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Photographic Innoventions - Scott's Blog Archives

April 21, 2017

Eliminating Distracting Backgrounds at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here are a few ideas on how to separate your subject from its background which are often busy at Walt Disney World. I have previously gone into detail on how to use Aperture mode on a dSLR camera to blur out the background while keeping the subject sharp and clear. For compact cameras and on some smart phones you can look for Portrait mode to get the same effect.

The background behind this Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney's Animal Kingdom was extremely busy. I used Aperture priority mode and set the aperture to the widest available for the 300mm focal length I used. Doing so threw the background out of focus while keeping the meerkat in sharp focus.

Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 300mm Focal Length.

Using Fill Flash is another great way to pull your subject out from a busy background. While Miss Betty Shambles was pining for a Valentine on Hollywood Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I used fill flash to highlight her over the background.

Citizens of Hollywood Miss Betty Shambles looking for her Valentine on Hollywood Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Citizens of Hollywood Miss Betty Shambles looking for her Valentine on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/4, ISO 100, EV 0, 66mm Focal Length.

Lighting or Color is another way to highlight your subjects. Below I happened to use both. The light on the ancient idol along one of the world's rivers on the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise naturally outlined it. The green vegetation also framed the idol. Both the light and colors pop the idol out of its background.

An ancient idol on the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise as the boat enters the Mekong River in Cambodia, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
An ancient idol on the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise as the boat enters the Mekong River in Cambodia.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 900, EV 0, 150mm Focal Length.

Remember these tips when you are confronted by busy backgrounds which can distract from your photo's main subject or subjects.

April 14, 2017

Photographic Patience at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I covered this week's theme on Patience before in a blog post entitled, "Play the Waiting Game at Walt Disney World" back in 2013. In it, I talked about waiting until I got a people free photo opportunity.

This week I talk about another kind of patience. The kind we all face being a photographer with a group of people or traveling with family at Walt Disney World.

The first is time waiting for someone to shop in the many stores, shops and kiosks found in and around the resort. I fill up the time by wandering around and looking for interesting merchandise to photograph. In the photo below I found these colorful hats on display in the Disney Outfitters Shop at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Hats on display inside Disney Outfitters shop in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hats on display inside Disney Outfitters shop in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/18-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.8, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 34mm Focal Length.

A ride queue, especially for the most popular rides, can be very time consuming. Thankfully, Disney Imagineers put in as much work into the queues as they do the rides. As older rides have been refurbished and new rides open, the queues have become more interactive and photographically pleasing. For example, Frozen Ever After's queue is a pleasing wait in a Norwegian village ending in Oaken Token's with a fun sauna inside.

Frozen Ever After queue in the Norway pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Waiting in the Frozen Ever After queue in Epcot's Norway pavilion.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 12800, EV +1.0.

I like to photograph firework shows with a tripod. This means staking out a location long before show time. I use the time to experiment with different exposures like this very long exposure looking down Main Street USA.

Waiting Main Street USA for Holiday Wishes to start in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Waiting Main Street USA for Holiday Wishes to start in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Tripod.

This is the hardest subject to be patient with to photograph. Your food order when it gets set before you and you are hungry. I am not talking about your everyday hunger, I mean Walt Disney World hunger. You know what I mean. Below is a photo of Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken entree at the Homecoming Restaurant in Disney Springs. I had heard all kinds of postive things about his dish, I almost started eating before I took a couple of photos. I mean, look at it. Hungry, yet? Yes, it is as good as people say.

Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken entree at Homecoming restaurant in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken entree at Homecoming restaurant in Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/40s, f/10, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 48mm Focal Length.

When you are waiting for family or friends, look around for a photo op. At Walt Disney World, they are everywhere.

April 7, 2017

Disney Springs Intensified

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

During my last visit to Disney Springs, two locations were finally finished and open for business which I wanted to photograph. The first was the Planet Hollywood Observatory which recently re-opened after an extensive renovation to fit in with the Disney Springs theme.

The first photo was taken Straight Out Of the Camera or SOOC to most photographers. It is a fairly flat photo with dark and light regions.

Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

Below is what the Planet Hollywood Observatory looks like after using Macphun's Intensify CK photo editor which I use as a plug-in for Adobe's Lightroom CC. Intensify CK has starting filters of all kinds for many situations. I use a few favorites. The one I used here was the Soft HDR filter which makes a series of adjustments over one image in one click of the mouse. It is a real time saver for me when photos come SOOC with many photo editing challenges. I could have done it all myself but it would have taken 15 to 30 minutes to get it close to this.

Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar located in The Landing area of Disney Springs is just a great idea, period. Disney could have put this anywhere on property and it would have been a hit. For me, the entrance to the building and the use of textured surfaces make it a perfect subject to use Intensify CK with. First, the Before Photo which is heavily backlighted late on a Florida afternoon.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125, f/8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Here I applied the Enhance Shadows filter at 85% to dramatically open up all the shadows in the original photo. Now you can see all the metal, glass and wood textures used by Disney in the construction of the bar and lounge.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125, f/8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

In each case, after I was done in Intensify CK, I returned to Lightroom to finish up the image. Adding sharpness and clarity. Most times, Intenisfy CK will add digital noise which Lightroom has little trouble dealing with. In the end, I get a great looking image in far less time.

Do you need to be a Photoshop wizard? Not with such tools as Macphun produces for Apple Mac users. Check them out to see all their photo editing products.

March 31, 2017

Going Rogue on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

You might have heard about a movie being released on Blu Ray next week. A prequel from a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. (cue the music!)

Yes, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is coming out on April 4, 2017. Not to be out done, these t-shirts were on sale in the Emporium on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom even before the movie was released to theaters back in November of 2016.

Rogue One t-shirts for sale in the Emporium on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rogue One t-shirts for sale in the Emporium on Main Street USA.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 4500, EV 0.

Do you see one you like?

March 24, 2017

More Epcot Yesterland: Rainbow Tunnel

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Looking through old prints for this week's Epcot Yesterland topic, I came across this photo of my daughters from 1998 in the Rainbow Tunnel or Corridor. This area was called ImageWorks and had all kinds of interactive activities for guests to enjoy.

Young guests in the Rainbow Tunnel in Epcot's Journey Into Imagination pavilion from 1998, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Young guests in the ImageWork's Rainbow Tunnel in Epcot's Journey Into Imagination pavilion from 1998.

Did you take a photo like this? I did not have a tripod with me back then so the colors are very muted here. Guessing I was using my trusty Nikon 8008s film SLR here with a 50mm lens.

March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day at Raglan Road Irish Pub at Disney Springs

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!

In celebration, here are photos from the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant located in The Landing of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World. Now, you would expect a rousing time there on St. Patrick's Day but Raglan Road has expanded it to host the Mighty St. Patrick's Festival. Leave it to the Irish to make a good thing even better.

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant hosts the Mighty St. Patrick's Festival at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant hosts the Mighty St. Patrick's Festival at Disney Springs.

What's that you say? You traveled to Walt Disney World and forgot to bring suitable St. Patrick's Day attire? Never you fear, the Shop for Ireland Store inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant has everything you would need to bring out your Irish spirit.

Shop for Ireland store inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Shop for Ireland store inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

The Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant promises a cacophony (big word that) of music so Irish that's it’s more Irish than any other found including Irish dancing, music and other astounding entertainments.

Irish Dancing inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Irish Dancing inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant in Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

If you are lucky enough to be visiting Walt Disney World this week or live close by, stop by Raglan Road and check out the Mighty St. Patrick's Festival.

March 10, 2017

Aerial Tour of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in January, I posted a Disney Pic of the Week of an aerial photograph I took of what was then called Downtown Disney from the Characters in Flight Balloon ride. At the time, I said I had been trying to go on the ride to get new photos of Disney Springs. Third time was the charm as last week the winds calmed down enough for me to ride the tethered balloon.

The latest version of the balloon no longer has characters on it. The colors and patterns were changed to better fit in with the Disney Springs theme. I would guess the name of the ride may be changed down the road as well.

Characters In Flight Balloon ride at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Characters In Flight Balloon ride at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 500, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Launching and landing is extremely smooth as the balloon's winch spools the cable out and in during the ten minute ride.

Characters In Flight Balloon tethered cable, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The tethered cable of the Characters In Flight Balloon ride.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 2800, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

The angle below shows the Disney Springs Marketplace. This is the same area I shared back in January (see link above). The place has really changed in the last five years. There is now a bridge from the Rainforest Cafe to Paddlefish (which was Fulton's Crab House), The Boathouse and Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar has been added. I even caught the volcano erupting.

Marketplace at Disney Springs from the Characters In Flight Balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Marketplace at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 1000, EV 0, 19mm Focal Length.

You can walk around the balloon's "basket" to get a full 360 viewing. I next photographed the new Disney Springs Town Center. Here you can see the new shops and restaurants as well as the spring meandering through the complex. Towards the bottom is a section of The Landing. Towards the top is the Lime Parking Garage.

Town Center at Disney Springs from the Characters In Flight Balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Town Center at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 1100, EV 0, 29mm Focal Length.

Disney Springs West Side has not changed a lot but will be. The large, blue Disney Quest you see in the photo below is scheduled to close in July of 2017 and will be replaced by an NBA Experience attraction. It was recently announced La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil will be closing at the end of 2017 which is performed in the white Circus tent looking building. You can also see the Orange Parking Garage which has an exit right off of the highway.

West Side at Disney Springs from the Characters In Flight Balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
West Side at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 1100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

As you go up and down in the Characters In Flight Balloon ride, you can get different angles of Disney Springs. I took this photos of the newly re-opened Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant and the Coca-Cola Store on my ride's descent.

Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant and the Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs from the Characters In Flight Balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant and the Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

Hope you enjoyed this aerial tour of the Disney Springs dining, shopping and entertainment complex.

March 3, 2017

Mr. Stork Made a Delivery

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mr Stork

Scott is visiting central Florida this week and getting aquainted with his new grandson. He will be back next week with more photography tips and pics from Walt Disney World.

February 24, 2017

Shopping Around Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Shopping in Epcot's World Showcase pavilions can be a lot of fun and very expensive. I prefer to "shop by camera" and to record items I find during my visits as the merchandise changes over time.

For instance, upon leaving the Frozen Ever After ride and entering Puffin's Roost shop in Epcot's World Showcase Norway pavilion, you come upon a wall display of framed prints and gifts for sale from the animated movie, Frozen. Something you would have not seen before the movie was released back in 2013.

Framed prints and gifts for sale in The Puffin's Roost inside the Norway pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Framed prints and gifts for sale in The Puffin's Roost.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Then, there are the timeless items for sale which have been in the shops since Epcot opened. Coo Coo Clocks inside the Der Bucherwurm store in the Germany pavilion have been ticking and coo coo-ing every time I have visited since 1983.

Coo Coo Clock for sale inside Der Bucherwurm store in the Germany pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Coo Coo Clock for sale inside the Der Bucherwurm store.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/3.8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 32mm Focal Length.

What I enjoy seeing is how pop culture comes and goes throughout World Showcase. No where does it show more than the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan pavilion where last year the Pokemon Go phenomenon was in full swing.

Pokemon plush toys for sale inside the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pokemon plush toys for sale inside the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 1250, EV 0, 32mm Focal Length.

France is the home to many Disney classics including Beauty and the Beast. In the Galerie Des Halles shop you find all manner of souvenirs from Eiffel Tower replicas to shirts from the movie.

Shirt for sale found in Galerie Des Halles shop in the France pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Shirt for sale found in the Galerie Des Halles shop.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

And I did not spend a dime. Well, not exactly, I bought the shirt as a gift for my daughter. Happy shopping!

February 17, 2017

A Visit to Club Cool in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In 2005, Coca Cola re-imagined their popular Ice Station Cool in Epcot into Club Cool.

Last year I brought in my camera with a Fisheye lens attached to photograph the coolest club in Epcot. The entrance to the Coca Cola beverages has moved and its space has gotten a bit bigger. Still with same theme of serving International soda/pop/soda pop flavors and free to try, too.

Entrance to Club Cool in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Entrance to Club Cool in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0.

Inside, there are soda fountain stations and cups to use for all to try out all those wonderful International flavors. As you can see, you have eight different flavors to try.

Inside Club Cool at Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Inside Club Cool at Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 2500, EV 0.

I did a 5-shot HDR set of photos and got some interesting effects. The software did a really good job for the most part with the moving people including the family trying out the sodas.

Inside Club Cool in HDR at Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Inside Club Cool in HDR at Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, f/2.8, ISO 2500, EV 0, HDR Image.

For anyone who may have never stopped in at Club Cool but, have heard about it, this is what it looks like. It is up to you to find out what it tastes like.

RELATED LINKS:
** Try the Beverly

** Disney Pic of the Week: Club Cool

** Beverly Strikes Again at Club Cool

February 10, 2017

Photographing a Disney Icon: Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I missed a Disney Pic of the Week a couple of week's ago. You know how it goes sometimes. I got busy, was traveling...yada, yada, yada...I ended up missing the post.

I want to make it up to you today. The one I missed was for Spaceship Earth. I figure it is my second most photographed object at Walt Disney World. Cinderella Castle being by far and away the first one. I went through my photos and found three different ways I photographed the big ball which I thought you would enjoy.

I talked about how to use objects for framing other objects awhile back. I even used a similar photo as this one. This was a wide angle photo I cropped in post-processing to bring everything in a little closer.

Spaceship Earth seen through the Red Torii Gate at the Japan pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth seen through the Red Torii Gate from the Japan pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Cropped.

When I looked over my shoulder while walking to World Showcase from Future World I saw this composition. I noticed how the trees along the walkway leads you right to Spaceship Earth behind the people, monorail rail and water fountain.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 122mm Focal Length.

In this last one, I liked the composition and the contrast between the living palm tree and the metal triangles of Spaceship Earth behind it.

Palm tree in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Palm tree in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 62mm Focal Length.

Hope you will forgive my transgression and this gives you some ideas on how to photograph other familiar subjects you know of.

February 3, 2017

Photographing Disney Statues in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Hub in front of Cinderella Castle was expanded a couple of years ago into the Central Plaza. When that happened the Disney character statuettes which were near the Partners statue moved to the new Main Street Plaza Gardens in front of Casey's Corner and Plaza Restaurant. If you happen to have some free time with your camera on your next visit, you might want to explore the new statuette locations. I did find myself with time on a recent trip and decided to do a little composition practice.

As the time of the day was nearing high noon with harsh shadows being cast down on the character statuettes, I used fill flash to fill in those shadows. I wanted to show a couple of things: how distance effects a set aperture and moving positions for better backgrounds or composition.

I set my camera to Aperture Priority mode and used an aperture of f/11. The camera would then calculate the shutter speed and ISO settings.

First up are those adorable chipmunks, Chip and Dale. My first attempt shows how getting in close focus range effected the background focus. This created a soft focus or bokeh behind the sharply focused chipmunks.

Chip and Dale Chipmunk statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chip and Dale Chipmunk statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 140, EV +0.3, 100mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

While the background is out of focus it still looks very busy and distracting. To simplify, I moved around the statuette and found the water fountain to be more suitable for a background.

Chip and Dale Chipmunk statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chip and Dale Chipmunk statuette in front of a water fountain on the Main Street Plaza Gardens.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 125, EV +0.3, 105mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

Is that not better?

I found my favorite flying pachyderm, Dumbo with his buddy, Timothy Q. Mouse, and was happy to see I could still put Cinderella Castle behind them.

Dumbo with Timothy Q. Mouse statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dumbo with Timothy Q. Mouse statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 52mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

I pulled back the zoom so the background would not be as out of focus. I wanted you to know where I took this photo.

I, also, wanted to get a good photo of Timothy Q. Mouse and moved in very close using a zoom lens. What do you think will happen? See below for the answer.

Timothy Q. Mouse on the Dumbo statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Timothy Q. Mouse on the Dumbo statuette on the Main Street Plaza Gardens.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

If you thought the background would go super-bokeh, you were right. It would take a real Disney park fan to figure out where this was taken.

You can do this type of photographic exercise anywhere. At home using decorative figurines or kids toys or at a local park or plaza with statues. You can even use real people if you like. The more you practice, the more you will find a use for this technique when you are out photographing.

January 27, 2017

More Walt Disney World Aerial Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you have been following the Disney Pic of the Week blog posts recently, you have seen Deb and mine's attempt at aerial photography at Walt Disney World. When the subject of aerial photos first came up, Deb and I found we only shared three locations. I wanted to share a couple more with you today.

The trick is to find a high vantage point in the parks. Mostly those are found on attractions. Expedition: EVEREST certainly meets the height requirement. It also has a long, slow ascent early on which has a great view of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

View from Expedition: EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
View of Disney's Animal Kingdom from Expedition: EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 450, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

We all know the Tree of Life is big. This photo shows how much bigger it is compared to the surrounding buildings and trees. This was taken back in 2010. Once Pandora, the World of AVATAR opens, I will re-take this photo. I did not want the huge construction cranes in a photo which were there on my last few trips.

Another attraction to get aerial photos from at Walt Disney World is the one I took during a ride on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is from 2009 when the Earful Tower was still there.

Riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
View of Disney's Hollywood Studios from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm (27mm DX) Focal Length.

This is one of those rides you have to secure your camera and be ready to take the picture as soon as the doors open at the top of the shaft.

While these are not true aerial photos, you can get high enough at Walt Disney World to get unique photos from up high.

January 20, 2017

Ruling the Animal Kingdom in Thirds

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Rule of Thirds is a compositional rule in photography and other visual arts. The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points which I refer to as power points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph. This aligning of a photograph's subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the subject would.

Below are three photos taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom which show the use the Rule of Thirds. First, I will show you the photo as taken and then followed with a grid overlaid showing the lines of the Rule of Thirds.

Here is an Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) antelope on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Addax antelope on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Addax antelope on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 300mm Focal Length.

Here is the same photo with the grid.

Addax antelope on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Addax antelope on the Kilimanjaro Safari with the Rule of Thirds Grid.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 300mm Focal Length.

This shows you do not have to have the power points exactly covered. The antelope's head, eye and horns are close enough for a good composition. This type of photo is nice to use as a title in a slideshow, on a website or blog.

An African Elephant drinking water on the Kilimanjaro Safari is the next subject.

African Elephant on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
African Elephant on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 135mm Focal Length.

Here is the same photo with the grid.

African Elephant on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
African Elephant on the Kilimanjaro Safari with the Rule of Thirds Grid.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 135mm Focal Length.

In a portrait of an animal or person, it is good to have one of the horizontal lines near the eyes like this one.

Landscape photos are also vastly improved when using the Rule of Thirds like this one of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Expedition: EVEREST.

Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 360, EV 0, 58mm Focal Length.

Here is the same photo with the grid.

Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 360, EV 0, 58mm Focal Length.

Notice how the lines and power points line up with the mountain and the canoe in a pleasing composition.

Studying how others use composition and putting it to practice will help you to improve your photography.

January 13, 2017

Getting in Close at Casey's Corner

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the tips I mentioned last week in the Disney Camera Tips to Start Out 2017 article was to get in close and fill the frame. I thought I would demonstrate the tip today.

Using a camera with a 50mm prime lens which, is a lens with a fixed focal length, I spotted this interesting baseball player outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom from the street.

Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA (Full Length Portrait).
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 360, EV +0.3.

This is called a Full Length Portrait as it shows the baseball player's full height from head to toe. I still wanted to get to know this character better. As I was using a Prime lens, the only way to do that was to get closer. Being he was a statue I did not have to worry about him walking away. With real people or Disney characters, one must keep it mind.

Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA (3/4 Length Portrait).
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 360, EV +0.3.

A photo of a person or, in this case, statue from the waist up is called a Three Quarter (3/4) Length Portrait. A stale-mark of corporate photographers, the 3/4 length portrait can be seen in many boardrooms around the world. Being closer, I started to notice the statue's facial features and wanted to explore them more. Best way to do it is to get even closer.

Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Baseball player statue outside of Casey's Corner on Main Street USA (Head & Shoulder Portrait).
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 800, EV +0.3.

Ah, the Head & Shoulder Portrait. If you graduated from high school, this was the type of photo found in most senior yearbooks. It is also the best kind of portrait to see and study a person's eyes, nose, mouth and other facial features. This guy, has a noble stare of an athlete ready to take on the challenge of a game of baseball.

If I had been using a zoom lens, I could have done all three of these photos from one location. However, moving around and exploring as I photograph a subject is, to me, a lot more fun.

January 6, 2017

Disney Camera Tips to Start Out 2017

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Did you get a new camera for Christmas? Make a New Year's resolution to learn how to use the fancy camera you got last year or the year before or a few years ago? Let me get you started. This post is for those using a digital SLR, mirrorless or advanced point & shoot cameras. You can tell they are advanced if they are able to dial or select the modes P, A, S and M.

In fact, I wrote about each of these modes in the following posts:

S is for Speed Control

A is for Aperture Control

P for Program Assist

M is for Manual Control

When I am asked by someone or out leading a photo group, I go over my three biggest tips to improve one's photos. They are to get in close and fill the frame, use the rule of thirds for composition and read the camera's manual. I go over each of these tips in depth here: Scott's Photography Tips.

Something else I get asked a lot is how I and others get such beautiful night time photos at Walt Disney World. The answer is simple: use a tripod. I know that seems like a real bother while on vacation. Here are some tips on how to make using a tripod at a Disney park easier: Using a Tripod at WDW.

If find you do not want or happen to not have a tripod handy. Use the old Joe McNally Da Grip!.

Here is one more bonus tip for you which comes in handy in Floridia: Sunny 16 Rule.

If you are new to photography, I highly suggest heading over to the Digital Photography School for this list of reference articles called Some of the Best Beginner Photography Tips of 2016.

Hope these links to tips help to get you started or refreshes your knowledge as we head into 2017. Happy Picture Taking!

If you have any questions or need help with something, use the Comments link below and I will get back to you.

December 30, 2016

Bringing in the New Year with a BAM at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM holiday show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Christmas tree projection lingers on the Great Movie Ride as guests turn to leave after a showing of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM holiday show in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/20s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

Happy New Year! May 2017 be all we hope it to be.

Scott will be returning next week for another year of Walt Disney World photography fun, tips and knowledge. In the meantime, if you have any questions, leave them in the Comments and Scott will do his best to answer them in an upcoming blog post.

December 23, 2016

Christmas Wish 2016

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Cinderella Castle decorated for the holidays in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle transformed by Queen Elsa into an Ice Castle.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV -1.0, 16mm Focal Length.

Just because I cannot see it, doesn't mean I can't believe it!

-- Jack Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas

Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas.

Scott will be taking next week off to spend with friends and family for the holidays and will be returning again for another year of Walt Disney World photography fun, tips and knowledge.

December 16, 2016

Holiday Wishes from Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before the Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, I photographed Holiday Wishes from the same location. I used the Bulb Technique described in this post: Photographing Fireworks.

This is a test shot to line up Cinderella Castle down Main Street USA.

Cinderella Castle at the end of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle at the end of Main Street USA in Ice Lights.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Tripod.

By the time, Holiday Wishes commenced, Main Street USA filled in with party goers.

Holiday Wishes over Cinderella Castle during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Holiday Wishes over Cinderella Castle during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 16s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod.

One of my favorite moments of Holiday Wishes is when they make a Christmas tree over Cinderella Castle and O Christmas Tree is played.

Holiday Wishes over Cinderella Castle during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
O Christmas Tree sequence of Holiday Wishes during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 14s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod, Cropped.

This location for Holiday Wishes was not my favorite. Though I did enjoy not being elbow to elbow with my fellow Disney fans for the long exposures needed for fireworks.

Holiday Wishes over Cinderella Castle during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Holiday Wishes "snow" artifacts during a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 28s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Oh, one last little issue to look out for...."snow" falling on Main Street USA may cause artifacts in your photos.

December 9, 2016

Photographing the Christmas Parade in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I mentioned a few days ago in the Disney Pic of the Week on Holiday Parade Floats, I would be telling you about my experience photographing Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade for the first time.

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.

Seeing it might be a long time before I could see the parade again, I asked Orlando-based photographer and Disney fan, Don Sullivan, for his tips on photographing a parade he has done many times. I will go over them with photos from the parade.

  1. LENSES: I (Don) typically use fast lenses in the range between f/1.4 and f/2.8. Anything darker will likely either push your shutter speed too slow, or force the ISO too high. Don has used a 35mm f/1.4, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses for this parade using a full-frame camera.
  2. EXPOSURE: I (Don) typically use the camera's Shutter Priority mode, 1/125th of a second minimum, f/1.4 - f/2.8, ISO Auto with max set to 6400, Matrix metering (be prepared to adjust this based on the performance of the lens being used). Lighting in this parade is more even and brighter than other night parades so spot metering is not typically needed.


Here is one example of how Don's suggestions helped me get a photo of Mickey Mouse on the lead float of the parade. The "snow" on Main Street USA really stands out.

Mickey waving to guests during the Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey waving to guests during the Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 5600, EV 0.

When it comes to lenses, the ones Don has used are very expensive. If you do not already own a similar lens, I suggest either renting one for your trip or getting an inexpensive Nifty-Fifty which is a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. Most camera and third party lens manufacturers produce it. I put on my Nifty-Fifty and set my camera manually to 1/125th of a second at an aperture of f/2.8. Per Don's suggestion, I set my Nikon D750 full-frame camera to Auto ISO but to go no higher than 6400. This combination worked particularly well for the face characters.

Queen Elsa from Frozen in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Queen Elsa from Frozen in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 2800, EV 0.

The exposure is just about right. I had to work a little longer in Lightroom for each image to pull out the shadows a little, do some selective dodging and clean up the high ISO noise. Really only added a few seconds to each image. A fast lens really is needed to get the best results. Like this one of the Big Guy...Santa Claus.

Santa Claus greeting everyone in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Santa Claus greeting everyone in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

There was one photo Don had taken of the Toy Soldiers marching down Main Street USA I wanted to try an duplicate. However, I found out not all Christmas parades are the same. In the parade I was photographing, the Toy Soldier Marching Band proceeding the Marching Toy Soldiers did not leave any room between them and I had no opportunity to photograph them. Don was nice enough to allow me to share his photo. Nice work, Don!

Toy Soldiers marching in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Toy Soldiers marching in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Copyright, 2016, Don Sullivan.
Nikon D500/24-70mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm (36mm DX) Focal Length.

I would like to thank Don for passing along his tips. He travels to Disney parks all over the world and I urge you to check out Don Sullivan's flickr photostream (click here).

December 2, 2016

Photographing Holiday Lights at Home and at Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is that time of year when cities, towns, villages and, yes, even us put up our holiday light displays to celebrate the season. Whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or something else, photographing these displays can be a challenge.

For outdoor lighting, it is best NOT to wait until it is totally dark out. Go out early just after sunset and wait for the sky light and outdoor lights to balance. This gives a nice overall exposure to the scene instead of bright light points which often are blown out. There is no formula as to when the light will balance. The photo below was taken about 15 minutes after sunset using a tripod which I recommend for the long exposures needed at a low ISO.

Balanced light for a home's holiday light display in Orlando, Florida
Balanced light for a home's holiday light display.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 4s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 22mm Focal Length.

Another type of photo people like to get is what PhotoPass photographers do at night in all the parks. Using a method called dragging the shutter, a tripod and instructing people to stand still, they are able to get a brightly lighted background like Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, Tree of Life or Hollywood Blvd. while correctly exposing, with the flash, the people they are photographing.

In a pinch, you can do it without a tripod as I did below.

Couple portrait in the Magic Kingdom with Cinderella Castle lighted in the background, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Couple portrait with Cinderella Castle lighted in the background.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/5s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Rear-Sync Flash, Cropped.

Here are a couple more links with information on Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney and on Dragging the Shutter.

Have any great photos of holiday displays whether they be yours, Disney's or another public display, send them my way. I might share them in a future blog post.

November 25, 2016

Harper's Mill in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR Image of Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, f/18, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 52mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

How was your Thanksgiving? Eat alot? Out shopping today?

Scott is doing both as he is visiting relatives in central Florida before moving over to Walt Disney World all of next week. Follow Scott's Twitter account @Scottwdw as he covers all the holiday happenings around the parks and resorts. Not to mention all the meals on this visit. You might find Scott taking a nap on Tom Sawyer Island near Harper's Mill after one of those meals.

November 18, 2016

Fisheye Awakening at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Lately, when I want to use a prime lens these days at Walt Disney World, I put the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens on my full-frame digital SLR. A Nikon D750 in my case. This is the third time I have featured this lens on the blog. Let's get started.

Spaceship Earth is my Cinderella Castle for Epcot. It is my second most photographed object next to the Magic Kingdom landmark. In this photo, I put it at the top third of the composition as I featured the flower bed as you walk into Future World from World Showcase. It's almost like Spaceship Earth is rising from behind the flowers.

Spaceship Earth rising behind a flower bed in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth rising behind a flower bed in Epcot.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0.

Next, I took a trip back in time. I mean way, way back with Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy in the Universe of Energy. The ride vehicles do not go very fast so I used 1/60th of a second shutter speed with the aperture set to wide open at f/2.8. The D750 can go as high as ISO 12,800. Lightroom did a good job of cleaning up the noise.

Dinosaurs inside the Universe of Energy in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dinosaurs inside the Universe of Energy.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 12800, EV +1.0.

Next, it was my first ride on Soarin' since they updated to a new flight plan. Disney does allow photography without a flash. I requested to sit in the middle of the three rows of seating on the "plane". With the fisheye, this allowed me to frame the photos using people's legs and feet.

Flying towards the Taj Mahal in Soarin' inside The Land pavillion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flying towards the Taj Mahal in Soarin' inside The Land.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

The Fisheye Lens is not for everything or everybody. I like to use it to get my creative photographic juices going as it does take forethought to use it correctly.

For reference, here are the other two blog posts on the Fisheye:

Fisheyed Disney

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

November 11, 2016

Harps of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoyed performances of musicians playing harps in Disney's Animal Kingdom recently. The first one was a very unique instrument called a mandinka harp (kora) which is a 21-string lute-bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa made from a large calabash or bottle gourd. It makes a very pleasing sound.

Muscian playing a mandinka harp in the African village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Muscian playing a mandinka harp in the African village of Harambe.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/4.8, ISO 100, EV 0, 62mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

I follow and have read many an article and blog post from National Geographic photographer Joe McNally. He pays a lot of attention to a person's hands in his photographic essays about people in all walks of life. I channeled my inner McNally by taking a close up of the musician's hands while he played the mandinka harp.

Close up of a muscian's hands playing a mandinka harp in the African village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Close up of a muscian's hands playing a mandinka harp in the African village of Harambe.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

Later that day, I happened upon a musician playing the Paraguayan harp, the national instrument of Paraguay, on Discovery Island. I again wanted to emphasize the musician's hands. This time I slowed down my shutter to show motion as his hands moved over the strings. I kept the camera steady by using another Joe McNally technique called Da Grip. Comes in very handy (sorry about the pun) when you do not have a tripod on hand (I just can not help myself!).

Musician playing the Paraguayan harp on Discovery Island at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Musician playing the Paraguayan harp on Discovery Island.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/5.6, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 170mm Focal Length.

Entertainment at Walt Disney World resorts and themeparks are wonderful to experience and photograph as you often can get very close to the performer(s).

As I was writing this post, I listened to mandinka harp music via youTube. I highly recommend doing the same when you wish to relax.

November 4, 2016

Bibbity Bobbity Boo...Crane Be Gone!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A while back I was complaining about a maintenance crane being used on my recent trip to the Magic Kingdom. I mentioned I could remove the crane using software. This does take added time so I do not like to do it often. Later in the day, I caught the end of the new Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire on the castle stage when fireworks are used.

Cinderella Castle with a maintenance crane behind it at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with a maintenance crane behind it.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 360, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

I am a fan of the photo editing software by Macphun which run on Apple Mac computers. One of their products called Snapheal has recently been updated so it can be used as a plug-in for Apple Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop programs. You can find many Windows programs which can do the same thing. I had to carefully select the crane using the software's brush tool. I zoomed in to 100% to make sure I did not overlap the roof line too much. Snapheal has three different methods of erasing selected objects. For this job, the Dynamic method proved to be the best to get the crane away from where it first sticks out from behind Cinderella Castle.

Cinderella Castle with the maintenance crane removed at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with the maintenance crane removed via software.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 360, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

As you can see, I now have a keeper.

Adobe Lightroom has something which can replace small objects or ones not intersecting with other objects like dust bunnies. For larger objects, Snapheal does a much better job.

Adobe Photoshop can do an even better job. However, since I do almost all my processing in Lightroom, Being able to use Snapheal within LIghtroom or Aperture is much easier and faster for me.

October 28, 2016

Mickey Mouse Pumpkin Heads in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

My last visit to Walt Disney World was the day after Labor Day here in the United States. Even so, the Magic Kingdom was all decked out for Halloween and the start of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties later that week. Main Street USA had these bright and lighted lamp post decorations featuring Mickey Mouse pumpkin heads. Photos of them have been all over flickr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Being a big fan of Mickey Mouse, I could not resist taking a few photos either. Here are three of them with show different aspects of photographic composition.

The first Mickey Mouse pumpkin head lamp post decoration I use as an anchor and story telling piece in front of Main Street USA's City Hall. It is easy to assume City Hall is ready for Halloween or maybe it's celebrating Autumn. By using the decoration in the frame, it is easy to see the decorations are for Halloween. What other holiday uses a jack o' lantern? See? Placing the deocration in front of City Hall and in the lower third of the frame, anchors the photo and gives a viewer's eye a place to start exploring the image.

City Hall celebrating Halloween on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
City Hall celebrating Halloween on Main Street USA.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/1, ISO 110, EV +0.3, 40mm Focal Length.

In the second photo, I leave no doubt as to the subject by getting in closer to the Mickey Mouse pumpkin head lamp post decoration. I still leave part of the image open and fill it with Cinderella Castle. This gives the viewer a sense of place and time.

Mickey Mouse Pumpkin decoration in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse Pumpkin decoration in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 105mm Focal Length.

In the last image, I got in close and filled the frame with the smiling Mickey Mouse pumpkin head lamp post decoration. Letting a viewer enjoy the fun of a Mickey Mouse Halloween.

Close up of a Mickey Mouse Pumpkin decoration on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Close up of a Mickey Mouse Pumpkin decoration on Main Street USA.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 100, EV -0.3, 98mm Focal Length.

In these photos I showed you three different ways to tell a story using the same subject. This is how you work a subject. The subject could be a person or persons, a landscape, a building, a pet or a smiling Mickey Mouse pumpkin head decoration.

October 14, 2016

Lens Correcting inside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoy photographing with a Fisheye lens even when entering the American Adventure to listen to the Voices of Liberty.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure using a Fisheye Lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 4000, EV 0.

Many photo editors can "correct" distortions in many lenses including fisheye ones. To test this in my editor of choice, Adobe Lightroom CC, I opened up the Lens Correction brick. After enabling profile corrections, the software found and used the profile for the Sigma 15mm lens I photographed with. Using the profile, Lightroom cropped and rotated the image to straighten the curves created by the fisheye lens. The results you see below.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure with Lens Correction.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 4000, EV 0.

This is an extreme example but you get the idea. Check your software and see if it has Lens Corrections for any lenses you own.

October 7, 2016

Partners and the Crane at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I got on the ferry to travel from the Ticket and Transportation Center on my last visit to the Magic Kingdom. I walked up the ferry's stairs and made my way to the front railings. I looked over the Seven Seas Lagoon to see the beautiful sights as the ferry sailed closer. I first notice the Main Street USA Train Station and, off to the side, the brilliantly white Space Mountain thrill ride. Then I look back for a glimpse of Cinderella Castle and frown. I picked a day Disney was doing work on the exterior of the castle using a big -- no, huge -- construction crane.

Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/13, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

I could use software to remove the crane. Still, it would never look as good if the crane was not there. It was time to think, as I wanted a good, recent photo of the Partners statue featuring Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse for my photo library. I started to walk around the statue while avoiding everyone else who was photographing the statue and/or guests in front of the statue. I found a composition I liked and got a little lower in my stance for a good angle.

Partners statue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Partners statue in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/13, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

The next time you go to photograph in a location and things are not what you thought they would be -- think, move and let your creativity find a solution.

September 30, 2016

Photographing Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I had a plan in mind when I thought about photographing the new night show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a fabulous show mixing projections on the Great Movie Ride and fireworks. The problem lies in the word "mix". The projections seldom are still long enough to mix them with long exposures needed for fireworks. I watched the show numerous times on youTube where I identified a few opportunities I may be successful.

During the first few seconds, the Star Wars logo is displayed towards the top of the replica of Mann's Chinese Theater and is stationary. In the photo on the left below, I opened and closed the shutter manually and captured the logo. On the right photo, you see the problem with projections if you leave the shutter open longer to get the multiple fireworks on one image. The Star Wars logo started to move and became blurry.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Shutter Speed comparison of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Here is a set of photos I feel came out the way I envisioned them.

A scene showing Imperial Walkers on the ice planet of Hoth did not come out too bad. It looks good at this size. At full resolution, there is blurring.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imperial Walker projection during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 5.4s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 23mm Focal Length, Tripod.

The double Suns on Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine did come out very well. The projections are static for a few seconds.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tatooine sunset during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 8.9s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 23mm Focal Length, Tripod, Cropped.

Towards the end of the show, the projections display each movie poster from the Star Wars saga. This one of the first Star Wars movie (renamed A New Hope once the prequel movies were released) showing a very stylized Luke with his lightsaber and Princess Leia at his side with the image of Darth Vader above them. This ones was the best even with moving X-Wing fighters on each side.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Movie Poster during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 7.3s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 20mm Focal Length, Tripod.

This was the one image I wanted to get. Just before the finale of fireworks are released, an image of hands holding a lightsaber is projected with a beam of light coming out of the top of the Great Movie Ride. My location was a little off center and the Moon was near the beam but I still like how it came out.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Great Lightsaber during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 5.8s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 23mm Focal Length, Tripod, Cropped.

If I get another chance to photograph the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show, I will concentrate on the projections using higher ISOs and faster shutter speeds. The fireworks for the most part are off to the right of the Great Movie Ride. I had a wide angle lens and, with all the people around me, it was not very useful as people to my right kept getting in the frame. The cropped photos shared in the article are the result.

To read more on the technique I used to photograph the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show, click here: Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

September 23, 2016

Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari Firsts

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On my last Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom I photographed some firsts. That is pretty amazing considering I have gone on safari close to 100 times since the park opened back in 1998. The first "first" was seeing the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) facing the safari jeep and close to the road. In all my previous safaris, the Black Rhino was either not visible or at the back of his enclosure either lying down or facing away. This may be the only good photo I ever get of this magnificent and very endangered African animal.

Black rhinoceros on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Black rhinoceros on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 900, EV +0.3, 300mm Focal Length.

African Wild or Painted Dogs (Lycaon pictus) were introduced to the Kilimanjaro Safari last December and this was my first opportunity to photograph them. Unlike the Black Rhino, they were very accommodating and I managed to get off a few shots before the jeep drove on. Below was the best of the set and captured a behavior called dominance between two individuals.

African Wild Dogs on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
African Wild Dogs on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO1000, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

I have a lot of photos of Ostriches (Struthio camelus) from previous safaris but none which showed this strutting behavior. This ostrich was doing this behind another ostrich. I am guessing this was a mating behavior.

Ostrich on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ostrich on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.3, ISO 2000, EV 0, 98mm Focal Length.

The drivers on the Kilimanjaro Safari always tell us before we depart at the end of the ride to come back as every safari is different. I am here to tell you, they tell the truth.

September 16, 2016

Anatomy of a Magic Kingdom Sunset

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On my trip last week, I was on my own Friday at the Magic Kingdom. Using an app on my phone, I had determined a location to photograph the sunset. It was from the bridge on the Wishing Well side of Cinderella Castle. With the sunset at 7:38PM and Wishes starting at 9PM, I set up my camera on a tripod at 7PM. If you are wondering why I mentioned Wishes, people started to line up on the bridge soon after I got there to wait for the fireworks show.

As you can see by the picture below, the weather was not being cooperative when I took my first test image about 40 minutes before sunset. From my experience photographing many sunsets in upstate New York, I have learned never to judge a sunset until about 30 minutes afterward. Instead of packing up, I waited.

Cinderella Castle on a cloudy day at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle on a cloudy day before sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

Sunset came and went with no good color in the sky. That was until 10 minutes after sunset when the clouds which, had been slowly clearing, was lit up by the Sun over the horizon. Processing the image in Adobe Lightroom CC, I opened up the shadows in front of the castle and added vibrance to the overall scene. Disney added lighting on the castle which kept it from becoming a silhouette against the bright sky.

Cinderella Castle after sunset at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle ten minutes after sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/3s, f/22, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

The color came and went quickly. 10 minutes later or 20 minutes after sunset, the sky color was gone. The darkened sky was a nice backdrop for the lighted castle using a long 6 second exposure.

Cinderella Castle during dusk at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle twenty minutes after sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 22mm focal length, tripod.

Sunsets are different every time and one must be prepared to wait with patience and be ready to capture the fleeting colors when they occur. Even with Disney's wonderful lighting, at sunset, it compliments Nature's own light show.

September 9, 2016

Hyperpaced in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars clip seen in the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Star Wars clip seen in the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Scott has hyperspace jumped to Walt Disney World this week. He will be back next week to tell you all about it unless he gets lost in space on the way back.

September 2, 2016

Goodbye to the Main Street Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have seen the Main Street Electrical Parade or MSEP for short numerous times. The brightly colored floats and the extremely catchy tune stays with one for a long, long time. Lisa and I photographed the parade back in 2010. She was hand holding her camera whie I was trying out slow sync flash on a tripod.

Magic Kingdom's Main Street Electrical Parade, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey and Minnie Mouse lead off the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length, Flash, Tripod.

This current run of the MSEP at Walt Disney World comes to a close on October 9, 2016. I will miss it and am planning on seeing it one more time next week.

Magic Kingdom's Main Street Electrical Parade, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom

From upper left: Elliot from Pete's Dragon, Big Ben clock tower from Peter Pan, fast snails and the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Will something be replacing the Main Street Electrical Parade in the future? I do hope Disney does as night parades down Main Street are extra special.

August 26, 2016

My Walt Disney World Photography Kit

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in 2008, I showed and explained what photography equipment I bring and why to Walt Disney World. While the principles remain the same, my equipment has changed and for the better. Unlike most visitors, I take my photography in the resort very seriously. It is fun and challenging and brings an extra dimension to my trips.

Photographer in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fully prepared photographer in Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

I still follow one rule: keep it light. My daily park kit consists of a Nikon D750 dSLR camera and Nikon 28-300VR super zoom lens using an Optech Sling Strap for comfort. I use a not-so-cool "fanny" pack to carry an extra camera battery, lens cleaning cloths, speedlight flash unit. a small prime lens (either a Nifty-Fifty or Fisheye). Sometimes I might switch out the prime for the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR wide angle zoom lens and a CPF or Circular Polarizing Filter. On days I plan to shoot a fireworks show or long exposure shots, I will bring my tripod and rent a locker to put it in until needed. Keeping the kit small helps to speed things up through Disney Security checks, too.

Other photographers I have been with have a slightly different view. They may bring a photographer's backpack with more lenses and and extra camera body. This allows them to pull out a big zoom lens for the safari and animal trails in Disney's Animal Kingdom or for use on stage shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

There are some photographers who are switching to the smaller camera kits like the 4/3 bodies and lenses which are even smaller and lighter then dSLR equipment and just as good.

Many are taking iPhones and other smartphone photography to new heights as the cameras get better and better each year and more powerful photography apps become available.

Just remember to have fun and enjoy your trip and let the photography enhance it.

August 19, 2016

September Trip and a Meet & Greet

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Got a couple of announcements to make...

I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!

I may be closing in on 60 but I still get excited when I get to visit Walt Disney World. It's only been a few months and a lot has changed: Frozen Ever After opened in Epcot's Norway pavilion, new Star Wars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, new restaurant and night time events at Disney's Animal Kingdom and a new castle show at the Magic Kingdom. Lots to cover and photograph. I will work on a Shot List (as mentioned in last week's post) over the next couple of weeks.

I am also taking suggestions. If you have something you would like me to photograph. I will feature it in a future blog post and explain how I did it. Tell me your suggestion in a Comment below.

Continue on after a short photographic break for the second announcement.

Hot air balloons above the Sunshine Seasons food court in The Land pavilion in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hot air balloons above the Sunshine Seasons food court.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 5600, EV 0, 58mm Focal Length.

EPCOT ALL EARS MEET & GREET

I will be at the All Ears Meet and Greet on Friday, September 9, at the Sunshine Seasons in the Land. The meet starts at 10am and Deb will be there with lots of swagger..er, I mean All Ears Swag (aka freebies) and the ever popular Trading Cards to pass out to those attending. Also joining the fun are AllEars Team Members Jack Marshall, Kristin Ford and Linda Eckwerth! Click the link for the FaceBook event page for full details.

Looking forward to seeing some of you!

August 12, 2016

Trying to Photography Too Much at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Way back in the early Nineteen-Eighties, I researched for months before my first trip to Walt Disney World. Back then there was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. All the time was well worth it as my honeymoon turned out fantastic.

Today, it is easy to tell when talking with people after they returned from Walt Disney World after their first trip if they enjoyed it or not. Those are ones who planned ahead and did not try to do too much. It is a theme I see played out over and over again.

Photographers looking overwhelmed on Route 66 in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Photographers looking overwhelemed on Route 66 in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Photography at Walt Disney World is the same. People will look at photos for months and want to try and do the same thing or do something else or try to improve on them. Without a plan, it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated trying to do everything. When I first went to Walt Disney World with a dSLR camera, I wanted to shoot it all. I had thousands of ideas and photos I have seen by others in my head. While I did come back with a few good ones, I was disappointed with most of my attempts.

This is when research, planning and keeping expectations real come in play. Today, I will make a Shot List of what I want to get. I keep it down to a couple a day. For example, on my next trip, I want to photograph the new Star Wars Fireworks show. I will watch videos on youTube, look at other photographer's photos on flickr, Twitter, FaceBook and forums. Ask questions and have prepare a plan. This will maximize the chances of getting good photos of the show.

In this way, I do not try to do too much. I will enjoy myself more and be proud of the photos I will bring back from Walt Disney World.

August 5, 2016

Finding the Best Light at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A common mistake made by vacation travelers is missing the best light of the day. With the best light being early morning just after sunrise and one hour before sunset, it often interferes with things like sleep, breakfast and dinner. With a little planning, you can arrange to clear those times to capture Walt Disney World or any location during the Magic or Golden Hours of the day.

Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom at Magic Hour, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom at Magic Hour.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 50mm Focal Length.

While early morning is tough at Walt Disney World, the resorts do offer many beautiful early morning opportunities. Parks open early some days and early morning character breakfasts can get you in even earlier. I do understand and agree, it is much easier to capture the evening Magic Hour. Using any number for Smartphone or Internet apps, you can determine the time of sunsets or sunrises during your stay and before can you make your dining plans. I like to eat an early dinner during the 4 o'clock hour. Eating early has a nice perk in allowing me a snack later in the evening.

Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain at Magic Hour, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain at Magic Hour.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 210mm Focal Length.

So, if you like or would want to start capturing Magic Hour photographs in the most magical place on Earth, plan to free up those couple of hours during your trips.

July 29, 2016

Be Prepared for Disney Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The old motto of Be Prepared is especially appropriate for us Disney park vacationers. You never know when you will walk around a corner and see a great photo opportunity. For walking around the parks, I try to keep my camera at the ready with a good starting setup. I call it Zeroing Out My Camera.

Another aspect of being prepared is bringing equipment with you for the day or night appporpiate for what you may be planning to photograph. For instance, if I am headed out to the Magic Kingdom for the day only. I like to go with a simple setup of just a camera with a super zoom lens. For cropped sensor cameras, I would use an 18-200mm range or for full frame cameras a 28-300mm works great. These type of lenses give me the flexibility to capture everything up close to far away.

It is always good to have the following with you as well: extra battery or batteries, flash unit, lens cloth, extra memory cards and, if you have room, a small extra lens like a 50mm or Fisheye.

Another part of being prepared is to research your destination. Even if you have been to Walt Disney World dozens of times, the parks are always changing. New rides, new shows, new characters, new parades, new shops, new restaurants...you get the drift. When it comes to rides, parades and shows, you can find full versions of them on youTube. That is what I did when I planned on being at the Magic Kingdom's opening ceremony. This show is preformed daily. I watched a video of it a few times so I knew when things would happen. Like the blast of fireworks towards the end.

Fireworks go off at the end of the Magic Kingdom's daily opening ceremony show on the Main Street USA Train Station platform, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fireworks go off at the end of the Magic Kingdom's daily opening ceremony show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/9, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

With just a little forethought, research and planning (we are Disney people after all, we love to plan!), you can be prepared to take amazing photographs of your next trip to Walt Disney World or anywhere else.

July 22, 2016

Waiting for Tigers in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I watch people all the time when I am at Walt Disney World. I particularly pay attention to those taking photographs whether they are using smart phones or full size digital SLR cameras. I can almost tell you which ones will come home with photos they will like and be proud to show to their family and friends. Those are the the people who take a little extra time and patience.

Those who walk up to something, pull out a camera or phone and point and shoot will rarely get a great photo. I used to be one of them. Prided myself in the grab shot as I toured the parks with my family. It wasn't until I started to take the time which, usually meant an extra minute or two, did I start to see better results in my photography.

At the Asian Tiger exhibit on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I see many people come up to the overlook, see a tiger below walking or lying down, take a photo and move on. Now, they might have gotten the perfect tiger photo they wanted. Chances are, they probably got something like this.

Asian tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1250, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

That was my first shot upon looking down. The first shot is rarely a keeper. I knew if I waited, I would get a better one. I was rewarded only thirty seconds later. The tiger moved his head around and looked in my direction.

Asian tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger looking around on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

I realize if you are traveling with a group and especially, with young children, it is hard to be able to spend a lot of time observing or waiting for a better photo opportunity. When you can, you will be rewarded.

Seven minutes later, this tiger jumped up to the water pool and started to drink. I was able to capture a behavior I had not seen before. This has became one my favorite photos of a tiger.

Asian tiger drinking water on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger getting a drink of water on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

Remember this the next time you are in Walt Disney World or even when photographing your family. The first shot is often not the best shot. Take a few more and see which ones you like later. I am willing to bet the one or ones you like will come later in the shoot.

July 15, 2016

Adding People to Your Walt Disney World Photographs

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I try to avoid touristy shots when I am photographing at Walt Disney World. Static photos of an empty park while nice is not something I like to do. The parks only come alive when their are people involved. Whether they are cast members or guests, seeing people interact with another person or thing is what brings smiles to my face.

Below is a good example, when riding the riverboat around Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kindom, I always giggled at the people on the barrel bridge. Sure looked like fun and surely something Huck Finn would have approved of. The angle from the riverboat was too high and too flat for me. Once I got on the island, I found a good place to sit, watch and photograph the adventure.

A family walks over the barrel bridge on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family walks over the barrel bridge on Tom Sawyer Island.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/100s, f/5.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 82mm (123mm DX) Focal Length.

When I did the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom awhile back, one of our guides took photographs of us Trekkers. I found it only fitting I return the favor as she took pictures on another precarious looking foot bridge.

A Cast Member photographing during the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Cast Member photographing during a Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

For the last example, I take you back to the Magic Kingdom. This is a view taken at the end of Main Street USA. People doing various things like buying a balloon, getting their photo taken with Cinderella Castle in the background, doing a quick planning meeting with family and even more. This photo reminded me of the Family Circus Sunday comic when the cartoonist would put various bubbles around the scene describing all that was going on. On flickr, I used this photo with notes you can see as you move your mouse around the photo in similar fashion.

A typical scene in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A typical scene in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/14, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 15mm Focal Length.

As you can see by these examples, including people in your photography at Walt Disney World gives the photos more interest.

To visit the flickr image (which is much bigger) with all the notes, CLICK HERE.

July 8, 2016

A Dapper Dan Close Up on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The famous photographer, Robert Capa, once said that, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. Keep this in mind when photographing at Walt Disney World. Using either a zoom lens or zooming with your feet, you will find getting closer and filling the frame will immediately improve your photos.

As an example, the photo below of the Dapper Dans playing the Deagan Organ Chimes on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom is typical and one everyone takes. It is a good "I was there and saw this" type of photo.

Dapper Dans playing the Deagan Organ Chimes on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dapper Dans playing the Deagan Organ Chimes on Main Street USA.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

To get closer, I moved as close as I could to the performers without getting in anyone's way and zoomed in with my lens to fill the frame with one of the Dapper Dans playing the Deagan Organ Chimes. I find this photo a lot more interesting than the one of the entire group.

Close up of a Dapper Dan playing the Deagan Organ Chimes on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Close up of a Dapper Dan playing the Deagan Organ Chimes on Main Street USA.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 125, EV 0, 160mm Focal Length, Fill Flash.

Remember...closer means better.

July 1, 2016

Liberty Bell in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This weekend marks the 240th year of the birth of the United States of America. Below is a photo of the famous Liberty Bell replica on display in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom with the Hall of Presidents behind it. Happy Birthday to America and to my fellow countrymen.

Liberty Bell replica on display in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Liberty Bell replica on display in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/18, ISO 320, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Technical information about this photo. I used a small aperture and focused on the Liberty Bell which is about a third into the frame. This put everything in focus from the bell back to the Hall of Presidents. Not totally happy with this photo. As an exercise for the reader, can you tell me why you think I am not happy with it?

June 24, 2016

Purple Wishes over Cinderella Castle

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Purples hues during Wishes over Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 5.4s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, tripod, remote shutter release.

Scott is still on his Stay-cation this week but will be back next week with more on Disney Photography. He hopes you enjoy this purple hued photo of Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. After all, it is Fireworks Friday.

June 17, 2016

Riding Down Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests riding Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests riding Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/22, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

While Scott wishes he was riding Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom today, he is doing a Stay-cation this week and next. He did want to point out this is another motion photo using a slow shutter speed and a steady hand. Scott used Macphun's Intenify CK's Soft HDR filter to pull out the details in the scene.

June 10, 2016

Nikon Picture Spots at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Looking for a great place for a picture perfect photo at Walt Disney World? Using all the techniques I have outlined the last few weeks, Disney and Nikon have teamed up to take the guess work out of a good photo location.

Look for Nikon Picture Spots throughout the parks. They were chosen to provide good places to take a photo of the scene and, especially, for taking photos of you, your family, friends and maybe a random fellow guest and their family (I get asked a lot to do this at the parks). For us old-timers, they were known for years as Kodak Picture Spots but Nikon took over sponsorship a few years ago.

Nikon Picture Spot for Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nikon Picture Spot for Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/18, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 24mm Focal Length.

What is interesting at this Nikon Picture Spot in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingodom is the changes that have taken place since the original photo was taken. It has changed even more since I took this photo back in 2014 with the new Hub design.

I will be taking an early summer break the next two weeks. Look for a couple of fun photos as I recharge my photographic batteries.

June 3, 2016

Motion Photography in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I conclude my series on how to improve your photography at Walt Disney World, I want to talk about my favorite kind...Motion Photography. When done right, motion photography gets the most attention when sharing it. It has good "Wow" factor.

First kind of motion photography is keeping the camera still with a slow shutter speed. Something below 1/60th of a second though it can be faster depending on how fast the subject is moving. In the case below, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland gave a good motion blur at 1/30th of a second. If I used a tripod, I could have gone even slower.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train flying by in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train flying by in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/30s, f/22, ISO 250, EV +0.3, 24mm Focal Length.

The second kind of motion photography and the hardest to master is Panning. This is where you move the camera using a slow shutter speed while keeping the subject in the same relative location in the view finder. It takes practice which can be done anywhere you find moving subjects. Parks, race tracks, sporting events and getting your family to ride bikes up and down the street all make good subjects for panning practice. Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom is an excellent place to use panning. The cars stay on the same course and never stop going by. You do have to slow the shutter down to make them look fast.

Guests fly by on Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests "fly" by on Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/29, ISO 200, EV 0, 85mm Focal Length.

You can read a more in depth article on panning here: Panning for Gold.

As I pointed out, motion photography is not easy and takes practice. I find the time well worth it when I see and hear people comment on them.

May 27, 2016

Freezing the Action at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I do a lot of sports photography which is the home of fast shutter speeds. The faster the better to freeze the action and allow people to see the sports action in a whole new way. The same can be done at Walt Disney World. One of my favorite's to use a fast shutter is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular as Disney's Hollywood Studios. The action in this show is fast and furious.

To best capture the action, set your camera to Shutter Priority or Sports mode. You want the shutter speed to be at minimum of 1/500th of a second or faster. The lighting in the photo below only allowed me 1/500s with an ISO of 6400 as it was late in the day.

Stunt actors in Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Freezing action during the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 210mm Focal Length.

Even at 1/500th of a second there is still some motion blur. Not enough to take away from the freezing of the action. As you can see, you can study the action in the photo. Something you can not do while watching the show.

May 20, 2016

Narrow Your Focus at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Another way to improve your photos at Walt Disney World and elsewhere is to use Selective Focus (click this link for details on how to create it). Most people try to put the foreground subject in sharp focus with this method. One can also put the foreground in soft focus and let the subject in the "back" of the frame be in sharp focus. People viewing such an image will gravitate to the area of sharp focus. Another way a photographer can control how an image is viewed.

The three ovens in Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The three ovens in Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 400, EV +0.7.

Notice how the unfocused area leads the eyes to the three ovens in the Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion. Here is some trivia for you. The ovens are named after volcanos in Italy. They are from left to right: Stromboli, Vesuvio and Etna.

Using my favorite lens, the Nifty-Fifty, I can even create an out of focus vignette if you have enough foreground and background elements like the photo of a Mickey Mouse golf ball found in a basket of golf balls at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Disney Springs.

Mickey Mouse golf ball at the World of Disney store in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse golf ball selectively focused on at the World of Disney Store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 220, EV +0.3.

Selectively focusing on subjects is a fun way to give your photography a boost.

May 13, 2016

Leading Lines at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When the talk leans towards leading at Disney's Hollywood Studies, it is usually about leading men or women. Today, however, it is about leading lines. Photographers use leading lines to give a photo depth and/or to "lead" a viewer's eyes to something of interest.

My first example is the hallway you leave from after riding on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and going through the Rock Around the Shop store. I really liked how the lines converged and the texture of the bricks along the walls. The posters overhead giving a nice added splash of color and shapes.

Leaving the Rock Around the Shop after riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Leading lines in the hallway leaving the Rock Around the Shop.
Nikon D700/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 1000, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

The second example is not so straight forward (see what I did there?). Here, the "cars" create the leading lines to the big drive-in movie screen inside the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant.

Rows of cars leading to the Big Screen inside the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rows of cars leading to the Big Screen inside the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/4s, f/8, ISO 10000, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

In both of these examples, I used straight lines. Curved lines can also lead. Anyone have any examples of curved leading lines? Shoot me a link in a Comment below and I will share them in a future blog post.

May 6, 2016

Improving Your Walt Disney World Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

At the end of last week's article on the Foo Dog in front of the Great Movie Ride, I posed a question on how the photo might be improved. I got a couple of answers and a correction to what the statue was. My mistake there.

The answer I was looking for was different. Let me show it to you.

First, here is a photo of the enterance to ESPN Club restaurant near Disney's Boardwalk Resort. It was taken when the restaurant was not open on a quiet Boardwalk morning.

Front entrance to the ESPN Club restaurant near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Front entrance to the ESPN Club restaurant without people.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 36mm focal length.

It is a good reference photo. The kind you see on blogs and brochures describing the restaurant. However, if you go to the Walt Disney World website or look through brochures on dining at the resort, you will notice a difference in the photos. Most, if not all, will have people in them enjoying the location or interacting with cast members. They want you to feel the location is a good place to go, enjoy and have fun at.

That is how I like to improve on my Disney and/or Travel photography by adding the human element. Not just any human or humans but ones which add to the photo and help tell the story of the place. Like this one below.

Front entrance to the ESPN Club restaurant near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Front entrance to the ESPN Club restaurant with people.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 140, EV 0, 36mm focal length.

What do you think? Better? Sure looks like a place sport fans would like to go to.

Yes, I do know there are "people" in the first photo but I think you know what I mean. They did not add to the subject like the second one does.

A fun fact about these two photos. They were taken three years apart from close to the same location and I used the same focal length each time.


April 29, 2016

Chinese Dragon at the Great Movie Ride

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios has gotten a nice face-lift with the new sponsorship from Turner Classic Movies. The Chinese Dragon Foo Dog statues out front make for a nice detail photo of the type of architectural elements found at Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

My first attempt was technically correct. Good focus and depth of field. What do you thing of it? Background a bit distracting perhaps?

Chinese dragon statue in front of the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wide view of the Chinese dragon foo dog statue in front of the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-35mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 140, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

By adjusting my position to get closer and zooming in a bit, I made the statue the main subject and used the Rules of Thirds for a more pleasing composition.

Chinese dragon statue in front of the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tighter view of the Chinese dragon foo dog statue in front of the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-35mm, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

Any ideas how you would improve this photo or do it differently?

NOTE: It was pointed out that the statue is of a foo dog and not a dragon. I have made appropriate changes. -- Scott


April 22, 2016

Fireworks Primer for Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As the calendar heads towards summer, can Fireworks Season be far behind?

Wishes fireworks show over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes fireworks show over Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 15s, f/11, ISO 280, EV 0, 35mm focal length, tripod.

At Walt Disney World, every day is in Fireworks Season with shows in three parks almost nightly:

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, debuting in 2016, at Disney's Hollywood Studios
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth in Epcot
Wishes in the Magic Kingdom

Below are links to blogs I refer people to when I am asked how to photograph fireworks specifically at Walt Disney World. They pertain to any fireworks show you want to photograph:

Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

Photographing Fireworks - Part 2

Of course, this blog might just be an excuse for me to share a photo of Wishes. Still my favorite fireworks show.

April 15, 2016

More Topiaries from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week's Disney Pic of the Week theme was Topiaries. A topiary is a shrubs or trees clipped into ornamental shapes. Disney landscape artists have been using topiaries since the early 1960's at Disneyland. The annual Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot gives these artists a larger venue to show, astound and thrill Walt Disney World guests with topiaries both big and small.

Earlier this week, I shared with you one of the biggest topiaries: Dragon in China. Today, I am going to show you others I found as I walked around World Showcase during the 2016 edition of the Flower and Garden Festival.

As you approach Canada from Future World, topiaries of Bambi (deer), Thumper (rabbit) and Flower (skunk) from the animated feature, Bambi, greet you. It is a delightful scene of youth and merriment as Bambi watches his friends in a field of flowers. To include the Canada pavilion's Hotel du Canada in the background to tell the viewer where the photo was taken, I used a small aperture of f/16 and focused on the closest topiaries of Thumper and Flower about a third into the frame. This creates a hyperfocal photo where everything is in focus from the front (bottom) to the back (top) of the scene (click the link for more information on Hyperfocus).

Character topiaries from the movie, Bambi, near the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bambi, Thumper and Flower topiaries near the Canada pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 18mm focal length.

The topiaries in the United Kingdom featuring Peter Pan overlooking Captain Hook from the top of a building got me to thinking how to best capture the scene. If I moved way back, I would get both of the characters in and probably a lot of my fellow guests as well. As much as I adore all of you, I decided to get in close with a wide angle lens, get on my knees in front of Captain Hook and angle my camera upwards. The result you see below. Again, using the hyperfocal technique, the composition has a nice anchor with Captain Hook standing in a bed of flowers and Peter Pan high above on the roof with a beautiful blue sky behind him.

Character topiaries from the movie, Peter Pan, in the United Kingdom pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Topiaries of Peter Pan and Captain Hook in the United Kingdom pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 220, EV 0, 22mm focal length.

As a "rule", photographers are told NOT to photograph into the Sun (or any bright light source). Like all good rules, however, this one was made to be broken. While I photographed both the Cogsworth and Lumiere topiaries in the France pavilion various ways, it was the photo you see below which I found the most interesting. The large Sun with the star effect shining down did put the topiaries into dark shadows.

I used photo enhancing software from Macphun called Intensify CK for Mac computers to pull out the details and colors of the topiaries and balance out the bright sunlight. I got in low in front of good old Cogsworth to get most of the people enjoying the area out of the frame. There are several kinds of photo enhancement software products on the market for both Macs and PCs which can do similar effects.

Character topiaries from the movie, Beauty and the Beast, in the France pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cogsworth and Lumiere topiaries in the France pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 220, EV 0, 16mm focal length, Intensify CK.

Earlier this week, Deb showed you the Snow White and the Dwarfs topiary in a different location from 12 years ago. This year, Snow White and her band of merry Dwarfs are found in between Germany and France near the World Showcase Lagoon. Comparing the two photos, you can see how Disney landscape artist have given the faces on the topiaries a far more animated look including eyes, noses, mouths, lips and hair in the case of Snow White in today's versions.

Character topiaries from the movie, Snow White, near the Germany pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Snow White and the Dwarfs topiaries near the Germany pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/250s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 23mm focal length.

If you want to learn more about the history of Disney topiaries, click here for an article by Disney historian Jim Korkis.

April 8, 2016

More Food Compositions at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I am back with another edition about Disney Food Photography. It has been a year since a wrote that last article about phtographing the foods at Walt Disney World and beyond. This time I want to talk about how I include little extras which add interest or help to tell a story.

First, it is always a good thing to get close to your main subject. At Teppan Edo in Epcot's Japan pavilion, the food is prepared right in front of guests. Using a short zoom lens, I was able to get in close to one of the wonders of any meal there, the Onion Volcano as it was erupting. The softly focused guests in the background add a fun element.

Onion volcano erupting at Teppan Edo restaurant in Epcot's Japan pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Onion volcano erupting at Teppan Edo restaurant in Epcot's Japan pavilion.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/100s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 52mm Focal Length.

Restaurants at Disney can have cluttered backgrounds with guests dining and tables waiting to be bussed. Using bounce flash, you can pull your subject out of the background. When I dine at Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Village Resort, I get Tonga Toast. My Son-In-Law prefers the Big Kahuna Breakfast. Using a person traveling with you adds interest and delights your family and friends.

Big Kahuna breakfast entree at the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Big Kahuna breakfast entree at the Kona Cafe.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length, Bounced Flash.

Not every time do I take a photo of food inside the location I purchased it from. Especially if it is a beautiful morning in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. There, I got one of Gaston's Tavern's warm cinnomon rolls and a cold milk to wash it down with. I placed the food on an outside table and used a wide focal length to include the entrance to the quick service restaurant in the background.

Warm cinnamon roll and cold milk from Gaston's Tavern in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Warm cinnamon roll and cold milk from Gaston's Tavern.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 180, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

I have a lot of fun photographing the food and restaurants at all Disney venues. For one thing, people do not mind you doing it in Disney restaurants as most people are doing the same thing with their cameras and smart phones. Secondly, I enjoy people telling me how my photos help them consider eating at a particular restaurant on their trips to Disney parks and resorts. I hope you do to.


April 1, 2016

Anchoring Your Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In landscape photography, the idea of anchoring a photo with an interesting element in the foreground is almost a rule. An anchor creates drama, shows scope, scale and tells a story.

I use anchors a lot at Walt Disney World especially when I have a wide angle lens on my camera. Wide angle lenses allow you to get close to a subject and include a sweeping background. In the photo below of a geyser erupting next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, I was able to encompass not only the geyser but the Liberty Belle Riverboat on the Rivers of America and the clouds in the sky overhead. The geyser anchors the photo and gives a viewer a starting location before moving on to the rest of the image.

Geyser near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad erupts as the Liberty Belle cruises by on the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Geyser near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad erupts as the Liberty Belle cruises by on the Rivers of America.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Being more of a travel and vacation photographer when at Walt Disney World, I like to add people as the anchor. Specifically, the people I am traveling with. While, it may not be of interest to everyone, it is for my family with me and for those back at home I share the photos with. There are so many places you can do this in all the parks. This one was taken at a favorite location for Disney Photopass photographers. For good reason with the beautiful Cinderella Castle in the background.

Guests pose in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests pose in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm Focal Length.

The next time you are out with your camera, look for anchors to use to create beautiful story telling photographs.


March 18, 2016

Flower and Garden Festival Monorails

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Colorful flowers on land and water at the annual Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Colorful flowers on land and water at the annual Flower and Garden Festival.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 160, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Panorama.

I spent a day recently at Epcot's annual Flower and Garden Festival. I wanted to capture the beauty and color of the festival. Above, I used four photographs stitched together to create a panoramic. As much as I like this photo and it does show how colorful Epcot gets, it is missing an important element which would make you think "That's Epcot" immediately. In the photos below, I waited and captured it.

Monorail Yellow moves over the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Yellow moves over the Flower and Garden Festival.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 180, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Monorail Yellow was a bit shaded and I dodged (lightened) it a little to pull out its color. After taking this photo, I walked over to the path between the Imagination pavilion and World Showcase to get a front lighted photo of the next monorail. Notice the difference in the exposures.

Monorail Green moves over the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Green moves over the Flower and Garden Festival.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Monorails come through the Epcot loop more or less on a regular basis. A lot depends on how busy the parks are as to how often you see a monorail moving overhead as you walk around Future World. On this day, these two monorails ran ten minutes apart.


March 11, 2016

Disney Magic Cruising

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Upon walking on to the Disney Magic, the first ship of the Disney Cruise Line, I immediately compared it to the Disney Dream which I had been on several times. That comparison makes the Disney Magic feel small and is not fair. I found the Disney Magic different and smaller but just as enjoyable to cruise on.

Lobby of the Disney Magic cruise ship, Port Canaveral, Florida
Lobby of the Disney Magic cruise ship.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 2500, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Each Disney Cruise Line ship has a character statue. For the Disney Magic, Helmsman Mickey Mouse is based on the eight foot tall Man at the Wheel statue at the Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Helmsman Mickey statute in the lobby of the Disney Magic cruise ship, Port Canaveral, Florida
Helmsman Mickey statute in the lobby of the Disney Magic cruise ship.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 4500, EV 0, 20mm Focal Length.

Earlier in the day of my cruise, the Disney Cruise Line announced two new ships coming to the fleet. During the Adventure Away party and show, they repeated the announcement with characters, streamers and graphics on the Funnelvision.

Adventure Away party and show on the Disney Magic cruise ship, Port Canaveral, Florida
Adventure Away party and show on the Disney Magic cruise ship.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/160s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

Our three night cruise only had one Port of Call which was Disney Cruise Lines' private island of Castaway Cay. The weather for our stop was warm and partly sunny in the morning. Later more clouds rolled in with a cool breeze. The photo of the moored Disney Magic pretty much shows it. Did not stop me from enjoying doing the morning 5K, Serenity Bay adult beach and Cookies II BBQ.

Disney Magic cruise ship moored at Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney Magic cruise ship moored at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 500, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

Like the Disney themeparks, Cast Members are one of the big reasons why my family and others give high marks for entertainment and service on Disney cruise ships. Below are a few which made my cruise memorable.

Disney Magic Cast Members
Disney Magic Cast Members.

Going clockwise from top left: Bartenders work to fill guest drink orders behind the Singles bar, server puts on a napkin hat on a guest in Carioca's restaurant, cast member poses with a guest at Serenity Bay BBQ on Castaway Cay and Deputy Leader cast member for the emergency evacuation drill before leaving port.

Other notable activities I enjoyed was Tangled, the Musical stage show, nightly entertainment in Fathoms with host Matt from England, seeing the 3-D version of Zootopia in the Walt Disney Theatre and relaxing on deck with a book and a drink.

March 4, 2016

Port of Call: Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney Dream cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Disney Dream cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/29, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 45mm focal length.

Scott is on vacation this week cruising on the Disney Cruise Line with a stop at Castaway Cay. We are sure there will be many Konk Koolers consumed in his travels. Scott will be back next week and sharing his adventures from the Caribbean.

February 26, 2016

Festival of the Lion King Finale in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Harambe Theatre is the new home of the Festival of the Lion King. It looks like the old theater. Maybe they dismantled it and re-constructed it? It could be a little bigger seating wise. No doubt all the cool upgrades went into the production end of things. This is a simple click as I let the camera do all the work using Shutter Priority Mode at 1/320th of a second.

Festival of the Lion King finale in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of the Lion King finale on stage in the Harambe Theatre.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Sometimes, I just marvel at what today's cameras can do. I only had to open up the shadows and add a little sharpening to finish it off in post-production.

February 19, 2016

Great Movie Ride HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today is my birthday and I am going to indudge myself with photographic candy.

Late afternon at Disney's Hollywood Studios means the Sun is behind The Great Movie Ride or GMR, for short. Especially, in early December when I was there last. I sure was not going to let the cloud filled sky go to waste. No sir! Instead, I took a series of five photos in a bracketed set covering the -2EV to +2EV range of exposures. My camera (Nikon D750) can be set up to bracket from 3 to 9 images at a time in any interval I want. Saves me a lot of time as I do not have to adjust my camera after each shot. I do have to remember to take it out of bracketing mode once I am done.

I then brought the five photos into Photomatix Pro. Photomatix Pro merges the photos into one image before creating a set of images to choose from processed in various ways. I selected the one you see below as I liked how it emphasized the clouds in the sky and popped the colors of the GMR building.

HDR image of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of The Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 1100, 28mm focal length.

I cropped the image into a 16x9 HD crop, sat back and enjoyed the candy.

February 12, 2016

Illuminations at 28mm

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On my last trip to Walt Disney World, I went light by only bringing the Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. At 28mm this lens is not as wide as I would like to photograph Illuminations, I found this pleasing composition back when photographing at last December's All Ears event.

Illuminations Holiday Tag in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations Holiday Tag at 28mm.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 6s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

As you can see there are a few fireworks at the top giving a nice framing effect.

Just before the grand finale, I took this "fast" photo. Being in Bulb mode, this was a very quick open and close of the shutter.

Illuminations Holiday Tag in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations Holiday Tag at 28mm.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 3/5s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

The next frame was totally blown out as the air was filled with white fireworks.

Even though I did not have the best lens with me, I made the best of it by finding a composition I liked. Hope you did, too. Click here to see a wider view of Illuminations.

February 5, 2016

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in 2013, I wrote about my ideas for using a Fisheye lens. What I did not say was how easy it was to leave the Fisheye lens on the camera. Case in point was this day in Epcot. My family started the day with a FastPass+ at Test Track. I had an idea for the Fisheye lens for ride shots. Why I was not thrilled with the ride photos I got, I did really like using the Fisheye on the cars in the show room area of the attraction.

Chevrolet Corvette on display inside Test Track in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chevrolet Corvette on display inside Test Track through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/25s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

After Test Track, we walked across the plaza on our way for our lunch dining reservation and I could not resist this photo. It is not often I have gotten such nice clouds in the middle of a Florida day on my visits.

People walk past Pin Central in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
People walk past Pin Central through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/640s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0.

Call me lazy or creative but I left the Fisheye lens on my camera for our lunch at the Garden Grill in The Land pavilion. I especially liked how the distortion of the lens worked with Pluto's nose.

A couple gets a hug from Pluto in the Garden Grill restaurant in Epcot's The Land pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A couple gets a hug from Pluto in the Garden Grill through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 5600, EV 0.

What's a day at Epcot without a monorail photo? Right, not a good one so here it is. Yep, never did take the Fisheye off as we headed out of the park.

Monorail Green heading into Epcot over the entrance to the park, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Green heading into Epcot through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0.

One of the best exercises a photographer can do is take a prime (non-zoom) lens and use it all day. If the prime lens happens to be a Fisheye lens, then enjoy the day!

January 29, 2016

New Animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Things are always changing at Walt Disney World. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, I photographed new residents on my last trip in December of 2015.

The entrance to Discovery Island Trails before the bridge over to Africa is the home of the Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Cotton-top Tamarins are new world monkeys from Central and South America.

Cotton-top Tamarin at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cotton-top Tamarin at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 4500, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia, I spotted the Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) walking through tall grass. Turns out Sarus Cranes are the tallest cranes in the world reaching a height of nearly six feet (1.8m). They are found in India, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Sarus Crane on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sarus Crane on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 180, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Staying on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and in the same exhibit area were Asian Antelopes. A whole heard had come up and over a hill to start grazing on the hillside. This lovely male was nice enough to pose for me.

Asian Antelope on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Antelope on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 450, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

While Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are not new to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, these two baby boys are. They were entertaining a large audience of guests with their antics.

Baby Western Lowland Gorillas playing on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Baby Western Lowland Gorillas playing on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 4500, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

I always make it a point to walk all the trails in Disney's Animal Kingdom as new animals go on display or replace other species all the time.

January 22, 2016

Photographing While Riding at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the hot topics I get asked about a lot is photographing while on a ride at Disney themeparks. There is an easy way and a harder way which I will be talking about and giving examples.

First, let me stress the importance of securing your camera while on rides. Whether you are taking pictures or not. You do not want your camera to bang up against anything during the ride or, worse, dropping it. I always use my camera strap around my person and then around the wrist which holds the camera.

Once secured, the next thing I worry about is how I want the photo to come out. If I am taking photos of people on the ride, I will use a fast shutter speed to get a nice and sharp image of them. That is what I did with the photo of my daughter on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom. I put my camera in Shutter Priority and set it to 1/800th of a second. This happened to open up the aperture to f/4.5 which gave the background a pleasing out of focus area or bokeh.

The type of lens is important, too. Wide angle lenses are best or a zoom set to its widest focal length. Believe me when I say it is not easy aiming the camera as a ride is in motion. A wide angle lens gives the best chance for a successful photo.

Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad using a fast shutter speed.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/800s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

The harder way is slowing your shutter speed down to keep the ride vehicle(s) in sharp focus but the background becomes a blur. That is what I did when I rode Tomorrowland's Astro Orbitor in the Magic Kingdom. I again used Shutter Priority and set my camera to 1/10th of a second. I took several photos during the ride and this photo was the only one which came out the way I wanted it to.

Long exposure photo of the Astro Orbiter from the Pilot Seat in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Long exposure photo of the Astro Orbiter from the Pilot Seat.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/10s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

Another ride for cool slow shutter speed photos is the Mad Tea Party or Tea Cups in Fantasyland. Here you need to get the cup spinning fast. Start out with a shutter speed of 1/125 and decrease to 1/60, 1/30 and even as low as 1/15th of a second. I would love to show you a photo I took but I can not stomach the Tea Cups. My friend, Joe Penniston, an accomplished Disney photographer, can and captured this wonderful photo.

Slow shutter on the Mad Tea Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Slow shutter on the Mad Tea Party or Tea Cups.
Nikon D3S/14-24mm, 1/15s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 20mm focal length.

Do not forget one very important ride photo...the end of the line photo showing everyone survived!

Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
End of the ride photo on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/250s, f/2.8, ISO 320, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

Remember, secure your camera first. Then enjoy photographing the ride.

January 15, 2016

Framing the Gates of Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Unlike framing a picture to hang on a wall, using a "frame" in your photographs is very different. By doing so you give the image added depth, leads the viewer to the main subject and gives the photo context and sense of place. This is especially true with architectural subjects like arches or gates. Epcot's World Showcase has two excellent ways of using a frame in a photo to do all of the above.

In the waters of World Showcase Lagoon at the Japan pavilion, Spaceship Earth can be seen and framed through a red Torii Gate. To keep everything in focus I used an aperture of f/16 and set my distance so the Torii Gate was about one third into the frame. I underexposed it slightly by setting my exposure compensation or EV to -0.3. This brought out the colors in the scene.

Does anyone know what type of focus this is called? First person to answer correctly in the comments will win an 8x10 print of the Red Torii Gate photo below. Hint: I have wrote about it A LOT! [We have a winner of the Torii Gate print! No more comments will be accepted. Thank you all for participating!]

Spaceship Earth framed by the Red torii gate in the Japan pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth framed by the Red torii gate in the Japan pavilion.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 360, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

In the China pavilion, the very ornate Paifang Gate in front of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is another place you can use framing in a photo. Here I waited until night and long after Illuminations: Reflections of Earth was over. This gave me a scene without other guests around. Using a tripod, I set up in front of the gate and waited for a few guests to move before using a long shutter speed of 30 seconds to pull in all the light and detail of the scene.

To continue the fun, the first person to post a comment telling me why the number "12" is of significance in the China pavilion wins an 8x10 print of the Paifang Gate below. [We have a winner of the Paifang Gate print! No more comments will be accepted. Thank you all for participating!]

Paifang Gate in front of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest at night in the China pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Paifang Gate in front of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest at night in the China pavilion.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

Both of these locations are Nikon Picture Spots and for all the reasons I have talked about here. Next time you are out photographing, look for opportunities to use a "frame" in your composition.

January 8, 2016

How to Find Posts in the Picture This! Blog

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As of this writing, the AllEars.Net Picture This! blog contains over 2,200 posts. That is a lot of information about photography in Disney themeparks as well as the popular Disney Pic of the Week photos. The posts are authored by Barrie, Lisa, Deb and myself since July of 2007. Many times a year, I will link back to previous posts on topics which are relevant to the topic I am writing about. No sense in repeating something I covered in the past.

Of course, some of the posts do get outdated as time passes. Attractions change or get replaced. Equipment once thought of as State of the Art, gets pushed out be even better equipment. An example were the popular Point and Shoot cameras of the 1990's and early 2000's. Smartphones with cameras and apps have almost completely replaced them.

How do I and you find posts about subjects you are interested in learning about on the Picture This! blog? (Note: these tips work on ALL the blogs found on AllEars.Net). When you visit the Picture This! blog, you see the top 10 posts on the left and list of links on the right. Those right side links are where we are going to start.

Below the list of Recent Posts are a long list of Categories. At the top of the Category list are the Blog Features which are the sub-blogs found inside of the Picture This! blog.

Featured sub-blogs in the AllEars.net Picture This! blog
Featured sub-blogs in the AllEars.net Picture This! blog.

By clicking on a link to one of the Blog Features, you will get ALL the posts of that Blog Feature. This will take time to load into your browser. Once all the posts are loaded, you can use your browser's Find feature to search for terms. This is the number one way I look for a subject in my Photographic Innoventions Blog Feature to find out when was the last time I wrote about it. If I find the post still relevant to the new post, I will add the link for reference for readers to delve more into the subject.

There is a long list of categories below the Blog Features which can narrow down a search. The example I use below is the Photography category where you can find posts which talk about or have an example of each of the sub-categories listed. As an example, the Depth of Field link will bring up a list of posts about how to use your camera's settings to alter the Depth of Field in your photos for creative use. You can do the same for links on each park or part area or attraction.

Photography category snippet from the AllEars.net Picture This! blog
Photography category snippet from the AllEars.net Picture This! blog.

There is one more way you can get a specific list of posts based on a list of Tags found at the bottom of most individual posts. Once you do that and see a list of tagged posts, you will see another list called Other Tags which lists every tag used in Picture This!.

Other Tags snippet from the AllEars.net Picture This! blog
Other Tags snippet from the AllEars.net Picture This! blog.

It is a very long list. Again, use your browser's Search feature to find the tag you are looking for.

Hope this will help you naviagte the Picture This! Blog and alll the blogs found here at AllEars.Net.

December 25, 2015

Disney Christmas Wish 2015

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Merry Christmas from the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

December 18, 2015

Goodbye to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After a 20 year run, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios will go dark for the last time after the 2015 holiday season. Jennings Osborne, a Little Rock, Arkansas, businessman, began putting up lights at his residence in 1986, at the request of his young daughter. Each year, Jennings would add more lights and displays. By 1993, the display had grown so large and popular, Osborne's neighbors filed suit to shut it down because the traffic congestion was a concern if emergency vehicles were ever needed in the neighborhood.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes its final bow at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

The legal issues came to the attention of Walt Disney World officials who offered to move the lights to its Residential Street in what was then called Disney-MGM Studios. Jennings was a fan of the park and agreed. In 1995, the Osborne Lights came to Walt Disney World.

Over the years, Disney slowly shutdown the Residential Street and moved the lights to the Streets of America. Imagineers swapped out the lights with LED technology and relays so the lights could "dance" to favorite Christmas songs and music.

The Spectacle of Lights includes (more or less): 5 million lights, 32 miles of extension cables, 66 snow machines using 100 gallons of snow fluid a night and 43 Hidden Mickeys.

Knowing this was going to be my last time seeing the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights earlier this month, I wanted to photograph not only the wide views of the display but the many details found along the streets and alleys of the Streets of America.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights details on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights Details.

Starting from the top left and going clockwise, Fire Hydrant leaking water, Phone Booth or a Tardis for Dr. Who fans with a snowman wearing a bluetooth, Stitch on a tire swing and the table outside Tony's restaurant setup for Lady and the Tramp's date.

The view down San Francisco Street is just as impressive as the view down New York Street. The overhead canopy of lights flashes and changes colors to the music during one of the many "shows".

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on San Francisco Street in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on San Francisco Street.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I was not the only one photographing or videoing the lights, smartphone and tablets (which did not exist 20 years ago) were held high anytime a musical show would start. In between, people were taking photos of everything or getting in a PhotoPass line to get themselves, families and large groups one last photo of the largest Christmas light display started by an individual.

A guest uses a tablet to record the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A guest uses a tablet to record the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

As excited as I am for all the new things coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I will miss the Osborne Lights. Who knows, maybe they will reappear someday.

Here is an early photographic gift for you. This link will take you to a post with more links to more posts with even more links on how to photograph Christmas lights outside and inside to bring even more joy to your holiday photography this season. Enjoy!

Christmas Light Photography

December 11, 2015

Celebrating 20 Years of All Ears

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

All Ears founder Deb Wills celebrated her 20th year since launching her website featuring information about Walt Disney World last weekend. I attended two of the anniversary events starting with the Anniversary Adventure held in Epcot on Saturday.

All Ears guests checked in for the event and received their name tags and lanyards to give them access to the American Adventure pavilion later that evening.

All Ears staff members check in guests in front of the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
All Ears staff members Glo (third from left) and Cathy (far right) check in guests in front of the American Adventure pavilion before the Anniversary Adventure on Saturday, December 5, 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.8, ISO 180, EV +0.3, 35mm Focal Length.

First, the group was escorted over to the America Gardens Theatre for a performance of the Candlelight Processional with Whoopi Goldberg as the narrator.

Whoopi Goldberg narrates the Candlelight Processional in the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot's World Showcase on Saturday, December 5, 2015, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Whoopi Goldberg narrates the Candlelight Processional in the America Gardens Theatre on Saturday, December 5, 2015.

After the Candlelight Processional, people attending the event were welcomed by All Ears founder, Deb Wills, and Mouse Fan Travel President, Beci Mahnken, as they entered the American Adventure to enjoy a buffet dinner under the rotunda of the pavilion.

Deb Wills and Beci Mahnken welcome guests to the rotunda of the American Adventure and the start of the Anniversary Adventure on Saturday, December 5, 2015, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
All Ears founder, Deb Wills (on left), and Mouse Fan Travel President, Beci Mahnken, welcome guests to the rotunda of the American Adventure and the start of the Anniversary Adventure celebrating 20 years of AllEars.net and 10 years of Mouse Fan Travel on Saturday, December 5, 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

Deb kept promising special surprises for the night and one of them came out and took the stage. The a cappella group, Voices of Liberty, entertained us with a set of classic and international Christmas and holiday songs.

Voices of Liberty perform during the All Ears 20th Anniversary event in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty perform during the All Ears 20th Anniversary event in the American Adventure.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 32mm Focal Length.

Another surprise was the arrival of Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck's Uncle, who posed for photos with the guests.

Scrooge McDuck made a special appearance during the All Ears 20th Anniversary event in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
All Ears founder Deb Wills and All Ears Editor Deb Koma pose for a photo with Donald Duck's Uncle, Scrooge McDuck.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV 0, 55mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

With dinner over, we were all escorted behind the Disney Traders shop for an Illuminations Dessert Party. I enjoyed a comfortable seat as I photographed on the rail using a tripod and remote shutter release. This time of year, Disney adds what is called the Holiday tag. If you have never seen it, look for it on youTube. Here is a part of it.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Holiday tag fireworks in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Holiday tag fireworks.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1.6s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Tripod.

After Illuminations, the group then went on Soarin' while I took advantage of the time to photograph around World Showcase for future blog posts.

The next day, the All Ears crew convened for a Meet and Greet on the Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom. These are always fun and people can talk with All Ears authors like Hidden Mickey guy, Steve Barrett, founder Deb Wills, editor Deb Koma and others.

Steve Barrett poses for a photo with Deb Wills during a Meet and Greet event on the Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, December 6, 2015, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Steve Barrett, poses for a photo with All Ears founder, Deb Wills, during a Meet and Greet event on the Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, December 6, 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 360, EV 0, 100mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

The highlight of many a Meet and Greet: the group shot.

Fans of All Ears gather during a Meet and Greet event on the Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, December 6, 2015, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fans of All Ears gather during a Meet and Greet event on the Tomorrowland Terrace in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, December 6, 2015.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 50mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

I now know how to make a group of Disney nuts excited. You just have to promise them a free Disney cruise. Not that they got one. ;-)

Another milestone was reached for All Ears. On to the next one in five years.

December 4, 2015

Christmas Vacation with All Ears

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney Princesses on the Ginger Bread House inside the Grand Flordian Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney Princesses on the Ginger Bread House inside the Grand Floridian Resort.

Scott is vacationing this week at Walt Disney World for the All Ears 20th/30th Event Weekend. Follow him on his Twitter feed @Scottwdw as he photographs all the fun Deb has cooked up and Christmas photos from all the parks.

November 20, 2015

Camera Buying Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Cameras of all types were used on an All Ears Photo Walk around Cresent Lake, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cameras of all types were used on an All Ears Photo Walk around Cresent Lake.

Are you looking for a camera to give this Christmas? Maybe even to yourself? Here are a few websites I use when researching a photographic purchase of any kind.

The first has been around for as long as I can remember: Digital Photography Review or DPReview for short. Not only do they review the lastest and greatest cameras, lenses and other equipment, they have a database that goes back years with thousands of models from all the camera manufacturers available with full specs, first looks, full reviews and photo samples to go with them. This is the place where I go to help other people who ask me about a particular cameras or lenses first. It is owned by Amazon.com now but I do not see a biased in their reporting. Links to Amazon do come up first.

Speaking of Amazon, you can find solid photography books and equipment at the All Ears Photography Listings.

Besides Amazon, the online (and if you are lucky enough to live near or can visit New York City) and brick and mortar superstore for photographers is B&H Photo. I have heard stories of people getting lost inside their store for days. The online store is excellent for both browsing and quick searches. Much safer, too.

Remember I talked about getting information about older cameras, lenses and equipment. I highly recommend people looking to get into photography beyond pointing and clicking to find a good used camera and some lenses to start with. You can find such well maintained and bargain priced photography equipment at KEH.com. KEH specializes in buying and selling quality products and back it up with a 6 month warranty.

Online photography rental websites always have an inventory of used equipment for sale.

For the more adventurous, eBay is an excellent source of used equipment. You must be cautious and research, not only what you are buying, but who you are buying it from. Same goes for any For Sale forums found on the thousands of online photography message boards. I have gotten some good deals this way.

Do not forget your local photography store if you are lucky enough to have one in your area. They also deal in used equipment as well as new and can give you personal service. Something a website can not do.

If you have a favorite photography website or store, let us know about it in the Comments below.

November 13, 2015

Photographing the American Adventure in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photographing the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase is just like photographing one with live performers. Disney lights their shows the same regardless of the kind of performers. Very moody with bright areas used to focus the audience's attention where the show's producers want them to.

I set my camera up to use Spot Metering and put the spot right on the brightest part of a scene. That is usually one of the performers. In the case of the American Adventure, they are audio-animatronic performers. The rest of the stage may go very dark. This is fine though are cameras are not as good as our eyes. I opened up the background in the photo below of Thomas Jefferson reading the opening sentences of the Declaration of Independence to Benjamin Franklin to show the words behind them better.

Thomas Jefferson reads to Benjamin Franklin during the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Thomas Jefferson reads the opening sentences to the Declaration to Benjamin Franklin during the American Adventure audio-animatronics show.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

Check your camera's LCD early, you may have to adjust your shutter speed if there are too many "hot spots" or "blinkys" occuring. If changing the shutter speed results in ISOs which are too high, adjust the Exposure Compensation (EV) button to dial in the correct exposure.

In the scene inside the Great Hall in Philadelphia at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 with Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell, there is better lighting on Mr. Bell than Mr. Twain but spot metering worked perfectly to capture them.

Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell in the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell in the Great Hall in Philadelphia at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 during the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase.

With President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt in full spotlight, the area behind and in front of him goes to black. This is very inpactful and told the audience this was a very important part of the show. Meanwhile, the 1939 gas station was lighted evenly with yellow-ish light simulating the electric lighting of the day and setting a mood of depression. Both fitting for the story about the Great Depression.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives a speech while people listen to him on a radio at a gas station in 1939 during the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives a speech while people listen to him on a radio at a gas station in 1939 during the American Adventure audio-animatronics show.

In the closing scene of the American Adventure show, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain shake hands on the Statue of Liberty's torch overlooking New York Harbor. This was a scene I wanted to get as this was the first time Disney Imagineers had their audio-animatronics directly interact with each other. Though, as you can see, it is all in the angle. Zooming in to fill the frame, the camera had no trouble getting a good exposure.

Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain shake hands in the closing scene of the American Adventure audio-animatronics show in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain shake hands in the closing scene of the American Adventure audio-animatronics show.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 3600, EV 0, 120mm focal length.

Stage lighting is very tricky. Watch your exposures, wait for the performers to stop and keep the shutter speeds up and you will get great photos of any stage show. Just remember, do not use flash! There is enough light on the performers in most scenes so it is not needed anyway.

November 6, 2015

Reflective Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If there is one thing most photographers can not pass up, it is a good reflection photo. Add Disney architecture in the reflection and I can not pass it up. Like the time I walked across the bridge from Discovery Island to Africa on a still morning to see the Harambe Theatre reflected in the water at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Harambe Theatre reflected in the Discovery River at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Harambe Theatre reflected in the Discovery River.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 72mm focal length, Polarizer filter.

The reflection does not have to be perfect to make an interesting photo. On another morning while I was snacking on a pastry from the Boardwalk Bakery, the light on Disney's Yacht Club Resort was beautiful and the wavy reflection added to the photo.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort in morning light at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney's Yacht Club Resort in morning light.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 40mm focal length.

Keep your eyes open for reflection possibilites as you photograph either at home or on holiday.

October 30, 2015

Halloween at Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney loves holidays and Halloween is one of its favorites. At Disneyland, every year the Haunted Mansion gets transformed into Haunted Mansion Holiday where Jack Skellington and the rest of the Halloweentown gang take over in a very popular ride transformation.

Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 15mm Focal Length.

Even on the high seas, Disney Cruise Line celebrates with the Pumpkin Tree legend. A nice treat for guests with no tricks.

Elaborately carved pumpkins accompany the Pumpkin Tree on the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line
Elaborately carved pumpkins accompany the Pumpkin Tree on the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 4000, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Back on dry land, Walt Disney World has Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party allowing people of all ages to enjoy the fun of the holiday.

Sign outside the Magic Kingdom entrance advertising Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sign outside the Magic Kingdom entrance advertising Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm Focal Length.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

October 23, 2015

Vacation Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

While I take the time to do all types of photography when I visit Walt Disney World. My family is around often being patient as I set up a shot or look for a different angle. I want to thank them this week.

So, for those who remember them, I want you to imagine settling in on a friend's couch as she/he gets out the slide projector to show you their Walt Disney World Vacation photos. Ready? Here we go...

As a family when visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios, we are always on the lookout for members of the Citizens of Hollywood. The day after the Labor Day holiday, it seems the Streetmosphere characters were on hiatus. Walking through Pixar Place, we happened upon a group of improv entertainers who were looking for actors to star in their production of Aladdin. My daughter "volunteered" to play Jasmine and was given a stuffed tiger named (you guessed it), Rajah.

A young woman poses with an improv group after helping them with a skit at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young woman poses with an improv group after helping them with a skit at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

After the skit was done, I quickly asked the group if they would pose for a photo with my daughter. If you or a member of your touring party are ever in a show, try and ask if you can take a photo with the cast member or members after the show. Sometimes it is not possible but, as you can see, these guys were more than happy to comply with my request.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one ride I feel comfortable taking photos on. I make sure to secure my camera. For the photo below, I asked the Cast Member loading the train if my family could ride in a car behind me and I would need an empty row in that car. My request has honored because it was a slow day with little wait times. A wide angle lens is a good choice on a ride as you do not have to be as careful aiming it. I put my camera in Shutter Priority mode and set it to 1/250th of a second to cut down on camera shake on the wildest ride in the wilderness.

A family riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/250s, f/2.8, ISO 140, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

Having said all that the photo I liked best was during the slow climb up one of hills showing my family with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad spreading out all around them.

After visiting two parks in one day, we decided to check out the new Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort to relax with a couple of adult beverages and be entertained by the lively Cast Members who know how to serve a drink.

Mother and daughter share a laugh in Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mother and daughter sharing a laugh in Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/10s, f/2.8, ISO 10000, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

I captured one of those moments Disney loves to use in their advertising as my wife and daughter share a laugh with a cool drink after a hot day in the parks.

After shopping at Downtown...excuse me, Disney Springs, we returned to the Magic Kingdom the next day. While waiting for our dining reservation time, we found the Sword in the Stone in front of the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland all by itself. For adults, this was an opportunity we could not pass up and took turns trying to pull the sword.

A young couple tries to pull the sword from the stone in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young couple tries to pull the sword from the stone in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal Length, Cropped.

Sadly, we found out none of us were of royal blood but came away with fun photos before allowing another family a chance at the sword.

As the time of our dining time approached, we were escorted inside the Beast's Castle and the Be Our Guest restaurant. The wide angle lens gave me compositional choices as I photographed my family ahead of me.

A family enters the Beast's Castle for dinner at the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family enters the Beast's Castle for dinner at the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 10000, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Cropped.

We enjoyed a very good meal in the West Wing.

Two days later, we went back to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort for breakfast at Kona Café. While I ordered my usual Tonga Toast, my Son-In-Law went with the Big Kahuna platter.

A young man shows off his Big Kahuna breakfast entree at the Kona Café in Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young man shows off his Big Kahuna breakfast entree at the Kona Café in Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length, Flash.

After filling up at breakfast, my eldest daughter and I went over to Disney's Animal Kingdom while the rest of the family went back to our resort's pool. They missed out as walking down one of the Discovery Island trails near the Tree of Life, we meet up with Tarzan.

A young woman poses with Tarzan, the Ape Man, on one of the Discovery Island trails near the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young woman poses with Tarzan, the Ape Man, on one of the Discovery Island trails near the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 400, EV 0, 42mm Focal Length.

What was interesting with Tarzan was you could not see him unless you walked down the trail. I checked later and he was listed on the park's times schedule. Look for him on your next visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It was a rainy, dreary morning the next day as we made our way to the Boardwalk resort area to catch NFL Sunday at the ESPN Club. While we waited for the restaurant to open we spent some time at the Beach and Yacht Club resorts. My wife had told me she wanted a photo of her with our daughters. With two of them being travel agents and another who travels a lot for her job, the large antique globe in Disney's Yacht Club Resort's lobby was a fitting place for the photo.

Mother and her daughters in Disney's Yacht Club Resort lobby, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mother and her daughters in Disney's Yacht Club Resort lobby.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1000, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

Looking at this photo now, I wish I had featured the globe more by either having my wife sit in a chair so she was lower or have the three of them surround the globe. The concept was sound, the execution was a bit off. Will have to re-visit this one in the future.

After spending a few hours watching football (yeah, the Green Bay Packers won!) and eating through ESPN Club's menu, I took this photo for my daughter and Son-In-Law on the much improved afternoon outside the restaurant with their favorite team's jerseys on.

A young sports-minded couple outside the ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young sports-minded couple outside the ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 140, EV 0, 36mm Focal Length.

Now, this photo I like a lot as it tied the sports theme together nicely as they are both big fans.

I hope I did not bore you. Wanted to show you while I do enjoy going the extra mile to get good travel photos at Walt Disney World, I love my family, too. Until next week...Aloha!

October 9, 2015

Spaceship Earth at Night in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before a trip to Walt Disney World, I will browse through photos on flickr and Google in search of ideas. I found this composition and put it on my shot list for the trip. Though the photo which was the inspiration for the photo of Spaceship Earth below was taken during the day, the rest of the image was similar.

Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod, HDR Image.

Besides being photographed at night, I noticed it was hard to control the light on the top of Spaceship Earth and still get detail in the fountain and underneath the structure. That is when I decided to produce a High Dynamic Range image. I took three photos one stop apart at these shutter speeds: 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. Merging the photos using Photomatix Pro, created the image. This opened up the lower part of the frame while still retaining the detail of the sphere. The bonus was all the colors over the time it took to take the three photos. The long exposures created the fantasy look of the flowing water of the fountain.

Next time you are looking for photography ideas at Walt Disney World or any other travel destination, search and browse to see what others have done in the past.

October 2, 2015

FP+ Fireworks Locations at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I photographed Illuminations and Wishes fireworks shows from FastPass+ (FP+) locations in Epcot and the Magic Kingdom on my last trip. The FP+ locations had their advantages and disadvantages which I will discuss below.

Magic Kingdom

Wishes photographed from the FP+ location in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes photographed from the FP+ location in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 10.5s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod, Cropped.

The FP+ locations in the Magic Kingdom are found around the Central Plaza or Hub in the new Main Street Plaza Gardens locations in front of Casey's Corner and Plaza restaurants. I was in the one in front of the Plaza Restaurant for the Wishes photo. The big advantage to FP+ fireworks viewing locations are you are not shoulder to shoulder with other guests and there is plenty of room to setup a tripod. The people with me thought it was the best place to watch Wishes. As a photographer, there are lots of obstacles between the FP+ location and Cinderella Castle. You can see light posts and a water fountain in my photo.

Overall, for photography, I would prefer to set up on Main Street USA, near the Partners statue or from the Main Street Train Station for Wishes.

Epcot

Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Finale of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 11.3s, f/16, ISO 100, EV -1.0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod.

The FP+ location for Illuminations is between the two gift shops as you walk from Future World to World Showcase. It is a slopped plaza area and is an excellent spot to both watch and photograph the show from. Being slopped, people do not mind a tripod setup as much as on Main Street USA. The slope makes it easier to photograph over people in front of a tripod, too. I set up about twenty feet from the fence you can see people lined up against.

Like at the Magic Kingdom, there are things like columns, torches and even some tall palm trees between the camera and the World Showcase Lagoon. They are not as distracting as in the Wishes photo and people are lower in frame.

For me, the Illuminations FP+ location is about as good as it gets. The only issue is you can not get on the rail along the water for safety reasons. You can set up closer in other areas along the lagoon but the angle may not be as good.

The FP+ locations for the fireworks shows are definitely something to try on your next trip whether you are photographing or just watching. Note you will have to try and get them as soon as they become available as they go quickly depending on the time of year one is visiting.

September 25, 2015

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Motion

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I am out photographing, I like to include motion shots. Sometimes I will use panning to show motion but that can be hit or miss. Another way to show motion is to slow down the shutter and keep the camera still as a moving object goes past the lens. This is how I got this speed shot of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride speeds by in Fantasyland.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/7.1, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

To keep the camera steady, I used the wooden fencing overlooking the ride to anchor my elbows and leaned on it. I took a series of photos as the ride vehicle passed by. After watching people having fun riding, I got in line to ride it myself.

This was my first time going through the standby line and I enjoyed the interactive activities to help pass the time. When I came upon the barrels full of brightly colored gems, I took a few photos before I saw other guests spinning them.

Barrel full of gems on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Barrel full of gems on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue in Fantasyland.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/20s, f/2.8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

I had members of my party spin the barrels as fast as they could while I photographed them with a slow shutter. I kept the camera steady using Da Grip holding technique.

Spinning barrel full of gems on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spinning Barrel full of gems on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue in Fantasyland.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/20s, f/2.8, ISO 4000, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

I really liked how some of the shots came out.

When it was time to get on the ride, I changed the shutter speed to 1/30th of a second and did my best to keep the camera steady during the ride. Of the fifty or so photos I took during the ride, six came out.

Riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride in Fantasyland.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/30s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

The photo above was the best of the lot. As luck would have it, it was near the same location as the photo I took from outside the ride.

Next time you are near a moving subject, give this technique a try.

September 18, 2015

Blue Storm at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Tower of Terror as a storm closes in on Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tower of Terror as a storm closes in on Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 4.5s, f/22, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

I bet you can guess by this photo I took last Saturday from the location of the Photo Meet outside of Disney's Hollywood Studios, the weather was not too good. In fact, five minutes after I took it, the rain came down hard, lightning flashed and thunder clapped. I rushed for shelter at one of the bus stops. The meet was a storm-out, which was disappointing. Will try again!

To the three people who did show up and were smart enough to leave before the rain, thank you.

There was a silver lining. Once the storm passed, I entered the park right as Blue Hour was starting and got this photo of Hollywood Blvd. Not exactly the photo I was going for as I talked about last week. Still, the sky and clear view to The Great Movie Ride made it a very nice consolation.

Blue hour on Hollywood Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue hour on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 30s, f/16, ISO 64, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod.

I was using a rented Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX lens for my Nikon D750 camera on this trip and liked the wide angle look it gave me. The rain left behind lots of reflective surfaces.

The Great Movie Ride at blue hour in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Great Movie Ride at blue hour in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 30s, f/16, ISO 64, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Walking closer and zooming in to 28mm, I was able to frame the Great Movie Ride right at the height of Blue Hour light. There was still a barrier left over from the stage that was there earlier in the week. It is my hope it will be gone by my next trip.

September 11, 2015

Do-over at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The photo this week was taken by me in February of 2009 from the location of tomorrow's All Ears Photo Meet. Earlier this year, the Sorcerer Mickey Hat was removed from in front of the Great Movie Ride. The view down Hollywood Blvd. is now clear right up to the reproduction of the Mann's Chinese Theater entrance.

View of Hollywood Blvd. from outside of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
View of Hollywood Blvd. from outside of Disney's Hollywood Studios taken in 2009.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 170mm (255mm in DX) Focal Length, Tripod.

I am looking forward to re-photographing this scene. If you live in Central Florida or are currently visiting Walt Disney World, come on out to meet me. Click the link for the Meet's location. I will be there starting at 6:30PM. For updates and information, visit the Photo Meet's FaceBook Event page and/or follow me on Twitter at @Scottwdw.

September 4, 2015

Encounter with Darth Vader at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Darth Vader menacing young padawans at the Jedi Training Academy in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Darth Vader menacing young padawans and Scott at the Jedi Training Academy.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 450, EV 0, 135mm Focal Length.

Scott is off to Walt Disney World this weekend and is looking forward to another encounter with Darth Vader at the Jedi Training Academy in Disney's Hollywood Studios. With all the recent announcements, Scott is hoping to get some information out of the Sith Lord. Wish him luck.

If you are going to be in Walt Disney World or live in central Florida, come by and see Scott at the next All Ears Photo Meet on Saturday, September 12, 2015 starting at 6:30PM. Click that link for details and click here to sign up on the FaceBook Event page.

Click here to follow Scott's adventures at Disney on Twitter.

August 28, 2015

Tinker Bell on Parade in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Tinker Bell in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tinker Bell in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 120mm Focal Length.

I have not gotten any really good photos of Tinker Bell until last year when I photographed her in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom. I used a fast shutter speed as Tink is always moving her arms, legs and head during the parade and set the aperture to f/9 using Program Mode on my camera. I got a few good poses including the one I choose to share with you today. The fast shutter created a very sharp photo with no motion blur.

If you are going to be in Walt Disney World or live in central Florida, come by and see me at the next All Ears Photo Meet on Saturday, September 12, 2015 starting at 6:30PM. Click that link for details and click this one to sign up on the FaceBook Event page. Hope to see you there!

August 21, 2015

Tripods at Walt Disney World Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A very useful photographer tool for low light and night photography at Walt Disney World is a Tripod. While it is not essential to have a tripod for the upcoming All Ears Picture This! Photo Meet on Saturday, Setpember 12, 2015, having one would allow you to photograph past sunset and into the Blue Hour.

I realize tripods are bulky to travel with and tough to carry around WDW especially with families. However, bringing a tripod in the parks is not hard to do if you rent a locker and track your time before needing it. Lockers are also handy for storing sweaters and sweatshirts during warm days which cool off rapidly at night.

Photographer using a tripod outside the entrance to Les Chefs de France at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Photographer using a tripod outside of Les Chefs de France restaurant at night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Here are past blog posts where I have used tripods at Walt Disney World:

Extreme Long Exposure of the Main Street Electrical Parade

How to Photograph Fireworks at WDW (Part 1 and Part 2)

Motion Photography

Star Tours Queue

Liberty Bell at Night

Night HDR at the Tower of Terror

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

Using a tripod at Disney parks is part patience, part common sense and only limited by your imagination. Patience comes from waiting for the light and for guests to move out of your frame. Common sense to set up a tripod where people will not trip over it. Imagination is such a wonderful thing. Use it wisely and you will be rewarded.

August 14, 2015

All Ears Photo Meet near Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

All Ears Photo Meet outside of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Announcing Photos of the Night, an All Ears Picture This! Photo Meet at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
ANNOUNCING!

The next All Ears Picture This! Photo Meet will be different than past ones. Instead of walking around, this time it will be in one location. The location is along the Epcot Resort Path just off the Disney's Hollywood Studios parking lot (see map below for approximate location at the star). I will be there starting at 6:30pm on Saturday, September 12, 2015.

The first order of the meet will be to prepare to photograph the sunset taking place at 7:34PM. I will give advice on how to photograph a sunset and be available to answer any questions on photography at Walt Disney World and beyond throughout the evening.

DHS Sunset

After the sunset, I will be photographing through the afterglow and into Blue Hour. A tripod would be very useful as well as a small LED flashlight as night falls.

If you are interested in joining me taking photos into the night, leave a Comment using the link below or you can go to the FaceBook Event Page by clicking this link: All Ears Photo Meet.

August 7, 2015

Donald Duck Bread

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A sign for Donald Duck bread at the New York State Fair, Syracuse, New York
Antique sign for Donald Duck bread at the New York State Fair.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 1800, EV +0.3.

Scott is still on summer break but he will be back next week with an exciting announcment! Meanwhile, he wanted to share this photo taken at the New York State Fair a couple of summer's ago. It is always fun to find Disney items either used in today's products or ones from long ago like this Donald Duck Bread sign.

July 31, 2015

Cooling Off in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Brer Rabbit points guests to the entrance to Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Need a place to cool off this summer? Brer Rabbit points the way.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 250, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length, Polarizer filter.

Scott is taking a summer break this week. With the hot summer weather finally getting to where Scott lives, he was looking for a place to cool off. Brer Rabbit pointed him to a nice swimming hole. He only needed to take a log raft down Splash Mountain to find it.

July 24, 2015

Documenting Details Around Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have had the pleasure of accompanying Disney Historian Jim Korkis and fellow photographers on tours around Walt Disney World. On each tour, Jim repeated how important it was to photograph and document "everything" in the parks and resorts. Over time, things change, get replaced or plain disappear from guest areas.

With rumors swirling around Disney's Hollywood Studios as attractions are closed without word of what may be coming to replace them, I sought out various details around the park during my last two visits.

Signs in the Streets of America New York area in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Signs in the Streets of America New York area.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm Focal Length.

Streets of America is filled with details movie sets need in a backlot. Authentic locations and details to make people believe they are in New York when it was filmed in Orlando.

Flowers around the mermaid water fountain from the 1984 movie, Splash, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flowers around the mermaid water fountain from the 1984 movie, Splash.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 1100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

This prop always makes me smile remembering this was from Tom Hanks breakout movie, Splash, back in 1984. And, it's right down the street from Pixar Place and Toy Story Midway Mania, something else Tom Hanks had a hand..er, voice, in.

Ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz imprinted in a cement block outside the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz imprinted in a cement block outside the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 31mm (47mm DX) Focal Length.

I was thrilled to learn Disney and Turner Classic Movies were getting together to give the Great Movie Ride some much needed face lifts. The removal of the Sorcerer's Hat brings back the original appearance of Disney's Hollywood Studios and this should help bring back the luster to the attraction, too.

The sign outside of the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost shop in the Echo Lake area of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The sign outside of the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost shop.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 95mm (143mm DX) Focal Length.

You have heard the rumors and I have heard them, the area known as Echo Lake may look a lot different in a few years. Attractions, restaurants and shops could be removed, changed or replaced. For anyone looking to get the iconic Indiana Jones hat, the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost is where you want to go before it gets replaced with something else in the galaxy.

The window to Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The window to Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine restaurant.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/4, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 120mm (180mm DX) Focal Length.

Back in 1989, when Disney's Hollywood Studios opened (then called Disney-MGM Studios), Who Framed Roger Rabbit references where found throughout the park as the movie had been a huge hit the year before. Over the years, many of the references have been moved or disappeared. As of today, you can still spot the office window of Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant.

Have you photographed something in Disney's Hollywood Studios in the past which is no longer there or moved to a different location in the park or the resort? Share them with us in the Comments below.

July 17, 2015

Monorail Resorts at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Time to take a spin on the Resort Monorail this week. The monorail stops at the Contemporary, Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian resorts.

Contemporary Resort on the Seven Seas Lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Contemporary Resort on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 58mm Focal Length, Polarizer filter.

Okay, so this photo was taken from a Motor Cruiser on the Seven Seas Lagoon, it is still a photo of the Contemporary. Here I used a Circular Polarizing Filter (CPF) to cut through the haze and enhance the clouds and colors of the scene. A CPF is something a good travel photographer should have in his/her bag of tricks.

Lobby of the Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lobby of the Polynesian Village Resort.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 2800, EV +0.3, 11mm Focal Length.

Our next stop is the newly named and refurbished Polynesian Village Resort lobby. The lobby seems more functional and inviting now. Still has lots of color and Polynesian tales. This is an example of looking down and finding a new perspective.

Chandelier in the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chandelier in the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/8, ISO 720, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

The last stop is the beautiful and elegant Grand Floridian Resort. The grand lobby atrium is gorgeous as you enter from the Monorail station. From the floor below, be sure to look up at the chandeliers and patterns of the floors which surround them.

Hope you have enjoyed the ride and remember: Please stand clear of the doors...Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas.

July 10, 2015

Photographing Where the People Are at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

These days it is hard to find any of the Walt Disney World parks and resorts not crowded. As photographers we have to deal with those other tourists the best we can. Outside of Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, I realized I would not get this composition people-free until closing time.

People walking past the entrance to Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
People walking past the entrance to Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 78mm Focal Length

Instead, I changed my position to line up Ariel in the foreground and the Beast's Castle in the background while shooting above the crowd. I used a small aperture of f/16 to keep everything in focus. I further cropped the final image you see below in post.

Ariel outside the Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ariel outside the Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0, 82mm Focal Length, cropped

As you can see, it changes the whole outlook of the photo. This was what I had in mind when I took the first photo until I reviewed it on my camera's LCD screen. Another advantage digital technology has brought to photography.

For more tips on how to photograph at Walt Disney World when it gets crowded, read my articles on How to Photograph at a Busy Disney Park.

July 3, 2015

Lobby Flag at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

United States of America flag hanging over the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
United States of America flag hanging over the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/13s, f/4.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 55mm Focal Length, edited.

Tomorrow is the day America celebrates its birthday. It has been 239 years since July 4th, 1776.

One of the greatest foresight's America has had was to create its National Parks to preserve and protect unique natural places within the territories of the United States for the enjoyment of its peoples. Disney pays homage to those national parks and the great lodges found within their borders at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort.

June 26, 2015

macPhun with Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today, photo editing software comes in three flavors: Expensive, Cloud based subscriptions and bits and pieces (aka apps). The exception would be Adobe Elements. An excellent choice as it has most of the photo editing capabilities of Photoshop. I am still considering my next move in photo management software. Apple's Aperture 3.x software is no longer being supported by Apple and it will be interesting to see for how long Aperture will continue to run as OS X continues to evolve. Currently, the new Photo App does not meet my needs (though it may yours).

Thankfully, there are companies who thrive on creating add-ons to programs like Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop. Macphun is one such company which I highly recommend if you are a Mac user. Over the last few years they have put together a very impressive list of photo applications. If they ever come out with the missing photo management piece, that could be my solution going forward. For right now, I use Macphun's applications as external tools to Aperture.

Today I want to show you how I used two of them, Intensify Pro and Noiseless Pro, to edit a photo. I use the Pro versions as they support running directly out of Aperture (or Lightroom or Photoshop). The do create a different version of the image so as not to destroy the original and then put it nicely back into your editor's library. In the case of Aperture, it creates a Stack or Set with the original photo.

As I was walking towards Spaceship Earth in Epcot after sunset one evening, I noticed this composition. I did not have a tripod with me so I did the best I could hand held. The original photos lacks punch and is very dull.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Original (unedited) version of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 2800, EV -0.6, 28mm Focal Length

Of of the main reasons I use Macphun's products is they save me a lot of time. When I open an image for editing in Intensify Pro, I get a series of Pre-Sets or Filters which I can select and see how each affects the image. Once I find one I like, I can change the pre-set's effects between 0 (no affect) to 100 (full effect). I found myself using some pre-sets more than others so I can select them as Favorites and quickly get to them in a separate selection tab. Favorites is something found in each of Macphun's products. For the Spacehip Earth photo I went with one of my Favorites, HDR Soft. I backed it up to 80.

After saving it back into Aperture, I found the noise or grain got enhanced by Intensify Pro. Never fear as Macphun recently came out with a superb noise reduction product called Noiseless. I really like how you can easily select between the different noise reduction settings. The before and after split screen view quickly shows you the effects of the selected setting on the image. For this image, I used the Medium setting at 90.

Back in Aperture, I finalized the image by opening up the shadows and reducing any hot spots (blown out highlights) before adding a final sharpening.

Here is the result.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Edited version of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 2800, EV -0.6, 28mm Focal Length

Macphun currently only has applications for Macs and iOS products. They are easy to use, save a lot of time and are not expensive.

June 19, 2015

Get Close with Princess Minnie "Leia" Mouse at Star Wars Weekend

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I often get asked how a person can immediately improve their photography. My answer is always the same, Get Closer and Fill the Frame. Doing so will immediately give your photos more interest and more impact. Case in point, last year during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios, my wife wanted her picture taken with one of the Disney characters in Star Wars costume.

After waiting an hour on a very hot Orlando day, I did not want to screw it up. Using a zoom lens, I made sure to capture a few photos using different focal lengths starting from wide angle to full zoom.

First photo was the full length portrait look showing the environment around my subjects. In this case, it looks like part of the original Death Star.

Disney fan meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 56mm Focal Length, Fill Flash

The next photo, I zoomed in closer and you can see both Minnie and my wife better.

Disney fan meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 82mm Focal Length, Fill Flash

Notice in the first two photos, I turned my camera to photograph them in a portrait orientation. Since people are taller than they are wide, for groups up to three, going with portrait is good. But, if you get in real close, like I did in the next photo, photographing them in Landscape worked really well.

Disney fan meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meeting Princess Leia Minnie Mouse during Star Wars Weekend.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/13, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 250mm Focal Length, Fill Flash

When it comes to showing these photos to friends and family, the last photo is the one that gets the most interest. You can see my wife's expression better and even Minnie holds more interest as you can see the details in her costume.

June 5, 2015

Cheetah on the Kilimanjaro Safari

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you enjoy photographing the animals in Disney's Animal Kingdom, you owe it to yourself to plan on riding Kilimanjaro Safari more than once and at different times of the day during your Walt Disney World visit. One can never predict when the perfect photo opportunity will arise.

It was late morning when I last took a ride through the Harambe Reserve. The driver/photography guide had a hard time finding good subjects for everyone's cameras. This sometimes happens and you might only get one good opportunity. This is what happened as we approached the area where the cheetahs were. One of them was walking up to a rock cropping and into the light. Then it posed for us. The driver stopped so we could all get good photos.

Cheetah photographed on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cheetah photographed on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/500s, f/4, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 120mm (240mm DX Crop) Focal Length.

I have been on safari many times since Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. This was only the third time I have seen the cheetahs in a photograph-able location. The other two times was when I used a Super Zoom Lens and did the Wild Africa Trek. I know other photographers have had better luck than me or visit more often. Still, because of the limited times I have been able to photograph them, the cheetahs remain one of my favorites in Africa.

May 22, 2015

Foreground Objects at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

More on Aperture this week with a pinch of composition.

I am going to guess most of the time the subject you are photographing is in front of something. Have you ever tried putting something in front of the subject?

During last year's Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, a temporary entertainment location was put in next to the Morocco pavilion. When I looked over at Morocco's Katoubia Minaret Prayer Tower from the location, I saw it through the flags which were strung overhead. I liked the composition of a repeating element (the flags) in front of the tower.

Katoubia Minaret prayer tower behind flags in Morocco's World Showcase pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Katoubia Minaret Prayer Tower behind flags in Morocco.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 250, EV 0, 40mm Focal Length

To keep the close flags and the far away tower in focus, I used a large Aperture number (f/16) to give me a large focus area or depth of field.

I was a little late setting up to photograph Illuminations at Epcot and had to settle for an obstructed view. I decided to take advantage and used a fellow photographer's camera in the foreground.

A photographer's camera sits on a tripod during Illuminations fireworks at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A photographer's camera sits on a tripod during Illuminations fireworks.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 17s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

In this case, because I was so close to the foreground object and using a smaller Aperture number (f/9) thus a smaller focus area, the camera on the tripod is not in focus as the subject is the fireworks. I still feel this works because you can tell it is a camera and the fireworks over the long exposure time of 17 seconds gives it interest.

May 15, 2015

What's My Aperture - Solved!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I showed you the two photos below and asked for your educated guesses as to what Aperture was used for each.

All of the responses were very close and along the lines which Steve answered:

First one would be 2.8 (zoom) or 1.8 (nifty fifty) as the depth of field is small leaving only the sign in focus.

The second picture is probably an 11 (zoom) or 22 (nifty fifty) as both the rocks in the foreground and the castle are in focus.

Like Steve, most went to the extreme ends of the Aperture scale. I added the shooting data this week (and approved all the Comments so you may read them by clicking the post link above) so you can see the results.

Nikon Picture Spot near the Sword in the Stone located in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nikon Picture Spot near the Sword in the Stone.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/1600s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV 0, 58mm Focal Length

As you can see, the lens I was using could only open up to f/4 and still created lots of out of focus background or Bokeh as us photographers refer to it.

Spires of Cinderella Castle behind rock outcroppings in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spires of Cinderella Castle behind rock outcroppings in Tomorrowland.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 116mm Focal Length

I normally find an aperture of f/16 sufficient for my Hyperfocused landscape photos.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on this little photography tip. You all answered correctly and followed the Aperture Mantra:

Big number, big focus area, little number, little focus area.

May 12, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Wood

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For the next four weeks, Deb and I will be doing some abstract subjects. I did not go photographing specifically for these subjects but found them in my archives when they were proposed. That is the lesson I taught about adding Captions and Metadata to your photo databases and libraries.

We start off with Wood. Not surprisingly there is a lot of wood to be found at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort at Walt Disney World. The entire lobby from the floor to the ceiling is made of wood (as much as our eyes can see anyway). Here are a couple of Big Horn Sheep located on one of the pillars of the lobby. You will find other wildlife wood carvings on the other pillars.

Hand carved Big Horn Sheep in the lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hand carved wooden Big Horn Sheep in the lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/25s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

Tomorrow, Deb takes you back in time to the Vikings for her wooden post.


May 8, 2015

What's My Aperture

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Going to do something different this week. For those new to the Picture This! blog or to photography, this might be confusing. To those who have been following along, I hope this will be easy for you.

I am going to post two photos and I want you to tell me the aperture used and why. I won't post the comments for a few days.

Nikon Picture Spot near the Sword in the Stone located in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nikon Picture Spot near the Sword in the Stone.

Nikon has taken over sponsorship of the Picture Spots found in all of Walt Disney World. How many of you have tried to pull out the sword?

Spires of Cinderella Castle behind rock outcroppings in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spires of Cinderella Castle behind rock outcroppings in Tomorrowland.

Rocks are used between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland as transitional landscaping in the Magic Kingdom. I noticed this composition as I was heading back to the Hub.

Leave your educated guesses in a comment using the link below. (Hint: Select the Depth of Field category link)

May 1, 2015

Adjusting White Balance Inside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of my favorite entertainers is the Voices of Liberty a cappella group at Walt Disney World. They perform shows inside the American Adventure under the rotunda at Epcoot's World Showcase. The area was designed for the acoustics and the talented singers take full advantage of them. But (isn't there always one?), the lighting for ambient light (no flash) photography is very challenging in the rotunda. The color cast is very yellow due to the incandescent lights as seen in the photo below.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty BEFORE White Balance Adjustment.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length.


There are two ways to fix the color cast to bring it back to what our eyes see. You can take a Custom White Balance before photographing or change the white balance in post processing. Most photo editors allow you to change White Balance by either the use of sliders or by selecting a spot on the photo which should be white or gray with a dropper. Once selected by the dropper, the editor will alter the white balance based on the spot. It works very well and if not exactly correct, you can then adjust it via the sliders to your taste. That is what I did below. The spot I choose was one of the pillars behind the singers.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty AFTER White Balance Adjustment.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

I use JPEG for my image size and quality so white balance works most of the time. If you use the image size and quality of RAW, adjusting white balance in post processing works even better.

April 24, 2015

Editing a Dinosaur in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

You walk up to the Dinosaur attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom with your camera and carefully compose a photo by getting in close to the statue of Aladar. You move around until Aladar is looking into the frame adding interest. It is a bright, sunny day but your eyes see all the details and colors. You press the shutter to record the image. It looks good on the camera's LCD and you move on to catch up with your party entering the attraction.

Upon opening up the photo on your computer, you are disappointed in how it looks (see below). This is when you put your favorite photo editor to work. Mine is Apple Aperture but most editors can improve on a digital image.

Statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Unedited photo of the statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/4.5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 82mm (123mm DX) Focal Length.

For me, I set about opening up the shadows and pulling in the highlights using the sliders of the same name. I then added general edits over the entire image for Definition (Clarity), Vibrance and a touch of Saturation. This gave me a much better photo but Aladar was still a bit dark and washed out.

If your editor allows the use of Brushes to "brush" in adjustments on selected areas, you should become familiar with how to use them. Here I dodged (lightened) the dark areas under the eye and around the muzzle. After, I brushed in saturation to pull out the colors in Aladar's eye and skin. Lastly, I brushed in a good dose of Definition to pull out the textures of the skin.

The result you can see below.

AStatue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Edited photo of the statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/4.5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 82mm (123mm DX) Focal Length.

Quite a deference and a much better image than what I started with. It pays to take the time in learning how to improve your photos using an editor.

April 17, 2015

Cinderella Castle Archway

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There is always something new to discover at Walt Disney World. While I had seen in the past the beautiful mosaic murals in the Cinderella Castle archway in the Magic Kingdom, I had never taken the time to photograph them. In doing so I was reminded of a series of blog posts I did back in 2013 on how to photograph at a busy and crowded Disney themepark.

I know a lot of Disney photographers who feel people in the photo is not a good thing. I, on the other hand, do not mind including people. They help to tell the story and add scale to whatever surrounds them. Below a family member is pointing out the dramatic scene when Cinderella has to leave the Ball at midnight leaving one of her glass slippers behind.

A family stops to view a mural in Cinderella Castle archway at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family stops to view a mural in the Cinderella Castle archway.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

I do realize it is nice to have a clean view, too. A couple of ways to do that at Walt Disney World is to either wait until late at night around park closing or wait for an opportunity when people vacate the scene as I did below.

A mural in Cinderella Castle archway at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A mural in the Cinderella Castle archway.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 4500, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

You can also look for details and get in close either by foot or using a zoom lens. In the Cinderella Castle archway, there are carvings at the top of the pillars on either side of the murals. The one I chose here shows the birds and mice who helped Cinderella make her dress.

Top of a pillar in Cinderella Castle archway at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mice and birds at the top of a pillar in the Cinderella Castle archway.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 52mm Focal Length.

While it is a challenge photographing at busy Walt Disney World parks, you can still get wonderful photos by being flexible, creative and patient.

April 10, 2015

Disney Food Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Have a question for you...do you photograph the food at Walt Disney World restaurants? You do! Then you are going to like this week's topic. Below is a set of photos from various Disney restaurants and how I took them.

Sometimes you just need spaghetti and meatballs and Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano in Disney's Hollywood Studios filled the need perfectly. To add to the sense of place, I used a menu and ambiant light. The very shallow depth of field put the background out of focus but one still can recognize the location as a restaurant.

Spaghetti and meatballs entree at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaghetti and meatballs entree at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/13s, f/35, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

I used my elbows to steady the camera and slowly exhaled as I pressed the shutter. I let the image stabilized (vibration reduction in Nikon lingo) lens do its magic. I took several images to get a couple of good ones including the one above.

On the Disney Dream, if your cruise offers a day at sea, you can enjoy the Palo Brunch. Come hungry and eat lightly through each course to save room for the dessert bar. In this case, I did not need a menu to document the location. I did have to take the photo quickly before the location got eaten.

A plate full of desserts at the Palo Brunch on the Disney Dream cruise ship
A plate full of desserts at the Palo Brunch on the Disney Dream.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 31mm Focal Length, bounced flash.

With the bright open Caribbean water as a backdrop, the use of bounced flash balanced the light and brought out the luscious colors of the sweets.

Inside the elegant Yachtsman Steakhouse in the Yacht Club Resort the lighting is appropriately warm and low. An assistant helped me by holding up the plate above the table which had lots of stuff upon it.

Prime New York Strip Steak entree at the Yachtsman Steakhouse in the Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Prime New York Strip Steak entree at the Yachtsman Steakhouse.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length, bounced flash.

To get the true colors of the food, I used bounced flash to illuminate the plate evenly.

When you have even lighting via a window or by eating outside on a patio like at the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion, I like to use the Nifty-Fifty on my camera and get eye level with the plate the food rests on.

Scotch Egg appetizer from the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot's United Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Scotch Egg appetizer from the Rose & Crown Pub.
Nikon D7100/50mm, 1/250s, f/2.8, ISO 100, EV 0.

Shooting with a wide aperture of f/2.8, I selectively focused on the Scotch Egg appetizer throwing the background of napkins and table pieces completely out of focus. I did dodge (make lighter) the egg some to pull out its colors.

At the Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom, my party was sat at a table with warm afternoon light coming through a window. The low angle of the light brought out the food's texture.

Chicken Tikka Masala at the Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chicken Tikka Masala at the Yak & Yeti Restaurant.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 12mm Focal Length.

Without the use of flash, a wide open aperture had me select a focus point on the bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala which did cause the front of the plate to be soft focused. I find that is not a problem here. Do you?

I realize most people quickly take photos of their food when served. If you take a little extra time, you can create very nice photos to make your friends and family envious and hungry when looking at your food photos.

April 3, 2015

Adding Light to the Stars in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios, I look forward to seeing the Citizens of Hollywood entertaining guests along Hollywood or Sunset Blvd. You can find the times to look for them on the park's daily entertainment schedule. While the Citizen's skits do have some structure, the performers play off the people they meet (that's you!) which leads to a lot of fun and laughter.

I found Officer Percival Peabody "undercover" on Hollywood Blvd. inquiring to those who were curious when he poked his head out if they had seen anything suspicious going on and other questions.

Officer Percival Peabody is undercover at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Officer Percival Peabody is undercover on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 48mm focal length, fill flash.

The divine Dorma Nesmond may be a fading Hollywood starlet but do not tell her that. She loves the attention she gets from people and will tell them about her many Hollywood exploits and films.

Hollywood Star Dorma Nesmond greets a fan at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hollywood Star Dorma Nesmond greets a fan on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, fill flash.

Talent Agent Jack Diamond has a questionable occupation as he seems more interested in playing card tricks and running the shell game much to the delight of all who gather around his gaming table.

Talent Agent Jack Diamond performs card tricks at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Talent Agent Jack Diamond performs card tricks on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 100, EV 0, 50mm focal length, fill flash.

I do not know the story of Miss Betty Shambles. She always seems to be looking for a boyfriend or, in the case below, her Valentine.

Miss Betty Shambles looking for her Valentine at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Miss Betty Shambles looking for her Valentine on Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/4, ISO 100, EV 0, 66mm focal length, fill flash.

All of the photos were taken using Fill Flash to open up the shadows from the bright Florida sunshine. Not all but most of the Citizens wear hats which further adds shadows on their faces. Fill flash adds some pop to colors and skin tones.

If you have never stopped to watch or interact with the Citizens of Hollywood, you are missing out on what I consider the best in live entertainment at Walt Disney World. The talent and comedic quick thinking is a joy to behold.

March 27, 2015

Disney Social Media Cover Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I am still an old photographer when it comes to the new age of Social Media. I often forget when I am photographing at Walt Disney World or some other fun destination to take pictures with the various cover images in mind. On my last trip, I made it a point to find locations or subjects suitable for the Social Media world.

As an example, when I was on Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari and the driver stopped for a few minutes near a few browsing Reticulated Giraffes, I took the opportunity to compose a photo so I could crop it later for either my FaceBook, Twitter or Google+ profile profile pages. Here is the resulting crop.

Reticulated Giraffe photographed on Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari in the Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Reticulated Giraffe photographed on Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/500s, f/4, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 120mm focal length, cropped.

These Social Media services sometimes change the sizes for their cover images so I will not give it out here. Check their support pages to verify current image sizes. If you go to my FaceBook page today, this is how it looks or looked with the giraffe:

FaceBook cover photo.
The author's FaceBook page is it appeared with the Giraffe from Disney's Animal Kingdom

FaceBook's cover photo is a good size. My personal blog is a bit harder. The header photo is 940 pixels wide by 198 pixels tall. A tricky size to work with. I used a wide angle lens around the parks and kept interesting subjects along the bottom third of the photos. I looked for subjects which would cover the entire length of the image in the viewfinder. This view of the Rivers of America from the Frontierland boardwalk did just that. Pictured is Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island with the Haunted Mansion and Liberty Belle riverboat in Liberty Square.

View of Tom Sawyer Island and Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
View of Tom Sawyer Island and Liberty Square.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 11mm focal length, cropped.

While I am late to the party, I keep Social Media sites in mind when traveling with my camera.

March 13, 2015

Super Zoom Lens at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have seen a few discussions about what lenses to bring to Walt Disney World lately. I have for years touted the advantages to using Super Zoom lenses at the parks specifically and for travel photography in general. For cropped sensor cameras, they run in the ranges of 18-200mm and even 18-300mm. For full framed sensors, I have only seen Nikon's 28-300mm lens which I used in both the photos for this article. All lenses of this type have image stabilization technology from reliable brands Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.

They come in very handy when photographing stage shows and parades like the Disney Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom. As the Tangled float approached me, I zoomed out and captured the entire float.

Tangled float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tangled float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 58mm Focal Length.

As the float got closer, I zoomed in to photograph the details of the float including Rapunzel who was not looking too impressed by Flynn Rider's antics at all.

Rapunzel on the Tangled float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rapunzel on the Tangled float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 170mm Focal Length.

I removed a lot of background clutter by zooming in and captured a nice story telling photo and Rapunzel's expression is wonderful, too. Some people do not like the super zooms but I find them perfect for Disney parks and allows me to carry one lens when visiting.

March 6, 2015

Photographs from a Cruise on the Disney Dream

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I live in upstate New York near Lake Ontario and it has been a brutal past six weeks from late January to early March. In fact, not only was February of 2015 the coldest one ever, it was the coldest MONTH ever recorded for my area. So, I hope you will forgive me if I share with you a few photos from my last cruise on the Disney Dream to break up the season and remind me of better things to come as the calendar heads towards Spring.

Here we go, mateys. Our first Port of Call was Nassau where my wife and I choose to tour the Atlantis resort on nearby Paradise Island.

The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, HDR image.

See the span between the two buildings? That is the Bridge Suite (aka the Michael Jackson Suite) which costs $25,000 (US) a night with a four night minimum. Anyone ever stay in the Bridge Suite?

I choose to use a High Dynamic Range (HDR) set of five photos which I merged together using Photomatix software. The reason was the sunlight was coming from behind the buildings which created a lot of dark shadows. Using HDR processing, I was able to pull out the details and colors in those shadows.

My next stop of the tour of Atlantis was the Aquarium which holds a large variety of sea creatures and treasures to see, photograph and learn about. The shark tunnel was fun to hang out in to see the reaction of fellow tourists as they watched sharks and rays swim over their heads.

A tourist photographs a shark swimming overhead at the Atlantis resort aquarium on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
A tourist photographs a shark swimming overhead at the Atlantis resort aquarium.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 500, EV 0, 15mm focal length.

I wanted to do two things with this photo: A person doing something and enough depth of field to show the length of the tunnel. To do both, I put on the Tokina 11-16mm wide angle zoom lens (this lens is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts) and set the aperture to f/11 using Aperture priority mode. My camera was set not to go below 1/125th of a second for its shutter speed. This produced an ISO of 500 which was pretty good for this location. All I had to do was wait for someone to come along. If you have family with you, they could be your models.

After having lunch at Atlantis, we went back to the ship to relax and enjoy the evening cruise to Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island. We disembarked the next morning and were told Captain Jack Sparrow would soon be joining us. Always wanting to meet the scallywag, we waited.

Captain Jack Sparrow on Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay, Bahamas
Captain Jack Sparrow on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/13, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm focal length, fill flash.

Jack and I had a good conversation about where to find rum on the island and something about wenches...but back to the photo. Notice it was a bright sunny day on Castaway Cay and what do I like to use on such days? Anyone? That is correct! I used Fill Flash to open up the shadows on people's or, in this case, pirate's faces. Gave the Captain a nice sparkle in his mischievous eyes, aye?

Assured by the good Captain I would find rum and food at Serenity Bay, the adults only beach on Castaway Cay, my wife and I took the next tram out.

A couple enjoying Serenity Bay on Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay, Bahamas
A couple enjoying Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/18, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 300mm focal length

Does this scene fit the name Serenity Bay or what? Notice I did not put the people in the center of the frame. I followed the Rule of Thirds to create a more natural and pleasing to the eyes scene.

Earlier that day, I had left my cabin before sunrise to photograph around the Disney Dream and watch as we docked at Castaway Cay. With today's camera and lens technology, I was able to photograph in the low light without a tripod.

The Disney Dream early in the morning sailing Caribbean waters near Castaway Cay, Bahamas
The Disney Dream early in the morning sailing Caribbean waters.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

This is when proper hand-holding of your camera comes into play to get sharp photos even in low light conditions.

The last night at sea, we enjoyed the talents of Greta Salóme, an Icelandic singer and violinist, performing in the Atrium of the Disney Dream. She played many Disney classics including a version of "Let It Go" from the animated movie, Frozen, which everyone loved.

Greta Salóme performing in the Atrium of the Disney Dream cruise ship
Greta Salóme performing in the Atrium of the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/4, ISO 1600, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

I encourage you to look up Greta Salóme's music. As you can see, there is a lot one can do and expereience on a Disney Cruise.

I am warmed up now.

February 27, 2015

A Day in the Life at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

We all have our own perspectives. Each day we spend in our world which might include family, friends, work or play. When visiting Walt Disney World, it seems the rest of the "real world" disappears for a few days. It is tremendously refreshing to me and I am guessing it is to you, too. After returning from a trip to Walt Disney World we bring something back. Souvenirs, clothing, life experiences and, of course, photographs.

Back in the day of film, we would have to wait a few days after returning to get the finished prints back from the lab. Sort through them and visit people or have them stop by to share our vacation photos. Things have certainly changed over the last twenty years. Today, we can share our experiences instantly via our smart phones and using services such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Family and friends see our photos as we experience them. When I sit back and think about it, a person back in the 1980's would look upon what we do today with photographs as magic.

With that in mind, let me share with you the magic of a day in the Magic Kingdom. The day was February 11, 2015. It started out cool which had me in long jeans and a light sweatshirt. Cloudless blue skies with plenty of Florida sunshine promised good times ahead as I walked on Main Street USA towards Cinderella Castle. I heard the familiar sounds of the Main Street Trolley Parade. I had just missed the performance but I saw an opportunity to catch the trolley pulled by a white horse in motion.

Horse drawn trolley goes by on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Horse drawn trolley goes by on Main Street USA.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 11mm focal length.

To add drama to our vacation photos, photograph at a low angle which is what I did here.

My party had a FastPass+ to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad next and after getting off, we decided to take a short trip on the Walt Disney World Railroad to relax after being on the wildest ride in the wilderness!. We got on at the Frontierland station and got off at Fantasyland. Most people go directly into Fantasyland from the station but there is a quiet little path which goes over to Tomorrowland. I always stop on the path and wait for a train to go by. The engineers love to put on a show for anyone with a camera.

WDW Railroad train putting on a show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
WDW Railroad train putting on a show.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 11mm focal length.

This location is really the only good place to get a photo of the trains.

Doubling back to Fantasyland, I enjoyed a performance of the Main Street Philharmonic, a 12-piece brass and percussion ensemble, right outside the Dumbo entrance.

Main Street Philharmonic performing in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Philharmonic performing in Fantasyland.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO 100, EV 0, 92mm focal length.

Don't you love their uniforms?

After a late lunch it was time to head back down Main Street USA and find a spot for the Festival of Fantasy Parade which we all know starts at 3 o'clock. I photographed from the Main Street Train Station and got my spot about 90 minutes before the start of the parade. Remember the parade starts in Frontierland and takes about 20 to 25 minutes before the first float comes around Town Square. For this parade, I wanted to get close ups of the characters on top of the floats.

Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of Fantasy parade (see text for caption).

From top left: Maleficent Dragon from Sleeping Beauty; Ariel from The Little Mermaid; Princess Merida from Brave and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

After the parade, I took a leisurely walk back up Main Street USA, getting an ice cream at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor along the way and watched a Dream Along with Mickey show on the Cinderella Castle stage.

Dream Along with Mickey stage show in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dream Along with Mickey stage show in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/6.3, ISO 100, EV 0, 110mm focal length.

The challenge I find with Mickey and the gang in this show are the moving eyelids. I take more photos of this show to make sure I get photos like this with all their eyes open.

With plans for dinner in Epcot later that night, it was time to end the day at the Magic Kingdom. Hope you enjoyed it and maybe you picked up a tip or two along the way.

February 20, 2015

New Views of the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As reported by Deb Wills on the AllEars.net Twitter account last week, a few of the walls came down at Disney's Animal Kingdom as people enter the park from the Oasis. A new open area with a spectacular view of the Tree of Life was revealed. The lower viewing area has been replaced with this area featuring new carvings on roots from the tree.

New view of the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
New view of the Tree of Life.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0, 11mm Focal Length.

Here are new carvings of a deer and an African elephant which are on the right side.

New Tree of Life carvings of a deer and African elephant at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
New Tree of Life carvings of a deer and African elephant.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 1800, EV +0.3, 11mm Focal Length.

On the left side, is a carving of a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. This carving is proving to be very popular with guests.

New Tree of Life carvings of a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
New Tree of Life carvings of a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 11mm Focal Length.

The new viewing area is beautiful but the opening to the tree between the new carvings is about 20 feet wide. That is not a lot of room for guests, especially big groups, to gather to get photographs. One must be patient to get the photos I have taken here and even more patient to get your party set up for a photo as guests will come in and out of your frame.

The day I was there no Disney PhotoPass photographers were working the area. I would imagine that will not always be the case.

February 13, 2015

Boardwalk Bakery Birthday Cake

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Princess Birthday Cake on display in the Boardwalk Bakery, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Princess Birthday Cake on display in the Boardwalk Bakery.

Scott, as you may know, is vacationing at Walt Disney World this week. In fact, he is celebrating his first daughter's birthday today so we thought it appropriate to feature a cake with her favorite princess from the Boardwalk Bakery.


February 6, 2015

Polarizing Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is the third of three blogs about subjects being taught at the Focus on Epcot Photowalk held on Monday, February 9, 2015. Click the link for more information.

The previous two posts in this series talked about focusing issues. This week we turn towards changing the light entering our camera's lens with a polarizing filter. Specifically, a Circular Polarizing Filter. Being circular means the filter moves once it is mounted on your lens in a circular motion. This gives various amounts of polarization as the filter is turned in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. Polarizing filters main claim to fame is how it darkens and enhances a sky. Let me demonstrate using a typical Florida sky above Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella Castle without a polarizing filter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle without a Polarizing Filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 42mm focal length.

The sky is blue but not the deep blue people like to see. This is when a circular polarizing filter comes in handy. After one attaches it to a lens and looks through the viewfinder, a slow turn of the filter will show its effect from none at all to fully polarized. The photographer determines how much. The next photo of Cinderella Castle is with a polarizer filter set to maximum.

Cinderella Castle with a polarizing filter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with a Polarizing Filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 42mm focal length, polarizing filter.

Not only is the sky a deeper blue, the colors of the castle become enhanced. Yes, you can create the same effect in software but it only takes a quick turn of a filter to get it done in camera.

The other advantage of using a polarizing filter is to cut down on reflections. To see how that is done, check these two blogs:

Disney Pic of the Week - Filters

Case for Using a Polarizer Filter

If I still have not convinced you a polarizing filter is a must for the digital SLR camera owner, check this article out from the Digital Photography School: Why You MUST Have a Polarizer.

I was not convinced myself until I got a circular polarizer filter to try out once. I now have one for every different sized lens I own.

January 30, 2015

Selective Focusing at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is the second of three blogs about subjects being taught at the Focus on Epcot Photowalk held on Monday, February 9, 2015. Click the link for more information.

Last week, I talked about Hyperfocus where everything in an image is in focus. This week is all about picking out an object and selectively focusing on it leaving everything else out of focus. Selective Focus separates the sharply focused part of an image from a busy background.

Donald Duck statuette on the Hub in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Donald Duck statuette on the Hub in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/1600s, f/4, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 58mm Focal Length.

It is very easy to accomplish this effect. Put the camera in Aperture Priority Mode and open it up to the lens' widest aperture. In the lens I used on the Donald Duck statue, f/4 is its widest aperture. Notice how the busy background has been completely blurred out and Donald seems to jump right out at you.

This technique is used almost exclusively by wildlife photographers. For us Disney photographers, we can go on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and get photos of the birds in the royal aviary.

Jambu Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus jambu) in the aviary on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jambu Fruit Dove in the aviary on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

For more about Selective Focus, visit these links:

Photographing a Star in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Animal Portraits

January 23, 2015

Using Hyperfocus at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is the first of three blogs about subjects being taught at the Focus on Epcot Photowalk held on Monday, February 9, 2015. Click the link for more information.

If you look at any travel magazines or websites, you will notice many of the photos showing such exotic places as tropical beaches, snowy mountain peaks or colorful cities are in focus over the entire image. I refer to it as getting everything in focus from the front (bottom) to the back (top). To get such photos, photographers employ the technique of Hyperfocal Distance or Hyperfocus. I tend to use the latter name as I think it is cooler.

If you read up on Hyperfocus, you will come across charts full of numbers and diagrams. If you are into Landscape Photography, I encourage you to learn how to use those tools. For the purpose of photographing while visiting a Disney themepark, I much prefer a simpler way.

A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

By setting the aperture to f/16 or smaller, focusing on an object about one-third (1/3) into the lower part of the frame when looking through the camera's viewfinder, you will get everything in front of the object AND behind it in focus. It many not look like it through the viewfinder but will once you review the photo on the camera's LCD screen. That is what I did in the photo above of the Friendship boat leaving the dock in front of the Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. I focused on the front windshield of the boat which is approximately one third into the frame.

Besides landscapes, another good use of hyperfocus at a Disney themepark or any tourist location, is photographing people in front of an interesting background. I know until I learned how to use hyperfocus, I had many photos of people in focus posing in front of Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth while the park icons behind them were not.

People in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

By placing the people's faces about one third into the frame and setting the aperture to f/18, I have them and Cinderella Castle in sharp focus. When I am looking to use Hyperfocus, I switch my camera to Aperture Priority Mode and select a small aperture. The camera will then select the shutter speed and ISO to use. Be careful of the shutter speed, if it gets to slow, you may need to use a tripod or Da Grip to hold your camera steady.

Here are more blog posts about Hyperfocus:

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World

Hyper-Hollywood

You can practice using hyperfocus at home by placing objects in the foreground with an interesting background. Review the photos on a computer screen to check the results.

January 16, 2015

Focus on Epcot Photowalk

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Focus on Epcot Photowalk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Focus on Epcot Photowalk

As I mentioned awhile back, I will be traveling to Walt Disney World a couple of times this year. My first trip is next month and I have planned an All Ears Photowalk around Epcot's Future World. The focus (pun intended) will be on these three photographic items:

  • Hyperfocal Distance or Hyperfocus (Landscape Mode)
  • Selective Focus (Portait Mode)
  • Using a Polarizing Filter

The Photowalk will be held on Monday, February 9, 2015, from 9:30AM to 11:30AM. Meeting location will be outside the Nikon Camera Center. The location is across from Spaceship Earth on the right side as you walk in from the Future World entrance. While you may attend by just showing up, if you think you will be at the photowalk, add a comment to this post. I will not be publishing the comments but will use the emails to correspond with everyone interested.

Click here for Focus on Epcot Facebook Event Sign Up

Before the Photowalk, I will be posting blogs about each of the items to be covered. Note, you do not need a polarizing filter but one will be demonstrated along with a special tip.

January 9, 2015

Walt Disney World 2014 Photo Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Wishes fireworks behind Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes fireworks behind Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 15s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 35mm focal length, tripod.

Hope your New Year's celebration was fun last week. I spent it reviewing photographs I took during my two trips to Walt Disney World during 2014. It certainly has been and will continue to be a time of change at Walt Disney World. Construction is happening in all the parks and many resorts. Attractions and entertainment have seen both additions and subtractions. As the wise baboon Rafiki said in The Lion King, "Change is good." Walt Disney often reminded people the parks would always change over time. Let us explore some of them...

Magic Kingdom

New Picture Spots, Fantasyland attractions and a Parade debuted in the Magic Kingdom during 2014, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
New Picture Spots, Fantasyland attractions and a Parade debuted in the Magic Kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom saw significant changes from late 2013 through 2014. Nikon took over sponsorship of the Picture Spots found throughout the Walt Disney World resort. The new Fantasyland expansion was completed with the opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride joining Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid and several others which had opened at the end of 2013. The new Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade was a huge hit in more ways than one with floats so tall, the Christmas wreaths on Main Street USA are no longer strung across the street. Changes to the Magic Kingdom will continue into 2015 as the Central Plaza or Hub area expansion gets completed. As a photographer, I am looking forward to having those construction walls down and new locations to enjoy the castle shows from.


Epcot

In Epcot, Off Kilter performed their last show in Canada while the flags flew in Italy, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
In Epcot, Off Kilter performed their last show in Canada while the flags flew in Italy.

By far the most controversial changes occurred in Epcot as long time entertainment shows were "retired" and new shows announced. I did not know it at the time but I photographed my last Off Kilter show on their stage in Canada during my May trip featuring the guitar playing talents of Randy Holbrook. When I returned to Epcot in October, Disney was soft opening a couple of the new shows including the Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro in Italy. Time will tell if the new shows will become as popular as the ones they replaced.


Disney's Hollywood Studios

American Idol bowed out while For the First Time in Forever - A Frozen Sing-Along took over at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
American Idol bowed out while For the First Time in Forever - A Frozen Sing-Along took over at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The characters from the animated movie, Frozen, arrived at Walt Disney World in 2014. Disney's Hollywood Studios started it off with a Summer long celebration which snowballed to new, mostly permanent attractions, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-along Celebration and Wandering Oaken's Trading Post (which now includes a Meet and Greet area for Olaf). As Frozen moved in, the American Idol Experience moved out and soon the 122 feet tall Sorcerer Mickey Hat will be gone early in 2015.


Disney's Animal Kingdom

Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Winged Encounters opened and new life was found on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Winged Encounters opened and new life was found on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.

If you have visited Disney's Animal Kingdom lately, you know there are construction walls up everywhere as the park prepares for its new night time show, Rivers of Light, work on Avatar commences and a new shopping and entertainment area in Harambe gets set to open in 2015. The Festival of the Lion King show moved into their new venue in Africa. I was fortunate enough to watch beautiful Macaws fly freely around Discovery Island in the Winged Encounters - The Kingdom Takes Flight which will or should be taking place throughout each day. Still need to work on capturing the fast moving birds in flight. The baby gorilla was out in the viewing area on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail as Disney continues their successful breeding program.

As you can see, a lot happened in Walt Disney World in 2014. More will be in 2015. I do have upcoming plans for visiting WDW. If you have any questions or would like me to cover any particular attraction or show, drop me a comment here. I am always looking for ideas or to answer any photography questions you may have.

January 2, 2015

ESPN Club Stadium Dining Room at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

ESPN Club Stadium dining room at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
ESPN Club Stadium dining room at Walt Disney World.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, tripod.

The ESPN Club Stadium dining room was calm the day Scott photographed it. Yesterday, it was full of college football fans cheering on their favorite teams in New Year's Day Bowl games. Once Scott recovers from all the cheering, snacks and adult beverages, he will be back next week to begin another year of Disney Photo blogging here at All Ears Picture This!.

December 26, 2014

Day after a Disney Christmas

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Minnie & Mickey Mouse Christmas tree ornament purchased at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Minnie & Mickey Mouse Christmas Tree Ornament.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 150mm focal length, tripod.

If your family is anything like Scott's family, this morning you have lots of new Disney themed gifts of all kinds. Scott will be back in a couple of weeks.

December 19, 2014

Disney Christmas Wish

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Kissing Minnie & Mickey Mouse tree ornament purchased at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Kissing Minnie & Mickey Mouse Tree Ornament.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 150mm focal length, tripod.
Wishing You a Christmas Full of Love & Happiness!

I will be taking my annual holiday break over the next two Fridays. See you all back for more adventures in photography at Disney for 2015.

December 12, 2014

Christmas Light Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Christmas tree in Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Christmas tree in Gettysburg's Lincoln Square.
Nikon D70/18-70mm, 3s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 40mm focal length, tripod.

I write about using today's digital SLR cameras at Disney themeparks and resorts. Keep in mind, you can use the photographic information, techniques and ideas anywhere in the world. Photographing Christmas decorations are just as challenging in your home town or other locations. In 2006, I visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania close to Christmas and spent an evening photographing around Lincoln Square. The building with the lighted "Believe" sign is the Gettysburg Pub.

Below are links to articles I wrote on Photographing Christmas lights at Walt Disney World. I used the same knowledge in those articles to photograph the scene in Gettysburg. Each of the articles contains links to other Internet resources for more information on specific details, how to's and techniques to use for photographing your Christmas celebrations and lighted decorations:

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

How to Handle Yellow (or Any) Light Color Casts (Yes, it's about Christmas lights)

December 5, 2014

Meeting Talking Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have not waited in line to visit with a Disney character in a long, long time. If one happens to be standing by oneself, I will stop, converse and take a photo or two. There is one which I will wait for...Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Not only do you get to meet Mickey, you also get to have a talk with the Big Cheese.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2800, EV 0, 40mm focal length, bounced flash.

The technology which allows Mickey to talk is sensational. While not truely interactive like Crush over in Epcot, he does his best to carry on a conversation based on who is meeting with him.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, bounced flash.

After my wife had her photo and we had ours together, I stepped in for a Bro shot with my favorite Mouse.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, bounced flash, cropped.

Using FastPass+ makes meeting Mickey Mouse a fun experience without having to wait in a long line or having to change plans walking around the parks.

I gave my camera over to the Disney Photopass person on duty with everything preset. I had my flash unit pointed upwards to bounce the light off the ceiling. For more on using flash, click here: How to Use Bounce Flash.

November 21, 2014

Shopping Around Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Next to dining, my guess would be shopping as the next most popular thing to do at Walt Disney World. This being one week away from Black Friday, America's day to spend freely for the holiday season, I thought I would share with you a few photos from the shops around the resort. Remember, to always be on the lookout for patterns like the Vinylamation collectibles. Colorful sales displays of things like the pyramid of Duffy the Bears make for very pleasing compositions. Shopping is a very human thing to do and I like to include people even if the expensive artwork is only to be looked at. Leading lines of decorative beer steins in Germany takes the viewer on a trip.

Shopping around Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Shopping around the Walt Disney World Resort
See text for more information.

From top left: Duffy the Bear shop display at Epcot, shopping for Disney art on Main Street USA, Vinylmation collectibles on display inside the D Street store in Downtown Disney's West Side and Beer steins in Germany's Der Bucherwurm shop in Epcot's World Showcase.

Besides, photography gives me something to do while the rest of my family shops.

November 14, 2014

Main Street Electrical Parade Over Time

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There was a late night performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade on my last visit to the Magic Kingdom. The platform overlooking Main Street USA only had a few people so I set up the camera on a tripod to get ready to make a photo I had seen many other photographers do.

I put my camera in Manual mode and set the lens to its smallest aperture of f/22 for a large Depth of Field. This resulted in a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 200. Focused on the scene and put the lens in manual focus mode. Focus would not change as long as I did not move the camera position. I screwed on a 3-stop Neutral Density filter and calculated the new shutter speed to be 90 seconds or 3 times 30 seconds. I put the camera in Bulb mode and used a timer on my smartphone with a cable release to open and close the shutter manually. Very low tech but it worked fine.

The 90 second exposure seemed a little dark to me so I did another one at 120 seconds which came out better.

Late night view of Town Square on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Late night view of Town Square on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 120s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, 3-Stop ND Filter.

When the Main Street Electrical Parade starts, they turn off most of the lighting around the park. To compensate, I added even more time as the colorful floats passed by me and up Main Street USA. I found 180 seconds gave me a very interesting photo.

Long expsoure of the Main Street Electrical parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Long expsoure of the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 180s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, 3-stop Neutral Density filter.

Like fireworks, very colorful moving subjects like the Main Street Electrical Parade floats create beautiful photos when photographed over a long period of time.

November 7, 2014

Sunset at Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Sunset at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sunset at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 4500, EV 0.

Characters in Flight Balloon rises over Downtown Disney at sunset back in 2013. These days Downtown Disney is being transformed with lots of construction happening and new entertainment, shopping and dining experiences being announced.

Sunset photos are tricky. It is best to meter the sky to the side of where the Sun is or was before it set. Lock in that setting using Manual exposure. That way you get the colors of the sky correctly. The Sun will be blown out which is to be expected to anyone looking at your photos.

October 31, 2014

Scarecrows of Town Square

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today being Halloween, I thought I would share with you a different angle on the Scarecrows of Town Square.

Most people photograph the scarecrows you see upon entering the Magic Kingdom standing up. When you do it that way, you have to be very careful of what is happening in behind the scarecrows. People will be walking there, Photopass photographers have a Halloween setup which is very busy and cast members could be selling balloons on Main Street USA to name a few background distractions.

To help eliminate such "noise" in my scarecrow photos below, I got down low (yes, folks, that means bending those knees). There are still people in some of the photos below but they are at the bottom of the frame and blended into the corn stalks Disney used this year at the base of each of the scarecrows.

Dressed up Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Dressed up Scarecrow in Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 30mm focal length.

Another tricky background object is the flag pole. As you can see here, I did not do a very good job of getting the flag pole out of the frame. I should have moved to my right a little more.

Baker Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Baker Scarecrow pushing sugar around Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

On this photo of the Scarecrow Mayor I did a better job.

Scarecrow Mayor on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scarecrow Mayor looking for votes around Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 30mm focal length.

It was very hard to not get any of the trees in the frames for a couple of the scarecrows so I tried to find a pleasing composition with them in it.

Drummer Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Drummer Scarecrow banging away on Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm focal length.

Working to get clean or less distracting backgrounds in your photos is well worth the effort. Keep it in mind the next time you are out photographing.

BLOG NOTE: As you may have read this week, Lisa will no longer be writing her Picture This! blog or contributing to the Disney Pic of the Week. For the time being, it is just Erin and myself. Erin will be continuing the popular Where in the World contests as I will post a Disney Pic of the Week every Tuesday and this blog on Friday.

Next year I plan on visiting Walt Disney World a couple of times. Watch for Photowalk announcements about a month before each visit. If you have any questions, would like me to cover a particular photography subject or have a Pic of the Week suggestion, drop me a comment.

October 24, 2014

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Italy in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One never knows when a new photographic opportunity will present itself. At Walt Disney World, it could happen while talking with friends in one of Epcot's countries. This happened to me last week while in Italy. A fanfare of drums and trumpets was heard before a parade of colorful men came into the pavilion with large flags. I quickly surmised this was the new show Disney said was coming.

The four flag bearers and four musicians paraded up the stairs to the circular center stage of the pavilion. People were drawn around the stage and I quickly went to the stairs and sat down in front. The stage is elevated and getting low did a couple of things for me: it cleaned up the background as my field of view was over most spectators heads and gave a more dramatic angle to the entertainers.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Being an entirely new show, I did not know what to expect. I will say the costuming was excellent. The colors of the flags did not clash with the Italy pavilion colors in anyway. Making the performers and the flags stand out.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Again, not knowing what to expect, I found myself clicking at almost every move the performers made. This resulted in a lot of images I discarded later.

I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. The day was bright enough to still have a good Depth of Field aperture in the f/9 to f/10 range. Next time, I would like to try slower shutter speeds when the performers are standing still while waving the flags.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 31mm Focal Length.

What this show does do, is a lot of repetition. Which means if you miss a move, a toss or a jump the first couple of times, be patient, as they will repeat it again in a few seconds. The move you see above was about the fourth or fifth jump in the routine.

Since I photographed this show, I found out the group is called Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro. If you click on the link, you will see more of my photos from the show and a video of an early performance. I suspect the show will evolve over the next few weeks but the video will give you a good idea of what to expect.

October 17, 2014

Relaxing on Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mickey Mouse relaxing on Disney's Castaway Cay, Bahamas, Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line

Mickey Mouse relaxing on Disney's Castaway Cay.

After last week's happy occasion, Scott decided for a little relaxation and even more relaxation aboard the Disney Dream with a stop at Disney's Castaway Cay Caribbean island paradise. You can follow him on his Twitter feed at Scottwdw where he will be posting photos and other information during his trip.

Remember, photos of t-shirts, signs, beach towels and other design items make excellent title images for vacation slide shows and scrap books. Oh, and for blogs, too!

October 10, 2014

Father of the Bride

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Father of the Bride

Scott is off this week as he has a very important role to play tomorrow. You can follow Scott on this adventure and more on his Twitter account at Scottwdw where he will be posting photos and other information during his trip which will include a stay at Walt Disney World and a cruise on the Disney Dream.

October 3, 2014

Sleeping with the Lion King at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I know I go on and on about photographing details while at Walt Disney World. Even the resorts are full of such details. Some are subtle. Some are not.

While staying in the Lion King area of Disney's Art of Animation resort, I walked under the scene you see below taken directly from the animated move, The Lion King, of a young Simba with his pals, Timon and Pumba. What is so nice about this is the background. Instead of rows of room windows, there is a fittingly painted background.

Timon, Pumba and young Simba at Disney's Art of Animation resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Timon, Pumba and young Simba at Disney's Art of Animation resort.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 85mm focal length.

Remember to look up while staying at a Disney resort, too. If I had not, I would have missed this cute scene. You may also have noticed the use of leading lines in the composition.

September 26, 2014

Echo Lake Sunset in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I was scouting locations for the Star Wars Weekend Fireworks, I checked out the view from across Echo Lake. It was late in the day and the Sun was just going down behind the palm trees to the right of Min & Bill's Dockside Diner. This created a large light discrepancy between the bright sky and the water. As I talked about with Cinderella Castle a couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a series of photos to capture the large range of light in the scene to combine later to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.

The light range was even larger this time and I took a set of seven photos from -3EV to +3EV in 1 EV stop increments. I later merged those photos together using Photomatix Pro software.

Echo Lake in HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Echo Lake in HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, HDR Image.

This view has changed over the years and will be again as the American Idol Experience has now shut down. As Rafiki says, Change is good.

September 19, 2014

Birds of Flights of Wonder at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Flights of Wonder show in Disney's Animal Kingdom features many species of birds found throughout the world. Many are shown flying around the stage and audience.

The best way to photograph this show is with a fast shutter speed. I set my camera to Shutter Priority mode with the shutter at 1/1000th of a second and changed Auto Focus (AF) to Continuous.

Birds of the Flights of Wonder show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Birds of the Flights of Wonder Show (see below for more info).

From top left, Harris Hawk landing on a handler's gloved hand, West African Crowned Crane coming in for a landing, American Bald Eagle with handler and a Rose-breasted Cockatoo getting ready to return money from a willing volunteer.

September 12, 2014

Classic Cinderella Castle in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It was about a half hour before sunset and the top spires of Cinderella Castle was being illuminated with golden sunshine. Below, the castle and moat was in shade. Such lighting can be tough for a camera to capture in a single exposure. In post, you can open up the shadows some.

On the other hand, a set of photos for High Dynamic Range processing using today's software like Photomatix, can produce excellent results.

Classic View of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Classic View of Cinderella Castle in HDR.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 27mm focal length, HDR Image.

The HDR image here was produced using five photos taken in 1 stop increments from -2EV to +2EV and merged in Photomatix.

September 5, 2014

Epcot Night Portrait

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ever wonder how the Disney PhotoPass Cast Members get those night photos of people in front of Walt Disney World icons? It is not very hard IF you use the right equipment. You will need a flash, a tripod or an Image Stablized Lens and patient subjects.

For the night portrait below, I did not have my tripod with me so I hand held the camera at 1/15th of a second and dragged the shutter to build up the light of Spaceship Earth and Innovention Fountains behind the couple. I instructed them to stay very still until the flash went off.

Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

By using a tripod, I could have lowered the ISO but the shutter speed would have been longer. Making it harder for the subjects to stay still this late at night. If you do this around sunset, you will get even better results at faster shutter speeds.

August 29, 2014

Summer with Olaf at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Frozen Summer Fun with Olaf at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Frozen Summer Fun with Olaf at Disney's Hollywood Studios,.

Scott is taking a break this week like Olaf did all summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios. For those visiting the Studios this last unofficial weekend of summer, check out all the doings for Frozen Summer Fun. UPDATE: Olaf, Anna, Elsa and Kristoff have been given extensions through the month of September, 2014. CLICK HERE for the details.

August 22, 2014

Getting around Disney's Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I will be taking a Disney Cruise in a couple of months and with the Pic of the Week being about Disney's Castaway Cay, I decided to continue with the theme and to further acquaint you with the Caribbean island.

The trams will take you from a stop near the dock to Palm Central Station with further service to Serenity Bay. The trams run about every six minutes with the caveat of them running on Bahamian time.

Welcome to Disney's Castaway Cay during a Disney Dream cruise.
Welcome to Disney's Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

As you walk around the island, you will notice several fun photo opportunities dreamed up by Disney Imagineers.

Photo op location on Castaway Cay during a Disney Dream cruise.
Photo op location on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

The last blog showed Pluto at the Mount Rustmore location. Here is a photo of the nearby sign just in case you are lost.

Mount Rustmore on Castaway Cay on a Disney Dream cruise.
Mount Rustmore on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 48mm focal length.

While visiting the Lookout Tower on the island, I spied this interesting structure.

This outhouse is for the birds on Castaway Cay during a Disney Dream cruise.
This outhouse is for the birds on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 450, EV +0.7, 300mm focal length.

Well, hate to end this with bathroom humor, but time to start planning an island excursion.

August 15, 2014

Recording Details in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Magic Kingdom is full of details and I had fun looking for and photographing on a recent trip. Let's start with the Pirates Bazaar which is the shop you enter after sailing through Pirates of the Caribbean. This shop, like all Disney shops, is a treasure trove of subjects. As I was walking around, I felt like I was being stared at. I looked around and found Captain Jack Sparrow, as portrayed by actor Johnny Depp, looking right at me.

Painting of Captain Jack Sparrow on display in the Pirates Bazaar outside Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Painting of Captain Jack Sparrow as portrayed by actor Johnny Depp on display in the Pirates Bazaar outside Pirates of the Caribbean.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/50s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 120mm focal length.

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's queue had some updates done during the last refurbishment. I found this longitudinal section diagram of the mountain fascinating and something you will miss using the FastPass+ line.

Longitudinal section diagram of Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Longitudinal section diagram of Big Thunder Mountain in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 4500, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

Fans of the movie, National Treasure, will remember how the company which cast the Liberty Bell was part of the clues leading to the historical treasure. The replica in Liberty Square has the clue, too.

Close up of the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Close up of the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 4000, EV -0.3, 85mm focal length.

Did you know the The League of Planets and The Loyal Order of Little Green Beings are sponsors on the Tomorrowland Welcome Sign?

Tomorrowland welcoming signs at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Welcoming signs as you enter Tomorrowland from the Hub.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 50mm focal length.

You know about the windows above Main Street USA but have you ever noticed the doors? Like this one which opens into the Magic Kingdom Casting Agency run by one Walter Elias Disney featuring his quote: "It takes People to Make the Dream a Reality".

Door to the Magic Kingdom Casting Agency on Main Street USA which opened in 1971 by Founder & Director Emeritus Walter Elias Disney in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Door to the Magic Kingdom Casting Agency on Main Street USA which opened in 1971 by Founder & Director Emeritus Walter Elias Disney.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 400, EV -0.3, 24mm focal length.

These are the kinds of details that come and go at Walt Disney World over the years. As fellow All Ears team member Jim Korkis reminds me every time I see him, photograph everything as you never know when it will be changed or totally disappear from a Disney park. Noted, Jim!

August 8, 2014

Great Photography with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the highlights of my visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California last year was attending the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show. A few years ago, the audio-animatronic figure of the 16th President of the United States went through a re-imagineering. In a word, it was impressive. The show borrows elements from Walt Disney World attractions: the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents and Epcot's American Adventure. The Lincoln audio-animatronic moves smoothly and the facial expressions are life like.

The lighting is very moody with bright highlights and deep shadows. Like when photographing any Disney show, use spot metering on the brightest portion of the actor or, in this case, the audio-animatronic. You want to wait for the figure to stop so as to get the sharpest image possible. Even at 1/200th of a second, the image below would have been blurred if the arm or head was moving. I did open up the shadows under the eyes.

Close up of the audio-animatronic in Great Moments with Mr. Linoln in Disneyland, Anaheim, California.
Close up of the audio-animatronic in Great Moments with Mr. Linoln in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV 0, 190mm focal length.

Once you have your exposure locked in, you can zoom in and out and compose your photos many ways. The stage lighting will fall where it will which is how you see it in the theater.

Full length view of the audio-animatronic in Great Moments with Mr. Linoln in Disneyland, Anaheim, California.
Full length view of the audio-animatronic in Great Moments with Mr. Linoln in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 70mm focal length.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is an uplifting show about a dark time in the history of the United States of America.

August 1, 2014

Photography Services on the Disney Cruise Line

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you have ever taken a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line's Disney Dream, you and your party have had a photo taken before boarding the ship. While you might think this is a nice gesture, Disney uses this baseline photo for facial recognition. This means you do not have to hand a card to any Disney photographer while on the cruise. The photos will be sorted using facial recognition technology into a digital portfolio you can view while onboard. The place to do so is called Shutters and is located on Deck 5.

Entrance to Shutters on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.
Entrance to Shutters on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/13s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length.

I took the next photo very late at night so Shutters was not being manned and most people were either sleeping or enjoying themselves down in The District Adult Nightclubs. You can still view and purchase for later pickup your photos using the screens provided (yep, that is my wife and I on the screen).

Viewing photos inside Shutters on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.
Viewing photos inside Shutters on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 2.5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

Here are a few examples starring myself and other members of my family of the photos you will see in your digital Disney Cruise Line portfolio.

Prints from photos taken by Disney Photographers on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.
Prints from photos taken by Disney Photographers on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship.

Yes, you can buy the frames in the shops on the Disney Dream. While I do not have first hand knowledge, this photographic service is available on all the Disney Cruise Line ships. You will have the ability to view and order photographic products of your photos online after the cruise is over, too. Check with Shutters while onboard for all the latest information or, before you cruise, on the Disney Cruise Line's Photography Services webpage.

July 25, 2014

Using HDR in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In a previous post I wrote back in 2009, I detailed the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique as one way to photograph a scene with a big range of light from very dark to very light. In the article, I used an HDR image I did of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Expedition EVEREST attraction taken from the bridge to Africa. Since then, Photomatix, the software I use for HDR processing, has gone through two version updates and I have gotten better at identifying the right conditions for taking a set of photos for high dyanmic range.

Last December, I returned to the same location. The Golden Hour was in full swing with the Sun setting and bathing the top of Expedition EVEREST in beautiful warm light. The rest of the scene was in deep shadows with pops of bright sunlight coming through. I tried a few single exposures but either got the mountain blown out or the shadows almost in total blackness. I knew a set of photos for HDR was the answer. I took several sets and found a set of 7 photos from -3EV to +3EV captured the entire range of light. After running the photos through Photomatix and finishing up the processing in a photo editor, this was the result:

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 1000, EV 0, 98mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

I feel this photo is a good representative of what my eyes were seeing. That is how I use HDR. Other photographers might come up with a totally different image. I also made sure I took both Landscape and Portrait versions of the scene in several focal lengths.

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 190mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

Notice the difference in the second HDR image from the first one. The Sun was much lower in the second photo so the light was highly reduced on the top of Expedition EVEREST and created more subtle and muted colors.

Next time you are faced with a scene you are having trouble exposing for, create a set of photos and give HDR processing a try. HDR software, like Photomatix, can be downloaded for trial periods. Have fun!

July 18, 2014

Family Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On all my trips to Walt Disney World, my family is with me. They put up with my constant clicking of my camera shutters, are very patient when I bring the tripod to the parks and very supportive of the results. Below are a few photos I took of the family on our latest trip back in May.

Family photography at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Family photography at Walt Disney World (see text below).

We brought along my Sister-In-Law who had a great time. In the upper left, she is with my eldest daughter with Donald Duck at his Safari Breakfast in Disney's Animal Kingdom's Tusker House restaurant. The upper right has the family group on the staircase to Boma restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Botton right has my youngest daughter's hair blowing in the wind provided by the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride in the Magic Kingdom. The bottom left has my wife with her sister in front of Cinderella Castle at one of the Nikon Picture Spots (yes, looks like all the Picture Spots have been updated with the new sponsor).

The family loves these photo opportunities and Walt Disney World is as photogenic with people as it is without. Hope these will give you a few ideas on photographing your family when visiting Walt Disney World in the future.

July 11, 2014

Riding Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have been visiting Walt Disney World since 1983. In all that time, I have never ridden one of the iconic rides in the Magic Kingdom. This has always been my view of it...

The Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Long exposure photo of the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 55mm focal length, tripod.

On my last trip, I was bound and determined to rectify such an oversight. The Astro Orbiter has a very different queue. You line up in an outdoor queue below the PeopleMover platform. As you get close to the elevators, you are given a pilots card or a riders card and you are then placed in a holding area. The people in the holding area will take the next elevator up to the Astro Orbiter platform. Upon reaching the loading platform, you will have unique views of the Magic Kingdom.

Getting to Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Getting to Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter.

The main fascination for riding the Astro Orbiter on this trip was to do some slow shutter speeds while piloting one of the rocket ships. It is not that easy but I managed to get this one out of all the photos I took which came out.

Riding the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Long exposure photo of the Astro Orbiter from the Pilot Seat.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/10s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

Remember, motion photography is a high risk, high reward kind of photography. I felt very rewarded with the last photo. Until next time Space Rangers...To Infinity and Beyond!

July 4, 2014

Flag Bearer outside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps member carries the Spirit of '76 flag in front of the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps member carries the Spirit of '76 flag in front of the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Today, the United States of America is celebrating its 238th year since America declared its independence from England. Each day in front of the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps perform fifteen minute shows of patriotic songs and songs of the colonial era throughout the day.

TIP: After the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps finishes, the Voices of Liberty, an a cappella group, will then be performing in the rotunda of the American Adventure pavilion.

For my fellow Americans, have a safe and fun holiday weekend.

June 27, 2014

Photographing Festival of Fantasy Parade - Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week, I photographed Disney's Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom from the Main Street USA Train Station platform. I ended the article by saying how I itched to get down to street level. Today, I get to share with you why.

TIP: I photographed from the left side of Main Street USA as you look from the Magic Kingdom entrance towards Cinderella Castle. This is the side of the street which is shaded at the time of the parade. Meaning the Sun will be behind you and front lighting the people and floats in the parade. My exact location was on the corner outside the Emporium. Be prepared to find a location on the shaded side about 60 to 90 minutes before the parade starts. Keep in mind, the parade starts in Frontierland and takes about 30 minutes to get to the end of Main Street USA.

The costumes worn by the dancers and entertainers before each float are very colorful and the choreography fitting each float's theme. The first dancers in the parade proceed The Princess Garden float in their ball gowns and princely garb. The entertainers keep smiling through the heat of an Orlando afternoon.

Dancing couple preceeding the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dancing couple preceeding the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 35mm focal length.

With The Princess Garden float being the shortest in the parade, the princesses and princes are at a good angle. The problem, the royals are on turnstiles which may not turn fast enough to see all of the characters as the float passes by. The photo of Tiana and Prince Naveen below was just as they came around and had started greeting guests on my side of the street. Elsa and Anna (which I got a photo of last week) never made it around for me to photograph.

Tiana and Prince Naveen on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tiana and Prince Naveen on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/14, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 85mm focal length.

By far the most outlandish costumes of the Festival of Fantasy parade were on the dancers before The Little Mermaid float. The dancer in the shell below did manage to shine through with that huge smile and sparkling eyes.

Colorful dancer preceding The Little Mermaid float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Colorful dancer preceding The Little Mermaid float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/20, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 75mm focal length.

The Little Mermaid float presents a photography challenge. Ariel is very high above you when shooting at street level and Flounder "swims" over her head. Shooting up at Ariel, be patient for her to be looking in the camera's direction and Flounder is in good position.

Ariel and Flounder on The Little Mermaid float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ariel and Flounder on The Little Mermaid float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 66mm focal length.

The Peter Pan float is the tallest but hanging below the rainbow is the Jolly Roger's anchor with Captain Hook hanging on in spit of Peter Pan and Wendy high above him on the deck of his ship.

Captain Hook below the Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Captain Hook below the Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 38mm focal length.

I felt Prince Phillip was walking very confidently, maybe even a bit cocky, in front of the Sleeping Beauty float. I think I would have been more leery.

Prince Phillip walks confidently before the Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Prince Phillip walks confidently before the Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 100mm focal length.

I mean right behind him was Maleficent in Dragon form. Another way to get the tall floats to fit in your camera's frame is to use a wide angle lens and photograph them before they get to your location. Oh, and wait for Maleficent to stretch her neck and head upwards as that is when she breaths fire.

Maleficent Dragon breathing fire on Main Street USA in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Maleficent Dragon breathing fire on Main Street USA in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 24mm focal length.

Before Mickey's Airship float caps off the Festival of Fantasy parade, the long Finale float comes by lead off with Pinocchio riding on top of a toy Monstro whale. Again, a wide angle lens comes in handy here.

Pinocchio sits on a toy Monstro whale in the finale float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pinocchio sits on a toy Monstro whale in the finale float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/18, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 24mm focal length.

The Festival of Fantasy parade has so much more to see and photograph then what I have shown in the last two articles. It will take more than one viewing to see it all and from different locations along its route. There is a FastPass+ viewing location in the Hub, too.

June 20, 2014

Photographing Festival of Fantasy Parade - Part 1

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When photographs of Disney's Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom first started to appear, I knew I would be photographing it from a couple of different locations. Each float in the parade is tall. In fact, they are the tallest floats I have ever seen come down Main Street USA. The floats are accompanied by dancers and characters which proceed them. Thus, you have interesting subjects up high and below.

Next week I will show you the Street level photos. For this week, I photographed from the Main Street USA Train Station Platform above the parade route. Plan on getting to the platform, at least, an hour before the parade to find a position. I suggest favoring the side towards Town Square Theater for a clear view of the floats as they come around the square. All the photos below were taken from that vantage point.

The first float features a few Disney Princesses and their Princes. The Princess Garden float has Belle in her summer evening dress with the Beast in front. Cinderella and Prince Charming revolve around to greet guests on both sides of the parade route. Tiana and Prince Naveen from the Princess and the Frog and Princess Anna and Queen Elsa from Frozen share another turntable. Music from all four movies is played when this float goes by. Notice how long this float is.

The Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length.

The Princess Garden float is more of your traditional sized float. Not as tall as the rest of the parade's floats. Photographing the characters meant looking down which is not always a very flattering angle but worked quite well from this location.

Princess Anna and Queen Elsa on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Princess Anna and Queen Elsa on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

The Peter Pan float has got to be the tallest of the Festival of Fantasy floats. It is not as long as the Princess Garden float so I could rotate my camera for a portrait orientation to better get the entire float in the frame.

Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Here is the other reason for photographing the Festival of Fantasy parade from the train station platform. You are level with the characters who are at the top of the floats. Peter Pan and Wendy were about level with my camera lens. I did not have to zoom too much either as the floats come very close to the train platform which allowed me to include Cinderella Castle in the background.

Wendy and Peter Pan wave from the deck of the Jolly Roger in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wendy and Peter Pan wave from the deck of the Jolly Roger in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm focal length.

For me, the highlight of the Festival of Fantasy parade is the steampunk inspired Maleficent Dragon of the Sleeping Beauty float. This float measures 53 feet (16m) in length and 26 feet (8m) tall when the dragon is breathing fire.

Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

It is silly to think of how excited I was to get face to face with such a beast. I could feel the heat from the dragon's breath I was so close as it passed by the train station platform.

Maleficent Dragon breathing fire in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Maleficent Dragon breathing fire in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 82mm focal length.

Mickey's Airship float caps off the Festival of Fantasy parade. Bright colors with both Mickey and Minnie Mouse waving to everyone from the gondola of the lighter-than-air craft weighed down by the dancing, pink hippos from Fantasia.

Mickey's Airship in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey's Airship in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/400s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length.

I really enjoyed photographing the Festival of Fantasy parade from the Main Street USA Train Station platform. I still itched to get down to street level for all the dancers. I satisfied the itch later in the trip which I will share with you next week.

June 13, 2014

Photographing Star Wars Weekends Fireworks

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars Weekends for 2014 ended each day with the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show. The show is done totally with music from the Star Wars movie saga. The fireworks used are the most advanced I have ever seen at a Disney themepark. Bursts would change colors in different directions and from the inside-out, shapes of galaxies and ringed planets with lots of ground rockets. All this takes place behind the main stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. For safety reasons, Pixar Place and Toy Story Midway Mania are closed before the performance.

While I was only able to photograph Symphony in the Stars once. I have enlisted four other talented Disney fan photographers to show you five locations both inside and outside of Disney's Hollywood Studies to photograph these fireworks from.


From Inside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

I photographed from The Feel the Force Premium Package viewing area. I setup towards the front and just to the left of the stage looking up Hollywood Blvd. It is very close to the stage and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat and I used the Sigma 15mm fisheye lens to cover as much of the sky as I could. The viewing area has a few palm trees and the lens shows you the number of people in front of the stage during the show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 400, EV 0, tripod.

I think if I was to do it again, I would have found a position as far away or to the back of the viewing area and as close to the rope edge on Hollywood Blvd.

Jeff Krause (SpreadTheMagic on flickr) set up near the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. From there you can see the Keystone Clothiers store and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. The view is cluttered with the tall palm trees and the store itself but you can see more of the high bursts in the sky.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Jeff Krause, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Jeff Krause from Hollywood and Sunset Blvd.
Canon EOS 5D Mk3/16-35IS, 15s, f/9, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

As you can see, there are a lot of people who attend Star Wars Weekends days. Be prepared.

Matthew Cooper (TheTimeTheSpace on flickr) set up in the Echo Lake area and used Min & Bill's Dockside Diner and the lake as a foreground subject. If you get to this area early (and I recommend you do), you can set up your tripod (not yourself) on the inside of the fence surrounding Echo Lake. People won't be able to accidentally hit your tripod legs during a long exposure with the setup.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Matthew Cooper, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Matthew Cooper.
Nikon D800/24-70mm, 15s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

I really like this location. If I had not decided to do the special viewing package, I had planned on shooting from here.


From Outside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

Dave Kliment (ExploringWDW on flickr) photographed from what I am seeing on flickr and elsewhere as a very popular location. The Sorcerer Mickey and enchanted broomstick topiaries are out in front of the park's entrance.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dave Kliment, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dave Kliment.
Nikon D300/10-24mm, 22s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 19mm flocal length, tripod.

Here you can see how high the bursts go in the sky and how wide the ground rockets shoot up. You do loose the Sorcerer Mickey Hat entirely and most of the buildings on Hollywood Blvd. Due to the long exposures necessary for Fireworks photography, the neon lighting gets overexposed but it does not distract from the fireworks.

From the walkway to the Epcot resorts, Dennis Dunkman (ddindy on flickr) photographed at the point of the path which looks directly down Hollywood Blvd. From this location you can really see the scope of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dennis Dunkman, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dennis Dunkman.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 15.2s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 56mm flocal length, tripod.

Each photographer was using Bulb Mode to open and close their camera's shutter while using a tripod to keep it steady. For more on how to photograph firework shows at Walt Disney World, click on the links below:

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 1

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 2

June 12, 2014

Flowers and Trolls in Norway

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A Troll topiary pops up out of a field of flowers in Epcot's Norway pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Troll topiary pops up out of a field of wildflowers.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 2200, EV -0.3, 24mm focal length.

Appropiately, a troll pops up among beautiful wildflowers in Epcot's Norway pavilion during the Flower and Garden Festival. A bright and beautiful Disney Pic of the Week about Flowers.

June 6, 2014

Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you have followed Photographic Innoventions long enough, you would know I am a big fan of Super Zoom Lenses. For a cropped sensor camera, the 18-200mm and 18-300mm are the ranges used. For a full frame sensor camera, the 28-300mm is the range. All are image stabilized (IS for Canon, VR for Nikon and a host of other letters depending on your camera or lens manufacturer) and have variable apertures to keep both the weight and costs down.

Over the last couple of years, I have had a need for another type of zoom lens. This one is not as large a range but has a fixed aperture throughout the zoom range. The Super Zooms start out at f/3.5 at the short end and end up being f/5.6 or f/6.3 at the long end when shooting wide open. For a fixed aperture zoom, it will keep the same wide open aperture from the short to the long end. The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens is one such lens and I used it on my last trip to Walt Disney World.

To give you an idea of the range of this lens, I stood in the middle of Main Street USA and took a short (24mm) and a long (120mm) photo from the exact same position (see below) of Cinderella Castle. I did no cropping or straightening to the photos. Both taken with identical exposures except for the zoom setting.

Cinderella Castle from Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle from Main Street USA using a Nikon 24-120mm VR f/4 Lens.

Unlike the Super Zooms which only go as wide as 28mm (18mm cropped), the extra amount of angle at 24mm gives a real wide angle look. The 120mm is a very workable zoom at a Disney park. The Nikon 24-120 f/4 VR lens worked outstandingly for the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom. At street level I was able to get the large floats in the frame at 24mm and zoom in for the characters on the floats and street.

Festival of Fantasy parade on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of Fantasy parade on Main Street USA using a Nikon 24-120mm VR f/4 Lens.

Image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR) comes in handy when you are photographing from a moving vehicle or as day fades into night. The VR for the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens is excellent. I could hand hold down to 1/15th of a second easily. I could use even slower shutter speeds with the Da Grip Technique. Don't know about Da Grip? Click Here, you will be glad you did.

Friendship boat docking at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Friendship boat docking at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 360, EV 0, 105mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As a travel lens, I found the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens more than capable. The only time I missed my Super Zoom lens was on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I still feel you need, at least, a 200mm lens to get good, frame filling results on the safari.

May 30, 2014

Star Wars Weekends Legends of the Force Motorcade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars Weekends for 2014 started off with a big opening ceremony featuring those lovable Imperial Stormtroopers making fun of all the people being held back by a teeny, tiny, little rope. From there it just got bigger and better. A lot of people were entertained all day with Star Wars Character Meet and Greets, roving characters on Mickey Avenue, lots of behind the scenes shows in the Premier Theater and, new for 2014, Star Wars character meals: Jedi Mickey's Star Wars™ Dine at Hollywood and Vine and Star Wars™ Dine-In Galactic Breakfast (click the links for more information).

The 2014 Official Star Wars Weekends poster was hanging on each side of the Main Stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. You could find the poster on calenders, t-shirts, pins, hats, coffee mugs and just about anything else inside Darth's Mall merchandise shop.

Star Wars Weekends official poster titled
Star Wars Weekends official poster titled "Join the Rebellion" hanging on the Main Stage.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 120mm focal length.

Each Star Wars Weekend day begins with the Legends of the Force Motorcade. Jedi Mickey Mouse leads it off followed by the 501st Legion Florida Garrison and the Rebel Legion. Organizations which promote Star Wars, use of costumes and contributing to their local communities.

Legends of the Force Motorcade in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jedi Mickey Mouse, Imperial Stormtroopers and Rebels parade in the Legends of the Force Motorcade.

After the Legions pass, Star Wars celebrities from both the animated series and live action movies go by in convertibles waving to one and all. For the first weekend this year, Ashley Eckstein (Voice of Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Ahmed Best (Voiced and played Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars I-III), Vanessa Marshall (Voice of Hera Syndulla from Star Wars Rebels) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from all the Star Wars movies) came down Hollywood Blvd.

Celebrities in the Legends of the Force Motorcade in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
From Top Left: Ashley Eckstein (Clone Wars), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars Rebels) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) ride in the Legends of the Force Motorcade

Star Wars Weekends have grown in the last two years since my last time visiting a Galaxy Far, Far Away. It helps there are now new movies for fans to look forward to. The success of The Clone Wars on the Disney cable networks have helped to foster a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. This fall, Disney XD will be premiering a new animated series called Star Wars Rebels picking up where Revenge of the Sith, the third prequel movie, left off. I can only see Star Wars Weekends becoming even more popular.

The use of the FastPass+ system helped greatly in obtaining excellent seats for the popular Behind the Scene shows at the Premier Theater. Plan ahead and show up about 45 minutes before the show.

May 22, 2014

Riding the Liberty Belle Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Need a ride the whole family can enjoy in the Magic Kingdom? One which is in a boat on water perhaps? No, not that one! I am talking about the Liberty Belle Riverboat in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. When operating, the Liberty Belle takes guests on a 17 minute journey down the Rivers of America and around Frontierland's Tom Sawyer Island.

Liberty Belle Riverboat cruising the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Liberty Belle Riverboat cruising the Rivers of America.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 900, EV 0, 86mm focal length, polarizer filter.

The Liberty Belle leaves the Liberty Boat Landing at the top and bottom of the each hour. Once underway, guests are treated to a slow cruise with views of Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and other interesting sights along the river.

Splash Mountain photographed from the Liberty Belle Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Splash Mountain from the Liberty Belle Riverboat.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 800, EV 0, 78mm focal length, polarizer filter.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad photographed from the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from the Liberty Belle Riverboat.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 720, EV 0, 38mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As you round the bend from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you will see Alligator Swamp, Elk, Moose, an Indian village and people roaming around Tom Sawyer Island.

Alligator Swamp photographed from the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Alligator Swamp on the Rivers of America.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 48mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As you come to end of your Riverboat journey, you will pass the Haunted Mansion and return back to Liberty Boat Landing to continue your magical day in the Magic Kingdom well rested.

Approaching Liberty Boat Landing on the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Approaching Liberty Boat Landing on the Liberty Belle.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV 0, 24mm focal length, polarizer filter.

The Liberty Belle captain will blow her horn as she approaches Liberty Boat Landing. If you wait for the Liberty Belle between the Landing and the Haunted Mansion entrance, you can get photos of the steam from the horn and engines with a natural looking background (see photo at start of article).

May 16, 2014

Off to a Galaxy Far, Far Away at Disney's Hollyood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Imperial Storm Trooper patrols the enterance to Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imperial Storm Trooper patrols the enterance to Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 160mm focal length.

Scott is off this week visiting his friends from a Galaxy Far, Far Away during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. May the Force Be with Him so he can return next week with new photographic adventures to share.

You can follow Scott on his Twitter account at Scottwdw where he will be posting photos and other information during his trip.

May 9, 2014

Blue Hour over Expedition EVEREST

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In reviewing past blogs recently, I did a few on Blue Hour but never really explained it beyond saying it is something that happens after sunset and before complete darkness.

Here are a few facts about Blue Hour:

  • It is not an hour long but more like 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Happens twice a day.  Once before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Best seen 90 degrees from the Sun's location.
  • Occurs no matter the weather.

There is no precise way to predict when Blue Hour starts or ends though roughly 20 to 40 minutes after sunset is a good time to see it. It takes long exposures for a camera's sensor to build up the blue color. Which is why tripods are a good tool to use for capturing Blue Hour.

In the photo below of Expedition Everest, a Blue Hour sky can been seen above the ride. I photographed it from near the Yeti Shrine and the angle to the sunset location was close to 90 degrees. The Sun had set at 5:29 PM with the photo being taken at 6:06 PM.

Blue Hour Sky over Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue Hour Sky over Expedition Everest.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 56mm focal length, tripod.

Apps like LightTrac for iOS and Android devices will tell you when Civil Twilight starts. Though not exact, it's a good indication within a few minutes leeway before and after to plan your photography.

Once your camera starts to pick up the deep blue sky color, look around you to see if you can detect it. What I found was the black night sky I always saw before was now different shades of blue depending on how far before or from the sunrise or sunset time and location I was looking at. If you click on the "blue hour" tag below, you will see my other posts about it.

NOTE: I will be visiting Walt Disney World next week. I will be sending out lots of photos via my Twitter account at Scottwdw where you can follow along. Lots of exciting stuff going on between the new Magic Kingdom parade, Star Wars Weekend events and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster.

May 2, 2014

Be-Booping the 1950's at Pop Century Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

All this talk about the All-Star Resorts, got me to thinking of another Walt Disney World Value resort called the Pop Century Resort. The theme for Pop Century are the Classic years of the last five decades of the 20th Century. Back in 2006, I stayed in the 1950's Buildings which featured larger than life icons from the decade (as seen below).

Pop Century Resort 1950's Classic Year area, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pop Century Resort 1950's Classic Year area.
See Text for Details.

Starting at top left and going clock-wise: Giant Bowling Pin Stairwell, Bowling Ball Racks near the pool, 40-foot-tall Tabletop Jukebox and the popular Yo-Yo as another stairwell.

April 25, 2014

Photographing around Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I see a lot people when they first walk up to the Tree of Life after crossing the bridge just take a photo or look at the tree for a bit then walk off to either side around Discovery Island. I suggest to many of my friends and family, to take the short trail down to the animal viewing area. Here you can see the animals and take pictures often with no one around with the tree making a nice background. You can see many of the Tree of Life's carvings from there, too.

Snowy Egret at the base of the Tree of Life on Discovery Island in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Carving of an American Bison or Buffalo looks down upon a Snowy Egret at the base of the Tree of Life.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Discovery Island is one of the places you can get good pictures of the beautiful and endangered West African Crowned Cranes.

West African Crowned Crane on Discovery Island in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
West African Crowned Crane on Discovery Island.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

When approaching the Lion area towards the end of the Kilimanjaro Safari be ready as you never know when you might get a glimpse of one of the felines.

African lioness looking from behind a rock on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
African lioness looking from behind a rock on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 400mm focal length.

After you get off your Kilimanjaro Safari jeep, be sure to follow the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see all the wonderful animals and birds. The highlight being the troops of Western lowland gorillas. Take your time as you walk along the trail as you are often followed.

A bachelor Western lowland gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A bachelor Western lowland gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/800s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 400mm focal length.

Sadly, you can no longer visit with the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek as a few weeks after I took this photo, the dragon died. He was a magnificent animal who gave me many thrills over the years. {UPDATE: Paul (see comments) has informed me there is a new Komodo Dragon. I will get a photo of it on my next trip for sure.]

Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah  Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, EV -0.6, 400mm focal length.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is a beautiful place to see, learn and photograph animals from all over the world.

April 18, 2014

Sunny Lobby of the Tower of Terror

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Normally one thinks of the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel as a gloomy, dusty place. This is not always the case on a sunny day in late October when the Sun's angle at times sends its bright rays through the lobby doors.

Guests throw eerie shadows in the Tower of Terror lobby at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests throw eerie shadows in the Tower of Terror lobby.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/100s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Waiting for the doors to the library to open, there are deep shadows being cast to the side of the lobby desk. For this photo, I wish I had time to do a bracket set of photos but I was ushered away by a bellhop.

Dusty trunk and luggage still waiting for bellhops in the lobby of the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dusty trunk and luggage still waiting for bellhops in the lobby of the Tower of Terror.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/30s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Do not worry. Once you enter the library and the bellhop closes the door, you will be taken into the dark world of the Tower of Terror. I am sure you will enjoy dropping in.

April 11, 2014

Down Under Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The entrance to Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The entrance to Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1, 15mm focal length, tripod.

This is a fun and popular composition when photographing around Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Use a wide angle or fisheye lens under Spaceship Earth and place its bottom at the top of the frame. I really like the photos at night when Disney "paints" the reflective triangles with golden and purple colors.

I do not know about you, this photo makes me feel the weight of the geosphere above it. The next time you find yourself underneath Spaceship Earth, remember this fact: it weighs 15,520,000 Pounds (7,040,000 Kilograms) or 7,760 Tons.

April 4, 2014

Wishes over New Fantasyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Wishes fireworks go off over New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes fireworks go off over New Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 5.9s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

The opening of the New Fantasyland expanision in the Fall of 2013 added new locations to photograph Wishes, the nightly fireworks show, from in the Magic Kingdom. A new favorite composition of Disney photographers is placing the Ariel statue near the entrance to The Little Mermaid -- Ariel's Undersea Adventure at the bottom of the frame as fireworks burst overhead. The statue is lighted and works very well.

For more ideas, search flickr to see all the interesting locations our fellow Disney fan photographers have found throughout the Magic Kingdom to photography Wishes from.

March 28, 2014

World Showcase Details

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Epcot's World Showcase is a treasure trove of photographic opportunities. I find new things to photograph in the countries with every trip. Here are three examples.

I photograph lots of t-shirts when traveling. I like to use them for online galleries and slideshows. This t-shirt I found in an outdoor kiosk at the Canada pavilion would be a good one for an introduction slide to Canada.

TA t-shirt for sale in the Canada pavilion n Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A T-shirt for sale in the Canada pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/80s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

When people think of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I believe the famous Gargoyles which "guard" it come to mind. Outside the entrance to Impressions de France at the France pavilion sits a replica of the Spitting Gargoyle which may be the most famous resident of the cathedral.

Spitting Gargoyle replica at the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spitting Gargoyle replica at the France pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 900, EV +0.3.

The Morocco pavilion is one of the most detailed around the World Showcase. The tile work is beautiful and colorful. Add a touch of falling water and I could not resist.

Water fountain at the Morocco pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Water fountain at the Morocco pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Keep your senses peeled as you walk and explore Epcot's World Showcase pavilions and share with us what you find.

March 21, 2014

Disney's California Adventure Animation Building

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Disney Animation Building in Disney's California Adventure is a must for the Disney fan. When I was there last fall, it was not a very busy place especially soon after park opening. I virtually had the place to myself.

Upon entering the building, you are presented with a large room with big screens showing scenes from one of many Disney animated classics. This is the Courtyard Gallery.

The Courtyeard Gallery inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Courtyeard Gallery inside the Disney Animation Building.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 15mm focal length.

As you can see, this is were people enter into the Sorcerer's Workshop. Since there was no one waiting in the queue. I decided to explore it first. The first chamber is full of interactive displays in how animation was first done. Lots of spinning things here to delight the animation history buff. As I was having fun enjoying the displays, I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see the Magic Mirror addressing the room.

The Magic Mirror from Snow White inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Magic Mirror from Snow White in The Sorcerer's Workshop.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 4500, EV +0.3, 32mm focal length.

After doing a few voice overs in Ursula's Grotto, we entered the enchanted library of the Beast. In the Beast's Library magical books will tell you which Disney character you are most like and the room changes from the eerie past to the bright future complete with special effects.

The Beast's Library inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Beast's Library inside the Disney Animation Building.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

Before you leave the Disney Animation Building, seek out the 3-D Toy Story Zoetrope. A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures. For 3-D, Disney used small statues. When seen in person and at the proper speed, you see Woody and the gang moving in real space. Knowing how static that would look in a still image, I used a slow shutter speed to show you have fast the zoetrope was moving.

3-D Toy Story Zoetrop in motion inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
3-D Toy Story Zoetrop in motion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 800, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

This is only one part of the Disney Animation Building experience. A hidden gem found in Hollywoodland.

March 12, 2014

Remembering the Tapestry of Nations Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Puppet and puppeteer in the Tapestry of Nations in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Puppet and puppeteer in the Tapestry of Nations Parade.

As long as we are waxing nostalgic this week, I also came upon this photo from the Tapestry of Nations Parade in Epcot's World Showcase from 2000. I saw this parade many times during its run and never got tired of it or the wonderful musical score.

March 7, 2014

Photographing in the World of Disney Store

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The World of Disney store at Downtown Disney Marketplace is as exciting to photograph in as one of the parks. Especially, if you put a Nifty-Fifty (50mm f/1.8) lens on your dSLR camera. There are all kinds of subjects and compositions to discover while other members of your party do the heavy-duty work of buying Disney souvenirs and clothing. Which reminds me. Do not forget to include them in the fun.

A young woman hugs Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Young woman hugs Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Not into photographing people? You will find plenty of mannequins modeling the latest in Disney clothing and Vera Bradley purses for your photographing pleasure.

A mannequin modeling the latest in Disney Vera Bradley purses in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A mannequin modeling the latest in Disney Vera Bradley purses in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Do not forget when using a Nifty-Fifty, its ability to separate foreground or background elements when shooting it wide open at f/1.8. You might find Goofy all decked out for winter through a very familiar shape.

Goofy sweater design as seen through a Mickey shape in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Goofy sweater design as seen through a Mickey shape in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Like the parks, you do have to be patient when buying your Disney goodies at checkout. Luckily for you, you can spend the time capturing the experience.

Checkout sign in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Checkout sign in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1250, EV +0.3.

Click this link more about the Nifty-Fifty lenses: Nifty-Fifty Explained

February 28, 2014

Guest Powered Transportation in Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests paddling a Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe on the Rivers of America at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Guests paddling a Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe at Disneyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Here is a scene you will not see in Walt Disney World, the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes are found in Disneyland on the Rivers of America where guests provide the power to take a tour around Tom Sawyer Island and back to Frontierland. Everyone was having a good time and some even waved to me.

February 21, 2014

Sunny Day at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Walking back from breakfast to my room at the Dolphin Resort last Fall, I stopped and watched the comings and goings of the Friendship boats. It was a typical beautiful day in central Florida filled with warm sunshine and blue skies. Something living in the northeastern United States, as I do, is still months away. I know I am a bit weary of this year's winter and wanted to remind myself it will get better or, at least, get me to start planning my next trip to Walt Disney World.

An early morning departure for guests on a Friendship boat leaving the dock of the Swan and Dolphin Resort complex at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Friendship boat leaving the dock of the Swan and Dolphin Resort complex.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Remember, to get sharp focus from the front to back in your photographs, use a small aperture like I did here. f/16 or f/22 is usually good enough. If you have Scenes to choose from on your camera, select the Landscape scene to get this kind of result.

February 14, 2014

Photographing the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photographing in the Magic Kingdom at night is a lot of fun. Especially, late at night as the crowd thins out and photographers can set up their tripods almost anywhere. Which is exactly what I did in Fantasyland to photograph the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Did you know the carousel has 2,325 lights on it?

In my first photo, you might even be able to count some of them as the ride was stopped as guests exited and the next ones found one of the uniquely carved and decorated horses to ride. I used a long exposure of six seconds to get all the detail I could.

The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

The really fun part (at least for this photographer) is when the carousel starts to move again. Without having to change a thing on my camera, I took another six second exposure.

The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in motion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in motion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

Now, you can see all the lights but you would be hard pressed to count any of them.

Click here for more information about using a tripod at night in Walt Disney World

February 7, 2014

Walt Disney World Special Bus Services

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have to hand it to Disney. The worst part of a trip to Walt Disney World for me in the past was having to rent a car with all the added expense and frustrations. Then Disney came up with Disney's Magical Express or DME service and made it free for guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort. For me, I have not rented a car since the DME bus service started. While not all Magical Express buses are the classic blue and tan, this one I photographed as it was bringing and/or picking up guests at Disney's Boardwalk resort was.

Disney's Magical Express Bus near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Magical Express Bus pulling up to Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 32mm focal length.

The other transportation service which I have enjoyed using are the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) Buses. While this service is not free, it is extremely convenient. If you use the service from either a resort or the Orlando airport, you never have to handle your luggage once you check it in from your home airport (check with your airline) or resort. Using special tags provided by the Disney Cruise Line, your bags are picked up and transported to the ships at Port Canaveral and show up in your State Room before dinner the first night at sea. You just get on your bus and go.

Disney Cruise Line Bus waiting to take guests to Port Canaveral from Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney Cruise Line Bus waiting to take guests to Port Canaveral.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 45mm focal length.

You may or may not get the classic DCL bus like I photographed above. Still, they are all clean, well maintained and comfortable and make my Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line vacation a bit more relaxing.

January 31, 2014

Photographing Inside the Be Our Guest Restaurant

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Be Our Guest Restaurant located in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom is indeed magical. It is like stepping onto real world movie sets for a live version of Beauty and the Beast. Complete with the grey stuff and it is delicious.

For a photographer, the dining rooms are not the best lighted. They are dark in keeping with the ambiance of a restaurant. Our eyes see fine but our cameras need a little help. For me, that meant using a high ISO to increase the sensitivity of my camera's sensor to pick up the dim light and the use of Rear-sync flash (sometimes called second curtain) where the flash is fired at the end of the exposure. This helps to gather background details which using regular flash would make almost completely dark.

Ballroom diningroom inside the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ballroom dining room inside the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/50s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length, rear sync flash.

This is where rear-sync flash comes in particularly handy. Photographing people in a darkened environment like the Be Our Guest dining rooms, it properly exposes them while still showing the beautiful Ballroom dining room in the background.

Guests inside the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests inside the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/50s, f/8, ISO 5600, EV 0, 24mm focal length, rear sync flash.

No flash needed here as there was enough light on a rainy day to give nice moody and naturally vignetted light on the stained glass window in the foyer of the Be Our Guest restaurant.

Stained glass window outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Stained glass window outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

If you have not given Rear Sync a try, look it up in your camera's manual. You will be surprised at the results you can get especially when it comes to events such as weddings and parties or vacations with darkened rooms for dining where a Beast may be lurking.

January 24, 2014

Photographing Carsland Details in Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I had a lot of fun searching out details when I visited Carsland in Disney's California Adventure. I used a couple of techniques I have not mentioned in awhile and thought it would be a good reminder for everyone.

Selective Focus is my go to way of separating a subject from a busy background. Using a large aperture, I carefully focus on my subject which throws the background out of focus. In the photo below, the other flowers, window and the reflection in the window are softly out of focus while the subject of the photo, the closest Taillight Flowers, are in sharp focus.

Taillight Flowers found in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California.
Taillight Flowers found in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 220, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

In contrast, the photo of the funny signs as you walk out of Carsland's Ornament Valley are all in focus as I wanted people to be able to read all of them. To do this, I selected a small aperture which gives a large depth of field from the front of the image all the way to its back. This is called the Hyperfocal Distance Setting or Hyperfocus.

Signs leaving Ornament Valley in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California.
Signs leaving Ornament Valley in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/22, ISO 1400, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

I know this photo is a little small to see all the signs. They read in order:

MIND YOUR SPEED
AS YOU GO
SHERIFF'S OLD
BUT HE'S
NOT SLOW

Remember that when you are speeding out of any town, especially Radiator Springs.

January 17, 2014

Highway in the Sky over Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Keeping with this week's photo theme, here is another iconic symbol of not only Epcot but all of Walt Disney World: the WDW Monorail System known as the Highway in the Sky. Each day, monorails transport thousands of resort guests around the Seven Seas Lagoon on either the Express or Resort track back and forth to the Magic Kingdom. You can also transfer to the Epcot track at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) for further service to Epcot.

Monorail Pink in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Pink passing by the Imagination Pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 180mm focal length.

I took this from the walkway between the Odyssey restaurant and World Showcase. I waited for a few minutes for a monorail to pass by. This is one of those reference photos I take to remind me to revisit this location in the future when the Sun is close to setting.

Monorails give a very relaxing, smooth and air conditioned ride even if you have to stand. Remember...Por favor mantenerse al lado de las puertas! at each stop.

January 10, 2014

Looking Above the Trees at Walt Disney World

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As veterans of many trips to Walt Disney World, Lisa and I have often said to always look up and down when visiting the resort. Most of the time you will find wonderful details and even a Hidden Mickey. You may discover a composition you never noticed before. In reviewing photos from my last couple of trips, I came upon these photos which were taken in different parks and at different times but have similar properties.

The first was taken as I walked from Japan to Morocco late in the day. I noticed the low Sun angle was giving the Hotel du Canada of the Canadian pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase a nice golden glow. I decided to crop the photo leaving out any indication of the people and lamps at the bottom of the original photo. I wanted people to see the beauty of the Hotel du Canada framed between green trees and a cloudy sky.

Hotel du Canada in the Canadian pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Late afternoon sunshine illuminates the Hotel du Canada.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

While walking the bridge between the entrance to Adventureland and Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom late at night, I looked up at the spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated above the trees. Not seeing the entire castle created a new composition for me.

The spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/13s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV 0, 200mm focal length.

While I often do not mind including people and other elements in my Walt Disney World photographs, I liked how I cropped or composed these two photos to eliminate any distracting elements.

January 3, 2014

Best of Walt Disney World in 2013

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After visiting Disneyland in September, I had two trips to Walt Disney World in October and December. The first was a family vacation where I photographed while touring the parks. The other was a planned couple of days photographing with other Disney fan photographers. Both trips were fun, enjoyable and presented new challenges and experiences in each park. Today, I am sharing with you some of the highlights from those trips.

It is exciting to see something new at Walt Disney World even if it happens every day. In all my visits, I never saw the IllumiNations barges enter Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. When I noticed the Earth barge coming through the draw bridge, I stopped and took several photos.

IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

This was the first time I had the Fisheye lens with me at Walt Disney World. I probably used it way too much but it was a lot fun. While waiting for my ride on Rock'n'Roller Coaster, I photographed fellow guests being launched. The lens' f/2.8 aperture and a high ISO allowed me to photograph inside the dark ride.

Guests are launched at the Rock'n'Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests are launched into the Rock'n'Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/15mm, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Each December, Disney fan photographers always watch for Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This allows for photographing in the park after sunset. Something that is a rarity. The bare light bulbs hanging over the path to Expedition EVEREST made for good foreground interest to the Forbidden Mountain. By using a small aperture of f/22, the small light sources became small starbursts. I waited for Blue Hour, the time between sunset and full night, to give it a magical light.

Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 2.5s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 92mm focal length, tripod.

After Blue Hour in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I traveled to the Magic Kingdom to take advantage of its late night closing. Putting the Fisheye lens back on my camera, I photographed the lights and movement of the park. Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party is colorful and full of motion when using a long exposure and tripod to photograph it.

Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night.
Nikon D700/15mm, 10s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, tripod.

These are my favorites from this year's trips to Walt Disney World. Here's to even more in 2014. Do you have any favorites from the past year?

December 27, 2013

Wishing You a Happy New Year

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 11s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

Ending the year with a bang! Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Happy New Year!

December 20, 2013

Snowflakes on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Snowflakes on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Snowflakes on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.
Wishing You a Magical & Merry Christmas!

Who says there is never any snow(flakes) on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom? I found some on my last trip. Do you notice anything unusual about this photo or the one below?

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights at the end of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights at the end of Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 8s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length, tripod.

If you have been to the Magic Kingdom during the Christmas holiday celebration, you should remember there are normally wreaths strung across Main Street USA. However, on the days they film the Christmas Day Parade in early December, those wreaths and the large Christmas tree at the beginning of Main Street USA are taken off stage. Thus, giving a clear view from the Railroad Station to Cinderella Castle.

I will be off next week to spend time with Family and Friends. See you in two weeks as we start another year of Disney Photographic learning and fun!

December 13, 2013

Main Street Railroad Station White Balance Problem Solved

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are many places in Walt Disney World were one will run into challenging light for the Auto White Balance or AWB settings on today's digital cameras. One such place is the Railroad Station on Main Street USA. The lighting is very yellow in color even to the naked eye. This mimicks the lighting found back in the early 1900's which is the era of Main Street USA. While it looks pleasing to our eyes, camera's tend to see more of the yellow cast to the light. The photo below is an example of a photo using AWB of the Main Street Railroad Station office in the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street Railroad Station office behind a Christmas tree in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Railroad Station office behind a Christmas tree decoration.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 92mm focal length, tripod.

While this color can be removed in post processing, it is much easier to do it with your camera. To do that, I used a Preset White Balance often referred to as a custom white balance. For my Nikon camera, I pressed the White Balance (WB) button and used the rear command dial to move to the PRE icon on the upper LCD screen. I then released, pressed and held the WB button again until the PRE started to blink on the LCD screen. I then filled the viewfinder with a white object (in the case of the Railroad Station, I used the white woodwork next to the office window) and clicked the shutter. I checked the LCD screen and saw a flashing 'GOOD' on the screen indicating I did the PRESET correcly. If it had said, 'No Good', I would have had to try again.

I once again pointed my camera towards the Railroad Station office. This time I included the two Christmas trees on either side of the office's windows.

Main Street Railroad Station office framed by a pair of Christmas trees in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Railroad Station office framed by a pair of Christmas trees.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 4s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, tripod.

The colors are much truer in the PRESET WB photo than the AWB one. Check your camera's manual to see if you can do a custom white balance and how to do it. I must warn you, once you do so, to remember any light change on your subject or if you move to another location will need a new WB setting or a switch back to AWB. Otherwise, you could get some really strange results.

This being within two weeks of Christmas, here are a couple of previous posts about photographing Christmas lights at Walt Disney World and at home:

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

December 6, 2013

Starburst photography in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the first things beginner photographers are told is NOT to photograph towards the Sun. For the most part it is good advice and shooting into the Sun should be avoided. Yet, if done right, putting the Sun or any bright light source like street lights in your compositions can work.

The first thing you need to do is balance out the large light to dark difference. You can do it a couple of ways. Often I will use flash to fill in the shadows. Another way is to use High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques to capture the large range of light from dark to light using multiple exposures and then blend them into a single image. The latter is the technique I used below of an antique car in Disney's Hollywood Studios. The last tip is to step down your aperture to f/16 or smaller. This will create a starburst effect on bright objects in the frame. In the photo below, the Sun and reflection off the hood are examples of starbursts.

Sun shines on a past star parked off of Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sun shines on a past star parked off of Sunset Blvd.
Nikon D700/15mm, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, HDR Image.

Wide angle and fisheye lenses are well suited for this kind of photography but any lens stopped down can create starbursts. Bring a little star power to your photography with this technique.

November 29, 2013

Kitchen Sink Stuffed at the Beach Club Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Like most Americans, I am recovering from stuffing myself at yesterday's Thanksgiving Day feast with my family. For those of you not living in the United States of America (USA), I equate it to the feeling after one devours a Kitchen Sink sundae at the Beaches and Cream restaurant in the Beach Club Resort.

Remnants of a Kitchen Sink sundae on a table in the Beaches and Cream restaurant, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Remnants of a Kitchen Sink sundae left on a table at Beaches and Cream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV -0.3, 105mm focal length.

What's that you say? You have never heard of the Kitchen Sink sundae? Below is a picture of it.

The Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae being delivered at the Beaches and Cream restaurant, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae being delivered at the Beaches and Cream restaurant.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/4.8, ISO 1000, EV -0.3, 55mm Focal Length.

I bet you feel stuffed just looking at it. Happy Thanksgiving from the US of A!

November 22, 2013

Photographing Tutto Italia Desserts in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When Travel and Food Photography mix, I like to include members of my party in my food photos. In this case, my daughters presented their dessert choices after our meal at Tutto Italia in Epcot's Italy pavilion.

My youngest decided she did not really like what Tutto Italia had for dessert. The server was kind enough to get her a simple ice cream dessert with a chocolate cookie stick. As you can see, she was very happy with it.

Ice cream dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ice cream dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

My eldest ordered the Gianduja-Chocolate Torta which is a chocolate and hazelnut torte with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. She determined it to be delicious.

Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length.

I also got a more traditional food picture of the Cannoli ordered by another member of my party. It must have been good as it was gone before I got a second shot at it.

Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

Remember to include members of your dining party in your visits to any of the wonderful Walt Disney World restaurants. Not just the Character Meals. They make for fun and memorable photographs.

November 15, 2013

Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I got to enjoy the attractions added last year to Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom for the first time. Having spent most of the day at Epcot, I arrived as night was beginning to fall. I set up across from the Under the Sea -- Journey of the Little Mermaid where Ariel was hanging around its entrance. Having to use long shutter speeds for proper exposures at night, I used a tripod to steady my camera.

Ariel hanging around the entrance to Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ariel hanging around the entrance to Under the Sea -- Journey of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 5s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 105mm focal length, tripod.

From the bridge to the Be Our Guest restaurant is a beautifully lighted waterfall. I am amazed at how you can still photograph stars over the attractions at night. Disney does a good job of minimizing light pollution to enhance the lights, parades and fireworks shows.

Waterfall near the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Waterfall near the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 1600, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

As I left Fantasyland towards the Haunted Mansion, Rapunzel's Tower loomed over the lanterns of her kingdom at the best themed restrooms in Walt Disney World.

Rapunzel's Tower from the movie Tangled in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rapunzel's Tower from the movie Tangled in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 4s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 82mm focal length, tripod.

In the past, I talked about how bringing a tripod in the parks is not hard to do if you rent a locker. Did you know, if you change parks on the same day, you only have to pay for a locker once? Bring your receipt and you can get a locker by just paying the deposit at the next park. You get that back at the end of the night.

November 8, 2013

Fisheyed Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A fisheye lens is an ultra-ultra wide-angle lens that produces strong visual distortion intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view by forgoing producing images with straight lines of perspective (rectilinear images), opting instead for a special mapping (for example: equisolid angle), which gives images a characteristic convex non-rectilinear appearance (Source: Wikipedia).

Did you get all that? Fisheyes have been a favorite fun lens for Disney photographers for years. The lens, as the above definition says in a round about, distorts straight lines near the edges. That effect can ruin a photo unless used creatively. Earlier this year, I obtained a Sigma 15mm Fisheye lens for my Nikon D700 FX (full frame) dSLR camera. Last week, I used it at Walt Disney World for the first time. Let's see how I did.

I look for three conditions when I am shooting with a Fisheye lens:

1. Compositions with curved or circular objects which wrap around the image.
2. Put something of interest in the center and let straight lines get bent to lead people to the frame's center.
3. When a Fisheye is the only way to get far enough away from a subject to photograph it in cramped quarters (like a ride queue).

The huge red guitar outside of the building containing the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios was a perfect subject for a Fisheye composition. The curves of the piano keys, guitar, palm trees and even the railing all work to create the uniqueness of a Fisheye photograph. You will also notice how close I got. I was learning over the railing to get as close to those piano keys as I could. Just like any wide angle lens, you want to get as close to the main subject as you can. It is easy to loose a subject in the extreme wide angle of a Fisheye and make a photo confusing.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster building in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster building in Disney's Hollywood Studio.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/640s, f/13, ISO 200, EV 0.

With the Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I got in real close and let the Fisheye distort all the straight lines of the nearby celebrity busts, palm trees, lines in the pavement and building. Notice how the bust itself is relatively distortion free.

Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0.

In the Test Track queue where you can use the giant touch screens to design cars, it is really tight quarters for even a wide angle lens. The Fisheye worked great to tell the story of how Disney entertains and educates even while waiting in line.

A young woman designing a car in the queue for Test Track in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young woman designing a car in the queue for Test Track.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 3200, EV 0.

You will see more Fisheye photos in the future as I found it a fun and useful lens to have in Disney themeparks.

November 1, 2013

Halloween at Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Partners Statue decorated for Halloween in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Partners Statue decorated for Halloween in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0.

Disneyland for Halloween was just as much fun as its Florida counterpart. Decorations were found up and down Main Street USA and throughout the Lands. Even the Partners Statue in the Hub area in front of Show White's Castle was in the Halloween spirit with pumpkins and autumn flowers surrounding the base of the statue.

Over in Frontierland, Mexico's Day of the Dead is honored with colorful decorations, skeletons and a plaque explaining the holiday to those unfamiliar with it.

Day of the Dead decoration in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Day of the Dead decoration in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Then there is the Haunted Manison which for the last 13 years has gotten transformed into the Haunted Mansion Holiday featuring characters from the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Guests get an idea of the changes as they enter through the Haunted Mansion's gate.

Haunted Mansion Holiday gate in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Guests entering the Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

I do not want to spoil anyone's experience inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday but you will see transformations and additions to the classic attraction. Like these singing pumpkins which might remind you of some Grim, Grinning Ghosts.

Grim, Grinning Pumpkins inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Grim, Grinning Pumpkins perform inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday.

I loved Disney's way of celebrating Halloween at Disneyland.

October 25, 2013

Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Buena Vista Street lamppost sign in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Buena Vista Street lamppost sign.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 360, EV 0, 210mm focal length.

Disney parks are known for their Main Streets. In Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, I have walked up Main Street USA. In Disney's Hollywood Studios, it's Hollywood Boulevard. For California Adventure, Buena Vista Street is where you enter the park and takes you back to the time when Walt Disney first came to Los Angeles in 1923. Complete with buildings, characters and music from the era. There is even a Red Car Trolley to transport you up the street, around Carthay Circle and off to Hollywoodland.

Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Like its other themepark Main Streets, Buena Vista Street is full of stores where you can buy all manner of souvenirs, clothing, gadgets, toys, candy, coffee, baked goods, fresh fruit and accessories for your digital lifestyle. You will find helpful Cast Members ready to answer your questions about the park, assist you with a problem and trade the ever popular Disney pins.

Cast Member ready to trade pins on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Cast Member ready to trade pins on Buena Vista Street.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

At the end of Buena Vista Street is Carthay Circle. Carthay Circle is the "hub" of Disney's California Adventure. Throughout the day you will find entertainment in the way of Five & Dime (the gal is named Dime) and the Red Car News Boys with a very Walt Disney like costumed Mickey Mouse reliving the days when anything seemed possible in California.

Entertainers performing around Carthay Circle in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Entertainers performing around Carthay Circle.

I always smile when I find a reference to Walt Disney in the parks. In one of the display windows of Elias And Company, I found this publicity photograph of Walt Disney nicely matted.

Photo of Walt Disney in the Elias & Co. store window on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Photo of Walt Disney in the Elias & Co. store window.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 250, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Buena Vista Street is full of great details to find and photograph, wonderful atmosphere and the famous Disney Magic. Fits right into my definition of a Disney Main Street.

October 11, 2013

Postcard from Carsland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Scott is still on vacation. We did receive this Postcard from Radiator Springs and thought we would share it with you.

Hi, to all my All Ears friends and family!

I am having a wonderful time out here in Radiator Springs. While seeing it in the movies was extraordinary, visiting the actual location where Lightning McQueen and Mater met and became friends is even better.

Radiator Springs Metal Sign in Radiator Springs Curios, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Radiator Springs Metal Sign.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 3600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Watching visiting Cars take tourists on rides through Ornament Valley by cruising past Firewall Falls and flying around Willy's Butte on the high banks is breathtaking.

Cars race around Willy's Butte in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Cars race around Willy's Butte in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/4.5, ISO 280, EV 0, 56mm focal length.

I got a few panning photos to give you an idea of the speed of these finely tuned racers. Each car either gets a new set of tires from Lugi's or a sweet paint job from Ramone and tips from Doc Hudson before starting the race.

Radiator Springs Racers, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Radiator Springs Racers.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/22, ISO 200, EV -1.3, 28mm focal length.

I was lucky as I got to meet Mater. He was going out to do some Tractor Tipping out past Ornament Valley.

Mater from the movie, Cars, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Mater from the movie, Cars.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

If meeting Mater wasn't enough, I came upon Lightning McQueen cruising past Flo's V8 Café. He gave me his best Ka-chow before checking in at the Cozy Cone.

Lightning McQueen from the movie, Cars, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Lightning McQueen from the movie, Cars.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/13, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

You have not really seen Radiator Springs until after the Sun goes down and the proprietors turn on their neon lighting. Flo's V8 Café took on a magical look which brought in a lot of customers.

Flo's V8 Café at night in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Flo's V8 Café at night in Carsland.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 5s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 14mm focal length, tripod.

Time to go. Mater promised me a night run out to Ornament Valley. Wish you were here!

Ka-chow,

Scott

October 4, 2013

Canadian Rockies in Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Canadian Rocky Mountains in the Canada pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Canadian Rocky Mountains in the Canada pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/29, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 34mm focal length.

This week Scott is photographing in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado which are simliar to the Canadian Rockies you see in Epcot's Canada pavilion. You can continue to follow Scott's adventure on his Twitter account @sthomasphotos or his personal photoblog at Views Infinitum.

As always, you can follow @Scottwdw on Twitter for his Disney feed.

September 27, 2013

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Rock Formations

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Imagineered rock formations on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imagineered rock formations on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

After leaving Disneyland, Scott is now in the American Southwest photographing colorful rock formations like those seen around the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom. You can follow Scott's adventure on his Twitter account @sthomasphotos or his personal photoblog