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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.

June 10, 2016

Nikon Picture Spots at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2016

Narrow Your Focus at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Another way to improve your photos at Walt Disney World and elsewhere is to use Selective Focus (click this link for details on how to create it). Most people try to put the foreground subject in sharp focus with this method. One can also put the foreground in soft focus and let the subject in the "back" of the frame be in sharp focus. People viewing such an image will gravitate to the area of sharp focus. Another way a photographer can control how an image is viewed.

The three ovens in Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The three ovens in Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 400, EV +0.7.

Notice how the unfocused area leads the eyes to the three ovens in the Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot's Italy pavilion. Here is some trivia for you. The ovens are named after volcanos in Italy. They are from left to right: Stromboli, Vesuvio and Etna.

Using my favorite lens, the Nifty-Fifty, I can even create an out of focus vignette if you have enough foreground and background elements like the photo of a Mickey Mouse golf ball found in a basket of golf balls at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Disney Springs.

Mickey Mouse golf ball at the World of Disney store in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse golf ball selectively focused on at the World of Disney Store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 220, EV +0.3.

Selectively focusing on subjects is a fun way to give your photography a boost.

April 15, 2016

More Topiaries from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22, 2015

Foreground Objects at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

More on Aperture this week with a pinch of composition.

I am going to guess most of the time the subject you are photographing is in front of something. Have you ever tried putting something in front of the subject?

During last year's Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, a temporary entertainment location was put in next to the Morocco pavilion. When I looked over at Morocco's Katoubia Minaret Prayer Tower from the location, I saw it through the flags which were strung overhead. I liked the composition of a repeating element (the flags) in front of the tower.

Katoubia Minaret prayer tower behind flags in Morocco's World Showcase pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Katoubia Minaret Prayer Tower behind flags in Morocco.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 250, EV 0, 40mm Focal Length

To keep the close flags and the far away tower in focus, I used a large Aperture number (f/16) to give me a large focus area or depth of field.

I was a little late setting up to photograph Illuminations at Epcot and had to settle for an obstructed view. I decided to take advantage and used a fellow photographer's camera in the foreground.

A photographer's camera sits on a tripod during Illuminations fireworks at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A photographer's camera sits on a tripod during Illuminations fireworks.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 17s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length, Tripod.

In this case, because I was so close to the foreground object and using a smaller Aperture number (f/9) thus a smaller focus area, the camera on the tripod is not in focus as the subject is the fireworks. I still feel this works because you can tell it is a camera and the fireworks over the long exposure time of 17 seconds gives it interest.

April 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.

January 23, 2015

Using Hyperfocus at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

If you look at any travel magazines or websites, you will notice many of the photos showing such exotic places as tropical beaches, snowy mountain peaks or colorful cities are in focus over the entire image. I refer to it as getting everything in focus from the front (bottom) to the back (top). To get such photos, photographers employ the technique of Hyperfocal Distance or Hyperfocus. I tend to use the latter name as I think it is cooler.

If you read up on Hyperfocus, you will come across charts full of numbers and diagrams. If you are into Landscape Photography, I encourage you to learn how to use those tools. For the purpose of photographing while visiting a Disney themepark, I much prefer a simpler way.

A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

By setting the aperture to f/16 or smaller, focusing on an object about one-third (1/3) into the lower part of the frame when looking through the camera's viewfinder, you will get everything in front of the object AND behind it in focus. It many not look like it through the viewfinder but will once you review the photo on the camera's LCD screen. That is what I did in the photo above of the Friendship boat leaving the dock in front of the Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. I focused on the front windshield of the boat which is approximately one third into the frame.

Besides landscapes, another good use of hyperfocus at a Disney themepark or any tourist location, is photographing people in front of an interesting background. I know until I learned how to use hyperfocus, I had many photos of people in focus posing in front of Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth while the park icons behind them were not.

People in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

By placing the people's faces about one third into the frame and setting the aperture to f/18, I have them and Cinderella Castle in sharp focus. When I am looking to use Hyperfocus, I switch my camera to Aperture Priority Mode and select a small aperture. The camera will then select the shutter speed and ISO to use. Be careful of the shutter speed, if it gets to slow, you may need to use a tripod or Da Grip to hold your camera steady.

Here are more blog posts about Hyperfocus:

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World

Hyper-Hollywood

You can practice using hyperfocus at home by placing objects in the foreground with an interesting background. Review the photos on a computer screen to check the results.

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.

May 16, 2014

Off to a Galaxy Far, Far Away at Disney's Hollyood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Imperial Storm Trooper patrols the enterance to Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imperial Storm Trooper patrols the enterance to Disney's Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 160mm focal length.

Scott is off this week visiting his friends from a Galaxy Far, Far Away during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. May the Force Be with Him so he can return next week with new photographic adventures to share.

You can follow Scott on his Twitter account at Scottwdw where he will be posting photos and other information during his trip.

March 7, 2014

Photographing in the World of Disney Store

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The World of Disney store at Downtown Disney Marketplace is as exciting to photograph in as one of the parks. Especially, if you put a Nifty-Fifty (50mm f/1.8) lens on your dSLR camera. There are all kinds of subjects and compositions to discover while other members of your party do the heavy-duty work of buying Disney souvenirs and clothing. Which reminds me. Do not forget to include them in the fun.

A young woman hugs Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Young woman hugs Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Not into photographing people? You will find plenty of mannequins modeling the latest in Disney clothing and Vera Bradley purses for your photographing pleasure.

A mannequin modeling the latest in Disney Vera Bradley purses in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A mannequin modeling the latest in Disney Vera Bradley purses in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Do not forget when using a Nifty-Fifty, its ability to separate foreground or background elements when shooting it wide open at f/1.8. You might find Goofy all decked out for winter through a very familiar shape.

Goofy sweater design as seen through a Mickey shape in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Goofy sweater design as seen through a Mickey shape in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1100, EV +0.3.

Like the parks, you do have to be patient when buying your Disney goodies at checkout. Luckily for you, you can spend the time capturing the experience.

Checkout sign in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Marketplace, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Checkout sign in the World of Disney store.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 1250, EV +0.3.

Click this link more about the Nifty-Fifty lenses: Nifty-Fifty Explained

February 21, 2014

Sunny Day at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Walking back from breakfast to my room at the Dolphin Resort last Fall, I stopped and watched the comings and goings of the Friendship boats. It was a typical beautiful day in central Florida filled with warm sunshine and blue skies. Something living in the northeastern United States, as I do, is still months away. I know I am a bit weary of this year's winter and wanted to remind myself it will get better or, at least, get me to start planning my next trip to Walt Disney World.

An early morning departure for guests on a Friendship boat leaving the dock of the Swan and Dolphin Resort complex at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A Friendship boat leaving the dock of the Swan and Dolphin Resort complex.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 450, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Remember, to get sharp focus from the front to back in your photographs, use a small aperture like I did here. f/16 or f/22 is usually good enough. If you have Scenes to choose from on your camera, select the Landscape scene to get this kind of result.

January 24, 2014

Photographing Carsland Details in Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2013

New Fantasyland, New Photo Opportunities

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

June 28, 2013

Ceremonial Canoe in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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 26, 2013

Photographing Details at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney parks are known for many things. Attention to detail and incorporating detail is one of them. Focusing on the little details at a busy tourist attraction like Walt Disney World is one way to get photos which do not include people.

Taking a stroll down Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I came upon probably the only Ford vehicle on property. It is a yellow taxi in front of the Disney Vacation Club location. I got down low and opened up my aperture wide open to selectively focus on the car's grill where the manufacturer's logo was found.

The chrome grill of a yellow texi parked on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The chrome grill of a yellow texi in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/3200s, f/5, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 32mm focal length.

Another detail Disney is famous for are Hidden Mickeys which Disney Imagineers design into attractions, restaurants, resorts and just about anything. This address plaque, found in the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, was pointed out to me by a Hidden Mickey fan.

Hidden Mickey on the Dalmation dog address plaque in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hidden Mickey on the Dalmation dog address plaque in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Disney parks and resorts and most any tourist destination will have details to photograph which will add unique and interesting stories to your travel photography.

March 15, 2013

Shopping in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 15, 2013

Travel Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

August 10, 2012

Prime Epcot

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 7, 2012

Ragtime Mirror on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Even a veteran of many trips to Walt Disney World can turn a corner and enjoy a new experience. It happened to me in the Magic Kingdom when I came around Casey's Corner and found Jim the Ragtime Pianist just sitting down in front of his piano. The piano mirror allows Jim to play and still interact with guests.

For photographers, a mirror or any other reflective surface opens the door to creative opportunities. Jim was curious about my camera and I answered his questions while I photographed him from different angles.

Jim the Ragtime Pianist at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jim the Ragtime Pianist asking Scott a question while playing at Casey's Corner.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 450, EV +0.3.

Moving to the other side of Jim, colorful balloons, tables and even guests surround him as he tickles the ivories on this piano filling the area with the lively beat of Ragtime tunes.

Jim the Ragtime Pianist at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Filling the mirror with colorful colors surrounding Jim the Ragtime Pianist.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 400, EV +0.3.

When walking around be on the lookout for reflective surfaces like mirrors, counters and water in all its forms.

May 6, 2011

Framing Spaceship Earth in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 1, 2011

Hollywood Studios in Chrome

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 2010

Toontown Dominance

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 5, 2010

Illuminating the Yeti Shrine

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2009

More Nifty-Fifty

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

July 3, 2009

Focus on the Fife and Drum

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

May 22, 2009

Low Angle

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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


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

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



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


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

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



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

April 3, 2009

Selective Focus

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I'm sure many of you have seen photos where the subject is tack sharp but the background is totally out of focus. This technique is called Selective Focus and is a simple one to master. Here's all you need to do. First, put your camera in Aperture Priority mode. Second, set the aperture to the widest setting which is the smallest f-stop of the lens. Now, you are ready to do what's called shooting wide open.

This photo was taken in Mickey Mouse's living room as I was touring Mickey's Country House in Toontown Fair found in the Magic Kingdom. It looked like Mickey was getting ready to host a big Superbowl party with popcorn, candy, TV remote and a football helmet on the sofa. However, all I wanted to do was focus attention on the not-so-hidden Mickey shape on top of a bannister overlooking the scene. To do that I first put my camera in A mode (Nikon's Aperture Priority setting. Canon uses Av). I had the Nikon 50mm lens on my camera so I moved the aperture setting to f/1.8, the lens' widest aperture. In aperture mode, the camera will select the shutter speed for me. Next, I half-press the shutter release to focus on the Mickey shape. You won't see the background go out of focus in your viewfinder so concentrate on the subject's focus. Keeping the shutter half pressed to lock in the focus, I recomposed the scene you see below.

Mickey's living room inside his Country House in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mickey getting ready for some football!
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 1400, EV +0.3

See, wasn't that easy? The selective focus effect gets more pronounced the wider your lens can go. It's a great way to eliminate busy backgrounds like crowds of people behind your family when taking photos in the parks. For more on using selective focus, click on the reference links below.

Reference:

Bokeh!

Creative Uses of Aperture

Watch Your Back(grounds) Again

March 27, 2009

Hyper-Hollywood

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2009

Panning for Gold

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2008

Advanced Camera Holding

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When shooting in low light or after dark at Walt Disney World, I have stressed the use of a tripod to get the best results. However, I understand it is not easy to do so when traveling to and at the parks.

If you have a digital SLR camera, I have another alternative for you called Da Grip. It's explained in this video by National Geographic photographer, Joe McNally, on how to hand hold a camera to get you one or two extra stops. I can usually hand hold my camera down to about 1/30th of a second with my lenses before I learned this technique. Now, I have successfully gotten good results down to 1/8th of a second which is two extra shutter stops as Joe explains in the video. On my next trip to WDW, I'll be putting this technique to the real test!

You might remember I reviewed Joe's book, The Moment it Clicks, earlier this year. The video is 7 1/2 minutes long.

March 14, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Before the Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

February 15, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Bokeh!

No, it's not the name of a new ballroom dance craze. Bokeh is used to describe a certain camera lens characteristic. Bokeh comes from the Japanese word "boke" which means fuzzy. Sounds like a strange characteristic for a lens to have, doesn't it? Bokeh describes how the background looks when shooting with the lens at it's largest aperture. A lens with "good bokeh" has a nice smooth looking but out of focus (or fuzzy) background. Lenses with "bad bokeh" have spherical or other geometrical shapes with hard edges which look bad behind a sharply focused subject in the foreground.

The picture below shows what "good bokeh" looks like. The foliage behind the tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek is softly out of focus and does not take away from the handsome portrait. You will find when taking someone's portrait, this is the best way to separate them from the background. In my previous entry on the Creative Uses of Aperture, you can see another example of what good bokeh looks like.


Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/125s, f/5.6, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm focal length

February 1, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Best Lens Aperture

To get the sharpest images possible with your lens, it's best not to use the widest or smallest apertures. Most lenses are optimized in the f/5.6 - f/11 aperture range and give their best performance when stopped down a couple of f-stops from the widest aperture. If you have a 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's best to use it around f/4 to f/8. Most consumer zoom lens have a sliding scale when it comes to their widest aperture. The Nikon 18-200VR lens I use has it's widest aperture of f/3.5 when it's at 18mm. At 200mm, it goes down to f/5.6. That's what it means when you see a lens' description like this: Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens where this lens starts at f/4.5 at 70mm and goes down to f/5.6 at 300mm. Usually, the faster the lens, meaning the lens starts at a very large aperture, the more expensive the lens is.

So, why not use the widest or smallest aperture? The problem with using small aperture sizes is that light waves are affected due to diffraction and though you have great depth of field, you lose out on sharpness. Large apertures are great for low-light, but unless you have an exceptional lens, its just too difficult to produce lenses that are razor sharp when wide open.


Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/200s, f/8, 200 ISO, -1.0 EV, 20mm focal length

These are good guidelines to start from. The best way to find out the best apertures for the lenses you own is to test them. Set up a small still life with various objects. Include something with text on it like a sign. Watches are also good as they are small and very detailed. Put your camera on a tripod and put it in aperture priority mode. Take a series of photos varying the aperture size with each one from the smallest f-stop to the largest. Download the pictures to your computer and view each photo at 100%. I found the sharpest aperture range for my 18-200VR lens to be around f/8 at 18mm and f/11 at 200mm doing similar testing when available light permits.

Further reading: Creative Uses of Aperture

July 28, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Creative Uses of Aperture

As we learned earlier, aperture is the size of the opening in the camera's lens measured in f-stops. I know it sounds weird but the smaller the f-stop number the larger the opening. I want to show you today how you can take advantage of apertures to create outstanding photographs.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Maximum Depth of Field or Hyperfocus. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/11, -1.3 EC, 18mm Focal Length

The first technique is called hyperfocus and getting the maximum depth of field in a photo. This is where everything in the photo is in focus from the closest to the farthest objects out to infinity. Searching on hyperfocus will bring up all kinds of calculators on how to figure out where to focus when using a certain focal length (18, 28, 35, etc. in mm) and f-stop. By setting the aperture to an f-stop of f/11 or f/16 and focusing on a close subject, you'll get the hyperfocus effect. In the photo taken from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival of the floating flowers, I wanted people to view this photo starting with the floating flower pot at the bottom and continue upwards to the clouds in the sky. This is how imagineeers use forced perspective throughout the parks to makes things look bigger than they actually are.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Selective Focus. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, -0.3 EC, 200mm Focal Length

What do you do if the background of the subject you want to photograph is busy? If you used a high f-stop, your subject could get lost in that busy background. For this situation you want to use a smaller f-stop or do, what is called, shooting with your lens wide open. This is done by setting the aperture at it's lowest f-stop. For my 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 200mm, it's wide open f-stop is f/5.6, which is what I used to separate and selectively focus on the meerkat at Disney's Animal Kingdom from the foliage in the distance. In this way, you are focused on the meerkat and not what is behind him. This is a great way to take human portraits at Walt Disney World and not get all those other humans in the background.

Quick Tip: I know some of you are thinking how do you set apertures using a digital camera. You do this by setting the camera's shooting mode to Aperture Priority. Refer to your camera's manual on how to do this. Once done, you set your f-stop and the camera calculates the shutter speed. Be careful here. If the aperture chosen is making your shutter speed to long, you may need to either make your aperture bigger or use a tripod.

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About Focus

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

Flash is the previous category.

HDR is the next category.

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