorcar on Parade in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lilo & Stitch Closeup. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, 200mm Focal Length

Ah, that's much better and you didn't have to barge in front of anyone. I have found a zoom lens that goes to 200mm to be an excellent way to capture parade, street and stage performers at Walt Disney World.

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About February 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Picture This! in February 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2008 is the previous archive.

March 2008 is the next archive.

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