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February 19, 2016

Great Movie Ride HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today is my birthday and I am going to indudge myself with photographic candy.

Late afternon at Disney's Hollywood Studios means the Sun is behind The Great Movie Ride or GMR, for short. Especially, in early December when I was there last. I sure was not going to let the cloud filled sky go to waste. No sir! Instead, I took a series of five photos in a bracketed set covering the -2EV to +2EV range of exposures. My camera (Nikon D750) can be set up to bracket from 3 to 9 images at a time in any interval I want. Saves me a lot of time as I do not have to adjust my camera after each shot. I do have to remember to take it out of bracketing mode once I am done.

I then brought the five photos into Photomatix Pro. Photomatix Pro merges the photos into one image before creating a set of images to choose from processed in various ways. I selected the one you see below as I liked how it emphasized the clouds in the sky and popped the colors of the GMR building.

HDR image of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of The Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 1100, 28mm focal length.

I cropped the image into a 16x9 HD crop, sat back and enjoyed the candy.

November 3, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Tree of Life

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Tree of Life continues to dominate people's attention as they emerge from the Oasis and travel over Discovery River bridge into Disney's Animal Kingdom park. Imagineers over time have added new viewing locations, waterfalls and animal carvings. While I like the new ones, my favorite view of the Tree of Life is this waterfall you pass after leaving the It's Tough To Be a Bug show. Look for it on your next visit.

Waterfall at the base of the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Waterfall at the base of the Tree of Life.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 25mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her view on the Tree of Life icon.


October 9, 2015

Spaceship Earth at Night in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before a trip to Walt Disney World, I will browse through photos on flickr and Google in search of ideas. I found this composition and put it on my shot list for the trip. Though the photo which was the inspiration for the photo of Spaceship Earth below was taken during the day, the rest of the image was similar.

Spaceship Earth at night in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod, HDR Image.

Besides being photographed at night, I noticed it was hard to control the light on the top of Spaceship Earth and still get detail in the fountain and underneath the structure. That is when I decided to produce a High Dynamic Range image. I took three photos one stop apart at these shutter speeds: 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. Merging the photos using Photomatix Pro, created the image. This opened up the lower part of the frame while still retaining the detail of the sphere. The bonus was all the colors over the time it took to take the three photos. The long exposures created the fantasy look of the flowing water of the fountain.

Next time you are looking for photography ideas at Walt Disney World or any other travel destination, search and browse to see what others have done in the past.

August 21, 2015

Tripods at Walt Disney World Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

Extreme Long Exposure of the Main Street Electrical Parade

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

Motion Photography

Star Tours Queue

Liberty Bell at Night

Night HDR at the Tower of Terror

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

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

September 26, 2014

Echo Lake Sunset in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I was scouting locations for the Star Wars Weekend Fireworks, I checked out the view from across Echo Lake. It was late in the day and the Sun was just going down behind the palm trees to the right of Min & Bill's Dockside Diner. This created a large light discrepancy between the bright sky and the water. As I talked about with Cinderella Castle a couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a series of photos to capture the large range of light in the scene to combine later to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.

The light range was even larger this time and I took a set of seven photos from -3EV to +3EV in 1 EV stop increments. I later merged those photos together using Photomatix Pro software.

Echo Lake in HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Echo Lake in HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length, HDR Image.

This view has changed over the years and will be again as the American Idol Experience has now shut down. As Rafiki says, Change is good.

September 12, 2014

Classic Cinderella Castle in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It was about a half hour before sunset and the top spires of Cinderella Castle was being illuminated with golden sunshine. Below, the castle and moat was in shade. Such lighting can be tough for a camera to capture in a single exposure. In post, you can open up the shadows some.

On the other hand, a set of photos for High Dynamic Range processing using today's software like Photomatix, can produce excellent results.

Classic View of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Classic View of Cinderella Castle in HDR.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 27mm focal length, HDR Image.

The HDR image here was produced using five photos taken in 1 stop increments from -2EV to +2EV and merged in Photomatix.

July 25, 2014

Using HDR in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In a previous post I wrote back in 2009, I detailed the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique as one way to photograph a scene with a big range of light from very dark to very light. In the article, I used an HDR image I did of Disney's Animal Kingdom's Expedition EVEREST attraction taken from the bridge to Africa. Since then, Photomatix, the software I use for HDR processing, has gone through two version updates and I have gotten better at identifying the right conditions for taking a set of photos for high dyanmic range.

Last December, I returned to the same location. The Golden Hour was in full swing with the Sun setting and bathing the top of Expedition EVEREST in beautiful warm light. The rest of the scene was in deep shadows with pops of bright sunlight coming through. I tried a few single exposures but either got the mountain blown out or the shadows almost in total blackness. I knew a set of photos for HDR was the answer. I took several sets and found a set of 7 photos from -3EV to +3EV captured the entire range of light. After running the photos through Photomatix and finishing up the processing in a photo editor, this was the result:

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 1000, EV 0, 98mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

I feel this photo is a good representative of what my eyes were seeing. That is how I use HDR. Other photographers might come up with a totally different image. I also made sure I took both Landscape and Portrait versions of the scene in several focal lengths.

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 190mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

Notice the difference in the second HDR image from the first one. The Sun was much lower in the second photo so the light was highly reduced on the top of Expedition EVEREST and created more subtle and muted colors.

Next time you are faced with a scene you are having trouble exposing for, create a set of photos and give HDR processing a try. HDR software, like Photomatix, can be downloaded for trial periods. Have fun!

December 6, 2013

Starburst photography in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the first things beginner photographers are told is NOT to photograph towards the Sun. For the most part it is good advice and shooting into the Sun should be avoided. Yet, if done right, putting the Sun or any bright light source like street lights in your compositions can work.

The first thing you need to do is balance out the large light to dark difference. You can do it a couple of ways. Often I will use flash to fill in the shadows. Another way is to use High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques to capture the large range of light from dark to light using multiple exposures and then blend them into a single image. The latter is the technique I used below of an antique car in Disney's Hollywood Studios. The last tip is to step down your aperture to f/16 or smaller. This will create a starburst effect on bright objects in the frame. In the photo below, the Sun and reflection off the hood are examples of starbursts.

Sun shines on a past star parked off of Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sun shines on a past star parked off of Sunset Blvd.
Nikon D700/15mm, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, HDR Image.

Wide angle and fisheye lenses are well suited for this kind of photography but any lens stopped down can create starbursts. Bring a little star power to your photography with this technique.

May 17, 2013

Using a Super Zoom Lens at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2013

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 8, 2013

Staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Expanding on yesterday's post about me staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time, here are a few more musings and photos. As you enter Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, the high ceiling of the lobby is a feast for your eyes. The Earth tones of the wood and decor instantly sooth your being. You see the three story tall windows which look out over Arusha Rock and African savanna beyond. You will even spy a "rope" bridge crossing high overhead.

The lobby of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The lobby of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/4, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, HDR Image.
Like any good Disney property, you will find several Hidden Mickeys cleverly disguised as themed decorations. To find more at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and all over the Walt Disney World Resort, get yourself a copy of All Ears team member Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickey Guide book.
Hidden Mickeys at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
How many Hidden Mickeys do you see?
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/20s, f/4.2, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 48mm focal length.

The real reason most people want to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge are the animals you can see either right from your room or the various overlook lounges and by visiting Arusha Rock. My room was on the second floor were I enjoyed photographing the animals from the balcony. The weather was mostly overcast during my stay which helped to bring out the colors of all the living things.

Even if the colors are black and white like these two Grant's Zebras grazing below my room one afternoon.

Grant's Zebras browsing on one of  Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge savannas, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A pair of Grant's Zebras browsing on a savanna.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Many people are amazed at the large horned Anikole Cattle which can been seen wandering each of the savannas surrounding Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Anikole Cattle walking on the savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A large horned Anikole Bull walking on the savanna.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Another horned animal, the Scimitar-horned Oryx is no longer found in the wild. Places like Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Animal Kingdom and zoos around the world help to maintain a viable breeding population in the hopes of returning them to their northern African home in the future.

Scimitar-horned Oryx standing in the Uzima savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A lone Scimitar-horned Oryx standing in the Uzima savanna.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 640, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Walking the halls between one's room and the lobby, you never know what you might see as you look out the many windows and overlooks of the Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. You might see a Reticulated Giraffe looking back at you.

Reticulated Giraffe peering around a tree on the Arusha savanna at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Reticulated Giraffe peering around a tree on the Arusha savanna.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 220, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Whether I ever get to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge again, I will definitely still visit to enjoy a meal at Boma or Jiko or just to come and visit the animals of the savannas.

March 1, 2013

Dreaming of a Disney Cruise

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 11, 2013

Photographing Disney's Polynesian Resort Lobby

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have yet to stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. I have found many reasons to visit as the lobby is one of the best places to hang out while waiting for a dining reservation at either 'Ohana or Kona Cafe restaurants. In the case of the next two photos, I was enjoying the tropical atmosphere while my wife and daughter shopped.

Working a subject like the Polynesian Resort's lobby is instructional and fun. The lobby is colorful with waterfalls and flowing water. Wide walkways on the first and second floors give you lots of room to use a tripod if you have one. When I took these photos, my tripod was back in my room. Instead, I used my favorite hand holding technique called Da Grip which I learned from National Geographic photographer Joe McNally.

The first photo of the Polynesian Resort lobby is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I took this standing up and moved in as close as I could. Zoomed in to 48mm to create a composition using vegetation as a frame, a waterfall as the main subject and elements of the resort's lobby in the background. You can see the upstairs walkway and the sign for the BouTIKI gift shop.

Disney's Polynesian Resort beautifully landscaped lobby captured in HDR, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort's beautifully landscaped lobby captured in HDR.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/8, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 48mm focal length, hand-held, HDR Image.

In the second photo, I kneeled down to be level with the waterfall and made this pleasing composition with the Rule of Thirds in mind. Using Da Grip, I was able to photograph it hand-held at 1/8th of a second shutter speed giving the water motion a soft look.

Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfall, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfall.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/8s, f/4.2, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 48mm focal length.

Fast forward a year and as I was waiting for my family's breakfast reservation at Kona Cafe for a helping of Tonga Toast, I photographed a Christmas decorated Polynesian Resort lobby with lots of poinsettia plants added to the waterfalls. In this case, I was above the waterfalls on the second floor walkway and used a wider field of view. The slow shutter speed of 1/15th of a second (hand held again) gave the flowing water a nice softness.

Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfalls at Christmas, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Polynesian Resort lobby waterfalls at Christmas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

You can do this with any photography subject including people. Walk around the subject or subjects and view it from all sides and angles especially low and high. You will be amazed at the number of different photographs you can create this way.

August 24, 2012

Wilderness Lodge in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I never seem to be at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort in the morning when the Sun direction would light up the side of the lodge which faces Bay Lake. In the late afternoon, the Sun direction makes it hard to photograph. The range of light is too large. Our eyes can handle it but our cameras are not as good. This is when I turn to the process called High Dynamic Range (HDR). I set my camera to take a series of five photos 1 stop apart going from +2 stops, +1 stop, 0, -1 stop, -2 stops.

HDR Images of Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Images of Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

I imported all five photos into Photomatix Pro 4 and created the final HDR image by blending all the photos together to capture the full range of light. Now the image looks like what my eyes were seeing. Below is the full image which was cropped in the collage.

Final HDR Image of Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Final HDR Image of Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

You may see some photographers who only do HDR images. I use it when I feel it will capture the image I see. No right or wrong to either approach.

October 7, 2011

The Expedition EVEREST Challenge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Most people when seeing the sign below just chuckle. They know Expedition EVEREST is a high-speed attraction. How can anyone take pictures while riding it. Right?

Photo memories sigh in the Expedition EVEREST queue in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Remember to capture memories in your ride through the Himalayas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, EV +0.3, 160mm focal length.

You know us here at Picture This!, we have a bit of an adventuresome spirit. They do take a ride photo for you of which I have a few. I ask you, where's the challenge in that? If you take care to secure your camera, you can successfully take ride photos on Expedition EVEREST.

I do not do this every time I ride (no matter what my family will tell you). I do like to sit back, scream and throw my arms up in delight while enjoying the thrill and awesome details of the experience that is Expedition EVEREST. Especially the big drop. I know I have left my stomach with the Yeti a few times.

Others may opt not to ride and enjoy taking in the beauty of the Disney Imagineer-ed mountain and how it blends in with the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

Expedition EVEREST loams behind the Yeti Shrine in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Expedition EVEREST loams behind the Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 900, 72mm focal length, HDR Image.

I used HDR processing to take five images from -2 to +2 to create this image. It was the best way to control the huge range of light from the overcast sky.

January 28, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 8, 2010

HDR Creation

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Three weeks ago I introduced you to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing to increase the range of light when you are faced with a scene which shows a range from dark to light most digital cameras have trouble capturing. I discussed how you take a set of photos I referred to as an HDR set when you bracket around the "correct" exposure by plus and minus 2 EV (exposures). Then we went through a couple of examples.

I mentioned another way to create an HDR image from just one photo. To do this it helps to use a photo with the same characteristics as a scene you'd consider doing an HDR set with. Why didn't I do that in the first place, you may ask. Well, sometimes you either don't have time or you did not consider it. Especially at Walt Disney World.

Once you have selected a photo, you have to create an HDR set from it. Using your favorite photo editor, make two copies of the photo. It might help to rename them as you do so. Leave the first photo alone. The second one, change the exposure to -2. Most editors have an exposure slider to do this (if not, look at your software's manual or search in the Help section). On the third one, change the exposure to +2. When done you have a complete HDR set like I have below of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

HDR set of photos of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR set of photos of a detail section of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Once created, I selected all three photos in the photo editor which for me is Apple Aperture 2 and choose to edit with the Photomatix plugin just as I did when I was using three different photos.

Final HDR image from one photo of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Final HDR image from one photo of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat.

While this technique works pretty good. It's not as vibrant as using three (or more) bracketed photos. It is a good alternative for those photos you may otherwise discard.

December 18, 2009

Walt Disney World in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

High Dynamic Range imaging which is referred to simply as HDR is a process to increase the amount of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image. Digital cameras can handle from 4 to 7 stops of light. In contrast, the human eye can see 20 stops of light. People "see" in HDR. Photographers for years have done all kinds of things in the darkrooms to increase their photos dynamic range.

With the advent of more powerful personal computers, digital cameras and imaging software, photographers and software engineers created the HDR process of merging a set of digital photographs which would have taken hours of setup in a darkroom and do it in just a few minutes. Today's blog is just an introduction to HDR as I have recently discovered it myself.

There are two kinds of HDR images. One is created by a set of images I call an HDR set. The second is created from one image which I will cover in three weeks. So, what is an HDR set? To explain that I first have to introduce you to the term bracketing. In photography, bracketing means to take one picture at a given exposure then one or two brighter and one or two darker, in order to obtain the best image. I did this often whenever I was using slide film. Digital sensors are a lot like slide film so when I took up digital photography, I returned to bracketing, especially if the the subject I was photographing had very light and dark areas.

HDR imaging takes bracketing a bit further. Instead of changing a half or a full stop around an exposure, HDR photographers go 2, 3 and sometimes more stops. Digital cameras make it very easy as most come with auto-bracketing settings which will program your camera to take a series of photos plus and minus around the exposure the photographer decides to start with. Auto-bracketing can be truly automatic where one shutter press takes all the photos in sequence or, like my older digital camera, you have to press the shutter for each bracketed photo. To find out how your camera does auto-bracketing, check its manual (haven't bugged you about reading that in awhile!).

Now that you have an idea of what HDR is. Let me show you how it works. Most HDR books and web tutorials recommend you start with a 3 image bracket of +2, 0, -2 EV (exposure compensation). When I turn on auto-bracketing, the first shutter press will take the +2 EV photo first, the 0 EV photo second and the -2 EV photo last. This gives me the HDR set of 3 photos you see below of Expedition Everest from the bridge to Africa in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

HDR set of photos of Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR set of photos of Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

When I first started doing this I had to get used to seeing such light and dark images and to NOT delete them which I did the first few times. Once you get the HDR set onto your computer the real fun begins. A couple of years ago, you really needed something like Photoshop to merge the HDR sets together. Most HDR gurus today recommend Photomatix either as a stand along program or plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom or Apple's Aperture. Since I use Aperture, I'll explain how easy it is to use the Photomatix plugin. If you get the stand alone version, Photomatix Pro, you have to create the JPEG images for it.

In Aperture, I selected the three images you see above and choose to edit with the Photomatix plugin. This launches Photomatix and imports the three images. Since I didn't use a tripod here, I told Photomatix to align the images. After a minute or less, the merged image is displayed in the plugin. The first time you see this you'll be amazed. Dark and light areas which in the "properly" exposed image had little to no detail, now have detail. The links below will go into more detail as to what all the adjustment sliders in Photomatix does. After a few minutes, below is what I ended up with. Notice how you can see details in the bright clouds and dark green foliage. In my normal processing, I would have had a hard time getting something even close to this.

Expedition Everest from the bridge to Africa in Disney's Animal Kingdom in HDR, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Expedition Everest from the bridge to Africa in HDR.

Remember, HDR works best with scenes which have very dark and/or very light areas. If the scene is very evenly lighted, HDR won't do much for you. With that in mind, lighted structures at night have a large contrast in light and dark. I had seen others do HDR images of Spaceship Earth at Epcot but I thought I would give it a try and see what I came up with. Below is the HDR set of three images. This time, I decided to do it manually by using my camera's light meter and a tripod. I kept the ISO at 200 and aperture at f/16 and varied the shutter speed to get the same exposure range of +/- 2 stops.

HDR set of photos of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR set of photos of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.

Night HDR processing was a lot harder than I thought it would be. HDR increases noise. So, if you start with ISO 200 images, the HDR image turns out like an ISO 400 image. In very dark areas, like a night sky, noise can become very apparent. After a long time, I finally came upon the settings to keep the night sky black and not a grainy brown. The result you see below.

Nighttime HDR of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nighttime HDR of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.

When HDR images first appeared, they were panned as being too cartoonish and not very realistic. As software engineers and photographers improved the tools and techniques, HDR images got better and better. For fun, you can still create those extreme HDR images like the one I did below of the set of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Extreme HDR of set of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Extreme HDR of set of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.

To me, this looks like concept art which might have been seen in the offices of Disney Imagineering when they were creating the show. What do you think? For more HDR examples from Walt Disney World, click here.

I have been rather vague as to how to use Photomatix. This is because like all photo editing software, there are no wrong or right ways to create an HDR image once it's in Photomatix. Below are some links which will explain further how to create HDR photos using Photomatix.

Stuck In Customs HDR Tutorial - Trey Ratcliff is considered a master of HDR photography.

HDR Tutorial by Pete Carr - goes into how adjustment sliders in Photomatix effect an image. (This is an update from the original link.)

HDRsoft's website - the maker of Photomatix which have 30 day trials of the stand alone and plugin versions for download.

Stuart Perry's Photomatix Presets - I know it's early but this is my Christmas gift to anyone who wants to try out Photomatix. This link has a download with over 80 presets you can use in Photomatix. It's a great way to see how each preset changes your images while in Photomatix. Enjoy!

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About HDR

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

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