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August 22, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot Landscape

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Okay, I cheated this week for Epcot's Landscape Photography photo. Yes, I choose this photo from The Land's Soarin' Around the World presentation using the widest lens I own, a 15mm Fisheye lens.

Soarin' Around the World in The Land pavilion in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Soarin' Around the World in The Land pavilion.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

The characteristics of a Fisheye lens is on full display here as it curves everything around it's center focal point. Using the people's feet above and the edge below you get a grand view of Monument Valley. Hope you can forgive my cheating here.

Deb will be here to share her Epcot Landscape photo tomorrow. I bet she does not cheat.





August 15, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Disney's Animal Kingdom Landscape

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Of all the parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom has wonderful landscape photography locations if you know where to look. Below is a photo taken back in 2009 which is why you do not see the recently added seating for the night time Rivers of Light show. I photographed Expedition EVEREST late in the day which is why you see the golden light of the setting Sun and the almost full Moon raising behind it.

Expedition EVEREST and Moon reflected in the water at Disney's Animal Kingdom , Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Expedition EVEREST and Moon reflected in the water at Disney's Animal Kingdom .
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/22, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 44mm Focal Length.

In this case, while the lens I used was not very wide, I did use another trait of landscape photography called hyperfocus or hyperfocal distance. A really cool concept to learn.

Deb will be here to share her Disney's Animal Kingdom Landscape photo tomorrow.






July 25, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: 1990s

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Lobby of the Tower of Terror in the Disney/MGM Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Black and White photo of the Tower of Terror's lobby in the Disney/MGM Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV -0.6, 18mm Focal Length.

The old Disney/MGM Studios arrived on May 1st, 1989. My favorite attraction/ride in this park did not arrive until 1994. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was an instant hit with me being a fan of the Rod Serling serial television show from the 1950's and 1960's. I often would convert my color photos for the Tower of Terror to Black and White as most of the shows were filmed in.

Deb will be here tomorrow with a photo from the 1990's at the Studios.





June 30, 2017

Still Using HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Even with today's software tools like MacPhun's Intensify, I still find taking a set of photographs to create High Dynamic Range or HDR images worth my time in the field and in the digital dark room.

With my cameras from Nikon, it is easy to create a bracketed set of image from -2 to +2 exposures. I stick with five photos one EV apart. Other manufacturers even do HDR in the camera which is quite impressive.

Today, I use MacPhun's Aurora 2017 HDR software as a plug-in to Adobe's Lightroom CC photo editing and management program. After selecting an HDR set of photos I export them to Aurora where they get imported. Once the five photos are merged. I have many pre-sets to choose from. They range from very realistic to very unrealistic. In the case of the Yeti Shrine at Disney's Animal Kingdom, I liked the pre-set which gave the image a painterly feel to it.

Yeti Shrine in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Yeti Shrine in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 70mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

Later, after the Sun had set and dusk was coming on, I set up at tripod and took a set of bracketed images of the Tree of Life. I did this before the lighting, just becoming visible, was noticed by other guests. I framed it so one of the new carvings (American Bison or Buffalo) would be the foreground interest.

Tree of Life in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tree of Life in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

As good as today's camera sensors are, using techniques like HDR still are needed at times when lighting and shadows in a scene become challenging.





June 9, 2017

Launching at Rock'n'Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Rock'n'Roller Coaster launch in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rock'n'Roller Coaster launch in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/5s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV 0, 18mm Focal Length, cropped.

Seems life goes from 0 to 60MPH in 2.3 seconds these days for Scott so he is taking a break this week. He will be back next week to share more photography tips for and from Disney.

June 2, 2017

Test Track Zoom Zoom at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Riding Test Track in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Riding Test Track in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Life for Scott lately has been zooming by so he is taking a break the next two weeks. He will be back soon to share more photography tips for and from Disney.

May 19, 2017

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoyed Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It is not a show with a lot of "Wow" factor like a fireworks show. The music, floats and use of projections on water is very soothing. I will say my experience in watching it was not enjoyable.

I saw Rivers of Light in its third week of production. Yet, the Cast Members seating people were not prepared for what happened to my wife and I. We had used a Dining Package at Tusker House so we would not have to fight the crowd to get a good seat. Our server told us to show up about 30 minutes before the show. Turns out that was not a good idea. Even though we had tickets showing we should be seated in the reserved area, the area was already full. Confused, I asked how this could be? Again, the Cast Members did not have an answer. I had to be very firm with them to get into the handicap area so we could watch the show while standing.

The photos are not from a very good viewing location because of this. You can see poles and lights and I did the best I could.

The boats are a challenge as they move slowly but they still move. I decided to use spot metering and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second for the show and let the ISO climb as needed up to 6400.

Boat float in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Boat float in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +1, 116mm focal length.

The lighted animal floats are much easier to photograph as they are lighted.

Lighted animal floats in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lighted animal floats in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +1, 116mm focal length.

Towards the end of the show, every float used in the show are in the lagoon. It is a beautiful sight.

Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +1, 28mm focal length.

While my experience was not what I am used to at Walt Disney World, I will go see this show again. Hopefully with a Fast Pass and will show up a lot earlier. I wonder if Disney should look into a full reservation system for shows presented in an auditorium or amphitheater setting.

I did complain to Disney and have talked with a Customer Service Cast Member. I hope my feedback will improve other's experience at Rivers of Light in the future.

April 28, 2017

Geometrics at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

An image having a strong organization of shapes and forms, which is essentially the geometric elements of the photo, will create a strong composition. When I think Disney and geometric elements, I think Epcot's Future World.

The architecture of the pavilions use many geometric shpapes starting with the triangles on Spaceship Earth. In fact there are 11,324 individual triangles which make up the exterior of Spaceship Earth. Each one is an isosceles triangle meaning two of the three sides must be of equal length.

Triangle surfaces make up the exterior of Spaceship Earth at Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Triangle surfaces make up the exterior of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

Looking at the glass structure of the Imagination pavillion, notice the steel framework. They are all parallelograms which repeat over and over.

Parallelograms framework on Imagination pavilion in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Parallelograms framework on the Imagination pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, tripod, HDR Image.

Getting away from straight lines and angles, Epcot's Mission Space pavilion is more rounded with curves and spheres.

Curves and spheres of Mission Space in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Curves and spheres of Mission Space.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

You can find geometrics everywhere around us not just in Man-made structures but in Nature, too. Look for them the next time you are out photographing at Walt Disney World or in your backyard.

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.

February 21, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Mission: SPACE

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

With clouds above, I used a set of 5 photographs from -2EV to +2EV to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of Mission: SPACE in Epcot's Future World.

Mission: SPACE pavilion in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mission: SPACE pavilion in Epcot's Future World in HDR.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/16, ISO 220, EV 0, 19mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Mission: SPACE photo on our tour of Epcot's Future World.

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 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.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 1, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Macro

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I do not own a Macro (or Micro in Nikon speak) lens and have never brought one to Walt Disney World. It would be interesting to explore Disney through such a lens. Imagine the detail you could find with one.

Like last week, you can get a Macro like image by cropping which is what I did below with the butterfly I found one day in Epcot's World Showcase. With insects, you have to be patient and wait for them to stop moving long enough to get a good, sharp image.

Butterfly on a flower bush in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Butterfly on a flower bush in Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length, cropped.

In the past on my personal photography blog, I have explored a few ways to create Macro images: Close Up Photography 101

I rented a true Macro (Micro) lens once, too: Weekend with Macro

Here are more Macro tips: Quick Overview of How to do Macro Photography

Many smartphones and cameras today have Macro capabilities and settings. Check to see if your's does.

Deb will share her peek at a small world tomorrow.

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 9, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Action

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Action photography is something I do all the time in my role as team photographer for an American Hockey League team. You can either capture action with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. This lets people see and study the action in ways they can not do by watching the action. Or, you can use a slow shutter speed which blurs the action giving the photo a sense of motion and speed.

I went the slow shutter speed method when I photographed Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I wanted to give the sense of speed and thrill this ride gives riders.

Guests fly down the side of Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests fly down the side of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/22, ISO 100, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I processed this photo with Macphun's Intensify Pro CK using the Soft HDR filter.

Deb will be here tomorrow with some action of her own.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 27, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Changes are in the air over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, too, as Disney prepares the park of a new night time entertainment experience. Even the Tree of Life is having every one of its leaves replaced. That is like 103,000 of them! The image below was taken in October of 2014 before the leaf changeover had begun.

The Tree of Life on Discovery Island in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Tree of Life on Discovery Island in HDR.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, HDR Image.

I took this photo a little after noon and the Sun angle was not very flattering on the tree. I knew a single photo would not capture the tree's carvings which were in deep shade. Instead, I took a series of five photos from two stops underexposed to two stops overexposed and combined them into a High Dynamic Range image. Much better.

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.

December 9, 2014

Disney Pic of the Week: Christmas Lights

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When it comes to Christmas Lights, you would be hard pressed to find something as spectacular as the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This display has evolved from a fairly static version when the Osborne Lights first appeared on Residential Street of the old Backlot Tour in 1995 to today's electronic light shows to up beat holiday tunes on the Streets of America.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 15mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Deb and I were thinking alike this week as you will see tomorrow.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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

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 9, 2014

Hall of Presidents Lobby in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Hall of Presidents' lobby in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fisheye view of the lobby inside the Hall of Presidents.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/6s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0.

The above photo took two years to get it right. The first time I attempted this photo, I did not notice the release cable was in the corner of the frame. The railing surrounding The Great Seal of the United States confounded any skill I had in removing the cable without ruining the image. Last December, when I again visited the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, I had my new Fisheye lens which captured even more of the lobby than the wide angle lens I used previously. As luck with have it, the last show of the night was about to start. I waited for everyone to exit the lobby and took this photo.

A patriotic scene for the Disney Pic of the Week for the Magic Kingdom.

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 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 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.

August 30, 2013

Anchoring Your Disney Photographs

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In Landscape Photography, the use of an Anchor Point is commonly used in compositions. An anchor point is an item in the foreground that is in focus that the eye can lock on to and then wander out into the photograph. You can use this concept in your Disney photos to improve your compositions and bring a professional quality to your photography.

The anchor point in the photo of the Victoria Gardens in Epcot's Canada pavilion in the World Showcase is the plaque rock. Notice how you see the rock first before your eyes move into the flowers and trees beyond.

Victoria Gardens tribute in Canada of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Victoria Gardens Plaque Rock is the Anchor Point.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length,.

In nature landscape photography you will often see rocks, trees or flowers used as anchor points as I did at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). I only needed to wait for a monorail to complete the picture.

Monorail Green leaving the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) on the Resort Hotel line, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The flowers anchor this photo of Monorail Green leaving the TTC.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length,.

In Disney parks, anchor points could be anything.

The Partners statue in the hub in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
What is the Anchor Point of this photograph?
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 15mm focal length,.

For instance, the Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle. Next time you are out photographing, try to compose photos using anchor points.

July 5, 2013

Declaration of Independence in the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ben Franklin listens to Thomas Jefferson reading from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence in a scene from the American Adventure in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Scott is off this week. Probably recovering from a good old American cookout in celebration of the 4th of July holiday in the United States of America. He wanted to share this scene from Epcot's American Adventure to remind his fellow patriots of the history behind our annual day of celebration and fireworks.

Scott will return in two weeks with more Disney photos to share.

July 2, 2013

Disney Pic of the Week: Pirates of the Caribbean, the Movie

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Raise your hands if you thought Disney would be successful in making movies based on themepark rides or attractions? I wonder how many of you would have raised your hands before the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Curse of the Black Pearl. Now with four movies in the series with a fifth in the works, it is safe to say this movie ride far surpassed anyone's expectations.

It helps to have a great cast and, none more important, than Johnny Depp as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. A character who now has his own show at the Magic Kingdom and audio-animatronics of himself added to the ride in the first ever change to the Pirates of the Caribbean storyline. I even had the good fortune of meeting Captain Jack during a media event back in 2011. He was just as charming in person as in the movies.

Blog photograher and his wife with Captain Jack Sparrow at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Scott and his wife with Captain Jack Sparrow.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV 0, 32mm focal length, rear-sync flash.

TIP: Look who got in a photo! I handed my camera over to a PhotoPass Photographer. Remember, they will use your camera upon request. Make sure it is all set to go like mine was.

Lisa will be here on Thursday to share her Disney Pic of the Week on Pirates of the Caribbean (Movie).

June 7, 2013

Splash Mountain Motion in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For the next four weeks I am going to go around the World of Disney and share a photo from each of the Walt Disney World parks starting with the Magic Kingdom. I will tell you how I took each photo and link to relevant posts for research if you wish to find out more.

This is a photo I planned to get in advance. I wanted a photo to show motion and the Splash Mountain ride in Frontierland immediately came to mind. To take this photo I needed a slow shutter speed but not so slow the log and people in it would become invisible. The rest of the image had to be sharp and I did not have a tripod. When I need to hand hold a slow shutter speed, I use Joe McNally's Da Grip Camera Holding Technique.

Setting the camera to Shutter Priority mode, I photographed the scene using several shutter speeds between 1/2 of a second to 1/80th of a second. I found this one at 1/15th of a second to best fit my vision.

Guests drop down the Splash Mountain waterfall in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests drop down the 52 foot Splash Mountain waterfall.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/20, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 122mm focal length.

With all the moving rides and attractions in Walt Disney World, capturing motion in a still photograph is a fun way to jazz up your vacation photos.

May 10, 2013

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When you use Auto mode with a digital SLR camera, the programing in the camera will do its best to give you a "good" exposure. Even in Program mode if you do not understand how to use it, the camera will give you a "good" exposure. I put good in quotes because, while you will get "good" exposure, I would say 9 times out of 10, the exposure will not be the one you were looking for.

I say this because what our eyes see and what the camera sees are very different. The camera in Auto or Program mode will go for safe exposures meaning it will give you the fastest shutter speed first before setting the Aperture (which controls the depth of field or area of focus) and ISO which controls how grainy the final image will be.

By using Program mode correctly or changing to Aperture (A) mode, you take control of the depth of field. Below are three examples where I took control of the Aperture. I wanted a large area of focus to cover from the front to the back of the image. This would put everything in focus. Many travel images you see in magazines and on websites are photographed this way.

The first was taken from a Friendship boat leaving the Swan & Dolphin Resort dock heading to Epcot's International Gateway. I wanted people to know where I took if from and the relationship between the boat and the resort.

Dolphin Resort from a Friendship boat, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Dolphin Resort from a Friendship boat.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 400, EV +03, 28mm focal length.

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom was taken in mid-afternoon. I used five bracketed photos to create the HDR image to make sure to cover the full range of light from the dark shadows under the tree to the bright sky. Each photo was taken with a small aperture for maximum depth of field. Every plant in the foreground is as sharply focused as each carved animal on the Tree of Life.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, HDR image.

I photographed a few trains at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom before I got the engine positioned at the top of the grade with the large rock formation behind it. A small aperture was used to keep sharp focus from the train back to the towering rocks. Well, except for a little blurring of the train since it was moving which was what I wanted, too.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Each of the photos above were taken at an aperture of f/16. That is a good setting to start with. If you use a Point & Shoot camera, look for the Landscape mode setting for the same effect.

April 19, 2013

Being Creative with Crowds at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here's a fun way to approach photographing in busy tourist attractions like Walt Disney World. Be creative! Easier said than done I can hear you saying. Really, when confronted with people everywhere, start looking from different angles, get low, get high or just tilt your camera.

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you how I used guests watching a show in front of Cinderella Castle to create a good travel photograph. The photo today was taken a little before that one. I tilted my camera to eliminate most of the people and included the Partners Statue with the castle as a backdrop.

A creative view of the Partners Statue in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A creative view of the Partners Statue.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

There is almost no such thing as an unique photo taken at Walt Disney World anymore. Many people told me this was until I told them I had seen this idea done by another photographer. I got down on my stomach in front of Spaceship Earth and, using Aperture Priority mode, dialed in an f/18 aperture to get lots of depth of field. I know those are people's legs and feet in the photo. Can you recognize any of them?

A low view of people walking towards Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A low view of people walking towards Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, tripod.

Disney park fans have a saying, "Look up, look down". I have an addition for Disney park photographers, get LOW, get HIGH and look ALL around. Let your creativity go and enjoy the magic!

I will conclude this series next week with something Disney has always been famous for. Can you guess?

April 12, 2013

Play the Waiting Game at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Returning to Epcot for another tip on photographing in busy tourist attractions using Walt Disney World examples. This one can be tough if you are traveling with children but not impossible. Even as busy as a Disney themepark can be, if you wait a bit, an opportunity will present itself.

The first photo of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the China pavilion, I took at 6:27PM. People were still going in and out and walking about the area.

People are seen entering the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the China pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
People are seen entering the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the China pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod.

I really wanted a people free photo so I waited. It only took 20 minutes and the Cast Members had closed the doors to the attraction. People would still walk up to the building but not very often. I was able to capture the scene a few times without anyone entering or leaving the frame.

A quiet Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the China pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A quiet Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in the China pavilion at Epcot.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod.

The added benefit of waiting was the start of Blue Hour which added color to the sky. Next time, take a few added minutes to see if where you are photographing clears of people, even at Walt Disney World.

March 22, 2013

Photographing at Night in Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I recently read an article about photography tips for busy tourist attractions. I think Walt Disney World qualifies as such a place. The first tip was to get up early to avoid the crowds. I have to agree this works for many tourist areas in the world but Disney parks are not accessible in the early morning. The exceptions being if you get an early dining reservation for a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom or Epcot before they are open to guests.

For the most part, the best way to not get other guests in your photos is to stay after hours. This works especially well on Extra Magic Hour nights as many people leave before the park closes.

After Illuminations, people stream out of the World Showcase area and is a favorite time for photographers to enjoy people free time with the pavilions. Such was the case when I set up a tripod in France just fifteen minutes after the fireworks show ended.

France pavilion at night in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
France pavilion at night in Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.
While attending Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, I noticed the Hall of Presidents was still open around midnight. The lobby was empty and the Cast Members did not mind me setting up a tripod to take some photographs. A few guests would come through once in a while. For the most part, the place was empty.
Hall of Presidents foyer in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Hall of Presidents foyer in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

I know for many people, staying late is not an option. I will be back next week with more ideas.

January 18, 2013

LIberty Bell at Night in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A replica of the famous Liberty Bell was specially cast from the original mold for Walt Disney World and placed in Liberty Square in 1989. Surrounding the Liberty Bell are the flags of the original thirteen colonies. For more fascinating information, visit Jack Spence's Liberty Square Odds & Ends article

Liberty Bell location in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell location in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 8s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

During the day, it is hard to get photos of the Liberty Bell unless you get in close and low like Barrie (remember her?) did here: National Treasure: Liberty Bell.

Using a wide angle lens and tripod during Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom one night, I was able to photograph the Liberty Bell from various angles.

Liberty Bell informational plaque in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell informational plaque.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

The wide angle lens allowed me to include the beautiful Hall of Presidents attraction in the background. The small aperture of f/16 created the starlight effects in the lights.

Liberty Bell and the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell and the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 15s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

The Liberty Bell is a rather large and easy to find Liberty Square detail. Do you know of other details found in this Magic Kingdom Land?

January 15, 2013

Disney Pic of the Week: Illuminations

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The current Illuminations fireworks show, Reflections of Earth, is a fabulous show right in the heart of Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. I believe it it the closest guests get to a Disney fireworks show at Walt Disney World.

I recently shared with you photography tips and a new favorite location for Illuminations. For this Disney Pic of the Week on Illuminations, I have a unique photo I took when I was with a group of photographers. I had come late to the meeting location and got in behind a few of them. Not getting the best view, I decided to include one of the camera's photographing the show. I set my focus for the show to get nice fireworks streams. Hope you like it.

Illuminations camera at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations camera at Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 17.3s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, 3-stop ND filter.

Lisa will be here on Thursday with her Illuminations photo.

January 11, 2013

Photographing Disney's Polynesian Resort Lobby

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have yet to stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. I have found many reasons to visit as the lobby is one of the best places to hang out while waiting for a dining reservation at either 'Ohana or Kona Cafe restaurants. In the case of the next two photos, I was enjoying the tropical atmosphere while my wife and daughter shopped.

Working a subject like the Polynesian Resort's lobby is instructional and fun. The lobby is colorful with waterfalls and flowing water. Wide walkways on the first and second floors give you lots of room to use a tripod if you have one. When I took these photos, my tripod was back in my room. Instead, I used my favorite hand holding technique called Da Grip which I learned from National Geographic photographer Joe McNally.

The first photo of the Polynesian Resort lobby is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I took this standing up and moved in as close as I could. Zoomed in to 48mm to create a composition using vegetation as a frame, a waterfall as the main subject and elements of the resort's lobby in the background. You can see the upstairs walkway and the sign for the BouTIKI gift shop.

Disney's Polynesian Resort beautifully landscaped lobby captured in HDR, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort's beautifully landscaped lobby captured in HDR.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/8, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 48mm focal length, hand-held, HDR Image.

In the second photo, I kneeled down to be level with the waterfall and made this pleasing composition with the Rule of Thirds in mind. Using Da Grip, I was able to photograph it hand-held at 1/8th of a second shutter speed giving the water motion a soft look.

Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfall, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfall.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/8s, f/4.2, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 48mm focal length.

Fast forward a year and as I was waiting for my family's breakfast reservation at Kona Cafe for a helping of Tonga Toast, I photographed a Christmas decorated Polynesian Resort lobby with lots of poinsettia plants added to the waterfalls. In this case, I was above the waterfalls on the second floor walkway and used a wider field of view. The slow shutter speed of 1/15th of a second (hand held again) gave the flowing water a nice softness.

Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfalls at Christmas, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfalls at Christmas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

You can do this with any photography subject including people. Walk around the subject or subjects and view it from all sides and angles especially low and high. You will be amazed at the number of different photographs you can create this way.

December 21, 2012

Wishes Christmas Card from the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Wishes Christmas Card from the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wishes Christmas Card from the Magic Kingdom.

A scanned image of my family's Christmas card for this year. My friend and Disney contract photographer, Bob Desmond, who was kind enough to take on the challenge when I first proposed a photo of my family during the production of Wishes, the nightly fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom. Not only did we have to secure the location Bob had scouted out for us a couple of hours ahead of time, Bob and I had to keep people from crowding in too close. Many of you know how hard that is to do. Bob came prepared with a tripod, remote release, camera, flash, knowledge of the show, a wide angle lens to be able to work in close quarters and still get my family, Cinderella Castle and the fireworks in one frame and patience to handle the crowd and his subjects, us.

For our part, we had to smile for the initial flash which exposed us correctly and stand still during the 15 to 20 second shutter time needed to capture the fireworks going off behind us. Let me tell you, it was hard not to turn around and enjoy the show like the hundreds of people surrounding us. In fact, just to the right and left of us where kids and adults leaning and sitting on the fence.

I can not leave you with the poorly scanned card image above. Here is Bob's final photo which he sent to me. It will be treasured by my wife and I for years to come.

Wishes family portrait in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wishes family portrait in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D7000/Nikon 10-20mm, 20.4s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 10mm focal length, tripod, front sync flash.

As the card says...Merry Christmas! I will not have a Friday post next week but Lisa and I will have a special Disney Pic of the Week for you. I will return in the New Year with more photographic fun and tips from the Disney themeparks and resorts.

December 7, 2012

Illuminations from Showcase Plaza

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As you walk from Future World to World Showcase in Epcot along the central promenade, there is an open area between the two stores called the Showcase Plaza. The plaza angles downward to the edge of the World Showcase Lagoon. At night, some of this area may be roped off for special groups and events for Illuminations, the nightly fireworks show.

While it is great to photograph Illuminations along the fence especially in Italy and, if available, in the plaza between the United Kingdom and France. I liked setting up my tripod at the top of the Showcase Plaza "hill". There is enough elevation to shoot over the heads of the people in front of you. My only regret was not getting there early enough to line up my camera between the two pillars. Instead, you will see one of them in my photos below.

I used a Neutral Density or ND filter and remote shutter release. I set my camera in Manual mode and used the Bulb shutter setting. This allowed me to control how long the shutter was left open. Click Here for more details on how to use an ND filter for fireworks. I placed a wide angle lens on my camera as I wanted to capture the fireworks which come in from the sides of the lagoon. I cropped as needed.

Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 32.8s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

On this one below, I cropped it vertical. I like how the fireworks stacked up in layers over the long 41 second exposure time. You can also see the lasers coming from the American Adventure in the smoke.

Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 41.5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

These last two use much shorter shutter speeds as the show was approaching the grande finale and there was a lot more fireworks being launched. The arching firework streams from the side is what I was looking for.

Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 20s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.
Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Illuminations fireworks show in Epcot.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 17.7s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

I know there are other popular locations to photograph Illuminations from. However, seeing it from the Showcase Plaza location, you do not have some of the obstructions which are in front of the country pavilions. The sloped plaza makes it easier for people to see the show even if there are lots of other guests in front of them. Give it a try the next time you visit Epcot.

November 16, 2012

A Disney Photographer's Christmas List

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Can you believe it will be Thanksgiving next week here in the United States? Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties have started and the Dream Lights are back on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World. The calendar is giving us an extra week of Christmas shopping and I thought I would give you a few suggestions for the Disney photographer in your family which could be you. Good time to update your online gift lists of your loved ones or maybe yourself. ;-)


Stocking Stuffers

Sanyo Rechargeable AA Batteries with Charger - If you have a camera, flash or other accessory which uses batteries of any size, these Sanyo eneloop brand rechargeable batteries will save you a lot of money and the environment. They even come per-charged.

Universal Pop-Up LCD Shades - these are prefect in bright sunlight to allow you to see your camera's LCD screen. They come in sizes for 2.5-Inch LCD Screens and 3.0-Inch LCD Screens.

Dolica 77mm Neutral Density Filter Kit - For those wanting to capture really long exposures of fireworks shows, waterfalls and other moving objects, this set of three ND filters come with 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop filters which can be stacked up to 6 stops. Click here for more information on how to use Neutral Density filters and what kind of results you can get at Walt Disney World and elsewhere.

Joby GorillaPod Flexible Tripods - Sometimes you do not want to travel or carry a large tripod. GorillaPods are small, light weight and extremely handy to use in the parks. They come in models for Large Digital SLR cameras and Small Point & Shoot Digital cameras.


For Under the Tree

OP/TECH Pro Loop Camera Strap - the straps which come with our cameras are not very comfortable and advertise to the whole world what kind of camera we are carrying. This OP-TECH strap is very comfortable and allows the padded strap to be detached for use on tripods or Gorillapods.

Manfrotto Tripod with Ball Head - speaking of tripods, if you want to do any serious low light or night photography, you need one. This light weight Manfrotto is built of quality materials and comes with a ball head which is what us good photographers use.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera By Bryan Peterson - still THE best book on learning photography. This edition has been updated for today's digital cameras. Perfect gift for a beginner or long time photographer.

Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Boxed Set - Scott Kelby covers all aspects of photography in this four volume book set in short, concise and easy to follow manner. If you need to know how to do something in photography, these books will have it. Read them straight through and/or for a ready reference.


Gifts for the Special Photographer in Your Life

Nikon D3200 Digital SLR with 18-55mm Lens - time to move up from a mobile phone or Point & Shoot camera? This introductory camera and lens from Nikon is just the ticket. Look for sales at the major electronics and department stores this season for this and other introductory dSLR camera kits.

Nifty Fifties - If you just got (or asked for) a new digital SLR camera, then get or ask for one of the Nifty-Fifties from either Nikon or Canon. Own something else, check for that camera's version.

Super Zooms - for traveling to Disney themeparks or anywhere else in the world, I find quality super zooms to save me space, weight and time. I own Nikon so I can only recommend them. Canon, Sigma, Tokina and other manufacturers also have quality super zooms. Nikon has two for their DX camera line: Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom Nikkor Lens (this is the lens I used for years here on the blog) and the new, longer Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX Nikkor Lens.

Have a safe Black Friday everyone! Oh, and a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

November 1, 2012

Halloween Lighting for the Haunted Mansion

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Haunted Mansion lighting during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Haunted Mansion lighting during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/30s, f/11, ISO 500, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, many areas of the Magic Kingdom get enhanced atmospheric (aka fog) and lighting. The Haunted Mansion is the perfect attraction for this and is my Disney Pic of the Week for the Haunted Mansion.

October 26, 2012

More Halloween Fun in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is that time when I can get out photos from past Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties I have attended the last two years. Remember last year when the Cadaver Dans paid us a visit and those great special effects at the Haunted Mansion? Here are a few more photos to share with you.

A collage of Halloween fun during a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Halloween fun during a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

From top left going clockwise; The Headless Horseman leads off the Boo To You Parade, Ghost of Lady Renata in front of the Haunted Mansion, HalloWishes grand finale behind Cinderella Castle and a zombie marching in the parade on Main Street USA.

October 19, 2012

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For those of you who have attended a special event at Disney's Hollywood Studios like Star Wars Weekend or maybe an ESPN Weekend, you know about the area past Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and to the side of the Tower of Terror. I had only been back there during the day previously.

Three weekends ago, I attended the Villain's Bash Party in conjunction with the inaugural running of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler by runDisney. This gave me an opportunity to bring in my tripod and do some shooting for a couple of hours before my daughter, who ran in the race, crossed the finish line.

First, I want to show you what I considered the best one shot exposure. As always, the Exif data is below the photo.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 13s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length, tripod.

From that setting I bracketed around it eight more exposures in one stop intervals (1/2s, 1s, 2s, 4s, 8s, 25s, 60s, 120s). The last two are approximate as I was using my Apple iPhone's Stop Watch App to know when to close the shutter. I processed the nine photos in Photomatix Pro 4 Plugin for Aperture. I applied a favorite preset, adjusted to my liking and finished processing in Aperture 3.4 photo management and editing software.

The final image looks is a bit more HDR-ish than I was looking for.

An HDR Image of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An HDR Image of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length, tripod.

You can see how the shadowed areas were opened up and the combined exposures caught light changing over the time it took to take the photos which was done manually. I have been struggling with night time HDR images for awhile now. Still a work in progress. Any suggestions or comments are appreciated.

October 12, 2012

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show playbill from the Pioneer Hall balcony in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show playbill from the Pioneer Hall balcony.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/3.5, ISO 4000, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

My wife and I have attended the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground six times since our honeymoon back in 1983. Back then the Hoop-Dee-Doo was considered a hidden treasure most people not staying at Fort Wilderness knew about. I will not go into a lot of detail about the show. Jack Spence wrote up an excellent guide (click here to read) which covers everything you need to know about going and enjoying the show.

The Pioneer Hall is the location for the three nightly Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner shows. It is a rustic log building themed after the theaters found in pioneer towns during the time of Davey Crockett. Inside is setup to make you feel like you've entered another time and place. Servers dressed in pioneer garb take you to your table where a garden salad already awaits with red and white checkered napkins.

Tip: When you first check in, your party will be asked to have a souvenir photo taken which you can later purchase at your table. The photo package consists of one 6x8, four 4x6 inch prints and a souvenir folder and costs $29.95. There is no obligation to buy.

Pioneer Hall in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Pioneer Hall has been home to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue since 1974.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Once all are seated and drinks have been served, the Pioneer Hall Players enter from the front doors everyone came through. Whooping it up and making noise as they make their way to the stage. There they launch into the Hoop-Dee-Doo song encouraging all to clap and sing along. You'll get the chorus pretty fast.

Tip: During any stage show you are photographing, you need to take your exposures directly from a performer's face. I use spot metering to do so and adjust the exposure using the EV button. Notice all the stage photos in this article are set to EV -0.6 (-2/3). That properly exposed for the performer's skin.

The Pioneer Hall Players on stage performing the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Pioneer Hall Players on stage performing the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1400, EV -0.6, 82mm focal length.

The Pioneer Hall Players are Jim Handy (out front in yellow shirt) and Johnny Ringo. In back from left, Flora Long (yellow dress), Dolly Drew (red dress), Six Bits Slocum (brown suit) and Claire de Lune (purple dress). You will get to know all of them throughout the course of the show.

During dinner, Flora Long and Jim Handy sang a couple of songs accompanied by a banjo player in the middle of the lower dining area. They even got everyone to join in and twirl their napkins overhead. You will also be asked to clap, stomp your feet, yell and even toot at various times during the show.

Pioneer Hall Players whoop it up with the audience during the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Pioneer Hall Players whoop it up with the audience..
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1800, EV -0.6, 85mm focal length.

Before a skit of the Legend of Davey Crockett, a few audience members were asked to volunteer for a part in the play. They were taken backstage and given costumes to wear. All the ones who were at this show did great from the little Davey Crockett to the Can-Can dancer.

Tip: Wait for the performers to stop on stage to photograph them. This happens at the end of songs or, in the case of the Hoop-Dee-Doo, after a really bad joke or pun (see below).

A volunteer guest on stage during the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A volunteer guest on stage during the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV -0.6, 300mm focal length.

Even after 29 years, this show still is as entertaining and funny as ever. The food is very good and is all you can eat. We sat in the Balcony (Category 3) which is set up so you can swivel your chair around and look down at the stage. Performers even come up to visit at times so everyone feels like they are a part of the show.

October 5, 2012

Tower of Terror 10 Miler at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I attended the inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler and Disney Villains Hollywood Bash last weekend. The weather was not the best for running with temperatures in the mid-70's F and very high humidity even though the race was run from 10pm to past midnight. The runners checked in at Disney's Hollywood Studios parking lot. There were a few large displays runners were posing for photos with.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Inaugural 10 Miler sign in the Disney's Hollywood Studios parking lot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Inaugural 10 Miler Sign.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 2800, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

While the runners were out on the course being cheered on by runDisney people, cast members, volunteers and even Disney Villains, us party goers took advantage of short lines at Star Tours, MuppetVision 3-D, Toy Story Mania and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Using my smartphone, I followed a lot of the runners and getting updates on one special runner, my daughter.

A runner in the cool down lane after finishing the Tower of Terror 10 Miler in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A runner in the cool down lane after finishing the Tower of Terror 10 Miler.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 0.4s, f/5, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, tripod, slow sync flash.

There she is. Standing proudly with her medal as other runners walk past. After she drank the water and snacks supplied, we all went for a ride on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

The technique I used was setting my flash to rear sync. This means the flash goes off just before the shutter closes. I had my daughter stand very still as other runners walked past. They show movement over the exposure while my daughter did not.

September 14, 2012

Advanced Dark Ride Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have talked about my attempts at photographing Disney dark rides in the past. I have not been satisfied with my results thus far. So, I contacted an expert. Michael Besant is an accomplished dark ride photographer and I asked him for his secret. Turns out I was not the only one to inquire and he had decided to write up how he photographs and processes his dark ride photos. I will reference the link soon.

First, I want to outline it for you:

Equipment

The better a camera handles high ISO settings the better its ability to capture dark ride images. If you get good images up to ISO 3200 or higher, your camera will work.

A fast lens is a must. The one I recommend is the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens as it is very affordable. Other lenses with wide open apertures like f1.4, f/2 and f/2.8 are in longer focal lengths and thus are more expensive. Many kit lenses are too slow in the f/3.5 to f/5.6 aperture range.

Photography

As in all photography, the better exposed your photo is, the better you will be able process the images. Michael gives excellent tips on how to do this. One which helped me was to switch from my normal use of JPEG images to the camera's RAW image capture. RAW files contain a lot more information in which your photo editor can use in pulling out details in photos.

Other tips are to use Shutter Priority mode to keep the shutter speed manageable. He recommends a shutter speed of at least 1/40th of a second (I try to keep it at 1/60th of a second, if possible), use continuous and single point focus settings and put your camera in burst (continuous) mode. Single point focus allows you to move the focus point to lock in on the brighter locations of the scene you are photographing. Lastly, set exposure compensation to +0.3 to slightly overexpose your photos. This will help in post processing.

Post Processing

I am going to give you the short version which Michael shared with me recently. For a detailed account you will need to visit his Dark Ride Shooting Tutorial (see link at end of article). He uses Adobe Photoshop software which is expensive but is the industry standard and for a good reason as you will see. I used Apple Aperture 3.3 which is like Adobe Lightroom 4.

Michael will open an image in ADOBE CAMERA RAW He always will 'open' it up with the exposure slider to see what details are lurking in the shadows. Then he starts with the WHITE BALANCE. This is done on multiple levels, the first being the normal adjustments. Before he takes it further and goes into selective color and remove or tone down the HOT colors.

Depending on the image, Michael will adjust with either the RECOVERY or the FILL LIGHT slider followed by SHARPNESS/NOISE REDUCTION (NR) tab to adjust the sharpness and NR at that point. From there he finishes up using the CURVE tool.

If any of this sounds confusing, check your photo editing software's Help to learn how to use them.

For my processing, I had to substitute the NR part with a trip to another program called Noise Ninja. Once done, I returned back to Aperture for the final steps.

Below are photos I took in Mexico's Grand Fiesta ride and the Tower of Tower. I sent copies of the RAW files to Michael so as to compare my processing to his.

The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride at Epcot's Mexico pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride by Scott.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 12,800, EV +0.3.

The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride at Epcot's Mexico pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride by Michael Besant.

You will notice right off the difference in the Aztec Pyramid's color which I left more in keeping with the lighting on the ride and I opened up the colors above the pyramid by using a dodging (lighting) brush. Both versions are fine with the differences being artistic and not technical.

Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror by Scott.
Nikon D700/70-200VR, 1/40s, f/2.8, ISO 12,800, EV +0.3, 92mm focal length.

Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror by Michael Besant.

Michael was able to pull out a lot more detail in the ghosts. I tired brushing in a few different effects but never got them as good as he did. Keep in mind Adobe Photoshop is a $600 photo editor and is considered the gold standard in professional photo editing. Apple Aperture is a $90 program which does a very good job.

I will say this is the best I have done with dark ride photos thanks to Michael Besant's Dark Ride Shooting Tutorial. I hope it will help you, too.

If you have any questions, leave them in the Comments.

August 24, 2012

Wilderness Lodge in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I never seem to be at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort in the morning when the Sun direction would light up the side of the lodge which faces Bay Lake. In the late afternoon, the Sun direction makes it hard to photograph. The range of light is too large. Our eyes can handle it but our cameras are not as good. This is when I turn to the process called High Dynamic Range (HDR). I set my camera to take a series of five photos 1 stop apart going from +2 stops, +1 stop, 0, -1 stop, -2 stops.

HDR Images of Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Images of Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

I imported all five photos into Photomatix Pro 4 and created the final HDR image by blending all the photos together to capture the full range of light. Now the image looks like what my eyes were seeing. Below is the full image which was cropped in the collage.

Final HDR Image of Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Final HDR Image of Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

You may see some photographers who only do HDR images. I use it when I feel it will capture the image I see. No right or wrong to either approach.

July 20, 2012

Disney Panoramic Views

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in October of 2009, I wrote a post called Pano-Magic about how to best take a set of photos to create a panoramic image. This post will show you some common mistakes made when taking photos for and creating the panoramics in post-processing. Due to the locations, all of the photos were taken hand-held.

If you recall when I reviewed the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery Tour, the one thing I wished I had was more time at Fort Fincastle. The panoramic you see below is the result of being rushed. I took these four photos quickly and, as I was reviewing them, was told we were moving on. I knew they would not create the panoramic image I had in mind. The wide angle shot in the review link is much better. Next time I did a panoramic set of photos, I made sure I had more time.

Panoramic view from the top of Fort Fincastle on Nassau in the Bahamas.
Panoramic view from the top of Fort Fincastle on Nassau in the Bahamas.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

This panoramic of Castaway Cay was planned. I knew about the Lookout Tower from my first visit to Castaway Cay. I had visions of a beautiful Caribbean blue sky with sunshine gleaming off the Disney Dream on the horizon. That vision was dashed with the weather but I still wanted the panoramic. I did a couple of things wrong here. First, I did not set my camera to full manual so that the exposure would be the same in each of the photos. As you can see, the photo used for the Disney Dream is a bit underexposed in comparison to the other four photos. Second, you can see a duplicate clearing on the left side. The panoramic stitching software I used did not properly line up the edges. I should have fixed that before saving the panoramic. Also, should have read my Pano-Magic post first, eh?

Panoramic view from the top of Lookout Tower on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
Panoramic view from the top of Lookout Tower on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

The last one I want to show you I am very proud of. During the Streets of America photowalk, the group got a backstage tour of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show. The panoramic image of the garage took four photos and I was so very careful to overlap them enough so the panoramic stitching software could do its magic. This time I made sure my camera was in manual mode to keep the exposure the same. I was told by the stunt drivers giving the tour, they can strip down and totally rebuild any of the vehicles used during the shows.

Panoramic view of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show garage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Panoramic view of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show Garage.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Many photo editing programs today can perform the stitching needed to create panoramic images. Check to see if yours does. If not, there are many quality stand alone programs suited to the task. Of course, the better you plan and produce the photos for the panoramic, the better your results will be. Right, Scott?

July 13, 2012

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A few weeks ago I reviewed the ebook, 10 Must Take Photos for the Magic Kingdom. At the time I mentioned I would be using the book on my next trip. The one photo which intrigued me the most was found on page 19, the Tiki Gods. The monolithic Tikis are found in Adventureland in an area well traveled by guests. The Tiki Gods drum out an infectious beat while spraying water periodically. The book suggested using a wide angle lens to be able to get all them in the frame and take their photo at night.

The day I planned to photograph the Tiki Gods the Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours at night. As the clock on the Pirates of the Caribbean went past midnight, I set up my tripod before the wooden Polynesian deities with an ultra wide angle lens on my camera. This allowed me to get in close enough for people to walk behind me and still be out of reach of the Tiki's water streams.

Tiki Gods at night in Magic Kingdom's Adventureland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tiki Gods at night in Adventureland.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 14mm focal length.

To make sure I got all the Tiki Gods in focus, I set the aperture to f/8. Using Aperture Priority mode gave a 10 second shutter speed at an ISO of 800. The results look very HDR-ish with the lighting bringing out the texture in the Tiki God's wooden surfaces. They did give me pause as they stared me down between takes.

June 28, 2012

Maelstrom Trolls in Norway

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests meet trolls on the Maelstrom ride in Norway at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Trolls warn guests riding Norway's Maelstrom ride.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 12800, EV +0.3

In norse mythology, trolls are rarely described as helpful or friendly. The trolls guests meet on the Maelstrom ride in Norway send them into an exciting and backwards ride through a dark forest and almost over a waterfall. Not a very helpful trio are they?

This is an example of an extreme high ISO image for my Disney Pic of the Week on Norway.


May 29, 2012

Disney Pic of the Week: From A Ride

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last fall I rode the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios with a group of Disney fan photographers. We filled up a few rows and, without using flash which is not allowed, photographed most of the 95,000 square feet of the ride. I chose a wide angle lens and had some fun not only photographing the ride but some of my fellow photographers, too.

His name is Michael Summers and, when he is not in Walt Disney World, he is photographing trains. REMEMBER, do not use flash on a dark ride. Learn how to turn your camera's flash off.

What part of the ride did I photograph?

A photographer shooting on the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A photographer shooting on the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

Lisa will be here on Thursday with her Disney Pic of the Week on the subject, From a Ride.

March 23, 2012

Illuminations over Imagination in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I follow many photographers who enjoy perfecting their craft in Disney parks all over the world. These men and women come up with many photo ideas I often make note of these photos to try an attempt myself. These help to push my photographic skills as I try to master new techniques and see things differently.

Once a person has photographed the many Disney fireworks shows from the traditional viewpoints, one looks for different angles and perspectives. I had seen versions of the photo below. To photograph it, I found this position across from the Journey into Imagination pavilion's famous reverse waterfall a few minutes before Illuminations started. I setup a tripod and put a three-stop neutral density filter on a wide angle lens. Unlike when I can hear the show music, I had to wait for the bursts to emerge high enough to open the shutter.

Illuminations firework bursts behind the Imagination pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations firework bursts behind the Imagination pavilion.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 8.6s, f/9, ISO 400, EV 0, 16mm focal length, 3-stop ND filter, tripod.

If you are looking for alternative places to photograph firework shows at any of the Disney parks, websites like flickr have thousands of images for you to get inspiration from.

March 2, 2012

Canada Waterfall in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Waterfalls are a favorite subject of photographers everywhere. Ever wonder how they get the water to look so silky even in the middle of the day? First, they use the lowest ISO on their digital camera around 100 to 200 depending on the camera. Second, they select small apertures like f/16 or f/22. This gets them the slowest shutter speed possible. Slow shutter speeds does require the use of a tripod to keep everything sharp.

That is what I did below. The water is still too detailed for the look I wanted. A longer shutter speed would be needed.

Canada's Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot without an ND filter, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Canada's Rocky Mountain Waterfall without an ND filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

To cut down the amount of light for longer shutter speeds, I used Neutral Density (ND) filters in different strengths. If you recall, ND filters act like sunglasses.

Canada's Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot with ND filters, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Canada's Rocky Mountain Waterfall with ND filters.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Leaving the aperture and ISO the same, you can see above the effects of each Neutral Density filter I used.

  • ND2 (or 0.3) filter cuts 1 stop of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/30s.
  • ND4 (or 0.6) filter cuts 2 stops of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/10s.
  • ND8 (or 0.9) filter cuts 3 stops of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/3s.

Do you see how the water got silkier the slower the shutter speed became? Not bad for a mid-afternoon in central Florida. But...I wanted more.

Canada's Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot with stacked ND filters, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Canada's Rocky Mountain Waterfall with stacked 2 & 3 stop ND filters.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 2s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

To get the shutter down to a whole 2 seconds, I stacked my two strongest ND filters, the ND4 and ND8, to create one 5 stop filter. When you stack filters, you may get some vignetting which was the case here. I simply cropped that out.

You can get stronger ND filters or photograph in the early morning, late in the day or when the weather is cloudy and/or rainy.

Click here to learn how to use Neutral Density filters for fireworks and themepark rides.

February 10, 2012

Inside Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Dark rides are very hard to photograph at Walt Disney World. Not only is the lighting very moody and low but the ride vehicles move so you have to keep your shutter speed around 1/60th of a second. Remember, you can not use flash in a dark ride. Disney Cast Members will interrupt the ride experience with announcements if you do. Really breaks the magic of the ride for your fellow guests.

I am nowhere near close to getting the excellent results of other Disney photographers seen on flickr and Google+. On this trip, I rode through Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World to see if I can improve. I did get better results using a Nifty-Fifty (Nikon 50mm f/1.8) lens than in the past. At it's maximum aperture of f/1.8, it is the fastest lens I own. My camera, a Nikon D700, is pretty good with high ISO photography. Still, I needed to add some noise reduction via Noise Ninja to the photos below.

Oh, and the audio-animatronics figures move, too!

Renaissance Players scene of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Renaissance Players scene of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/80s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3
Renaissance Artists scene of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Renaissance Artists scene of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/80s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3.

I know what you are thinking. This is NOT Lieutenant Uhura of the Star Ship Enterprise though one has to think Disney Imagineers must have known we would all think it is.

Mainframe Computer scene of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mainframe Computer scene of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/80s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3.

As you can see, these are not the best photos of inside Spaceship Earth on the web. Just goes to show you, we all need to continue to practice, experiment and strive to do better.

February 9, 2012

Taiko Drummer in Japan

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Taiko Drummer performaing at Japan's pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Taiko Drummer performing at Japan's pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/29, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 230mm focal length.

I wanted to show the speed of one of the Taiko Drummers in Epcot's World Showcase pavilion for Japan. To do that I switched to Shutter Priority mode and selected 1/30th of a second. These performers put their all into it as this photos shows.

January 27, 2012

Lighting up a Monorail in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have seen other photographers sharing photos of Walt Disney World Monorails at night in Epcot using a single flash unit to illuminate the moving vehicle. Without a flash, one could only get a blurred monorail late at night. You know me by now, I had to see if I could light up a monorail using my trusty Nikon SB-600 Speedlight flash unit.

I set up a tripod near the Universe of Energy so I could use Spaceship Earth for a backdrop when a monorail came by. Another reason for this location is the monorails slow down when they enter Epcot allowing me to use slower shutter speeds. The Universe of Energy is closed at night even if Epcot has an EMH night making it quiet enough to hear when a monorail was approaching. When a monorail appeared I tried to wait for it to get to the T in the track (see photos). I got better with each monorail.

I set my camera to use Rear-sync flash (sometimes called second curtain) where the flash is fired at the end of the exposure. This freezes most everything being photographed even if it is moving. Bright lights, like a monorail's headlight, will still show a streak. The flash's power was set to full power (+/- 0).

I put my camera in Manual mode and set the aperture to f/5 and ISO to 3200. I used my zoom lens on the scene until I found 82mm gave me a good composition. Used auto-focus to set focus and turned it off. By doing so, the focus will not change unless I moved the camera or hit the tripod. I used a remote shutter release to eliminate touching the camera. The flash was in the hot shoe on the camera.

The first monorail was orange and I took it at 1/30th of a second. I was a little quick on the shutter and the flash did not cover as much of the monorail as I had hoped. I liked how Spaceship Earth looked.

Monorail Orange passing Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Orange passing Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 82mm focal length, rear-sync flash at full power, tripod.

Monorail Green was the second one to enter Epcot. I changed the shutter speed to 1/15th of a second. Notice how the headlight has become elongated in this photo. Spaceship Earth is better exposed and more of the monorail has been lighted. I hit my mark, too.

Monorail Green passing Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Green passing Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 82mm focal length, rear-sync flash at full power, tripod.

Monorail Blue was the next one and has an even longer headlight streak from the longer exposure at 1/4th of a second. The monorail is well lighted and Spaceship Earth looks great behind it. The mark is a bit late but I liked it better. I cropped it to a 4x5 (8x10) ratio.

Monorail Blue passing Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Blue passing Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/4s, f/5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 82mm focal length, rear-sync flash, tripod at full power, cropped.

I now know it can be done. I will try it again with a whole monorail as it crosses the World Showcase walkway from Future World. Others have done it with off-camera flash. Something I want to try at Walt Disney World in the future.

January 19, 2012

Tomorrowland Robot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Robot in Tomorrowland's Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Boxobot in Tomorrowland's Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV -0.3, 15mm focal length.

In the first room of the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin found in Tomorrowland you will come face to face with a Boxobot robot. You want to aim for the inside Z target on the robot's hand which you see here. You will thank me later and is my Disney Pic of the Week about Tomorrowland.


January 3, 2012

Disney Pic of the Week - Germany

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Germany in Epcot's World Showcase is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Here you can eat and drink as every day is Oktoberfest in the Biergarten restaurant. Beer steins, wine, cuckoo clocks, dolls, pottery and hand-painted eggs by German artisans can be found in the shoppes outside the restaurant.

While most guests leave Epcot after Illuminations, I stayed one night and photographed the Germany pavillion using a tripod.

Germany pavillion after Illuminations in Ecpot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Late night in Epcot's Germany pavillion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.7, 18mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Barrie and Lisa will be here on Thursday and Saturday to share Germany photos for their Disney Pic of Week.

December 29, 2011

Close Up of an Epcot Butterfly

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Butterfly close up in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Butterfly close up in a garden in front of Italy in Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

I do not own a macro lens. Instead, I use my zoom lens to focus in close on small objects. This is what I did with the butterfly I found going from flower to flower in the gardens across from the Italy pavilion in Epcot. Due to the focal length of 300mm, I had to be about two feet from the butterfly to keep him in focus. I cropped the resulting photo about 40 percent to further bring the butterfly in closer for my Disney Pic of the Week for Macro/Close Up Photography.

I must have looked a bit nutty as I stalked this butterfly from flower cluster to flower cluster through two gardens. If you are at Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival held in the Spring, you can visit Bambi's Butterfly House where you can photograph hundreds of butterflies in a more controlled environment.

December 23, 2011

The Magic, The Memories and You Castle Gift

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Holiday projection during the The Magic, The Memories, and You! show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Holiday projection during the "The Magic, The Memories, and You!" show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 42mm focal length, tripod.

This being the first year of the The Magic, The Memories, and You! castle projection show, Disney added a series of Holiday projections. These projections appear fast and furious about half way through the show.

I want to take this time to wish you all Happy Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas!

I will be taking my annual holiday break next week as I spend the holidays with friends and family. See you in 2012!

December 2, 2011

Chess Playing Pirates of the Caribbean

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Skeletons playing chess in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Skeletons playing chess in the Pirates of the Caribbean to an eternal stalemate.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/20s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3.

When you enter the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Walt Disney World and take the right queue line, you will see two skeletons playing chess. Imagineer Marc Davis set up the chess pieces so that any move would create a checkmate thus resulting in an eternal stalemate. Did you know, Marc knew over time the pieces might be moved so he taped instructions on the bottom of the chess board so the play could be duplicated (source: Jack Spence).

How to Get the Shot:This is not an easy photo to get especially if the attraction is busy. I caught a slow time and was able to take several photos without being bumped into. The lighting is very low so I used my fastest lens, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, and set my camera's ISO to 6400. Even with those settings, I had to use a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second. I braced myself against the bars of the window which overlooks the chess playing scene. In post, I used a noise reduction program called Noise Ninja to clean up the dark areas.

October 7, 2011

The Expedition EVEREST Challenge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Most people when seeing the sign below just chuckle. They know Expedition EVEREST is a high-speed attraction. How can anyone take pictures while riding it. Right?

Photo memories sigh in the Expedition EVEREST queue in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Remember to capture memories in your ride through the Himalayas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, EV +0.3, 160mm focal length.

You know us here at Picture This!, we have a bit of an adventuresome spirit. They do take a ride photo for you of which I have a few. I ask you, where's the challenge in that? If you take care to secure your camera, you can successfully take ride photos on Expedition EVEREST.

I do not do this every time I ride (no matter what my family will tell you). I do like to sit back, scream and throw my arms up in delight while enjoying the thrill and awesome details of the experience that is Expedition EVEREST. Especially the big drop. I know I have left my stomach with the Yeti a few times.

Others may opt not to ride and enjoy taking in the beauty of the Disney Imagineer-ed mountain and how it blends in with the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

Expedition EVEREST loams behind the Yeti Shrine in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Expedition EVEREST loams behind the Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 900, 72mm focal length, HDR Image.

I used HDR processing to take five images from -2 to +2 to create this image. It was the best way to control the huge range of light from the overcast sky.

September 9, 2011

Fireworks Photography eBook Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Illuminations fireworks show Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A new eBook shows you how to photograph firework shows like Illuminations in Epcot.

My friends at the Disney Photography Blog (formerly the WDW Photography blog) have released an eBook called Fireworks Photography. The 55-page eBook is something I wished I had when I started to photograph fireworks. It would have saved me much time and money as it took three trips to Walt Disney World before I figured out how to get good photographs of Illuminations in Epcot and Wishes in the Magic Kingdom.

The first two chapters give you all you need to know about photographing fireworks shows anywhere in the world but with particular emphasis on Disney themeparks. They tell you what you need in equipment (yes, folks, you do NEED a tripod) if you are using a digital SLR camera OR a Point & Shoot camera. The principles are the same in both cases. Keep the camera steady for a long period of time and set the correct exposure settings and/or shooting modes to use so as not to get a white blob of light in your photos. Hey, we've all done it.

The third chapter is about composition. Depending on where the fireworks show is being held, interesting compositions can sometimes be a real challenge and the eBook gives good advice on how to do it. If you are photographing in a Disney themepark, it is easy to find elements to include like a castle or other park landmarks (see Illuminations photo above).

A page from the Composition Chapter of the Fireworks Photography ebook.
A page from the Composition Chapter of the Fireworks Photography eBook.

Next the eBook goes into more advanced techniques for photographing fireworks. They go in depth as to what are Neutral Density (ND) filters. The different types and what they mean. How using an ND filter affects fireworks photos and the pros and cons of using them. I learned that you don't have to set your aperture to f/16 or f/22 with an ND filter as it makes the streaks very thin. Something I found in my ND filter firework photographs. I hope to improve the next time I am photographing fireworks with ND filters at Walt Disney World. They also talk about a technique called the Country Shutter which is something I used to do back in film days and still works marvelously with digital cameras.

The last chapter goes into how to process firework shots to get the results you see in Disney brochures. They go step by step using instructions with can be used for many popular photo editing software programs like Adobe PhotoShop Elements, PhotoShop, LightRoom, Apple Aperture 3 and many others. You will see how to maintain detail in the fireworks while keeping all the bright colors you remember seeing in the shows. In other words, you will "Wow" your friends and family both at home and online.

I know what you are thinking. Between this blog and many other websites, you could find all this information for free instead of purchasing Fireworks Photography for $14US. Ebooks are good for a couple of reasons. One, you can put them on your smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptops and have access to all their information without needing an Internet connection. Two, the topic of the eBook (in this case, fireworks photography) is laid out in one place with examples, details, suggestions and ideas by the authors who are experts. They have done all the searching, researching and compiling for you as well as passing on their knowledge and experience. In many cases, it is far easier and less time consuming for me than doing all the work myself. Well worth the money in my opinion.

August 26, 2011

FX Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In keeping with our theme of creative processing this week, I want to share with you an app I was made aware of a few weeks ago. If you own an Apple computer, iPhone, iTouch or iPad/2. You might enjoy getting FX Photo Studio to quickly add one or more special effects to your photos.

The interface is very easy. Once you import your photo, you can select, preview and adjust one of almost two hundred special effect filters to apply to your photo. Here are a few of my favorite Walt Disney World photos after selecting a FX (movie shorthand for special effects) filter from the app.

I keep going back to this photo of Space Mountain. As much as I like the original, it is fun to see it differently using creative filters and textures.

Neon Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.
Neon FX filtered Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World is based on our planet but what if it was something from another galaxy?

Alien Skin Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.
Alien Skinned FX Spaceship Earth in Epcot.

Using FX Photo Studio is very easy. After launching the application on a MacIntosh computer, you can import photos from iPhoto, Aperture 3 or LightRoom libraries. On an iPhone, iTouch or iPad, it can import from any photo album. I imported this photo of the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom from my Aperture 3 album of what I consider my best photos.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom before adding an FX filter.

Here is the Tree of Life photo being compared with the special effect called Lindale (selected below in the strip of effects). Once you select an effect, you are given one or more sliders to adjust the effect to your liking.

Screen shot of FX Photo Studio.
Screen shot of FX Photo Studio with the Tree of Life photo.

After I adjusted the effect from 100% to 80% I saved the image back to my computer.

Tree of Life after the Lindale special effect filter added.
Tree of Life after the Lindale special effect filter was added.

See how easy that was to do? FX Photo Studio costs $9.99 from the Mac App store. The iPhone and iTouch versions cost $1.99 and the iPad version costs $2.99 from iTunes.

August 12, 2011

Working with Large Disney Photo Libraries

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Working with photos in Apple Aperture 3 software.
Working with photos in Apple Aperture 3 software.

When I return from a trip to Walt Disney World, I can have hundreds of photos to edit, process and finish. Here is how I go about handling these large amount of photos. The process is called a workflow and I am posting it to help my fellow Disney photographers who find themselves overwhelmed with the task of managing large digital photography libraries.

I use Apple's Aperture 3 photo editing and management software on a MacBook Pro laptop. Adobe's Lightroom is a similar package for Windows and OS/X systems.

1. It all starts with my Nikon D700 camera's Picture Control settings. I use settings to allow me to shoot in JPEG for my Disney trips.

2. When I ingest or import the photos on my computer using Aperture 3 into a new Project, I have an Import Pre-Set specifically for the Picture Control I used which adds color vibrancy, a bit of contrast, auto-levels and sharpening. This gets the photos very close to being processed and saves me oodles of time. The pre-set adds generic captions, keywords, location, ownership and copyright to each photo's metadata. Import Pre-sets are immensely useful and time saving.

3. After importing, I immediately backup the photos onto an external hard drive. Later, I will upload to a Smugmug.com gallery under my Backup category. I usually do that overnight.

4. For these Walt Disney World trips, I then break out each day into a separate album within the overall folder for the trip and, using Aperture 3's batch processing, add more keywords which are specific to the park, resort, restaurant, etc. in the photos. This further describes the photos making it easier for me to find specific photos in the future.

5. Editing each photo is done in two passes. In the first pass I look for focus issues and composition. I look around the edges, backgrounds, people's expressions, closed eyes, under or over exposure and other technical flaws. All those photos I mark rejected and later delete. On the second pass, I give a rating of 1 Star for the photos I feel are good enough to do final processing on.

6. Processing or finishing. I go through each 1 Star photo and really look at each one. If I still like it, I crop the photo (if needed) and do final adjustments. If I do not, I mark it rejected. You crop before adjustments so you only adjust what the final photo will look like. Adjustments I normally do is straightening, pulling back highlights, opening up shadows, add contrast and/or brightness. Each finished photo gets a 2 Star rating.

7. Once I finish up a day, I upload them to a gallery on Smugmug.com for viewing by friends, family and sharing with other Disney fans here and on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Disney forums.

Whew, that is a lot of work but the results are worth it.

July 15, 2011

Deep Colored Partners Statue in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

How does a landscape photographer get those deep colors in their photos? Is it all done in photo software? There was no such thing as photo software a couple of decades ago. So, while today's digital photographers may use software to deepen or saturate colors, it is easier to do so right in the camera. Take this photo I took of the Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Partners statue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 15mm focal length.

The trick is to slightly underexpose the photo. There are a couple of ways to do it. First way is to switch to manual mode and underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 stop using either the aperture or shutter speed. The other way is to use the exposure compensation (EV) button and set it to -0.3 or -0.5. Such a setting will deepen the colors for you.

July 8, 2011

Zooming In and Out at Bay Lake Tower

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is a something you have heard before: There are two photos for each scene. This normally refers to the orientation of the camera in either Landscape (horizontal) or Portrait (vertical). There is another method to getting two photos from most scenes as it does not always work depending on your distance to what you are photographing.

When most people purchase a digital SLR camera, they also get a kit lens or two. The most popular are 18-55mm and/or 55mm-200mm zoom lenses. Many know I like my super zoom lenses in the 18-200mm range for DX (cropped) cameras and 28-300mm for FX (full frame) cameras. Many Point and Shoot cameras also have a zoom range from short to long. Which ever zoom range you have, do not forget to use the power they give you.

As an example, I zoomed in on a monorail as it passed the Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort outside of the Magic Kingdom as the Sun was close to setting.

Monorail Green passes in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Close up of Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

I remembered to quickly zoom all the way out to get a wide angle view of the scene as the monorail continued to pass by the resort.

Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wide view of Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Same scene, two different perspectives without having to move your feet. It is not being lazy, it is being smart to use your equipment to its fullest.

May 13, 2011

Scenes of Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I showed you how my friend and Disney photographer Bob Desmond approached finding details at Epcot. He further explained he likes to "build" a photo showing elements of a park. These photos say "Epcot" or "Magic Kingdom" or other Disney park or resort to someone viewing it.

The fun in this for me was finding those elements in the viewfinder. My first photo was a direct result of Bob mentioning he likes to add elements which are non-static. In this case, I waited for a Friendship boat to enter into the mid-ground between the lamp with flowers in the foreground and the China and Norway pavilions in the background.

Hanging flowers on a lamp post in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Hanging flowers on a lamp post in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

While taking the photo from Italy, I noticed how the China and Norway pavilions worked together in the contrasts between them. As Bob and I continued to walk towards them I kept my eye out for a composition.

Scene from Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Africa, China and Norway in a scene from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 560, EV +0,.3 135mm focal length.

In the photo above, I compressed the elements with my zoom lens of the Africa outpost, golden roofs of China and Norway's castle as the landscaping of plants, trees and rocks add color balance.

Do you think I found elements which say "World Showcase"?

April 8, 2011

Riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week I am taking you on one of my favorite rides, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith in Disney's Hollywood Studios. I know some people may have never ridden RnRC so here's your chance.

After waiting in the queue (hopefully you used FastPass), you are ushered into a recording studio where Aerosmith is listening to a classic mix of one of their hits.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster pre-show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Aerosmith gives us backstage passes but we need to get across town.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 5600, EV -1.7, 28mm focal length.

Soon, their manager comes in and tells them to get going or they will be late for the concert across town. However, the band wants their fans (you being one) to have backstage passes. Their manager has to make it happen and calls for a stretch limo. Tells us to move out to alley as she got us a really fast car.

Out in the alley you get in the limo and pull down the safety restraint and off you go around a tight corner as a Disney cast member waves happily. You might wonder why she is smiling.

A cast member waves to guests as they head to the on-ramp of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A cast member waves to guests as they head to the on-ramp of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/5s, f/3.5, ISO 8000, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

You get a fun countdown and when the green light turns on, you are launched from 0 to 60mph in less than 3 seconds. Don't forget to smile as this is when your ride photo is taken. Your limo's radio is locked on the special Aerosmith ride mix station.

Guests are given the green light to enter the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Super Stretch Limo ride vehicle is launched into the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster..
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/5s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length.

After a couple of inversions and speeding over California highways you arrive at the concert. Your heart will be pumping from the exhilarating ride. There's a red carpet here to take you to the "concert" cleverly disguised as a store where you can pick up your ride photo ( you did remember to smile, right?) and other Rock 'n' Roller Coaster goodies as Aerosmith tunes continue.

Arriving backstage after a ride on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Arriving backstage after a ride on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 5600, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

Finally, you make your way out the backdoor of the concert as sponsor banners fly overhead. Already ready to get right back on so you can hear a different song on your next cruise to a concert.

Fans exit the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fans exit the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 8000, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

Notice the ISO settings of these photos. I used a noise reduction program called Noise Ninja to clean up the digital noise such high ISO's create. A few years ago, I never would have imagined using ISO numbers above 3200.

April 1, 2011

Hollywood Studios in Chrome

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In the past I have told you about how to use selective focus. Further, I have said it is a good way to make busy backgrounds disappear into a soft blur called bokeh. In looking over my past posts, I never showed you an example.

Have you all seen the car on Sunset Boulevard under the canopy in front of the Legends of Hollywood shop? Thanks to Nanette Jamieson from flickr for allowing me to use this photo.

The Golden Era by Nanette Jamieson.
The Golden Era by Nanette Jamieson.
Sony A200, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 11mm focal length.

The car, a gold 1941 Cadillac Series 62, fits the era of Disney's Hollywood Studios and sports a large chrome hood ornament. I set my lens to its largest aperture of f/5.6 at 300mm to completely throw the large Labor Day crowd out of focus and put the ornament in very sharp focus.

Cadillac hood ornament at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cadillac hood ornament with blurred background.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

That blurred bright background is what a few dozen people look like out of focus. Leaving the hood ornament as the main subject in all its reflective glory of days gone by.

March 25, 2011

Disney in Negative Space

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I never studied art so the concept of negative space has eluded me. I would get comments on my photos saying they had made good use of negative space. Turns out every photo has negative space which is defined as the space around an object of attention. Photos can have little or a lot of negative space. To me, negative space was kind of wasted space. However, negative space generates attention as it puts a stronger emphasis on the subject.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest found in China around Epcot's World Showcase only takes up about a third of the frame yet the contrast of the very ornate structure is easily the main subject of the photo. The blue sky and clouds do work to draw attention to the structure.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in Epcot's China pavillion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Negative Space using sky and clouds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV _0.3, 58mm focal length.

To be honest, I do not think much about negative space and concentrate on the subject. As I compose a photograph with a lot of negative space, I fall back on the Rule of Thirds. This is what I did when I took this photo of the spires and towers of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Spires and towers of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Spires and towers of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 320, EV 0, 100mm focal length.

Another use for photos with a lot of negative space is for title photos in photo galleries, slideshows and videos. Using the Cinderella Castle spires and towers photo above I made a title photo for a gallery or slideshow to share with friends and family.

Cinderella Castle title photo.
Cinderella Castle title photo.

I read a lot about negative space this week and I will return to this subject later this year after I return to Walt Disney World with the added knowledge. There is more to negative space than empty space. I know this because Disney uses it in their adviertising.

Toy Story Mania billboard outside the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Toy Story Mania billboard outside the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 24mm focal length.

February 25, 2011

Photographing The Magic, The Memories and You!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Castle projections in the new The Magic, The Memories and You show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Castle projections in the new The Magic, The Memories and You! show in the Magic Kingdom.

Last month I was invited to the VIP party at the Magic Kingdom which presented for the first time the new The Magic, The Memories and You! show. I traveled without my tripod so I was unprepared to photograph this spectacular show which features colorful projections which cover Cinderella Castle. The projections have animation, still photos and full video. Not the ideal subject for still photography.

The photos above were taken hand-held at 1/5 to 1/15th of a second with the lens wide open at f/3.5 and ISOs ranging from 4500 to 6400. I had to use Noise Ninja to clean up the images. Of the nearly 100 photos I took of the show, I got only a dozen workable images. Those images are pretty good so I am not complaining.

My friend, Bob Desmond, went out last week to photograph The Magic, The Memories and You! and passed these tips on to me for all of you:

The challenge to shooting The Magic, The Memories and You! show is to have fast lenses, short (fast) shutter speeds and an ISO that isn't too high, for quality. I am for keeping the ISO at 800 for this, but you will need f/2.8 lenses to do a really good job on it. Shutter speed will vary depending on what part of the show between 1/8s-1/30s at f/2.8 and ISO 800. I (Bob) shot it all from a tripod with a cable release. I shot it in RAW to give me more options in post production. If you have a full-frame DSLR, then you can comfortably go higher with your ISO (1600-3200) and gain a faster shutter speed. It's all about the right exposure and using the fastest shutter speed you can technically use. The images on this show are very quick changing, thus the fast shutter speed. I tend to shy away from anything above ISO 800, UNLESS I must do it, and if I must, I will. I will go to 1600 in a heart beat and 3200, if I REALLY must.

Thanks, Bob!

The fast lenses Bob recommends are expensive except for one, the Nifty-Fifty is very affordable and, at f/1.8, you can step down the aperture to f/2.8 for added sharpness.

January 14, 2011

Image Stabilization and Tripods Don't Mix

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Stabilized camera and lens technology over the last few years have made taking low light photos easier to do. I have talked about the various lens manufacturers stabilization technologies before. The one thing you do have to be careful of is to find out if you need to turn off image stabilization (IS) when using a tripod. Most of the consumer lenses with IS need to be turned off when using a tripod. As my friend, Roger Longenbach, found out, using a camera with built in image stabilization has to be turned off, too.

Roger took his Sony Alpha 55 digital SLR camera to photograph the Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom for the first time. He learned the hard way why the camera's manual says to turn OFF SteadyShot (Sony's term for in-camera image stabilization) when using a tripod. You will notice how blurry Cinderella Castle became over a thirty (30) second exposure as the IS technology worked against being held steady by the tripod. The fireworks came out sharp because, over the course of the exposure, they were there for only a few seconds.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes taken with an Image Stabilized Camera on a Tripod.
Sony Alpha 55, 30s, f/7.1, ISO 100, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod, Image Stabilization ON

Once Roger noticed what was happening, he turned OFF SteadyShot and got the results he was looking for.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Wishes taken with the Camera's Image Stabilization Turned OFF on a Tripod.
Sony Alpha 55, 30s, f/7.1, ISO 100, EV 0, 22mm focal length, tripod, Image Stabilization OFF

Not all lenses or cameras with Image Stabilization work this way. Consult your camera and lens' manual to see what it says about using them with a tripod.

I want to thank Roger for letting me use his images for this article. To see more of Roger's Disney photography, visit his website, ThemeParkPhotos.

Quick note, I will be visiting Walt Disney World next week and will be tweeting using this account: @Scottwdw Follow me for some extra magical adventures!


December 10, 2010

Photographing the Main Street Electrical Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Main Street Electrical Parade title float with Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Electrical Parade title float with Mickey Mouse.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, rear-sync flash

The last time I had an opportunity to photograph the Main Street Electrical parade (MSEP, for short) in the Magic Kingdom, I was using a film camera. I did all right but I was guessing a lot. Without an LCD screen to show me how the photos would look like, I ended up with very few good ones after I got the prints back from the lab. Wow, those were back in the old days, eh? About 10 years ago.

The MSEP has thousands of bright, colored lights against a black night sky. Sound familiar? The parade poses some of the same challenges as photographing Christmas light displays. Except a parade moves and there are characters on the floats which may or may not have lights on them.

The evening I saw MSEP there were two performances. I decided to use two different approaches. Using my trusty Nifty-Fifty (50mm f/1.8) lens with the rear-sync flash technique to fill in the float and characters during the first parade, I got some very good photos. I photographed these two photos by waiting for the parade or float to stop for a few seconds. The smaller floats, like the Bumble Bee, move from one side of the street to the other and often stop in front of guests.

Main Street Electrical Parade Bumble Bee float in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Electrical Parade Bumble Bee.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 640, EV +0.3, rear-sync flash

In the case of Mr. Smee, the whole parade had halted for about 30 seconds and I took a few photos of him rapidly.

Mr. Smee rowing in the Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mr. Smee rowing in the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 560, EV +0.3, rear-sync flash

For the second parade, I was joined by Picture This! photoblogger, Lisa, who had a different approach for photographing MSEP. Before we get to her photos, here is how I photographed the second parade: I used a zoom lens with a variable aperture, set the ISO to 1600, shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, rear-sync flash and aperture wide open (but changed with the zoom's focal length). Yes, I was using Manual mode. This time, Instead of waiting for a stoppage in the action, I slowly panned the camera with the floats.

The location Lisa suggested had the parade coming almost directly at us. Giving us a lot of time with each float. Dopey was very comical in this mine cart full of colorful and precious gems.

Main Street Electrical Parade with Dopey in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Electrical Parade with Dopey.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/5.3, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 105mm focal length, rear-sync flash

This is for Lisa, Pete's Dragon, Elliot, steaming up the joint with his breath.

Pete's Dragon, Elliot, during the Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pete's Dragon, Elliot, in the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/5.3, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 105mm focal length, rear-sync flash

I took lots and lots of photos. Many did not come out but I came away with a lot more keepers than I ever did in the old film days!

Lisa photographed the parade using a tripod for her Canon EOS 30D SLR camera with 17-40mm IS USM lens. While I leaned on a nearby lamppost, Lisa enjoyed the ease of having her equipment locked down to eliminate shake. She did however enjoy photographing movement like this crazy snail. The guests frozen are in contrast to the "fast" snail.

Crazy snail float in the Main Street Electrical Parade, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Crazy snail float in the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Canon 30D/17-40mm, 1/15s, f/4, ISO 800, EV 0, 30mm focal length, rear-sync flash

This butterfly on a mushroom was taken without flash. It works because there is a lot of light sources which fill in the float's structure.

Mushroom with butterfly in the Main Street Electrical Parade, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mushroom with butterfly in the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Canon 30D/17-40mm, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 800, EV 0, 20mm focal length

November 12, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I talked about how I photograph fireworks at Walt Disney World. This week I will use the same technique of a tripod, cable shutter release and setting the shutter speed to Bulb in Manual exposure mode. This allows me to control how long the shutter will be open. So, what's different? I am adding a new piece of equipment called a Neutral Density filter to the front of the lens.

Neutral Density filters allow less light to enter the lens. Think of them as sunglasses for your camera. I know what you are thinking, Scott has finally lost his mind. For years, I have been telling you to get as much light as possible through the lens to get the best exposures. However, landscape photographers for years have used neutral density filters to INCREASE the shutter times when they want to photograph moving objects in their landscapes like waterfalls. Long shutter speeds for waterfalls create the silky look of water flowing over time.

The same idea works for fireworks. A neutral density filter extends the amount of time the shutter can be open without getting completely blown out explosions and rocket trails. These filters are referred to as ND and come in different strengths. I purchased a kit of three ND filters (see link below): ND2 or 0.3 (1 f-stop), ND4 or 0.6 (2 f-stops) and ND8 or 0.9 (3 f-stops). As you can see, the higher the ND number, the more light it blocks in f-stops.

What it means to us is, if you leave a camera's aperture and ISO the same, the stronger the ND filter, the longer the shutter speed. I do not want to get bogged down in photographic math but here's an example: If I set my camera to an aperture of f/8 and ISO 200 on a bright sunny day, I get a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second. If I put an ND2 filter on the lens, the light will be cut in half or 1 full f-stop for a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second. ND4 filter makes it to 1/50th of a second and the ND8 filter brings it all the way down to 1/25th of a second. If you are photographing a moving subject, the difference between 1/200 and 1/25 is huge! More on this later.

Back to our fireworks, using the Blub method and no ND filter last week, I could not go much longer than a few seconds without getting blown out (all white) fireworks explosions and trails. In fact, I did get some which I discarded. In the photos below, I used the strongest ND filter I had, the ND8 (3 f-stops). I could now hold the shutter open for 10, 20, 30, 60 seconds or maybe longer. I have seen some photos on flickr go over 120 seconds (2 minutes) for IllumiNations in Epcot and still look very colorful.

In the Magic Kingdom, I set up for Wishes which is very different from IllumiNations. I tried some really long exposures at first which went in between the scenes of the show. They did not look to good. Running out of time, I decided to open the shutter at the beginning of a scene and close it at the end. Remember my tip on using youTube last week to learn when a scene starts and ends. Once I did that, the long exposures worked much better. The fireworks looked great just as the show Imagineers wanted them to.

The first scene I want to show you is Fantasia featuring the part where Mickey Mouse is the Sorcerer's Apprentice and gets in over his head. The reds of the fireworks with the blue Cinderella Castle conjures up the scene very well.

The Fantasia scene of Wishes fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Fantasia scene of Wishes fireworks show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 28.7s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length, tripod, ND8 filter

The next scene is when the Villains take over the show. Lots of strange and bright colors and villainous lighting on the castle.

The Villains scene of Wishes fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Villains scene of Wishes fireworks show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 66.9s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length, tripod, ND8 filter

This is the first 12 seconds of the Wishes grand finale. I like this as there is neutral lighting on the castle as the fireworks frame it.

Twelve seconds of the Finale of Wishes fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Twelve seconds of the Finale of Wishes fireworks show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 12s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length, tripod ND8 filter

Getting back to the math part. Instead of using a waterfall to demonstrate the use of a neutral density filter during the day, I used the ever popular Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, ride in Fantasyland. Without an ND filter, the slowest shutter speed I could get was 1/15th of a second at an aperture of f/25 and ISO of 200. As you can see, the Dumbos are blurred but you can still see what they are.

Dumbo ride in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dumbo ride without a Neutral Density filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/25, ISO 200, EV +0.6, 38mm focal length

I put on the ND8 filter and the shutter speed drops to a little less than 1/2 of a second. Quite the dramatic change.

Dumbo ride in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dumbo ride with a Neutral Density filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 0.63s, f/25, ISO 200, EV +0.6, 38mm focal length, tripod ND8 filter

If you are interested in using these filters for your photography, I highly recommend the Dolica CF-NDK77 77mm 0.3, 0.6, 0.9ND Neutral Density Filter Kit. The filters are thin and can be stacked. Dolica has other filter sizes but I would look at getting step up rings so you don't have to buy multiple filters for different sized lenses.

November 5, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

How to take amazing fireworks photos at Disney | AllEars.net | AllEars.net
How to take amazing fireworks photos at Disney | AllEars.net | AllEars.net
How to take amazing fireworks photos at Disney | AllEars.net | AllEars.net

Before I left for Walt Disney World a couple of weeks ago, I asked if there was anything you would like me to cover. I got an inquiry about how to photograph the firework shows at the Magic Kingdom. As luck would have it, I saw two different ones: HalloWishes (which I'll cover this week) and Wishes (I will talk about next week).

First, Barrie wrote an excellent fireworks blog featuring IllumiNations and you should read it now or after this blog. At the time, she was using a Point and Shoot camera. Since I use a digital SLR camera, my approach is a bit different. Both ways give excellent results.

Some things are needed for either approach: a tripod and a way to remotely trip the shutter. That can be done by using your camera's built in timer (set it for 2 seconds), a remote or cable shutter release. Using any of those methods will reduce the amount of camera shake to almost nil when used with a tripod to get the sharpest images possible.

Next, I set my camera's ISO to its lowest setting. As I use a Nikon, I set it to ISO 200 (see your camera's manual for its lowest setting). This will give the cleanest images with little to no digital noise. Make sure Auto ISO is turned OFF if your camera has it.

Next, I put the camera in manual mode by selecting the M exposure setting. I like to shoot fireworks with a foreground subject like Cinderella Castle at an aperture of f/16. This ensures I get the castle, crowd in front of the castle and the fireworks in focus. Since the castle is well lighted, I use auto focus to set the focus right on the castle and then put the lens on its manual focus setting. As long as I do not touch the lens' focus ring, the focus will stay put. Lastly, I set the shutter speed to Bulb as I want to control when the shutter opens and closes using a cable shutter release.

I am sure you are asking yourself how do I know when to open and close the shutter. For a town or city fireworks display, I would use this method to open the shutter at the sound of a rocket launch and hold it open for two, three or more explosions before closing the shutter. For shows at a Disney park, it takes a little more effort as they are longer, have a lot more explosions in the air at one time, are choreographed to music and launched from a distance by air cannons. In the last couple of years, I have used youTube to help me learn when best to open and close the shutter for these shows. AllEars.net has its own youTube channel with all the firework shows including HalloWishes. By watching the HalloWishes video a few times, I had a good idea when to take the photos.

Not that I was perfect. In the photo below, I left the shutter open a bit too long and got the streamers. Though not bad, I really wanted only the colorful fireworks without those streamers.

When using Bulb, you get some strange looking shutter speeds like this one at 7.3 seconds.

HalloWishes fireworks show during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HalloWishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom at 7.3 seconds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 7.3s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

In this next one, I did want the streamers off to the side with a batch of explosions directly over Cinderella Castle.

HalloWishes fireworks show during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HalloWishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom at 5.5 seconds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 5.5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

The last one is the first part of the finale of HalloWishes. Disney likes to use very bright explosions during finales. I knew they were coming so I closed the shutter before they happened. The ones which had already gone off were bright enough to illuminate the crowd which adds to the photo.

HalloWishes fireworks show during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HalloWishes finale with the onlooking guests at the Magic Kingdom at 6.5 seconds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6.5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

Next week I will show you how to extend the shutter time even longer to capture more firework bursts and turn a mild mannered ride into a run-a-way!

If you have any questions or comments, please, hit the Comment link below. Do not forget to put the word "blog" (without quotes) where indicated. Thanks!

October 1, 2010

Preset Your White Balance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I decided to do the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania so I could enjoy the queue area. I did love all the icons of games and toys I played when I was growing up. I was not too thrilled with the photos I was taking. They were very yellow from the lighting used especially the whites.

I knew to fix this I needed to do a Preset White Balance often referred to as a custom white balance. For my Nikon camera, I pressed the White Balance (WB) button and using the rear command dial to move to the PRE icon on the upper LCD screen. I then released, pressed and held the WB button until the PRE starts to blink. I then filled the viewfinder with a white object (in the case of the TSM queue, I used one of the oversized dice) and clicked the shutter. I checked the LCD screen and it told me I set it correctly by saying 'GOOD'. If it had said, 'No Good', I would have had to try again.

To show you the difference. The first photo was taken using Auto White Balance.

Chutes and Ladders ceiling in the Toy Story Mania queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Chutes and Ladders ceiling in the Toy Story Mania queue using Auto White Balance.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

The second photo was taken after Presetting the White Balance.

Scrabble and Barrel Full of Monkeys ceiling in the Toy Story Mania queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scrabble and Barrel Full of Monkeys ceiling in the Toy Story Mania queue using Preset White Balance.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/3.5, ISO 8000, EV +1.0, 28mm focal length

It is a simple process which only takes a few seconds. Just remember to switch back to your normal white balance setting upon leaving the area.

September 17, 2010

Doing the High ISO Dance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the things I was looking forward to doing with my new equipment was using it on Walt Disney World's dark rides. For the dark rides I set up my camera for spot metering and Auto ISO to go as high as 6400 with the slowest shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. I then put on the Nifty-Fifty, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens, before going on the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios for a trip through the history of movies as only Disney can do it.

One of my old time favorite Hollywood musicals is Singing in the Rain with its famous scene of Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. Disney Imagineers re-created the scene using audio-animatronic technology.

An audio-animatronic Gene Kelly is Singing in the Rain during the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An audio-animatronic Gene Kelly is Singing in the Rain during the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 4000, EV -0.3

The D700 did not disappoint allowing the fast shutter speed with little digital noise even at an ISO of 4000.

September 2, 2010

Night Hat

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A night photograph of the Sorcerer's Hat at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A night photograph of the Sorcerer's Hat.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16mm, 8s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length, tripod

Many photographers who love to photograph at Walt Disney World have a love-hate relationship with the Sorcerer's Hat at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Sorcerer's Hat is a great subject to photograph, especially at night, but makes it very hard to get a good shot of the Great Movie Ride without using a wide angle lens. I selected a different photo of the Hat for my Disney Pic of the Week for the Sorcerer's Hat.

August 20, 2010

Reflective Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Reflections at Walt Disney World can be found in mirrors, windows, metal surfaces and in the rivers, lakes, fountains with still water. When using a reflective surface make sure you are not in the photo (unless your intention is to make a self portrait), watch for distortions and over exposed areas. It is hard to find a perfectly still body of water unless the air is very still. Water reflections can still be beautiful even if the water is rippling. Such was the case of the photo of Disney's Hollywood Studios taken at night with a long exposure which smoothed out the water.

Disney's Hollywood Studios water reflection, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Hollywood Studios water reflection.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 20s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 95mm focal length, tripod

Windows can be a bit tricky. Some are more reflective than others depending on their use. Time of day and angles play a large part so as you walk around the parks, keep your eye out for the windows you see in the buildings and shops. Last December I was invited to watch Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios from the VIP seating area right behind the show's control room. The top of the control room featured very reflective windows which I used at the end of the show for this photo.


The set of Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show reflected in the control room windows.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm Focal Length

If you search for the word "reflection" in the Search Box for the Picture This! blog you will find other examples of how Barrie, Lisa and myself have use reflective surfaces at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Program Note: I will be taking the next two weeks off from blogging for my annual summer break. However, I will be announcing something special for the Labor Day weekend so check in to see what it is.

July 30, 2010

Big Al Sings

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I give myself self-assignments all the time. On my last trip to Walt Disney World, I wanted to get better photos of the Country Bear Jamboree show than I have in the past. Unfortunately, Lisa had not yet published her excellent guide on how to use a Point and Shoot camera to best photograph the Country Bears.

Armed with my knowledge of other stage shows I had successfully photographed like Beauty and the Beast and the American Idol Experience, I set my camera's file quality to RAW so I could adjust the white balance later in post-processing and used spot metering so the amount of darkness surrounding the bears would not throw off the exposure.

I had another bag of tricks up my sleeve, I now knew how to clean up digital noise in my images with Noise Ninja. This allowed me with confidence to set my camera's ISO to its highest setting of 1600. Even with a high ISO setting, my best shutter speed was 1/25th of a second. Remember, when using such slow shutters with live or animated shows, wait for a time in the performance, the actor or bear, in this case, stops for a second or two. Which is what I did for Big Al, my favorite Country Bear.

Big Al croons out a song during the Country Bear Jamboree in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Big Al crons out a song during the Country Bear Jamboree.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV +1.0, 105mm focal length, Noise Ninja

Did you know Big Al is voiced by Tex Ritter? Some good trivia for ya this week.

July 23, 2010

WDWPhotography.com

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In June of 2010, a new photography blog on Walt Disney World was launched by two young and talented flickr photographers, Adam Hansen and Cory Disbrow. As Cory writes in the blog's introductory post, "...we wanted to take a somewhat EPCOT Center approach and adopt Walt Disney's idea of 'edutainment'. By that, I mean we want to entertain you and bring that magic home, but also help you learn how YOU can improve upon your photography while at the Disney Parks."

With each post the photographer explains how the photo was Imagineered using software to finish the photo in post-processing. Harnessing the talent of fellow photographers who share a love for Disney photography, you will see many kinds of photographic techniques, equipment and software used to produce extraordinary photographs.

Here are two examples of the kind of photography you will see from this exciting new blog. Click the photos to visit the blog post to learn about each photo.

Long exposures created ghosted guests inside Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghosts of Cinderella by Cory Disbrow.
Canon D5 Mk II/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, f/6.4, ISO 100

The above photo is an HDR image created from three different photos taken at different shutter speeds which is why the shutter speed was left off the Exif data.

Pop Century Resort at night, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Pop Century Plugged In by Adam Hansen.
Nikon D90/18-200VR, 4s, f/13, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 32mm Focal Length

May 7, 2010

Walt Disney World at f/2.8

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Fast lenses for digital SLR cameras have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or bigger. Except for the Nifty-Fifty which are 50mm prime lenses at f/1.8, fast lenses are expensive. Most of the lenses in this class are considered some of the best ever made. Over the last three years, I have purchased two f/2.8 lenses which I have enjoyed using at Walt Disney World. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX Ultra Wide Angle and the Nikon 70-200mm VR f/2.8. The following photographs were taken with these lenses at their wide open aperture of f/2.8.

The Tokina has gotten a large following among Disney photographers. For the price of around $650 in either Canon or Nikon versions, this is one of the better bargins in f/2.8 lenses. At it's widest setting of 11mm, there is some distortion of things near the edge of the frame. To cut down on the distortion, I try to make sure to keep the camera level and perpendicular to what I am photographing.

I found a post to lean against at my favorite counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbour House, to take this photo of the ordering area. The lens was able to capture the windowed ceiling, the tall ship paraphernalia on the walls and the cast members and guests ordering their food. I'll take the fish and chips with a bowl of New England clam chowder, please!

Ordering area for the Columbia Harbour House counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ordering area for the Columbia Harbour House counter service restaurant.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 11mm focal length

Night photography at Walt Disney World is very popular as the parks have a whole different look after the Sun goes down. This is one of my favorite views of Spaceship Earth when walking towards the park's entrance. The colored lights on the palm trees were not as bright as I have photographed them in the past making the geodesic structure the star of the photo. At f/2.8, I was able to hand hold the camera at 1/15th of a second using a reasonable ISO of 900.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 11mm focal length

For those who have vacationed at Walt Disney World in December, you know it can get cold at night. Returning back to my room in the All Star Sports resort late one night, I took this image of the steam rising off of the main pool area. I thought the sign made a good foreground subject for the story I wanted to tell.

No Lifeguard on Duty as steam rises from the Main Pool at the All Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
No Lifeguard on Duty as steam rises from the Main Pool at the All Star Sports resort.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 900, EV +0.7, 11mm focal length

The Nikon 70-200 VR, VR is for Vibration Reduction which is what Nikon calls their Image Stabilization system, has long been considered one of Nikon's all time best lenses. Nikon recently updated this lens with the new VR II version going for around $2,400. I picked up my VR I version used for less than half of that so deals can be found on eBay and other used lens websites.

Fast lenses have one more trait I should mention: they are heavy. The Nikon 70-200VR weighs in at a little over three pounds. While I have no trouble using it without a tripod, in low light situations like Fantasmic! in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I used my tripod like a monopod (the tripod legs were folded in) to help steady this image of Mickey Mouse welding his fire sword to oust the dragon from his dream. Just a note, this is one lens where you leave the VR on when used on a tripod or monopod.

Mickey Mouse welding his Fire Sword during Fantasmic! in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse welding his Fire Sword during Fantasmic!
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 140mm focal length

The Festival of the Lion King does allow the use of flash photography during the show but, by using the lens at f/2.8 and zooming in, I had more than enough light to take this photo during the Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet scene. This shows the nice bokeh the Nikon 70-200VR creates when used wide open.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet during the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet during the Festival of the Lion King show.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 200mm focal length

I have tried for years to take a good photo of the fire dancer during the heina scene of the Festival of the Lion King show. By focusing on the performer's face, I picked up this photograph of some lingering fire on his tongue. The brightness of the fire gave me the fast shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second.

Fire dancer performing during the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fire dancer performing during the Festival of the Lion King show.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/1600s, f/2.8, ISO 800, EV 0, 180mm focal length

These two lenses allowed me to get photos of higher quality than I have been able to in the past. Yes, they are expensive but you can rent them for a fraction of their costs.

May 4, 2010

Disney Pic of the Week: Dark Rides

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Dark rides are the most challenging for us Disney photographers. Light is only available directly on the places Disney wants it and, while our eyes have no trouble, our cameras get starved for light. For years I got blurry photos. In fact I still do but I've gotten better. Fast prime lenses like the 50mm in all its iterations and image stabilization technologies have given me and many others some success. For my Disney Pic of Week on Dark Rides I choose to photograph the start, in fact, a very fast start to one of the fastest dark rides, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

A Super Stretch Limo ride vehicle is launched at Disney's Hollywood Studios Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Super Stretch Limo ride vehicle is launched into the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/5s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster thrill seekers go from zero to 60mph in 2.3 seconds into a series of loops and high speed turns through California highways to the Aerosmith concert.

Lisa and Barrie will be here on Thursday and Saturday with their favorite dark ride photos.

April 24, 2010

Tower of Terror in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Tower of Terror in HDR as seen from the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tower of Terror in HDR as seen from the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster queue.

I have used the Tower of Terror for many Disney Pic of Week photos so I had to review them so as not to show you a duplicate. Came up with this High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of the Tower as seen from the queue of Rock 'n' Roller Coaster for my Disney Pic of Week on Tower of Terror.

April 16, 2010

Spring Waterfalls

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is Spring. Both on the calendar and in the air where I live in upstate New York. Most of the United States has had serious bouts with Spring fever. Spring is also the time of rain and melting snow. The old adage of April showers bring May flowers and all that. This is the time of year for nature photographers to visit their favorite waterfalls as the flow is at its peak.

At Walt Disney World you don't have to worry about the flow of the waterfalls and fountains as they are artificially maintained. It gives visitors a chance to capture the wonder of moving water. To demonstrate, I re-visited the giraffe waterfall along one of the Discovery Island Trails just past the exit of It's Tough to be a Bug.

There are two ways to photograph moving water. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze it like this.

A fast shutter speed freezes the motion of the water of this waterfall in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A fast shutter speed freezes the motion of the water of this waterfall.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 80mm focal length

Or by slowing the shutter speed like in this photo to see water take on a smoother look.

A slower shutter speed shows the motion of the water of this waterfall in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A slower shutter speed shows the motion of the water of this waterfall.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 80mm focal length

I did not have a tripod so I really could not go much slower than 1/15th of a second for my shutter speed. When I am going out to photograph natural waterfalls like the one below in the Robert H. Treman State Park near Ithaca, New York, I come prepared with a tripod and set my camera to get long shutter speeds for the silky look many people love about waterfall photography.

Enfield Creek waterfall in the gorge at the Robert H. Treman State Park near Ithaca, New York.
Enfield Creek waterfall in the gorge at the Robert H. Treman State Park near Ithaca, New York.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 5s, f/29, ISO 200, 135mm focal length

If you live near a waterfall this Spring, grab your tripod and have some fun capturing moving water. For more waterfall tips, click on this link: Photographing Waterfalls.

April 9, 2010

The Red Beast

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Bad White Balance
Remember this photo? This is how my photos looked when I first attempted to photograph Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage with my Nikon D70 camera. Up until then, the camera's automatic White Balance setting was handling photographing around the Walt Disney World resort a breeze. I was able to save this photo via an online photo editing site. But you and I both know, it is best if you can get it right in the camera itself.

The next time I found myself in the Theater of the Stars for this production, I set my camera's image quality to RAW. This allowed me to alter the photo's white balance in a photo editor later. This worked well but I still was not totally pleased with the results. Reds continued to be blown out with reddish skin tones.

You might be wondering why I have such trouble with this show? Actually, I had trouble with a lot of Disney's stage productions and here is the reason: They use a lot of colored lighting during the show. Red being one they use a lot. My camera is always setup to capture vivid colors. When my camera and those red lights meet...Pow! Red heading off the charts or, in my case, the histogram.

I did some research on how I can best handle this situation and came across some articles about the Expodisc Filter by Expoimaging. This white opac filter fits over the front of your lens and, by telling your camera to take a custom White Balance setting, you point your camera and lens towards the light source. I emphasize "towards" because in your camera manuals you are told to point your camera at a white or middle gray surface to set a custom white balance. I do not understand the science behind the Expodisc but I do know that it works very well.

Before the show started, I popped on the Expodisc onto the front of my lens, set my camera to get a custom white balance and aimed it at the lights in the theater. I clicked the shutter and my LCD told me I had gotten a Good White Balance setting. I took off the Exposdisc filter and I was ready to go. I must say, with this simple solution, I got photos right out of the camera with near perfect color.

For the photo below of Belle singing during the opening number of the show, you see her bathed in white light with good skin color while some of the village's people behind her are in red light. This is as I saw it on stage.

Belle singing during the opening number of Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Belle singing during the opening number of Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV +0.6, 200mm focal length

Next up was Gaston's outfit. In the past I have returned with Gaston in neon red shirts and capes. After using the Exposdisc, I got the correct red for the one guy in town who's got all of it down. And his name's...Gaston.

Gaston singing his praises during Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Gaston singing his praises during Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV +0.6, 200mm focal length

Here are a couple more of my favorites from the show. Taken with the custom white balance via the Expodisc filter.

The library scene with Belle and the Beast in the Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The library scene with Belle and the Beast.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV +0.6, 200mm focal length
Belle blowing a kiss to the audience at the end of the Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Belle blowing a kiss as the curtain falls to end the show.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV +0.6, 200mm focal length

The authentic Expodisc Filter by Expoimaging may seem expensive but I have used it in a lot of settings since I took these photos. It's fast, simple and gets closer than anything else I have tried when faced with tricky lighting conditions like a stage show at Walt Disney World.

April 2, 2010

My Flickr Project Part III

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Hope you have enjoyed this series on how I used flickr, the popular Internet photo sharing community website, to improve my Disney photography. This is the last one for now. I am sure I will re-visit this concept in the future. It was both fun and extremely challenging. Especially this set of photos.

Matt Pasant is considered one of THE best Disney flickr photographers. His photographs are viewed thousands of times each week. He is best known for his fantastic photos of Disney's night time show like Wishes and Illuminations. This time I wanted to really stretch myself and equipment so I picked a couple of Matt's best fireworks photos.

The first one is Matt's tribute to IllumiNations 10th year anniversary. Here I go again complaining about the weather for my attempt. It was a very still night and the air felt "heavy". The smoke from the fireworks hung right over World Showcase Lagoon and got worse as IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth went on. I will point out more differences after I present both photos. First up is mine, then Matt's.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth from the Japan pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth from the Japan pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 3s, f/10, ISO 400, EV 0, 36mm focal length
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth by Matt Pasant from the Japan pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth by Matt Pasant.
Canon 40D, 3s, f/10, ISO 400, EV 0, 26mm focal length

Before I point out the differences. I would like to say I came real close to the time during IllumiNations as Matt's shot. From there the similarities end. Matt was in THE spot, which is the corner of the porch in front of the Tokyo Dining restaurant. I had to settle for a spot about fifteen feet to the left of THE spot as there were other photographers who had staked it out two hours before IllumiNations. I checked, Matt was not one of them. The smoke really took a lot of clarity and color away from my photo. Matt's is outstanding and I hope to do better the next time I'm at Epcot.

My second attempt at one of Matt's best was in the Magic Kingdom. A night shot of the Partners statue with Cinderella Castle lighted behind it with no guests around. That meant staying real late. In fact, I was there so late, the PhotoPass photographers had packed up and gone home. I knew my photo would be different from Matt's as I would have the Dream lights on the castle. That was okay. What wasn't okay was Disney had removed the Partners statue! They were filming the Christmas parade that week and the rainy weather pushed the filming into the weekend. All I had was an ugly platform. The nice decorations you saw behind the performers when the parade aired where not there at night. So, I did my best and set up my tripod in between the statue location and the castle for this photo.

Cinderella Castle decked out with Dream lights for Christmas in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle decked out with Dream lights for Christmas.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16mm, 8s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length

Here is Matt's with the Partners statue.

Night Partners by Matt Pasant, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Night Partners by Matt Pasant.
Canon 5D Mk II, 30s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length

Matt photographed this with a Canon 5D Mark II camera. That is a Full Frame camera where his 24mm = 24mm. My camera is cropped and to get the same 24mm of Matt's, I set the Tokina 11-16mm lens to 16mm. With my camera's crop factor of 1.5, 16mm * 1.5 = 24mm. I was closer to the castle and it was much brighter with the Dream lights on. I changed my shutter speed and EV accordingly to keep from overexposing the castle. This made the surrounding areas much darker than Matt's. I will be back for this one in the future.

The second fireworks photo of Matt's I wanted to try never happened. The last night I was in Epcot, it rained most of the day. It would let up at times and then rain some more. IllumiNations did go on but without me. I was soaked and decided a nice burger and shake at Beaches and Cream was more appealing. I did not want to not show Matt's work, however. I think it is one of his best and that's saying something.

Illuminations of Imagination by Matt Pasant, Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Illuminations of Imagination by Matt Pasant.
Canon 5D Mk II, 8s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 27mm focal length

Matt Pasant's flickr photostream is full of Disney photographic gems like these. Tell him Scott sent ya when you leave comments.

I hope you have enjoyed my Flckr Project. I know I learned a lot and I need to learn a lot more in my photographic journey.

My site was nominated for Best Photography Blog!
Vote for Picture This! by signing up and logging into Blogger's Choice Awards and help us take home the gold.

February 26, 2010

Creative White Balance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Most digital photographers I know try to get the white balance correct in all their photos. I know I fight with it for stage shows at Walt Disney World. If you need a refresher on white balance for digital cameras, visit Lisa's excellent post, Understanding White Balance.

It's easy to forget you can use white balance to create interesting color effects. To demonstrate, I set up my tripod in Japan's pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase to photograph one of Samurai Warrior statues at night. The statue is illuminated by artificial lights and by adjusting the white balance of the camera, I created the following three photos.

First, I used my standard white balance setting of Auto. Most of the time this works just fine.

Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Auto White Balance, Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Auto White Balance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 20s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod

Not bad. Yellowish color cast as the light source was very yellow. Next, I tried the Fluorescent white balance setting.

Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Fluorescent White Balance, Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Fluorescent White Balance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 20s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod

Wow...where did the green come from? Fluorescent lighting is greenish so, under fluorescent lighting, the color would have been correct. Lastly, I changed to Incandescent (light bulb) white balance.

Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Incandescent White Balance, Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Samurai warrior statue at night in Japan's pavilion using Incandescent White Balance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 20s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod

I like this as it gave a more truer color of the scene than the Auto mode. Don't be afraid to experiment with white balance. Just don't forget to change it back to your normal setting or you may end up with some green or blue images you weren't expecting.

February 12, 2010

Toontown Dominance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you want to make something you are photographing stand out in a photo, make it dominant. Dominance is easy to see in a photo. It is an offshoot of filling the frame as the dominant subject shares the photo with something else. The placement of the dominant subject helps to tell the story.

My first example is from Mickey's Toontown Fair. The washroom key in the gas pump has always given me a laugh. Pete is not very nice, is he? To tell this story I made the washroom key dominant by getting in close using the Tokina 11-16mm ultra wide angle lens at a focal length of 11mm and an aperture of f/16. This allowed me to keep everything in focus so you could see the relationship between the key and Pete's Garage.

The washroom key for Pete's Garage is in a unique place in the Magic Kingdom's Toontown, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The washroom key for Pete's Garage is in a unique place.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/40s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 11mm focal length

My second example is from the Toontown Farmer's Market. I wanted the fruit in focus but the busy market behind it a bit out of focus. This gives the idea it is a market but the focus is on the oranges and apples which are the dominate subject of the photo. I did that by increasing the size of the aperture from f/16 to f/5.6 and getting in real close to the oranges. Remember the smaller the aperture number, the larger the opening in the lens.

Toontown Farmer's Market has healthy and nutritious snacks in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Toontown Farmer's Market has healthy and nutritious snacks like these oranges and apples.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 11mm focal length

Next time you are at a Disney park or anywhere with your camera, consider telling a story with a dominant subject.

February 5, 2010

Illuminating the Yeti Shrine

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After I found out I was going to be attending Extra Magic Hours at night in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I had this photo idea in my head. The Yeti Shrine at night with Expedition Everest beautifully lighted in the background. I knew I would need a tripod, remote shutter release and a lens that could handle the sweeping image I had dancing in my head like the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens I have.

Now, you can imagine my disappointment when I rounded the corner and saw the scene below which greeted me. I never thought the Yeti Shrine would NOT have a light or two on it like the stone column off to the right.

The unlighted Yeti Shrine with Expedition Everest in the background at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Unlighted Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16mm, 25s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod

As I pondered this I came upon another idea. An even better one as it turns out. I took out the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight (flash unit) from my camera bag and set it and my camera to trigger the flash remotely. On any Nikon dSLR cameras with a pop-up flash, you can use the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) with either the SB-600, SB-800 or SB-900 Speedlights. Other Nikon dSLR cameras will need either an SB-800, SB-900 or the SU-800 Commander Unit. If you own another camera brand, refer to your manual to see how you can set up remote flash.

I am not going into the detail on how to use the CLS (see link and Google for more information) this time but just give you the results you see in the next photo. Here is the photo I had in my head. By using off-camera flash held at camera left, I angled it in such a way as to illuminate the Yeti Shrine. I set the camera to Rear-Sync Flash mode to capture the purple-white colors of Expedition Everest in the background.

The illuminated Yeti Shrine with Expedition Everest in the background at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Illuminated Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16mm, 25s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod, rear-synced off-camera flash at -1 power

What do you think? See, flash is not a dirty word but another tool to correctly expose your subjects.

January 29, 2010

Burst Mode

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When photographing an event or show which features fast action, I use what photographers refer to as Burst mode. Camera companies call it Continuous mode. Refer to your camera's manual on how to set it. This mode will continuously fire your shutter as fast as the camera is able. The Nikon D70 I use is rated at 3 frames per second (fps). The cameras used by today's sports photographers can go as fast as 11fps.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, I used burst mode when photographing the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show to catch all the exciting action sequences like the finale you see below.

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show finale sequence in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show finale sequence.



January 22, 2010

How to Photograph a Pirate

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Rim Light is a strong light that hits the edge of the main subject of a photo. In a studio, photographers will use lights behind their subject which is brighter by one or two stops to create the rim light effect. Outdoors, the best way to create rim lighting is putting the Sun behind or to one side of your subject. Below are three examples of rim lighting. For each one, I used a flash unit or speedlight as a fill flash. If you don't have a flash you can use for filling in the shadows, you can meter off the subject directly using spot metering.

While watching Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial in the Magic Kingdom, I caught the action of Captain Jack Sparrow and his young band of pirates in late afternoon sunshine. A perfect setup for creating rim lighted photographs.

The first one is subtle rim lighting with just a hint of it on some of Captain Jack Sparrow's dreads. This was the end of the show when Jack exclaims, "Look! It's the Governor's daughter!", before rushing off stage.

Captain Jack Sparrow during his Pirates Tutorial show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Subtle Rim Lighting.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 250, EV +0.3, 90mm focal length, flash at -1.0 power

The second one is strong rim lighting with very bright backlighting on Captain Jack Sparrow.

Captain Jack Sparrow during his Pirates Tutorial show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Strong Rim Lighting.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/40s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 200mm focal length, flash at -1.0 power

The last one is what I'd call just right rim lighting. Not to subtle and not too strong. Really shows the young guest having a ball with the rim lighting separating her from the background.

One of Captain Jack Sparrow's recruits during his Pirates Tutorial show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Just Right Rim Lighting.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 170mm focal length, flash at -1.0 power

Notice the shutter speed and aperture changes for each photo which I varied using my camera's controls. This caused the different rim lighting affects along with the changes in the angle of the light as Jack and his recruits moved during the show.

January 15, 2010

Color Theory and Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are of "opposite"Ě hue in some color model. The most popular color model is the artist color wheel where complementary colors are seen opposite of each other. Analogous colors are found next to each other on the same color model. Disney uses this knowledge when designing its themeparks and movies to create pleasing eye-catching color schemes.

Tiana's Showboat Jubilee which, just finished entertaining guests at the Magic Kingdom, is an excellent example of complementary colors. Below are decorations for Tiana's Showboat Jubilee that waere placed on the riverboat Liberty Belle where the jubilee took place.

Complementary and analogous colors used to decorate the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom for Tiana's Showboat Jubille, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Complementary and analogous colors used to decorate the Liberty Belle for Tiana's Showboat Jubille.

On the color wheel, purple and yellow are found opposite of each other making them complementary. While yellow and green are next to each on the color wheel or analogous. The three together form a color triad. Disney designers and animators study color theory to come up with visually exciting productions based on such tools. They also make for pleasing photographs.

Tiana's Showboat Jubille on the Liberty Belle rounding the corner on the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tiana's Showboat Jubille on the Liberty Belle rounding the corner on the Rivers of America.

Here is the Liberty Belle with the full complement of entertainers in Tiana's Showboat Jubille from the Disney animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. You will notice the colors purple, yellow and green are used in most of the costumes like the lovely Southern Belle seen below.

One of the lovely Southern Belles of Tiana's Showboat Jubille on the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
One of the lovely Southern Belles of Tiana's Showboat Jubille.

Finding complementary colors will make your photos pop and add to your travel photos at Walt Disney World.

January 8, 2010

HDR Creation

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Three weeks ago I introduced you to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing to increase the range of light when you are faced with a scene which shows a range from dark to light most digital cameras have trouble capturing. I discussed how you take a set of photos I referred to as an HDR set when you bracket around the "correct" exposure by plus and minus 2 EV (exposures). Then we went through a couple of examples.

I mentioned another way to create an HDR image from just one photo. To do this it helps to use a photo with the same characteristics as a scene you'd consider doing an HDR set with. Why didn't I do that in the first place, you may ask. Well, sometimes you either don't have time or you did not consider it. Especially at Walt Disney World.

Once you have selected a photo, you have to create an HDR set from it. Using your favorite photo editor, make two copies of the photo. It might help to rename them as you do so. Leave the first photo alone. The second one, change the exposure to -2. Most editors have an exposure slider to do this (if not, look at your software's manual or search in the Help section). On the third one, change the exposure to +2. When done you have a complete HDR set like I have below of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

HDR set of photos of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR set of photos of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Once created, I selected all three photos in the photo editor which for me is Apple Aperture 2 and choose to edit with the Photomatix plugin just as I did when I was using three different photos.

Final HDR image from one photo of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Final HDR image from one photo of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat.

While this technique works pretty good. It's not as vibrant as using three (or more) bracketed photos. It is a good alternative for those photos you may otherwise discard.

December 29, 2009

Disney Pic of the Week: Leading Lines

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Lines in photography are used to lead the eye to the point of interest and prevent the eye from wandering. Lines can put emphasis on distance or illustrate a relationship to foreground and background elements. Lines can be straight. Lines can be curved like the monorail tracks I photographed from the front of an express monorail headed towards the Contemporary Resort.

Monorail tracks heading towards the Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail tracks heading towards the Contemporary Resort.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal Length

Come back on Thursday and Saturday to see Barrie and Lisa's take on our Disney Pic of the Week on Leading Lines.

December 24, 2009

Kiosque à Journaux

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Kiosque à journaux (news kiosk) in the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Kiosque à journaux (news kiosk) in the France pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 20s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.7, 24mm Focal Length, Tripod

Kiosque à journaux or news kiosk are found throughout Paris. It's a great detail the Disney Imagineers caught and added to the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. I thought it would make a good Disney Pic of the Week on France.

December 3, 2009

Fez House Framed

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Entrance to the Fez House in the Morocco pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Entrance to the Fez House in the Morocco pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 900, EV +1.0, 18mm Focal Length

In Morocco's pavilion is the Fez House, which represents a typical Moroccan home. There are beautiful mosaic tiles, carvings, and artifacts from daily life. If you are quiet when you approach the fountain, you just might hear children playing in the distance. I used the entrance to frame the interior of the Fez House and is my Disney Pic of the Week on Framing. Morocco is full of framing opportunities as I showed a few weeks ago when Morocco was the Disney Pic of the Week.

November 27, 2009

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last year I gave you some tips on how to photograph Christmas light decorations at Walt Disney World and at home. This year I want to show you a couple of my results using those tips.

I visited the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios last December. Putting my camera into Rear Sync Flash mode or what I referred to as dragging the shutter in last year's article, I was ready to capture those spectacular light displays. I used Manual mode and set the aperture to f/4. By using flash, I kept the ISO low at 200 but I had to be very aware of the shutter speed. In Rear Sync mode, the camera can use longer shutter speeds to capture as much ambient light as it can before the flash is fired. At a 1/4 of a second, I had to make sure to steady my camera using Da Grip and an image stabilized lens (the Nikon 18-200VR) when taking this photo of these lighted bicycles.

Lighted bicycles found at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios , Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lighted bicycles are part of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/4s, f/4, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length, Rear-sync Flash at -3 Power

Without the flash, you would only be able to see the colored lights. With the flash, you can see the bicycles, the flat tires, the sidewalk and the background. Notice I had the flash set to its lowest power setting at -3 so as not to wash out the lights. I don't randomly set the flash power. I take shots at various power levels until I find the one that works the best.

This technique can also be used for any lighted displays. The entrance to Mission: Space features a rotating Earth with the ride's logo with space ship leaving orbit and Hewlett-Packard's logo, the attraction's sponsor. While I would have rathered taken this photo at dusk with a tripod like I did in China, this was the last night of my trip and the tripod was already packed. Again, using Manual mode, I set the aperture at f/8 and a shutter speed of a half second. The longest shutter speed I would ever attempt a hand held shot. I did the best I could to steady my camera by getting down on one knee, using Da Grip and the flash set to Rear Sync and full power to cover the large area and distance. It took several photos to make sure I got some good images like the one you see below. The long shutter speed gave a nice blur to the moving globe while keeping everything else sharp. The flash filled in the dark areas nicely.

The Mission: Space sign in Epcot's Futureworld, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Mission: Space sign in Epcot's Futureworld.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/2s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal Length, Rear-sync Flash at Full Power

Twitter fans, I will be tweeting from Walt Disney World next week on my @Scottwdw twitter account. Request to follow me and you'll be seeing lots of pictures from the Disney parks and Sea World.

November 20, 2009

3rd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

What a difference three years make when I put out my first Christmas buying guide on the Picture This! Photoblog. Used to be Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States), was the only time you could get amazing deals on everything from apparel to electronics. Now, retailers are putting out door buster deals throughout the month of November. Not to be left out, online retailers like Amazon and Dell have jumped in. This all makes for a great time of year to be looking for a new dSLR camera and accessories.

Books. In this age of the Internet, it seems funny to be recommending books each year. Photography books are hot sellers as digital photography grows each year. I do a lot of online research but a book is still a great way to become engrossed in a subject without distractions and when being online is not possible.

Scott Kelby released his third Digital Photography Book for those who already have the first two books. If you don't have these books or know a phtographer in your life, there's a new three volume box set available. These books, in short, concise one page per subject format, gives great tips and tricks to get the results of professional photographers. The books are easy to pack and carry, too.

As you know, I am a big fan of Joe McNally. His book, The Moment It Clicks, was a huge success and has inspired me in my quest to find special moments in my photography. This year, Joe came out with a book on using off-camera speedlight flashes. These flashes are a big mystery to most of us. Though it does focus on Nikon cameras and flashes, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, is another book to inspire you to learn how to use these speedlights in new and creative ways.

A book released earlier this year which I have not been able to read is Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David DuChemin. It's been getting excellent reviews and is on my Wish List this year.

For more book recommendations from Barrie, Lisa and I, visit the AllEars Amazon Photography Book Store.

Each year I recommend some cool stuff for us dSLR photographers, this year I'm going to do it by using links to past articles which have links to the products I mention in them. Ready? Here we go!

If you are still using the kit lens or lenses that came with your camera, I recommend picking up a Nifty-Fifty which is a 50mm, f/1.8 prime lens. These lenses are great for learning how to use and control our cameras. Not to mention their value in getting dark ride photos at Disney and other themeparks. Another new lens from Nikon is the 35mm f/1.8 for DX (cropped) cameras which gives a more normal focal length.

One of the best lenses I have purchased in the past year was the Tokina 11-16mm Ultra Wide Angle. It has brought a whole new way I look at things at Disney and elsewhere.

If you are ready to do some serious night and low-light photography, a tripod is a must and I showed you how to plan for using one at Walt Disney World earlier this year.

To see the rest of our recommendations for photographic accessories, go to the All Ears Accessories Store.

I checked and all the links from my previous Christmas Gift Guides still work and will give you more great ideas for your photography gift giving needs.

1st dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

2nd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide


Go luck if you venture out for Black Friday next week!

October 30, 2009

Project Tomorrow

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After riding the latest version of Spaceship Earth, I was pleased to see the exhibit area being used again. The new sponsor, Siemens AG, has created Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. As you enter the exhibit, you can not help but notice the huge Earth before you. In a bit of technological wizardry, the photo that was taken early in the ride of you has now appeared indicating the location where you live. Project Tomorrow houses interactive exhibits featuring various Siemens AG technology. These interactive displays and games allow guests to see the future of medicine, transportation and energy management.

Project Tomorrow exhibit area in Spaceship Earth, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Project Tomorrow exhibit area in Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 1400, EV +0.3, 11mm Focal Length

How I took this photo: You will notice I was standing in the middle of the ramp from the ride exit (you can see the railings on the far left and right of the photo). As much as I would have liked to set up a tripod, I doubt Disney security would have approved. I had on a fast lens, the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, set to it's widest aperture of f/2.8 and focal length of 11mm. My camera, a Nikon D70, was set to Auto ISO which only allowed the shutter speed to go as slow as 1/30th of a second. At this exposure, the camera set the ISO at 1400. I took this hand held using Da Grip. This is one of several images I took in burst mode and the best of the lot. I had good timing as I did not get run over by any other guests coming off the ride.

October 23, 2009

Telephoto Landscape

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mistakes. We all make them. Most of the time when we make a mistake, it doesn't work out to good. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise. Such as the case in the photo below of Expedition EVEREST taken from the bridge between Africa and Discovery Island. I had just finished walking the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and had my camera in Aperture Priority mode and set to it's largest f-stop of f/2.8. That is best for taking animal portraits with and not landscapes. Well, I forgot and took this photo. I didn't realize what I had done until later when I was on the other side of the park. What do you think? Ideally, I would have used f/11 to f/16.

Expedition Everest telephoto landscape in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Expedition Everest Telephoto Landscape.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/3200s, f/2.8, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 70mm Focal Length

Using a telephoto lens, even a short one, compresses the image captured by the camera's sensor. The compression worked here to keep the depth of field small enough to keep the image in focus almost from front to back. Remember, with my camera crop of 1.5x, this is the equivalent to a 105mm telephoto lens (70mm x 1.5). There is softness in the extreme areas and I wouldn't want to print this any bigger than an 8" x 12".

October 16, 2009

Magic Hour

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Being Disney fans, we consider every hour at a Disney park or resort magical. In photography, each day has two Magic Hours. These are the half hour before and after sunrise and sunset. When the sun is low or just below the horizon, it creates amazing colors in the sky and on the objects around us. Landscape photographers know this and will show up far in advance of the morning or evening magic hours to set up their equipment in hopes of catching something spectacular.

I have talked about watching the sky as you walk around a Disney park before. In the photo below, I was taking a break at the Noodle Station seating area when I noticed how the light was starting to illuminate Cinderella Castle with a lovely golden color. I took many photos over the next several minutes and liked this one the best.

Golden sunlight illuminates Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Golden sunlight illuminates Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0, 18mm Focal Length

The above photo is more awareness than planning. My next trip to Walt Disney World is in early December. Checking the calendar for December, I found the Animal Kingdom will have Evening Extra Magic Hours (EMH) on Wednesday, the 2nd. Normally, Animal Kingdom closes before sunset so this is an opportunity to get some unique photos. One that came to mind is to get a Magic Hour photo of Expedition Everest but what time should I be there to get it?

The Internet quickly gave me the answer. I found the U.S. Naval Oceanography website had a Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day page which calculates sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset for any day and for any city in the world. To find out when the Sun would set on the EMH, I entered in December 2, 2009. Selected Florida for the state in the United States and the city of Orlando in Form A and pressed the Get Data button. It told me sunset would happen at 5:28 PM which tells me I should be set up at least by 5:00 PM. Local weather might interfere but the chances of me getting a spectacular photo have increased with this knowledge.

There are other sites with even more information like the compass reading where the sun will set on the horizon. Given that information and an accurate map, you can determine the best location to get front lighting, side lighting or backlighting at locations you want to photograph at.

October 9, 2009

In Camera Cropping

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Many times I have taken a photo which looked good in the viewfinder but, when reviewing it in the camera's LCD display, not so much. It happens when I am not careful and forget to look around the edges before pressing the shutter release. In the photo below I was intent on Space Mountain before me and missed all the foliage and tree limbs intruding. Now, I could just crop this photo in software. However, cropping too much loses image resolution and can make a photo grainy when viewing a smaller, cropped version.

Wide view of Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wide view of Space Mountain.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 29mm Focal Length

In this case, I decided to use the power of the zoom lens and "crop in camera" by zooming in from 29mm to 75mm. I, also, took two images. One in a landscape orientation and, the one below, in a portrait orientation.

In camera cropped view of Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
In camera cropped view of Space Mountain.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 75mm Focal Length

By doing the crop in the camera, it saves me time later at the computer. The image is cleaner and has your camera's full resolution for printing or displaying electronically.

October 2, 2009

Pano-Magic

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I recently attended a photo workshop where I saw some fantastic panoramic images. As the presenter went through the steps to create them, I got so excited that when I got home last night I searched through my Walt Disney World photos to see if I had any candidates for a panoramic.

Though I did find some including the example I am showing you today, you really need to create images with the panoramic image in mind. Here's a list of tips when photographing for panoramics:

1. Use a level tripod. The key here is to make stitching the images together easier for the software. I will tell you the software I tried was very good a finding a way to match up images even if hand held. So, if you are going out to specifically create panoramic photos, then use a tripod. If you are in the middle of a themepark without one, go ahead and hand hold.

2. Use the same exposure for all images. Again, this will make matching up the images easier. Also, another good use of the Manual mode.

3. Make your exposures as fast as possible. This is help keep all your images even and, if you have any moving subjects, it will keep down the movements of those subjects.

4. Avoid using a polarizer filter. If you are trying to capture a wide expanse of sky, a polarizer will cause different hues as the camera is moved from one image to another and the angle to the sun changes.

5. If using a digital camera, turn off Auto White Balance (AWB). AWB can change the color cast of an image as the light changes from one image to another. If it's cloudy out, use the Cloudy setting. If bright sun, use the Sunny setting, etc.

6. Overlap the Images. For best results, overlap the images about 20% if you are using focal lengths of 35mm and up. If you are using a wide angle lens then increase that to 40 to 50% because wide angles can distort at the edges.

Now, let's create a panoramic of these two photos I took of a sunset at Epcot's World Showcase. As you can see they are level as I was using a tripod. They have enough overlap to make the stitching easy for software or to manually match them up if I choose to do so.

Two images from Epcot's World Showcase for panoramic stitching, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

I have my photos selected. I edited them the same and matched up the sky colors as best as I could. Check to see if the software you use to edit photos with has a panoramic tool built-in. The last few versions of Photoshop has it and is called Photomerge. I tried out a few different programs and liked Arcsoft's Panorama Maker 5 (for PC or Mac) the best. It automatically did the hard work of stitching the photos together and even has virtual framing options available. There are many other programs out there so try them out to see which one is best for you. Here's the final version after Panorama Maker 5 got done with it's magic.

Finished panoramic of a World Showcase sunset, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
World Showcase Sunset Panoramic

Something to keep in mind. While this is a horizontal panoramic, I saw some vertical ones during the workshop which were gorgeous. I'll be looking for panoramic opportunities on my next visit to a Disney resort.

September 26, 2009

More Nifty-Fifty

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mickey's MouseKosh overalls drying near the garden outside his Country House in the Magic Kingdom's Toontown Fair, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey's MouseKosh overalls drying near the garden outside his Country House in Toontown Fair.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/640s, f/1.8, 200 ISO, +0.6 EV

Drying outside his Country House's garden, Mickey's MouseKosh overalls are selectively focused. By setting the aperture to f/1.8 on my nifty-fifty (50mm prime lens) and carefully focusing on the overalls throwing the background out of focus for my Disney Pic of the Week on the technique of Selective Focus.

September 11, 2009

Emotions in Our Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I gave you some of my favorite photography links, this week I want to talk about one of those links. Photofocus by photography Scott Bourne wrote an article entitled, "10 Ways to Know You Made a Good Picture". Most of them I have talked about here before like exposure, light, backgrounds, composition and some others.

Then I came upon number 7: Emotion. The photograph should evoke some emotion. Any emotion will do. But really good photographs cause an emotional reaction. When I am looking at photos by other photographers on flickr and Disney and photography forums, the ones that grab me have always evoked some sort of emotion. Many times it's "Wow! Wish I had taken that!". Others makes me smile, laugh, wonder, empathize, envy, mad, sad and a host of other emotions.

The photo I choose below of the two young princesses posing for a photograph for their parents in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, gave me two kinds of emotions. The first was when I took the photo. The girls looked so cute and I could not help but smile. Later, when I pulled the photo up on my computer, I laughed at their styling royal footwear. Just perfect for a day in a Magic Kingdom.

Two young princesses sporting the latest in royal footwear in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Two young princesses sporting the latest in royal footwear posing for a photo in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 112mm Focal Length

Take a minute to read over Scott Bourne's article and try to keep them in mind as you are photographing not just at a Disney themepark but anytime.

September 4, 2009

Five Great Photography Websites

What? Summer is over? The kids are back (or soon will be) in school. Labor Day is Monday. And, my blog vacation is over. In reflecting on all that I know many of you will start and/or return to exploring photography. I thought I'd help you out by giving you Five Great Photography Websites I visit frequently each week and why:

1. Digital Photography School - this website contains tutorials, equipment and software reviews, how-to's on taking photographs to post-processing, inspirational photo essays and hosts a wonderful community of photographers of all levels of experience.

2. The Pioneer Women: Photography - Looking for a fun way to learn about photography? This is the place. Ree is wonderful at taking any photography concept and easily explaining it in her Texas Down-to-Earth way. Some people might be interested in other parts of her website, too.

3. Photofocus - Scott Bourne is an accomplished professional photographer who has a mix of inspirational and equipment geek posts to satisfy both the right and left side of a photographer's brain.

4. Your Photo Tips - weekly and monthly postings showing some of the best photography found around the Internet along with monthly book reviews and photography tips.

5. Ken Rockwell - Ken Rockwell is a bit controversial mainly because he is a working photographer and doesn't have time to mince words. He is independent and says it the way he sees it. I find that refreshing and the guy knows his stuff. Want to know something about a Canon or Nikon camera? Ken's website is the place to go.

These five sites will give you plenty of reading and inspiration to go out and photograph the coming fall season and your next trip to a Disney resort or themepark!

August 28, 2009

Self Portrait

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Self portrait of Scottwdw in front of Goofy's Candy Company in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida./>
Self Portrait in front of Goofy's Candy Company in Downtown Disney.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 8s, f/16, ISO 200, +1.0 EV, 18mm Focal length, Tripod

Still vacationing (not at Walt Disney World this time) and will return soon!

August 7, 2009

Everest Sun

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the first things you learn in any basic book or course on photography is to keep the Sun at your back when taking an outdoor photo. Yet, there at times when having the Sun in your photo creates interesting light patterns, flare and, when stopping down the lens, star effect. Remember NOT to look directly at the Sun as that will cause damage to your eyes. Very carefully put the sun in a corner, lower or upper half of the frame. Use a small aperture in the f/16, f/22 or f/32 range to cut down the amount of light entering the camera when the shutter is pressed.

This is what I did when heading towards the summit of Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens has a 9-bladed diaphragm and creates lovely stars of bright light sources at f/22 and you can't get much brighter than the Sun.

Sun near the summit of Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Sun near the summit of Everest.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/400s, f/22, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, 11mm Focal length

I found this link to 25 Excellent Sun Flare Photography Examples showing some outstanding photos featuring the Sun. Here's more tips for achieving artistic lens flare. Have fun and be careful!

July 31, 2009

MagicMeets Auction Print Preparation

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the great events at each year's MagicMeets is the silent auction for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America. This auction is run by Lou Mongello's Dream Team Project volunteers and features hundreds of items for people to bid on. So far the auctions have raised $32,000 for Make-A-Wish. It's a beautiful way to share the Disney spirit!

Last year I was asked to donate something and I chose a professionally framed 16x20 inch print from one of my Animal Kingdom photos. This year I am again donating a framed print. A replica you can see below. This is a photo you may have seen here before as I used it when I talked about using tripods at Walt Disney World earlier this year.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Replica of framed Twilight Zone Tower of Terror print.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 25s, f/18, 200 ISO, EV +0.3, 80mm Focal length

When you decide to make a print of one of your digital images, you have to process it a bit differently than if you were going to display it in a digital frame or on the Internet. For instance, you must sharpen it differently and more aggressively. Have in mind the size you want to print it at and crop accordingly. For the Tower of Terror photo, I knew I was going to print it at 16x20 so I cropped it for an 8x10 (which is the same ratio as a 16x20). Set the DPI (dots per inch) at a minimum of 300. The human eye can not tell the difference beyond 300 DPI. As a comparison, most web images are at 72 DPI which create much smaller file sizes and load faster on our screens.

If you want to make sure what you see on your screen is what you'll see come out on your printer you should color calibrate both the computer's display screen and printer. You should check out your software's manual and supporting websites to get specific information regarding preparing your images for printing.

I use an online printer who color corrects and sharpens as needed before printing. For this year's auction print, I chose to use Kodak Professional Endura Metallic paper which is supposed to produce a striking, three-dimensional-like image. I'll let you know! I will have a local professional frame shop do the framing. What's nice about working with a local frame shop is you can bring the print in and match it up with a sample of hundreds of framing materials to find just the right one for the photo.

For those of you attending next week's MagicMeets, I'll be around photographing and helping out at the AllEars.net booth. Stop by and say "Hi!".

July 24, 2009

Back to the Future

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I know, that is not a title to a Disney movie but Meet the Robinsons really did not fit for this article (see, I got a Disney movie reference in anyway!).

It's been over two years since I took the photo of Cinderella Castle from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and it's still one of my favorites. It's one of the first photos I shared here on the AllEars.net Picture This! blog. Even before Lisa came on board to help out Barrie and I. As much as I like this photo, I always thought the colors looked faded and there was too much clutter in the foreground and to both sides.

Original photo of Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Original Photo of Cinderella Castle at Dusk.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 400 ISO, EV -0.3, 80mm Focal length

Over this time, I have learned a lot about digital photo processing. I am sure you have or will do the same. It's a good exercise to return to some of your older work and look at it from the prospective of your new knowledege of post-processing. This is what I did with this photo.

Using Apple's Aperture 2 software, I first cropped it to eliminate what I considered clutter. In doing so I found I liked a portrait (more vertical) composition than the original landscape (horizontal) one. I, then, started to select different areas of the sky with the color dropper selection tool and enhanced them making them more vibrant. Your software may have a different way of doing this so consult the manual. I had to remove some sensor spots (I had not learned how to clean my camera's sensor yet) and adjusted the exposure to eliminate any overexposed areas. Lastly, I applied sharpening to clean up the edges. The result you see below.

Adjusted photo of Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Adjusted Photo of Cinderella Castle at Dusk.

When you are not able to go and create new images, look back at your photo archives and "see" the future. It's a lot of fun and a good way to learn the capabilities of your photo editing software.

July 10, 2009

Tom Sawyer Island - Part I

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Tom Sawyer Island (or TSI for short) is billed as a giant-sized playground geared to youngsters. I would like to add it's a wonderful place for photographers. Many interesting and challenging subjects await you to capture, lots of activities for the kids and unique views of Frontierland and Liberty Square.

Tom Sawyer Island is actually two islands separated by a bridge which holds it's own surprise for those walking over it. The map below shows all the trails and activities to explore.

Map of Tom Sawyer Island greets guests arriving to explore it's secrets in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Map of Tom Sawyer Island greets guests arriving to explore it's secrets.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/8, 200 ISO, EV 0, 18mm Focal length, Flash used

In this week's Picture This! photo blog, I am going to show you Harper's Mill island. Harper's Mill is a very interesting structure with links to Walt Disney Animation and it's musical heritage. (Thanks to Jack Spence for uncovering these!)

Sign for Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sign for Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

Are you scared of dark, enclosed places? Then you might want to skip going into Injun Joe's Cave though Tom Sawyer tells you he has not been seen lately. For those of you brave enough, there are lots to find from fossils to a lava lighted face. A steady hand is needed when photographing in the cave.

A lighted face in Injun Joe's Cave on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A lighted face found in Injun Joe's Cave.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/4s, f/3.5, 1600 ISO, EV -0.0, 18mm Focal length

Having survived Injun Joe's Cave, you come out on the other side of the island. Going right leads you to the barrel bridge which is great fun when open. I was not so lucky as the bridge was closed for repairs so I headed up the hill where I passed this brook running down to the Rivers of America which surrounds Tom Sawyer Island. When photographing moving water, you either want to freeze it like a crashing wave onto rocks or blur it's movement with a slow shutter speed like for a waterfall.

A brook on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Brook on Tom Sawyer Island using a slow shutter speed.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

Moving on, I came upon Aunt Polly's counter service location. Disney only runs Aunt Polly's during the busiest times of the year and was closed when I was there. There are snacks and drinks via machines, lots of picnic tables to relax on and even some rocking chairs to nap in.

Taking a nap at Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nap time at Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/20, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 44mm Focal length

From Aunt Polly's you can view Liberty Square's Haunted Mansion in all it's spooky glory. Being in such a peaceful place away from the crowds, I was able to enjoy the many details of the Haunted Mansion and it's theming from the covered queue to the bat shaped wind vanes (doubling as lighting rods) on the roof.

The Haunted Mansion from Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Haunted Mansion from Aunt Polly's.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/20, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

Leaving Aunt Polly's I came upon some unfinished work of Tom Sawyer's. A lovely sentiment but I doubt the owner of the fence was none to thrilled with Tom's work.

Tom and Huck's unfinished work on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Some unfinished work by Tom and Huck.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

This concludes our tour of the first of two islands which make up Tom Sawyer Island. Next week, we'll explore a frontier fort, a mine and another unique view of the Magic Kingdom.

July 3, 2009

Focus on the Fife and Drum

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is not a coincidence that I am featuring a photo of The Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps as Deb Wills did early this month. With this post happening the day before America celebrates it's 233rd birthday on July 4th, 2009, I wanted to add on to Deb's excellent post (psst, Deb I think this is called "synergy") and show you something which surprised me.

I've seen the Fife and Drum Corps on several of my visits yet never had I stopped to watch them. I made it a point to do so on my last trip and enjoyed their preformance immensely. I believe they do several different routines. The one I had the pleasure of seeing included a salute to each of the United States Armed Forces. They played each theme song for the Air Force, Army, Navy and the Marines. It was during their salute to the Marines that they took the formation of the raising of the flag on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Everyone applauded and it gave me patriotic goose-bumps to hear and see this as I had no idea that was coming.

The Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps performing outside the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps performing outside the American Adventure.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/18, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm focal length

Can't end a post without a little tip. You'll notice I used a small aperture of f/18 (remember the larger the f-number, the smaller the opening of the aperture), this was to make sure I'd have a large plane of focus or depth of field. Most good travel photos will use this technique. Another tip, when shooting in bright Florida sunshine, use fill flash. I didn't here and it would have helped to fill in the dark shadows. Next time!

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July holiday to everyone in the United States of America!

May 29, 2009

Light and Shadow

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photography is all about capturing the light. Shadows in a photo help to create depth. Together, light and shadow can create a three dimensional look. In the photo below, the light entering from the upper left is an example of sidelighting. The shadows frame and mold Leota's face especially her eyes. Did you notice those eyes? Read the caption below to learn about some Disney Imagineering fun.

Madame Leota's tombstone just befoe entering the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 200mm focal length

Tombstone which honors the late Walt Disney Imagineer Leota Thomas as seen in the Haunted Mansion's graveyard in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Every few minutes, Loeta's eyes open and look around as shown in this photograph.

May 8, 2009

Tripod vs. Hand Held Comparison

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In my recent article on Using a Tripod at Walt Disney World, I talked about the advantages of using a tripod over trying to hand hold a camera when light levels are low like at night. This week I want to show you by comparing two photographs of the same subject using both techiques.

I carefully chose the subject and took the photos from the same location. For the first photo of Fulton's Crab House Restaurant in Downtown Disney's Marketplace, I steadied myself as best I could against a railing and used Joe McNally's Da Grip with an image stablized (IS) lens. Nikon calls theirs vibration reduction (VR) lenses. To get a proper exposure, I had to increase the ISO to 1600 and use an aperture of f/5.3 to get a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. This is quite hard to hand held and I took a series of shots with this one being the best.

Fulton's Crab House restaurant in Downtown Disney's Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fulton's Crab House taken Hand Held.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/13s, f/5.3, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 80mm focal length

I do like this photo. The reflection of the lights in the water ripples and the lights and signs of the restaurant are nice but it's dreary for lack of a better word. It doesn't reach out and grab my attention.

In the second photo where a tripod was used, I was able to set the ISO at 200 for less noise and an aperture of f/22 which gave the lights a nice star effect. The shutter speed climbed to 30 seconds which allowed more light to hit the sensor. You can see more definition in the outside lighting and you can see more of the inside lighting. The long exposure smooths out the water ripples and reflections so they are not as pronounced but I find it a very pleasing result. This photo does grab my attention. What do you think?

Fulton's Crab House restaurant in Downtown Disney's Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fulton's Crab House taken using a Tripod.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 82mm focal length

April 24, 2009

Using a Tripod at WDW

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Hollywood Studios Entrance, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Hollywood Studios Entrance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, 170mm Focal length, Tripod

I have never carried a tripod into a Walt Disney World park until my last trip. I thought it would be too much trouble and a bother. However, if you plan ahead, it can be done without too much disruption to your family's enjoyment. First, you have to consider how to carry the tripod the times you decide to bring one. For me it started with the choice of tripod. I didn't want one too heavy or big and easy to carry. I settled on a Manfrotto 725B Digi Tripod with Integrated Ball Head and Carrying Bag which is all those things and cost about $135. This tripod has since been replaced by the Manfrotto 7302YB M-Y Tripod and still comes with a ball head and carrying bag at around the same price. The carrying bag allowed me to carry the tripod over my shoulder comfortably. Now, don't get me wrong, I would not carry the tripod all day long. The main reason for using a tripod at Walt Disney World is for long exposure photography in the early mornings, evenings and fireworks.

MK locker
On the days I planned to use a tripod, I would rent a locker at the parks. The tripod fit easily in a LARGE locker (see photo) so make sure you ask for one of this size. It was also handy to store sweatshirts or sweaters if you are visiting when the nights cool down. This let me go on rides and attractions without having to deal with the bulkiness of a tripod. The lockers are located near the front entrances to the parks so be aware of how long it will take to retrieve the tripod. I tried to plan to be near the front of the park about an hour before sunset. That gave me more than enough time to get to the locations I had in mind.

So, what are the advantages of a tripod besides being able to shoot at long exposures. It lets you use low ISO setting which means less noise and better clarity to your photos. All of my tripod photos were taken at my camera's lowest ISO setting of 200. Tripods, used correctly, give your camera a rock steady platform with no shake. To insure as little or no camera movement as possible use a remote shutter release or your camera's self-timer. Some people even go so far as locking up the mirror (see your camera's manual on how to do this).

Temple of Heaven in the China pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase at dusk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Temple of Heaven in the China pavilion at dusk.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 8s, f/8, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal length, Tripod

I keep mentioning how I planned to use a tripod and to be at a certain place. Think of it as an extension of your normal planning process and make sure your family is involved so they know what you want to do and expect. For fireworks, your family will probably want to be with you. Other times, they may want to explore while you are waiting through 10, 20, 30 second or longer exposures. It pays to research locations. In previous visits, I would try and take a night photo which just wouldn't work hand-held so I would make a mental note. flickr is a great place to find locations as there are many photographers who specialize in Disney themepark photography.

Sometimes you might just come upon them as you walk around. On a previous trip, I walked the trail between Disney's Hollywood Studios and the Epcot resort area late at night. I looked over the canal to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror all lit up in very moody colors fitting the theme of the ride and knew I would need to come back with a tripod which I finally did.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at night from the walking trail to the Epcot resort area.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, 130mm Focal length, Tripod

This was taken late at night which is another way to capture unique night time photos at Walt Disney World when the parks are close to being empty of visitors and there's a chance the water around and in the parks is calm. I had such a night during my last visit and was able to get mirrored images around the Epcot resort area like in this photo of the Swan Resort.

The Swan Resort mirrored in the canal the Friendship boats use during the day, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Swan Resort mirrored in the canal the Friendship boats use during the day.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal length, Tripod

Using a tripod at Walt Disney World does take some effort and advanced planning but the rewards of capturing photos you could never get without one is worth it. Will I always take a tripod to a Disney park now? That will depend on what I have planned and who will be accompanying me but I will never think of it as a burden. Tripods open up far more opportunities when the Sun goes down.

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April 17, 2009

More on Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is a follow up to Lisa's excellent Quick Tips for Quick Portraits article where she showed how to create a portrait of AllEars.net founder, Deb Wills. The only thing I wish to add is many times we are taking these photos in bright Florida sun or in the shade where our favorite Disney characters like to hang out. When faced with those kind of conditions, I like to add fill light using either a flash unit or on-board camera flash (if the camera has it).

Unlike Lisa, I could not move the statuette of Dumbo and Timothy in the Hub area in front of Cinderella Castle where I had my subject pose for her portrait. This meant I needed to add light to "fill" in the shadows caused by the bright afternoon sun. Like Lisa suggests, I found a good background and, by kneeling down, I found an angle which kept out fellow vacationers, too.

A Disney Portrait in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Disney Portrait in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 27mm focal length

You can see the flash in my subject's sunglasses. If she had not been wearing them, she probably would have been badly squinting so I didn't ask her to remove them. I could remove the hot spot via software if I wanted to.

Fill Flash is one of the secrets of the Disney Photopass photographers. If you watch them, you'll notice they always use fill flash during the day. Check your camera and/or flash manual to see how to set it/them for fill flash. It's sometimes called balanced fill flash.

April 10, 2009

Metering Modes Revisited

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last year I went in-depth and explained the three different metering modes found on our digital SLR and advanced point and shoot cameras. These are Matrix, Center-weighted and Spot. At the time, I used some un-Disney like photos to show the difference between each mode. I thought a side by side comparison would be helpful as a review.

The three photos below were taken from Sea Breeze Point near Disney's Boardwalk Resort shows the three different metering modes in action.

Metering mode collage from Sea Breeze Point near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Metering mode collage from Sea Breeze Point near Disney's Boardwalk Resort.

As I have mention in previous posts, Matrix metering in today's digital cameras is very good except in the most challenging of lighting situations like stage lights, backlighting and very low light conditions (dark rides). When faced with one of the challenging conditions, I will use Spot metering over the other two like in the photo from the Festival of the Lion King.

Festival of the Lion King performer in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Festival of the Lion King performer in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 800, EV 0, 200mm Focal length

March 27, 2009

Hyper-Hollywood

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Hyperfocus is a term you may run across when reading about photography. It is a one word term to say everything in a photograph is in sharp focus from front to back. You see hyperfocal photos on the covers of travel magazines where a tropical beach is featured and everything is in focus from the people on the beach to the far away mountains. It is an easy technique to learn. In the "old" days of manual focus lenses, you had a distance scale where one of the settings was the infinity symbol. You set your focus to infinity at certain apertures and, even if it looked out of focus through the viewfinder, everything would be in focus once you got the film back.

These days, most lens manufacturers have done away with the distance scale and letting the camera do the work. For point and shooters, set to landscape mode which is the hyperfocus setting. For digital SLR users, it's a bit more complicated. The easiest way, is to put your camera into Aperture priority mode and use an aperture of f/16, f/22 or smaller. Then focus on a point about one third (1/3) into the scene you are photographing. The photo below of some Streetmosphere performers on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios is a good example of where to focus. Citizen of Hollywood Ready Freddy Fiddlesticks is about 1/3 into the scene of him and his fellow performers, the audience and the backdrop of Sunset Blvd. with the Hollywood Tower Hotel off in the distance.

Streetmosphere performers on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Streetmosphere performers Ready Freddy Fiddlesticks, Cloe Canard (big hat) and Tallulah Fruiti (blue dress) on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal length

Citizens of Hollywood are the troup of cast members in Disney's Hollywood Studios known as Streetmosphere. Here at the Picture This! Photoblog, Streetmosphere is a popular subject. Lisa talked about how the "shows" are put together, I featured them in a Pic of the Week and Barrie used a piece of a Streetmosphere performer's costume in one of her "Where in the World" contests. AllEars.net recently updated the Streetmosphere information with more photos which identify some of the popular Citizens of Hollywood.

March 20, 2009

Photographing the American Idol Experience

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are lots of concerts held at Walt Disney World each day so knowing how to photograph one is a good skill to have. To show you how I do it, I selected the new American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. While concerts, unlike shows, are more spontaneous, the American Idol Experience does follow a script of sorts. That makes it a good place to learn this kind of event photography.

First, let's look at a couple of photos I took of the performers. Look closely at how they are lighted by the show's director and crew.

An American Idol Experience contestant performing at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 360, EV +0.0, 70mm Focal length
An American Idol Experience contestant performing at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
American Idol Experience contestants performing under stage lights.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/100s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV +0.0, 170mm Focal length

When dealing with stage lighting like this it is very important to make sure you properly expose the performer and let the other parts of the stage lighting fall where it may. To do this, I used something I have talked about before: Spot Metering. Using spot metering, I could get exposures right off the performers skin. This tends to make a lot of the background dark which is what the show's director wants us to see so it works out.

Spot metering worked even on the judges as the lighting was directly on them. Randy, Paula and Simon's stand-ins looked pretty good and entertained us with their words of wisdom about each contestant's performance.

American Idol Experience Judges at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
American Idol Experience Judges commenting on a performance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV -0.3, 130mm Focal length

When pulling back to take in most of the stage, I switched back to Matrix Metering (see the Spot Metering link for more about Matrix Metering) so the camera would give an overall exposure to balance out all the mixed lighting in the theater. Today's digital cameras do an excellent job most of the time with matrix metering. Notice how the camera can not capture the entire range from light to dark as the audience looks a bit underexposed. Something that can be fixed in a photo editor.

The American Idol Experience stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
American Idol Experience contestant listening to the judges under full stage lighting.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

Lastly, during audience preparation and when announcing the winner of the show, the entire stage has very even and bright lighting. I, again, used Matrix metering which resulted in a good photo of the winner of the show being interviewed by the Ryan Seacrest-like host.

An American Idol Experience winner being interviewed by the host on stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An American Idol Experience winner being interviewed by the host.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV -0.3, 200mm Focal length

As you can see, to get the best photos during a concert or live show at Walt Disney World or any venue, you have to be aware of the kind of lighting being used at all times. For each of the three performers, the American Idol Experience director choose different lighting schemes to set the mood of the song they were singing.

Have any questions? Leave a Comment below (link on far right).

Reference Link: How To Photograph Rock Concerts

March 13, 2009

Photographing Disney Live Shows

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Timing is everything. To the performers in the various Disney live shows, everything must be rehearsed and the timing of each minute has to be perfected. For us guests, who may have never seen a show like Dream Along with Mickey which is performed several times a day in the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle, these shows can be a challenge to photograph. We don't know when things will happen. That is unless you see the shows over and over which I have over the last few visits. Which is why I knew the finale had three firework events. First, fireworks go off on stage right, then stage left and then....

Dream Along with Mickey fireworks finale in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Dream Along with Mickey fireworks finale in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal length

This is one of my favorites from the last trip. It took three trips to get it but I got it! Knowing the show also allowed me to be prepared for Maleficent's grand entrance during the Dream Along with Mickey stage show.

Maleficent makes her grand entrance during the Dream Along with Mickey show on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Maleficent makes her grand entrance during the Dream Along with Mickey stage show.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/13, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 200mm Focal length

I know what you're thinking. Do I have to go several times to Walt Disney World before I am able to capture moments like these? A few years ago, I would have told you yes. Today, however, we have the Internet and youTube (you know the link) where people have posted videos of shows at the Disney parks. By watching them, you can get an idea of when things happen and when your favorite character or characters appear or does something you want to photograph. Have fun researching for your next trip!

March 6, 2009

Zoom Zoom!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Do you have a zoom lens for your digital SLR? Most people do as they tend to be purchased as a kit and the lens in the kit is usually a zoom lens either in the 18-55mm or 55-200mm range. Maybe you got both or have one with a different range.

Besides the advantage of having a variable range of focal lengths, zoom lenses can be a lot of fun in creating the Zoom Effect. The best way to do the Zoom Effect is to use a tripod and set your camera in Aperture priority mode. You want to set the aperture to give a long shutter speed. Something like f/16, f/22 or f/32 if your lens goes out that far and starting at the smallest focal length of the lens.

In the example below, I took a photo of the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney's Marketplace. This photo was taken at 1 second shutter speed, an aperture of f/16 and ISO of 200 at a focal length of 110mm using my Nikon 18-200mm VR lens.

Rainforest Cafe sign in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Rainforest Cafe sign in Downtown Disney.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1s, f/16, 200 ISO, 100mm Focal length

Here's where the fun comes in. On this next shot, I set the aperture at f/32 which gave me a shutter speed of 3 seconds. Starting at a focal length of 18mm, I tripped the shutter and quickly and smoothly zoomed the lens out while the shutter was open. By the time the shutter closed, I had zoomed out to a focal length of 135mm. The results as you can see, give a great effect of the sign jumping right out at you.

Rainforest Cafe sign zoomed in at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Rainforest Cafe sign zoomed in at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 3s, f/32, 200 ISO, 18 to 135mm Focal length

Pretty neat, eh? The Exif data will only show the final focal length when the shutter closes but I knew where I started from. You can also start at the long end of the zoom lens and zoom to a lower one. I'll leave that to you as an exercise. Leave a comment below if you want to share your results.

I have found it best to keep your subject simple when doing this. Too many subjects and it gets hard to tell what you are taking a picture of. This is great to do in low light and especially with artificial lights like the sign I used above. The link above will give you more tips and ideas on how to use the Zoom Effect.

February 20, 2009

Panning for Gold

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The technique of panning to convey a sense of motion is one that takes practice. Instead of worrying about depth of field as you would for a landscape or a portrait, slow shutter speeds and steady hands are what is needed to get a good panned photo. For unlike most photography, panning means you move your camera instead of keeping it still. Walt Disney World is full of opportunities for panning images. Rides, running children, shows, parades, moving parts of attractions, transportation vehicles and most anything which moves in and around the parks and resorts.


The diagram shown here gives the setup for taking a panning photo. In the diagram, the subject is moving from left to right. The subject could be moving in the other direction or up or down. As long as you can follow it evenly throughout the time it takes to capture the image. How fast and how close the moving subject is will determine the shutter speed to use. I start at 1/60th of a second for people sporting events. For auto racing events, I use 1/125 which often freezes the cars but shows movement in the wheels. For your son or daughter on a bicycle, 1/30 or slower may be in order. I've even experimented at 1/15, 1/8 and as low as 1/4 of a second.

The slower the shutter speed, the more pronounced the sense of movement and the harder it will be to keep your camera steady. Using an image stabilized (IS) lens can help. Most of today's IS lenses detect a panning motion. Nikon's version of IS called vibration reduction or VR for short, is what was used in the example photos for this article.

You still need to do the following to give yourself the best possible panning results. Plant your feet, tuck your arms into your body, hold the camera firmly and rotate the top half of your body as you track your subject. You want to pan as fast as the subject moves keeping it in the same position in your viewfinder as much as possible. Press the shutter down as you continue your motion and follow through even after the shutter has closed. You can use continuous shooting modes if you have time for more than one exposure.

Watching the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad trains from the observation area, I put my panning skills to the test. Of the many photos I took, this was the best one. Be prepared for a low percentage of images you'll find acceptable when trying this technique. Panning at places with lots of opportunities, like a themepark ride, will give you a better chance of getting a few good panned photos.

A runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Panning for Gold on Big Thunder Mountain.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/50s, f/22, ISO 200, -0.6 EV, 95mm Focal length

Next I went over to the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. Can you tell how fast this car is going? Tomorrowland Indy cars can only reach a maximum speed of 7.5 mph. If this photo looks familiar I used it for the Disney Pic of the Week on Motion a couple of weeks back.

An Indy Car at speed in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Panning shows how fast 7.5 miles per hour can look.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/20s, f/18, ISO 200, 0 EV, 95mm Focal length

Panning is a worthwhile technique to learn. All you need is to find a place to practice. A local park where people like to roller blade or bicycle is ideal. I went to a local drag strip and, after a couple of visits, became very comfortable with panning the cars going down the quarter mile strip of asphalt. You'll have to take a lot of photos to get a few great panning ones but the results are often stunning and grab a viewer's attention right away.

Next week I'll be at Walt Disney World and will be taking a break from blogging. If you have any questions regarding photography at Walt Disney World, leave a comment and I'll try and cover some of them when I get back. Aloha!

NOTE: Comments have now been activated for the Picture This! blog. The comments will appear at the bottom of our posts and Barrie, Lisa and myself would like to encourage you to ask questions and leave comments by clicking the link below each post. Thank you and we hope this will further increase your enjoyment of the AllEars.net Picture This! blog. The Comment link to use is the one on the far right with a number in parenthesis.

February 17, 2009

Disney Pic of the Week: MouseGear

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Let's see, I introduced Restaurants, Merchandise and now Shops for the Disney Pic of the Week. I'm sensing another kind of theme myself here. Barrie? Lisa? Care to comment? Well, since I used the Epcot Pin Station for Merchandise, I'll stay in Epcot with a photo of the neon lighted MouseGear store which is the second largest shop on Walt Disney World property.

MouseGear is located in Epcot's Innoventions East, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
MouseGear is located in Epcot's Innoventions East.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/4.2, 900 ISO, +0.3 EV, 29mm Focal Length

Barrie and Lisa will be showing you their favorite Shops at Disney this Thursday and Saturday.

February 13, 2009

Rule Breaking with Symmetry

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Symmetry in it's purest sense is an object which, if cut directly down the middle, would be mirror images of each other. It's one of the ways to break the Rule of Thirds correctly. Hope that doesn't confuse you. It's easy to find a symmetrical object but the images I've chosen to show you here are symmetrical but not mirror images. They are close enough to show you how to use symmetry in your photography.

The first is of the Swan Resort taken from a room in the Dolphin Resort. Like a lot of buildings, the Swan, itself, is symmetrical as is the landscaping and walkways leading up to and away from it. I think the surrounding foreground and background of the buildings and the Friendship boat dock add to the photo.

Swan Resort in the Boardwalk Resort area, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 20mm Focal length

The next one is from the Pop Century resort. The large Mickey Mouse phone is symmetrically placed between the resort buildings and the Fooseball men. This is not close to being perfectly symmetrical, yet a pleasing composition with the main subject in the center of the photo.

Mickey Mouse Phone icon at the Pop Century Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal length

The last example was taken during the 2007 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The Prince and Cinderella topiary was placed in the center of a sea of flowers flanked by trimmed flowering and green bushes and trees.

Prince and Cinderella topiary in Epcot during the 2007 International Flower & Garden Festival, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-2000VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

When taking these photographs, I kept telling myself I was breaking a photography "rule". That is the something I want you to take away from this article. It's okay to break rules in photography when it works (as in the above photos) and you know you are doing it. Just putting something in the middle of your viewfinder does not make it symmetrical.

February 7, 2009

At Speed & Young

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Racing along Tomorrowland Indy Speedway in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Racing along Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/20s, f/18, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 95mm Focal Length

Racing along Tomorrowland Indy Speedway in the Magic Kingdom, this young driver is taking his Mom for the ride of her life. Can you tell how fast this car is going? Tomorrowland Indy cars can only reach a maximum speed of 7.5 mph.

To blur the background but still keep the car and occupants sharp, I panned the camera and is great way to show this week's Disney Pic of the Week on Motion. I'll be going into more detail on how to use panning to show motion in an upcoming blog entry.

February 6, 2009

Auto White Balance Adjustment

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have my camera set up to enhance colors. Most of the time it captures what I want and gives me bright, vibrant colors. Then there are those times the photos have a color cast to them I don't like. Take for instance the photo I took at Beaches and Cream of Cast Member Kristen serving me up a delicious cheeseburger and fries. The original photo on the left has a warm yellowish color cast to it. Really not fitting for the brightly colored restaurant or Kristen's skin tones.

In most photo editing software, you'll find a way to fix the white balance or the color of light in a photo. See your software's manual for specific instructions. In Apple's Aperture 2 software, which I use, there is an eye-dropper white balance tool which I can select and drag to something in the photo I know is white and click. The software will then take the color information from the spot I clicked on and adjust the rest of the photo's white balance.

In this photo, I used the Walt Disney World napkin you see towards the bottom of the frame. The photo on the right has been white balanced adjusted using the eye-dropper technique. The colors are now more true to life, especially Kristen's skin color. The white colors have lost the yellowish hue as seen in the Before photo. The photo still needs a few more adjustments but this was the biggest one and made much easier by using Aperture's white balance eye-dropper tool.

Getting served a juicy cheeseburger at Beaches & Cream at the Beach Club Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Auto White Balance Adjustment.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 450, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

Beaches and Cream is an old fashioned soda fountain tucked away at the Beach Club resort. Beaches and Cream is just few minutes walk or short boat ride from Epcot's International Gateway. It serves, in my opinion, the best burgers at Walt Disney World and is home to the Kitchen Sink dessert with 24 scoops of ice cream and every topping they have. It's a small dining venue and does not take reservations. For the least amount of wait time, try to get there for an early or late lunch or early dinner. Beaches and Cream is mobbed after an Illuminations performance as it also has ice cream counter service.

January 30, 2009

Advanced Composition

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before taking a closer look at the photo below. I would like you to review a couple of past Picture This! articles. The first is Barrie talking about Leading Lines. Isn't that a great photo? The second article is the one I did on the Rule of Thirds. Off Kilter is one of my favorite entertainers at Walt Disney World and are fun to photograph.

For the photo below of the Yacht Club Resort, I had my back to the lighthouse you see in Barrie's photo. As you can see I used her tip on leading lines. I know what you are thinking, unlike Barrie's photo, I have the dock right in the center of the frame. Could I be breaking the Rule of Thirds I urged you to use in my article? If you follow the dock to the resort notice the roof line of the Yacht Club. Yes, it's about 1/3 down from the top of the frame and makes for a nice balanced photo. I'm sure after a long day at the parks, this is a welcome sight for returning guests.

Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Dock leading to the Yacht Club Resort.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 25s, f/22, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 18mm Focal length, Tripod

Don't be afraid to experiment with your compositions. Either when you are taking photos or by cropping in post-processing.

November 28, 2008

Indoor Flash Photography Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a technique called "Dragging the Shutter" when it came to photographing lighting displays at Walt Disney World. This technique is also very useful for indoor photography.

First, let me show you what a typical straight on flash photo looks like. The image below of a chef working his magic at Japan's Teppan Edo restaurant was taken with a Point & Shot type of camera with a flash directly over the lens. While the color is good on the subject, the stark shadows behind him and the very dark background are a bit distracting. What saves this photo is the chef's expression, catching the action while he works and the colors of the food on the cooking surface.

Chef in Teppan Edo restaurant in Epcot's Japan pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chef in Teppan Edo restaurant in Epcot's Japan pavilion.
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/60s, f/2.8, 100 ISO, EV 0

At the Flying Fish Café, I used a flash unit, often referred to as a speedlight, on my dSLR which allows me to move the flash head to bounce the flash off the ceiling. I, then, dragged the shutter by using a 1/40th of a second shutter speed to bring up the light of the background. Flash sync is normally 1/60th of a second. You can see the restaurant in the server's background instead of the very dark looking place seen in the photo from Teppan Edo. The only issue I have with this photo is the light does fall off a little towards the bottom where the plate of food is. A little more light could have been used by either using a slower shutter speed or upping the power on the flash.

Being served at the Flying Fish Café on Disney's Boardwalk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Being served at the Flying Fish Café on Disney's Boardwalk.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/40s, f/3.5, 200 ISO, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal length

As I mentioned before, dragging the shutter is used a lot in wedding photography and you can use it to create more natural looking indoor photographs. Remember, when shooting below 1/60th of a second, your subjects will have motion blur if they are not still.

This is a valuable tip at character meals which feature Mickey or Minnie Mouse so you don't loose their ears to the background darkness.

For more on using speedlight flashes, visit these previous blog entries:

Photographic Innoventions: Bounce Flash

Photographic Innoventions: More Bouncing Light

November 21, 2008

2nd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Another year, another Black Friday is almost upon us. I'd like to add to the list I started last year giving you some more ideas for gift giving if you own or know somebody who does own, a digital SLR camera.

More Great Photography Books

Bryan Peterson is back this year with a follow up book to his very popular Understanding Exposure, called Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second. It picks up where Understanding Exposure left off about how to best use shutter speeds in photography. The tandom together will quickly get you "up to speed" in learning photography.

Scott Kelby released Volume 2 of his Digital Photography Book series earlier this year. I call it a series now as he has announced there will be a Volume 3 coming out sometime in 2009. The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2, delves more into the use of flash in digital photography de-mystifying a subject many try to avoid. Volume 2 revisits Travel, Wedding, Landscapes and Portrait photography in Kelby's unique, one page = one topic format. If you need to know something fast, The Digital Photography Books are excellent learning references.

I reviewed one of this year's best selling photography books last Spring, Joe McNally's The Moment It Clicks has been on Amazon's top seller list the moment it was listed. If you are interested in how this working pro did his magic over the last 20 some odd years, you'll find this book a real treat.

More Great Photography Stuff

Last year I glanced over external hard drives. The newest dSLR cameras being brought out today produce larger image files than ever before. The best way I have found to handle this was to purchase extra storage space. Since I use a laptop, I opted for an external hard drive by Western Digital called a MyBook. They come in various sizes at excellent prices. Last year I bought a 500GB (Gigabyte) version which worked perfectly with my Apple laptop. This year I'd recommend the 1TB (1 Terabyte= 1,000 Gigabytes) MyBook for less than $200.

You know I've raved about my Nikon 18-200VR lens here in the past. This year, Canon released their version called the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens. If you are looking to lighten your camera bag when you travel, these two lenses will fit the bill for Nikon and Canon dSLR owners.

A great lens to have in your bag is what's called a "Nifty-Fifty". A Nifty-Fifty is a 50mm fast prime lens with apertures opening up to f/1.8 and cost around $100 or less. Here are links for Nikon and Canon versions. These are great lenses to use in low light and night photography as well as in dark rides where flash photography is not allowed. Being a prime lens, they tend to be much sharper than zoom lenses.

Speaking of bags and other photographic accessories, Barrie, Lisa and I have listed some of our favorites in the All Ear's Amazon store.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving but get some rest to hit up the stores and malls early on Black Friday!

November 14, 2008

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ready for Christmas yet? Shopping all done? Gifts wrapped? Yeah, me neither. Here is something you can start doing at Walt Disney World today. Taking pictures of the fabulous Christmas decorations in the themeparks and resorts. With more coming by the end of November with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Christmas parades and special events held all through the holiday season.

Planet Hollywood restaurant sign in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
How best to capture the millions of lights Disney Imagineers use is our topic for today and I have a some tips for you. Let's start with something people often overlook as it gets dark so early in November and December. Take photos of lighting displays during the magic hour after sunset when the sky and lights become balanced. Though it's not a Christmas display, the photo of the Planet Hollywood sign demonstrates what I am talking about here. I used AWB (Automatic White Balance) here while others will say to switch to a Tungsten or Incandescent white balance for best results. A tripod would be useful but I get good results shooting down to a quarter second (1/4s) with image stabilized lenses. The key is to wait for the sky and lights to come together. Keep taking shots until you start to see the results you are looking for. The provided link will go into more detail.

Now you are saying to yourself, who has time to wait for the light at Disney besides it's mostly full night when you are there. The lights are so pretty, there's got to be a way to photograph them. Well, you are right. Below is a technique you can use called "Dragging the Shutter". This technique is used a lot in wedding photography to allow for room lighting to be seen instead of stark dark backgrounds in large banquet halls.

Christmas Donald Duck Topiary in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/30s, f/4.5, ISO 400, +0.6 EV, 46mm Focal length

On camera and external flash are normally synced at shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. When you use a flash and purposely use shutter speeds below the normal flash sync speed, it allows more time for ambient light to be captured by the camera's sensor. This gives a more pleasing and natural look to the photograph as you see on the right hand photo of the Donald Duck topiary I took at Epcot during Mousefest 2006. Both photos were taken the same way except for the use of flash. This can also be called Slow Sync in your camera manuals.

Using flash for photos of large areas is not practical. For best results, we have to use long shutter speeds (of less than 1/60th of a second), high ISO speeds of 800 or greater and find a way to stabilize our cameras. In the photo of Main Street USA, I was able to do all three.

Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA all decked out for Christmas, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA all decked out for Christmas.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/20s, f/4.2, ISO 1600, +0.3 EV, 35mm Focal length

As you can see, I am using a very high ISO of 1600 (my camera's highest available), a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second and I stabilized the camera by leaning against a garbage can and using my elbows to form a human tripod. I took several images to make sure I had a few which would come out sharp. If I had a real tripod, I could have used even slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures but I'll leave that discussion for another time.

By using these tips both at Disney or at home, your Christmas light photography will make your friends and family envious of your talents. Click this link for more tips on capturing the spirit of Christmas photographically. That's my gift to all of you!

October 17, 2008

Metadata Revisited

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I was talking about adding metadata and how to use it. I seemed to have confused some people about how much work it takes to add captions and keywords. While it does take time to add them, it's not as time consuming as it sounds. Photo management software like Apple's Aperture 2, Adobe's Lightroom 2 and others let you change metadata on more than one photograph at a time. This is called batch processing as you change a whole batch of photos at once.

To return to the example I was using. When loading or ingesting from a memory card onto my computer using Aperture 2, I give pretty general captions and keywords which cover all the photos. After I go through and edit the day's photos, discarding those I do not want, I'll add more keywords. Again, I'll use Spaceship Earth as my subject. I'll select all the Spaceship Earth photos I took and then open up a metadata window. Your program may call it something else like a tab. I click on the keyword field which already has the general keywords added earlier and add more of them. You have to use a comma to separate the keywords. Then press the Change or Update button to process the batch of selected photos with the additional keywords. The same can be done for any of the metadata fields available.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Partial view of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/10, 200 ISO, EV -0.6, 52mm Focal length

Adding keywords can be even easier. Applications like Apple's iPhoto pulls up all your defined keywords in a window and you can click on the ones you want to add to a photo or group of photos. It pays to research what your photography software can do when it comes to saving time while entering metadata information.

October 10, 2008

Advanced Camera Holding

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When shooting in low light or after dark at Walt Disney World, I have stressed the use of a tripod to get the best results. However, I understand it is not easy to do so when traveling to and at the parks.

If you have a digital SLR camera, I have another alternative for you called Da Grip. It's explained in this video by National Geographic photographer, Joe McNally, on how to hand hold a camera to get you one or two extra stops. I can usually hand hold my camera down to about 1/30th of a second with my lenses before I learned this technique. Now, I have successfully gotten good results down to 1/8th of a second which is two extra shutter stops as Joe explains in the video. On my next trip to WDW, I'll be putting this technique to the real test!

You might remember I reviewed Joe's book, The Moment it Clicks, earlier this year. The video is 7 1/2 minutes long.

October 3, 2008

Finding Your Star Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After having figured out a photographic naming system, organized digital photographs on our computer systems, learned about metadata and some powerful software to manage our growing library of photos, it's now time to learn how to edit them. I'm not talking about editing like in Photoshop, I'm talking about selecting the best photos from a typical day of creating photos at a place like Walt Disney World or anytime you come back to your computer with a new batch of photographs.

This process is referred to as rating. Since rating your photos is a very personal thing, I am going to tell you how I approach it to give you some ideas on how you might. I have chosen to use the Star Rating system which many software products support. Simply put, photos are rated from Zero Stars to Five Stars. How you use those Stars is up to you.

When I get a batch of photos from the Magic Kingdom, as an example, onto my computer and start reviewing them, I only use One Star for photos I want to keep for further review. Any photos I don't give a Star to will be deleted. These Zero Star photos are easy to spot. They are technically bad (focus off, exposure too dark or too light, blurry from too slow a shutter speed, etc.), compositionally bad (no subject, subject too small or too big, unflattering people expressions, background too busy, etc.) or for some reason the photo just doesn't look good to me. Again, it's very subjective and personal. For family and vacation photos I am not as picky as I would be for a wedding or portrait work. The picture of my kids with Stitch might be a bit overexposed but it's the only one I got so I'll choose to keep it.

After discarding the Zero Star photos, I'll go back and see what's left. I'll be more keen on rating photos above One Star this time. A photo gets Two Stars if it's technically solid with focus on the subject and excellent exposure. Sometimes I will drop the Star if what I thought I saw the first time doesn't hold up. Three Stars is given to photos I feel are the best of the lot. These photos are technically solid (if not nearly perfect) and have a great subject. Most of the photos I publish here are Three Stars or better. Currently, I don't use Four Stars but maybe you do or will. Five Stars is for my computer wallpapers. They are all landscape in orientation and outstanding (in my opinion) photographs for my computer's desktop.

Below is an example of one of my Five Star photographs of the Liberty Belle Riverboat leaving dock with waving guests aboard and the Haunted Mansion in the background. The photo is nicely composed, very colorful, tack sharp focus and well exposed.

The Liberty Bell Riverboat sets off on it's trip down the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Liberty Bell Riverboat sets off on it's trip down the Rivers of America.
Nikon D70/18-70G, 1/250s, f/11, 200 ISO, EV +0.3, 31mm Focal length

Star Ratings is just one way to rate your photographs. Others use colors and numbers. I first used a rating system using numbers from 1 to 10 but found that too much to keep track of in my head as to what was a 4 versus an 6 or 7. I found this useful link of a professional photographer and how he uses the Star Rating system.

What system do you use to rate your photographs? I would like to know and do a follow up article on what others have found works for them.

September 26, 2008

The Digital Darkroom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before I go on talking about organizing our digital library of photographs, I want to introduce you to the new breed of software that were released a couple of years ago I refer to as digital darkroom programs. These programs assist you in organizing, editing and outputting (either files or prints) your digital photos in one place. You no longer need more than one program to do each of these tasks.

The two programs I want to talk about are Adobe Lightroom 2 (PC and Mac) and Apple Aperture 2 (Mac only). Now, I know there's a lot of discussion on which one to use in photography forums. I think both do a great job. If you have not looked at either of these programs, you can download free trials from Adobe and Apple.

Photo management software from Adobe and Apple.

What these programs do is import your photos from your camera or memory cards and place them into one image database. If you've been following this series, you know I put my photos into specific folders on my computer system depending on the year and month they were taken. Both of these programs will allow you to keep such a system and give you the freedom to create projects or collections within their image database or library as I like to call it. I use Aperture 2 and as an example I want to show you how I use Aperture's organizational power.

I set up a Project called Walt Disney World. Inside this project I have each of my trips in a folder labeled WDW_YYYYMM (so far I haven't stayed over a two month span yet but I would still separate the photos on my hard drive into separate folders). My last trip from May, 2008 is in folder WDW_200805 and has a few thousand photos. I have some albums in the WDW project I have set up for various reasons. One is called POTW (for the Picture This! Picture of the Week theme) where I have past and upcoming photos for the themes Lisa, Barrie and I have come up with. An album consists of photos I have moved into it. The photos are not actually in the album or folders but point back to the photo's location in the library. ONe photo can be in multiple projects, folders or albums. Luckily, I don't have to worry about where the photos files are as Aperture takes care of all that for me. I just drag and drop.

I can also search for a group of photos and this is where metadata comes in very handy. Let's say I want to create an album with just my photos of Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Since I have added the keywords, spacehip earth, to all my photos I have taken of this attraction, I can pull up a view of all of those photos easily by typing it into the search box. Once I have that view, I can create an album with a simple click of my mouse. If I had not added keywords, it would have taken me a long time to look through each of my WDW folders and pick out all the Spaceship Earth ones.

If you are looking to easily organize, process and print your digital photographs and have not looked at either Aperture or Lightroom, I think you will be very surprised at how versatile these programs are. Both have come out with second versions in the last few months with vast improvements over their first editions.

September 19, 2008

Meta What?

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The last couple of entries we've gone over naming all the digital photos we take and organizing them on our computer systems. This is all done in preparation of creating a database or library of our images. Anytime you have a collection of data on a computer, as our image files are, they are refereed to as a database or library. If you are familiar with iTunes, you have an idea of what a library of music looks like. Photo files are the same as any other media files like music or videos.

To be able to organize and search my library beyond the dates I took them as that is part of the name I use for each photo, I add information to them called metadata. When a picture is taken with a digital camera, the camera adds or embeds information beyond the image you see. That information is the Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) data which includes the technical data like date, time, camera make and model, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV, white balance used, and lots of other things. Very important but what it doesn't have is a description of the photo, why it was taken, who or what is in the photo, where was it taken, and who took it to name a few questions that come to mind when I see a photograph.

This is where metadata comes in and over the years a standard has been developed by the International Press Telecommunications Council, or IPTC for short, called the Information Interchange Model (IIM) which has allowed software publishers to write programs where you and I can add information to our photos and it will be able to be read by the software we use today and in the future. This information can also be used by online photo sites like flickr so when you upload your images, metadata information will go with them.

So, what kind of information do you put in metadata? The entire IPTC standard has way more fields then you or I will ever use. The most important ones for me are captions, keywords, and copyright. When I load my photos onto my computer, I have the software I use do several things. It renames the files the way I want them, puts them in the monthly folder and adds the metadata I enter into the caption, keyword and copyright fields. The captions I use when loading are very simple. I give the basic Who or What, Where, and When of the day's photos. I can later add and or edit the captions to give more or less information. The copyright is very important as this stamps the photo as created by me, the photographer.

Keywords are used by photo software programs to find photos quickly. Google uses keywords people embed in their web pages for fast searching and it works the same way with our photos. Here's an example, every photo I take at Epcot in Walt Disney World has the keywords: Walt Disney World and Epcot. This makes it easy for me to find all my photos taken at Epcot. The more keywords used, the easier it is to find a particular set of photos or even an individual photo in a library of thousands of images.

Here is an example of one of my photographs taken at Walt Disney World. Below I will list the metadata I have added to it to give you an idea of how useful it is.

A replica of the Liberty Bell illuminated after dark in Liberty Square across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell replica across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-70G, 1/13s, f/4.5, 1600 ISO, EV +0.3, 50mm Focal length

Caption: A replica of the Liberty Bell illuminated after dark in Liberty Square across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Keywords: america, bell, florida, hall of presidents, liberty, liberty bell, magic kingdom, night, orlando, walt disney world

Copyright: © Scott Thomas Photography

To find this photo in my library of photographs, all I'd need to do is search on any of the keywords listed. The more specific the search, the faster I'll find it.

Today, libraries, museums and public institutions all over the world are in the process of digitizing their important archives of papers, letters, books and photographs in their collections. Metadata will be how we find and access all these newly digitized documents as they are made available online for all of us to use.

September 12, 2008

Organizing Your Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last time, I went over how I name all the thousands of photos I take each year. Each photographer will come up with his or her own naming system. This week I am going to show you how to organize your image files on your computer systems.

In sticking with my boring, yet simple, system, I start with one folder on my computer system called PHOTOS. Inside PHOTOS, I have subfolders for each year I've been taking digital photographs named: STP_2005, STP_2006, STP_2007 and STP_2008. In each of these folders I have twelve more folders for each month of that folder's year. For this year, they look like STP_200801 through STP_200812. If you recall, I rename each of my photos when I put them on my computer to something like STP_20080912_0192.jpg. This method works for me. Others might create a folder for each topic they photograph. However, don't over do it or your computer will get filled with hundreds of folders.

I know you are asking yourself how do I find something as specific as a photo of Space Mountain or how to pull up just my Walt Disney trip photos from 2006. That is the subject I'll cover soon. This was to get you thinking how to set up your files on your computer system.

Below is a photo from the Pop Century resort named STP_20061213_0006.jpg which resides in folder PHOTOS, subfolder STP_2006 and subfolder STP_200612 on my hard drive. Anyone ever have one of these phones? I had a touch tone one.

Giant Mickey Mouse phone icon at the Pop Century Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The giant Mickey Mouse Phone icon at the Pop Century Resort.
Nikon D70/18-70G, 1/320s, f/9, 200 ISO, EV +0.7, 18mm Focal length

June 20, 2008

Cleaning a DSLR Sensor

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I decided to clean the sensor in my Nikon D70 dSLR camera after taking hours cleaning up sensor dust spots on over a hundred images using software. Hopefully, you haven't seen sensor dust too much. The images I had were shot with apertures of f/16 and f/22 with a lot of clear blue sky. They revealed a lot of dust on the sensor. So, off I went to my local camera shop. They recommended a sensor cleaning kit which consisted of six sterile swabs and a vial of cleaning solution. Take note that the cleaning solution must be for your camera.

If you discover sensor dust while you are away from home, Barrie's tip on how to avoid sensor dust will hold you over until you can blow it off or clean the sensor.

Mirror Lock-Up Option
Getting back to physically cleaning the sensor, here is what you need to know and do to clean your camera's sensor successfully: find out how to set Mirror Lockup on your camera, tripod, air blower like a Giottos Rocket Blaster and purchase a sensor cleaning kit. I've listed a few reference links at the bottom to help you locate the kits for any dSLR camera.

Blowing out sensor cavity
After I got everything together and put my camera on the tripod, I aimed it downward, removed the lens, set the Mirror Lock-Up and clicked the shutter. This flips up the mirror and reveals the sensor. Well, it sort of reveals the sensor as all sensors are protected with a coating over them. It is the coating which gets the sensor dust on it and needs to be cleaned. I start out by using the Giottos Rocket Blaster to blow out any loose material on and around the sensor. Once that is complete, I aim the camera back up so I can see the sensor.

Following the directions with the sensor cleaning kit I have (yours might have be different), I put two drops of cleaning solution on the sterile swab. Applying pressure, I put the swab on my side. It's the right size to cover the sensor from top to bottom as I sweep it across in one direction, flip the swab over and repeat the sweep in the other direction. I wish I could say it was cleaned after the first swipe. It took all six of the swabs to get the sensor cleaned to my satisfaction. I had some welded on dust on the sensor which even required a little back and forth scrubbing. I still have plenty of cleaning solution left over so will get some more swabs to have around for future cleanings.

Nikon D70 Camera Sensor
Nikon D70 dSLR camera with mirror locked up. The greenish rectangle is the sensor.

It wasn't hard to do and if you take your time and use the proper tools, I don't think you have to worry about damaging your sensor. I intend to clean mine more often now that I see how easy it was to do.


Reference Links:

Demystifying D-SLR Sensor Cleaning

How To Clean Your Camera's Sensor

June 6, 2008

Cloning Around

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of months ago I started using Apple's Aperture 2 photo application. The photo editor in Aperture is much better than anything I've ever used. While not a true graphics editor like Photoshop, Aperture does have some tools which are helping me make great photographs from not-so-great ones.

Like this photo of a performer in Disney's Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King show. I caught her just before she was about to blow a kiss to the audience at the end of the show. I really loved this photo except for the object on the right hand side. I believe it's a hand or part of a costume from another performer passing out of the frame.

Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss before cloning.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

I could crop the object out but, with such a high ISO, the image would get even grainer than it already is. Aperture, like other photo editors, has a clone repair tool. What a clone repair tool does is allow you to take a part of a photo and then "paint" over another area duplicating that part. You do this with a "brush". In Aperture's case, it's a circle.

To go about fixing this photo, I selected the cloning tool and adjusted it's size. The area just above the object is what I used to clone. I moved the brush there and clicked the mouse to select it. Then, I moved my mouse with the left button held down over the area and carefully replaced the object with the selected area. Below is the final result after a few tries. Many editors let you start over if you don't like the initial results. If your photo editor doesn't, be sure to save a backup before starting. To see if your photo editor is capable of cloning, look through it's manual or support website.

Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss after cloning.

April 11, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Disneyana Photography

Let's talk about how to use your digital camera to easily and inexpensively take photographs of your valuable Disney collections and memorabilia which has been coined Disneyana. Here's the items we'll need this week: a digital camera of any kind, a tripod for the camera, a remote shutter release (or use your camera's timer), a typical desk lamp, a bounce surface like some white cardboard and a sheet of white (or other color) poster board. Some of this you may have or can get cheaply at a local photo, drug or craft store.

For very small items like pins, you can use your camera's macro setting for a P&S. For a digital SLR, you can use any lens and crop your photos if needed. Other possibilities might be a macro setting on a zoom lens or a dedicated macro lens.

Okay, got your stuff? Ready to do some Disneyana photography? Good! As an example, here's my setup...

Since we are not going to use flash and using a light which is either a typical incandescent bulb or maybe a fluorescent one, make sure you set your camera's white balance to the correct one. Notice how I used the sheet of paper to make a seamless background. You will have to play with the light and bounce surface to get the item lighted the way you want. I have my camera set to Aperture Priority of f/8 or better for good depth of field. The lighting I am using gives me a slow shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower. A good reason to use a tripod and remote shutter release (or camera timer) to avoid a blurry picture.

Not only is this a good way to document your Disney collections, you can use this setup to take pictures of all your small valuables like jewelry. Save them to a CD or DVD and put in a safety deposit box. To take this a little further, take photos of all your home's rooms and pieces of furniture, electronics, art work and other items you own in case of a fire or natural disaster. This alone could more than pay for your camera. Oh, and don't forget to take a picture of that, too! You might have to borrow your kid's digital camera for that one.

Of course, this setup is good for taking pictures for your eBay auctions, too. You know, to help pay for your next Walt Disney World vacation. To make your photo stand out on eBay, use contrasting backgrounds which go with the item. Putting a piece of glass underneath adds a pleasing reflection.

Further Reading: How to Take Better Photos for eBay

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April 4, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: More Bouncing Light

Last week, I went over how to use an external flash unit or speedlight to bounce it's light to improve on flash photography. We learned to vastly improve the look of the classic straight on flash look. Very easy if you have a ceiling less than 20 feet high. However, if you are having breakfast at Chef Mickey's where the ceiling is hundreds of feet above you or in Ragland Road where the ceiling and walls are very dark, bouncing the flash is not practical.

In those situations, I turn to my handy, dandy LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer to help me bounce my flash onto my subjects. The LumiQuest Pocket Bouncer comes with Velcro which sticks to the sides of a speedlight for easy attaching and detaching. You can see the Velcro below in the picture of the flash at 0 degrees. To demonstrate, I am, again, being assisted by my lovely model, Shirley, who is still wearing those stylish Golden Mickey Mouse Ears.


No Flash Bounce

Flash at 0 degrees
Again, here's the typical look of the straight on flash. Harsh light, flat features, washed out colors and shadows haloing poor Shirley. If Shirley was a live model who had hair, you might also see the red eye effect.

LumiQuest Pocket Bouncer

Flash with LumiQuest Bouncer
Using the LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer, you see how the light becomes softer and Shirley's features and color come back. Since the Pocket Bouncer deflects some light at the subject, shadows under the eyes and nose are not a problem.

The LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer sends a lot more light at your subjects then bouncing off a ceiling or wall. To compensate, adjust the flash to fire at a lesser intensity. Read your flash's manual to see how this is done. With the Nikon SB-600, I set the compensation to -1.0 to start and adjust from there. Be careful to first set your camera's onboard flash compensation to zero. If you don't, the effect will be cumulative. Adding or subjecting from what you set the flash at.

March 28, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Bounce Flash

Many photographers don't like to use flash. After learning all the ways of exposure, ISO settings and the use of the exposure compensation button, flash poses another learning curve. I'm here to tell you, learning to use flash is not hard and can give you another tool for getting professional-looking photos at home and in the Disney parks. I know what you are thinking, you can't use flash at many of Disney's shows and attractions. That is true but don't forget there are many places were flash can be used like restaurants, resorts, character meets and meals, and outdoor photography.

Before we get started, I would like to you meet my model, Shirley. Shirley doesn't get out much as she's been living in a box for the last 10 years. However, when I came up with the idea to do a blog entry on bounce flash, she was the first model that came to mind. Since this is a Disney blog, I let Shirley model some Golden Mickey Mouse Ears.


No Flash Bounce

Flash at 0 degrees
Here's the typical look of the straight on flash. Harsh light, flat features, washed out colors and shadows haloing the subject. Not a very flattering look for Shirley. If Shirley was a live model, you might also see the red eye effect.

45 degree Flash Bounce

Flash at 45 degrees
When you invest in a flash for your digital SLR, make sure the head of the flash can be adjusted both up and down and side to side. This allows you to bounce the flash off of ceilings and walls. This softens the harsh light as it spreads out from the surface it hits. By putting the flash at an angle of 45 degrees, you can see Shirley's facial features and color return. As an added bonus, the ears of the hat are now seen clearly as light is coming from above.

90 degree Flash Bounce

Flash at 90 degrees
To soften the flash even more, angle the flash a full 90 degrees. This spreads out the light even more. You can see the different light direction in the Mickey Mouse ears. The only issue I have with this one and the 45 degree angled photo is the shadow under Shirley's eyes. If you subject had on a baseball cap (which many young people wear these days), it would be really hard to see the person's eyes.

90 degree Flash Bounce with card

Flash at 90 degrees with bounce card
Many of the flash units, also called speedlights, have a small white tab that can be extended out from the flash's head. This will deflect some light in your subject's direction. If the subject is a person or animal, you'll get pleasant specular highlights or catch lights in their eyes. My flash does not have this tab so I used a white piece of cardboard and attached it with a rubber band. You can see how Shirley's features are still there and the shadow under her eyes have disappeared.

I have to warn you to look out for colored surfaces. The light of the flash will pick up the color. The best ones to use are white surfaces or shades of grey. Next week I'll show you how to handle bounce flash when you are outdoors or have no light surfaces to use.

Further Reading: Here's some more great articles on bouncing your flash.

Bounce Flash

Lighting tip - 4 ways to bounce a flash

Take better flash photos in one easy step

January 25, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Your Pictures in HD


Did you get a new High Definition (HD) TV for Christmas? You might want to pull out it's user manual and see how you can get your digital photos to display on it. Most come with a way to hook up your camera or computer directly to a video input. Some, like the Samsung DLP HDTV I own, have a USB port and built-in photo viewing program. I copy some photos to a USB Flash drive on my computer then plug it into the TV's USB port. I select the photo viewer program called Wiselink from the HDTV's menu and it displays the contents of the drive (see photo).

There is a gotcha. When copying the photos to the USB drive, I make sure the photos are 1920 pixels in width to fill the HDTV's screen. However, since my digital camera does not produce an HDTV's screen ratio of 16x9, I still end up with black bars on the left and right side of each picture. This is not a big deal for me because the large, bright and clear image displayed is still breathtaking. It's a very easy way to show others your photos without everyone having to crowd around a small computer screen.

I have noticed many of the newer cameras now have a 16x9 ratio selection when taking photos. Those images would completely fill the screen. Check your camera's manual to see if it supports this feature.

Back to my HDTV, I can either manually select and view each photo or start up a slideshow which displays each photo in sequence for a set number of seconds. I can even add music while it's running. This is a far cry from the days of bulky white movie screens, loud slide projectors and long boring presentations by the photographer. Well, two out of three isn't bad!



Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-70DX, 1/160s, f/6.3, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 50mm Focal Length

January 11, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Photo Gems



Parasols in Liberty Square.
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/200s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 135mm Focal Length

When I can, I like to find Photographic Gems at Walt Disney World. Gems can be found literally around each and every corner. Remember to look not at just the overall scene but at parts of them. This is how I found these colorful, personalized parasols being displayed next to a cart in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square across from the Christmas shop. It was a busy morning and there were people everywhere but the bright colors of the parasols caught my eye as I was scanning around. The Cast Member had taken great care in arranging the parasols in a pleasing fashion. Being in the shade, the picture came out a bit bluish so I adjusted the color temperature a bit towards the warm or red color in a photo editor.

December 21, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: From All of Us to All of You

A Very...


Nikon D70/18-70DX, 1/125s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

The Downtown Disney Christmas Tree from 2006. Selective coloring and graphics done in Picnik.com. Update: Use iPiccy instead.

Here's wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday. I will not have an entry for next week but will be back in the New Year! If you get any cool photography stuff under your tree you'd think others would like to hear about, drop me a line!

November 23, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: dSLR Chistmas Gift Giving

I've been looking at all the Day After Thanksgiving sales brochures online over the past few days. There are some great deals coming out for the digital camera owner on your list. Here are some of ideas:

Camera/Lens Dependent Gifts
Memory Cards
Rechargable Batteries
UV Lens Filter
Circular Polarizer Lens Filter

Non-Dependent Gifts
Micro-Fiber lens cleaning cloth
USB External Hard Drives (many under $100)

Photography books make great gifts. Here are two of my favorites.

Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure - is a great book on how exposure relates to your photographs. Updated for the digital age.

The Digital Photography Book - Ever wonder how to create a photo you see in a book or magazine? This book gives you "recipes" so you won't have to wonder anymore.

And some products that I've found useful.

Giottos Rocket Blaster - keep your camera's sensor dry and clean.

Cam-Pod Camera Support - don't want to lug around a tripod? This will protect and secure your camera. Great to use on top of flat surfaces like those famous Walt Disney World garbage cans.

Bogen-Manfrotto 725B Tripod - If you do want to use a tripod, I've found this one to be a good combination of light weight and sturdiness. Comes with a carrying bag with an over the shoulder strap.

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G DX VR Zoom Lens - For the Nikon owner, this is Nikon's budget Vibration Reduction (VR) lens for their dSLR systems. I own the 18-200 with similiar technology and this lens has gotten rave reviews on popular photography forums.

I'll see you in the malls at 5am on Friday! Happy Holiday Shopping Everyone!

October 19, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Adding Light to the Sun

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

September 14, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Color of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading: How to Set White Balance

August 24, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Introducing The Histogram

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 20mm Focal Length

Don't go away! Histograms are not hard to understand. They are a great tool for us digital photographers to know, at a glance, if the picture we just took is well exposed. No more being disappointed when we see the photos on our large computer screens that looked so good on the camera's little LCD. If you are not sure if your camera is able to show a histogram, check its manual.


Simply put, a histogram is a graph that displays how light is distributed in your picture. The left side of the graph represents the shadows (dark areas), while the highlights (light areas) are on the right. Remember bell curves from your old math or statistical classes? Rarely does a histogram from a photo take on the look of a perfect bell curve but the principal is the same. You do not want to see the curve bunch up to either side or get cut off which is referred to as a clipped histogram. A clipped histogram to either the lef