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April 21, 2017

Eliminating Distracting Backgrounds at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2017

Photographing Disney Statues in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that not better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Artisans at Work

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in 2011, I had the pleasure of photographing the famed Disney character artist, Don "Ducky" Williams, during the "Everything's Just Ducky!" 15th Annversary AllEars.net Event in Epcot's Odyssey restaurant. He talked for nearly an hour all the while producing sketch portraits of Disney characters. It was a joy to watch a person who clearly loved his job. So much so that he keeps showing up years after his "retirement".

Don 'Ducky' Williams, famed Disney character artist, with a finished a portrait of Ariel during an event in Epcot's Odyssey restaurant, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Don "Ducky" Williams, famed Disney character artist, with a finished a portrait of Ariel during an event in Epcot's Odyssey restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 2500, EV 0, 200mm Focal Length, Bounced Flash.

Ducky makes the perfect person for the Disney Pic of the Week about Artisans at Work.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Artisan photo which will really blow you away.

October 7, 2016

Partners and the Crane at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

July 8, 2016

A Dapper Dan Close Up on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Remember...closer means better.

December 11, 2015

Celebrating 20 Years of All Ears

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: All Ears 20th Anniversary

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Attended the All Ears Net/Mouse Fan Travel Anniversary Adventure inside the rotunda of the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase. Surrounded by lovely holiday garland and wreaths, me and a couple hundred guests enjoyed a buffet and special holiday performance of the Voices of Liberty, an a cappella group, singing Christmas Carols from around the World.

Voices of Liberty perform during the All Ears 20th Anniversary event in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
All Ears fans and guests enjoy a performance of the Voices of Liberty during the All Ears 20th Anniversary event in the American Adventure.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length bounce flash.

As always, Deb and her crew put on a wonderful event.


June 19, 2015

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

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 16, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Cast Costumes Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Not sure if I am supposed to use entertainment Cast Members but I am. Main Street USA is my second favorite place to find, interact and photograph Streetmosphere cast members. You have characters like the Mayor, Town Councilors and, if you are lucky, you can meet a Suffragette (think Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins).

Each one of them are in costumes fitting the time period of Main Street USA. Including this Town Councilor who was looking to get my vote for his upcoming election.

Town councilor greeting people on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Town councilor greeting people on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 32mm focal length, Fill Flash.

Deb will be here tomorrow no doubt showing you a real Cast Member at the Magic Kingdom.

April 10, 2015

Disney Food Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3, 2015

Adding Light to the Stars in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2014

Meeting Talking Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have not waited in line to visit with a Disney character in a long, long time. If one happens to be standing by oneself, I will stop, converse and take a photo or two. There is one which I will wait for...Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Not only do you get to meet Mickey, you also get to have a talk with the Big Cheese.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2800, EV 0, 40mm focal length, bounced flash.

The technology which allows Mickey to talk is sensational. While not truely interactive like Crush over in Epcot, he does his best to carry on a conversation based on who is meeting with him.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, bounced flash.

After my wife had her photo and we had ours together, I stepped in for a Bro shot with my favorite Mouse.

Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Meeting talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, bounced flash, cropped.

Using FastPass+ makes meeting Mickey Mouse a fun experience without having to wait in a long line or having to change plans walking around the parks.

I gave my camera over to the Disney Photopass person on duty with everything preset. I had my flash unit pointed upwards to bounce the light off the ceiling. For more on using flash, click here: How to Use Bounce Flash.

September 5, 2014

Epcot Night Portrait

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ever wonder how the Disney PhotoPass Cast Members get those night photos of people in front of Walt Disney World icons? It is not very hard IF you use the right equipment. You will need a flash, a tripod or an Image Stablized Lens and patient subjects.

For the night portrait below, I did not have my tripod with me so I hand held the camera at 1/15th of a second and dragged the shutter to build up the light of Spaceship Earth and Innovention Fountains behind the couple. I instructed them to stay very still until the flash went off.

Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

By using a tripod, I could have lowered the ISO but the shutter speed would have been longer. Making it harder for the subjects to stay still this late at night. If you do this around sunset, you will get even better results at faster shutter speeds.

January 31, 2014

Photographing Inside the Be Our Guest Restaurant

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Be Our Guest Restaurant located in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom is indeed magical. It is like stepping onto real world movie sets for a live version of Beauty and the Beast. Complete with the grey stuff and it is delicious.

For a photographer, the dining rooms are not the best lighted. They are dark in keeping with the ambiance of a restaurant. Our eyes see fine but our cameras need a little help. For me, that meant using a high ISO to increase the sensitivity of my camera's sensor to pick up the dim light and the use of Rear-sync flash (sometimes called second curtain) where the flash is fired at the end of the exposure. This helps to gather background details which using regular flash would make almost completely dark.

Ballroom diningroom inside the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ballroom dining room inside the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/50s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length, rear sync flash.

This is where rear-sync flash comes in particularly handy. Photographing people in a darkened environment like the Be Our Guest dining rooms, it properly exposes them while still showing the beautiful Ballroom dining room in the background.

Guests inside the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests inside the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/50s, f/8, ISO 5600, EV 0, 24mm focal length, rear sync flash.

No flash needed here as there was enough light on a rainy day to give nice moody and naturally vignetted light on the stained glass window in the foyer of the Be Our Guest restaurant.

Stained glass window outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Stained glass window outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nikon D700/24-85G, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

If you have not given Rear Sync a try, look it up in your camera's manual. You will be surprised at the results you can get especially when it comes to events such as weddings and parties or vacations with darkened rooms for dining where a Beast may be lurking.

February 22, 2013

Vacation Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

October 5, 2012

Tower of Terror 10 Miler at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.


January 28, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 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

August 13, 2010

Photographing Disney Food

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 21, 2010

Indoor Tour of World Showcase, Part 2

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is still raining so we will continue our tour around World Showcase and continue in the clockwise direction.

Next up is the American Adventure. There is a lot of photograph inside the World Showcase host pavilion. The Voices of Liberty perform before the show, the American Heritage Gallery and the American Adventure theatre and show. When proceeding to the theater, you ride escalators or hike up a set of stairs through the Hall of Flags. Above you is hung a collection of the flags that have flown over the United States in all of its forms. It includes Revolutionary War flags, Colonial flags, and foreign flags that once had claim to the land. There are 44 flags in all.

There are 44 flags in the Hall of Flags you pass under to see the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
There are 44 flags in the Hall of Flags you pass under to see the American Adventure.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +1.0, 18mm focal length

In looking through my Disney photo library, I came up short on an indoor photo for Japan. A quick search of my flickr contacts found not many of them had them either. Then I came across this photo taken in the Japan pavilion by Scott Rison who graciously is allowing me to use it here. Scott has recently started a flickr group called Disney's Human Element with the goal of showing what really makes Disney special.... its people.

Scott explains his photo this way, "In Japan's Pick-A-Pearl area, there is already a bit of excitement in what kind of jewel you'll discover (of course you'll get a pearl... but there's also size and color to consider). But to really make you feel like you've come across the "Crème de la Crème", the Cast Member plays a little ditty to celebrate your accomplishment."

A Pick-A-Pearl Cast Member celebrates a guest finding a pearl in Japan's pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Pick-A-Pearl Cast Member celebrates a guest finding a pearl in Japan's pavilion.
Canon Rebel T1i, 1/160s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 32mm focal length

The Brass Bazaar is one of the shops you will find in the Morocco pavilion. These shops remind me of the beginning of Aladdin with all kinds of pottery, jewelry, brass, baskets, clothing, carpets and, of course, lamps. You'll find lots of textures, patterns and shapes to photograph. Lighting is good but I still needed a slow shutter speed for a proper exposure.

Shopping in the Brass Bazaar in Epcot's World Showcase Morocco pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Shopping in the Brass Bazaar in the Morocco pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 640, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

This side of Epcot seems to have more shops than indoor attractions. France does have a movie but that's hard to photograph with my equipment. Instead, I found the classic souvenir of France: a scale model of the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower souvenirs in the Souvenirs de France shop in France's Epcot World Showcase pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Eiffel Tower souvenirs in the Souvenirs de France shop in France.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/10s, f/4.2, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 34mm focal length

Rugby is a huge sport in the United Kingdom. Fans are rabid about it. When I visited England a few years ago, ruby fields were as common as football fields are in the United States. One of the things travel photographers look for in a culture is the sports they play. I bounced my speedlight, a Nikon SB-600, flash off the ceiling of The Toy Story store to soften the light and shadows.

Rugby balls and sweaters in The Toy Soldier shop in the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rugby balls and sweaters in The Toy Soldier shop in the United Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, bounce flash

Now we come to the last World Showcase pavilion on our tour, Canada. Again, there is a store and a Circle-Vision movie but not much else indoors. Ah, but if you happen to have reservations at Le Cellier, Canada's restaurant, you will see a Canadian Cast Member come out to call your name when your table is ready. Enjoy the cheese soup!

A Cast Member coming out to call out a party's name to eat at Le Cellier in the Canadian pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Cast Member coming out to call out a party's name to eat at Le Cellier.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 220, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

Hope you have enjoyed our tour around Epcot's World Showcase and how to make a rainy day into a many photographic opportunities.


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

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.

August 14, 2009

2009 MagicMeets Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

All Ears photographer Linda E pulls a lucky number with the help of Mary Poppins during the Meet before the Magic reception the night before MagicMeets, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
All Ears photographer Linda E pulls a lucky number with the help of Mary Poppins during the Meet Before the Magic reception the night before MagicMeets.



Surprise and suprised celebrity contestant, Jill, gets an assist from Deb Wills of AllEars.net during the Magic-Tunes game the night before MagicMeets in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Surprise and surprised celebrity contestant, Jill, gets an assist from Deb Wills of AllEars.net during the Magic-Tunes game the night before MagicMeets.



All Ears founder, Deb Wills, poses next to her poster of the Flying Dutchman before MagicMeets on Saturday, August 8, 2009, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

All Ears founder, Deb Wills, poses next to her poster of the Flying Dutchman sold as a fund raiser at MagicMeets 2009.



Guests enter MagicMeets on Saturday, August 8, 2009, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania while Fred Block looks on.

Guests enter MagicMeets while Fred Block looks on.



A young MagicMeets attendee admires the Minnie and Me dress set during the Dream Team Auction.

A young MagicMeets attendee admires the Minnie and Me dress set during the Dream Team Auction.



A father helps his son draw Mickey Mouse in the Kid's Room at MagicMeets in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

A father helps his son draw Mickey Mouse in the Kid's Room at MagicMeets.



All Ears feature writer, Michelle, doing some audio tweeting at MagicMeets in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

All Ears feature writer, Michelle, doing some audio tweeting at MagicMeets.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the 2009 MagicMeets weekend. I'll be taking the next couple of weeks off from blogging. As Mickey would say, "See ya real soon!".

April 17, 2009

More on Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2008

Indoor Flash Photography Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographic Innoventions: Bounce Flash

Photographic Innoventions: More Bouncing Light

November 14, 2008

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ready for Christmas yet? Shopping all done? Gifts wrapped? Yeah, me neither. Here is something you can start doing at Walt Disney World today. Taking pictures of the fabulous Christmas decorations in the themeparks and resorts. With more coming by the end of November with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Christmas parades and special events held all through the holiday season.

Planet Hollywood restaurant sign in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
How best to capture the millions of lights Disney Imagineers use is our topic for today and I have a some tips for you. Let's start with something people often overlook as it gets dark so early in November and December. Take photos of lighting displays during the magic hour after sunset when the sky and lights become balanced. Though it's not a Christmas display, the photo of the Planet Hollywood sign demonstrates what I am talking about here. I used AWB (Automatic White Balance) here while others will say to switch to a Tungsten or Incandescent white balance for best results. A tripod would be useful but I get good results shooting down to a quarter second (1/4s) with image stabilized lenses. The key is to wait for the sky and lights to come together. Keep taking shots until you start to see the results you are looking for. The provided link will go into more detail.

Now you are saying to yourself, who has time to wait for the light at Disney besides it's mostly full night when you are there. The lights are so pretty, there's got to be a way to photograph them. Well, you are right. Below is a technique you can use called "Dragging the Shutter". This technique is used a lot in wedding photography to allow for room lighting to be seen instead of stark dark backgrounds in large banquet halls.

Christmas Donald Duck Topiary in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/30s, f/4.5, ISO 400, +0.6 EV, 46mm Focal length

On camera and external flash are normally synced at shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. When you use a flash and purposely use shutter speeds below the normal flash sync speed, it allows more time for ambient light to be captured by the camera's sensor. This gives a more pleasing and natural look to the photograph as you see on the right hand photo of the Donald Duck topiary I took at Epcot during Mousefest 2006. Both photos were taken the same way except for the use of flash. This can also be called Slow Sync in your camera manuals.

Using flash for photos of large areas is not practical. For best results, we have to use long shutter speeds (of less than 1/60th of a second), high ISO speeds of 800 or greater and find a way to stabilize our cameras. In the photo of Main Street USA, I was able to do all three.

Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA all decked out for Christmas, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA all decked out for Christmas.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/20s, f/4.2, ISO 1600, +0.3 EV, 35mm Focal length

As you can see, I am using a very high ISO of 1600 (my camera's highest available), a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second and I stabilized the camera by leaning against a garbage can and using my elbows to form a human tripod. I took several images to make sure I had a few which would come out sharp. If I had a real tripod, I could have used even slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures but I'll leave that discussion for another time.

By using these tips both at Disney or at home, your Christmas light photography will make your friends and family envious of your talents. Click this link for more tips on capturing the spirit of Christmas photographically. That's my gift to all of you!

April 4, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: More Bouncing Light

Last week, I went over how to use an external flash unit or speedlight to bounce it's light to improve on flash photography. We learned to vastly improve the look of the classic straight on flash look. Very easy if you have a ceiling less than 20 feet high. However, if you are having breakfast at Chef Mickey's where the ceiling is hundreds of feet above you or in Ragland Road where the ceiling and walls are very dark, bouncing the flash is not practical.

In those situations, I turn to my handy, dandy LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer to help me bounce my flash onto my subjects. The LumiQuest Pocket Bouncer comes with Velcro which sticks to the sides of a speedlight for easy attaching and detaching. You can see the Velcro below in the picture of the flash at 0 degrees. To demonstrate, I am, again, being assisted by my lovely model, Shirley, who is still wearing those stylish Golden Mickey Mouse Ears.


No Flash Bounce

Flash at 0 degrees
Again, here's the typical look of the straight on flash. Harsh light, flat features, washed out colors and shadows haloing poor Shirley. If Shirley was a live model who had hair, you might also see the red eye effect.

LumiQuest Pocket Bouncer

Flash with LumiQuest Bouncer
Using the LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer, you see how the light becomes softer and Shirley's features and color come back. Since the Pocket Bouncer deflects some light at the subject, shadows under the eyes and nose are not a problem.

The LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer sends a lot more light at your subjects then bouncing off a ceiling or wall. To compensate, adjust the flash to fire at a lesser intensity. Read your flash's manual to see how this is done. With the Nikon SB-600, I set the compensation to -1.0 to start and adjust from there. Be careful to first set your camera's onboard flash compensation to zero. If you don't, the effect will be cumulative. Adding or subjecting from what you set the flash at.

March 28, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Bounce Flash

Many photographers don't like to use flash. After learning all the ways of exposure, ISO settings and the use of the exposure compensation button, flash poses another learning curve. I'm here to tell you, learning to use flash is not hard and can give you another tool for getting professional-looking photos at home and in the Disney parks. I know what you are thinking, you can't use flash at many of Disney's shows and attractions. That is true but don't forget there are many places were flash can be used like restaurants, resorts, character meets and meals, and outdoor photography.

Before we get started, I would like to you meet my model, Shirley. Shirley doesn't get out much as she's been living in a box for the last 10 years. However, when I came up with the idea to do a blog entry on bounce flash, she was the first model that came to mind. Since this is a Disney blog, I let Shirley model some Golden Mickey Mouse Ears.


No Flash Bounce

Flash at 0 degrees
Here's the typical look of the straight on flash. Harsh light, flat features, washed out colors and shadows haloing the subject. Not a very flattering look for Shirley. If Shirley was a live model, you might also see the red eye effect.

45 degree Flash Bounce

Flash at 45 degrees
When you invest in a flash for your digital SLR, make sure the head of the flash can be adjusted both up and down and side to side. This allows you to bounce the flash off of ceilings and walls. This softens the harsh light as it spreads out from the surface it hits. By putting the flash at an angle of 45 degrees, you can see Shirley's facial features and color return. As an added bonus, the ears of the hat are now seen clearly as light is coming from above.

90 degree Flash Bounce

Flash at 90 degrees
To soften the flash even more, angle the flash a full 90 degrees. This spreads out the light even more. You can see the different light direction in the Mickey Mouse ears. The only issue I have with this one and the 45 degree angled photo is the shadow under Shirley's eyes. If you subject had on a baseball cap (which many young people wear these days), it would be really hard to see the person's eyes.

90 degree Flash Bounce with card

Flash at 90 degrees with bounce card
Many of the flash units, also called speedlights, have a small white tab that can be extended out from the flash's head. This will deflect some light in your subject's direction. If the subject is a person or animal, you'll get pleasant specular highlights or catch lights in their eyes. My flash does not have this tab so I used a white piece of cardboard and attached it with a rubber band. You can see how Shirley's features are still there and the shadow under her eyes have disappeared.

I have to warn you to look out for colored surfaces. The light of the flash will pick up the color. The best ones to use are white surfaces or shades of grey. Next week I'll show you how to handle bounce flash when you are outdoors or have no light surfaces to use.

Further Reading: Here's some more great articles on bouncing your flash.

Bounce Flash

Lighting tip - 4 ways to bounce a flash

Take better flash photos in one easy step

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

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About Flash

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

Exposure is the previous category.

Focus is the next category.

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