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November 24, 2017

Reviewing the Photography of Holiday Lights at Walt Disney World and Beyond

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

To all my fellow US of A citizens, hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Did you put up your Christmas lights yet? Each year I like to share my past articles on how best to photograph holiday light displays at home and in a Disney themepark or resort.

First, I would like to share this photo I took last year of the Ice Lights on Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom and one of the water fountains found in the Central Plaza.

Water fountain in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Water fountain in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D750/50mm, 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV 0.

Each of these articles contain links to other articles within the Picture This! blog and around the Internet.

Photographing Holiday Lights at Home and at Disney

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Christmas Light Photography

If you have any questons, post them in the comments below and I will answer them as best I can.





May 12, 2017

Observing the Extraordinary at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 3, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Best of 2016

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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).

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.

June 24, 2016

Purple Wishes over Cinderella Castle

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

June 17, 2016

Riding Down Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

June 3, 2016

Motion Photography in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 27, 2016

Freezing the Action at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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 4, 2016

Port of Call: Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

November 13, 2015

Photographing the American Adventure in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

August 28, 2015

Tinker Bell on Parade in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

April 10, 2015

Disney Food Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 21, 2014

Shopping Around Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2014

Sunset at Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Sunset at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sunset at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 4500, EV 0.

Characters in Flight Balloon rises over Downtown Disney at sunset back in 2013. These days Downtown Disney is being transformed with lots of construction happening and new entertainment, shopping and dining experiences being announced.

Sunset photos are tricky. It is best to meter the sky to the side of where the Sun is or was before it set. Lock in that setting using Manual exposure. That way you get the colors of the sky correctly. The Sun will be blown out which is to be expected to anyone looking at your photos.

September 19, 2014

Birds of Flights of Wonder at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Flights of Wonder show in Disney's Animal Kingdom features many species of birds found throughout the world. Many are shown flying around the stage and audience.

The best way to photograph this show is with a fast shutter speed. I set my camera to Shutter Priority mode with the shutter at 1/1000th of a second and changed Auto Focus (AF) to Continuous.

Birds of the Flights of Wonder show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Birds of the Flights of Wonder Show (see below for more info).

From top left, Harris Hawk landing on a handler's gloved hand, West African Crowned Crane coming in for a landing, American Bald Eagle with handler and a Rose-breasted Cockatoo getting ready to return money from a willing volunteer.

July 11, 2014

Riding Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have been visiting Walt Disney World since 1983. In all that time, I have never ridden one of the iconic rides in the Magic Kingdom. This has always been my view of it...

The Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Long exposure photo of the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 55mm focal length, tripod.

On my last trip, I was bound and determined to rectify such an oversight. The Astro Orbiter has a very different queue. You line up in an outdoor queue below the PeopleMover platform. As you get close to the elevators, you are given a pilots card or a riders card and you are then placed in a holding area. The people in the holding area will take the next elevator up to the Astro Orbiter platform. Upon reaching the loading platform, you will have unique views of the Magic Kingdom.

Getting to Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Getting to Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter.

The main fascination for riding the Astro Orbiter on this trip was to do some slow shutter speeds while piloting one of the rocket ships. It is not that easy but I managed to get this one out of all the photos I took which came out.

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

Remember, motion photography is a high risk, high reward kind of photography. I felt very rewarded with the last photo. Until next time Space Rangers...To Infinity and Beyond!

May 9, 2014

Blue Hour over Expedition EVEREST

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

Here are a few facts about Blue Hour:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 11, 2014

Down Under Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

April 4, 2014

Wishes over New Fantasyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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 27, 2013

Wishing You a Happy New Year

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 11s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

Ending the year with a bang! Christmas Wishes over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Happy New Year!

December 20, 2013

Snowflakes on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

December 13, 2013

Main Street Railroad Station White Balance Problem Solved

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are many places in Walt Disney World were one will run into challenging light for the Auto White Balance or AWB settings on today's digital cameras. One such place is the Railroad Station on Main Street USA. The lighting is very yellow in color even to the naked eye. This mimicks the lighting found back in the early 1900's which is the era of Main Street USA. While it looks pleasing to our eyes, camera's tend to see more of the yellow cast to the light. The photo below is an example of a photo using AWB of the Main Street Railroad Station office in the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street Railroad Station office behind a Christmas tree in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Railroad Station office behind a Christmas tree decoration.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/5s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 92mm focal length, tripod.

While this color can be removed in post processing, it is much easier to do it with your camera. To do that, I used a Preset White Balance often referred to as a custom white balance. For my Nikon camera, I pressed the White Balance (WB) button and used the rear command dial to move to the PRE icon on the upper LCD screen. I then released, pressed and held the WB button again until the PRE started to blink on the LCD screen. I then filled the viewfinder with a white object (in the case of the Railroad Station, I used the white woodwork next to the office window) and clicked the shutter. I checked the LCD screen and saw a flashing 'GOOD' on the screen indicating I did the PRESET correcly. If it had said, 'No Good', I would have had to try again.

I once again pointed my camera towards the Railroad Station office. This time I included the two Christmas trees on either side of the office's windows.

Main Street Railroad Station office framed by a pair of Christmas trees in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Main Street Railroad Station office framed by a pair of Christmas trees.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 4s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, tripod.

The colors are much truer in the PRESET WB photo than the AWB one. Check your camera's manual to see if you can do a custom white balance and how to do it. I must warn you, once you do so, to remember any light change on your subject or if you move to another location will need a new WB setting or a switch back to AWB. Otherwise, you could get some really strange results.

This being within two weeks of Christmas, here are a couple of previous posts about photographing Christmas lights at Walt Disney World and at home:

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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 1, 2013

Halloween at Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 11, 2013

Postcard from Carsland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

Hi, to all my All Ears friends and family!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ka-chow,

Scott

June 7, 2013

Splash Mountain Motion in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2013

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 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?

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.

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.

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.

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 25, 2012

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I took the time last October to watch the Flag Retreat ceremony which takes place each day at the Town Square flag pole in the Magic Kingdom. It is a beautiful and hushed ceremony. On this day, there was no music but just the sound of the security guards lowering the flag, folding it and presenting it to the Veteran of the Day. They then all parade to the Railroad Station through a path lined with Cast Members and to the applause of watching guests.

Veteran of the Day and Disney Security pay homage as the flag is lowered during the Flag Retreat ceremony in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Veteran of the Day and Disney Security pay homage as the flag is lowered during the Flag Retreat ceremony in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 62mm focal length.

If you would like to witness the Flag Retreat ceremony, be at the Town Square flagpole about 4:45pm. The ceremony starts promptly at 5:00pm.

To my fellow Americans, have a safe Memorial Day weekend and give thanks to those who did not return from fighting for our freedoms.

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 17, 2012

A Jolly Holiday with Mary in the United Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Been awhile since I have mentioned using Fill Flash to open up the shadows on those bright sunny days we encounter at Walt Disney World. Fill flash came in handy when I photographed Mary Poppins who was wearing a very pretty hat in the United Kingdom pavilion.

Mary Poppins at United Kingdom in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mary Poppins being supercallifragilisticexpialidocious in Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 170mm, fill flash at -1.0 power.

February 10, 2012

Inside Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2012

Characters in Flight at Twilight at Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Characters in Flight balloon rising from its platform at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Characters in Flight balloon rising from its platform at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I have been planning to ride the Characters in Flight balloon from the time it was announced. Yet, since it's first flights in 2009, I have never been able to find the time or the right flight conditions to do so. That was until last month when it all came together on a visit to Downtown Disney including the time of day.

As Barrie, Lisa and I have mentioned many times, the hour before and after sunset is a magical time for photography. The Sun was just setting as my wife and I, another couple and the pilot started our ascent in the circular gondola below the 210,000 cubic feet red and yellow balloon decorated with flying Disney characters. The light towards the Sun was very harsh so I decided to photograph with it behind me. As you can see, it was a good decision.

About half way to our maximum altitude of 400 feet, I noticed the DVC ferry coming into the dock at Downtown Disney Marketplace as the last of the golden sunlight reflected off the Lake Buena Vista hotels.

A ferry headed to Downtown Disney Marketplace from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A ferry headed to Downtown Disney Marketplace from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

At the top of our ascent, the restaurants and shops of Downtown Disney Marketplace, the Lake Buena Vista hotels and the city lights of greater Orlando stretched out to the horizon .

Disney Downtown Marketplace and Lake Buena Vista hotels from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney Downtown Marketplace and Lake Buena Vista hotels from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Of to the north of the Lake Buena Vista hotels was the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Disney Vacation Club all lit up under the blue color of twilight.

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

The flight conditions were almost perfect for the ride with hardly any wind to speak of, a warm evening and clear sky. The flight was smooth, quiet and full of character and wonderful views of the Walt Disney World resort.

If you would like to see more photos and details about the Characters in Flight attraction, Jack Spence was on hand back in 2009 for the inaugural flights. Just one correction since Jack's blog was published, the Characters in Flight now costs $18 or $12 for ages 3-9.

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.

December 2, 2011

Chess Playing Pirates of the Caribbean

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

November 18, 2011

An Aperture Mantra in the All American Rose Garden

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Aperture is a strange concept when learning photography. Aperture is defined as the size of the opening in the lens that light passes through before it hits the photographic medium which, these days, is an electronic sensor at the back of the camera. Aperture is also measured in some strange language called f-stops. F-stop numbers look to defy logic as the larger they are, the smaller the size of the aperture and the larger the focus area. Consequently, the smaller the f-stop number, the larger the size of the aperture and the smaller the focus area. Confused?

A fellow blogger, Karen of Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog, came up with what she calls a mantra about aperture so she can remember what the f-stop numbers mean. I found the mantra brilliantly simple. You know, one of those "I could have had a V-8?" slap to the forehead brilliant. Here it is:

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

To demonstrate, I photographed a pink rose in the popular All American Rose Garden located outside Cinderella Castle (between the Castle and Tomorrowland), down near the old Swan Boat dock. I used a big and little aperture (see photo below) to show you the difference. With a big aperture number of f/29, the range of focused objects is big and goes from the rose to the castle. The little number aperture of f/4 had a little focus area with the rose being the only object in focus.

Aperture examples in the All American Rose Garden in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Aperture Mantra comparison in the All American Rose Garden.

When you are out doing photography, practice this mantra by using both big and little aperture numbers. Then, when faced with a scene, you can ask if you want a big or little focus area and know how to set your camera's aperture to achieve it.

October 14, 2011

Spending Halloween at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have been waiting a whole year to share more of my photos from my October trip last year. By the time I got back, Halloween was over though I did show you the HalloWishes fireworks show and how to photograph it. Next Friday, I will again be going to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Along with HalloWishes, I will be watching the "Boo-To-You" parade.

Before the parade last year, I enjoyed the dead-pan funny jokes and songs of the Cadaver Dans. You might recognize them.

The Cadaver Dans singing before the
The Cadaver Dans entertaining guests at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 1600, EV +0.7, rear-sync flash.

During the party, the Haunted Mansion gets additional and spookier lighting, sound and atmospheric effects. Haunted Mansion cast members are even more in character on these special nights with additional makeup. There are entertaining ghosts outside in the mansion's courtyard who are curious about the living souls walking past the graveyard. I think I will stop and see if a ghost can be photographed.

The Haunted Mansion during a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The extra spooky Haunted Mansion during a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4.8, ISO 2200, EV 0, 65mm focal length.

For those who wish, you can follow my adventures from Walt Disney World next week on my Twitter account, @Scottwdw.

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.

July 15, 2011

Deep Colored Partners Statue in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

April 8, 2011

Riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2011

Waiting to Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

February 18, 2011

Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Dream

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
The Walt Disney Theatre entrance foyer.
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 450, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length

The Walt Disney Theatre accommodates 1,340 guests and is located at the forward end of Deck 3 with balcony seating accessible from Deck 4 on the Disney Dream, the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. The art deco design brings back memories of the theaters built back in the early 20th century. Making it all the more impressive being located on a cruise ship.

Inside the Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Inside the Walt Disney Theatre with seating for 1,340 guests.
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/50s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length

Once I entered the theater, I forgot I was on a cruise ship. The red velvet seats are very comfortable to sit in. It is hard for people to get past you to get to their seats but it is only a minor inconvenience. Quickly forgotten once the performance starts.

During the Christening Cruise of the Disney Dream, there was only two shows presented. The first was The Golden Mickeys, a delightful show where a bashful stage manager is unwilling thrust into the spotlight of the awards show called, what else, The Golden Mickeys. She gets help by none other than Disney's CEO Robert Iger making a guest appearance via a video.

Disney CEO Robert Iger makes a video appearance at the start of the Golden Mickeys show in the Walt Disney Theatre.
Disney CEO Robert Iger makes a video appearance at the start of the Golden Mickeys show.
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/3.5, ISO 4500, EV -1.7, 28mm focal length

As the show progressed, the stage manager becomes confident enough to take on the role of the show's Master of Ceremonies. She even sings a lovely tribute to Walt Disney. Though the show does not reference him directly. A montage of photos of Walt's life appear behind her during the song.

Bashful Stage Manager turned Master of Ceremonies sings a tribute to Walt Disney during the Golden Mickeys show in the Walt Disney Theatre.
Bashful Stage Manager turned Master of Ceremonies sings a tribute to Walt Disney during the Golden Mickeys show.
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/3.5, ISO 4500, EV -1.7, 28mm focal length

The second show is called Believe. Any parent, especially fathers of daughters (like myself), will be enthralled by this show. As the daughter wishes for her very scientific father to believe in magic. That wish takes her father on a journey through some of Disney's most adored animated features, live on stage.

Sophia sings to her Dad, Dr. Greenaway, in the musical Believe in the Walt Disney Theatre.
Sophia sings to her Dad, Dr. Greenaway, in the musical "Believe".
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV -1.3, 300mm focal length

When one wants to begin believing in magic, who do you call? The Genie of the lamp or, in this case, a metal watering can made from a recycled magic lamp. Genie is Mr. Greenaway's guide and one heck of a scene stealer, too.

The scene stealing Genie during the musical Believe in the Walt Disney Theatre.
The scene stealing Genie during the musical Believe.
Nikon D70/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV -1.3, 250mm focal length

Both shows are produced at the level of a Broadway musical. The performers, special effects, sound and dance routines are top notch and all done while the Disney Dream is doing over 20 knots as it cruises to its next port of call.

Photography is allowed for the performances in the Walt Disney Theatre WITHOUT the use of flash. As in photographing any Disney show on land or on sea, you have to remember to use spot metering directly on the lighted performers and adjust your camera's exposure compensation until you get the exposure dialed in. Use a shutter speed of, at least, 1/60th of a second or better and wait for a pause in a performance's scene.

February 11, 2011

Main Street USA Street Photography Meet

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I hosted the Main Street USA Street Photography Meet in the Magic Kingdom for AllEars.net back on January 22, 2011. The purpose of the meet was to get to know some AllEars.net readers, enjoy photographing the entertainment presented on Main Street USA and to introduce the concept of using flash to make better photographs in the middle of the day.

I convened the meet around 11:30am on a cool but typical bright sunny Florida day. After introducing myself and passing out some of the great AllEars.net gifts (aka swag) to everyone who came (see group photo below), I gave a run down of all the wonderful entertainment photo opportunities and about using balanced fill flash to cut down on the harsh shadows present. See Tip #2 from Lisa's Photography Tips.

Then I asked my friend and Disney photographer extraordinaire, Bob Desmond, if he would take the group photo. This was our first lesson of the day. Instead of taking the photo in the very un-photogenic area the group was standing in, Bob took us over to Main Street and posed us in front of Cinderella Castle. He kneeled down to minimize the number of guests which would be in the photo. Thank you again, Bob!

AllEars.net Main Street USA Street Photography.
AllEars.net Main Street USA Street Photography Meet.

Back row from left: Deb Koma of AllEars.net, Gillian Kilment (Dave's wife), an AllEars fan, Anne Heriot (Matt's Mum), Katie (Matt's sister), Scott Thomas, Matt. Front row from left: Dave Kilment, Scott Smith and Deb Wills from AllEars.net.

It was great to see Deb Koma and Deb Wills of AllEars.net join us for the beginning of the meet. It was a busy day for them and I very much appreciate them taking the time to stop by and meet everyone. I would like to point out Anne Heriot, an avid reader of AllEars.net, whose family was visiting from Australia. Her son, Matt, joined us all day with his new digital SLR camera and got some pointers from all of us veteran Disney fan photographers.

Then it was time to start the photography. One of the shows I have never seen and wanted to photograph was the Main Street Trolley Parade. This show is presented only a few times a week. It is a lively show with brightly colored costumes and fun songs fitting the time of Main Street USA. The Trolley Song is the highlight of the show (seen below). If you see the horse drawn Trolley coming down Main Street USA, stop for a bit and enjoy the show.

Main Street Trolley Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Clang, clang, clang goes the Trolley!
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 250mm Focal Length, Balanced Fill Flash at -1 Power

Later on we meet and talked with this lovely women fighting for the right for women to vote. She told us once women could vote, she would be the first Lady Mayor of Main Street USA. We would encounter a few of the other Main Street performers throughout the day. By using fill flash, I was able to show the suffragette's eyes and smile which were in heavy shadow from her hat and parasol. Setting my flash to -1 power kept her from being washed out from too much flash and giving her a nice glow.

A suffragette on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A suffragette on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Balanced Fill Flash at -1 Power

During the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, I photographed Cinderella waving and nodding to all the guests lined up along Main Street USA to see her and all the other Disney characters going by. I used my flash at full power here as I had to use my zoom lens' full 300mm reach to photograph her.

Princess Cinderella nods to guests during the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Princess Cinderella nods to guests during the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length, Balanced Fill Flash at Full Power

We finished the meet by taking in a concert by the Dapper Dans in their solid colored suits. After which, Bob again photographed the group of photographers. I think we look great even if we are a bit dull looking compared to the Dans!

A note here, Dapper Dans are now miked when they do these performances. It is much easier to hear and enjoy their singing and corny jokes! They told us this was new as of a few weeks ago.

The Dapper Dans pose with the AllEar.net gang on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Dapper Dans pose with the AllEar.net gang on Main Street USA.

Back row: The Dapper Dans. Front row from left: Scott Thomas, Matt, Scott Smith, Dave and Gillian Kilment.

In closing, I had a great time. Judging from the feedback I have received, I would like to host another photography meet this December (hopefully with Barrie and/or Lisa) when AllEars.net celebrates its 15th Anniversary at Walt Disney World.


December 10, 2010

Photographing the Main Street Electrical Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2010

Grab the Light

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have harped on always being ready and alert when you are touring the Walt Disney World resort. Here's another example. After leaving the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, I was headed over to see the finale show of the American Idol Experience. I looked around and noticed a very interesting sky. Storm clouds to the east with a low Sun to the west. Knowing such weather conditions brings about great lighting, I looked around the park both high and low as I walked. I saw the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in the distance being hit with golden sunshine.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in golden sunshine at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in golden sunshine.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length

I got two more photos before the Sun got covered up by a bank of clouds leaving the Tower in some not so golden light.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror under clouds at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror under clouds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length

When you see something you want to photograph and the light is just right. Stop for a minute and do so. You many never get the chance again. Then apologize to your family and continue on your way.

November 12, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2010

Photographing Fireworks - Part 1

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 1, 2010

Preset Your White Balance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

The second photo was taken after Presetting the White Balance.

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

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

September 17, 2010

Doing the High ISO Dance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

July 30, 2010

Big Al Sings

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

July 16, 2010

Digital Photography Beginner's Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This month marks three years I have been writing weekly (more or less) on the Picture This! Photoblog here at AllEars.net. The questions Lisa got from her inquiry last week got me to thinking in the last three years, many of you have upgraded to better cameras which give you more control. With that in mind, I want to link you to some of the first posts I did here which explain the basics of Digital Photography.

Pirates of the Caribbean plaza in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mechanics of Exposure: This post defines what aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation are. For me, you have to define and understand the parts before you can understand the whole which in this case is called photographic exposure.

Exif Photo Data: In this post I explain the numbers you see under the photos here on the Picture This! blog.

Creative Uses of Aperture: Details on how aperture effects the depth of field in photographs.

Shutter Speeds and You: Read about how shutter speed controls the amount of movement in photographs.

Indian artwork on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Light Sensitivity: Of the three parts of the exposure triangle, ISO or light sensitivity is not easily understood. I lift the veil of the ISO numbers in this post.

Dialing in Digital Exposure: The exposure compensation button found on digital SLRs and advanced Point and Shoot cameras is often overlooked by many new digital photographers. I think you'll agree once you read this how useful the EV button is.

If you have any questions regarding these articles, leave a comment here and I will answer them.

July 9, 2010

Animal Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Here are previous Disney's Animal Kingdom photography guides:

Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips

Maharajah Jungle Trek Photo Tips

May 28, 2010

Flash Monkey

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Festival of the Lion King in Disney's Animal Kingdom has a unique rule which both surprised and pleased me when I first heard it: Flash photography is allowed during the entire performance. The problem though is most Point & Shoot camera's flash are not very strong. Even when I use my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash, I need to up its power to +2 and sit in the first 10 rows or the flash is not effective.

That is the flash setting I used for the photo of the Tumble Monkey performer you see below. I had to be aware of a couple of issues when increasing the flash setting. It takes longer for the flash to recycle after firing and its batteries drain faster.

A Tumble Monkey performer during Festival of the Lion King live show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Tumble Monkey performer during Festival of the Lion King live show.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV +0.3, 200mm focal length, Flash set to +2 Power


May 7, 2010

Walt Disney World at f/2.8

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23, 2010

Fire Slide

Last week I talked about using long exposures to show water as silky flow over waterfalls. The same technique can be used to show movement for other subjects.

During the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is an exciting chase scene with motorcycles ending with the bad guy sliding through a wall of fire. I took in this show twice on my last visit to Walt Disney World and caught this scene two different ways. The first with a fast shutter speed of 1/800th of a second.

Motorcycle sliding through fire during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Motorcycle sliding through fire during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show with a fast shutter speed.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/800s, f/7.1, ISO 200, 135mm focal length

During my second showing, I had a better angle for the slide action and slowed my shutter down to 1/80th of a second. Ten times slower than the first photo.

Motorcycle sliding towards a wall of fire during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Motorcycle sliding towards a wall of fire during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show with a slow shutter speed.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.6, 170mm focal length

The motorcycle and rider are blurred as they slide towards the wall of menacing fire while the rest of the image is in sharp focus. This technique works for any moving subjects like amusement park rides, race cars and any place you find things that move.

My site was nominated for Best Photography Blog!

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.


March 5, 2010

Cloudy Sky

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Cloudy days at Walt Disney World can be a disappointment. I mean, we go there for the Florida sunshine, right? On my last trip, I was lucky enough to get a few cloudy days. Lucky? Yes, lucky. For when the sun is above a large cloud bank overhead, it creates a huge softbox. A softbox is used by photographers to put their flashes in and it spreads out and "softens" the light of the flash. Cloudy days do the same thing. They spread out and soften the bright light from the Sun. Shadows are not as dark and colors brighten. This kind of outdoor light is good for making photos of your family and friends. They won't squint and the dark shadows under their eyes and noses go away.

I do have a caution for you. Like any softbox in a studio. Try and keep it out of your viewfinder as the contrast will cause overexposed areas or blowouts. Aim your camera down or across but not up at the sky. Let me demonstrate with a couple of examples.

The first one is Jessie from Toy Story II in the Magic Kingdom's Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Parade. It was a very cloudy day and the colors in this parade was popping. Jessie glowed in her red hat, hair and green eyes. I zoomed in to remove the sky above..

Jessie waving during the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Parade in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jessie waving during the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Parade.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +1.0, 165mm focal length

Later in the day, I watched the afternoon Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, which has tall floats to deal with. I needed to get some princess and prince photos even with the bright cloudy sky. To counter the sky, I tried to eliminate it as best I could with backgrounds and cropping (the photo below has a lot of sky cropped out) in the photos. I used fill flash to help balance the light coming from the sky to photograph the proud Prince Eric with Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid in one of the tall floats.

Proud Prince Eric with Princess Ariel in the Magic Kingdom's Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Prince Eric with Princess Ariel in the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1250, EV +0.7, 200mm focal length, fill flash at -1 power

A little fun bonus for you. Can you spot what is wrong with Eric? Leave a comment!

For more information about how to take advantage of a cloudy day for photography, here are a couple of excellent links on the subject:

It's Cloudy - Don't Put that Camera Away

The Softbox in the Sky

February 26, 2010

Creative White Balance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 5, 2010

Illuminating the Yeti Shrine

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 22, 2010

How to Photograph a Pirate

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2009

Magic Hour

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 29, 2009

Light and Shadow

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

April 10, 2009

Metering Modes Revisited

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 20, 2009

Photographing the American Idol Experience

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference Link: How To Photograph Rock Concerts

March 6, 2009

Zoom Zoom!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2009

Auto White Balance Adjustment

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2008

Sunny 16 Rule

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Over the years, some general rules of thumb have been applied to photography. We've talked about the Rule of Thirds in the past. The Sunny 16 Rule gives you the best results when used on a bright sunny day. I know that's silly of me to state it but I wanted to be absolutely clear on the sunny part. Luckily for us, Orlando averages 233 sunny days per year (SOURCE).

Here is the rule: Set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed (in reciprocal seconds) to the ISO setting.

You will need to switch to manual mode to use this rule correctly. Something this rule fails to mention is the sun position. The sun should be behind you and frontlight your subject. The photograph I took below of the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom on a bright, sunny day uses the Sunny 16 Rule. I put my Nikon D70 in manual mode, checked the ISO setting which was at 200 and set my aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to 1/200th of a second (1/ISO).

The Haunted Mansion in bright sun in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Haunted Mansion in bright sun.
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/200s, f/16, 200 ISO, 155mm Focal length

Sometimes, the 1/ISO comes out with a funny shutter speed. In that case, use the closest one to it. Digital SLRs and advanced Point and Shoot cameras have more shutter speeds than the old film cameras the Sunny 16 Rule was first used with. Making it much easier to match up the 1/ISO with a shutter speed.

July 11, 2008

Backlighting

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Backlighting is light illuminating from behind the subject. This is very tough to correctly expose for and causes havoc with your camera's light meter.

If you are outdoors and the light source is the sun, the best way to meter for backlighting is to point your camera to one side of the sun or the other, read what your meter is saying in Auto or Program mode, switch to Manual mode and then set the aperture and shutter speed. This will create a silhouette of the subject. Let me point out that you should never point your camera directly at the sun. In fact, do not have the sun anywhere in the frame when you are metering.

You can also bring out more detail in your subject if, still in manual mode, you open up one or more f-stops. This is what I did in the photo of the male African Lion when taking an early morning Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom. When pointing my lens to one side of the sun, I got an exposure of 1/1600th of a second shutter speed and an aperture of f/16. By opening up one stop to f/11, I brought out more features and color of the lion. Remember, the smaller the f-stop, the larger the lens opening or aperture thus letting in more light to enter when the shutter is pressed.

You may be wondering why the shutter speed is so fast in this case. Let me tell you, those "jeeps" on the safari bounce and rock a lot. So, I increased the camera's ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds. For more on this technique, visit my tips on photographing on a Kilimanjaro Safari.

African Lion on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A male African Lion is backlighted on an early morning Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/1600s, f/11, 800 ISO, EV +0.3, 200mm Focal length

If you can get close enough to your subject either by using a zoom lens or being able to walk up to it, take your meter reading with the subject filling the frame through your viewfinder. Again, set your exposure manually and either zoom out or back away, compose your shot with the light behind your subject and you should get a great photograph.

There will not be a Photographic Innoventions next week as I am taking a vacation to various parts along the Atlantic shore ending up at Magic Meets. I'll be helping Deb Wills out at the AllEars table along with Lisa and attending many events and presentations. See you there or see you back here in two weeks.

July 4, 2008

Sidelighting

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Sidelighting is light illuminating from a 90 degree angle to the subject. This gives an almost three dimensional effect to the subject being photographed. As seen below in this photo of The ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, the sidelighting creates shadows in the restaurant's exterior features showing depth in a two dimensional medium.

The ESPN Club near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sidelight hits The ESPN Club near Disney's Boardwalk Resort giving a 3-D effect.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/800s, f/8, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 200mm Focal length

June 27, 2008

Frontlighting

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Almost as important as the amount of light for a photograph is the direction the light is coming from. In the next three weeks, I'll show you how the direction of light effects your photographs. It doesn't matter what kind of camera you use, light properties and direction remain the same.

Frontlighting is light illuminating the front of a subject. The best kind of outdoor frontlighting is shown below when I captured the Resort Monorail heading to the Magic Kingdom while some anglers fished in the Seven Seas Lagoon. The sun was still low enough not to cast too much of a shadow below the monorail and evenly illuminated it and the fishing boat.

Resort monorail heading to the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Resort Monorail is frontlighted by the morning sun as it heads to the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/800s, f/8, 200 ISO, EV -0.3, 200mm Focal length

A variation of the sunny frontlight is the Overcast Frontlight. This is very nice, soft, even light and brings out colors and textures hard to see in bright sun. The ostrich on Disney's Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safari is a nice example. This was taken on one of the first morning safaris so the sun was behind me when I took this.

Ostrich seen on Disney's Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safari, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Overcast frontlighting as shown by this ostrich on Disney's Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/8, 200 ISO, EV 0, 65mm Focal length

Something you have to be careful of when shooting with overcast skies is to try and keep the sky out of the image as much as possible. The overcast sky acts like a huge light diffuser but is very bright. In the above photo, I wanted the jeep following mine in the picture or I would have framed it with only the ostrich and without the sky.

May 30, 2008

M is for Manual Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Don't get nervous. Manual mode is NOT a mythical mode only for the professional photographer. Manual mode lets you have more control over exposure using your ability to change aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to create a good photograph. The link I will give you at the end of today's article will describe in detail how to use Manual mode. For now, I would like to tell you about a couple of subjects I use Manual mode for. Again, I apologize for having to use non-Walt Disney World images.

The photo you see below was taken last summer as some boaters were cruising on Lake Ontario at sunset. To get a proper exposure without overexposing or blowing out all the bright colors of the sky, I metered the sky just to one side of the setting sun. Metering means I read my camera's exposure using Program mode which gave me an exposure of 1/125s at f/8 for the camera's ISO setting of 200. Once, I got this, I put the camera into Manual mode by moving the Mode Dial to the M position and set the exposure. Being in manual mode, I knew those settings would not change and were correct for the sky. This technique will make anything between the camera and sky into a silhouette which is what I wanted for this picture.

Evening cruise at sunset on Lake Ontario, Oswego, New York
Evening cruise at sunset on Lake Ontario.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/8, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

Another time I put my camera in Manual mode is for capturing images of fireworks. For this technique you need a tripod and a remote shutter release. I set the shutter speed to B which is the Bulb setting. This means once I press the shutter, it stays open until I press it again. This is why you need to use a remote shutter release so as not to shake the camera when pressing the shutter button. I set a small aperture of f/16 to get a large depth of field and keep everything in focus. When I hear a rocket being launched, I press the remote to "trip" the shutter open (means to press the shutter button) and leave it open until the colored streams reach their peak. Then, I trip the shutter closed. In the photo below, this took 5 seconds and I got a couple of other smaller explosions of color as an added bonus.

Fireworks, Baldwinsville, New York
Fireworks during a festival in Baldwinsville, New York.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 5s, f/16, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 38mm Focal Length

Manual mode is not hard to use. It takes some practice and checking your LCD monitors to see if you need to change any of the settings. The histogram is very useful here as well to let you know if you are getting a good exposure.

This link covers in more detail about how to use Manual mode and is a good review for both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes: Master Your dSLR Camera: Manual Mode and More.

May 23, 2008

P for Program Assist

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2008

S is for Speed Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On to top of your digital SLR or advanced Point & Shoot cameras is a Mode Dial. On this dial you will find the main shooting modes to let you take more creative control of your photography. Below is a list with a short decription for each one. For more detailed information, consult your camera's manual.

AUTO or A-DEP - this is an SLR's version of a Point & Shoot mode. It will calculate your exposure for you including the ISO, metering mode, aperture and shutter speed (this may vary by manufacturer).

P for Program - calculates the aperture and shutter speed given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

S or Tv for Shutter Priority - you set the shutter speed manually and the aperture is calculated for you given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

A or Av for Aperture Priority - you set the aperture or f-stop manually and the shutter speed is calculated for you given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

M for Manual - you set both the aperture and shutter speed and take full manual control of all the camera settings. You have to be careful here as some other settings may or may not be affected. Check your camera's manual.

With that little primer finished, I'm going to start with the Shutter Priority (S) Mode and continue a series of entries over the next few weeks to cover the rest. Let's climb right into how to use the S-Mode by looking at this photo from Epcot's Canadian pavilion featuring the Rocky Mountains with a very tall waterfall.

Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot's Canadian pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot's Canadian pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/18, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 28mm Focal Length

I took a few images of this beautiful scene with the late day light striking the top of the mountains and the waterfall cascading down the mountain side. For the first ones, I was in P or Program mode and it kept selecting shutter speeds which froze the water. Made the water look very static and uninteresting. Often when taking pictures of moving objects, like water, you want to show it's motion. The best way to do that is to use a slow shutter speed.

To get the effect you see above, I turned the Mode Dial on my Nikon D70 to S putting it in Shutter Priority mode. I now had control of the shutter speed by turning the command dial (this may be different for your camera so check your manual. Sound like a broken record, don't I?). I took photographs at shutter speeds of 1/60, 1/30, and 1/15 of a second. Each time the camera selected the aperture for me based on the other camera settings (refer to the Exif data below the photo).

I'm sure you have seen other waterfall photographs where even longer shutter speeds were used giving the water an even softer look. Those pictures were taken with shutter speeds over multiple seconds and require a tripod to keep the rest of scene in sharp focus. Something I didn't have with me during this visit to Walt Disney World.

If you are taking pictures of action scenes like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular or Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you may want to use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action. I would start at 1/250 for Indy and 1/500 for Lights, Motors, Action!

For more on the use of shutter speeds, check out some of our past Picture This! entries:

Shutter Speeds and You

Mechanics of Exposure

May 2, 2008

Metering Modes

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

You hear about all kinds of "modes" when you talk about digital photography. There's shooting modes, scene modes and metering modes. The later refers to how your camera meters or "sees" what's in front of it's lens. You see, inside each of our cameras is a light meter. Because it is viewing light reflected from the subject you are pointing your camera at, it's called a reflective light meter.

Reflective light meters are designed to see everything as 18% Gray in color with some variation. That would be fine if you were only taking pictures of gray cards, blue sky, green grass or the back of your hand. This is why when taking pictures of very bright or very dark scenes, your camera's meter gets fooled and you often end up with drab colors as the meter is trying to read everything as 18% gray. Thankfully, we can compensate for this by using the exposure compensation adjustment button found on our cameras.

There are three standard metering modes found on most digital SLRs (and many Point & Shoot cameras may have some or all three) which are Matrix, Center-weighted and Spot. Each works differently so you need to understand them to better use them to your advantage.


Matrix Metering Mode. This is sometimes referred to as evaluative metering. What matrix metering does is take readings from multiple points over the entire scene you are looking at through the viewfinder (refer to graphic on the left). The camera will then use it's internal programming to come up with an appropriate shutter speed and aperture (f/stop) to get a correct exposure. Remember, it's using 18% Gray to come up with that number. Having said that, today's modern digital cameras are very good when using this mode. I use matrix metering in most of my photography. Below is an example of a photo using matrix metering. Notice how Matrix metering trys to balance out the entire scene including the dark shadows behind and the light foliage in front.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Matrix Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length


Center-weighted Metering Mode. This metering mode needs a little explanation. The graphic is showing a large circle in the middle of the scene. When using center-weighted metering, the camera takes 75% of it's exposure data from the circle area and factors in the remaining from the scene outside the circle. I use this mode when I have tricky lighting with telephoto lenses greater than 100mm in focal length. The afternoon parades at Walt Disney World would be a good place to use center-weighted metering with bright Florida sun overhead and shadows moving across the floats and characters. Below is the same scene used for the Matrix example but this time using Center-weighted metering. You'll notice the shutter speed is a bit quicker and the shadow portion a little darker.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Center-weighted Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length


Spot Metering Mode. As the graphic shows, spot metering uses a small area in the center. Somewhere around 2 to 5% of what you see through the viewfinder. When you have very difficult lighting, the ability to measure such a small area is very handy. If you are taking a picture of someone with the light coming from behind them, more often than not, matrix metering would cause that person to be seen as a silhouette. Using spot metering, you can have the camera measure the exposure from the person's face only. Giving you a nice exposed face with rim lighting framing it from the backlighting. Now, where does very tricky lighting occur at Walt Disney World? Many of the shows use spotlights on the performers. Spot metering would be a good way to avoid overexposing them. In the scene used for Matrix and Center-weighted, when using Spot metering, the leaf in the middle is correctly exposed but the part in shadow is very dark.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Spot Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

I hope you can forgive me for not using Disney photos this week. The following links will give you more information on metering modes:

Indroduction to Metering Modes

Camera Metering & Exposure

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.

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!

October 19, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Adding Light to the Sun

Earlier, I showed how the use of software can add light to a badly underexposed photo. What if I told you there was a way to do the same thing using your camera and not having to do any post-processing in software. Would that be worth something to ya?

Looking at the photo below taken at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, you can see that the background and sky are nicely exposed but the subject is in shadow because of the angle fo the sun in relation to the photographer.


Scottwdw (yep, that's me) at Disney's Boardwalk Resort © Scott Thomas Photography 2005
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/250s, f/6.0, 100 ISO, 0 EV

After looking at the image in the camera's LCD, I instructed the photographer (my daughter) to use the camera's flash to fill in the shadows. The result you can view below.


Scottwdw (me, again) at Disney's Boardwalk Resort © Scott Thomas Photography 2005
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/60s, f/6.0, 100 ISO, 0 EV, Flash Used

This technique is called Fill Flash as it fills in shadow and dark areas of a scene with the use of an artificial light source. In this case, the builtin flash on the camera. In digital SLR and advanced Point & Shoot cameras, you may hear the term balanced fill flash as the camera will calculate the amount of flash needed using the amount of light detected by it's light meter. You don't want the flash to overpower the available light but to add just enough to bring out darkened areas like in this example.


Further Reading: While this article talks specifically about Canon equipment, other manufacturer's cameras work in a simliar fashion. Fill-in flash use with EOS cameras and speedlites

October 5, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Create a Disney Christmas Card

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Chistmas Mickey & Minnie. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/25s, f/4.5, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

There are many ways to use our photos. Enlarge and frame them for our homes or give photographic gift items like magnets, t-shirts or buttons. With the advent of digital photography and the Internet, you can create online digital albums and slideshows complete with music. Many people think ahead and take unique family photographs and create holiday cards to send to family and friends.

This year, I wanted to use one of my photos taken last year during Mousefest in Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. The figurine of Mickey holding misletoe over Minnie as she is closing in to give him a kiss was a delightful one I couldn't resist. I used available light in the shoppe and got close with the 80-200 zoom lens on my camera. Your feet is your best zoom lens. This allowed me to use the widest aperture and shortest focal length of the lens to get the most light onto the camera's sensor and blurring the busy background of people passing by the shop window.

Many photo software packages today have ways to create and order prints, cards, postcards and other items. I used Apple's iPhoto to place the photo on the front of the Christmas card. I liked this layout with the angled image, old English font for the text and simple blue border. Inside is a place for more text and pictures. From there it was a simple click to order the quantity I wanted.

September 14, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Color of Light

Not all light is pure white and will have a certain color temperature. Engineers express this in degrees Kelvin which you might have used in your high school physics or chemistry classes. Our eyes see color temperature as color casts like blue, green or red. Have you ever taken a picture and have it look bluish or greenish when you see it just fine? That is because your camera's White Balance setting sees color temperatures. Our brain "knows" what color you are looking at so it adjusts for color temperatures that are not too extreme. Digital cameras are getting better automatically adjusting white balance with each new model but they are not there yet.

What do we do to get the right color? Digital camera designers and engineers have given us several ways to adjust the white balance and even fine tune it. Depending on your camera, look up white balance settings in the manual. You should see similiar settngs as these with a brief description: Auto or AWB, Incandescent (sometimes referred to as Tungsten or Indoor), Daylight or Sunny, Cloudy, Flash, Shade and Fluorescent. On the camera itself, these different settings are represented by icons. You may want to copy this information and carry it with you for reference. Those icons can get confusing. On most digital SLRs, you can also fine tune these settings further. On my Nikon D70, I can adjust plus or minus up to 3. For example, I often use Auto -3, which gives me very vivid colors, especially reds and yellows. It can sometimes give me too much red as evidenced below in my photo of Ariel during the Voyage of the Little Mermaid stage show at the Disney-MGM Studios. Not only is her hair a flaming red so is her skin!

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Ariel with bad white balance setting. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/5.6, 640 ISO, -1 EV, 150mm Focal Length

Another photographer, Mark Barbieri, shows us how to set the white balance correctly. Notice Ariel's skin color is what we see during the show and how I expect the Disney Imagineers wanted us to see her. I'd like to thank Mark for allowng me to use this photograph.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Mark Barbieri
Ariel with good white balance setting. © Mark Barbieri

As always, you should practice using each of the white balance settings. For instance, the Shade white balance setting will warm up colors in a scene as shade looks bluish to a camera. That doesn't mean you have to use it in shade, it will warm up a sunset just as nicely. Investigate how others are using their white balance settings on the camera you own. Photography forums have lots of information on creative uses of white balance.

Further Reading: How to Set White Balance

August 24, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Introducing The Histogram

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 20mm Focal Length

Don't go away! Histograms are not hard to understand. They are a great tool for us digital photographers to know, at a glance, if the picture we just took is well exposed. No more being disappointed when we see the photos on our large computer screens that looked so good on the camera's little LCD. If you are not sure if your camera is able to show a histogram, check its manual.


Simply put, a histogram is a graph that displays how light is distributed in your picture. The left side of the graph represents the shadows (dark areas), while the highlights (light areas) are on the right. Remember bell curves from your old math or statistical classes? Rarely does a histogram from a photo take on the look of a perfect bell curve but the principal is the same. You do not want to see the curve bunch up to either side or get cut off which is referred to as a clipped histogram. A clipped histogram to either the left (dark) or right (light) side is something to be avoided. In the histogram example shown here, while there is a spike on the dark side, it is not clipped and falls off before the edge. The spike can be seen in the dark upper portions of the image.

By taking a photograph and looking at the histogram my camera shows me, I can tell if I have overexposed (histogram pushed to the right side or cut off) portions or all of the image. From there, I can adjust my exposure using the exposure compensation button. I may need to change the ISO setting if the histogram is showing a very underexposed (everything pushed or cut off on the left side of the graph) to increase the sensor's light sensitivity moving the histogram towards the center.

Take this entry's photo from the Disney-MGM Studios Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. I had to be quick with this shot as the car flu over the ramp faster than I was ready for. Checking the LCD image afterwards, I felt it looked good. Once I saw the well-distributed histogram, I was confident it was good.

As you can tell, the histogram is an excellent way to see if you have the exposure you are looking for quickly and easily.

Further Reading: I highly recommend this article on histograms: Understanding Your Digital Camera's Histogram.

August 17, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Dialing in Digital Exposure


Negative Exposure Compensation of -0.3 EV.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f5.6, 200 ISO

Positive Exposure Compensation of +0.3 EV.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/50s, f5.6, 200 ISO

Exposure Compensation allows you to adjust the exposure measured by the camera's light meter and telling the camera to allow more light in (positive exposure compensation) or less light in (negative exposure compensation). On your digital SLR camera, look for a +/- button to press to adjust exposure compensation. By making it negative, zero or postive in 1/3 (0.3) or 1/2 (0.5) intervals, you "dial" in the exposure for the photograph. As you change the exposure compensation, your camera will change it's shutter speed or aperture. Sometimes, even both, as you alter how the camera's light meter is "seeing" the subject you are pointing at.

In the two photos of the Research Station camp taken on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, the one on the left has a -0.3 EV (EV is the standard way of indicating exposure compensation) giving a rich color to the green foliage and detail in the rock face. The shutter speed of 1/125s freezes the waterfall. The photo on the right has a +0.3 EV, see how the contrast is heightened and some of the objects near the front of the tent get "blown out", which means the loss of detail, as the shutter speed decreased to 1/50s. Some of the shadowy areas now have details and the waterfall has a whispy look. The rule of thumb is to expose for the highlights, the brightest part of the scene, which is what I did in the photo on the left.

How do you know which exposure is best? You don't really, you pick the one you like the best. For me, I try not to get any blown out areas in my photos. This is not always possible. I hedge my bets by bracketing the exposures. Bracketing is taking one photo each at a negative compensation, a zero compensation and a postive compensation. Most digital cameras today can be set to auto-bracket and take a series of 3 to 5 photographs in a single shutter release.

Quick Tip: Do you know how much exposure compensation range your camera has? My Nikon D70 can go plus(+) or minus(-) up to 5 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 intervals. Don't be afraid to go as high or low as you need to capture the photograph.

August 10, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Light Sensitivity

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Spaceship Earth. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/10s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -1 EC, 135mm Focal Length

Many people have sent in questions about how to get good low-light and night photography pictures at Walt Disney World. The key is to get enough light to your digital camera's sensor to record a well exposed image. You can do this a couple of ways. Use a tripod and increase the shutter speed or increase your camera's sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive the sensor becomes and less light needed to record an image. Instead of using a tripod at ISO 100, you can dial in a higher setting like 400, 800 or 1600 and get a faster shutter speed. Thus, letting you hand hold in low light or in getting fast action shots like themepark rides, children playing or sporting events.

Epcot's Spaceship Earth is a favorite subject of many photographers during the day but, at night, the geodesic sphere takes on a surreal quality. To successfully show this, I increased my ISO setting to 1600. This is the highest my camera, a Nikon D70, can go. There are digital cameras today that go as high as 3200 ISO. I still needed a steady hand, propped elbows on a fence and a vibration reduction lens to shoot at 1/10s. To increase my chances of getting a great photo, I took a series of them with this being the best of the lot.

Shooting at such high ISO settings does bring about an increase in noise. Noise looks like color speckles and is noticed in uniform colors like the black sky in the Spaceship Earth photo. While it is a concern in digital photography, noise is a lot less apparent then with high ISO films. Those would show large grain in the processed prints. There are many software products available to reduce any noise which does creep into our photos.

Obviously, the less noise the better so, the lower the ISO, the finer the images your camera will produce. Check out your camera's manual to see how you can change the ISO and how high and low the settings are.

Quick Tip: Some digital cameras have an Auto ISO Setting. My Nikon D70 does and it allows me to let the camera pick the best ISO for the available light. This comes in handy as the light changes throughout the day into night or going in and out of buildings and rides at Walt Disney World.

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 20, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Exif Photo Data

What do all those numbers mean under our pictures?

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Disney's Yacht Club Resort Lighthouse.. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EC, 26mm Focal Length (Exif Data Line)

One of the first comments we received was to include some of the Exif (Exchangeable Image File) format information with the photographs we were using in the Picture This! blog. We decided to standardize this information so it's in the same place and format each time. Using the picture of Disney's Yacht Club Resort Lighthouse, here is the explanation of the Exif data line:

Nikon D70/18-200VR (Camera Make and Model / Lens Used (if applicable))
1/500s (Shutter Speed Used in Seconds)
f/11 (Aperture or f-stop Used)
200 ISO (ISO Setting Used)
-0.3 EC (Exposure Compensation or Bias Used)
26mm Focal Length (If known, this is the Focal Length when a Zoom lens is being used)

All of this information plus much more is attached to a digital image when you press the shutter release to take a picture. Not all of this information is available for every image you will see but we will always try to give you the Camera Make and Model, Shutter Speed and Aperture. In upcoming blog entries, I'll be defining and explaining each of these Exif terms.

Somethng else you may find helpful is, if you click on an image, you'll get a larger image if the author has one available. Try it on the picture above.

July 13, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Mechanics of Exposure

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Cinderella topiary at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EC, 18mm Focal Length

In digital photography, exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on to an image sensor. It's really quite simple even though there's a lot of science and engineering behind how your camera does it. I leave that to the engineers and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

In the time ahead, I will be going more in-depth into the photographic terms of exposure and how they effect our photographs. These terms are: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO (or Sensor Sensitivity) and Exposure Compensation.

Aperture is how wide the lens' iris is opened. Like your eye, a lens has an iris. You can tell how wide it is by the f-stop number. Those funny numbers you see on your lens or through your viewfinder often designated with an f/ in front of them. In the photo of a topiary taken during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, the aperture setting is f/11. The lower the number, the wider the aperture is and the more light is transmitted through the lens. Reciprocally, the higher the number, the less light comes through. Aperture controls the zone of focus or depth of field in your images and can be used in very creative ways.

Shutter Speed is how long the camera's shutter stays open to expose it's sensor to the subject being photographed. Most of the time it's just a short fraction of a second. The photo above used a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. The dimmer the light, the longer the shutter speed is to get a well-exposed picture. Low light and night photography can sometimes take seconds or minutes to capture a scene. For fast action like children playing or theme park rides, you'll want to use fast shutter speeds like 1/500th or faster to capture the action. Playing with various shutter speeds is a lot of fun!

ISO is how sensitive your digital camera's sensor is to light. You want to use the lowest ISO you can to get shootable apertures and shutter speeds. The higher or faster, as it is referred to, ISO number, the more sensitive your sensor is to light. With a lot of light available, the topiary image was taken with an ISO of 200. As day turns into night, I will increase my ISO from 200 to as high as 1600. This does increase what's called noise (they look like little specs) into the images. Unlike film, the noise is not nearly as bad as film grain was and there are software products available, which can clean up most of the noise.

Exposure Compensation or Bias is a way for digital photographers to dial in their exposure. Most digital SLR and some advanced Point & Shoot cameras have an exposure compensation button which allows you to do slight adjustments to your cameras image sensor. Usually in one half to one third intervals, this little button can make the difference between an image with too light or too dark areas into a properly exposed gem. In this blog's photo, I made a slight -1/3 (or -0.3) adjustment to keep from over exposing or "blowing out" the light background behind the topiary.

For an excellent book on this subject, I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure which has been updated for digital photography.

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About Exposure

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

Equipment is the previous category.

Flash is the next category.

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