Main

Equipment Archives

September 22, 2017

Cinderella Castle Study in Long Exposures

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here is a simple study on the effects of shutter speed when doing long exposures. As I waited for the projection and firework shows, I photographed Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom using longer and longer shutter speeds.

Each photo was taken with a Nikon D750 full-frame digital SLR camera using a Nikon 24-120mm lens locked down on a tripod. I used these camera and lens settings for each exposure: Focal length at 50mm, Aperture at f/16 and ISO at 100.

Shutter speed: 5 seconds.

Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle at dusk with a 5 second exposure.

Shutter speed: 13 seconds.

Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle at dusk with a 13 second exposure.

Shutter speed: 20 seconds.

Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle at dusk with a 20 second exposure.

Shutter speed: 30 seconds.

Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle at dusk with a 30 second exposure.

The only other variable was time. As you can see Blue Hour had not started with the first photo but it was very evident by the third one. Blue Hour had disappeared by the last one. What else can you see changing as the exposures got longer?






September 15, 2017

Meeting Eeyore in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Meeting Eeyore at the Crystal Palace Restaurant Character meal in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meeting Eeyore at the Crystal Palace Restaurant Character meal.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/160s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV 0, 65mm Focal Length, Bounce Flash.

One of the joys of Walt Disney World is sharing the fun with family. Here you see my grandson being introduced to Eeyore by his mother (my daughter) at the Crystal Palace Character meal in the Magic Kingdom this week.

Last week's blog was in error. Because of Hurricane Irma, my travel plans changed and I had not gotten to Walt Disney World by then nor was I at Pandora. I rectified it last night and will report on my findings soon. UPDATE: I got stormed out last night and tonight is not looking much better. Will work on an alternate plan.






August 25, 2017

Photographing the Festival of the Lion King Singers on Stage

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Festival of the Lion King Live Stage Show in the Harambe Theatre at Disney's Animal Kingdom does allow flash photography.

I tried a different approach on my last viewing of the show. I put my camera in Manual mode and set the shutter speed to 1/125th of a second, the aperture on the Nikon 28-300VR lens I set to wide open at any focal length and changed to Spot Metering. Spot metering allows the camera to get exposure information from a small part of the frame. My camera is set to 11%. I let the camera calculate the needed ISO for a good exposure.

Even at 1/125s, fast movements by the performers will still cause blurring. I wait until there is little to no movement. It helps to be familiar with the show as I have seen Festival of the Lion King many times. One can use youTube to watch videos of shows you may not be familiar with. That was how I was able to get this photo of one of the performers singing. He had just completed a movement and I knew he would be close to stationary for a few seconds.

Singer performing during the Festival of the Lion King live show in Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Singer performing during the Festival of the Lion King live stage show.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 5000, 0 EV, 300mm Focal Length, Cropped.

Notice the very high ISO number of 5000. In processing this photo, I used Noise Reduction software to eliminate the digital noise which was apparent in the original image. I point this out as the next photo was taken at ISO 2200 which almost does not need any noise reduction for an image shared on the Internet. If I was to print it, I would definitely apply some.

Singer performing during the Festival of the Lion King live show in Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Singer performing during the Festival of the Lion King live stage show.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, 0 EV, 300mm Focal Length.

With today's digital cameras, high ISO photography is not the burden it was just 5 years ago. I might try even faster shutter speeds in the future to see how much I can push my equipment. Have you tried this at Disney or at any other kind of performances?





August 22, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot Landscape

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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





August 18, 2017

Disney Photographer Habits Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a few bad habits you want to stay away from when photographing at a Disney property. This week I want to go over a couple of good habits. I am often asked how I get such good photographs of Walt Disney World. I do a couple of things most people do not take the time or effort to do.

The first is stopping when I see a shot. Now, before you say but I cannot as I am with my family or a another group or some other excuse. It does not take long to take a photograph. When my children were young I got very good at the grab shot. The photos in the collage below were all taken when I took the time to stop when I saw a good photo opportunity.

The Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Photos from Walt Disney World.

From top left: DJ Anaan dancers in Asia entertaining guests in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Père Noël in Epcot's France pavilion, Trolley Show dancers in the Magic Kingdom and a Glass Blower in Arribas Brothers at Disney Springs.

I have written about how to get great photos at Walt Disney World after the Sun sets many times. The common denominator for all those posts is to secure your camera for long exposures. The best way to do that is with a tripod. I know tripods are big and a pain to carry around the parks and resorts. Remember, you can rent lockers at all the parks to store tripods in until needed.

Cinderella Castle after sunset at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle after sunset at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 100, 0 EV, 22mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Do you have any habits or tips for getting great photos at Disney? Pass them along in the comments below.





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.





August 4, 2017

Disney Photographer Habits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I came across an article the other day about photographer bad habits. I thought I would pass on a few of them to you.

Batteries, Don't Leave Home Without Them:

Okay, raise your hand if you have done this while at Walt Disney World: Forgot to recharge your camera batteries from the day before or leave your room without bringing any extra camera batteries. Mine is sure raised as I have done both.

I have gotten into a routine when I travel to do the following two things. The first is to never leave the room without enough batteries to last an entire day of shooting. Usually my cameras can last a full day without depleting one battery unless I am going to do long night exposures using a tripod. Then I will need a second battery. The second is no matter how tired I am, I start charging batteries as soon as I get back to the room. Another tip is to bring a multi-outlet power strip as there so you have enough outlets for all your electronics which need charging.

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

Memory Cards, Bring as Many as You Need:

Memory cards are not very expensive these days and I bring as many as I will need plus five more for my trips to Walt Disney World. That way even after putting the day's photos on my computer and travel sized memory drive (hard drive or solid state), the cards are my third back up. I have a memory card case and when I put the used cards back in, I turn them so the back is facing up telling me I have used it and I lock it so it can not be used until I unlock it. It will make me think before I format the card.

Speaking of formating, you should do that to all the cards before the trip. Easier to start with clean cards each day.

Shopping in the World of Disney store at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Shopping in the World of Disney store at Disney Springs.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Cleaning Routine, Do It!:

This is a habit I need to do more often. Before each trip I make sure I do a full cleaning of my cameras and lenses. I first use Nikon Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes to clean the outside of my cameras and lenses including the glass, lcd screens, buttons and levers. Do this with the cameras turned off so you do not change any settings. Next, I clean the camera sensors using a Eyelead Camera Sensor Cleaning Kit. I have found this kit to be the easiest and best way to clean my sensors. I then pack a bunch of the wipes and the sensor cleaning kit to bring with me. I never know if I may end up in a dusty or dirty place with my equipment and may have to do another cleaning. An example would be on a Disney cruise with a stop at Castaway Cay. Sand and salt spray can easily get into everything.

Monorail Yellow moves over the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Yellow moves over the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 160, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.

Zeroing Out Camera, A Good Habit to Learn:

Below is an example of what happened when I was using a tripod for a bit and forgot to Zero Out my camera when I took it off the tripod for this photo. The link goes into detail. It is a process I go through to set my camera to a good starting position for all purpose phototgraphy. I do it before I leave my house/resort room/car or whatever. That way even if it is off a little bit, I will not get such a bad photo as the one I have shown here.

Paddlefish restaurant at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bad photos of the Paddlefish restaurant at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length.


These are good habits to have when traveling to any destination.





June 16, 2017

Muppet Mobile Lab in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Sticking with the Muppets theme this week, I was able to photograph Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and his assistant, Beaker, entertaining guests on their Muppet Mobile Lab under the large shades near Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World. I decided to put my camera in a portrait orientation as the Mobile Muppet Lab is taller than it is long.

Muppet Mobile Lab in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Muppet Mobile Lab in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 100, EV -0.3, 48mm Focal Length.

As I often do, I like to get in close which I was able to do using the Nikon 28-300VR Super Zoom lens without having to move from my location.

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and his assistant, Beaker, entertaining guests on their Muppet Mobile Lab in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and his assistant, Beaker, entertaining guests on their Muppet Mobile Lab in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/800s, f/7.1, ISO 100, EV -0.3, 116mm Focal Length.

Do not forget you can change your camera's orientation which is very handy for a subject like the Muppet Mobile Lab, Disney characters and people.

March 31, 2017

Going Rogue on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

Do you see one you like?

February 28, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Universe of Energy

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back when Epcot first opened in 1982, the concept of using solar panels to produce electricity was still a new and expensive proposition. The Universe of Energy's roof is filled with such panels which partially power the huge vehicles filled with guests through the attraction teaching when, where, how and what energy is.

Universe of Energy pavilion in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Universe of Energy pavilion in Epcot's Future World in HDR.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm Fisheye, 1/320, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, Cropped.

Today, Tesla will soon be selling solar roofs which look no different then non-solar ones. "Now, that's progress!", to quote another famous Walt Disney created attraction.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Universe of Energy photo on our tour of Epcot's Future World.

December 16, 2016

Holiday Wishes from Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 9, 2016

Photographing the Christmas Parade in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 18, 2016

Fisheye Awakening at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fisheyed Disney

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

October 14, 2016

Lens Correcting inside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

September 30, 2016

Photographing Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 16, 2016

Anatomy of a Magic Kingdom Sunset

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2, 2016

Goodbye to the Main Street Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 26, 2016

My Walt Disney World Photography Kit

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2016

Be Prepared for Disney Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2016

Purple Wishes over Cinderella Castle

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

April 22, 2016

Fireworks Primer for Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

Photographing Fireworks - Part 2

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

March 18, 2016

Flower and Garden Festival Monorails

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 1, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Macro

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deb will share her peek at a small world tomorrow.

February 5, 2016

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: The Great Movie Ride

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in February of this year (2015), the Sorcerer's Hat was about 80 percent removed from Disney's Hollywood Studies. I knew the next time I would visit, the view down Hollywood Blvd. would be very different. Or would it? For Star Wars Weekends and Frozen Summer Fun, Disney placed a large stage in front of the Chinese Theatre.

My next visit was just after Labor Day and the conclusion of the Frozen special events. The stage was only partially removed. By the time I returned later in the week, it had been fully removed. This allowed me to finally get a clean view down Hollywood Blvd. for the first time since 2001 of The Great Movie Ride now sponsored by Turner Classic Movies.

It is nice to see the return of Disney's Hollywood Studios "castle" to it's rightful place.

The Great Movie Ride at the end of Hollywood Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Great Movie Ride at the end of Hollywood Blvd.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 30s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 25mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Deb will be here tomorrow to show us something interesting about the Great Movie Ride.

October 2, 2015

FP+ Fireworks Locations at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

Epcot

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2015

Blue Storm at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 11, 2015

Do-over at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

August 21, 2015

Tripods at Walt Disney World Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

Extreme Long Exposure of the Main Street Electrical Parade

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

Motion Photography

Star Tours Queue

Liberty Bell at Night

Night HDR at the Tower of Terror

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

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

August 14, 2015

All Ears Photo Meet near Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

DHS Sunset

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

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

March 13, 2015

Super Zoom Lens at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2015

Polarizing Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is the third of three blogs about subjects being taught at the Focus on Epcot Photowalk held on Monday, February 9, 2015. Click the link for more information.

The previous two posts in this series talked about focusing issues. This week we turn towards changing the light entering our camera's lens with a polarizing filter. Specifically, a Circular Polarizing Filter. Being circular means the filter moves once it is mounted on your lens in a circular motion. This gives various amounts of polarization as the filter is turned in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. Polarizing filters main claim to fame is how it darkens and enhances a sky. Let me demonstrate using a typical Florida sky above Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella Castle without a polarizing filter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle without a Polarizing Filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 42mm focal length.

The sky is blue but not the deep blue people like to see. This is when a circular polarizing filter comes in handy. After one attaches it to a lens and looks through the viewfinder, a slow turn of the filter will show its effect from none at all to fully polarized. The photographer determines how much. The next photo of Cinderella Castle is with a polarizer filter set to maximum.

Cinderella Castle with a polarizing filter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with a Polarizing Filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 42mm focal length, polarizing filter.

Not only is the sky a deeper blue, the colors of the castle become enhanced. Yes, you can create the same effect in software but it only takes a quick turn of a filter to get it done in camera.

The other advantage of using a polarizing filter is to cut down on reflections. To see how that is done, check these two blogs:

Disney Pic of the Week - Filters

Case for Using a Polarizer Filter

If I still have not convinced you a polarizing filter is a must for the digital SLR camera owner, check this article out from the Digital Photography School: Why You MUST Have a Polarizer.

I was not convinced myself until I got a circular polarizer filter to try out once. I now have one for every different sized lens I own.

June 13, 2014

Photographing Star Wars Weekends Fireworks

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars Weekends for 2014 ended each day with the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show. The show is done totally with music from the Star Wars movie saga. The fireworks used are the most advanced I have ever seen at a Disney themepark. Bursts would change colors in different directions and from the inside-out, shapes of galaxies and ringed planets with lots of ground rockets. All this takes place behind the main stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. For safety reasons, Pixar Place and Toy Story Midway Mania are closed before the performance.

While I was only able to photograph Symphony in the Stars once. I have enlisted four other talented Disney fan photographers to show you five locations both inside and outside of Disney's Hollywood Studies to photograph these fireworks from.


From Inside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

I photographed from The Feel the Force Premium Package viewing area. I setup towards the front and just to the left of the stage looking up Hollywood Blvd. It is very close to the stage and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat and I used the Sigma 15mm fisheye lens to cover as much of the sky as I could. The viewing area has a few palm trees and the lens shows you the number of people in front of the stage during the show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 400, EV 0, tripod.

I think if I was to do it again, I would have found a position as far away or to the back of the viewing area and as close to the rope edge on Hollywood Blvd.

Jeff Krause (SpreadTheMagic on flickr) set up near the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. From there you can see the Keystone Clothiers store and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. The view is cluttered with the tall palm trees and the store itself but you can see more of the high bursts in the sky.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Jeff Krause, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Jeff Krause from Hollywood and Sunset Blvd.
Canon EOS 5D Mk3/16-35IS, 15s, f/9, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

As you can see, there are a lot of people who attend Star Wars Weekends days. Be prepared.

Matthew Cooper (TheTimeTheSpace on flickr) set up in the Echo Lake area and used Min & Bill's Dockside Diner and the lake as a foreground subject. If you get to this area early (and I recommend you do), you can set up your tripod (not yourself) on the inside of the fence surrounding Echo Lake. People won't be able to accidentally hit your tripod legs during a long exposure with the setup.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Matthew Cooper, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Matthew Cooper.
Nikon D800/24-70mm, 15s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

I really like this location. If I had not decided to do the special viewing package, I had planned on shooting from here.


From Outside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

Dave Kliment (ExploringWDW on flickr) photographed from what I am seeing on flickr and elsewhere as a very popular location. The Sorcerer Mickey and enchanted broomstick topiaries are out in front of the park's entrance.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dave Kliment, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dave Kliment.
Nikon D300/10-24mm, 22s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 19mm flocal length, tripod.

Here you can see how high the bursts go in the sky and how wide the ground rockets shoot up. You do loose the Sorcerer Mickey Hat entirely and most of the buildings on Hollywood Blvd. Due to the long exposures necessary for Fireworks photography, the neon lighting gets overexposed but it does not distract from the fireworks.

From the walkway to the Epcot resorts, Dennis Dunkman (ddindy on flickr) photographed at the point of the path which looks directly down Hollywood Blvd. From this location you can really see the scope of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dennis Dunkman, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dennis Dunkman.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 15.2s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 56mm flocal length, tripod.

Each photographer was using Bulb Mode to open and close their camera's shutter while using a tripod to keep it steady. For more on how to photograph firework shows at Walt Disney World, click on the links below:

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 1

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 2

June 6, 2014

Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you have followed Photographic Innoventions long enough, you would know I am a big fan of Super Zoom Lenses. For a cropped sensor camera, the 18-200mm and 18-300mm are the ranges used. For a full frame sensor camera, the 28-300mm is the range. All are image stabilized (IS for Canon, VR for Nikon and a host of other letters depending on your camera or lens manufacturer) and have variable apertures to keep both the weight and costs down.

Over the last couple of years, I have had a need for another type of zoom lens. This one is not as large a range but has a fixed aperture throughout the zoom range. The Super Zooms start out at f/3.5 at the short end and end up being f/5.6 or f/6.3 at the long end when shooting wide open. For a fixed aperture zoom, it will keep the same wide open aperture from the short to the long end. The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens is one such lens and I used it on my last trip to Walt Disney World.

To give you an idea of the range of this lens, I stood in the middle of Main Street USA and took a short (24mm) and a long (120mm) photo from the exact same position (see below) of Cinderella Castle. I did no cropping or straightening to the photos. Both taken with identical exposures except for the zoom setting.

Cinderella Castle from Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle from Main Street USA using a Nikon 24-120mm VR f/4 Lens.

Unlike the Super Zooms which only go as wide as 28mm (18mm cropped), the extra amount of angle at 24mm gives a real wide angle look. The 120mm is a very workable zoom at a Disney park. The Nikon 24-120 f/4 VR lens worked outstandingly for the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom. At street level I was able to get the large floats in the frame at 24mm and zoom in for the characters on the floats and street.

Festival of Fantasy parade on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of Fantasy parade on Main Street USA using a Nikon 24-120mm VR f/4 Lens.

Image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR) comes in handy when you are photographing from a moving vehicle or as day fades into night. The VR for the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens is excellent. I could hand hold down to 1/15th of a second easily. I could use even slower shutter speeds with the Da Grip Technique. Don't know about Da Grip? Click Here, you will be glad you did.

Friendship boat docking at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Friendship boat docking at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 360, EV 0, 105mm focal length, polarizer filter.

As a travel lens, I found the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens more than capable. The only time I missed my Super Zoom lens was on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I still feel you need, at least, a 200mm lens to get good, frame filling results on the safari.

May 9, 2014

Blue Hour over Expedition EVEREST

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In reviewing past blogs recently, I did a few on Blue Hour but never really explained it beyond saying it is something that happens after sunset and before complete darkness.

Here are a few facts about Blue Hour:

  • It is not an hour long but more like 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Happens twice a day.  Once before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Best seen 90 degrees from the Sun's location.
  • Occurs no matter the weather.

There is no precise way to predict when Blue Hour starts or ends though roughly 20 to 40 minutes after sunset is a good time to see it. It takes long exposures for a camera's sensor to build up the blue color. Which is why tripods are a good tool to use for capturing Blue Hour.

In the photo below of Expedition Everest, a Blue Hour sky can been seen above the ride. I photographed it from near the Yeti Shrine and the angle to the sunset location was close to 90 degrees. The Sun had set at 5:29 PM with the photo being taken at 6:06 PM.

Blue Hour Sky over Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue Hour Sky over Expedition Everest.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 56mm focal length, tripod.

Apps like LightTrac for iOS and Android devices will tell you when Civil Twilight starts. Though not exact, it's a good indication within a few minutes leeway before and after to plan your photography.

Once your camera starts to pick up the deep blue sky color, look around you to see if you can detect it. What I found was the black night sky I always saw before was now different shades of blue depending on how far before or from the sunrise or sunset time and location I was looking at. If you click on the "blue hour" tag below, you will see my other posts about it.

NOTE: I will be visiting Walt Disney World next week. I will be sending out lots of photos via my Twitter account at Scottwdw where you can follow along. Lots of exciting stuff going on between the new Magic Kingdom parade, Star Wars Weekend events and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster.

April 18, 2014

Sunny Lobby of the Tower of Terror

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Normally one thinks of the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel as a gloomy, dusty place. This is not always the case on a sunny day in late October when the Sun's angle at times sends its bright rays through the lobby doors.

Guests throw eerie shadows in the Tower of Terror lobby at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests throw eerie shadows in the Tower of Terror lobby.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/100s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Waiting for the doors to the library to open, there are deep shadows being cast to the side of the lobby desk. For this photo, I wish I had time to do a bracket set of photos but I was ushered away by a bellhop.

Dusty trunk and luggage still waiting for bellhops in the lobby of the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dusty trunk and luggage still waiting for bellhops in the lobby of the Tower of Terror.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/30s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Do not worry. Once you enter the library and the bellhop closes the door, you will be taken into the dark world of the Tower of Terror. I am sure you will enjoy dropping in.

February 14, 2014

Photographing the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photographing in the Magic Kingdom at night is a lot of fun. Especially, late at night as the crowd thins out and photographers can set up their tripods almost anywhere. Which is exactly what I did in Fantasyland to photograph the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Did you know the carousel has 2,325 lights on it?

In my first photo, you might even be able to count some of them as the ride was stopped as guests exited and the next ones found one of the uniquely carved and decorated horses to ride. I used a long exposure of six seconds to get all the detail I could.

The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

The really fun part (at least for this photographer) is when the carousel starts to move again. Without having to change a thing on my camera, I took another six second exposure.

The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in motion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in motion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

Now, you can see all the lights but you would be hard pressed to count any of them.

Click here for more information about using a tripod at night in Walt Disney World

January 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 15, 2013

Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I got to enjoy the attractions added last year to Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom for the first time. Having spent most of the day at Epcot, I arrived as night was beginning to fall. I set up across from the Under the Sea -- Journey of the Little Mermaid where Ariel was hanging around its entrance. Having to use long shutter speeds for proper exposures at night, I used a tripod to steady my camera.

Ariel hanging around the entrance to Journey of the Little Mermaid in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ariel hanging around the entrance to Under the Sea -- Journey of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 5s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 105mm focal length, tripod.

From the bridge to the Be Our Guest restaurant is a beautifully lighted waterfall. I am amazed at how you can still photograph stars over the attractions at night. Disney does a good job of minimizing light pollution to enhance the lights, parades and fireworks shows.

Waterfall near the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Waterfall near the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/16, ISO 1600, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

As I left Fantasyland towards the Haunted Mansion, Rapunzel's Tower loomed over the lanterns of her kingdom at the best themed restrooms in Walt Disney World.

Rapunzel's Tower from the movie Tangled in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rapunzel's Tower from the movie Tangled in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 4s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 82mm focal length, tripod.

In the past, I talked about how bringing a tripod in the parks is not hard to do if you rent a locker. Did you know, if you change parks on the same day, you only have to pay for a locker once? Bring your receipt and you can get a locker by just paying the deposit at the next park. You get that back at the end of the night.

November 8, 2013

Fisheyed Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A fisheye lens is an ultra-ultra wide-angle lens that produces strong visual distortion intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view by forgoing producing images with straight lines of perspective (rectilinear images), opting instead for a special mapping (for example: equisolid angle), which gives images a characteristic convex non-rectilinear appearance (Source: Wikipedia).

Did you get all that? Fisheyes have been a favorite fun lens for Disney photographers for years. The lens, as the above definition says in a round about, distorts straight lines near the edges. That effect can ruin a photo unless used creatively. Earlier this year, I obtained a Sigma 15mm Fisheye lens for my Nikon D700 FX (full frame) dSLR camera. Last week, I used it at Walt Disney World for the first time. Let's see how I did.

I look for three conditions when I am shooting with a Fisheye lens:

1. Compositions with curved or circular objects which wrap around the image.
2. Put something of interest in the center and let straight lines get bent to lead people to the frame's center.
3. When a Fisheye is the only way to get far enough away from a subject to photograph it in cramped quarters (like a ride queue).

The huge red guitar outside of the building containing the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios was a perfect subject for a Fisheye composition. The curves of the piano keys, guitar, palm trees and even the railing all work to create the uniqueness of a Fisheye photograph. You will also notice how close I got. I was learning over the railing to get as close to those piano keys as I could. Just like any wide angle lens, you want to get as close to the main subject as you can. It is easy to loose a subject in the extreme wide angle of a Fisheye and make a photo confusing.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster building in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster building in Disney's Hollywood Studio.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/640s, f/13, ISO 200, EV 0.

With the Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I got in real close and let the Fisheye distort all the straight lines of the nearby celebrity busts, palm trees, lines in the pavement and building. Notice how the bust itself is relatively distortion free.

Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bust of Walt Disney at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0.

In the Test Track queue where you can use the giant touch screens to design cars, it is really tight quarters for even a wide angle lens. The Fisheye worked great to tell the story of how Disney entertains and educates even while waiting in line.

A young woman designing a car in the queue for Test Track in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A young woman designing a car in the queue for Test Track.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 3200, EV 0.

You will see more Fisheye photos in the future as I found it a fun and useful lens to have in Disney themeparks.

November 1, 2013

Halloween at Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Partners Statue decorated for Halloween in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Partners Statue decorated for Halloween in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0.

Disneyland for Halloween was just as much fun as its Florida counterpart. Decorations were found up and down Main Street USA and throughout the Lands. Even the Partners Statue in the Hub area in front of Show White's Castle was in the Halloween spirit with pumpkins and autumn flowers surrounding the base of the statue.

Over in Frontierland, Mexico's Day of the Dead is honored with colorful decorations, skeletons and a plaque explaining the holiday to those unfamiliar with it.

Day of the Dead decoration in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Day of the Dead decoration in Disneyland.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Then there is the Haunted Manison which for the last 13 years has gotten transformed into the Haunted Mansion Holiday featuring characters from the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Guests get an idea of the changes as they enter through the Haunted Mansion's gate.

Haunted Mansion Holiday gate in Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Guests entering the Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

I do not want to spoil anyone's experience inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday but you will see transformations and additions to the classic attraction. Like these singing pumpkins which might remind you of some Grim, Grinning Ghosts.

Grim, Grinning Pumpkins inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Grim, Grinning Pumpkins perform inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday.

I loved Disney's way of celebrating Halloween at Disneyland.

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.

April 12, 2013

Play the Waiting Game at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 22, 2013

Photographing at Night in Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2013

Star Tours Queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

My favorite park is Disney's Hollywood Studios which brings the movies I have enjoyed to life. Star Wars, one of my favorites, was brought to life as an intergalactic travel agency called Star Tours. The queue to your StarSpeeder 1000 has you wander through a space port where soft announcements are made, a video screen rotating between planet destinations and schedules and droids working maintenance.

Video screen showing Departures in the Star Tours queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Star Tours Departures.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

A pair of Mon Calamaris keep an eye on the Star Tours queue. Do not worry, it is not a trap.

A pair of Mon Calamaris keep an eye on the Star Tours queue in Disney's Hollywood Studio, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A pair of Mon Calamaris keep an eye on the Star Tours queue.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

Two droids in particular, C-3PO and R2-D2, are fixing up a red Star Speeder 1000 to get it back in service.

Motor Cruiser behind Firerock Geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Motor Cruiser behind Firerock Geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/3s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

With the announcement of The Disney Company buying Lucasfilm and new Star Wars movies coming, who knows where Star Tours will take us next.

These photos were taken very late during Extra Magic Hours and a Cast Member allowed me into the queue not being used so I could set up my tripod without interfering with other guests.

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 4, 2013

Great Movie Ride through a Crystal Ball

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Believe it or not, when Disney's Hollywood Studios first opened back in 1989 it was called the Disney-MGM Studios and you could see the replica of the Mann's Chinese Theater as you walked up Hollywood Blvd. I will have to scan in some old 4x6 prints someday to show you this view. By the time the digital camera age came around the view of the Great Movie Ride became history as the large Sorcerer Mickey Hat was built directly in front of it.

Many Disney fan photographers have used various techniques to photgraph the front of the GMR in one image from creating wide panoramics using multiple images, fisheye lenses and even a complete 360 degree interactive view using expensive and specialized equipment and software. Last year, I showed you how I used a crystal ball to make unique photographs of Spaceship Earth and Cinderella Castle. Below, I used the crystal ball again. This time to show you the entire front of the Great Movie Ride.

The front of the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The front of the Great Movie Ride through a crystal ball.

I would still like the old view back someday. I know a lot of photographers who would agree with me.

I will be using the crystal ball for more Disney photographs this year. Stay tuned!

December 21, 2012

Wishes Christmas Card from the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 7, 2012

Illuminations from Showcase Plaza

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2, 2012

EPCOT30 Celebration

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Future World from the monorail over Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Future World from the monorail over Epcot.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.6, 16mm focal length.

A few things have changed in this view of Epcot's Future World from the monorail since the park opened in 1982. The trees and landscaping have been expanded. There is a water play area and the Phineas and Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure kiosk along the promenade between Future World and World Showcase now. Oh, and nobody had come up with the idea of a Food & Wine Festival so there was no Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog setup.

Pavilions have come and gone in Future World and a couple of countries were added to World Showcase since Epcot opened. Landscaping has been used to create avenues instead of the wide open terraces around Future World. Horizons and World of Motion have been replaced by Mission: SPACE and Test Track. Morocco opened in 1984 and Norway made its appearance in 1988 to fill out the current eleven countries in World Showcase. (edited after guest comment was received, see comments below).

On October 1, 2012, Walt Disney World celebrated Epcot's 30th Anniversary. It was a beautiful sunny day and unusually hot and humid for early October. Thousands of people lined up at the turnstiles to enter at opening. Cast members passed out special EPCOT30 pins and park maps.

People lined up on either side of the dedication plaque flagpole outside Epcot on October 1, 2012, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
People lined up on either side of the dedication plaque flagpole outside Epcot on October 1, 2012.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.6, 28mm focal length.

Below is a close up of the dedication plaque which reads:

"To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome.

"Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

"May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."
- E. "Card" Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Walt Disney Productions, Oct. 24, 1982

Close up of Epcot's dedication plaque outside the front entrance, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Close up of Epcot's dedication plaque outside the front entrance.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.8, ISO 200, EV -0.6, 65mm focal length.

Many of the people there were looking to buy limited edition EPCOT30 merchandise. Disney released pins, t-shirts, shirts, hoodies, mobile phone accessories, shot glasses and other things to only be sold on October 1st. Other kinds of merchandise was only available for a few days before and after the 1st. As you can image, the line to buy this merchandise was long. My party waited three hours to get into the special 30th Anniversary section of Mouse Gears.

Epcot30 merchandise on display at Mouse Gear in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Epcot30 merchandise on display at Mouse Gear.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.3, ISO 3600, EV 0, 112mm focal length, polarizer filter.

When photographing through windows either on a monorail or a store, use a Cicrular Polarizing Filter (CPL) to cut down on reflections.

If you were not at Epcot on October 1st, you can enjoy the special events on Deb Wills' blog here: Epcot's 30th Anniversary.

October 19, 2012

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 12, 2012

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2012

La Fountaine de Cindrillon - Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

La Fountaine de Cindrillon or Cinderella Fountain is found behind Cinderella Castle near the path to Libery Square. I have taken many photos of this fountain and never noticed the plaque inbedded in the wall behind it. I saw it from another photographer's photo shared on flickr. A great place to get photographic ideas and inspiration for anywhere you may travel.

La Fountaine de Cindrillon in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
La Fountaine de Cindrillon in Fantasyland.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 30s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

Proof again to keep our eyes open when visiting Walt Disney World.

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.

September 7, 2012

Disney Dream Atrium

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When guests board the Disney Dream at the Port Canaveral terminal, they are loudly heralded by a Disney Cruise Cast Member as they walk into the Atrium on Deck 3. The Atrium is three decks high and features the large Swarovski crystal chandelier, statue of Admiral Donald Duck, marble and carpeted flooring, glass elevators and a grand staircase leading up to Deck 4. The Atrium hosts many of the Disney character Meet and Greets including the very popular Princess line up. Each of these Meets and Greets are listed in the ship's daily newsletter called The Navigator.

Disney Dream cruise ship Atrium as seen from Deck 4.
Disney Dream Atrium as seen from Deck 4.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/50s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV -0.7, 16mm focal length.

I have shown you the Disney Dream chandelier before. I told you then it measureed twenty-two feet (seven meters) in diameter and is decorated with Swarovski crystals. It is covered with 24-karat gold plating and cascades thirteen feet (four meters) down from the three deck high Atrium ceiling. Did I mention the Mickeys? They are not hidden as they are part of the design.

Close up of the Disney Dream Chandelier in the Atrium.
Close up of the Disney Dream Chandelier in the Atrium. See Mickey?
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 2200, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length.

Wonder what it might be like to walk down the Grand Staircase? I hope this will give you an idea of what it looks like to do so.

A walk down the Grand Staircase from Deck 4 of the Disney Dream.
A walk down the Grand Staircase from Deck 4 of the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 2s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

At midnight, the ship is very quiet and is a good time to use a tripod so as not to get in anyone's way.

August 17, 2012

An African Day in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I spent a most of a day in Disney's Animal Kingdom Africa on my last trip. Thought I would share a few photos with you. Notice the camera data which will tell you how I was able to photograph them. Ask any questions in the comments.

First stop was the Kilimanjaro Safari. The attraction has a new story focusing on wildlife conservation and photography. The jeeps stop more often than before for more photo opportunities of the animals. As I have mentioned here before. Do not forget to photograph the wildlife spotting guide above your driver's head so you can identify the animals when you get back home.

Wildlife spotting guide on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wildlife spotting guide on the Kilimanjaro Safari jeep.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Remember the Wild Africa Trek tour I took last year? Below is one of the trucks used on the savannah leg of the tour. You can see how close they get to the animals. They were stopped there for a long time, too.

A Common Eland lying down near a Wild Africa Trek truck in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Common Eland lying down near a Wild Africa Trek truck.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

As I mentioned above, the Kilimanjaro Safari jeeps make more stops with the new story. This Reticulated Giraffe was forging for food about 20 feet from where we stopped along with two others. The driver allowed plenty of time for everyone get photos before moving on to the elephants.

Reticulated Giraffe on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Reticulated Giraffe on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 640, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

After getting off the Kilimanjaro Safari, I took a stroll through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to visit with more of Africa's animals and birds. The Okapi is an amazing animal which looks like a cross between a zebra and an antelope. In reality, it is more closely related to the giraffes as the educational blackboard shows next to the Okapi's pen on the Pangani Trail.

Educational blackboard on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Blackboard explaining how the Giraffe and Okapi are related on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4.2, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 48mm focal length.

The Aviary on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail has a healthy population of the Africa Golden Weaver bird. Guests enjoy watching them build and climb into their nests from below. Again, do not forget to take photos of the large bird spotting guides you find when you enter the aviary.

Africa Golden Weaver birds at their nests on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Africa Golden Weaver birds at their nests on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

There was a lot of activity in the gorilla enclave. The baby gorilla was playing on one side and a couple of bachelor gorillas were out on the other side. One of the bachelor troop was drinking from a little waterfall. Once he had his fill, he sat down and gave me this look.

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.

As many times as I have done both the Kilimanjaro Safari and Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, I have never come away without learning something new, seeing something new and photographing something new. Walt Disney once said, "I have a great love of animals and laughter." I think he would enjoy Animal Kingdom very much for both.

August 10, 2012

Prime Epcot

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I am in a photography funk and want to challenge myself, I take my favorite zoom lens off my camera and put on my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. What I call the Nifty-Fifty. I did this for a day at Epcot and came away with some of the best photos I have taken there.

Prime lenses are fixed focal length, tend to be sharper than zoom lenses and have a larger aperture range. The aperture range allows for extreme selective focus by using it wide open like on this lovely flower I found near Spaceship Earth.

Blue flower near Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Blue flower near Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/640s, f/1.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Without the ability to zoom in with the lens, I had to "zoom" with my feet. During a performance of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps in front of the American Adventure, I walked up and photographed the Fife player from three feet away. I did this quickly as I knew others were photographing the performance with their zoom lenses.

Fife player in front of the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fife player in front of the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Another place I had to move in close was at Germany's Karamell-Küche shop where I found these scrumptious chocolate covered strawberries with Werther's Original Caramel wrapped around them.

Chocolate Strawberries in Germany's Karamell-Küche shop in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Chocolate Strawberries in Germany's Karamell-Küche shop.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Prime lenses are your best bet when it comes to dark rides like the Gran Fiesta Tour inside Epcot's Mexico pavilion. Here I photographed Donald Duck photographing me during the relaxing boat ride.

Donald Duck is one of the Three Caballeros of the Gran Fiesta Tour in Epcot's Mexico pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Donald Duck is one of the stars of the Gran Fiesta Tour.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 640, EV +0.3.

I switched to Shutter Priority mode while watching the Matsuriza, the Taiko Drummers, in Japan to show the motion of the entertainer's arms and drum sticks. I could not get as close as I did for the Fife player so I used leading lines to draw viewers to the drum and drummers.

Taiko Drummers performing at Japan in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Taiko Drummers performing at Japan.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/20s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

As you can see, prime lenses will challenge you and make you think before pressing the shutter. If you have used a prime lens at a Disney themepark, let me know your thoughts.

July 13, 2012

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

May 4, 2012

Disney through a Crystal Ball

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A crystal ball is believed by some people to aid in the performance of clairvoyance like witches and wizards. At Walt Disney World, the most famous crystal ball is found in the Haunted Mansion where the ghost of Madame Leota is calling spirits from the world beyond. Crystal balls are a fun prop to create very unique photos.

Spaceship Earth as seen through a crystal ball in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth as seen through a crystal ball.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 230mm focal length, flipped, cropped.

Here are some tips for using a crystal ball in photography:

1. Things are upside down or inverted when looking through a crystal ball so you must flip them in your photo editor (see below).

Crystal ball being held up in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Crystal ball being held up in front of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 230mm focal length.

2. Focus sharply on the crystal ball image and let the background go out of focus.

3. If you can not levitate the crystal ball (I wish I could learn how to do that!), find a secure place for the crystal ball or get the aid of an assistant to hold it (see above).

4. Lens choice is up to you but ones that can focus closely are easier to use.

5. Be careful when using a crystal ball in the Sun. They get very hot, very fast!

6. Find an interesting subject like maybe a fantasy castle.

Cinderella Castle through a crystal ball in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle through a crystal ball.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 68mm focal length, cropped, flipped.

If you would like to procure your own crystal ball, check out the Crystal Company and have some fun!

March 23, 2012

Illuminations over Imagination in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2012

Canada Waterfall in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2012

Photographing in the Rain at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Rain on vacation can be a bad thing if you let it. When it starts raining at Walt Disney World there is lots to photograph if you are prepared. It can go from sunny to storming in central Florida in a manner of minutes. I carry large zip locked bags with me to protect not only my camera but cell phones and small electronics. For point and shoot cameras, a small ziplock bag will work.

If you want to photograph in the rain. I suggest asking a family member to help by using an umbrella to keep you and your camera dry while photographing in the rain. If no one is available, a tripod can hold your camera while you use the umbrella like I did when photographing the rain dropping into the reflecting pool in front of the Universe of Energy.

Rain drops in the pool in front of the Universe of Energy in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rain drops in the pool in front of the Universe of Energy.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/10s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm focal length, tripod.

Another way to protect your camera in the rain is to put on a poncho like thousands of guests do at Walt Disney World when it begins to rain. Optech Rainsleeves are inexpensive plastic coverings designed for digital SLR cameras with or without a flash unit attached. They protect your equipment while giving you access to the camera's controls. They come in handy during long rainy days or when photographing around fast water or waterfalls.

People in Disney ponchos walking in the rain at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
People in Disney ponchos walking in the rain at Epcot.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/50s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.33, 18mm focal length, tripod.

If you would rather stay out of the rain, Epcot has lots of interesting indoor locations to photograph from attractions like Spaceship Earth to these ideas around World Showcase:

Indoor Tour of World Showcase, Part I

Indoor Tour of World Showcase, Part 2

Don't let rain stop you from enjoying photography at home or while at a Disney themepark.

February 10, 2012

Inside Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 27, 2012

Lighting up a Monorail in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 6, 2012

Photographing on the Wild Africa Trek, Part I

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last year Jeanine Yamanaka did a detailed review of the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I am not going to duplicate her excellent review here and will concentrate on telling you what I felt of it from a photographer's point of view.

Initially when this tour was announced Disney said nothing could be taken on it including cameras. That certainly put a damper on my excitement. It must have done the same for lots of other people as Disney soon changed their mind. I thought I would have to find a way to tether my camera to the safety vest everyone must wear during the first part of the tour. I was delighted to find out as long as the camera has a neck or wrist strap, no tethering would be necessary. After taking the tour, I totally agree with this assessment as I never felt my camera was in any danger.

My group heads out on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
My group heads out on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Copyright Disney 2011. Used by permission.

Africa Trek Guide Eleanor
After checking in, signing the waiver, getting my safety vest on and successfully walking over the test bridges to assure the tour guides I would not fall or trip. I waited for my eleven fellow adventurers by enjoying a steel cup of Jungle Juice from Boma. A very pleasant surprise as I love that stuff.

A quick note on the equipment I used. Because you must store anything you would carry in your pockets in a locker before you start the tour, I went with my Nikon D700 camera body and Nikon 28-300mm VR super zoom lens with image stabilization (VR). This is a very compact and useful combination for any Disney park. I attached a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight flash for fill light a fellow Disney photographer friend of mine said he wished he had done. I put an extra camera battery and memory card in a zippered pocket of the safety vest. One should always carry such backups as you would not want to miss any photo opportunities due to a dead battery or full memory card.

Soon, we were heading out into the park and down the start of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail until we got to the Meerkats. There we headed off into the woods on an overland trail to the Hippopotamus pools. Here we meet up with a Hippo researcher who took our questions and explained the behavior of the hippos below us. Did you know, the males on in the right hand Hippo pool while the females are on the left side? If you are riding the Kilimanjaro Safari in the future, look just above the male Hippo pool on the right side and you might see a group of adventurers on the Trek. This is where the price of the Wild Africa Trek for a photographer pays off. At each location we stopped at, we were given time to enjoy watching and photographing the animals. Did not have to wish for a safari driver to stop!

A female hippopotamus walks towards the water after sunning itself seen on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A female hippopotamus seen on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1000, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

After the Hippo pools we walked over to a platform leading to the first of two long and high rope bridges. Your vest is securely attached to a steel cable above the bridge but with enough slack to have complete freedom when walking across the bridges. Here I am crossing the first bridge and the photos I took from it.

Walking over a rope bridge during the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scott walking over a rope bridge during the Wild Africa Trek.
Copyright Disney 2011. Used by permission.
A female hippopotamus submerged as seen from a rope bridge on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A female hippopotamus submerged seen from a rope bridge on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 150mm focal length.
A Kilimanjaro Safari jeep full of guests seen from a rope bridge on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Kilimanjaro Safari jeep full of guests seen from a rope brige on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

Below you see me photographing from the second bridge. I made sure my camera was using a fast shutter speed as the rope bridges bounce and sway some. Not to mention the large gaps between some of the planks. I had to spread my legs to get as stable a shot as I could.

Photographing from a rope bridge during the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scott photographing from a rope bridge during the Wild Africa Trek.
Copyright Disney 2011. Used by permission.

I sure did not want to slip as these guys were below me...

Large Nile Crcodile males photographed from a rope bridge on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Large Nile Crcodile males photographed from a rope brige on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.7, 178mm focal length, fill flash.

All the Nile Crocodiles you see in Disney's Animal Kingdom are males. They range in age from 10 to 15 years and up to 20 feet long.

Once we all got to the other side of the two bridges, we attached ourselves to another safety cable and could get right out on the edge of an overlook about 10 feet above where the Nile Crocodiles where sunning themselves. It was quite a thrill to see them so close and without glass or bars between them and us.

After about 15 minutes, we headed back on the trail to our next destination on the Wild Africa Trek which I will talk about in Part 2 next week.

If you've already done the Wild Africa Trek, post about your experience in our Review Area.

September 9, 2011

Fireworks Photography eBook Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

February 25, 2011

Photographing The Magic, The Memories and You!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Bob!

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

January 14, 2011

Image Stabilization and Tripods Don't Mix

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 7, 2011

Scott's Photography Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Lisa asked me to post three of my favorite photography tips to start out the new year with. Great idea, Lisa!

Tip Number One

Fill the Frame
Whether by feet, telephoto/zoom lens or crop, the one tip I can give you to improve your photography immediately is to get close and fill the frame. This is what I did for this portrait of one of the male gorillas on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Male gorilla portrait on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Male gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3600, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length

Tip Number Two

Rule of Thirds
This simple rule of composition is easy to learn and will take your photography from simple snapshots to impact photographs. Below is a photo of Off Kilter's Bassist, Mark Weldon, I used to demonstrate the rule of thirds back in 2007.

A photo of Off Kilter's Bassist, Mark Weldon, used to demonstrate the rule of thirds in Epcot's Canada pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A photo of Off Kilter's Bassist, Mark Weldon, used to demostate the rule of thirds in Epcot's Canada pavilion.

Tip Number Three

Read the Manual
This is something many of us fail to do once we get a new digital camera or gadget. We dive right in and start using it. That works for awhile and then we start getting frustrated with the results. I suggest you take the time to read the manual. Learn what all the buttons, switches, dials and menu options do. The more you learn about your digital camera or gadget, the more satisfied you will be with your results.

A young woman reads the manual to her new digital camera.
A young woman reads the manual to her new digital camera..
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/5.6, ISO 2800, EV 0, 38mm focal length, rear-sync flash at -0.7 power, bounced off ceiling.

Using these tips and those of Lisa's and Barrie's, will help you to improve taking photos with and using your digital cameras at the Disney themeparks in 2011.

December 10, 2010

Photographing the Main Street Electrical Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


November 19, 2010

No Tripod? No Problem.

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

What if you do not have or want a tripod with you when vacationing at Walt Disney World and you still want to steady your camera? Do a search for camera bean bags or pods like the one pictured here. This model goes by the name of Cam Pod and is a specially designed bean bag. As you can see, it can be folded so an SLR camera with a lens sits comfortably on top of it. This does a couple of things, it raises up the lens angle and keeps your camera off dirty surfaces.

A Cam Pod bean bag sitting on a Disney Quadpod or garbage can, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Cam Pod bean bag sitting on a Disney Quadpod or garbage can.

The Cam Pod is placed on a natural helper, the Disney Quadpod which most people call a garbage can. I lined up my shot, set the aperture to f/22 for maximum depth of field and set the camera to use its timer delay to keep camera shake down to a minimum. Pressed the shutter and stood back as the camera took this photo of the Alligator Bayou section of the Port Orleans - Riverside Resort.

Port Orleans Riverside Resort's Alligator Bayou section, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Port Orleans - Riverside Resort's Alligator Bayou section.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/20s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, Cam Pod

If you are a Do-It-Yourself kind of person, you can make your own camera bean bag. Other people have filled up plastic freezer sized bags with everything from sand to popcorn for their camera pod.

November 12, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2010

Doing the High ISO Dance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

September 10, 2010

New Gear!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I want to first thank everyone who followed my trip down to Walt Disney World last weekend. I tweeted over 35 photos from my iPhone and many other tweets. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

What I did not tell you last week was I was bringing my new camera and lens to the parks for the first time. I purchased a new-to-me Nikon D700 digital SLR camera and new Nikon 28-300VR lens. This is a tremendous upgrade from the Nikon D70 dSLR camera and 18-200VR lens I have been using for the past three years. The D700 is a full-frame camera with a larger sensor (12 Megapixels) and high ISO capabilities. The 28-300VR lens was designed for the full-frame Nikon digital cameras and is the same range in 35mm terms as the 18-200VR for cropped camera bodies.

For this week, I want to share with you some of the photos I took with the new equipment. If you have any questions, leave me a comment!

The larger sensor allowed me to crop this photo of the explosive finale in the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios and not lose the the detail of the fire and water in the air.

Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1600s, f/5.2, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 92mm focal length

The Nikon D700 technology is five years newer than the D70 and its photos take a lot less time in post production. In fact, this photo of Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the The Magic of Disney Animation tour is straight out of the camera except for a little sharpening.

Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the Animation building at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the Animation building.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/4, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular begins with a low light scene where Indy locates a golden idol. In the past, I was limited to a maximum ISO of 1600 which was also very noisy. The D700 has little noise up to 3200 ISO and even as high as 6400 is very clean.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular scene at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Indiana Jones sizing up the golden idol.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length

While it is not the camera that creates the photos, new tools can help a photographer improve even more through technological improvements in their gear.

April 16, 2010

Spring Waterfalls

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9, 2010

The Red Beast

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2010

Zeroing Out

Ever get to the Magic Kingdom and your family rushes up to get their photo taken in front of the Main Street Train Station. You snap a few shots and head into the park. You are half-way down Main Street USA when you take a peek at the photos and they are all overexposed. We have all been there. Photograph something and forget about all the changes made to get the exposure right the last time you used the camera and get bad exposures the next time you use it. So, in an effort to save you future aggravation, I want to tell you about Zeroing Out your camera.

Main pool at the All Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Forgetting to change your camera setting can lead to overexposed photos like this.

Zeroing Out is a process of going through the most used settings on a camera and putting them back to the start settings BEFORE using the camera. Some people call this their base settings or starting point. After I zero out my camera, I take a couple of quick snaps and review the photos on the camera's LCD screen before leaving the house or, if at Walt Disney World, before leaving the resort area. If the photos look bad or the photo's Exif data is wrong, I probably forgot to zero out. Kind of a fail-safe procedure. By doing this, I know I am starting at a point I am very familiar with and can easily make changes as needed from there. If I am taking a lot of photos or the light changes dramatically, I might zero out my camera on a few occasions during the shoot or day.

The advantage of Zeroing Out before you start shooting is huge. Much easier to do in the calmness of your home or hotel room than when you notice you have taken ten photos that are over or under exposed and you can not retake them again because the opportunity is gone. Worse, trying to fumble around to find which setting needs to be changed while someone is waiting. Talk about pressure. Imagine if that person is a bride or a Disney character and your daughter with a line of families behind you. Guilty on both accounts. I learned the hard way and still need to remind myself.

What are these settings I am talking about? That depends, the blog writer says with a broad smile. The ones most of us need to be aware of is Shooting mode (P, S (Tv), A, M), ISO, Exposure mode (matrix, center-weighted, spot, etc.), White Balance, Image Quality, Exposure Compensation (EV), Shutter (Single or Continuous) and Focus Area. You might have more or less settings depending (there's that word again) on your camera and what you consider important. For Point and Shoot cameras, it might be as simple as putting the camera back to full Auto mode from another mode or scene used previously.

Another thing to be aware of is if you use a Vibration Reduction (Image Stabilized) lens. Make sure its settings are where you expect them to be after mounting it on the camera. I set mine to ON and Normal mode.

On a recent thread about this subject of Zeroing Out on a photography board I read, each photographer had different zero out settings. Just as each of you will, too. Doing so will allow you to get better photos from the first click.

Main pool at the All Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
After Zeroing Out my camera, I got a much better photo of the All Star Sports Main Pool.


January 29, 2010

Burst Mode

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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



November 27, 2009

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 20, 2009

3rd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

2nd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide


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

October 30, 2009

Project Tomorrow

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

October 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.

September 18, 2009

Nifty-Fifty

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The definition of a Nifty-Fifty is an inexpensive 50mm prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and Canon 50mm f/1.8 both come in at under $140 and work on most Nikon and Canon digital SLR cameras. Most other camera systems have this focal length in a prime lens also. A prime lens has a fixed focal length versus a zoom lens that has a variable focal length. My 18-200VR zoom lens, for example, goes from 18mm to 200mm and all focal lengths in between.

What makes these Fifty's so nifty? Because they are a fixed length lens, they tend to be much sharper, lighter in weight, smaller in size and FAST. Most consumer zoom lens' start at f/3.5 and vary up to f/6.3 extended to their full focal length depending on make and model. These 50mm lenses also makes you think when you are using them. If you want to fill your frame more with the subject, you have to move closer and visa versa. The depth of field is a lot more apparent when apertures are opened up to f/2.8 or f/1.8 so focus on your subject is very important.

A couple of notes on my camera with a 50mm lens. Since the Nikon body I use has a crop factor of 1.5, the 50mm is actually a 75mm lens in 35mm terms. I have used a 50mm on 35mm SLRs in the past and that's the only difference. The photos below are great examples of what this type of lens can do.

Using the hyperfocus setting at an aperture of f/22, the lens' smallest aperture, it brought the shutter speed down to 1/50th of a second even in the bright mid-day Sun of Florida. You can see how sharp and colorful the Innovention Fountain and Spaceship Earth are in this photo. When I first looked at this scene I was too close and had to do a Chris Berman and back, back, back up about 25 steps.

Innovention Fountain in Epcot's Innoventions Plaza, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Innovention Fountain performing in Epcot's Innoventions Plaza.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/50s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3

Selective focus is where you open the lens to it's largest aperture and the only thing in sharp focus is the subject. The rest of the objects in front of and behind are thrown out of focus. With an aperture of f1.8, a 50mm lens creates extreme selective focus images like this one. Notice how the guests in the background are totally out of focus and the Mickey shaped tomatoes which are in focus leave no doubt as to the subject of the photo.

Mickey shaped tomatos in Mickey's Country House garden in Toontown Fair in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Mickey shaped tomatos in Mickey's Country House garden in Toontown Fair.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/250s, f/1.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3

Look for more examples of selective focus next week on the Picture This! blog.

When someone says the lens if fast, they are referring to it's largest aperture. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture, the more light is allowed in by the lens to the digital camera's sensor. Even when the light is low, a 50mm lens at f/1.8 brings in four times the light as a zoom lens at f/3.5 and twice as much as an f/2.8 lens. The Nifty-Fifty lenses are a Disney photographers best friend for the dark rides at a Disney park. For instance, Pirates of the Caribbean is a ride I never even tried to photograph until I got a 50mm lens. Though I still had to use some noise reduction software at an ISO of 1600, the exposure and focus was right on for the auction scene.

Pirates of the Caribbean Auction Scene in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Pirates of the Caribbean Auction Scene.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/25s, f/1.8, ISO 1600, EV +1.0

For more on using a Nifty-Fifty, click this link on You're only 50mm Away from Becoming a Better Photographer.

Check out my flickr set called the Nifty-Fifty for more examples of the 50mm f/1.8 lens. Have fun!

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!

June 26, 2009

Belle's Library

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Photos like the one below, taken in the Beauty and the Beast Meet and Greet Library in Epcot's France pavilion showing some of the famous Disney detail, used to come out blurry and underexposed back in the days I shot film on my trips to Walt Disney World. I either didn't have a fast film of ISO 400 or better in my camera or a "slow" lens. With today's digital cameras allowing ISO settings up to 6400 and Image Stabilized lenses, I can now enjoy photographing in low light situations in all the Disney parks and resorts when needed.

Book shelf in Belle's Library inside the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Book shelf in Belle's Library inside the France pavilion. See text below for details.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

Books from left to right are Little Red Riding Hood, Grimm (as in the Brothers Grimm), Perrault (Charles Perrault, the Frenchman who wrote many French fairy tales including Cinderella - he's the reason we have the glass slipper - it's actually a mistranslation from the old French) and King Arthur. Research done by my Disney trivia lovng and French honor student daughter, Krystal.

It doesn't hurt that I've learned to hold my camera very steady, too.

June 12, 2009

Capturing an Empty Disney Park

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Walt Disney World hosts millions of visitors each year. There are always people about even during a slow period. Yet, you can take photographs without people in them. One way is to get low and shoot at an angle to eliminate people around you or find a way to elevate yourself over people's heads. Another way is to find scenes where people can not get to like the photo of the ceremonial canoe I found in Disney's Animal Kingdom near the Yeti Shrine.

Ceremonial Canoe in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Ceremonial Canoe near the Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D70/18-200VR 1/400s, f/16, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 150mm Focal length

I am a lightweight when it comes to getting truly empty photos of a Walt Disney World park. Let me introduce you to a true heavyweight, Tom Bricker (aka WDWFigment) has perfected empty Disney park photography. What he does is stay late at one of the parks...say, the Magic Kingdom until all the guests have left. He has seen the second Kiss Goodnight more times than I've been to Orlando (did you know there was a second one? Have you ever seen the first one?). Long after most guests are sleeping back at their resorts, Tom is getting photos only a paid Disney photographer normally gets a chance to shoot. Here are a couple of his favorites from the Magic Kingdom.

An empty Main Street USA during the Christmas holiday season in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An empty Main Street USA during the Christmas holiday season by Tom Bricker.
Nikon D40, 5s, f/20, 200 ISO, +0.6 EV, 26mm Focal length

Tom talked about this photo, "Although the rain dampened the mood on portions of the (Mickey's Very Merry) Christmas Party, it sure did make for some pretty after hours shots (my first with "rain reflections"!)."

In this very unique photograph of the castle below, Tom explains why it is often overlooked. "Most people stop in awe when they first see the Castle on the other side of Main Street, USA. By the time they walk through the Castle to Fantasyland, a little of the amazement has worn off, and they are scurrying off to get in line at their favorite attractions. However, the back of the Castle shouldn't be overlooked. With its nuances and beautiful architecture, it is unique and awe-inspiring in its own right."

Cinderella Castle from Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cinderella Castle from Fantasyland by Tom Bricker.
Nikon D40, 1.3s, f/3.8, 200 ISO, +0.6 EV, 22mm Focal length

Tom uses a tripod to obtain these fantastic photos. He freely admits breakfast is something he seldom eats when visiting Walt Disney World. So, are you up to the challenge of photographing an empty Disney park?

I would like to thank, Tom, for letting me share some of his wonderful Walt Disney World photography!

June 5, 2009

On-Ride Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I do and I'm sure many of you do it. Using our cameras while on a Disney ride or attraction. In the past I've shared one on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Test Track. Please, if you attempt ride photography do not endanger yourself or anyone riding with you. I make sure I am securely in my ride vehicle and my camera is not going to leave my hands. I wrap my strap about my arms and neck to make sure.

It is a challenge. Rides are fast and bumpy or slow and dark or a combination of the two. People who enjoy Disney themepark photography try to outdo each other on flickr and many Disney boards as to who can get the best ride shots. Many openly admit that it takes some luck to get a good ride photo. Just as the one I took on Expedition EVEREST. This is a fast ride which is half done inside a dark mountain with a Yeti chasing you. I thought it would be fun to see what a wide angle lens could do on this ride. The result you see below.

A Yeti mural seen on Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Yeti mural found in one of the caves of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/15s, f/9, ISO 400, EV -0.3, 11mm focal length

If you look at the shutter speed, you can see why I was lucky. There is a lot of motion blur in this photo but the mural of the Yeti is fairly steady even with the large contrast of the bright light coming from the cave opening. By the way, anyone know where on Expediton EVEREST this was taken? Leave a comment.

May 15, 2009

Picture This! Mailbag: Camera Bags

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

We received the following inquiry recently to the Picture This! blog from reader Sharon. Since flattery was used, Barrie, Lisa and myself give her our opinions. It also lead me to updating a piece of my equipment.

I LOVE the Picture This blog! I have learned countless tips and been inspired many times from reading your posts! I'm not sure if this has been discussed in a previous blog post, but my question is about carrying camera gear around the parks.

I just received my first digital SLR camera this past holiday season. I'll be visiting Disney World again in May 2009 and am very excited to use my new camera! However, it goes without saying that this camera is much bulkier than my previous point and shoots (which I used to wear hooked to my belt). I've thought about constantly wearing my camera by the neckstrap, or using the case - which is rather bulky and awkward to carry for a whole day in the parks. I'm concerned if I wear the camera on my neck all day, I'll risk "bumping" it on something. Also concerned about taking the camera, with or without a case, on certain rides (i.e. Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain...)

Any tips/suggestions for a 1st timer on carrying my gear through the parks??

Barrie's answer:

Hi Sharon - I'll add my thoughts to what Scott has sent.

I have a backpack that I wear in the parks - this one: Tamrac Adventure 6 Photo Backpack. It's very comfortable and just big enough to fit all my junk. I like to have everything I need with me, including an extra lens, flash, battery, filters, manual, CD cards, lens cloth, water bottle, and a bunch of little things. This bag holds everything, with a little extra room for a poncho or sunglasses, whichever I'm not wearing based on the weather! I also like the ability to put my camera away, especially during meals. I don't like to worry about someone spilling something on it or knocking it off the table.

I have tried other bags (shoulder bags and fanny bags) but found that my back would really hurt after awhile. Also, those kind of bags always seem to be in my way. Since I've had the backpack, I've had no trouble. That's been a couple of years. My only complaint is that it can get hot. If you're going in the warmer part of the year, it might not be a good option. I tend to go during the cooler months.

I have the Black Rapid strap that Scott mentioned. I do like it for when I want to travel light. Mine has room for an extra battery and some extra cards on it. It takes some getting used to but it does relieve the stress on your neck and back quite a bit. However, I can't use it and my backpack at the same time because the strap goes across my body. Mostly I use it on hiking trips at home when I can leave my pack in the car. I'm pretty attached to my pack, can you tell?

The strap I use with my camera is an OP/TECH 37012 Pro Loop Strap. I LOVE it. Well worth the price for the added comfort.

As for rides, I've never had any trouble carrying on my backpack. It doesn't always fit in the mesh bags but I just put it on the floor with one foot through a strap.

I've used a locker for my tripod before, but never for my camera. The lockers tend to be at the front of the park and I don't ever really want to be that far away from my camera.

I do have another backpack that I use to carry my gear on the airplane. I did a review of the Kata KT DR-467 Digital Rucksack on my other blog. If you want one with a little more room I can't recommend this one enough - I truly am in love with it! I don't use it for around the parks though, because I don't need that much space. Some people do though.

Oh, one other tip - for rides like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids, I carry a small kitchen garbage bag in my pack. I can fit my whole backpack in it and not have to worry. It also works great for unexpected downpours!

Hope that helps. Barrie


Lisa added:

Hi Sharon,

Last but not least, I'll toss out to you how I manage the parks. First, I bring along a college guy with lots of muscles to carry things. OK, perhaps not. Depending on how much equipment I'm carrying I take one of 2 backpacks. My larger backpack is from Canon and sadly they don't make them anymore. However it fits one body with a lens, a 2nd lens, flash, battery pack, 2 chargers, lots of batteries, filters, a point and shoot, a memory card wallet, and a camcorder. I should probably toss in a bottle of Advil because that much stuff leads to backaches.

My smaller backpack, a Tamrac Travel Pack 71 Model 5371, holds 1 body with a lens, the 2nd lens, my flash, 2 chargers, filters, batteries, and a battery pack. Then I've got my point and shoot in a case.

I have my camera around my neck unless I'm on a jerky ride like Dinosaur or something that might get it wet like Splash Mountain. You'll find that you'll have one hand on the camera most of the time so you're far less likely to bump it on something.

Like Barrie, when my camera bag is too big for the mesh pockets on attractions, I place it on the floor with one leg through a strap. I also try to keep it a few inches off the floor by suspending it between my legs. Photographers are a strange lot, I know.

I hope we haven't overwhelmed you. Feel free to ask more questions if you have any.

Keep Shooting,
Lisa


Okay, both Barrie and Lisa indicated I had already gave Sharon my opinion and here it is:

Sharon,

I carry my digital SLR camera around my neck most of the time while at Walt Disney World. If it's not around my neck, it's back in the room.

Rides: All of Disney's thrill rides (ie., Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Rock'n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest for examples) have mesh bags to put lose items in and this is where I'll store my camera while I ride.

Bags: There are lots of camera bags, backpacks and waist (fanny) packs available. A handy website is CamBags.com which have photos and reviews of all types of camera bags. Personally, I use a Mickey Mouse fanny pack to carry an extra battery for the camera, lens cleaning cloth, extra memory cards, a 50mm lens and a flash unit while carrying my camera with a zoom lens around my neck.

Lockers: All Disney parks have lockers you can rent. They require $10 deposit (you get $5 back when you return the key) for the day. You can store your camera while doing all the thrill rides if that makes you more comfortable.

Has my camera been knocked around at times? Yes, but I am very careful. Still, after 5 years and about a dozen trips to Walt Disney World, it's working great!

There is an alternative you might want to check out called the R-Strap. I've never used one but have it on my "to buy" list. From what I read, you either like it or you don't. Maybe you will.

Sincerely,
Scott

As you can see, I don't really use something designed for photographic equipment. Sharon's question made me question my current Mickey Mouse solution. With no dividors, my lens and flash often rub and bang into each other. I went searching for something better but still small and which goes around my waist. I am not a fan of backpacks or over the shoulder bags. Have tried both in the past. Like a camera, a way to carry a camera is a personal decision. We all work differently.

What I found was a company called Think Tank Photo. This company is run by photographers and have designed their photo equipment carrying products with them in mind. They tend to be on the pricey side. Their products are built to take the punishment we put them through. Not saying we are careless but stuff happens when walking around themeparks with thousands of other guests, hiking through woods or at family events.

I choose the Think Tank Photo Speed Demon Belt Pack. The Speed Demon incorporates the use of "Skin" components, of which, I added their Skin 75 Pop Down which can hold a large zoom lens. This component will come in handy at sporting events and zoos.

The Speed Demon is very comfortable and lightweight with my 50mm, 11-16mm zoom, speedlight, flash bounce accessory, memory cards, extra batteries for camera and flash, grey card, pens, notebook, lens cloth, and a small blower. Lots of pockets and zippered areas for organization. It even has an attached raincoat to come out and cover the pack in case of sudden rains. Another cool feature is the zipper on top of the bag. It gives easy access to the large bag area with padded compartments where I can reach in and pull out a lens or flash fast without having to unzip the entire bag.

I could substitute a lens or the speedlight in the Speed Demon for my camera if I wanted to. I still like having the camera around my neck so I am always ready to take a picture.

So, thanks Sharon for your question. It helped me find a better way to carry and protect my photo equipment. Hope the suggestions given above help you if you are looking for a new camera bag accessory.

May 8, 2009

Tripod vs. Hand Held Comparison

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 24, 2009

Using a Tripod at WDW

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our Camera Section of the AllEars Amazon.com Store!
Camera and Lens
Accessories
Photo Books and Magazines

March 6, 2009

Zoom Zoom!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2009

Super Zoom on Safari

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In 1998, a wannabe wildlife photographer's dream came true when Disney's Animal Kingdom opened. I've always wanted to bring a super zoom telephoto lens to this park and I did just that during Mousefest 2008. There were three specific locations at Animal Kingdom I wanted to try my super zoom lens, Nikon's 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED Autofocus VR Zoom Nikkor Lens, on. They were the Kilimanjaro Safari, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Kilimanjaro Safari is a ride on large vehicles, called jeeps, which are designed to give a very bumpy ride. In the past, I've used 200mm zoom lenses with much success. The Nikon 80-400VR is much heavier at 3 pounds than those shorter lenses. I was a little worried about being able to steady it even with Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. This proved to be a problem and, when the ride vehicle was in motion, I found it nearly impossible to get any non-blurred photos at 400mm.

I was more successful using lesser focal lengths like with this lumbering White Rhino taken at the shortest focal length of the lens at 80mm.

A White Rhino lumbers past a safari jeep in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A White Rhino lumbers past a safari jeep on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/4.5, 560 ISO, -0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

The lens did allow me to get a photo I've never been able to get on all my previous safari trips. The Cheetahs are very far from the road the safari jeeps use and, being cats, are either not in view or lying down sleeping. On this day, they were in full view and posing! Using the lens at its full 400mm focal length (which is 600mm on my Nikon D70 1.5x cropped body), I was able to get the following photo which has been further cropped from the original.

Pair of Cheetahs seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari adventure in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pair of Cheetahs seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari adventure.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a walking trail featuring African wildlife from Naked Mole Rats to the mighty Silverback Gorillas. One of the highlights for me on the trail is the colony of Meerkats. Like North America's Prairie Dogs, Meerkats have a sentinel member keeping watch of the surroundings when other members are out of their protective burrows. This Meerkat portrait shows the nice bokeh (out of focus background) of the Nikon 80-400VR lens shooting wide open at f/5.6 and 400mm focal length.

Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The trail features a family troop of gorillas in a large compound with great viewing locations for people to see and photograph these magnificent animals. Here is a picture of the leader who reminds me of the gorilla, Kerchak, in Disney's Tarzan animated movie. Normally, I would discard a photo like this but his eyes make this one a keeper.

Male Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Male Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1000 ISO, +0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

Another walking trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek features wildlife from the continent of Asia. I was fortunate to catch the Komodo Dragon alert and the Nikon 80-400VR gave me the reach to capture this portrait of a species you wouldn't want to be this close to in the wild.

Portrait of the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Portrait of the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1000 ISO, -0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The Asian Tigers are in a compound themed as ruins of a jungle palace. The residents act as royalty often lounging and sleeping as big cats often do. I try to be there in the late afternoon when they are more likely to be active as they are feed about a half hour before park closing. I have gotten many sleeping and resting tiger photos in the past so I was thrilled to get a few on this trip as they moved about their lair.

Asian Tiger on the prowl on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger on the prowl as seen from the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/640s, f/5.3, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

After the Maharajah Jungle Trek, I was ready to put the large 80-400VR lens back into my camera bag. I got some great photos I would not have been able to get with shorter lenses. Though it is not something I think I'd take to Animal Kingdom again in the near future unless I have a need to get some really close up photos of animals I can't find elsewhere.

For more on Animal Kingdom photography, check out my previous articles on Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips and Maharajah Jungle Trek Photo Tips.

January 9, 2009

Wide World of Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A wide angle lens for a digital SLR camera is usually considered a lens of focal length 24mm lens or less (for full frame SLR it's about 1.5 times more or 35mm). Wide angle lenses can take in a wider field of view then normal, telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses. On my last trip to Walt Disney World, I brought an Ultra Wide Angle zoom lens made by Tokina with a range of 11 to 16mm. This lens comes in Nikon and Canon flavors and work only on digital camera bodies. These lenses are a lot of fun to use and give new ways to photograph familiar subjects.

The best way to get the most ouf of a wide angle lens is to put something of interest in the foreground, middle area and background so a viewer's eye can be lead into the photo. In this photo I took from the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue (you can see the roof in the upper left hand corner) at 11mm in the Magic Kingdom, the rock shelf is in the foreground, the train and mountain is in the middle area and the trees and sky is in the background.

A train returns from it's wild ride on Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A train returns from it's wild ride on Big Thunder Mountain.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/400s, f/10, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 11mm Focal length

Ultra wide angle lenses are great for sweeping landscapes. I know at Walt Disney World there's not a lot of places for landscapes in the parks. I found the resorts and waterways a better choice. I took this of the Grand Floridian while riding the resort monorail (you can see the monorail's windows being reflected in the sky) for a kind of photo you normally do not see of a Disney resort.

The Grand Floridian from the resort monorail on the way to the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Grand Floridian from the resort monorail on the way to the Magic Kingdom .
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/125s, f/11, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 11mm Focal length

Again, notice the three elements used. The water in the foreground, the Grand Floridian resort in the middle area with the clouds and sky in the background. Also notice the location of the horizon in the bottom third of the photo to give emphasis to the sky.

I know you hear a lot about how third party lenses (lenses not made by a camera manufacturer like Nikon or Canon) are not as good. However, I have used two Tokina wide angle lenses (and own the 11-16mm) and have no reservations about recommending them to you.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot at 11mm, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

December 5, 2008

Disney dSLR Travel Kit

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World (leaving in just 5 days!), I thought you might be interested in what I bring and why. I laid out the equipment in the photo below. Last year, Lisa gave us her list for an upcoming trip.

dSLR Travel Kit
Scottwdw's Disney Photo Travel Kit

dSLR Camera and Zoom Lens - hard to take photos without the camera! The choice of zoom lens is a personal one for many. Depending on things like what one can afford and the kinds of photos you like to take. In my case, I like the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens so much, it hardly ever comes off the camera. Many people when they first get a dSLR camera buy it with a kit zoom lens. Most are around 18-55mm which is an excellent range for the parks.

Manuals - when traveling, I always pack my camera's manual. In a crowded park or queue line, your camera might get jousled enough to have a button pressed or a dial moved and, without the manual, it's hard to find out what happened. If you own a speedlight flash unit, like I do, bring that manual, too.

Speedlight - for those times when you need more light, a small speedlight is a great asset. Most are TTL (Through the Lens) and work with your camera's light meter to properly give the correct amount of fill light. Please, don't use it during a ride or show where you are asked NOT to use flash. Let's be curteous to our fellow guests.

Flash Bouncer - to give more natural looking photos using flash, I recommend bouncing it off ceilings or walls. However, sometimes that can't be done because the ceilings or walls are too far away (or don't exist at all if you are outdoors) or the color of the ceiling or wall will be reflected. That's when I pull out the handy flash bouncer you see attached to the flash in the photo.

Extra Batteries & Charger - the worst feeling in all the world is when you have the perfect photo in your viewfinder and, when you press the shutter button, nothing happens but a flashing message saying the camera's battery is dead. To stop that from ever happening to you, make sure you have, at least, one spare battery or set of batteries with you. Buy rechargable batteries and have the charger with you. Every night when I come back to my room, I charge all my batteries to full for the next day's adventures.

Fast Prime Lens - for those times when you can't use flash and need as much light as you can get to your camera's sensor, a fast prime lens comes in handy. While you can spend thousands of dollars on getting the fastest lenses made today, surprisingly, you can get the fast Nifty-Fifties I talked about previously for around $100 or less.

Memory Cards - the next worst feeling is running out of memory on your card and not having one to replace it with. I have recently upgraded my cards from 2GB to 4GB thanks to some great Black Friday sales. One 4GB should be more than enough for one day but I will have a spare with me just in case.

Lens Filter - in this day of Photoshop, lens filters are not as necessary as they used to be. I still enjoy using one type of filter which is the Circular Polarized Filter. This filter cuts down glare off water and other shiney surfaces and deepens the blue of the sky. It also cuts down the light reaching through a lens by 1 to 2 stops which can help in the bright Florida sunshine. I'll be covering all the benefits of this filter in an upcoming blog entry.

Sensor Cleaning Bulb, Brushes and Fluid - remember when Barrie discovered sensor dust on one of her trips to Walt Disney World? Though she found a way around the dust, if she had brought along a Giottos Rocket Blaster and some sensor brushes and fluid for her camera, she would have been able to clean her sensor during the trip. Most of the time, all it takes is a blast from the Giottos to remove the dust.

Microfiber Lens Cloth (not shown) - for safely cleaning lenses and viewfinders. You can find these at any camera shop.

Plastic Bag (not shown) - in case of a Florida downpour, I carry a large Zip Lock plastic bag I can put my camera and lens in to keep it dry.

Camera Bag (not shown) - of course, you need to put all this stuff in something so it can be transported with you. While some of this I leave in the room, most find a way into the belt bag or fanny pack I use. Others like to use backpacks or over-the-shoulder bags.

All the above items, I consider essential for any trip I take to Walt Disney World. The next few items I feel are optional depending on the time you have to devote to photography.

Table Top Tripod - there are all types. Make sure the one you decide on can handle the weight of your camera and lens you intend to use with it. I found the Joby Gorillapods (shown in the photo) to be extremely handy for the restaurant photography I do. They are small, sturdy and, with their bendable legs, can attach to all sorts of things.

Standard Tripod - larger tripods are not easy to carry. Most can fit into the lockers you can rent at the Disney themeparks so that's an option. If you want to get the best photos of the wonderful firework shows and the beautifully lighted streets and buildings that you can, a tripod will be your best bet. I have not carried one in all my visits to Walt Disney World but will this time. I'll share my thoughts about it when I get back.

Remote Shutter Release - a remote allows me not to add camera shake vibrations by physically pressing the shutter button when the camera is on a tripod. You can also use your camera's builtin timer if you don't have a remote.

Extra Lenses - on my last trip to Walt Disney World, I only brought the Nikon 18-200mm VR super zoom lens and was extremely happy with all the photos I took. Never having to change lenses when you are walking around Walt Disney World was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. I did miss having a wider angle lens at times though. Then there's those times in Disney's Animal Kingdom I thought if I only had a longer lens. You get the picture. While I will always tell myself that the best lens on my camera is the one ON my camera, one of the reasons for having a dSLR is so you can change lenses. All that to say, I will be bringing along a couple of extra lenses on this trip: an ultra wide angle and a super zoom telephoto. Mainly for the fun of using them at Walt Disney World and to share my experiences with all of you.

Laptop Computer - this is essential for me as I like to load my photos at the end of each day at Walt Disney World and then upload them to an online photo storage service for save keeping. That way, no matter what happens, I can retrieve my photos later.

External Hard Drive - maybe you don't want to spend $9.95 a day to access the Internet when you are at Walt Disney World. There are many small USB external hard drives available today for less than $100 to back up your photos on.

Did I miss anything? Do you have something you pack for every trip to increase your enjoyment of photographing in a Disney themepark? Let us know by leaving us a Comment.

November 21, 2008

2nd Annual dSLR Christmas Gift Giving Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

More Great Photography Books

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

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

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

More Great Photography Stuff

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

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

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

Speaking of bags and other photographic accessories, Barrie, Lisa and I have listed some of our favorites in the All Ear's Amazon store.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving but get some rest to hit up the stores and malls early on Black Friday!

August 29, 2008

Get Yourself in those Disney Vacation Photos!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you are the photographer of your family, chances are you are not in very many photos for holidays, vacatons, birthdays or other occassions. I would guess I'm in less than 100 photos of the thousands of photos I have in boxes, albums and on my hard drives. You may be in more if other members of your family have picked up the photography bug. I know my daughters both own Point & Shoot (P&S) cameras now so I've shown up in their online galleries the last couple of trips.

I found with a little thinking there's some fun ways you can do self-portraits with dSLRs. I know it's popular to hold small Point & Shoot cameras at arms length but I can't do that with a heavy dSLR too easily.

The first way is to use mirrors. Recently, I found a Got Milk? promotional area when visiting the Dairy building at the New York State Fair with some rather unique mirrors.

Got Milk? Mirror portrait at the New York State Fair, Syracuse, New York.
Got Milk? Mirror portrait at the New York State Fair.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/3.8, 800 ISO, EV +0.3, 20mm Focal length

This second self-portrait uses an IR Remote Control for my Nikon digital SLR camera. If you look real close, it's in my left hand. It's very small. I put my camera on a tripod and pressed the remote to take this photo of me in Letchworth State Park in New York last Fall.

Remote Control portrait in Letchworth State Park, New York.
Remote Control portrait in Letchworth State Park.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/40s, f/14, 200 ISO, EV +0.6, 18mm Focal length

Lastly, if you see a fellow photographer walking nearby, it never hurts to ask if they could take a picture of you. I am often asked to do this service and am honored to do so. In the photo of me relaxing in a hammock on the Polynesian Resort's beach, I had my daughter take this with her Nikon Coolpix P&S camera.

Picture This! blogger, Scott, relaxing in a hammock on the Polynesian Resort beach, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Picture This! blogger, Scott, relaxing in a hammock on the Polynesian Resort beach.
Nikon Coolpix 4600, 1/500s, f/4.9, 50 ISO

Next time you are on vacation, find ways to get yourself in the picture! For even more ideas and fun, check out Lisa's Get in the Picture blog from last year.

June 20, 2008

Cleaning a DSLR Sensor

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I decided to clean the sensor in my Nikon D70 dSLR camera after taking hours cleaning up sensor dust spots on over a hundred images using software. Hopefully, you haven't seen sensor dust too much. The images I had were shot with apertures of f/16 and f/22 with a lot of clear blue sky. They revealed a lot of dust on the sensor. So, off I went to my local camera shop. They recommended a sensor cleaning kit which consisted of six sterile swabs and a vial of cleaning solution. Take note that the cleaning solution must be for your camera.

If you discover sensor dust while you are away from home, Barrie's tip on how to avoid sensor dust will hold you over until you can blow it off or clean the sensor.

Mirror Lock-Up Option
Getting back to physically cleaning the sensor, here is what you need to know and do to clean your camera's sensor successfully: find out how to set Mirror Lockup on your camera, tripod, air blower like a Giottos Rocket Blaster and purchase a sensor cleaning kit. I've listed a few reference links at the bottom to help you locate the kits for any dSLR camera.

Blowing out sensor cavity
After I got everything together and put my camera on the tripod, I aimed it downward, removed the lens, set the Mirror Lock-Up and clicked the shutter. This flips up the mirror and reveals the sensor. Well, it sort of reveals the sensor as all sensors are protected with a coating over them. It is the coating which gets the sensor dust on it and needs to be cleaned. I start out by using the Giottos Rocket Blaster to blow out any loose material on and around the sensor. Once that is complete, I aim the camera back up so I can see the sensor.

Following the directions with the sensor cleaning kit I have (yours might have be different), I put two drops of cleaning solution on the sterile swab. Applying pressure, I put the swab on my side. It's the right size to cover the sensor from top to bottom as I sweep it across in one direction, flip the swab over and repeat the sweep in the other direction. I wish I could say it was cleaned after the first swipe. It took all six of the swabs to get the sensor cleaned to my satisfaction. I had some welded on dust on the sensor which even required a little back and forth scrubbing. I still have plenty of cleaning solution left over so will get some more swabs to have around for future cleanings.

Nikon D70 Camera Sensor
Nikon D70 dSLR camera with mirror locked up. The greenish rectangle is the sensor.

It wasn't hard to do and if you take your time and use the proper tools, I don't think you have to worry about damaging your sensor. I intend to clean mine more often now that I see how easy it was to do.


Reference Links:

Demystifying D-SLR Sensor Cleaning

How To Clean Your Camera's Sensor

April 11, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Disneyana Photography

Let's talk about how to use your digital camera to easily and inexpensively take photographs of your valuable Disney collections and memorabilia which has been coined Disneyana. Here's the items we'll need this week: a digital camera of any kind, a tripod for the camera, a remote shutter release (or use your camera's timer), a typical desk lamp, a bounce surface like some white cardboard and a sheet of white (or other color) poster board. Some of this you may have or can get cheaply at a local photo, drug or craft store.

For very small items like pins, you can use your camera's macro setting for a P&S. For a digital SLR, you can use any lens and crop your photos if needed. Other possibilities might be a macro setting on a zoom lens or a dedicated macro lens.

Okay, got your stuff? Ready to do some Disneyana photography? Good! As an example, here's my setup...

Since we are not going to use flash and using a light which is either a typical incandescent bulb or maybe a fluorescent one, make sure you set your camera's white balance to the correct one. Notice how I used the sheet of paper to make a seamless background. You will have to play with the light and bounce surface to get the item lighted the way you want. I have my camera set to Aperture Priority of f/8 or better for good depth of field. The lighting I am using gives me a slow shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower. A good reason to use a tripod and remote shutter release (or camera timer) to avoid a blurry picture.

Not only is this a good way to document your Disney collections, you can use this setup to take pictures of all your small valuables like jewelry. Save them to a CD or DVD and put in a safety deposit box. To take this a little further, take photos of all your home's rooms and pieces of furniture, electronics, art work and other items you own in case of a fire or natural disaster. This alone could more than pay for your camera. Oh, and don't forget to take a picture of that, too! You might have to borrow your kid's digital camera for that one.

Of course, this setup is good for taking pictures for your eBay auctions, too. You know, to help pay for your next Walt Disney World vacation. To make your photo stand out on eBay, use contrasting backgrounds which go with the item. Putting a piece of glass underneath adds a pleasing reflection.

Further Reading: How to Take Better Photos for eBay

Please take a moment to take the Picture This! Photo Blog Survey! Thanks!

March 21, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips

I was reading about some photographers who came back from an African safari the other day. They listed the equipment they used the most. Cameras costing thousands of dollars, lenses in the 500 to 600mm range which cost, you guessed it, thousands more. It got me to thinking about how wonderful the Kilimanjaro Safari is in Disney's Animal Kingdom. However, it does have it's challenges, too. With that in mind, I'd like to give you my list of equipment needed and other tips to get great wildlife photography in the Harambe Reserve.

I would recommend a camera or camera and lens combination which will reach out to 300mm or more. This will allow you to fill the frame with an animal or animals. Many Point and Shoot cameras do not do this. You can still get some great environmental photos of the savannah and when the animals venture close to your "jeep". For me, I'd recommend a high end Point and Shoot camera with an 8x or more zoom lens. If you own a digital SLR, a lens reaching 200 to 300mm (depending on your camera's crop factor) will work great. I have used a couple of different lenses on the safari with good results. A Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6D AF and the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom lenses. With my Nikon D70 crop of 1.5, I get a 300mm focal length with either lens. There are many economically priced zoom lenses in the 55mm or longer to 200 to 300mm range.

Now the part which separates the P&S from the dSLR, because the jeep was designed to give a bumpy ride and it does move, you have to set your camera to get fast shutter speeds to cut down on blurry pictures due to vibration. Anit-vibration technologies aside, those jeeps sway and bump even when stopped as people try to get to one side or the other to see the animals. I set my camera to Shutter priority mode and 1/500th of a second shutter speed. If it happens to be a very bright day you can set it even faster. You may have to increase your ISO setting to obtain these shutter speeds. I usually set mine to an ISO of 800 if it's an early morning or late afternoon safari and 400 if it's during the mid-day sun.

Due to the distance even with a long lens, chances are you will want to crop your photos as, again, it's hard to compose in a moving, bouncy vehicle. A 6 megapixel (MP) or more camera is probably going to give you the ability to do this. Lower MP cameras will not give you as much creative leeway. In the African Lion photo below, I cropped this from the original portrait orientation to eliminate some sky which was cloudy and the bottom portion which featured a fellow guest's arm.

I've ridden on both sides of the jeep and have found most of the good viewing is on the left side. They load you from the right side so you want to be the first one in a row. The hippos, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, and many of the antelopes tend to be on the left side.

Time to get on your safari hat, shirt and shorts to go after some big game, Disney-style! Oh, don't forget to make sure you have extra batteries and they are all charged up before you leave your room. Nothing like having the perfect shot of a giraffe in your viewfinder, pressing the shutter and your camera tells you it's battery is too low. Don't ask me how I know this.

February 8, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Castle at Night

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


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

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

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

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

ePhotozine Night Photography Tutorial

Barrie's Astro Orbiter

Barrie's Portrait of Germany

February 1, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Best Lens Aperture

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

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


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

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

Further reading: Creative Uses of Aperture

January 25, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Your Pictures in HD


Did you get a new High Definition (HD) TV for Christmas? You might want to pull out it's user manual and see how you can get your digital photos to display on it. Most come with a way to hook up your camera or computer directly to a video input. Some, like the Samsung DLP HDTV I own, have a USB port and built-in photo viewing program. I copy some photos to a USB Flash drive on my computer then plug it into the TV's USB port. I select the photo viewer program called Wiselink from the HDTV's menu and it displays the contents of the drive (see photo).

There is a gotcha. When copying the photos to the USB drive, I make sure the photos are 1920 pixels in width to fill the HDTV's screen. However, since my digital camera does not produce an HDTV's screen ratio of 16x9, I still end up with black bars on the left and right side of each picture. This is not a big deal for me because the large, bright and clear image displayed is still breathtaking. It's a very easy way to show others your photos without everyone having to crowd around a small computer screen.

I have noticed many of the newer cameras now have a 16x9 ratio selection when taking photos. Those images would completely fill the screen. Check your camera's manual to see if it supports this feature.

Back to my HDTV, I can either manually select and view each photo or start up a slideshow which displays each photo in sequence for a set number of seconds. I can even add music while it's running. This is a far cry from the days of bulky white movie screens, loud slide projectors and long boring presentations by the photographer. Well, two out of three isn't bad!



Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-70DX, 1/160s, f/6.3, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 50mm Focal Length

January 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 23, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: dSLR Chistmas Gift Giving

I've been looking at all the Day After Thanksgiving sales brochures online over the past few days. There are some great deals coming out for the digital camera owner on your list. Here are some of ideas:

Camera/Lens Dependent Gifts
Memory Cards
Rechargable Batteries
UV Lens Filter
Circular Polarizer Lens Filter

Non-Dependent Gifts
Micro-Fiber lens cleaning cloth
USB External Hard Drives (many under $100)

Photography books make great gifts. Here are two of my favorites.

Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure - is a great book on how exposure relates to your photographs. Updated for the digital age.

The Digital Photography Book - Ever wonder how to create a photo you see in a book or magazine? This book gives you "recipes" so you won't have to wonder anymore.

And some products that I've found useful.

Giottos Rocket Blaster - keep your camera's sensor dry and clean.

Cam-Pod Camera Support - don't want to lug around a tripod? This will protect and secure your camera. Great to use on top of flat surfaces like those famous Walt Disney World garbage cans.

Bogen-Manfrotto 725B Tripod - If you do want to use a tripod, I've found this one to be a good combination of light weight and sturdiness. Comes with a carrying bag with an over the shoulder strap.

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G DX VR Zoom Lens - For the Nikon owner, this is Nikon's budget Vibration Reduction (VR) lens for their dSLR systems. I own the 18-200 with similiar technology and this lens has gotten rave reviews on popular photography forums.

I'll see you in the malls at 5am on Friday! Happy Holiday Shopping Everyone!

August 3, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Shutter Speeds and You

Shutter speed is the time for which the shutter is held open during the taking of a photograph to allow light to reach the image sensor in a digital camera. A fast shutter speed will freeze the subject but needs plenty of light. A slower shutter speed needs less light and a more stationary subject or will cause image blur. However, you can use this to your advantage, as this article will show you.


Expedition Everest explorers emerging from the mountain. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/800s, f/7.1, 400 ISO, -0.3 EC, 135mm Focal Length

In the mid-afternoon Florida sun, it is easy for our cameras to select fast shutter speeds. From the observation area of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest ride, I wanted to freeze the ride vehicle and guests as it came out of the mountain by using a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second. By doing this, you can see their expressions and body language as they see the plunge before them. One guest in the lead car is even video taping! To capture fast action, the faster the shutter speed the better to make the images sharp and clear.


The Beatniks entertaining guests in Disney's Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/30s, f/7.5, 200 ISO

When I came upon The Beatniks as I walked towards Dinoland in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I saw an opportunity to show not only their colorful costumes but their energy by using a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second. Photographs record still images, however, with the creative use of slower shutter speeds, a photograph can convey movement. The trick is not getting so much movement the subject is unrecognizable. The other trick is being able to keep your camera still while making the photo. I talked about how using stablizing lens technology can help in a previous entry. You can practice at home and test how slow a shutter speed you can use and still get acceptably sharp images. To get really long exposures slower than 1/15 of a second, you will need to either anchor yourself against something like a wall or pole, use a tripod or place your camera on a flat surface. At Walt Disney World, I've found the tops of garbage cans to be particularly useful.

Quick Tip: To take control of your shutter speed, set your camera to Shutter Priority Mode. In this way, you set the shutter speed and the camera calculates the aperture or f/stop for you. Be careful the aperture will give you the results you are looking for.

July 12, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Stablizing Lens Technology

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/13s shutter, f5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EC

In a previous blog entry, Barrie talked about ways to stabilize your camera when shooting in low light at Walt Disney World. Camera system manufacturers now have another alternative for you. New lenses which compensate for image blur caused by small, involuntary movements (wobbly hands, shooting from a moving vehicle, etc.) called camera shake. Manufacturers have various names for this technology. Canon calls it Image Stabilizer (IS) technology while Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) system help give you sharp images with their digital SLR cameras. Other manufacturers and third-party lens makers like Sigma and Tamron have their own versions.

The links I've supplied above will give you the technical details of how these lenses work, I just know that they do. The picture taken during the first scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at the Disney-MGM Studios is an example of a Nikon vibration reduction lens at work. This image was captured using available light at a shutter speed of 1/13 second using the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom lens fully extended to 200mm. The best part is, I was sitting in the third row of the theater and hand holding my camera. One must still take steps to stabilize the camera by holding arms in close to the body, holding one's breath and slowly pressing the shutter, however, these lenses will produce a higher percentage of great images in low light conditions. So, the next time you are told, "No flash photography". Smile knowing your VR or IS lens will allow you to capture the show.

You do know photography can be an expensive hobby, right? These new lenses are no exception, ranging in price from $250 to over a $1,000 depending on the focal length, zoom range and speed of the lens. Nikon claims and I have been successful getting an extra two stops without the need for a tripod. This means while I would normally not use shutter speeds below 1/60th of a second. Using the VR lens, I get excellent results at 1/15th of a second or lower hand holding my camera. These lenses will never replace a tripod but they do give you more flexibility for those times you can't or won't carry one with you.

Return to Blog Central

About Equipment

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

Depth of Field is the previous category.

Exposure is the next category.

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