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December 1, 2017

Walt Disney World in Black and White

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I always associate Disney with color. Which is interesting because I first watched Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color television show on my family's black and white tv back in the mid-1960's. With that in mind, this week I decided to visit each of Walt Disney World's themeparks in Black and White.

All of these photos were originally captured in color. In my image editor I choose to use the Black and White Filter Tool. This gives much more control than just desaturating which can be done by taking the Saturation Tool/Slider and setting it to zero. With a B&W filter, you can choose the color filter. I know that sounds a bit backward. As most of these photos were dominated by blue colors in the sky and/or water, I choose to set the B&W filter into the bluish part of the spectrum. This brings out the sky and clouds better. There was one exception which I will cover when I get to it. I like to add a good amount of contrast and clarity to my black and white conversions. Brings out a lot of the details you may not notice in a color photograph.

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Here I stood in front of the entrance to Cinderella Castle and pointed my camera upwards. The wide angle of the lens and portrait orientation gives a sense the castle is looming over you.

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot. To emphasize the clouds and sky above Spaceship Earth, I again used a portrait orientation. I took this from the bridge in front of the Italy pavilion.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth in Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 150mm Focal Length.

Twlight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Remember the exception I mentioned earlier? This is it. For the Tower of Terror, I moved the B&W filter more into the yellowish spectrum. I think it adds a bit of spookiness to the image.

Twlight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Twlight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 48mm Focal Length.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom. When photographing an object which is far away, I like to add foreground interest as I did with the elephant sculpture below.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 320, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

While the world is not in black and white, seeing it in black and white gives your eyes something else to concentrate on and allowing them to discover Disney's wonderful worlds.





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.






August 8, 2017

Disney PIc of the Week: Magic Kingdom Landscape

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For the next few weeks, Deb and I will be sharing our landscape photography from Walt Disney World. The definition of Landscape Photography is showing spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. That's pretty broad. Must people think of vast expanses showing mountains, deserts, oceans and other such places when it comes to landscape photos.

Given that information, you can see where such photography is a challenge at any Disney themepark. As vast as the Walt Disney Resort is, the places where guests visit are certainly not "vast expanses". Luckily, Disney Imagineers are experts in forced prespective which helps a great deal. You can see forced prespective in action below in the photo of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 1250, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

Landscape photography is also known for the use of wide angle lenses which go from approximately 24mm to as wide as 16mm. Depending on your camera sensor's size it could go as wide as 10mm.

Deb will be here to share her Magic Kingdom Landscape photo tomorrow.





July 28, 2017

Sharing Details from Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For the last two weeks I have urged you to look around and enjoy the details found at Walt Disney World. Today I want to just share of few of my favorites from my last visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

As you walk into MuppetVision 3-D, you will see a series of fictitious movie posters starring the Muppet characters. In this one, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem will be starring in a remake of Disney's High School Musical.

Poster for High School Mayhem in the queue for MuppetVision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Poster for High School Mayhem in the queue for MuppetVision 3-D.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 1000, EV +0.3, 66mm Focal Length.

After taking in the Muppets, I popped over to enjoy a pizza in PizzeRizzo. If you go there, make sure to walk upstairs and check out the Deluxe Supreme Banquet Hall. When I was there they were getting ready for a wedding reception.

Schedule for Rizzo's Deluxe Supreme Banquet Hall upstairs at Pizzerizzo at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Schedule for Rizzo's Deluxe Supreme Banquet Hall upstairs at Pizzerizzo restaurant.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 30mm Focal Length.

Lastly, as I was strolling down Hollywood Blvd., I spotted a fellow guest wearing a very interesting and amusing t-shirt. Nice to know our princesses are safe.

Father of daughters walking in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Father of daughter(s) walking around Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/160s, f/4, ISO 100, EV 0, 120mm Focal Length.

I do love to find fun details at Walt Disney World. I find new ones on every trip.






May 23, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Echo Lake

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have been asked so I am sure Disney Hollywood Studio Cast Members get asked all the time why there is a dinosaur along the shore of Echo Lake. Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction stand was part of the park's opening day. The link leads you to a Jim Korkis article about the the history of Gertie and the reason for including it in the park.

Recently, the stand is no longer in operation and may disappear as construction continues for the new Star Wars and Pixar additions.

Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction stand on Echo Lake in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction stand on Echo Lake.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/125, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0.

Deb will be here tomorrow with her Echo Lake photo.

May 12, 2017

Observing the Extraordinary at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.Photographer Elliott Erwitt

While we can all agree Walt Disney World is not an "ordinary place", it is a great place to find something interesting if you are observant. It is hard not to be distracted while visiting the resort. There are so many things to see and do and so many people doing them. You are traveling with other people and there are reservations and Fast Pass times to adhere to.

But...if a few times during your stay you can take a step back and look around. Allow yourself to observe where you are and let the creative part of you out. You will be surprised what you may capture in front of you.

The Discovery Island Carnivale in Disney's Animal Kingdom perform a very energentic act which gets guests involved and dancing. I so enjoy others enjoying themselves and capturing their exuberance in the moment.

Discovery Island Carnivale performing and getting guests to dance with them in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Discovery Island Carnivale performing and getting guests to dance with them..
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 140, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

It can be something so simple and ordinary as a daughter helping her mother with menu choices at Homecoming: Florida Kitchen restaurant in Disney Springs.

Daughter helping her mother with menu choices at Homecoming restaurant in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Daughter helping her mother with menu choices at Homecoming restaurant.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2000, EV +0.3, 27mm focal length.

Let your knowledge of your camera, lens, exposure, composition guide your creative side to look and see. Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” In our case, put the books down, get away from the computer and go out and shoot. Learn from mistakes and never stop observing the life around us.

Walt Disney statue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Walt Disney statue in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

A good exercise in observing is finding a place to sit down or lean against an object. Do as Obi Wan Kenobi would do and let yourself go and stretch out with your mind to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. You can do this anywhere even in a busy Disney themepark.

May 5, 2017

Watch Your Edges at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Many new photographers make a common mistake of concentrating on their subject and not looking around the subject. Especially the edges of the frame. It is very easy to overlook objects and people creeping in from the sides, top and bottom of a camera's viewfinder edges.

Below is a photo of Spaceship Earth on a beautiful Flordia day. I turned around and focused on the big geodesic sphere and got the photo you see below.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth with Edge Distractions.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 125, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Well, I looked at my camera's LCD to review the photo and saw all the edge distractions of palm tree fronds, tree branches and people walking past. Not what I remember shooting. To get the photo I really wanted, I moved out from underneath the trees and raised my camera's angle upward.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth without Edge Distractions.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

This was the photo I wanted to capture at the time.

Let us review, I noticed all the edge distractions in the camera's LCD. I moved and changed the angle to Spaceship Earth and before pressing the shutter button, I checked all around the viewfinder to make sure I had elminated any distractions. This is good practise to do whenever you are photographing.

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.

March 28, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Night time in any Walt Disney World park or resort is magical. Use of lighting and shadows enhances the architecture's colors and shapes. The Morocco pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase is beautiful at night. The patterns found on the fountains and in the buildings is hard to pass up photographing them. The lighting after dark gives the buildings a golden color against the night sky. I tried to show this in the photo featuring the pavilion's water fountain and Koutoubia Minaret (prayer tower) raising high in the background.

Morocco pavilion at night in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Morocco pavilion at night in Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/15, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her night time photo from Epcot.

February 10, 2017

Photographing a Disney Icon: Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2017

Photographing Disney Statues in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that not better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 20, 2017

Ruling the Animal Kingdom in Thirds

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

Here is the same photo with the grid.

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

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

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

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

Here is the same photo with the grid.

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

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

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

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

Here is the same photo with the grid.

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

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

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

January 3, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Best of 2016

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As we begin 2017, Deb and I looked back and picked each other's favorite Disney Pic of the Week photo from 2016. I really liked a lot of them but after a few years of not being at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, this photo of a monorail cruisng over the colorful flower beds in Epcot kept catching my fancy. For me, it brings the two things I love most about being at Epcot: color and the promise of a bright future for all of us.

Monorail Yellow moves over the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Yellow moves over the 2016 Flower and Garden Festival.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 180, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Favorite Disney Pic of the Week photo from 2016.

November 15, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Face Painting

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

While I did not get a photo of someone getting their face painted, I did get the next best thing. A portrait of a Face Painter stationed just outside the entrance to Disney's Kilimanjaro Safari. As you can see she is also advertising her Face Painting skills.

Cast Member Face Painter in the African village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cast Member Face Painter in the African village of Harambe.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 250, EV 0, 56mm Focal Length.

She makes the perfect person for the Disney Pic of the Week about Face Painting.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her face painting photo.

November 11, 2016

Harps of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 28, 2016

Mickey Mouse Pumpkin Heads in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2016

Partners and the Crane at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

September 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.

July 15, 2016

Adding People to Your Walt Disney World Photographs

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 8, 2016

A Dapper Dan Close Up on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Remember...closer means better.

June 10, 2016

Nikon Picture Spots at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

May 13, 2016

Leading Lines at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 6, 2016

Improving Your Walt Disney World Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 29, 2016

Chinese Dragon at the Great Movie Ride

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 15, 2016

More Topiaries from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 8, 2016

More Food Compositions at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 1, 2016

Anchoring Your Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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


February 23, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Panorama

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have written about how to create a proper panorama photo in the past and how NOT to create them. I did fail to mention the easiest way to create what I call pseudo-panoramics.

A pseudo-panoramic is done by cropping an image taken with a wide angle lens in a panoramic aspect ratio like 16x9 or 18x6. While you could use any lens to do this, a wide angle image works out better. The photo below of Epcot's Spaceship Earth at night was done in the 16x9 ratio or sometimes referred to as the HD (High Definition) ratio as that is the ratio used for High Definition televisions.

Spaceship Earth at night in Ecpot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth at night in Ecpot's Future World.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length, cropped.

Many smartphones and cameras today have panoramic modes. Look to see if your's does.

Deb will share her panorama tomorrow.

February 16, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The definition of a portrait is a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders. In our case, photography is our medium of choice. While the dictionary uses "person", I would substitute "subject" as portraits do not necessarily have to be human.

Take for instance my portrait of an Asian Tiger (Panthera tigris) on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The tiger was posing perfectly for me in between short cat naps.

Asian Tiger (Panthera tigris) on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Portrait of an Asian Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/4, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 160mm (240mm DX) focal length.

For more on taking portraits at Walt Disney World, visit these links: Animal Portraits and More on Portraits (of the human kind)

Deb will share her portraiture skills tomorrow.

January 15, 2016

Framing the Gates of Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2015

Reflective Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

October 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.

July 17, 2015

Monorail Resorts at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2015

Photographing Where the People Are at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 19, 2015

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

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

April 17, 2015

Cinderella Castle Archway

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 10, 2015

Disney Food Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2015

Disney Social Media Cover Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 6, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Going to start out 2015 by visiting each Walt Disney World park starting with the Magic Kingdom.

The Fantasyland expansion has brought many new photographic compositions like this mashup of two Disney animated movies, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Ariel's figurehead on the bow of a ship outside the Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction with the Beast's castle in the background which is behind the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction.

Ariel figurehead outside Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ariel figurehead outside Journey of the Little Mermaid.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV 0, 82mm Focal Length.

Deb is going to travel back in time and space tomorrow for her Magic Kingdom photo.


November 21, 2014

Shopping Around Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Next to dining, my guess would be shopping as the next most popular thing to do at Walt Disney World. This being one week away from Black Friday, America's day to spend freely for the holiday season, I thought I would share with you a few photos from the shops around the resort. Remember, to always be on the lookout for patterns like the Vinylamation collectibles. Colorful sales displays of things like the pyramid of Duffy the Bears make for very pleasing compositions. Shopping is a very human thing to do and I like to include people even if the expensive artwork is only to be looked at. Leading lines of decorative beer steins in Germany takes the viewer on a trip.

Shopping around Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Shopping around the Walt Disney World Resort
See text for more information.

From top left: Duffy the Bear shop display at Epcot, shopping for Disney art on Main Street USA, Vinylmation collectibles on display inside the D Street store in Downtown Disney's West Side and Beer steins in Germany's Der Bucherwurm shop in Epcot's World Showcase.

Besides, photography gives me something to do while the rest of my family shops.

October 31, 2014

Scarecrows of Town Square

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today being Halloween, I thought I would share with you a different angle on the Scarecrows of Town Square.

Most people photograph the scarecrows you see upon entering the Magic Kingdom standing up. When you do it that way, you have to be very careful of what is happening in behind the scarecrows. People will be walking there, Photopass photographers have a Halloween setup which is very busy and cast members could be selling balloons on Main Street USA to name a few background distractions.

To help eliminate such "noise" in my scarecrow photos below, I got down low (yes, folks, that means bending those knees). There are still people in some of the photos below but they are at the bottom of the frame and blended into the corn stalks Disney used this year at the base of each of the scarecrows.

Dressed up Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Dressed up Scarecrow in Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 30mm focal length.

Another tricky background object is the flag pole. As you can see here, I did not do a very good job of getting the flag pole out of the frame. I should have moved to my right a little more.

Baker Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Baker Scarecrow pushing sugar around Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

On this photo of the Scarecrow Mayor I did a better job.

Scarecrow Mayor on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scarecrow Mayor looking for votes around Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 30mm focal length.

It was very hard to not get any of the trees in the frames for a couple of the scarecrows so I tried to find a pleasing composition with them in it.

Drummer Scarecrow on Town Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Drummer Scarecrow banging away on Town Square.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm focal length.

Working to get clean or less distracting backgrounds in your photos is well worth the effort. Keep it in mind the next time you are out photographing.

BLOG NOTE: As you may have read this week, Lisa will no longer be writing her Picture This! blog or contributing to the Disney Pic of the Week. For the time being, it is just Erin and myself. Erin will be continuing the popular Where in the World contests as I will post a Disney Pic of the Week every Tuesday and this blog on Friday.

Next year I plan on visiting Walt Disney World a couple of times. Watch for Photowalk announcements about a month before each visit. If you have any questions, would like me to cover a particular photography subject or have a Pic of the Week suggestion, drop me a comment.

October 24, 2014

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Italy in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One never knows when a new photographic opportunity will present itself. At Walt Disney World, it could happen while talking with friends in one of Epcot's countries. This happened to me last week while in Italy. A fanfare of drums and trumpets was heard before a parade of colorful men came into the pavilion with large flags. I quickly surmised this was the new show Disney said was coming.

The four flag bearers and four musicians paraded up the stairs to the circular center stage of the pavilion. People were drawn around the stage and I quickly went to the stairs and sat down in front. The stage is elevated and getting low did a couple of things for me: it cleaned up the background as my field of view was over most spectators heads and gave a more dramatic angle to the entertainers.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Being an entirely new show, I did not know what to expect. I will say the costuming was excellent. The colors of the flags did not clash with the Italy pavilion colors in anyway. Making the performers and the flags stand out.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

Again, not knowing what to expect, I found myself clicking at almost every move the performers made. This resulted in a lot of images I discarded later.

I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. The day was bright enough to still have a good Depth of Field aperture in the f/9 to f/10 range. Next time, I would like to try slower shutter speeds when the performers are standing still while waving the flags.

Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro show at Epcot's Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro Show in Italy.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 31mm Focal Length.

What this show does do, is a lot of repetition. Which means if you miss a move, a toss or a jump the first couple of times, be patient, as they will repeat it again in a few seconds. The move you see above was about the fourth or fifth jump in the routine.

Since I photographed this show, I found out the group is called Flag Wavers of Sansepolcro. If you click on the link, you will see more of my photos from the show and a video of an early performance. I suspect the show will evolve over the next few weeks but the video will give you a good idea of what to expect.

September 18, 2014

Clouds and Spaceship Earth in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For eons, our planet has drifted as a spaceship through the universe.

-- Walter Cronkite version from 1986-1994

Spaceship Earth on an Autumn day in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth on an Autumn day in Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

I have been riding Epcot's Spaceship Earth since 1983 and have heard every narrator for the attraction. By far, Walter Cronkite's version is my favorite. He was Uncle Walter to my generation who grew up watching his nightly newscasts on television.

For the Disney Pic of the Week on Spaceship Earth Exterior, I share an early Autumn day when the clouds billowed up behind the huge geodesic structure.

June 20, 2014

Photographing Festival of Fantasy Parade - Part 1

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When photographs of Disney's Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom first started to appear, I knew I would be photographing it from a couple of different locations. Each float in the parade is tall. In fact, they are the tallest floats I have ever seen come down Main Street USA. The floats are accompanied by dancers and characters which proceed them. Thus, you have interesting subjects up high and below.

Next week I will show you the Street level photos. For this week, I photographed from the Main Street USA Train Station Platform above the parade route. Plan on getting to the platform, at least, an hour before the parade to find a position. I suggest favoring the side towards Town Square Theater for a clear view of the floats as they come around the square. All the photos below were taken from that vantage point.

The first float features a few Disney Princesses and their Princes. The Princess Garden float has Belle in her summer evening dress with the Beast in front. Cinderella and Prince Charming revolve around to greet guests on both sides of the parade route. Tiana and Prince Naveen from the Princess and the Frog and Princess Anna and Queen Elsa from Frozen share another turntable. Music from all four movies is played when this float goes by. Notice how long this float is.

The Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length.

The Princess Garden float is more of your traditional sized float. Not as tall as the rest of the parade's floats. Photographing the characters meant looking down which is not always a very flattering angle but worked quite well from this location.

Princess Anna and Queen Elsa on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Princess Anna and Queen Elsa on the Princess Garden float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/200s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

The Peter Pan float has got to be the tallest of the Festival of Fantasy floats. It is not as long as the Princess Garden float so I could rotate my camera for a portrait orientation to better get the entire float in the frame.

Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Peter Pan float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Here is the other reason for photographing the Festival of Fantasy parade from the train station platform. You are level with the characters who are at the top of the floats. Peter Pan and Wendy were about level with my camera lens. I did not have to zoom too much either as the floats come very close to the train platform which allowed me to include Cinderella Castle in the background.

Wendy and Peter Pan wave from the deck of the Jolly Roger in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wendy and Peter Pan wave from the deck of the Jolly Roger in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 38mm focal length.

For me, the highlight of the Festival of Fantasy parade is the steampunk inspired Maleficent Dragon of the Sleeping Beauty float. This float measures 53 feet (16m) in length and 26 feet (8m) tall when the dragon is breathing fire.

Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sleeping Beauty float in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

It is silly to think of how excited I was to get face to face with such a beast. I could feel the heat from the dragon's breath I was so close as it passed by the train station platform.

Maleficent Dragon breathing fire in the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Maleficent Dragon breathing fire in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 82mm focal length.

Mickey's Airship float caps off the Festival of Fantasy parade. Bright colors with both Mickey and Minnie Mouse waving to everyone from the gondola of the lighter-than-air craft weighed down by the dancing, pink hippos from Fantasia.

Mickey's Airship in the Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey's Airship in the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/400s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length.

I really enjoyed photographing the Festival of Fantasy parade from the Main Street USA Train Station platform. I still itched to get down to street level for all the dancers. I satisfied the itch later in the trip which I will share with you next week.

June 12, 2014

Flowers and Trolls in Norway

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A Troll topiary pops up out of a field of flowers in Epcot's Norway pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Troll topiary pops up out of a field of wildflowers.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 2200, EV -0.3, 24mm focal length.

Appropiately, a troll pops up among beautiful wildflowers in Epcot's Norway pavilion during the Flower and Garden Festival. A bright and beautiful Disney Pic of the Week about Flowers.

May 22, 2014

Riding the Liberty Belle Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Need a ride the whole family can enjoy in the Magic Kingdom? One which is in a boat on water perhaps? No, not that one! I am talking about the Liberty Belle Riverboat in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. When operating, the Liberty Belle takes guests on a 17 minute journey down the Rivers of America and around Frontierland's Tom Sawyer Island.

Liberty Belle Riverboat cruising the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Liberty Belle Riverboat cruising the Rivers of America.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 900, EV 0, 86mm focal length, polarizer filter.

The Liberty Belle leaves the Liberty Boat Landing at the top and bottom of the each hour. Once underway, guests are treated to a slow cruise with views of Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and other interesting sights along the river.

Splash Mountain photographed from the Liberty Belle Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Splash Mountain from the Liberty Belle Riverboat.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 800, EV 0, 78mm focal length, polarizer filter.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad photographed from the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from the Liberty Belle Riverboat.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 720, EV 0, 38mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As you round the bend from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you will see Alligator Swamp, Elk, Moose, an Indian village and people roaming around Tom Sawyer Island.

Alligator Swamp photographed from the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Alligator Swamp on the Rivers of America.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 48mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As you come to end of your Riverboat journey, you will pass the Haunted Mansion and return back to Liberty Boat Landing to continue your magical day in the Magic Kingdom well rested.

Approaching Liberty Boat Landing on the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Approaching Liberty Boat Landing on the Liberty Belle.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV 0, 24mm focal length, polarizer filter.

The Liberty Belle captain will blow her horn as she approaches Liberty Boat Landing. If you wait for the Liberty Belle between the Landing and the Haunted Mansion entrance, you can get photos of the steam from the horn and engines with a natural looking background (see photo at start of article).

April 11, 2014

Down Under Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The entrance to Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The entrance to Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1, 15mm focal length, tripod.

This is a fun and popular composition when photographing around Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Use a wide angle or fisheye lens under Spaceship Earth and place its bottom at the top of the frame. I really like the photos at night when Disney "paints" the reflective triangles with golden and purple colors.

I do not know about you, this photo makes me feel the weight of the geosphere above it. The next time you find yourself underneath Spaceship Earth, remember this fact: it weighs 15,520,000 Pounds (7,040,000 Kilograms) or 7,760 Tons.

April 4, 2014

Wishes over New Fantasyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Wishes fireworks go off over New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wishes fireworks go off over New Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 5.9s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

The opening of the New Fantasyland expanision in the Fall of 2013 added new locations to photograph Wishes, the nightly fireworks show, from in the Magic Kingdom. A new favorite composition of Disney photographers is placing the Ariel statue near the entrance to The Little Mermaid -- Ariel's Undersea Adventure at the bottom of the frame as fireworks burst overhead. The statue is lighted and works very well.

For more ideas, search flickr to see all the interesting locations our fellow Disney fan photographers have found throughout the Magic Kingdom to photography Wishes from.

January 24, 2014

Photographing Carsland Details in Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I had a lot of fun searching out details when I visited Carsland in Disney's California Adventure. I used a couple of techniques I have not mentioned in awhile and thought it would be a good reminder for everyone.

Selective Focus is my go to way of separating a subject from a busy background. Using a large aperture, I carefully focus on my subject which throws the background out of focus. In the photo below, the other flowers, window and the reflection in the window are softly out of focus while the subject of the photo, the closest Taillight Flowers, are in sharp focus.

Taillight Flowers found in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California.
Taillight Flowers found in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 220, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

In contrast, the photo of the funny signs as you walk out of Carsland's Ornament Valley are all in focus as I wanted people to be able to read all of them. To do this, I selected a small aperture which gives a large depth of field from the front of the image all the way to its back. This is called the Hyperfocal Distance Setting or Hyperfocus.

Signs leaving Ornament Valley in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California.
Signs leaving Ornament Valley in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/22, ISO 1400, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

I know this photo is a little small to see all the signs. They read in order:

MIND YOUR SPEED
AS YOU GO
SHERIFF'S OLD
BUT HE'S
NOT SLOW

Remember that when you are speeding out of any town, especially Radiator Springs.

January 17, 2014

Highway in the Sky over Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Keeping with this week's photo theme, here is another iconic symbol of not only Epcot but all of Walt Disney World: the WDW Monorail System known as the Highway in the Sky. Each day, monorails transport thousands of resort guests around the Seven Seas Lagoon on either the Express or Resort track back and forth to the Magic Kingdom. You can also transfer to the Epcot track at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) for further service to Epcot.

Monorail Pink in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Pink passing by the Imagination Pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 180mm focal length.

I took this from the walkway between the Odyssey restaurant and World Showcase. I waited for a few minutes for a monorail to pass by. This is one of those reference photos I take to remind me to revisit this location in the future when the Sun is close to setting.

Monorails give a very relaxing, smooth and air conditioned ride even if you have to stand. Remember...Por favor mantenerse al lado de las puertas! at each stop.

January 10, 2014

Looking Above the Trees at Walt Disney World

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As veterans of many trips to Walt Disney World, Lisa and I have often said to always look up and down when visiting the resort. Most of the time you will find wonderful details and even a Hidden Mickey. You may discover a composition you never noticed before. In reviewing photos from my last couple of trips, I came upon these photos which were taken in different parks and at different times but have similar properties.

The first was taken as I walked from Japan to Morocco late in the day. I noticed the low Sun angle was giving the Hotel du Canada of the Canadian pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase a nice golden glow. I decided to crop the photo leaving out any indication of the people and lamps at the bottom of the original photo. I wanted people to see the beauty of the Hotel du Canada framed between green trees and a cloudy sky.

Hotel du Canada in the Canadian pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Late afternoon sunshine illuminates the Hotel du Canada.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

While walking the bridge between the entrance to Adventureland and Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom late at night, I looked up at the spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated above the trees. Not seeing the entire castle created a new composition for me.

The spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/13s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV 0, 200mm focal length.

While I often do not mind including people and other elements in my Walt Disney World photographs, I liked how I cropped or composed these two photos to eliminate any distracting elements.

January 3, 2014

Best of Walt Disney World in 2013

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After visiting Disneyland in September, I had two trips to Walt Disney World in October and December. The first was a family vacation where I photographed while touring the parks. The other was a planned couple of days photographing with other Disney fan photographers. Both trips were fun, enjoyable and presented new challenges and experiences in each park. Today, I am sharing with you some of the highlights from those trips.

It is exciting to see something new at Walt Disney World even if it happens every day. In all my visits, I never saw the IllumiNations barges enter Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. When I noticed the Earth barge coming through the draw bridge, I stopped and took several photos.

IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

This was the first time I had the Fisheye lens with me at Walt Disney World. I probably used it way too much but it was a lot fun. While waiting for my ride on Rock'n'Roller Coaster, I photographed fellow guests being launched. The lens' f/2.8 aperture and a high ISO allowed me to photograph inside the dark ride.

Guests are launched at the Rock'n'Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests are launched into the Rock'n'Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/15mm, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Each December, Disney fan photographers always watch for Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This allows for photographing in the park after sunset. Something that is a rarity. The bare light bulbs hanging over the path to Expedition EVEREST made for good foreground interest to the Forbidden Mountain. By using a small aperture of f/22, the small light sources became small starbursts. I waited for Blue Hour, the time between sunset and full night, to give it a magical light.

Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 2.5s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 92mm focal length, tripod.

After Blue Hour in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I traveled to the Magic Kingdom to take advantage of its late night closing. Putting the Fisheye lens back on my camera, I photographed the lights and movement of the park. Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party is colorful and full of motion when using a long exposure and tripod to photograph it.

Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night.
Nikon D700/15mm, 10s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, tripod.

These are my favorites from this year's trips to Walt Disney World. Here's to even more in 2014. Do you have any favorites from the past year?

December 20, 2013

Snowflakes on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Snowflakes on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Snowflakes on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.
Wishing You a Magical & Merry Christmas!

Who says there is never any snow(flakes) on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom? I found some on my last trip. Do you notice anything unusual about this photo or the one below?

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights at the end of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights at the end of Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 8s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length, tripod.

If you have been to the Magic Kingdom during the Christmas holiday celebration, you should remember there are normally wreaths strung across Main Street USA. However, on the days they film the Christmas Day Parade in early December, those wreaths and the large Christmas tree at the beginning of Main Street USA are taken off stage. Thus, giving a clear view from the Railroad Station to Cinderella Castle.

I will be off next week to spend time with Family and Friends. See you in two weeks as we start another year of Disney Photographic learning and fun!

November 22, 2013

Photographing Tutto Italia Desserts in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When Travel and Food Photography mix, I like to include members of my party in my food photos. In this case, my daughters presented their dessert choices after our meal at Tutto Italia in Epcot's Italy pavilion.

My youngest decided she did not really like what Tutto Italia had for dessert. The server was kind enough to get her a simple ice cream dessert with a chocolate cookie stick. As you can see, she was very happy with it.

Ice cream dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ice cream dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

My eldest ordered the Gianduja-Chocolate Torta which is a chocolate and hazelnut torte with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. She determined it to be delicious.

Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length.

I also got a more traditional food picture of the Cannoli ordered by another member of my party. It must have been good as it was gone before I got a second shot at it.

Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

Remember to include members of your dining party in your visits to any of the wonderful Walt Disney World restaurants. Not just the Character Meals. They make for fun and memorable photographs.

November 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.

October 11, 2013

Postcard from Carsland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Scott is still on vacation. We did receive this Postcard from Radiator Springs and thought we would share it with you.

Hi, to all my All Ears friends and family!

I am having a wonderful time out here in Radiator Springs. While seeing it in the movies was extraordinary, visiting the actual location where Lightning McQueen and Mater met and became friends is even better.

Radiator Springs Metal Sign in Radiator Springs Curios, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Radiator Springs Metal Sign.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 3600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Watching visiting Cars take tourists on rides through Ornament Valley by cruising past Firewall Falls and flying around Willy's Butte on the high banks is breathtaking.

Cars race around Willy's Butte in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Cars race around Willy's Butte in Carsland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/4.5, ISO 280, EV 0, 56mm focal length.

I got a few panning photos to give you an idea of the speed of these finely tuned racers. Each car either gets a new set of tires from Lugi's or a sweet paint job from Ramone and tips from Doc Hudson before starting the race.

Radiator Springs Racers, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Radiator Springs Racers.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/22, ISO 200, EV -1.3, 28mm focal length.

I was lucky as I got to meet Mater. He was going out to do some Tractor Tipping out past Ornament Valley.

Mater from the movie, Cars, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Mater from the movie, Cars.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

If meeting Mater wasn't enough, I came upon Lightning McQueen cruising past Flo's V8 Café. He gave me his best Ka-chow before checking in at the Cozy Cone.

Lightning McQueen from the movie, Cars, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Lightning McQueen from the movie, Cars.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/13, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

You have not really seen Radiator Springs until after the Sun goes down and the proprietors turn on their neon lighting. Flo's V8 Café took on a magical look which brought in a lot of customers.

Flo's V8 Café at night in Carsland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Flo's V8 Café at night in Carsland.
Nikon D7100/Tokina 11-16mm, 5s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 14mm focal length, tripod.

Time to go. Mater promised me a night run out to Ornament Valley. Wish you were here!

Ka-chow,

Scott

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.

August 2, 2013

New Fantasyland, New Photo Opportunities

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

With the new additions to Fantasyland, came new photo opportunities. I have been enjoying all the new views from fellow Walt Disney World fans since the expansion opened to the public last November. I have not been back yet to see all the new attractions and beautifully Imagineered landscaping and structures. I did get a sneak peek of one of the attractions about a month before the "official" soft openings.

The queue for Enchanted Tales with Belle winds along a treed path into the house Belle and her father lived. I found this view of the Beast's castle off in the distance which may get blocked once the trees grow to their full height in the future. Of course, the castle is not very far away in reality. Caulk it up to Disney's famous use of forced perspective.

View of the Beast's castle from the Enchanted Tales with Belle queue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
View of the Beast's castle from the Enchanted Tales with Belle queue.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/16, ISO 250, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Notice the use of the small aperture of f/16 to get maximum depth of field called hyperfocus.

July 26, 2013

Photographing Patterns at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Patterns can be boring to look at for most people. Not to us photographers. Patterns are facinating to photograph. They are all around us once we train our brains to see them. Lots of times, we will ignore patterns and fail to see their photographic potential.

Take for instance when we browse the shops at Walt Disney World. Do you notice the photographic opportunities of the displays? Look below at the display of Disney character coffee cups. Do you see the patterns?

Disney character coffee cups on display in Beverly Sunset shop at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney character coffee cups pattern.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/3.8, ISO 1800, EV +0.3, 32mm focal length.

Click here for more about photographing patterns

June 28, 2013

Ceremonial Canoe in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Our next stop is along the walk to Asia and just past the Yeti Shrine in Disney's Animal Kingdom rests (rested) a very colorful ceremonial canoe. On a calm day, the water creates reflections of the canoe. To capture the beautiful colors of the canoe, I underexposed using exposure compensation by -0.3 of a stop.

Ceremonial canoe on the walk to Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ceremonial canoe on the walk to Asia.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 200mm focal length.

I used a stopped down aperture of f/16 to make sure to get everything in focus from the water reflection to the wooden fencing behind the canoe. Have not seen this canoe on my last couple of trips. It may have been moved or otherwise taken off stage.

I will be taking a summer break the next two weeks. See you back here then!

June 14, 2013

Looking Up at Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week we visit Epcot and its "castle", Spaceship Earth. You will often hear Walt Disney World fans say to Look Up when walking around the parks. I took the saying to heart when I walked up to one of the pillars which hold up Spaceship Earth and looked straight up its edge. I leaned my camera right against it and looked through the viewfinder to see this...

Looking up at Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Looking up at Spaceship Earth in daylight.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length,.

Leading lines, reflections, geometric and repetitive shapes in silver popped right at me. If someone had never seen Spaceship Earth, they might thing this was an abstract image.

As Walt Disney World fans, you all know once the Sun goes down, the parks become transformed. Spaceship Earth is no different. I repeated the same photo here...

Looking up at Spaceship Earth in Epcot at night, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Looking up at Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length,.

The gold and yellow lighting gives it a different feel don't you think?

While this is an extreme case of Looking Up, it is a good idea to do anywhere you find yourself photographing.

May 17, 2013

Using a Super Zoom Lens at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I am a big fan of using Super Zoom lenses on digital SLR cameras. When I travel to places like Walt Disney World, I do not want to be carrying a lot of heavy equipment. A Super Zoom lens lets me go with a small pouch which holds an extra battery, memory cards, lens cleaning cloth, flash and one extra lens, usually the 50mm f/1.8.

I have used Nikon's Super Zoom lenses on both a DX (cropped camera) and FX (full framed camera). They are the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR DX Zoom and Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR II FX Zoom Lenses. Canon has their 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S IS Zoom Lens. Sigma and Tamron each have an 18-250mm zoom lens. All are image stablized and very versatile.

Super Zoom lenses are full of compromises. They have variable apertures and are not very fast nor are they extremely wide or long. I find they work perfectly in a place like a Disney themepark, festivals, or fairs. The following photos were all taken with a Nikon D700 FX camera and the 28-300VR lens.

For this photo of a tricycle parked near Kali River Rapids entrance in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I got in close and low using the widest focal length of the lens.

A tricycle parked near Kali River Rapids entrance in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A tricycle parked near Kali River Rapids entrance.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 25mm focal length.

Along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, the gorrilas, at their closest, are still far away and the reach of a super zoom lens comes in very handy.

Bachelor Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bachelor Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 160, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The Image Stablizaton (Vibration Reduction for Nikon's) in the Super Zoom lenses work even while doing motion photography like panning at the Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom.

Guests speeding around the Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests speeding around the Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/29, ISO 200, EV 0, 85mm focal length.

The verstality of the wide range of focal lengths helps to photograph scenes like this one. Space Mountain was being lighted by a late day Sun with rain clouds behind it. I really liked being able to crop in and create this composition with the spires of the ride bright lighted in front of a dark, gloomy background.

Space Mountain with rain clouds in the Magic Kingdom's Torrowland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spires of Space Mountain in Torrowland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

Let me repeat, Super Zooms give you a lot of compostional freedom. I envisioned this photo of the Red Hero car from Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios knowing I was going to be seating in the VIP section of the grandstands during the show. The wide end let me get the car's reflection, the camera truck and the set behind all in the frame. Using a fast shutter speed let me freeze all the action at the right time.

Red Hero car during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Red Hero car jumping during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

A slight zoom on the lens from 28mm to 40mm eliminated some foreground clutter and brought the broom in closer as I photographed the Sorcerer Mickey Mouse topiary in front of Disney's Hollywood Studios' entrance.

Sorcerer Mickey Mouse topiary in front of the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sorcerer Mickey Mouse topiary in front of the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 1100, EV 0, 40mm focal length, HDR Image.

Are Super Zooms the perfect travel lens? Maybe not perfect but the closest thing I have used to one.

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.

May 3, 2013

How to Photograph at a Busy Disney Park

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I came upon an article called How to Photograph Busy Tourist Sites by Kav Dadfar on the Digital Photography School website a few weeks ago. All the tips sounded a lot like the ones Lisa and I have talked about either directly or indirectly here on the Picture This! blog. I thought it would be fun to take each tip and expand on them in relation to Disney Photography. I hope you enjoyed the series. Below is each tip and a summary from the Disney posts with links for your reference.

1. Get Up Early

As I explained in my Walt Disney World version, staying late at a Disney park will give you your best people-free photography opportunities. On my personal photo blog, I did show how getting to non-Disney tourist destinations early is the way to go.

2. Include the Tourists

Especially at Disney properties, it is almost impossible not to get other guests in your photos. As I showed, just include the people like I did below. In fact, I waited for someone interesting (see #4 below) to stop in front of the fish tank on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

A lady looking at the fish on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A lady looking at the fish on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV 0, 100mm focal length.

3. Compose Carefully

By carefully cropping people out of a photo either in camera or afterwards in post-processing, you can eliminate distracting crowds or individuals in your photos. While it is best to do it before taking the photograph, it is easy to crop and, even eliminate, distracting people in our photos using photo editing software.

4. Take Your Time

I do understand this can be hard to do for people visiting a Disney resort, waiting for a time when people are no longer around at the location you want to photograph does work. As Confucius said, The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

5. Think Creatively

This can be very challenging and very rewarding to do. Look from different angles, get low, get high or tilt your camera in different directions. At Disney, you never know what you might uncover.

6. Focus on the Details

For Disney photographers, looking for details to photograph in the parks, resorts, restaurants and queues is a favorite subject. Do not forget about all the Hidden Mickeys to be found at Walt Disney World.

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.

April 5, 2013

Cropping People from Walt Disney World Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I discussed using guests, tourists if you will, as part of photos in a crowded Disney park. I know, many do not like to see other people in their vacation photos. You can take some of those photos and crop out distracting subjects, like people. You could do this while you are photographing by checking your LCD screen and retaking the photo to eliminate any people. Sometimes it is not an option or hard to tell in those small camera screens.

Here is an example from a photo I took of Spaceship Earth in Epcot. I decided I would like to see this photo without the people you see underneath the attraction. The Leave A Legacy granite structures are a bit overwhelming, too.

Guests are framed between Leave A Legacy structures near Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests are framed between Leave A Legacy structures near Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

A little cropping of the photo and, using the Rule of Thirds, I came up with this version. I like how Spaceship Earth is now the dominate subject and it is set off by the blue sky and clouds above with the Leave A Legacy tops below.

Cropped version without the guests of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cropped version without the guests of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

I do like how the people are framed between the Leave A Legacy "monoliths" and Spaceship Earth in the first photo. Both photos are winners in my book. What do you think?

It is best to "crop" in camera as you get the best quality image, if possible, cropping in post-production is still a very useful tool to create your vision.

March 29, 2013

Including Guests in Walt Disney World Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Continuing our tips for photographing in busy tourist attractions using Walt Disney World examples. When the parks are full of people, and it is a rare day when they are not these days, I just include them in the composition. People help to tell the story and add scale to whatever surrounds them.

Watching the Dream Along with Mickey show on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle with a few of my closest friends, I decided to include them. I stood up on the bench next to the Partner's Statue in the hub to get this photo.

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

My niece and her family were visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time and stopped to marvel at the Tree of Life. I like this photo more than the posed one I took a few minutes later. They are involved with the Tree of Life as the parents and children look at all the animals on it.

A family seeing the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family seeing the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 22mm focal length.

While both of these photos would have been fine without the people, I feel including them enhanced the photos and created better stories.

March 15, 2013

Shopping in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Do you like to shop? Even when on vacation at Walt Disney World? When traveling with my wife and two daughters, shopping is a part of the trip. I do like to shop though not as much as they do. Luckily, I have a camera with me and find my own kind of shopping...capturing details of shops imagineeered and themed as much as any Disney attraction or ride is.

The Tea Caddy shop sells specialty tea items, candies and chocolates found in the United Kingdom. I found this item particularly fitting, a tea pot featuring Aice in Wonderland characters.

Alice in Wonderland tea pot in Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Alice in Wonderland tea pot for sale in The Tea Caddy shop.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 40mm focal length, bounced flash.
In Germany's Die Weihnachts Ecke shop, it is always time for Christmas shopping for beautiful ornaments.
A mouse ears Christmas ornament in Die Weihnachts Ecke shop in the Germany pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A mouse ears Christmas ornament in Germany's Die Weihnachts Ecke shop.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5, ISO 1600, EV 0, 78mm focal length, bounced flash.

In Mouse Gears, the merchandise carts are kept together with unique nuts and bolts.

Nut and Bolt display fixture in Mouse Gear at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nut and Bolt display fixture in Mouse Gear.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV 0, 230mm focal length.

So, if you find yourself a little bored with your travelmates shopping habit, pick up your camera or camera phone and capture the experience.

March 1, 2013

Dreaming of a Disney Cruise

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

With the release of the 2014 sailings by the Disney Cruise Line, I have been dreaming about my past cruises.

Last year, my wife and I enjoyed a 4-night cruise where we found Disney cruises can be romantic and fun. Remember, the golden hour (the hour before sunset) is a great time to photograph even on a cruise ship at sea.

Late afternoon sky over Deck 11 on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Late afternoon sky over Deck 11 on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 16mm focal length, HDR Image.
Dreams can make you hungry as I remember the dessert selection in Cabana's buffet restaurant on the Disney Dream. One of those wonderful details travel photographers like to capture.
Desserts lined up in Canbana's restaurant on the Disney Dream.
Desserts lined up in Canbana's restaurant on the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Any day at Castaway Cay is a great day even if it is a bit overcast. Remember, when in the Bahamas, Left is Right and Right is Wrong. When creating a good travel photograph, get a good foreground and background subject.

A sign on Castaway Cay with the Disney Dream cruise ship in the background.
A sign on Castaway Cay with the Disney Dream cruise ship in the background.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Hmmm...maybe I need to dream about an Alaskan cruise. I will need to rent a 600mm lens for that trip!

February 22, 2013

Vacation Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week we talked about what makes a good Travel Photograph. This week, I am talking about what makes a good Vacation Photograph. It will not surprise you to hear they both are very much a like. You want them to tell a story and to give a sense of place or where you were on vacation. The added element are people and, specifically, members of your traveling party. For my examples, I will be using my own family.

Here you see my wife and daughters at the Port of Bay Lake in front of the Magic Kingdom. While we were waiting to board a Motor Cruiser to Fort Wilderness for a meal at the Trail's End restaurant, I spotted this nice photo location. The story is nautical and it sure does tell the viewer we were at Walt Disney World.

Members of a family getting ready to board a Motor Cruiser at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Members of Scott's family getting ready to board a Motor Cruiser to Fort Wilderness.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 65mm focal length.

Look for ways to connect a person's history or interests in your vacation photos. My daughter meet up with her high school French teacher at Epcot during this trip. I thought it appropriate to have them pose with Epcot's France pavilion behind them.

People posing with Epcot's France pavilion in the background, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Scott's daughter and her French teacher with Epcot's France pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length.

Let us not forget the most fun kind of vacation photos, the embarrassing kind! My wife loves pandas. I used these props found just across from the China pavilion in Epcot to show that love. She was a dear to allow me to do this. Of course, she did not think I would be sharing it with all of you at the time. Sorry, honey!

Vacationer posing at the China pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Scott's wife at Epcot's China pavilion with a panda puppet.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Be creative and have fun photographing your vacation whether it is at a Disney park or anywhere else in the world.

TIP: All of these photos were taken using Fill Flash to cut down the harsh shadows and to brighten the subjects.

February 15, 2013

Travel Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Really, Scott? Isn't the title redundant? We all take travel photos at Walt Disney World, don't we?

Well, yes and no. While photos taken at any Disney property can be considered travel photographs, do they tell a story? Do they give someone looking at the photo a sense of place? Travel photography should do both.

Last fall, Ocean Spray and Disney combined to create the Cranberry Bog Exhibit. My photo below shows the location of the exhibit in Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival. I used a small aperture of f/16 to keep everything in focus from the flowers all the way back to Spaceship Earth including the guests surrounding the exhibit. This is called using hyperfocus.

Ocean Spray's Cranberry Bog Exhibit at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ocean Spray's Cranberry Bog Exhibit at Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 320, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
To show you this technique works with a telephoto setting, I again used a small aperture photographing a Motor Cruiser on the Seven Seas Lagoon as it was leaving the Magic Kingdom. The Grand Floridian Resort in the background adds to the story.
Mermaid I Motor Cruiser leaving the Magic Kingdom on the Seven Seas Lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mermaid I Motor Cruiser on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 170mm focal length.

Most good travel photographs include people or imply people. Such is the case of the photo below. The seating area behind the Flame Tree Barbecue restaurant is a quiet, peaceful location. While there are not people in the photo, the empty tables and chairs in the background tell you this is a place for them.

Waterfall in the seating area behind the Flame Tree BBQ in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Waterfall in the seating area behind the Flame Tree BBQ.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/5s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

For this photo, the small aperture of f/22 not only gave me a large depth of field but slowed down my shutter enough to give the smooth look to the waterfalls.

Next time you are out photographing at a Disney park or in your own backyard, look for story telling travel scenes.

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 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.

November 23, 2012

Color Composition at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are many rules of composition in photography, like the Rule of Thirds, symmetry, golden triangle and others. One thing that is often overlooked is using color in composition. Color can be used to lead the viewer's eye to the subject, create a response in the viewer or even frame an image. When studying this subject, I found I relied mostly on my subjects position or their relationship to other elements in the viewfinder. The following photos I did take with color being the primary photographic element.

Besides his humor, Cool Hand Luke stood out in front of Disney's Boardwalk Resort with his brightly colored costume which contrasted with the natural tones of the resort's buildings and wooded boardwalk. To further enhance his appearance, I placed him in the right third of the frame where your eyes are lead to first before exploring the rest of the scene.

Cool Hand Luke Juggling Show entertaining guests on The Boardwalk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cool Hand Luke Juggling Show entertaining guests on The Boardwalk.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, fill flash.

The blue twilight sky makes for a beautiful backdrop for the brightly lighted and colorful Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney. Here I balance the balloon with the horizon in the lower third of the frame.

Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

A yellow Taveta Golden Weaver (Ploceus castaneiceps) bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom posed nicely for me against the natural background. The contrast of the yellow bird pops right out at you.

Taveta Golden Weaver bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Taveta Golden Weaver bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Going to finish up with a couple holiday photos now that Thanksgiving here in the United States has passed and the shopping season is in full swing today.

The slivery-blue Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center near the Ferry dock reflects in the Seven Seas Lagoon on a December evening. Reflections in water and other surfaces help to draw one's eyes to the main subject.

Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 3s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length, tripod.

The Toy Soldier statues around the Main Street USA Christmas Tree in the Magic Kingdom can be made the colorful subject by using a wide open aperture to create the dreamy bokeh (out of focus background) of the lights on the tree behind them.

Toy Soldier figure in front of the Main Street USA Christmas tree at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Toy Soldier figure in front of the Main Street USA Christmas Tree.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV -0.6, 116mm focal length, polarizer filter.

This month on my personal photo blog, I ran an assignment about Color Composition where you can find more reference articles and links to people who participated.

November 9, 2012

Cast Member Magic at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney parks are wonderful.The attractions and rides are second to none in the world. As Lisa would remind us, without the Cast Members, the MAGIC we all associate with a Disney vacation would not exist. On my last trip, I meet three such Cast Members which created magic for my family and other guests.

While eating at Trail's End Buffet, I watched Chef Stephen going over foods on the buffet for a guest who had special dietary needs. Disney chefs are very good at helping guests with health concerns enjoy good meals at Disney restaurants. After he was finished, I talked with him a bit and asked if I could take his photo. He obliged, though a bit surprised. Thanks, Stephen!

Chef Stephen at Trail's End Buffet at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Chef Stephen at Trail's End Buffet.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 45mm focal length, bounce flash.

After enjoying a performance by the Voices of Liberty in the American Adventure, one of the performers noticed my daughter singing along and sought her out. My daughter was thrilled as she has sung in choirs since grade school.

Voices of Liberty Singer in Epcot's American Adventure, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Voices of Liberty Singer with guest in the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60, f/8, ISO 800, EV +1, 36mm focal length, bounced flash.

If any of you visited Walt Disney World towards the end of September this year, you know how hot and humid it was. So, it was with delight and relief when I entered the Fountainview Cafe in Epcot's Future World to order up a strawberry ice cream cone. The server was a College Program Cast Member who took pride in getting the ice cream correctly in the cone so it would not fall out. I know this as I had been watching her. Look at her concentration.

Fountainview Cafe Server making an ice cream cone in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fountainview Cafe Server making an ice cream cone for a guest.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/4.8, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 62mm focal length.

These cast members helped make my last trip magical and give me and my family three reasons to keep going back.

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.

July 22, 2011

Trim Around the Edges at the Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In the past I have talked about watching your backgrounds. This week is about looking at the edges of the frame that you see looking through your viewfinder.

Before and after comparison of the Main Street USA Barber Shop, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Before and after comparison of the Main Street USA Barber Shop.

The photo on the left has two distractions along the edges. Arrows #1 are pointing out shadows on the right side and Arrow #2 shows a partial door on the left which I find distracting. The best way to "fix" this photo is before the shutter is pressed by moving in closer. In this case, I cropped them out using photo editing software producing the photo on the right. That photo features the real subjects; the barber's pole and entrance to the barber shop.

Become aware of the edges and you will be happier with your photos.

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.

July 1, 2011

Lost in Disney's Hollywood Studios on Route 66

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests stop to ponder a map of Disney's Hollywood Studios on Route 66, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests looking lost on Route 66 in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

I throughly enjoyed the Disney/Pixar movie, Cars 2, this week and it reminded me of this photo I took in Disney's Hollywood Studios on Sunset Blvd. of some guests checking out their park maps. Almost looks like they are lost on Old Route 66 doesn't it? When I am touring the parks I am always on the lookout for strong human element photos that tell a story.

June 10, 2011

Visualizing at the Ticket & Transportation Center

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Visualization is a skill photographers use to see photographs before they take them. I know of many photographers who visit Walt Disney World who plan shots months in advance. I have done that and I have seen a good photo by just walking about the parks. The photo below of the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat entrance sign was one where I saw a photo before I took it. The sign itself is perfect for framing if something or someone would be in the frame. This is were patience comes in. I waited for guests to walk through the sign but it was not until these two Ticket and Transportation (TTC) cast members approached each other did the photo come together.

Cast members pass each other under the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat sign at the Ticket and Transportation Center, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cast members pass each other under the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat sign at the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 98mm focal length.

Have you ever planned or visualized a photo before your trips to a Disney resort?

June 3, 2011

Geologic Fireplace in Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A guest relaxes in a rocking chair in front of the 82 foot tall stone fireplace in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A guest relaxes in a rocking chair in front of the 82 foot tall stone fireplace in the Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/20s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV -0.3, 16mm focal length.

The Geologic fireplace in the lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a recreation of the strata of the Grand Canyon. Over 100 colors in hues of green, magenta, buff, red, black and brown are visible, as are fossilized remains of prehistoric plant and animal life. From the Vishnu Schist to Bass Limestone to Tapeats Sandstone to the Redwall and Temple Butte Limestone and finally ending with Kaibab Limestone and Toroweap Formation, the fireplace represents 2 billion years of the time it took for the layers of rock to form.

I selected the Cross Process I preset in Apple Aperture 3 photo editing software to pull out the colors and details of the fireplace. I used a Tokina DX 11-16mm ultrawide angle (UWA) lens on a Nikon D700 FX camera at 16mm to get the entire structure in.

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"?

May 6, 2011

Framing Spaceship Earth in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last fall I spent a few hours with Disney photographer extraordinaire Bob Desmond at Epcot. Bob has been photographing for Disney for over 20 years. After meeting with Bob near Japan in World Showcase, I asked him what he found to photograph after so many years. He gave me a couple of things right off the bat. The first was looking for details most people when vacationing miss. I know when I see photos in Disney brochures and websites, I often see things I have walked by and missed.

With that in mind, we set off in search of such photos. Bob leading with me, the learner, by his side. We first stopped at a location in front of Japan. Bob was patiently waiting for guests to give him a clear shot at Spaceship Earth across the water. I took a slightly different angle and used a tree to naturally frame Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth from World Showcase in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Naturally framed Spaceship Earth from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

Bob liked our first attempts but we continued around World Showcase until we came upon the Venetian canals and bridges on the water across from Italy. Here, Bob explained how he liked to get in close using some brightly colored flowers. Get in close is something I have mentioned here a time or two. After Bob was done, I moved in and immediately liked the composition he had found.

Spaceship Earth from World Showcase in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Flower framed Spaceship Earth from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/640s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 125mm focal length.

You will notice I decided on a different photographic approach for this photo. I used a long focal length and opened up the aperture to soft focus the foreground flowers as I focused carefully on Spaceship Earth. In both photos I used a circular polarizing filter to enhance the sky.

Next week I will show you the other thing Bob likes to photograph at Epcot.

April 22, 2011

Vertical Monorails at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Many people when photographing the monorail will keep their camera level or in the landscape orientation. I, too, mostly photograph monorails this way. When I was spending some time at the Ticket and Transportation Center at Walt Disney World last fall, I was watching the monorails enter and leave the station. I took photos in landscape and then decided to find a composition which would allow me to use the vertical or portrait orientation.

Monorail leaves the Ticket and Transportation Center station, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail leaves the Ticket and Transportation Center station.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 640, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

I like how this photo came out so much, I am going to look for more opportunities to photograph the monorails this way.

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.

March 11, 2011

Waiting to Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is late in the day at the Magic Kingdom and the family wants to go on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The standby line is 45 minutes and you agree it is worth the time. Because, you know you will be around the back of the queue which overlooks the ride just as the Sun lights up the mountain like it does in the real American Southwest.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad thrill ride at sunset in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fire on the Mountain as the setting Sun lights up the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

You still have time as the line is moving slowly to notice something you have not seen before. The train popping up over a ridge where for a split second, you only see the engine.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad engine appearing over a ridge in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad engine pops over a ridge.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV 0, 190mm focal length.

As you move deeper in the queue and away from the overlook, you hear a couple of young guests excitingly talking as they watch screaming guests riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Everything lined up including framing the train between iron rods.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad being watched from the queue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Watching Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from the queue.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 1100, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Long queue times can be very fruitful at a Disney themepark if you keep your eyes open for photo opportunities. Go back and notice the ISO settings for each photo. As the light got dimmer, the camera automatically adjusted the ISO to compensate.

March 4, 2011

The Disney Dream to Scale

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is not easy to convey size in a two dimensional photograph. If a person looking at the photo has no idea how big something in the image is, they will not have a reference to gauge from. That is when a photographer should supply a reference.

Everyone has read about how big the Disney Dream, the new ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, is but what does that mean exactly? I can give you the Dream's dimensions: 1,114.8 feet long and 121.5 feet wide. Sure sounds big, doesn't it?

The best way is to show the size or scale of something in a photograph is to include something of known size. Most people have an idea of the average size of a person. Adult or child. They can immediately judge size by seeing other people in a photo. That is how I will show you the size of the Disney Dream starting with Deck 11 and the Funnel Vision screen.

Sam Champion of Good Morning America, crew and guests before going on the air from the Disney Dream.
Sam Champion of Good Morning America, crew and guests before going on the air from the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 400, EV 0, 28mm focal length

In a previous post, I showed you the Funnel Vision, the giant LED screen. I am sure you can appreciate the size of the screen more after seeing the Good Morning America crew and guests standing below it.

I got up on deck early the morning we were to dock at Castaway Cay in the hopes of photographing a Caribbean sunset. While the weather did not cooperate, I did photograph the Sun peaking through clouds while a crew member cleaned the Disney Dream's bell. Do you seem him?

As the Disney Dream nears the island of Castaway Cay, a crew member cleans the ship's bell.
As the Disney Dream nears the island of Castaway Cay, a crew member cleans the ship's bell.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 400, EV 0, 62mm focal length

The bow of the Disney Dream looks deceptively small with a Caribbean Sun and ocean in front of it until a crew member came out to raise the Disney Cruise Line flag and clean the bell before docking at the island of Castaway Cay.

When docked at Castaway Cay, crew and guests disembark from Deck 2 of the Dream. Walking next to the Dream really makes one feel small. I used a wide angle lens to further show the size difference between the ship and the guests walking beside her.

Guests walking past the docked Disney Dream at Castaway Cay.
Guests walking past the docked Disney Dream at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16, 1/60s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 16mm focal length

For more information about how to show scale in your photography, click on this link: Showing Scale.

February 4, 2011

A Day at Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Castaway Cay from the deck of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Castaway Cay from the deck of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length

The Disney Dream Christening Cruise was for only two nights and included a day at Disney's Bahamas island, Castaway Cay. As this was more of a vacation for me and my wife, we spent most of the day at Serenity Bay adults-only beach. Upon disembarking from deck 2 of the Disney Dream, we made our way over to the Tram Stop to wait for the shuttle to Castaway Beach before catching a second tram to Serenity Bay. The Tram Stop sign says the next tram will be there in 6 minutes...Bahamian time.

Serenity Bay adults only beach on Castaway Cay.
Serenity Bay adults only beach on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length

Serenity Bay is quiet, relaxing and the epitome of a Caribbean beach. The water was travel brochure blue and the beach invitingly filled with colorful umbrellas, chairs, lounges and hammocks for the Disney Dream adult passengers. Serenity Bay is served by the Castaway Air bar for adult beverages including the island's signature Konk Kooler rum drink and the Serenity Bay BBQ which is a smaller version of the BBQ served at Cookies near the Castaway Beach for families.

A starfish off the beach at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
A starfish off the beach at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 56mm Focal Length

The water was a little chilly so not many went swimming preferring to enjoy the warm Sun with many talking about the cold and snow they left back home. The few who waded into the ocean found this beautiful and large starfish just off shore.

Lying on a hammock at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Lying on a hammock at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 35mm focal length

I look peaceful laying there on the hammock, don't I? Well, after finishing my Konk Kooler rum drink, I found myself spinning out of control. The remnants of my drink went flying through the air and I landed with a thud on the soft sand underneath. Once everyone around me knew I was not hurt, as I had ended up on my backside which is well padded, they all erupted in a fit of laughter. I joined in hoping to keep a little of my dignity. Next time I will sit in one of those beach chairs.

The Castaway Cay Tram gets you around the island quickly and comfortably.
The Castaway Cay Tram gets you around the island quickly and comfortably.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length

After my adventure with the spinning hammocks of Serenity Bay, we checked out the family beaches via the tram.

The Pelican Plunge water slide at the Castaway Family Beach on Castaway Cay.
The Pelican Plunge water slide at the Castaway Family Beach.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length

Disney has recently added some new improvements to Castaway Cay including the Pelican Plunge water slide, a 2,400-square-foot floating platform, located within swimming distance of shore.

A tray full of food from Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay.
A tray full of food from Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length

All this relaxing really brings on an appetite. Cookies and Cookies Too host an All-You-Can-Eat lunch buffet serving barbecue ribs, island spiced rotisserie chicken, burgers, grilled fish, corn on the cob, fresh salads and fruits, flat breads, ice cream, complimentary soda and more. A Caribbean steel band entertains during the entire BBQ.

The Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay.
The Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 70mm Focal Length

All to soon it was time to return to the Disney Dream docked nearby. Amazingly to me, they back in the huge vessel for an easy return to the sea later in the day.

January 28, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The giant LED screen on Deck 11 of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
The giant LED screen on Deck 11 of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.8, ISO 800, EV 0, 32mm Focal Length

I was lucky enough to have a wife who won a trip for two on the Disney Dream Christening Cruise last week. Thought you would like to see the Dream though the lens of a Disney fan and travel photographer.

My first full view of the Disney Dream was as I walked out to the Christening Ceremony stage show. The lighting was not very flattering so I took a hand-held HDR set of photos.

The Disney Dream cruise ship awaiting her christening ceremony at Port Canaveral, Florida
The Disney Dream cruise ship awaiting her christening ceremony at Port Canaveral, Florida.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/14, ISO 200, EV -0.7, 28mm Focal Length, HDR Image

Each of the Disney cruise ships have a different stern featuring animated characters. The Dream has my favorite Mickey from the movie Fantasia, Sorcerer Mickey directing broomsticks in keeping the Dream's stern freshly painted.

Sorcerer Mickey is featured on the stern of the Disney Dream.
Sorcerer Mickey is featured on the stern of the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/14, ISO 400, EV 0, 135mm focal length

I am sure you have heard about the AquaDuck water coaster on the Dream. It actually goes out over the side of the ship where you can look down 150 feet to the water below.

A guest rides the AquaDuck on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
A guest rides the AquaDuck on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 800, EV 0, 82mm Focal Length

Animator's Palate restaurant on the Dream features interactive animated characters from Finding Nemo with Crush, the sea turtle, talking to people in the human tank. Here, Bruce the Shark is telling us fish are not food.

Animator's Palate restaurant featuring interactive characters from Finding Nemo on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Animator's Palate restaurant featuring interactive characters from Finding Nemo.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 800, EV -1.0, 28mm Focal Length, rear-sync flash

Deck 11 on the Dream is the center of activity with the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck family pools. The huge LED screen is used for show enhancements, Disney cartoons and feature movies. You can see the AquaDuck tubes suspended over Deck 12 in the photo below.

Deck 11 of the Disney Dream has the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck pools.
Deck 11 of the Disney Dream has the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck pools.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 16mm Focal Length, HDR Image

The Disney Dream lives up to all the hype Disney is famous for. The two night Christening Cruise was not long enough for me to explore all her secrets. Never fear, Deb Wills will continue to fill in the details over the next two weeks as she sails on the first two voyages of the Disney Dream.

December 17, 2010

TRON Legacy

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

TRON Legacy monorail going past the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
TRON Legacy monorail going past the Imagination Pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

TRON: Legacy opens today in the United States as the long anticipated sequel to Disney's 1982 TRON. Earlier this year, the TRON Monorail started running between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot to promote the film. The monorail has two sides, one with a yellow lightcycle and the other side you see above with a blue lightcycle.

I thought it was great synergy between the themeparks and motion picture divisions of the Disney company. Not everyone thought the TRON monorail was a good idea. To those people, I surmise Walt Disney would have done such a promotion in a heartbeat. He wasn't one to miss an opportunity to create a buzz about a new film his company was making.

December 3, 2010

Picture if you will

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When using an ultra wide angle lens like the Tokina 11-16mm remember to get up close to the main subject of the photo. That is what I did when I photographed the ride photo kiosk you see upon getting off the Tower of Terror elevator. I was a mere six inches from the Picture if you will... sign when I took the photo you see below.

The Tower of Terror ride photo area in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Picture if you will... The ride photo kiosk in the Tower of Terror.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11/16mm, 1/13s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV 0, 16mm focal length

Click here for 10 More Tips on Using a Wide Angle Lens.


September 24, 2010

Green Treefrog

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) on a railing at the All Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) on a railing at the All Star Sports resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/5.6, ISO 2000, EV -0.3, 300mm focal length

Scott is on vacation this week. Before he left, he wanted to share a photo taken at Walt Disney World but not exactly a Disney photo. As he was leaving his room at the All Star Sports resort, he spotted this Green Treefrog on a railing of the blue stairwell. Scott said the color combination was just too good to pass up. He'll be back next week to share more photography tips.

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.

August 13, 2010

Photographing Disney Food

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoy a good meal after spending a day walking around a Walt Disney World park. Thankfully, you have a choice of all kinds of table and counter service restaurants in the parks, resorts and Downtown Disney. I like to photograph the food for future restaurant reviews at the PSCalculator.net website. However, judging by all the photos I see on Disney forums, photographing Disney restaurant food is very popular.

To get really good photos of food with a digital SLR camera, I suggest you bring a flash unit you can rotate the flash head in order to bounce it off a nearby surface to spread and even out the light on the food.

Photographing food is not unlike anything else. Watch your backgrounds and edges along the frame, focus carefully, hold the camera steady and get a good exposure. A couple of other things, don't start eating until after photographing the food and arrange everything the way you want. This is what I did for the lunch buffet plate at the Tusker House restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

A plate of food from the Tusker House restaurant lunch buffet in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A plate of food from the Tusker House restaurant lunch buffet.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/6s, f/3.5, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, flash at -1 power

I took the photo directly from above as it worked best for the amount of different items arranged on the plate. For the Maine Lobster entree at Narcoossee's restaurant in the Grand Floridian, I photographed as one would see it if they were seating in my place. Yes, the lobster was as good as it looked.

Maine Lobster entree served at Narcoossee's restaurant in the Grand Flordian Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Maine Lobster entree served at Narcoossee's restaurant.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal Length, flash at -1 power

In both the above photos, I used the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight flash unit bounced off the restaurant's ceiling with a -1 power setting to give the food the added pop of color and succulent lighting.

When waiting in line at Norway's Kringla Bakeri og Kafe, I remembered Barrie's wonderful photo of the Cloudberry Horns. As I didn't want to duplicate her version, I made the famous Kringla Sweet Pretzels the main subject using the Cloudberry Horns in the softly focused background.

Cloudberry Horns and Kringla Sweet Pretzels at Kringla Bakeri og Kafe counter service restaurant in Epcot's World Showcase Norway pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cloudberry Horns and Kringla Sweet Pretzels at Kringla Bakeri og Kafe counter service restaurant.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/, ISO 360, EV +0.3, 170mm Focal Length

One last thing, you may have to get down low or stand up above or even look a bit goofy as you find the best angle to get a favorite snack properly framed in the viewfinder. Don't worry, the servers and cast members have seen it all before.

August 6, 2010

On Hands and Knees

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When Disney's Hollywood Studios opened back in 1989, the Great Movie Ride was its "castle". The entrance to the ride which features famous movie scenes using audio-animatronics characters is a replica of the famous Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.

Entrance to the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Entrance to the Great Movie Ride is a replica of the famous Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/13, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

Like its Hollywood counterpart, the Great Movie Ride's forecourt has cement handprints and footprints of famous actors (both real and animated) and other entertainers like one of my favorite pop singers, Neil Diamond.

Neil Diamond's hands and greeting in cement outside the Great Movie Ride entrance in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Pop singer Neil Diamond's hands and greeting in cement outside the Great Movie Ride entrance in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D90/18-200VR, 1/40s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal Length

I got on my knees to take this photo of Neil Diamond's hands and greeting. Showing people walking into the Great Movie Ride adds the human element to the photo.

July 9, 2010

Animal Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In the past I have shown you a portrait of a Wood Stork but I never went into details as to how to make a good animal portrait. The principles are the same as a good human portrait. Good lighting, good background, sharp focus, fill the frame (or crop after) and good exposure. In most zoos, animal parks and in the wild, backgrounds are the toughest to control. The best way is to use the widest aperture your lens can go so as to create an out-of-focus, or bokeh, blur in the background. I found this Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis) along one of the Discovery Island Trails which surround the Tree of Life. He was close enough to fill the frame with the lens I was using with a little crop for a 4x5 (8x10) ratio.

Yellow-billed Stork portrait in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Yellow-billed Stork portrait in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 200mm focal length

This portrait has the bokeh background, soft light coming from behind and to the right, exposure so as to keep detail in the white feathers, focus (like humans, the eye must be sharply focused for animals) and a nice pose.

Something I also try to get is an environmental portrait of the animal. Today's zoos and animal parks try to recreate as much as possible the actual living environment of the species they care for. In this case, a marsh-like setting along a river was created for many of the birds who live near or on Discovery Island and made for a suitable environmental portrait for this Yellow-billed Stork.

Yellow-billed Stork environment in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Yellow-billed Stork environmental portrait.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 200mm focal length

Here are previous Disney's Animal Kingdom photography guides:

Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips

Maharajah Jungle Trek Photo Tips

June 4, 2010

Balloon Bust

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here's a simple composition of a blue Mickey Mouse balloon I took in the Magic Kingdom. Doesn't it look nice? However, there is a major flaw to this photo. Hard to see at this size but if you click the photo, you'll see a larger version. Can you tell me what is wrong and how I might avoid it next time? I would greatly appreciate it.

A blue Mickey Mouse balloon in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A blue Mickey Mouse balloon in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 200mm focal length

I will be holding off publishing comments for a day or so to see how many of you Disney photographers can find the problem. Have fun! Oh, and if you are on Twitter or Facebook use the Share button below to share this post. Thank you!

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.

April 30, 2010

Japan Lantern

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney is known for it's attention to detail. After watching Illuminations on my last trip, I stayed to photograph around some of the pavilions of World Showcase. In Japan, this lighted paper lantern hanging from a tree in front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store caught my eye as a strong icon of the pavilion.

A lighted paper lantern hanging from a tree in front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Epcot's Japan pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A lighted paper lantern hanging from a tree in front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 6s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 18mm focal length, tripod

This lantern is the kind of detail travel photographers look for and Disney has supplied many of these kind of queues throughout the countries in Epcot's World Showcase. Look for them the next time you are visiting.


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.

January 15, 2010

Color Theory and Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are of "opposite" 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.

November 13, 2009

Sounds of Liberty

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photography is a visual art which makes it a challenge to convey the other senses. Walt Disney World on the other hand fills our senses with the smell of buttered popcorn, feel of acceleration on Rock'n Roller Coaster, taste of a pineapple Dole Whip and then there is sound. As soon as you enter a Disney park you hear it. Each area has unique music being played in the background. Sounds are everywhere.

How do you capture sound in a photograph? You can photograph things which reference sound like musical instruments, CDs, iPods, fireworks explosions, cars smoking tires and so on. Another way is to show people playing those instruments, cheering, yelling or singing. The latter is what I did in the photo below of the a cappella group, The Voices of Liberty, who perform approximately fifteen minutes before each showing of the American Adventure.

The Voices of Liberty a cappella group perform in the rotunda of the Epcot's American Adventure pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Voices of Liberty a cappella group perform in the rotunda of the American Adventure.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 800, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal Length

The Voices of Liberty sing American folk songs and patriotic music under the American Adventure pavilion rotunda which was built to enhance sound. If you have never heard them I encourage you to take the time on your next visit to Epcot. As their sound is a beautiful as they look.

Have any questions? My next trip to Walt Disney World is coming up fast. Is there something at the WDW resort you would like to know how to photograph? Let me know and I'll do my best to come back with information and a photo for you. Thanks!

November 6, 2009

Perspectives

Perspective is defined as " to look through". For photographers, it means to look at something differently. To find new perspectives. At Walt Disney World, where people take millions of photographs each year, finding new perspectives can seem a daunting task. I look at it as finding "my" perspective and sometimes a little help can open up whole new ways of looking at things.

The photo below of Minnie Mouse's statuette was pointed out to me by another photographer. I have seen similar photos on flickr, too. But, I had never seen it at dusk with an orange castle softly focused in the background which turned out to be "my" perspective on this subject.

Minnie Mouse statuette in the hub area of the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Minnie Mouse admiring Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/10s, f/4.8, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 52mm Focal Length

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.

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 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.

June 19, 2009

Queen Cinderella

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here's a "Did You Know?" featuring a unique photo you can create in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. There is a Cinderella fountain near the back of Cinderella Castle (as you look at the Castle from Prince Charming Regal Carrousel you'll see it on the right just before the path to Liberty Square). If you stand directly in front of the Cinderella statue and bend down, you'll see a painted crown on the wall behind her line up with her head. Whalla! You've given Cinderella her crown and she is now a Queen. Imagine a trumpet fanfare being played and white doves being released as you do this.

Cinderella gets her crown in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Giving Cinderella her Crown.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV -0.6, 130mm focal length

May 22, 2009

Low Angle

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The vast majority of photos you see and take are done at adult eye levels of around 5 to 6 feet. You look at your photos and compare them to others and there's not much difference. How can you make your photos standout from the millions of photos taken at Walt Disney World every year? One way is to shoot from different angles. Another is to use your knees. Yep, those joints in your legs do bend. Some people's better than others.

To demostrate, I'm going to use statues of the Disney brothers found in the Magic Kingdom. The first one is Roy Disney sitting on a bench with Minnie Mouse at the head of Main Street, USA. (NOTE: During the Christmas season, you can find Roy and Minnie over by Town Hall.) I bent down, knees cracking and framed this photo vertically to include Roy, Minnie and the Main Street shops, Confectionery and The Chapeau, to the right of the statue. Using an aperture of f/20, I got maximum depth of field so everything is in sharp focus from front to back.


Minnie Mouse shares a park bench with Roy Disney in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Minnie Mouse shares a park bench with Roy Disney in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/20, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length



Moving on down Main Street, USA to the Hub area in front of Cinderella Castle, the Partner's statue depicts Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand. This area is often congested with people sitting, taking pictures (there's always a PhotoPass Photographer stationed here) and walking around the statue. It's hard to get a good clean shot unless you are in the Magic Kingdom either very early in the morning or very late at night. On this day, I was neither so to eliminate as many fellow guests as I could from my composition, I got in close and low. Using the zoom lens, I found the 24mm focal length cleaned up the edges of most everyone.


FPartner's Statue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Partner's Statue in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 24mm focal length



Next time you are in a creative bind, try lowing yourself and looking around. I think you'll find it opens up a whole new perspective to your photography. Back to my knee exercises.

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.

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 7, 2008

An Odd Rule

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here is a photography rule which I read about when researching the previous blog on the Sunny 16 Rule I wrote about last time. This one is called the Rule of Odds. The rule states an odd number of objects should be sought out for a shot. This results in a natural framing of the objects, adding comfort and depth to the artwork.

Okay, though I tend to put 1, 3 or more odd numbered subjects in my photos than even numbers, I pay more attention to the Rule of Thirds when I am composing in the viewfinder. However, it looks like Disney Imagineers use this rule. Below is a photo of the five balloons which hang from the ceiling in Epcot's Land Pavilion. The middle one represents Earth while the four surrounding balloons represent the seasons: Yellow for Summer, Orange for Fall, Blue for Winter and Green for Spring.

The five balloons hanging from The Land pavilion's ceiling in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The odd numbered balloons hanging from the ceiling of The Land pavilion in Epcot.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/4.5, 200 ISO, 36mm Focal length

Again, I don't purposely go out and look for an odd number when I am composing my photographs. Since this is a compositional rule and, like all rules in photography, they are more like guidelines anyway (now, where have we heard that before?), I wouldn't go out of my way to do this. It's something to keep in mind when you have time to do so.

May 23, 2008

P for Program Assist

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The past couple of weeks I've showed you how to control depth of field with Aperture Priority mode and to slow or freeze motion in Shutter Priority mode. What if I was to tell you about a mode which automatically selects a good exposure (aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed) to start with and allows you to change them for more depth of field OR slow or faster shutter speeds just by moving a control dial. Interested? I thought you might. The mode I am talking about is the P setting on the Mode Dial and stands for Program mode or Program AE mode, where AE stands for Auto Exposure. This mode differs from AUTO mode in that it does not change the camera's ISO number, Metering and White Balance (WB) settings giving you more control of your photography.

This is how I use Program mode. I set up my camera in Program mode, ISO starting at 200, White Balance at Auto -3 and Matrix metering. This gives me great flexibility for most shooting conditions I might encounter. (Note: I also use my Nikon D70's Auto ISO feature which starts at ISO 200 but when light falls off in a building or as day turns into night, the camera will raise the ISO for me. You may have to remember to change your ISO setting when shutter speeds go below 1/30 of a second.) Now, when I see something I want to photograph, I set my focus and see what exposure the camera calculates. If I don't agree, I can turn the command dial to vary the aperture and shutter speeds. It still gives you the same exposure but by turning the dial you can increase or decrease the f-stop controlling the depth of field. Like in Aperture Priority mode, the shutter speed will be changed for you. The reverse is true for moving the command dial to alter the shutter speed. The f-stop will be changed for you. When moving the exposure away from the camera's chosen one, an asterisk is seen next to the P on the upper LCD (for Nikon) to tell you you have selected a different exposure. It looks like this: P*. After pressing the shutter, the camera does not return to the starting exposure unless you move the command dial back to that position. This may be different for your camera so, again, check your manual to see how Program mode is implemented.

In the photo below of Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios, Program mode initially gave me an exposure of 1/500s at f/5.6. I wanted more depth of field and moved the command dial until it showed 1/250s at f/8 which, for a focal length of 50mm or less, gives great depth of field. The slower shutter speed lightens up some of those deep Florida sun shadows, too.

Walking down Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Walking down Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 46mm Focal Length, Matrix Metering, Auto -3 White Balance

The Disney Imagineers did a wonderful job on Sunset Blvd in the Disney Hollywood Studios. By using short utility poles and trees of the same height, they make the Tower of Terror look even bigger and with nice leading lines for us photographers to take full advantage of in our compositions.

Program mode is a great way to quickly get a good exposure to capture those moments we come upon at a Disney park, family event or walking around your hometown. It also lets you be creative by easily being able to change both aperture and shutter speed with the turn of a dial. However, Program mode does have it's limitations. It can't always reach the extreme slow or fast shutter speeds or smallest apertures your camera is capable of. In those cases, I still find both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes very useful.

For more information on Program Mode, follow this link: Mastering Your dSLR Camera: Program Mode

March 14, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Before the Moment

Last week, I talked about Joe McNally's book, The Moment It Clicks. However, to start making photographs instead of snapshots, you have to think a bit before clicking the camera's shutter. It takes practice. So, when you are in a Disney park or an event and things start to happen fast or you are with family or friends and have to work fast, they become second nature to you to check the following:

1. Is my Shutter Speed correct to capture my subject properly?
2. Is my selected Focal Length or my Positioning optimal to capture my subject?
3. Have I chosen the proper Depth of Field to best highlight my subject?
4. Is my subject in Focus?
5. Have I checked the Edges of my frame to minimize distracting elements?

These were taken from 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Tripping the Shutter.

I would have put "Is my subject in focus" in the number one slot. For me, if the main subject of a photo is not in focus, it takes away from the impact. Sometimes it's not always possible to get all of your subject in focus. In that case, select the most important part to you. For example, for people or animals photos, always try and get the eyes sharply focused.

If you are photographing action subjects like sports, shows or parades. You want to capture the action at it's peak points. By using your camera's burst mode to shot many frames per second, you can shot an entire sequence. Later, you can find all the gems you got. Try this the next time you are photographing the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular action scenes. For something moving repetitively, like a themepark ride, it's easy to find a place and wait for the action to come to you.

In the photo below, while I like it, I wish I had waited for the light to fully fill the "rocket thrust". I'll get it next time!


Mission Space...To Infinity and Beyond. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, 0 EV, 32mm Focal Length

Further Reading: More Questions to Ask Before Pressing the Shutter (Some of these are redundant but not all.)

February 22, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Watch Your Back(grounds)

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


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


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

Further Reading: Getting Backgrounds Right

January 18, 2008

Picture This! Mailbag: AllEars Photographers Answer Your Questions

Once in awhile, we'd like to share with you some of the questions we receive from our dear readers here on the Picture This! Blog. We find them challenging and we hope you find them informative.

Becky asked:

I know for film lenses, there is a conversion of 1.5x's if used on a digital SLR. If a person bought a DX lens, is there still a conversion or would an 18mm really be an 18mm?

Scott answered:

While Nikon DX lenses are built for the smaller digital sensors, they are still referred to in 35mm ranges. I guess it's easier for marketing? As an example, my 18-200mm VR zoom lens is equivalent to a 27-300mm full frame, note 35mm, camera lens. So, if you have a 50mm lens that would turn into a 75mm on a Nikon DX digital camera body.

Additional Information: You hear the term "crop factor" and "full-frame" when referring to different digital SLR cameras. Cropped means the image sensor is smaller than the traditional 35mm. Nikon SLRs are a 1.5x crop (meaning you muliply by 1.5 the focal length of the lens to get it's 35mm equivalent). Full-frame camera sensors are a full 35mm and have no crop multiplier. Examples of these cameras are the Canon 5D and Nikon D3. For more information, go to this link: Crop Factor Explained


Connie asked:

Please can you explain the "Rule of Thirds" in a very elementary way. To quote Denzel Washington from Phildaelphia. "Explain it to me like a 6 year old".

Barrie answered:

Hi Connie - the simplest way to follow the rule of thirds is to just make a point of not putting your subject in the center of the frame.

You can practice like this:


  1. Focus on something in the middle of your frame, the way you normally would.
  2. Hold the shutter release button halfway down.
  3. Move your camera slightly down and to the right until your subject falls somewhere (about halfway) between the center and the upper left corner. It doesn't have to be exact - wherever it looks best to you is perfect.
  4. Now move your camera again so the subject is halfway between the center and the bottom left corner. Next, try moving it towards the corners on the right hand side.
  5. When you find a spot that looks good to you, click the shutter release all the way down.


Laura asked:

I have been reading the Picture This blog since it started because I had
hopes of one day soon owning an SLR camera and I thought I would get a head start on my learning (I've always owned point and shoots--my current being a Canon Powershot 500). Last week I finally got my first SLR (Olympus Evolt 410). I'm realizing what a different world the SLRs are compared to the point and shoot cameras and I am really lost!

I've never taken a photography class, but majored in graphic design so I'm pretty proficient with shot layouts and Photoshop. My question is, since I have no background working with a 'real' [note: dSLR] camera, what books and/or resources should I use to help educate myself? I am much more of a visual learner than I am a reading learner. I'm going to WDW at the end of January and I'd like to have learned enough to be able to bring my new camera with me.

Lisa suggested:

A DVD tutorial on the Olympus Evolt E-410

Olympus' webpage for the Evolt E-410 with introduction video

Barrie suggested:

Hi Laura - I am the kind of person that learns new things from books. I learned all my computer skills that way, reading those big 4 inch software how-to books. I have had a heck of a time learning photography that way though. I've read many books but these are the ones I've learned the most from:

This one is really good, recommended by pretty much everyone.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson

This one, and the next one, are great beginner books. They're very easy reads. The one below is coming out next week I think. [note: It is now available.]

The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2 by Scott Kelby

Scott suggested:

Here's a nice blog article on digital SLR exposure:

Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed - The Good Kind of Threesome

Yeah, the blog title is a bit interesting to say the least but it's very informative. :-)

We hope you like this feature and if you have any questions about digital photography, in general, or at Walt Disney World, in particular, just send us a comment via the link you'll find just below our articles. Thank you for reading!

December 7, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Telephoto Compression

A camera lens which has a focal length over 100mm is considered a telephoto lens. This includes the popular zoom lenses which go over 100mm. Just like a telescope, the longer the focal length, the smaller angle of view is seen through the camera's viewfinder. This has the effect of compressing objects at different distances in the field of view. Depending on the camera's depth of field or aperture setting, the objects can all be in sharp focus or just a selected object.

In the picture below of Christmas decorations down Magic Kingdom's Mainstreet USA, I compressed the wreaths, garland and Cinderella's Castle into a pleasing composition. The aperture set at f/8 kept all three subjects in focus and without the reference of buildings on either side, it's hard to tell how much distance is between them. Incidently, I took this from the Walt Disney World Railroad platform which overlooks Mainstreet USA. It's a great photographer's roost for parades, fireworks and for getting over the heads of our fellow quests.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Mainstreet Christmas Decorations. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/800s, f/8, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 116mm Focal Length

I promised myself I would not brood over the fact that my two blog-mates are both enjoying Mousefest at Walt Disney World today. I did attend Mousefest in 2006 so, as I looked through those photos, I found this interesting subject to talk about. I know Barrie and Lisa will be bringing us all back some great photos to share. You gals stay out of trouble, ya hear?

Further Reading: For those interested in attending future Mousefests, here's the link to the offical website: Mousefest.org

November 30, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Photo Cropping

Monarch Butterfly. Copyright© Scott Thomas Photography 2007
In the days of film, it was expensive and time consuming to go about cropping photos. With digital photography that is no longer the case. Even the most rudimentary photo editing software will let you crop. While it's easier to "crop" in the camera, it's not always possible. The only restriction is the size of the digital image where if you crop too much, the size of the image becomes too small.

So, why do we need to crop? Sometimes we want to adjust an image to use the Rule of Thirds, eliminate unwanted parts caught around the subject or enlarge a subject to bring it front and center. Keep in mind, cropping is NOT resizing the entire image but taking a part of the image to make a better photo.

In Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden, I took this photo of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. The original you see above is a bit too centered so I wanted to change the orientation from a landscape to a portrait and make the butterfly even more the main subject. To do this, I used a photo editor to select a 5x7 crop size and rotated to make it a portrait then aligned it as you see below.


Monarch Butterfly. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, -0.7 EV, 170mm Focal Length

Further Reading: Cropping Photos :: Every Picture Tells a Story

November 2, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Rule of Thirds

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

Below is a photograph of Off Kilter's Bassist, Mark Weldon, where I am showing you how the Rule of Thirds applies. (Note, it's not exact as I hand drew in the lines but it's close enough for our purposes.) Notice in three of the four intersections there are strong subjects close by: Mark's tilted head in the upper left and both his hands in the lower two.

rule of thirds
Rule of Thirds.

Many people feel the application of the Rule of Thirds turns everyday snapshots into professional looking photographs. I know as I edit my photos, the ones which follow this rule stands out above ones that don't. Especially, when taking pictures of people. For instance, we've all taken pictures of a person or group of people in front of the Magic Kingdom's entrance with the train station and flowers in the exact center of the Mickey symbol. I am guilty of this. Next time, try composing the people in one of the lower intersection points. I think you'll find the photographs will appeal to you more.

Another popular mistake people make is putting the horizon right in the middle of their picture. Effectively disecting the image in two. You should try to put the horizon at either the upper or lower third of your viewfinder when composing.

By practicing the Rule of Thirds, you'll find yourself thinking a bit before pressing the shutter. Recomposing in the viewfinder or retaking an image after looking at the photo you just took. The fun of digital photography is how easy and fast it is to learn to take better pictures. Another fun project is to review past photos which you thought were okay, crop them using the Rule of Thirds and see, if by doing so, makes them better.

Now, I think I owe Mark and all of you an unobstructed look as I captured him jamming to a Celtic tune during my last trip to Walt Disney World. Off Kilter can be seen several times a day at Epcot's Canadian pavilion when scheduled to perform. Check the link for more information about the band and their schedule.

Mark Weldon
Off Kilter Bassist, Mark Weldon.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 200mm Focal Length

September 21, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Look Up!

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

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

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

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

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

September 7, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Landscape or Portrait?

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

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

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

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

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

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About Composition

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Picture This! in the Composition category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Basics is the previous category.

Depth of Field is the next category.

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