Main

Photographic Innoventions - Scott's Blog Archives

May 2, 2014

Be-Booping the 1950's at Pop Century Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

All this talk about the All-Star Resorts, got me to thinking of another Walt Disney World Value resort called the Pop Century Resort. The theme for Pop Century are the Classic years of the last five decades of the 20th Century. Back in 2006, I stayed in the 1950's Buildings which featured larger than life icons from the decade (as seen below).

Pop Century Resort 1950's Classic Year area, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pop Century Resort 1950's Classic Year area.
See Text for Details.

Starting at top left and going clock-wise: Giant Bowling Pin Stairwell, Bowling Ball Racks near the pool, 40-foot-tall Tabletop Jukebox and the popular Yo-Yo as another stairwell.

April 25, 2014

Photographing around Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I see a lot people when they first walk up to the Tree of Life after crossing the bridge just take a photo or look at the tree for a bit then walk off to either side around Discovery Island. I suggest to many of my friends and family, to take the short trail down to the animal viewing area. Here you can see the animals and take pictures often with no one around with the tree making a nice background. You can see many of the Tree of Life's carvings from there, too.

Snowy Egret at the base of the Tree of Life on Discovery Island in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Carving of an American Bison or Buffalo looks down upon a Snowy Egret at the base of the Tree of Life.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Discovery Island is one of the places you can get good pictures of the beautiful and endangered West African Crowned Cranes.

West African Crowned Crane on Discovery Island in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
West African Crowned Crane on Discovery Island.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

When approaching the Lion area towards the end of the Kilimanjaro Safari be ready as you never know when you might get a glimpse of one of the felines.

African lioness looking from behind a rock on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
African lioness looking from behind a rock on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 400mm focal length.

After you get off your Kilimanjaro Safari jeep, be sure to follow the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see all the wonderful animals and birds. The highlight being the troops of Western lowland gorillas. Take your time as you walk along the trail as you are often followed.

A bachelor Western lowland gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A bachelor Western lowland gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/800s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 400mm focal length.

Sadly, you can no longer visit with the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek as a few weeks after I took this photo, the dragon died. He was a magnificent animal who gave me many thrills over the years. {UPDATE: Paul (see comments) has informed me there is a new Komodo Dragon. I will get a photo of it on my next trip for sure.]

Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah  Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 2200, EV -0.6, 400mm focal length.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is a beautiful place to see, learn and photograph animals from all over the world.

April 18, 2014

Sunny Lobby of the Tower of Terror

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

April 11, 2014

Down Under Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

April 4, 2014

Wishes over New Fantasyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

March 28, 2014

World Showcase Details

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Epcot's World Showcase is a treasure trove of photographic opportunities. I find new things to photograph in the countries with every trip. Here are three examples.

I photograph lots of t-shirts when traveling. I like to use them for online galleries and slideshows. This t-shirt I found in an outdoor kiosk at the Canada pavilion would be a good one for an introduction slide to Canada.

TA t-shirt for sale in the Canada pavilion n Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A T-shirt for sale in the Canada pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/80s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

When people think of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I believe the famous Gargoyles which "guard" it come to mind. Outside the entrance to Impressions de France at the France pavilion sits a replica of the Spitting Gargoyle which may be the most famous resident of the cathedral.

Spitting Gargoyle replica at the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spitting Gargoyle replica at the France pavilion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 900, EV +0.3.

The Morocco pavilion is one of the most detailed around the World Showcase. The tile work is beautiful and colorful. Add a touch of falling water and I could not resist.

Water fountain at the Morocco pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Water fountain at the Morocco pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Keep your senses peeled as you walk and explore Epcot's World Showcase pavilions and share with us what you find.

March 21, 2014

Disney's California Adventure Animation Building

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Disney Animation Building in Disney's California Adventure is a must for the Disney fan. When I was there last fall, it was not a very busy place especially soon after park opening. I virtually had the place to myself.

Upon entering the building, you are presented with a large room with big screens showing scenes from one of many Disney animated classics. This is the Courtyard Gallery.

The Courtyeard Gallery inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Courtyeard Gallery inside the Disney Animation Building.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 15mm focal length.

As you can see, this is were people enter into the Sorcerer's Workshop. Since there was no one waiting in the queue. I decided to explore it first. The first chamber is full of interactive displays in how animation was first done. Lots of spinning things here to delight the animation history buff. As I was having fun enjoying the displays, I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see the Magic Mirror addressing the room.

The Magic Mirror from Snow White inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Magic Mirror from Snow White in The Sorcerer's Workshop.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 4500, EV +0.3, 32mm focal length.

After doing a few voice overs in Ursula's Grotto, we entered the enchanted library of the Beast. In the Beast's Library magical books will tell you which Disney character you are most like and the room changes from the eerie past to the bright future complete with special effects.

The Beast's Library inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
The Beast's Library inside the Disney Animation Building.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

Before you leave the Disney Animation Building, seek out the 3-D Toy Story Zoetrope. A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures. For 3-D, Disney used small statues. When seen in person and at the proper speed, you see Woody and the gang moving in real space. Knowing how static that would look in a still image, I used a slow shutter speed to show you have fast the zoetrope was moving.

3-D Toy Story Zoetrop in motion inside the Disney Animation Building at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
3-D Toy Story Zoetrop in motion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, ISO 800, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

This is only one part of the Disney Animation Building experience. A hidden gem found in Hollywoodland.

March 12, 2014

Remembering the Tapestry of Nations Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Puppet and puppeteer in the Tapestry of Nations in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Puppet and puppeteer in the Tapestry of Nations Parade.

As long as we are waxing nostalgic this week, I also came upon this photo from the Tapestry of Nations Parade in Epcot's World Showcase from 2000. I saw this parade many times during its run and never got tired of it or the wonderful musical score.

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 28, 2014

Guest Powered Transportation in Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests paddling a Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe on the Rivers of America at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Guests paddling a Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe at Disneyland.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Here is a scene you will not see in Walt Disney World, the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes are found in Disneyland on the Rivers of America where guests provide the power to take a tour around Tom Sawyer Island and back to Frontierland. Everyone was having a good time and some even waved to me.

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.

February 14, 2014

Photographing the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7, 2014

Walt Disney World Special Bus Services

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have to hand it to Disney. The worst part of a trip to Walt Disney World for me in the past was having to rent a car with all the added expense and frustrations. Then Disney came up with Disney's Magical Express or DME service and made it free for guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort. For me, I have not rented a car since the DME bus service started. While not all Magical Express buses are the classic blue and tan, this one I photographed as it was bringing and/or picking up guests at Disney's Boardwalk resort was.

Disney's Magical Express Bus near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Magical Express Bus pulling up to Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 32mm focal length.

The other transportation service which I have enjoyed using are the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) Buses. While this service is not free, it is extremely convenient. If you use the service from either a resort or the Orlando airport, you never have to handle your luggage once you check it in from your home airport (check with your airline) or resort. Using special tags provided by the Disney Cruise Line, your bags are picked up and transported to the ships at Port Canaveral and show up in your State Room before dinner the first night at sea. You just get on your bus and go.

Disney Cruise Line Bus waiting to take guests to Port Canaveral from Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney Cruise Line Bus waiting to take guests to Port Canaveral.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 45mm focal length.

You may or may not get the classic DCL bus like I photographed above. Still, they are all clean, well maintained and comfortable and make my Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line vacation a bit more relaxing.

January 31, 2014

Photographing Inside the Be Our Guest Restaurant

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

January 17, 2014

Highway in the Sky over Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Keeping with this week's photo theme, here is another iconic symbol of not only Epcot but all of Walt Disney World: the WDW Monorail System known as the Highway in the Sky. Each day, monorails transport thousands of resort guests around the Seven Seas Lagoon on either the Express or Resort track back and forth to the Magic Kingdom. You can also transfer to the Epcot track at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) for further service to Epcot.

Monorail Pink in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail Pink passing by the Imagination Pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 180mm focal length.

I took this from the walkway between the Odyssey restaurant and World Showcase. I waited for a few minutes for a monorail to pass by. This is one of those reference photos I take to remind me to revisit this location in the future when the Sun is close to setting.

Monorails give a very relaxing, smooth and air conditioned ride even if you have to stand. Remember...Por favor mantenerse al lado de las puertas! at each stop.

January 10, 2014

Looking Above the Trees at Walt Disney World

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As veterans of many trips to Walt Disney World, Lisa and I have often said to always look up and down when visiting the resort. Most of the time you will find wonderful details and even a Hidden Mickey. You may discover a composition you never noticed before. In reviewing photos from my last couple of trips, I came upon these photos which were taken in different parks and at different times but have similar properties.

The first was taken as I walked from Japan to Morocco late in the day. I noticed the low Sun angle was giving the Hotel du Canada of the Canadian pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase a nice golden glow. I decided to crop the photo leaving out any indication of the people and lamps at the bottom of the original photo. I wanted people to see the beauty of the Hotel du Canada framed between green trees and a cloudy sky.

Hotel du Canada in the Canadian pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Late afternoon sunshine illuminates the Hotel du Canada.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

While walking the bridge between the entrance to Adventureland and Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom late at night, I looked up at the spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated above the trees. Not seeing the entire castle created a new composition for me.

The spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Spires of Cinderella Castle illuminated at night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/13s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV 0, 200mm focal length.

While I often do not mind including people and other elements in my Walt Disney World photographs, I liked how I cropped or composed these two photos to eliminate any distracting elements.

January 3, 2014

Best of Walt Disney World in 2013

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After visiting Disneyland in September, I had two trips to Walt Disney World in October and December. The first was a family vacation where I photographed while touring the parks. The other was a planned couple of days photographing with other Disney fan photographers. Both trips were fun, enjoyable and presented new challenges and experiences in each park. Today, I am sharing with you some of the highlights from those trips.

It is exciting to see something new at Walt Disney World even if it happens every day. In all my visits, I never saw the IllumiNations barges enter Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. When I noticed the Earth barge coming through the draw bridge, I stopped and took several photos.

IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
IllumiNations Earth barge entering Epcot's World Showcase lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

This was the first time I had the Fisheye lens with me at Walt Disney World. I probably used it way too much but it was a lot fun. While waiting for my ride on Rock'n'Roller Coaster, I photographed fellow guests being launched. The lens' f/2.8 aperture and a high ISO allowed me to photograph inside the dark ride.

Guests are launched at the Rock'n'Roller Coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests are launched into the Rock'n'Roller Coaster.
Nikon D700/15mm, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Each December, Disney fan photographers always watch for Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This allows for photographing in the park after sunset. Something that is a rarity. The bare light bulbs hanging over the path to Expedition EVEREST made for good foreground interest to the Forbidden Mountain. By using a small aperture of f/22, the small light sources became small starbursts. I waited for Blue Hour, the time between sunset and full night, to give it a magical light.

Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Blue hour at Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 2.5s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 92mm focal length, tripod.

After Blue Hour in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I traveled to the Magic Kingdom to take advantage of its late night closing. Putting the Fisheye lens back on my camera, I photographed the lights and movement of the park. Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party is colorful and full of motion when using a long exposure and tripod to photograph it.

Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mad Tea Party tea cups whiz around at night.
Nikon D700/15mm, 10s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, tripod.

These are my favorites from this year's trips to Walt Disney World. Here's to even more in 2014. Do you have any favorites from the past year?

December 27, 2013

Wishing You a Happy New Year

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

December 20, 2013

Snowflakes on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

December 13, 2013

Main Street Railroad Station White Balance Problem Solved

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney

Photographing Christmas Lights at Disney II

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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.

November 29, 2013

Kitchen Sink Stuffed at the Beach Club Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Like most Americans, I am recovering from stuffing myself at yesterday's Thanksgiving Day feast with my family. For those of you not living in the United States of America (USA), I equate it to the feeling after one devours a Kitchen Sink sundae at the Beaches and Cream restaurant in the Beach Club Resort.

Remnants of a Kitchen Sink sundae on a table in the Beaches and Cream restaurant, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Remnants of a Kitchen Sink sundae left on a table at Beaches and Cream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV -0.3, 105mm focal length.

What's that you say? You have never heard of the Kitchen Sink sundae? Below is a picture of it.

The Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae being delivered at the Beaches and Cream restaurant, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae being delivered at the Beaches and Cream restaurant.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/4.8, ISO 1000, EV -0.3, 55mm Focal Length.

I bet you feel stuffed just looking at it. Happy Thanksgiving from the US of A!

November 22, 2013

Photographing Tutto Italia Desserts in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When Travel and Food Photography mix, I like to include members of my party in my food photos. In this case, my daughters presented their dessert choices after our meal at Tutto Italia in Epcot's Italy pavilion.

My youngest decided she did not really like what Tutto Italia had for dessert. The server was kind enough to get her a simple ice cream dessert with a chocolate cookie stick. As you can see, she was very happy with it.

Ice cream dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ice cream dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

My eldest ordered the Gianduja-Chocolate Torta which is a chocolate and hazelnut torte with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. She determined it to be delicious.

Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Gianduja - Chocolate Torta dessert being presented at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length.

I also got a more traditional food picture of the Cannoli ordered by another member of my party. It must have been good as it was gone before I got a second shot at it.

Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cannoli dessert at Tutto Italia restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV +0.3, 72mm focal length.

Remember to include members of your dining party in your visits to any of the wonderful Walt Disney World restaurants. Not just the Character Meals. They make for fun and memorable photographs.

November 15, 2013

Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland at Night

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2013

Fisheyed Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2013

Halloween at Disneyland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2013

Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Buena Vista Street lamppost sign in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Buena Vista Street lamppost sign.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 360, EV 0, 210mm focal length.

Disney parks are known for their Main Streets. In Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, I have walked up Main Street USA. In Disney's Hollywood Studios, it's Hollywood Boulevard. For California Adventure, Buena Vista Street is where you enter the park and takes you back to the time when Walt Disney first came to Los Angeles in 1923. Complete with buildings, characters and music from the era. There is even a Red Car Trolley to transport you up the street, around Carthay Circle and off to Hollywoodland.

Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length.

Like its other themepark Main Streets, Buena Vista Street is full of stores where you can buy all manner of souvenirs, clothing, gadgets, toys, candy, coffee, baked goods, fresh fruit and accessories for your digital lifestyle. You will find helpful Cast Members ready to answer your questions about the park, assist you with a problem and trade the ever popular Disney pins.

Cast Member ready to trade pins on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Cast Member ready to trade pins on Buena Vista Street.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

At the end of Buena Vista Street is Carthay Circle. Carthay Circle is the "hub" of Disney's California Adventure. Throughout the day you will find entertainment in the way of Five & Dime (the gal is named Dime) and the Red Car News Boys with a very Walt Disney like costumed Mickey Mouse reliving the days when anything seemed possible in California.

Entertainers performing around Carthay Circle in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Entertainers performing around Carthay Circle.

I always smile when I find a reference to Walt Disney in the parks. In one of the display windows of Elias And Company, I found this publicity photograph of Walt Disney nicely matted.

Photo of Walt Disney in the Elias & Co. store window on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Photo of Walt Disney in the Elias & Co. store window.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 250, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Buena Vista Street is full of great details to find and photograph, wonderful atmosphere and the famous Disney Magic. Fits right into my definition of a Disney Main Street.

October 11, 2013

Postcard from Carsland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

Hi, to all my All Ears friends and family!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ka-chow,

Scott

October 4, 2013

Canadian Rockies in Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Canadian Rocky Mountains in the Canada pavilion of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Canadian Rocky Mountains in the Canada pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/29, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 34mm focal length.

This week Scott is photographing in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado which are simliar to the Canadian Rockies you see in Epcot's Canada pavilion. You can continue to follow Scott's adventure on his Twitter account @sthomasphotos or his personal photoblog at Views Infinitum.

As always, you can follow @Scottwdw on Twitter for his Disney feed.

September 27, 2013

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Rock Formations

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Imagineered rock formations on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imagineered rock formations on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

After leaving Disneyland, Scott is now in the American Southwest photographing colorful rock formations like those seen around the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom. You can follow Scott's adventure on his Twitter account @sthomasphotos or his personal photoblog at Views Infinitum.

As always, you can follow @Scottwdw on Twitter for his Disney photos and information.

September 20, 2013

All Aboard the Red Car at Disney's California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street by Michael Greening, Anaheim, California
Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street by Michael Greening.

I had a thought I would post from Disneyland this week. I quickly decided to call in a friend, Michael Greening (aka Ring of Fire Hot Sauce 1 on flickr), to pitch hit for me as I wanted to feature something from Disney's California Adventure. Finding time on the road for photo processing can be tough. Besides, didn't Michael do a wonderful job on his photo?

The Red Car Trolleys of Buena Vista Street are perfect. Not only do they bring back memories of Who Framed Roger Rabbit but also of the time Walt Disney first came to Los Angeles. This is where I will be tomorrow for the AllEars.net Picture This! Disney's California Adventure Photowalk. Will you be there?

While I am here, you can follow @Scottwdw on Twitter for my photos and comments about Disneyland.

September 13, 2013

Off to Disneyland!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disneyland sign circa 1987, Anaheim, California
Disneyland sign circa 1987.

The photo you see here is a scanned image from an old 4x6 inch photo I took the last time I visited Disneyland in 1987. I hear it has changed a bit since then.

Next week, I will be going back to California and rediscovering Disneyland as well as discovering Disney's California Adventure. Is there any attraction, restaurant, hotel, show or area you would like to request for me to take a photo of? Anything you have tried to photograph there in the past but was never satisfied with your results? Leave me a note in the Comments (see link at bottom of this post) and I will do my best to get if for you. If you do not want the comment posted, let me know and I will take your suggestion with me.

While I am traveling, you can follow @Scottwdw on Twitter for my photos and comments about Disneyland.

Hey, and if you are visiting or live close by to Anaheim, try and get to the AllEars.net Picture This! Disney's California Adventure Photowalk. Click the link for all the details.

September 6, 2013

Trekking through Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have written about and shared many photographs from Disney's Animal Kingdom attractions: Kilimanjaro Safari and Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Both can be found by visiting the village of Harambe in Africa. I have even taken you on the Wild Africa Trek: Photographing on the Wild Africa Trek, Part I and Part II.

Today, I want to share with you a few more photos from those experiences.

I see many people walking quickly on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Time can be one's master at Disney's Animal Kingdom with so much to do and see. If one can, I suggest stopping along the trail to enjoy the animals. The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) are an animal you need to observe. Watch how they use their tongues to eat and notice their neck in how it moves. Do not be fooled by the zebra-like stripes as the giraffe is their closest relative on the evolutionary tree.

To get a good photo of one of the okapi, you have to wait a bit as they move around looking for food in their habitat. Imagine trying to spot an okapi in the lush jungle of its native home in the Congo of Africa. It is no wonder it was not discovered by European adventurers until the late 19th century.

Young Okapi on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Young Okapi on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

The Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri), long-necked species of antelope, browse behind the Meerkats on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. However, to get this view of one, you have to be on the Wild Africa Trek's overland trail which goes off into the woods to the side of the Meerkat compound. The Gerenuk was curious as to who was roaming his woods.

Gerenuk on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Gerenuk on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

While large bellied and cumbersome looking, Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) are the most dangerous large animal in Africa. Hippos are very aggressive towards humans, whom they commonly attack whether in boats or on land for no apparent reason. Which is why I was happy to photograph this female Hippopotamus from a safe and raised distance while on the Wild Africa Trek.

Hippopotamus on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hippopotamus on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1100, EV -0.3, 300mm focal length.

Animal parks like Disney's Animal Kingdom educate and inspire people to help save these creatures in their native lands. I hope my photography helps in the same way.

August 30, 2013

Anchoring Your Disney Photographs

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In Landscape Photography, the use of an Anchor Point is commonly used in compositions. An anchor point is an item in the foreground that is in focus that the eye can lock on to and then wander out into the photograph. You can use this concept in your Disney photos to improve your compositions and bring a professional quality to your photography.

The anchor point in the photo of the Victoria Gardens in Epcot's Canada pavilion in the World Showcase is the plaque rock. Notice how you see the rock first before your eyes move into the flowers and trees beyond.

Victoria Gardens tribute in Canada of Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Victoria Gardens Plaque Rock is the Anchor Point.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length,.

In nature landscape photography you will often see rocks, trees or flowers used as anchor points as I did at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). I only needed to wait for a monorail to complete the picture.

Monorail Green leaving the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) on the Resort Hotel line, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The flowers anchor this photo of Monorail Green leaving the TTC.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length,.

In Disney parks, anchor points could be anything.

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

For instance, the Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle. Next time you are out photographing, try to compose photos using anchor points.

August 23, 2013

Picture This! California Adventure Photowalk

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Storyteller statue at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
Storyteller statue at Disney's California Adventure and meetup location for the Picture This! Photowalk.

Hey, look who is coming to California? That's right, I am and would like to meet you for an AllEars.net Picture This! Photowalk at Disney's California Adventure. It will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2013, from 10am to 12noon. Meet up location will be near the Walt Disney "Storyteller" statue between 9:30am and 10am. I have never been to DCA so do not have any specific plans. All are invited whether you use a camera phone or a digital SLR.

If interested, leave a comment here so I can get an idea how many people are coming.

I would like to thank All Ears teammate Laura Gilbreath for the use of her photo.

August 16, 2013

Progressing through the Walt Disney World Resorts

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I post a lot of photos of the parks at Walt Disney World. This week I want to share a few from the wonderful resorts.

Value resorts are how I could afford trips when I first discovered the convenience and joy of staying right on Walt Disney World property. My girls loved the food courts at the Disney's All-Star Resorts with the large variety of family oriented meals and snacks. Over the years we stayed at Movies, Music and, my favorite, Sports. The over sized icons on the buildings and around each of the resorts always a treat for the kids and for their parent's cameras.

For those who have stayed at the All-Stars, the bus transportation area photo below will look very familiar to you. I never have had problems with the Disney Transportation system besides a long wait once in awhile. It saved me from car rental fees which would add a day or two to my vacation time. I liked that.

Bus transportation stops at the All-Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Bus transportation area at the All-Star Sports resort.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length.

As the years went by my two daughters became teenagers and we got better at saving for trips, the larger moderate resort rooms helped a lot during a long stay. Our favorite was Dixie Landings which is now known as Disney's French Quarter - Riverside for its charming Mansions and Bayou lodges.

Over the past few years, themed rooms at the moderate resorts have opened for guests. Curious, we checked out a Pirate Room in Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.

Pirate Room in the Caribbean Beach Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Argh! Smooth sailing and good sleeping in a Pirate Room.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/40s, f/5, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length.

When my daughters went off on their own, my wife and I have gotten to splurging on ourselves by trying out the Deluxe resorts. We plan on spending a day or two at the resort to really soak up the atmosphere, enjoy a meal at the sit-down restaurant and relax.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge speaks to the spirit of the great National Park lodges of the American West as soon as you walk into the lobby.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort lobby, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/15s, f/5, ISO 800, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

I believe many families progress through the Walt Disney World resorts as we have done. Depending on our plans, we stay at either level these days. Our daughters still like to come with us, too. We are a true Disney family.

August 9, 2013

Details of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Every Disney park and resort has many amazing details which help to immerse us guests into the theme of attractions, areas and entire parks. Disney's Hollywood Studios has numerous little details I am guessing many guests do not see or look for. Here are a few I found.

This golden Buddha statue is one of several found outside the Great Movie Ride reproduction facade of the Mann's Chinese Theater entrance.

One of several Buddha statues on the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Flordia
One of several Buddha statues on the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

An Animal lobby dust pan eats up the grim and dirt left behind by guests visiting Muppet Labs to see Muppet*Vision 3-D.

Animal Lobby Dust Pan in MuppetVision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Flordia
Animal Lobby Dust Pan in Muppet*Vision 3-D.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Fire Station No. 1 (the home of the fire truck that appears at the end of Muppet*Vision 3-D) can been seen if you look north from the entrance to Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano. I found it looking a bit unkempt.

Fire Station No. 1 in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Flordia
Fire Station No. 1 in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Flordia.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 150mm focal length.

Figures on the Animation Courtyard Archway depicting the filming of a Hollywood Western. Maybe the Lone Ranger (wink). You will find scenes like this on either side of the archway.

Figures on the Animation Courtyard Archway in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Flordia
Figures on the Animation Courtyard Archway.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 68mm focal length.

Next time you are walking around Disney's Hollywood Studios, look for those details Disney Imagineers have left for us to discover.

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.

July 26, 2013

Photographing Patterns at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Patterns can be boring to look at for most people. Not to us photographers. Patterns are facinating to photograph. They are all around us once we train our brains to see them. Lots of times, we will ignore patterns and fail to see their photographic potential.

Take for instance when we browse the shops at Walt Disney World. Do you notice the photographic opportunities of the displays? Look below at the display of Disney character coffee cups. Do you see the patterns?

Disney character coffee cups on display in Beverly Sunset shop at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney character coffee cups pattern.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/3.8, ISO 1800, EV +0.3, 32mm focal length.

Click here for more about photographing patterns

July 19, 2013

Disney Cruise Line: Nassau

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last year on a 4-Night Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Dream, my wife and I took the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery excursion. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Other passengers did their own thing in Nassau. Some wandered around the shopping and restaurant district near the ship docks. The famous Straw Market is within easy walking distance.

Here are some of the sights I saw when my wife and I walked around after our excursion was completed.

This was not the rum I was looking for.

Pirate mannequin advertising Tortuga Rum Cake in Nassau, Bahamas
Argh..want some Tortuga Rum Cake, matey?
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Many of the artisans were working on new carvings.

Wood carving kiosks at the Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas
Wood carving kiosks at the Straw Market.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

Kalik beer, the official beer of the Bahamas. Anyone know why it is named Kalik?

Advertising sign for Kalik beer, the official beer of the Bahamas, on a shop door in Nassau, Bahamas
Advertising sign for Kalik beer, the official beer of the Bahamas, on a shop door.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/5, ISO 200, EV -0, 28mm focal length.

If you need information about Nassau, stop at the visitor desk inside the Nassau Port Terminal building Festival Place. They can set you up with hair braiding to recommending walking tours of the port city.

Visitor desk in the Nassau Port Terminal building Festival Place
Visitor desk in the Nassau Port Terminal building Festival Place.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Back on the Disney Dream, I photographed these two hard to miss icons of Nassau.

Atlantis resort as seen from the Disney Dream in Nassau, Bahamas
Atlantis resort as seen from the Disney Dream in Nassau, Bahamas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 85mm focal length.

I can not resist something yellow.

Harbor control tower in Nassau, Bahamas
Harbor control tower in Nassau.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 135mm focal length.

Some passengers opted to stay on the ship while docked in Nassau. With so much to do and explore there, I do not think I could do that unless the weather was terrible. But that's just me.

July 12, 2013

Live, Laugh and Relax with Mickey Mouse

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

T-Shirt design seen on Castaway Cay, Bahamas

While Scott is NOT in the Caribbean this week, he is Living, Laughing and Relaxing right along with Mickey Mouse and Goofy. Donald Duck, not so much. Scott will be back next week to share more Disney photographic fun and tips.

July 5, 2013

Declaration of Independence in the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ben Franklin listens to Thomas Jefferson reading from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence in a scene from the American Adventure in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Scott is off this week. Probably recovering from a good old American cookout in celebration of the 4th of July holiday in the United States of America. He wanted to share this scene from Epcot's American Adventure to remind his fellow patriots of the history behind our annual day of celebration and fireworks.

Scott will return in two weeks with more Disney photos to share.

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!

June 21, 2013

Photographing a Star in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Whenever the Citizens of Hollywood set up shop in Disney's Hollywood Studios there will soon be a gathering of park guests around them. To make sure to separate the lovely and talented Evie Starlight from the people behind her, I made sure to shoot my lens wide open at f/5.6. Shooting wide open means using the largest aperture setting of a lens.

Evie Starlight is a bubbly and beautiful starlet and one of the Citizens of Hollywood performing on Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Evie Starlight is a bubbly and beautiful starlet performing on Sunset Blvd.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length,.

The result is a sharply focused starlet with the crowd befitting her status softly focused in the background.

June 14, 2013

Looking Up at Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week we visit Epcot and its "castle", Spaceship Earth. You will often hear Walt Disney World fans say to Look Up when walking around the parks. I took the saying to heart when I walked up to one of the pillars which hold up Spaceship Earth and looked straight up its edge. I leaned my camera right against it and looked through the viewfinder to see this...

Looking up at Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Looking up at Spaceship Earth in daylight.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length,.

Leading lines, reflections, geometric and repetitive shapes in silver popped right at me. If someone had never seen Spaceship Earth, they might thing this was an abstract image.

As Walt Disney World fans, you all know once the Sun goes down, the parks become transformed. Spaceship Earth is no different. I repeated the same photo here...

Looking up at Spaceship Earth in Epcot at night, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Looking up at Spaceship Earth at night.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length,.

The gold and yellow lighting gives it a different feel don't you think?

While this is an extreme case of Looking Up, it is a good idea to do anywhere you find yourself photographing.

June 7, 2013

Splash Mountain Motion in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

May 31, 2013

Photographing Walt Disney World Resorts from the Water

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Of all the forms of transportation at Walt Disney World, I enjoy the water transportation the most. You can choose to be in open air or inside comfort, they do not move too fast and there is something about being on the water which is relaxing to me. It is also a good time to take photographs of Walt Disney World parks, attractions and resorts from a different prespective.

Last year I took a Motor Cruiser from the Magic Kingdom to the Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort in the morning. Most people were going to the Magic Kingdom at the time. The boat was sparsely filled for the trip back to Fort Wilderness. I could move from one side of the boat to the other or go to the front or back. Below is what I photographed along the way.

A BASS Fishing Excursion boat with guide and guests were out on the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Grand Floridian and Narcoossee's restaurant as we left the Magic Kingdom port.

BASS Fishing Excursion boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Grand Floridian resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
BASS Fishing Excursion boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

After passing over the water bridge between the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, I got this beautiful view of the Contemporary Resort and, it's new companion, Bay Lake Towers.

Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers from Bay Lake, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 58mm focal length, cropped.

Even from the water, the Wilderness Lodge looks like it belongs in a western United States national park nestled amongst the tall trees.

Wilderness Lodge from Bay Lake, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wilderness Lodge from Bay Lake.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 210mm focal length, cropped.

I have enjoyed photographing between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios on Friendship boats and from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney on the DVC ferries. You can, too.

May 24, 2013

Star Wars Weekend Hyperspace Hoopla Photography Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars Weekends have started at Disney's Hollywood Studies for this year. I had a great time there last year being swept up in the fun of the Star Wars universe of characters, actors and events. At the end of each Star Wars Weekend day is the Hyperspace Hoopla Dance Off Show at the stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat on Hollywood Blvd.

NOTE: These photos were taken in 2012. Current Hyperspace Hooplas may feature different characters, dancers and storylines.

Hyperspace Hoopla during Star Wars Weekend in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hyperspace Hoopla during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The show is hosted by Snig and Oopla though Emperor Palpatine has been known to crash the party.

Hyperspace Hoopla hosts Snig and Oopla and party crasher Emperor Palpatin at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Hyperspace Hoopla hosts Snig (upper right) and Oopla with party crasher Emperor Palpatin.

The Emperor gets chanllenged to a Dance Off pitting the Dark Side against the Jedi force of good. The Emperor goes first and brings out bounty hunters Boba Fett and Aurra Sing before finally introducing the Lord Darth Vader.

Boba Fett, Darth Vader and Aurra Sing on stage at Hyperspace Hoopla in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Boba Fett, Darth Vader and Aurra Sing on stage at Hyperspace Hoopla.

Not to be outdone, Snig and Oopla bring out the Jedi forces to vanquish the Dark Side with Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars animated series.

Princess Leia, Chewbacca the Wookie and Ahsoka Tano from Clone Wars on stage at Hyperspace Hoopla in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Princess Leia, Chewbacca the Wookie and Ahsoka Tano from Clone Wars on stage at Hyperspace Hoopla.

Sometimes not even the Emperor or Snig and Oopla can keep good and evil from being tempted with each other.

Darth Vader dancing with Padme Amidala, Queen of Naboo, during Hyperspace Hoopla at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Darth Vader dancing with Padme Amidala, Queen of Naboo, during Hyperspace Hoopla.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The audience determines the winner by applause and then an encore.

The encore for the show I saw featured Darth Maul in a martial arts style dance routine to close the event.

Darth Maul performin on stage during Hyperspace Hoopla at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Darth Maul performin on stage during Hyperspace Hoopla.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 11/250s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

Some tips for photographing the Hyperspace Hoopla:

1. If you want to be close to the stage, you should be prepared to show up 1 to 1.5 hours before it starts (consult the Star Wars Weekend Guide Map). It can be a long, hot wait on open cement in the Florida Sun. Bring bottle water to keep yourself hydrated and an umbrella for shade.

2. This is a lighted stage show and my blog post on Photographing a Disney Show will come in handy.

3. Check out the AllEars.net youTube channel for the latest Hyperspace Hoopla show:

And May the Force Be with You!

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.

May 3, 2013

How to Photograph at a Busy Disney Park

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I came upon an article called How to Photograph Busy Tourist Sites by Kav Dadfar on the Digital Photography School website a few weeks ago. All the tips sounded a lot like the ones Lisa and I have talked about either directly or indirectly here on the Picture This! blog. I thought it would be fun to take each tip and expand on them in relation to Disney Photography. I hope you enjoyed the series. Below is each tip and a summary from the Disney posts with links for your reference.

1. Get Up Early

As I explained in my Walt Disney World version, staying late at a Disney park will give you your best people-free photography opportunities. On my personal photo blog, I did show how getting to non-Disney tourist destinations early is the way to go.

2. Include the Tourists

Especially at Disney properties, it is almost impossible not to get other guests in your photos. As I showed, just include the people like I did below. In fact, I waited for someone interesting (see #4 below) to stop in front of the fish tank on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

A lady looking at the fish on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A lady looking at the fish on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 1100, EV 0, 100mm focal length.

3. Compose Carefully

By carefully cropping people out of a photo either in camera or afterwards in post-processing, you can eliminate distracting crowds or individuals in your photos. While it is best to do it before taking the photograph, it is easy to crop and, even eliminate, distracting people in our photos using photo editing software.

4. Take Your Time

I do understand this can be hard to do for people visiting a Disney resort, waiting for a time when people are no longer around at the location you want to photograph does work. As Confucius said, The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

5. Think Creatively

This can be very challenging and very rewarding to do. Look from different angles, get low, get high or tilt your camera in different directions. At Disney, you never know what you might uncover.

6. Focus on the Details

For Disney photographers, looking for details to photograph in the parks, resorts, restaurants and queues is a favorite subject. Do not forget about all the Hidden Mickeys to be found at Walt Disney World.

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.

April 19, 2013

Being Creative with Crowds at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here's a fun way to approach photographing in busy tourist attractions like Walt Disney World. Be creative! Easier said than done I can hear you saying. Really, when confronted with people everywhere, start looking from different angles, get low, get high or just tilt your camera.

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you how I used guests watching a show in front of Cinderella Castle to create a good travel photograph. The photo today was taken a little before that one. I tilted my camera to eliminate most of the people and included the Partners Statue with the castle as a backdrop.

A creative view of the Partners Statue in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A creative view of the Partners Statue.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

There is almost no such thing as an unique photo taken at Walt Disney World anymore. Many people told me this was until I told them I had seen this idea done by another photographer. I got down on my stomach in front of Spaceship Earth and, using Aperture Priority mode, dialed in an f/18 aperture to get lots of depth of field. I know those are people's legs and feet in the photo. Can you recognize any of them?

A low view of people walking towards Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A low view of people walking towards Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, tripod.

Disney park fans have a saying, "Look up, look down". I have an addition for Disney park photographers, get LOW, get HIGH and look ALL around. Let your creativity go and enjoy the magic!

I will conclude this series next week with something Disney has always been famous for. Can you guess?

April 12, 2013

Play the Waiting Game at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 5, 2013

Cropping People from Walt Disney World Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I discussed using guests, tourists if you will, as part of photos in a crowded Disney park. I know, many do not like to see other people in their vacation photos. You can take some of those photos and crop out distracting subjects, like people. You could do this while you are photographing by checking your LCD screen and retaking the photo to eliminate any people. Sometimes it is not an option or hard to tell in those small camera screens.

Here is an example from a photo I took of Spaceship Earth in Epcot. I decided I would like to see this photo without the people you see underneath the attraction. The Leave A Legacy granite structures are a bit overwhelming, too.

Guests are framed between Leave A Legacy structures near Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests are framed between Leave A Legacy structures near Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

A little cropping of the photo and, using the Rule of Thirds, I came up with this version. I like how Spaceship Earth is now the dominate subject and it is set off by the blue sky and clouds above with the Leave A Legacy tops below.

Cropped version without the guests of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cropped version without the guests of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

I do like how the people are framed between the Leave A Legacy "monoliths" and Spaceship Earth in the first photo. Both photos are winners in my book. What do you think?

It is best to "crop" in camera as you get the best quality image, if possible, cropping in post-production is still a very useful tool to create your vision.

March 29, 2013

Including Guests in Walt Disney World Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Continuing our tips for photographing in busy tourist attractions using Walt Disney World examples. When the parks are full of people, and it is a rare day when they are not these days, I just include them in the composition. People help to tell the story and add scale to whatever surrounds them.

Watching the Dream Along with Mickey show on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle with a few of my closest friends, I decided to include them. I stood up on the bench next to the Partner's Statue in the hub to get this photo.

Guests enjoy the Dream Along with Mickey show at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests enjoy the Dream Along with Mickey show in front of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length.

My niece and her family were visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time and stopped to marvel at the Tree of Life. I like this photo more than the posed one I took a few minutes later. They are involved with the Tree of Life as the parents and children look at all the animals on it.

A family seeing the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A family seeing the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 22mm focal length.

While both of these photos would have been fine without the people, I feel including them enhanced the photos and created better stories.

March 22, 2013

Photographing at Night in Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!

February 22, 2013

Vacation Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

February 8, 2013

Star Tours Queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2013

Firerock Geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The beauty of Walt Disney World is you can enjoy the parks and the resorts. Disney's Wilderness Lodge has so much to offer from a romantic dining experience at Artist Point, fun (and I mean really fun) family dining at Whispering Canyon, details to discover in the spacious lobby and a surprise by following the flowing spring. The spring starts in the lobby and flows out to Silver Creek Falls. People can slide from the falls into the swimming pool. Make your way along the boardwalk path to the hot springs (jacuzzis), you will come across a sign informing you of Firerock Geyser. If you ask one of the Wilderness Lodge's rangers, they will tell you the geyser erupts every half hour.

Firerock Geyser from the pathway at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Firerock Geyser from the pathway at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 4000, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
Firerock Geyser shots water 120 feet (36.5 meters) into the air when it erupts.
Firerock Geyser erupting at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Firerock Geyser erupting at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 2200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Unlike the geyser's out west, Disney Motor Cruisers were bringing guests to and fro on Bay Lake behind Firerock for unique photo opportunities.

Motor Cruiser behind Firerock Geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Motor Cruiser behind Firerock Geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Nikon D700/28-200VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 4000, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

I processed these photos to look like the vacation photos I remember seeing from people who had visited Yellowstone National park as a kid. Brought back a little nostalgia remembering sitting through relative's slideshows of their adventures in the western Untied States.

January 25, 2013

Details of the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I was working on last week's article about the Liberty Bell in the Magic Kingdom, I got to thinking about the backstage tour I took a few years ago. The Keys to the Magic tour guide pointed out a couple of historic details Disney Imagineers had added to Liberty Square.

The first one is the rifle in the window. The guide said the musket told others the man of the house was home from the war in Revolutionary times. I found another explanation which said men would place thier rifle in the window to indicate they were home and ready to answer the call to arms. Thus the term Minutemen as they could be ready in minutes.

Rifle in a window of a building in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Rifle in a window of a building in Liberty Square.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length.

Below you see a plaque with four arms clasped at the wrist. The plaque was a fire marker of the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss of Fire. Benjamin Franklin was one of its founders. These fire markers were required for policy holders to affix them to the front of their houses, much like those home security companies do with decals today.

Four hands fire mark on a building in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Four hands fire mark on a building in Liberty Square.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 130mm focal length.

Disney is known for its attention to details and the Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom is no exception.

January 18, 2013

LIberty Bell at Night in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A replica of the famous Liberty Bell was specially cast from the original mold for Walt Disney World and placed in Liberty Square in 1989. Surrounding the Liberty Bell are the flags of the original thirteen colonies. For more fascinating information, visit Jack Spence's Liberty Square Odds & Ends article

Liberty Bell location in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell location in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 8s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

During the day, it is hard to get photos of the Liberty Bell unless you get in close and low like Barrie (remember her?) did here: National Treasure: Liberty Bell.

Using a wide angle lens and tripod during Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom one night, I was able to photograph the Liberty Bell from various angles.

Liberty Bell informational plaque in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell informational plaque.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

The wide angle lens allowed me to include the beautiful Hall of Presidents attraction in the background. The small aperture of f/16 created the starlight effects in the lights.

Liberty Bell and the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell and the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 15s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

The Liberty Bell is a rather large and easy to find Liberty Square detail. Do you know of other details found in this Magic Kingdom Land?

January 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.

January 4, 2013

Great Movie Ride through a Crystal Ball

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

December 21, 2012

Wishes Christmas Card from the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 14, 2012

The Great Walt Disney World Christmas Photo Quiz

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Below are seven photos taken during the Christmas holidays at Walt Disney World followed by seven questions. Put your answers in a comment (see link below). I will wait until Sunday at 9PM, Eastern US Time, to publish them. Anyone who gets ALL seven questions correct will be put into a drawing for a 16x20 Walt Disney World Print from yours truly. AllEars team members are not eligible.

Walt Disney World Christmas Holiday Photo Collage, Orlando, Florida

The Great Walt Disney World Christmas Photo Quiz

1. Where is this building located?

2. In which park is this Christmas tree found in front of?

3. Why is there a clock ornament hanging on this Christmas tree in the Animal Kingdom?

4. Who are the people whose names are on these stockings?

5. Where in Walt Disney World can you see guest displays like this?

6. What is this Cast Member doing?

7. Where did I take this photo of Holiday Wishes from?

Good Luck!

Here are the answers (Added on 12/16/2012):

1. Main Street USA (I accepted anyone telling me this was the Firehouse in MK)
2. Disney Hollywood Studios
3. These ornaments were on a Christmas tree in Dinoland USA. The clock refers to the theme of time running out.
4. Jennings Osbourne, his wife Mitzy and daughter Breezy.
5. Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
6. Personalizing an ornament for a guest
7. Taken from the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) next to the Ferry Boat landing. You can not get this straight on view of Cinderella Castle from the beach at the Polynesian Resort. I accepted anyone who mention TTC in their answer.

There was no reason for a draw as only one person got all 7 questions correct...congratulations Sharon!

December 7, 2012

Illuminations from Showcase Plaza

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 30, 2012

Tips on Photographing the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Here are some tips for photographing the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios. There are three major scenes of the production: Golden Idol, Cairo Fight and Exploding Plane which were all taken from the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Golden Idol scene is the darkest scene with spot lighting on the Indiana Jones stunt double as he replaces the Idol with a bag of dirt. To get proper exposure, switch to Spot Metering and meter off Jones' skin. The Idol will have some highlights but that is how it is seen so that is okay.

Golden Idol scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Golden Idol scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 2800, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The Cairo Fight scene is full of color and motion. There are two ways to approach photographing the fighting and tumbling. First, you can use a fast shutter to freeze the action. This will give you fun photos to study all the expressions of the stunt men and woman and the extras. You should switch to Matrix (Nikon) or Evaluative (Canon) Metering for this scene.

Cairo Fight scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cairo Fight scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (fast shutter).
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 5000, EV +0.3, 135mm focal length.

To capture some of the excitement of the stunts, slow down your shutter speed and allow for the motion of the stunt people to blur.

Cairo Fight scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cairo Fight scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (show shutter).
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 450, EV -0.3, 135mm focal length.

The last scene ends with large explosions as Indy and Marion run from the plane. Many Disney fan photographers consider this the money shot of the show. The trick here is to again use a fast shutter speed and burst mode to take a series of photos to catch the explosion as it expands behind the stunt actors.

Explosive finale of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Explosive finale of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV 0, 82mm focal length.

It helps to know the show which I have attended numerous times over the years. If you have not seen the show or do not remember it, search youTube for videos to study.

November 29, 2012

EPCOT30 Pins

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Cast Member showing guests the Limited Edition Epcot 30th Anniversary Pins outside of Mouse Gear in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
ast Member showing guests the Limited Edition Epcot 30th Anniversary Pins.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length.

While waiting in line for EPCOT30 merchandise, Cast Members were showing guests waiting in line for Mouse Gear these photos of the Limited Edition Epcot 30th Anniversary Pins which were worth the three plus hour wait to buy. I mean, they must have been to make it my Disney Pic of the Week about Pins. Right?

November 23, 2012

Color Composition at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are many rules of composition in photography, like the Rule of Thirds, symmetry, golden triangle and others. One thing that is often overlooked is using color in composition. Color can be used to lead the viewer's eye to the subject, create a response in the viewer or even frame an image. When studying this subject, I found I relied mostly on my subjects position or their relationship to other elements in the viewfinder. The following photos I did take with color being the primary photographic element.

Besides his humor, Cool Hand Luke stood out in front of Disney's Boardwalk Resort with his brightly colored costume which contrasted with the natural tones of the resort's buildings and wooded boardwalk. To further enhance his appearance, I placed him in the right third of the frame where your eyes are lead to first before exploring the rest of the scene.

Cool Hand Luke Juggling Show entertaining guests on The Boardwalk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cool Hand Luke Juggling Show entertaining guests on The Boardwalk.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, fill flash.

The blue twilight sky makes for a beautiful backdrop for the brightly lighted and colorful Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney. Here I balance the balloon with the horizon in the lower third of the frame.

Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Characters in Flight tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

A yellow Taveta Golden Weaver (Ploceus castaneiceps) bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom posed nicely for me against the natural background. The contrast of the yellow bird pops right out at you.

Taveta Golden Weaver bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Taveta Golden Weaver bird on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Going to finish up with a couple holiday photos now that Thanksgiving here in the United States has passed and the shopping season is in full swing today.

The slivery-blue Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center near the Ferry dock reflects in the Seven Seas Lagoon on a December evening. Reflections in water and other surfaces help to draw one's eyes to the main subject.

Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cinderella Castle in holiday Dream Lights from the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 3s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length, tripod.

The Toy Soldier statues around the Main Street USA Christmas Tree in the Magic Kingdom can be made the colorful subject by using a wide open aperture to create the dreamy bokeh (out of focus background) of the lights on the tree behind them.

Toy Soldier figure in front of the Main Street USA Christmas tree at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Toy Soldier figure in front of the Main Street USA Christmas Tree.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV -0.6, 116mm focal length, polarizer filter.

This month on my personal photo blog, I ran an assignment about Color Composition where you can find more reference articles and links to people who participated.

November 16, 2012

A Disney Photographer's Christmas List

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Can you believe it will be Thanksgiving next week here in the United States? Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties have started and the Dream Lights are back on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World. The calendar is giving us an extra week of Christmas shopping and I thought I would give you a few suggestions for the Disney photographer in your family which could be you. Good time to update your online gift lists of your loved ones or maybe yourself. ;-)


Stocking Stuffers

Sanyo Rechargeable AA Batteries with Charger - If you have a camera, flash or other accessory which uses batteries of any size, these Sanyo eneloop brand rechargeable batteries will save you a lot of money and the environment. They even come per-charged.

Universal Pop-Up LCD Shades - these are prefect in bright sunlight to allow you to see your camera's LCD screen. They come in sizes for 2.5-Inch LCD Screens and 3.0-Inch LCD Screens.

Dolica 77mm Neutral Density Filter Kit - For those wanting to capture really long exposures of fireworks shows, waterfalls and other moving objects, this set of three ND filters come with 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop filters which can be stacked up to 6 stops. Click here for more information on how to use Neutral Density filters and what kind of results you can get at Walt Disney World and elsewhere.

Joby GorillaPod Flexible Tripods - Sometimes you do not want to travel or carry a large tripod. GorillaPods are small, light weight and extremely handy to use in the parks. They come in models for Large Digital SLR cameras and Small Point & Shoot Digital cameras.


For Under the Tree

OP/TECH Pro Loop Camera Strap - the straps which come with our cameras are not very comfortable and advertise to the whole world what kind of camera we are carrying. This OP-TECH strap is very comfortable and allows the padded strap to be detached for use on tripods or Gorillapods.

Manfrotto Tripod with Ball Head - speaking of tripods, if you want to do any serious low light or night photography, you need one. This light weight Manfrotto is built of quality materials and comes with a ball head which is what us good photographers use.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera By Bryan Peterson - still THE best book on learning photography. This edition has been updated for today's digital cameras. Perfect gift for a beginner or long time photographer.

Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Boxed Set - Scott Kelby covers all aspects of photography in this four volume book set in short, concise and easy to follow manner. If you need to know how to do something in photography, these books will have it. Read them straight through and/or for a ready reference.


Gifts for the Special Photographer in Your Life

Nikon D3200 Digital SLR with 18-55mm Lens - time to move up from a mobile phone or Point & Shoot camera? This introductory camera and lens from Nikon is just the ticket. Look for sales at the major electronics and department stores this season for this and other introductory dSLR camera kits.

Nifty Fifties - If you just got (or asked for) a new digital SLR camera, then get or ask for one of the Nifty-Fifties from either Nikon or Canon. Own something else, check for that camera's version.

Super Zooms - for traveling to Disney themeparks or anywhere else in the world, I find quality super zooms to save me space, weight and time. I own Nikon so I can only recommend them. Canon, Sigma, Tokina and other manufacturers also have quality super zooms. Nikon has two for their DX camera line: Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom Nikkor Lens (this is the lens I used for years here on the blog) and the new, longer Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX Nikkor Lens.

Have a safe Black Friday everyone! Oh, and a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

November 9, 2012

Cast Member Magic at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney parks are wonderful.The attractions and rides are second to none in the world. As Lisa would remind us, without the Cast Members, the MAGIC we all associate with a Disney vacation would not exist. On my last trip, I meet three such Cast Members which created magic for my family and other guests.

While eating at Trail's End Buffet, I watched Chef Stephen going over foods on the buffet for a guest who had special dietary needs. Disney chefs are very good at helping guests with health concerns enjoy good meals at Disney restaurants. After he was finished, I talked with him a bit and asked if I could take his photo. He obliged, though a bit surprised. Thanks, Stephen!

Chef Stephen at Trail's End Buffet at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Chef Stephen at Trail's End Buffet.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 500, EV +0.3, 45mm focal length, bounce flash.

After enjoying a performance by the Voices of Liberty in the American Adventure, one of the performers noticed my daughter singing along and sought her out. My daughter was thrilled as she has sung in choirs since grade school.

Voices of Liberty Singer in Epcot's American Adventure, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Voices of Liberty Singer with guest in the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60, f/8, ISO 800, EV +1, 36mm focal length, bounced flash.

If any of you visited Walt Disney World towards the end of September this year, you know how hot and humid it was. So, it was with delight and relief when I entered the Fountainview Cafe in Epcot's Future World to order up a strawberry ice cream cone. The server was a College Program Cast Member who took pride in getting the ice cream correctly in the cone so it would not fall out. I know this as I had been watching her. Look at her concentration.

Fountainview Cafe Server making an ice cream cone in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fountainview Cafe Server making an ice cream cone for a guest.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/4.8, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 62mm focal length.

These cast members helped make my last trip magical and give me and my family three reasons to keep going back.

November 2, 2012

EPCOT30 Celebration

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”

- E. "Card" Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Walt Disney Productions, Oct. 24, 1982

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

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

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

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

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

October 26, 2012

More Halloween Fun in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is that time when I can get out photos from past Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties I have attended the last two years. Remember last year when the Cadaver Dans paid us a visit and those great special effects at the Haunted Mansion? Here are a few more photos to share with you.

A collage of Halloween fun during a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Halloween fun during a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

From top left going clockwise; The Headless Horseman leads off the Boo To You Parade, Ghost of Lady Renata in front of the Haunted Mansion, HalloWishes grand finale behind Cinderella Castle and a zombie marching in the parade on Main Street USA.

October 19, 2012

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 12, 2012

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 5, 2012

Tower of Terror 10 Miler at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2012

Vacation Time at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Donald Duck ready for vacation, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Are You Ready for a WDW Vacation?

Scott is and he will be attending the Disney Villains Hollywood Bash after the Tower of Terror 10 Miler tomorrow night which his daughter is running in. He will be there taking photos to bring back and share with all of us next week. You can follow Scott's adventure by clicking this link for his Disney Twitter feed. If you will be there, look for Scott and say "Hi!". He might have a gift for you.

Can anyone tell Scott why A113 (See ticket number above) is significant in Disney history?


September 21, 2012

La Fountaine de Cindrillon - Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

September 14, 2012

Advanced Dark Ride Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have talked about my attempts at photographing Disney dark rides in the past. I have not been satisfied with my results thus far. So, I contacted an expert. Michael Besant is an accomplished dark ride photographer and I asked him for his secret. Turns out I was not the only one to inquire and he had decided to write up how he photographs and processes his dark ride photos. I will reference the link soon.

First, I want to outline it for you:

Equipment

The better a camera handles high ISO settings the better its ability to capture dark ride images. If you get good images up to ISO 3200 or higher, your camera will work.

A fast lens is a must. The one I recommend is the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens as it is very affordable. Other lenses with wide open apertures like f1.4, f/2 and f/2.8 are in longer focal lengths and thus are more expensive. Many kit lenses are too slow in the f/3.5 to f/5.6 aperture range.

Photography

As in all photography, the better exposed your photo is, the better you will be able process the images. Michael gives excellent tips on how to do this. One which helped me was to switch from my normal use of JPEG images to the camera's RAW image capture. RAW files contain a lot more information in which your photo editor can use in pulling out details in photos.

Other tips are to use Shutter Priority mode to keep the shutter speed manageable. He recommends a shutter speed of at least 1/40th of a second (I try to keep it at 1/60th of a second, if possible), use continuous and single point focus settings and put your camera in burst (continuous) mode. Single point focus allows you to move the focus point to lock in on the brighter locations of the scene you are photographing. Lastly, set exposure compensation to +0.3 to slightly overexpose your photos. This will help in post processing.

Post Processing

I am going to give you the short version which Michael shared with me recently. For a detailed account you will need to visit his Dark Ride Shooting Tutorial (see link at end of article). He uses Adobe Photoshop software which is expensive but is the industry standard and for a good reason as you will see. I used Apple Aperture 3.3 which is like Adobe Lightroom 4.

Michael will open an image in ADOBE CAMERA RAW He always will ‘open' it up with the exposure slider to see what details are lurking in the shadows. Then he starts with the WHITE BALANCE. This is done on multiple levels, the first being the normal adjustments. Before he takes it further and goes into selective color and remove or tone down the HOT colors.

Depending on the image, Michael will adjust with either the RECOVERY or the FILL LIGHT slider followed by SHARPNESS/NOISE REDUCTION (NR) tab to adjust the sharpness and NR at that point. From there he finishes up using the CURVE tool.

If any of this sounds confusing, check your photo editing software's Help to learn how to use them.

For my processing, I had to substitute the NR part with a trip to another program called Noise Ninja. Once done, I returned back to Aperture for the final steps.

Below are photos I took in Mexico's Grand Fiesta ride and the Tower of Tower. I sent copies of the RAW files to Michael so as to compare my processing to his.

The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride at Epcot's Mexico pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride by Scott.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 12,800, EV +0.3.

The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride at Epcot's Mexico pavilion in World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Aztec Pyramid on the Grand Fiesta ride by Michael Besant.

You will notice right off the difference in the Aztec Pyramid's color which I left more in keeping with the lighting on the ride and I opened up the colors above the pyramid by using a dodging (lighting) brush. Both versions are fine with the differences being artistic and not technical.

Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror by Scott.
Nikon D700/70-200VR, 1/40s, f/2.8, ISO 12,800, EV +0.3, 92mm focal length.

Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghosts beckon during the Tower of Terror by Michael Besant.

Michael was able to pull out a lot more detail in the ghosts. I tired brushing in a few different effects but never got them as good as he did. Keep in mind Adobe Photoshop is a $600 photo editor and is considered the gold standard in professional photo editing. Apple Aperture is a $90 program which does a very good job.

I will say this is the best I have done with dark ride photos thanks to Michael Besant's Dark Ride Shooting Tutorial. I hope it will help you, too.

If you have any questions, leave them in the Comments.

September 7, 2012

Disney Dream Atrium

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 31, 2012

Signs of the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I was looking for signs I had photographed in the Magic Kingdom using a metadata search of my Disney photo library. From the photos displayed in the search I selected these to share with you.

My favorite counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom is found in Liberty Square. Columbia Harbour House has a varied menu and the most relaxing dining area in the park. If it is open, try the upstairs dining area for interesting views of Frontierland, Liberty Square and Fantasyland.

Sign in the Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Sign in the Columbia Harbour House Restaurant.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 70mm focal length.

Looking for extra cash to pay for your Walt Disney World vacation? Then keep your eye out for these men on the Wanted Posters hanging in the Frontierland Train Station.

Wanted signs at the Frontierland Train Station in the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.
Wanted signs at the Frontierland Train Station.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

There are many unique clocks in the Magic Kingdom. None more unique than the clock on the Video Arcade building next to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland.

Video Arcade sign and clock next to Tomorrowland's Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.
Video Arcade sign and clock next to Tomorrowland's Space Mountain.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 210mm focal length.

Many a guest who got blisters on their feet or parents with babies needing changing were relieved to find this sign pointing their way to the First Aid and Baby Care Center in the Magic Kingdom. They will take good care of you there.

First Aid and Baby Care sign near the Crystal Palace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.
First Aid and Baby Care sign near the Crystal Palace restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 180mm focal length.

The new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game is headquartered in the Fire House on Main Street USA. I may have to give this game a try on my next trip.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom sign at the entrance to the Fire House on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom sign at the entrance to the Fire House on Main Street USA.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 2000, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

I try to document objects such as signs, carts, statues and attractions at Walt Disney World during my visits as you never know when a future refurbishment might remove or replace them. Have you found any unique signs at Walt Disney World?

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.

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.

August 3, 2012

On the Road Again

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Scott behind the wheel of the red Hero car from the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Scott behind the wheel of the red Hero car from the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt.

Scott is on the road this week. No, not in one of the red Hero cars (he wishes!) but driving his daughter through the Mid-West as she relocates to take a new job. He will be back next week with more Disney photography tips and information.

July 27, 2012

Spaceship Earth Triptych

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A triptych is a work of art which is divided into three sections. I took a photo of Spaceship Earth looking right up one of the pylons. I decided to use FX Photo Studio to make a few special effect versions of the Spaceship Earth photo and create a triptych from them.

A triptych of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A triptych of Spaceship Earth.

In this case I used the same photo of Spaceship Earth. I could have used three different photos of the same subject or of different subjects if they worked together. For me, it means the three subjects should relate together in some way.

July 20, 2012

Disney Panoramic Views

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in October of 2009, I wrote a post called Pano-Magic about how to best take a set of photos to create a panoramic image. This post will show you some common mistakes made when taking photos for and creating the panoramics in post-processing. Due to the locations, all of the photos were taken hand-held.

If you recall when I reviewed the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery Tour, the one thing I wished I had was more time at Fort Fincastle. The panoramic you see below is the result of being rushed. I took these four photos quickly and, as I was reviewing them, was told we were moving on. I knew they would not create the panoramic image I had in mind. The wide angle shot in the review link is much better. Next time I did a panoramic set of photos, I made sure I had more time.

Panoramic view from the top of Fort Fincastle on Nassau in the Bahamas.
Panoramic view from the top of Fort Fincastle on Nassau in the Bahamas.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

This panoramic of Castaway Cay was planned. I knew about the Lookout Tower from my first visit to Castaway Cay. I had visions of a beautiful Caribbean blue sky with sunshine gleaming off the Disney Dream on the horizon. That vision was dashed with the weather but I still wanted the panoramic. I did a couple of things wrong here. First, I did not set my camera to full manual so that the exposure would be the same in each of the photos. As you can see, the photo used for the Disney Dream is a bit underexposed in comparison to the other four photos. Second, you can see a duplicate clearing on the left side. The panoramic stitching software I used did not properly line up the edges. I should have fixed that before saving the panoramic. Also, should have read my Pano-Magic post first, eh?

Panoramic view from the top of Lookout Tower on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
Panoramic view from the top of Lookout Tower on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

The last one I want to show you I am very proud of. During the Streets of America photowalk, the group got a backstage tour of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show. The panoramic image of the garage took four photos and I was so very careful to overlap them enough so the panoramic stitching software could do its magic. This time I made sure my camera was in manual mode to keep the exposure the same. I was told by the stunt drivers giving the tour, they can strip down and totally rebuild any of the vehicles used during the shows.

Panoramic view of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show garage in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Panoramic view of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show Garage.
CLICK PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Many photo editing programs today can perform the stitching needed to create panoramic images. Check to see if yours does. If not, there are many quality stand alone programs suited to the task. Of course, the better you plan and produce the photos for the panoramic, the better your results will be. Right, Scott?

July 13, 2012

Tiki Gods in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

July 6, 2012

Patriotism at the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Member of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps saluting the American flag in front of the American Adventure in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Member of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps saluting the American flag in front of the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/13, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

When it comes to American Patriotism, the Walt Disney Company is a master at bringing on such feelings for the citizens of the United States. Performances of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps occur several times a day in front of the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.

June 29, 2012

Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery Tour

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I mentioned the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery excursion my wife and I did a couple of weeks ago when I talked about Disney Cruising for Couples. Thought you might be interested in a more in depth report.

The night before, our room steward left us our Port Adventure Tickets. The ticket tells you when and where to meet up for the start of the excursion. Ours said DK4 AFT 687, telling us to go to Deck 4, aft ship, in the 687 Sports lounge. Time to meet was 9:45am. At 687, there were two other groups meeting. We checked in and was told our group would follow the Disney Cruise Line cast member with the Beast sign (think tour group flags you see in Disney parks but with a cardboard image of the Beast).

The crew member lead us off the ship to a waiting local Nassau tour guide who took us to his van which comfortably fit us and the nine other people on the excursion. It was a hot and humid island day and we were all thankful for the van's air conditioning. The guide drove us through the narrow and maze like streets of Nassau to our first destination: Fort Fincastle. There he handed us off to Fort Fincastle's historian.

View from the top of Fort Fincastle on the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery Disney Dream excursion while visiting Nassau in the Bahamas.
View from the top of Fort Fincastle in Nassau, the Bahamas..
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length.

Fort Fincastle overlooks Nassau from Bennet's Hill and was built by Lord Dunmore around 1793 who named it after his second title, Viscount Fincastle. The Batteries covered Hog Island (now called Paradise Island) and all the town and road eastward though they were never used. The cannons you see in the photo are replicas of the original brass ones which were removed once the threat of attack to the island dissipated.

From Fort Fincastle, we were lead over to the top of Nassau's most visited attraction, the Queen's Staircase. The 65 stairs were carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century, between 1793 and 1794. The stairs are also Fort Fincastle's escape route.

People walking down the 65 steps of the Queen's Staircase in Nassau, Bahamas.
People walking down the 65 steps of the Queen's Staircase in Nassau, Bahamas.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 900, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tone-mapped.

The 102 foot staircase was named in honor of the 65 years of Queen Victoria's reign. Construction of this monument is still regarded as remarkable. We were all happy the tour had us walk down the staircase! At the bottom we meet up with our tour guide who whisked us off to our next destination, the Junkanoo Discovery.

We were dropped off at the Ivern House which is an interactive museum about the Junkanoo Festival held each year at midnight on Christmas. The couple who run the museum have been participating in the festival since the early 1960′s. The festival features dancing in the streets with large colorful head and body costumes made from paper products. Some can be as tall as ten feet and weigh over seventy pounds.

Ringing the cow bells at the Junkanoo museum inside the Ivern House on the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery Disney Dream excursion while visiting Nassau in the Bahamas.
Ringing the cow bells at the Junkanoo museum inside the Ivern House on Nassau, Bahamas.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 5000, EV -0.3, 15mm focal length, cropped.

The highlight of the Junkanoo exhibit was learning how to play the cow bells and drums which is the other part of the festival. The kids in the group were encouraged and took to heart to make as much noise as possible. However, by the time we left, our group sounded really good!

While the Junkanoo fun was well worth the price of the excursion, the last stop would be at Fort Charlotte. Another 18th century stone fort built with slave labor which was never used for the purpose for which it was made.

Fort Charlotte on Nassau, Bahamas.
Fort Charlotte on Nassau, Bahamas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

Fort Charlotte is the largest of the three forts found in Nassau. Built in 1789 again by Lord Dunmore and named in honor of the wife of King George III. It includes a water-less moat, draw-bridge, ramparts and dungeons and commands a fine view of Nassau Harbor.

View from Fort Charlotte of the Disney Dream and Disney Magic in the Port of Nassau, Bahamas.
View from Fort Charlotte of the Disney Dream and Disney Magic in the Port of Nassau.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 170mm focal length.

Our tour guide loaded us back in the van to be dropped off at the port. If I had one complaint about the tour, it was the length of time we were given at Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase which were far more interesting photographically than Fort Charlotte. In all, the tour took 3 hours.

Not needing to be back on board the Disney Dream yet. My wife and I walked down to the famous Straw Market of Nassau and shopped the many kiosks for straw products, wood carvings and other trinkets.

The famous Straw Market in Nassau, the Bahamas.
The famous Straw Market in Nassau.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 34mm focal length.

We then walked back to the ship after passing through customs and back to our cool room to enjoy the rest of the day on the Disney Dream.

June 22, 2012

Photowalking the Streets of America

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last month I hosted a photowalk on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios. It did not turn out exactly as people thought it would. I had planned a surprise but could not revel it until the time of the photowalk as it was not confirmed until a couple of hours before the meet was to start. You see, I had been in contact with a cast member at the Studios to arrange for special seating at Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show over the last few months. The problem was the weather as it was raining hard, as in Cats and Dogs hard, until about two hours before the Photowalk was to start.

Turns out as long as it is not raining, the show would go on at a slower pace for safety. I collected my group of 6 people who took a chance on the weather and we headed over to the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show entrance where we meet up with the cast member. He escorted us up to the VIP Seating area which is directly behind and above the show's control room. From there we had a clear view of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show "stage". Four more people joined us late bringing the group to 10 people.

AllEars.net Streets of America Photowalk participants in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
AllEars.net Streets of America Photowalk participants.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, fill flash.

Here is a photo I took during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show from the VIP Seating Area when the red Hero car comes nose to nose with the Villain cars while driving backwards. I pointed out when and where the action would be taking place to those who had never seen the show before.

The Hero going nose to nose with the Villians during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Hero going nose to nose with the Villians during the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 105mm focal length.

I found out before the show my group was invited to a backstage tour of the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show set. After the show ended, I gathered everyone up and meet one of the ushers at the bottom of the stands. He walked us over to a stage entrance where we were greeted by two of the stunt drivers. What a surprise to all of us (including me) that they would be giving the tour. Rob and Chad took us behind the town's facades where we got to see all the cars, motorcycles and other stuff stuff for the show. We even got a chance to get behind the wheel of the Hero car. Let me tell you it is a tight fit!

Behind the wheel of the red Hero car backstage at the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Behind the wheel of the red Hero car backstage at the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

The stunt drivers were perfect hosts answering all of our questions while showing us around. Did you know they use 3,000 tires a month and the bumper of the Hero car is replaced twice a week? They showed us the cleanest auto shop I have ever seen where they can fully take the cars, motorcycles and jet skis apart and rebuild them. Rob and Chad posed with us for pictures. This is Rob below with a young Photowalk participant.

A young Photowalk participant poses with a stunt driver backstage at the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A young Photowalk participant poses with a stunt driver backstage at the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 45mm focal length, fill flash.

I can not thank the cast member enough for arranging both the VIP Seating and the Backstage Tour. It was a thrill for all of us and made the day extra magical.

After saying our goodbyes to Rob and Chad and thanking them with the AllEars.net trading card for the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show, we went over and explored the Streets of America. I gave everyone 10 hints of interesting things to find. You can see those hints and the photos by some of the photowalk participants at the AllEars.net Streets of America Photowalk Online Gallery by clicking here. Feel free to leave us comments about them.

We caught the end of a performance by Mulch, Sweat and Shears on San Francisco street. The guitar player was really into it. Sure capped off an amazing photowalk for us.

Mulch, Sweat and Shears guitarist performing on the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mulch, Sweat and Shears guitarist performing on the Streets of America.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, fill flash.

What a great group of people who took a chance and came to the photowalk even though the weather was far from ideal. I encourage you to check out the photo gallery (see link above) as the crew did a very good job of capturing the fun and excitement of the day. I hope to see some of you at a future photowalk.

June 15, 2012

Disney Cruising for Couples

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last time I sailed on the Disney Dream was for her Christening Cruise back in January of 2011. On that cruise there were fewer than 1,000 passengers and most of them were media and travel professionals without their families. As you can imagine, I wondered how a 4-Night Caribbean cruise would be with almost a full complement of passengers, nearly 4,000, and most of them being families would be like traveling as an adult couple. Could an adult couple enjoy a Disney cruise?

Passengers come out for the Sail Away Party show as the Disney Dream leaves Port Canaveral, Florida.
Can Adult Couples really enjoy a Disney Cruise?
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I guess you can ask the same question to all of us adults who go to any of the Disney parks and resorts. However, on a cruise ship there is limited space and there are a lot of children, preteens and teens on board. I can tell you the Disney Cruise Line knows what it is doing. There are enough activities, locations and events to keep adult couples happy and relaxed. In fact, you have to take the attitude one would take at the parks and resorts. You do what you want and enjoy the experience. If it becomes to much to handle, you can return to your room or head to one of the adult only locations on the ship. One such area can be found on Decks 11 & 12 Forward.

Decks 11 and 12 Forward on the Disney Dream cruise ship are reserved for Adults Only.
Decks 11 and 12 Forward on the Disney Dream cruise ship are reserved for Adults Only.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

The adult pool and four bars are located in this area with lots of space for couples to lounge in the Caribbean sunshine or curl up together in an over-sized chair. Entertainment for this area was a singer/guitar player who sang island and easy listening favorites. A cool tropical drink or other adult beverages are just a few steps away. The area was quiet and calm unlike where the families were frolicking at the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck pools.

Note about the photo above: The extra Disney stacks you see in the background are from the Disney Magic who was berthed along side of the Dream when we visited Nassau, Bahamas.

When I travel to places, I like to seek out historical and cultural locations and events. With that in mind, my wife and I chose the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery excursion at the Port of Call of Nassau. We, along with two other families, were driven by a local tour guide to Fort Fincastle to learn about its history, walked down the Queen's Staircase and visited the Ivern House, which is an interactive museum that taught us about the Bahamian festival of Junkanoo. We, along with our fellow tourists, had a ball playing bells and drums as we learned about the origins and traditions of the colorful and loud festival. Even got to try on Junkanoo hats.

Scott and his wife try on colorful and heavy Junkanoo hats in Nassau, Bahamas.
Scott and his wife try on colorful and heavy Junkanoo hats.

Dining on a Disney cruise ship may be a concern to couples. It was not for us. Our table in each of the restaurants was located with other couples and families with older children. We had a most pleasant experience in part because of our Dining crew, who stayed with us each night for dinner. I remember grumblings from the very first Disney Dream cruises about the service. That is a thing of the past as we experienced excellent service. They were very personable, quick and remembered our preferences after the first night. We were so impressed with them, we called over the Head Waiter and voiced our pleasure to him directly. Then asked them all to pose for a photo to remember them by. A fellow passenger was kind enough to use my camera so even I could be included.

)ur Dining Crew on the Disney Dream taken in the Enchanted Garden restaurant.
Scott and his wife's Dining Crew on the Disney Dream taken at Pirate Night.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 3200, EV -0.6, 28mm focal length, bounced flash.

Do not forget to try one of the upscale restaurants of Palo or Remy, which cater to adults only. We enjoyed a leisurely meal in Palo as the Disney Dream left the Port of Nassau. Our server for the evening pointed out all the homes to the stars as we went by. The food was great everywhere on the Dream but Palo was just a notch above. Very flavorful and not too filling that we could not enjoy our Chocolate Souffle dessert.

Being a Disney-owned ship, you know you will see Disney's famous characters from animated shorts to full-length movies. Adults were just as happy to see them as the kids. Characters were around the adult-only areas as well as announced locations around the ship and on Castaway Cay. The daily Navigator newsletter kept everyone informed to what was happening and when.

Disney characters on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Disney characters on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

You are probably all familiar with Castaway Cay's adult beach called Serenity Bay. Again, a nice quiet place for adults to enjoy the Caribbean lifestyle. They serve a BBQ Buffet right there so you do not have to go back to Cookies near the family beach to eat your fill. The Castaway Air Bar will keep you hydrated with its famous Konk Kooler drink made up of rum, coconut, pineapple, orange juices and passion fruit. Oh, yea, it's as good as it sounds.

There are many activities you can do on Castaway Cay. Before my wife and I settled at Serenity Bay, we rented bicycles and rode the trails out to the Lookout Tower. As the day was windy with a threat of rain, many others did the same. They have water locations all along the trails to keep people cool in the Caribbean heat and humidity.

A family riding rented bikes on Castaway Cay during a Disney Dream cruise.
A family riding rented bikes on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 48mm focal length.

All in all, my wife and I found lots of places to relax and enjoy ourselves as well as things to do. We took in two of the fabulous live Broadway caliber shows in the Walt Disney Theatre, watched the 3-D adventure movie, The Avengers, in the Buena Vista Theater, took in the fireworks show and dessert buffet on Pirates Night, grabbed an ice cream and a burger from the quick service locations and drank strawberry daiquiris while watching a beautiful sunset from the promenade deck. As you can see, couples can have a relaxing, enjoyable and, yes, romantic cruise on a Disney ship.

Oh, and let me not forget The District. An adult only nightclub and lounge area with places for every kind of adult fun; sports, cocktail lounge, comedy, dancing and games. I even watched a Stanley Cup playoff hockey game in the middle of the Caribbean at the 687 Sports Bar one night.

Scott and his wife sitting on a port hole in the District adult only nightclub area.
Scott and his wife sitting on a port hole in the District adult only nightclub area.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length, bounced flash.


Click here for more information about the Disney Cruise Line.

June 8, 2012

Star Wars Weekend Fun at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I finally got to attend my first Star Wars Weekends last month at Disney's Hollywood Studios. If you have looked into it, you know it is very crowded in the event areas and for the special Star Wars character meet and greets. Beyond that, the rest of the park is fairly normal. I got to do my favorite attractions and rides using FastPasses and patience.

I went to two Star Wars Weekend days. The first day was to photograph the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade which is lead off by Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse.

Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse leads off the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse leads off the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 85mm focal length, fill flash.

I was most interested in seeing the members of the 501st Legion who are people like Civil War re-enactors who are part of a world wide organization which promotes interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work. Below is three examples of the their costume work of over 300 who participated in this motorcade.

Members of the 501st Legion march in the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Members of the 501st Legion march in the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade.

There are many special events and meets and greets. These have some unique photo opportunities. Like seeing the Bounty Hunter Janga Fett signing Disney autograph books.

A Bounty Hunter's work is never done as Janga Fett signs his autograph during Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Bounty Hunter's work is never done as Janga Fett signs his autograph during Star Wars Weekend.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 116mm focal length, fill flash.

Waiting in line for Star Wars characters is a long and hot process. I waited for an hour to get my picture taken with Princess Minnie "Leia" Mouse or Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse as they were changing every 25 minutes. I caught this moment during one of the change overs.

Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse waving to Princess Minnie
Jedi Knight Mickey Mouse waving to Princess Minnie "Leia" Mouse during Star Wars Weekends.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 52mm focal length, fill flash.

There are many shows featuring actors who are part of the Star Wars movies and animated series. The one I highly recommend going to is the Stars to the Saga show. Not only will you see stars like Ray Park who played Darth Maul but for the pre-show. The pre-show features some wayward Stormtroopers who enjoyed the park while on patrol bringing back some hilarious photos of their exploits.

Imperial Stormtroopers wearing Mickey ears during Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Imperial Stormtroopers wearing Mickey ears at the Stars to the Saga pre-show during Star Wars Weekends.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 2000, EV -1.0, 250mm focal length.

If you or members of your family are big Star Wars fans as I am, you will throughly enjoy Star Wars Weekends. I even got to see the famous droids C-3PO and R2-D2 being escorted after a show on the main stage. Spent some money in Darth's Mall which is a huge tent full of only Star Wars merchandise especially for Disney. If you are interested in autographs of the Star Wars stars, there are special entrance stations to get FastPasses. I even enjoyed a Blue Milk Shake (tasted like Vanilla) in the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant as a nod to the blue milk Luke drank in the first Star Wars movie.

NOTE: I apologize for missing posting to the blog last week. Time got away from me after vacation. I have many great posts coming up over the next few weeks so I hope you will continue to come back to read Picture This! every day.

May 25, 2012

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2012

Disney Land and Sea

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney Land and Sea, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney Land and Sea.

Scott is on vacation this week. This time he is doing a Land and Sea trip to Walt Disney World which will include a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream followed by a stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. He'll be back next week with more Disney photography information and tips.

You can follow Scott on his Disney Twitter feed @Scottwdw or on Google+ at Scott Thomas as he will be posting comments and photos during the trip.

May 11, 2012

10 Must Take Photos: Magic Kingdom eBook Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

My friends over on the Disney Photography Blog have come out with a new ebook series based on the many requests they have gotten about where and how to take the photos they post. The series called 10 Must Take Photos will cover each park in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. They have released two so far: Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Today, I will review the 10 Must Take Photos for the Magic Kingdom.

La Fontaine de Cindrellon in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
La Fontaine de Cindrellon (Cinderella Fountain) one of the 10 Must Take Photos in the Magic Kingdom.

As the authors state, this is their list. Each one of us could come up with our own list which would differ. What the ebook does well is for each Must Take Photo, it tells you the where, how and why. Those answers are often not included with park photos you see online. In fact, that is my biggest complaint with most photo sharing websites.

Cinderella Castle Must Take Photo page
Cinderella Castle Must Take Photo Page.

Each photo gets a large introductory page so you can delve into it, study it and see it. See it? Yes, many times we do not take the time to really "see" a photo. With large photos it is much easier. The next page has a smaller version of the same photo for reference. The page tells how to get to the location where the photo was taken. Explains why the photo is considered a Must Take and gives specifics on how the photo was taken. Additional Photo Tips may be included giving ideas for alternative photos for the subject.

I have all but two of these Must Take Photos. I am planning on using this ebook soon (see below) to complete the set. I will report back in a few weeks on how I did.

The price of the ebooks are only $4 (US) each and can be ordered by following this link. What are your Must Take Photos?

Vacation Notice
I will be on vacation the next couple of weeks to, you guessed it, Walt Disney World. Remember the Photowalk announcement? Still spots available! If can not make it, you can follow my Disney Twitter feed @Scottwdw or on Google+ at Scott Thomas.

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!

April 27, 2012

Yacht Club from Snapshot to Postcard

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I see a lot of photographs from Disney parks each week from my contacts on flickr, Google+, Twitter and Disney message forums. That means I see a lot of photos in these two categories: Snapshots and Postcards. Before I go farther, these are my definitions and opinions and not those of AllEars.net.

A snapshot is a photo of something which has distractions of one kind or another. The subject maybe clear or lost in the distractions. Bad compositions fall into this category. I have hundreds of these kinds of photos. Many hold memories for me of places, people and things. They are put in albums and galleries to be shared with family and friends. Nothing people would consider buying if they saw it on a postcard.

This photo of the Yacht Club Resort at Walt Disney World is a prime example of a snapshot. While the subject is the Yacht Club and I used leading lines to lead your eyes to the resort, there are distractions. The most obvious is the large shadow from the lighthouse in the lower left. The other distraction is the boat on the edge of the left border. Remember to look around the edges before you press the shutter or on the LCD screen before you leave the location of an important photo.

The dock to the Yacht Club Resort from the lighthouse., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Snapshot of the Yacht Club Resort from the lighthouse.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/14, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

How to make this snapshot into a postcard? A postcard photo is one which I feel a person would buy in a shop of a place they are visiting to show other people where they have been. These are the photos I share online with my contacts and all of you here. To do this, I first walked up the dock towards the Yacht Club a few feet to eliminate the shadow and zoomed in the lens to clean up the edges.

The dock to the Yacht Club Resort from the lighthouse., Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Postcard of the Yacht Club Resort from the lighthouse.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 40mm focal length.

While this photo will never be in the Yacht Club's store, I believe it could be.

April 20, 2012

Disney in Washington, DC

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of weeks ago I told you I was vacationing in Washington, DC. If you are like me, even when I am not at a Disney park, I notice Disney stuff everywhere. Raise your hand if you point out hidden Mickeys no where near a Disney attraction. Uh huh, just as I thought. Lots of you. Then, I hope you will indulge me as I show you a couple of Disney related things I saw in my nation's Capitol.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has an exhibit on American Pop Culture. The first item you see in the exhibit is a Dumbo ride vehicle. I noticed many children extremely happy to point it out to their families. I bet they would have rather been riding Dumbo than seeing it.

Dumbo ride vehicle on display in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
Dumbo ride vehicle on display in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington, DC..
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 2800, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Not to far from the American History Museum is the United States National Archives. This building played a major role in the first National Treasure movie as Ben Gates, played by Nicolas Cage, steals the original Declaration of Independence from the vault inside the Archives. I also saw the Reading Room inside the Library of Congress which was used in both the first and second National Treasure movies but photography was not allowed even without a flash.

US National Archives building in Washington, DC.
US National Archives building in Washington, DC.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

Where have you seen references to Disney parks or movies when traveling away from the Disney themeparks?

April 13, 2012

Streets of America Photowalk

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Announcing the
Streets of America Photowalk
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 from 12:30pm to 3pm

I will be hosting this photowalk to explore the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Disney Imagineers went to great lengths to create details found in both cities represented, New York City and San Francisco. This is a great opportunity to discover some of the hidden treasures found among the streets of the big city sets. There might even be a surprise or two along the way. The photowalk is limited to 20 people and you can sign up on the AllEars.net Facebook page (click here). We will meet up at the Studio Catering Company seating area between 12pm and 12:30pm.

A photographer sets up for a photo along one of the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A photographer sets up for a photo along one of the Streets of America.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 38mm focal length.

Will have some fun AllEars.Net swag to give to everyone. If you will be visiting Walt Disney World on May 29th, come join up with other photography loving-Disney fans and explore the concrete jungle in the backlot of the Studios.

April 6, 2012

Flyer Mickey at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Flyer Mickey on a t-shirt in a shop across from Soarin' inside Epcot's The Land pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flyer Mickey on a t-shirt in a shop across from Soarin'.

Scott is on vacation this week as he seeks out all manner of historic aircraft at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museums in Washington, DC. He will return next week to continue with his weekly photography tips from Disney parks.

You can check out Flyer Mickey and other aviation merchandise like this t-shirt in the kiosk across from Soarin' inside Epcot's The Land pavilion.

March 30, 2012

Shopping in Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

My family and I make deals these days when spending time at Walt Disney World. They give me time to photograph and I give them time to shop. They also know to feed me just to be safe. Like at the Earl of Sandwich when the day calls for a shopping safari at Downtown Disney's Marketplace. Else, I might start to look like Donald Duck does in Disney's Pin Traders.

Donald Duck looks grumpy in the Disney's Pin Traders shop at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A grumpy Donald Duck in the Disney's Pin Traders Shop at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/4, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length.

Just beware that even if you are going to Downtown Disney to dine. A few of the restaurants have shops inside of them like the T-Rex Cafe where the popular Mall favorite, Build-A-Bear, has morphed into Build-A-Dino.

Build A Dino shop inside the T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Build A Dino shop inside the T-Rex Cafe.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 1600, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length.

Then there's the World of Disney store. It is approximately 51,000 square feet housing every imaginable kind of Walt Disney World souvenir, clothing and merchandise. The entrance below is guarded by Stitch and is the reason why you should always look up when on Disney property.

World of Disney shop entrance guarded by Stitch in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
World of Disney shop entrance guarded by Stitch.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.3, ISO 320, EV -0.3, 98mm focal length.

I do find many ways to entertain myself while my family shops. The stores are filled with wonderful details, colors and Disney magic. However, after a while, I do feel like time is just tick-tocking away and we should be getting back to a park for more fun and photography.

Time ticks and tocks away inside the World of Disney shop in Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Time ticks and tocks away inside the World of Disney.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length, rear-sync, bounced flash.

Remember, give others in your traveling party time to enjoy what their passions are. Even if it means spending time doing things you would rather not be.

I will be off next week for a family vacation. Not to Disney this time though I have a feeling I might find some Disney magic along the way. If you would like, you can follow my non-Disney twitter account here: Scott Thomas.

March 23, 2012

Illuminations over Imagination in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2012

Rockin' Around Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Epcot's World Showcase features live musical entertainment daily and seasonally. Canada, Japan, Morocco and the United Kingdom have permanent stages while Mexico and the American Adventure have roving musicians. Today I am showing you the Rockin' part of World Showcase.

First up is the Celtic Rock band in Canada, Off Kilter. Lead by singer and bagpipe player, Jamie Holton (upper right below), Off Kilter's unmistakable sound pulls people in and their fun on stage presence keeps them there. Along with Jamie, (from top left) bass guitarist Mark Weldon, master guitarist Randy Holbrook and keyboardist Tony Escapa. Not pictured is drummer Scott Zymowski. Click the Photo for a Larger Version.

Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.

Morocco is our next stop where Mo'Rockin take Arabic rhythms into a contemporary flair. I must admit while the music is good and lively. When the dancer appears, the interest of those around increase and she enjoys teaching little ones to dance, too. Click the Photo for a Larger Version.

Mo'Rockin entertaining in Morocco in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mo'Rockin entertaining in Morocco in Epcot's World Showcase.

Twice a year, Epcot hosts festivals with special musical acts at the America Gardens Theatre in front of the American Adventure. In the Spring, there's the Flower and Garden Festival with a series of concerts called Flower Power. The Fall festival called Food and Wine has the Eat to the Beat concerts. These concerts feature bands from the 1970's and 1980's.

Last Fall, I enjoyed seeing one of my favorite bands from my college days. The Orchestra has former members of the popular band Electric Light Orchestra also known as ELO. If you are at Walt Disney World this May from 4th to the 6th, stop by and enjoy their unique rock sound featuring violinist Mike Kaminski (see below). Click the Photo for a Larger Version.

Former members of ELO make up The Orchestera performing during an Eat to the Beat concert at the America Gardens Theatre, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Former members of ELO make up The Orchestera performing during an Eat to the Beat concert at the America Gardens Theatre.

To make sure you catch all the entertainment found around Epcot, pick up an entertainment guide as you enter the park or in any shops or kiosks.

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.

March 2, 2012

Canada Waterfall in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2012

Photographing in the Rain at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indoor Tour of World Showcase, Part I

Indoor Tour of World Showcase, Part 2

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

February 17, 2012

A Jolly Holiday with Mary in the United Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

February 10, 2012

Inside Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 3, 2012

Characters in Flight at Twilight at Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 27, 2012

Lighting up a Monorail in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 20, 2012

"Smile and Say Jambo!" Photowalk in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It was a chilly Florida morning which greeted the attendees of the AllEars.net December to Remember photowalk event dubbed "Smile and Say Jambo!" at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Barrie, Erin and I were thrilled with the turnout. I handed out photography tips for the animal trails and Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Erin laid out a lot of AllEars.net swag which was well received as most of it was gone before we started the photowalk. After introductions and a short discussion as to what the event was about, we pulled raffle tickets for prizes. Items given away included prints from both Barrie and myself, one of Barrie's popular Disney calendars and a prize pack donated by Deb Wills, founder of AllEars.net, which included a rare Disney's Animal Kingdom opening day t-shirt. Then, John Hayes, known to many as the Town Crier, lead us in a hearty Hip, Hip, Hooray! to 15 years of AllEars.net and Deb Wills. You can see John in the photo collage.

Below is most of the group posing before entering the park. The rest are photos I took during the walk on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and safari trip.

AllEars December to Remember Photowalk in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
"Smile and Say Jambo!" Photowalk in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Here's the Bird Spotting Guide you can use while on the trail.

I hope all who attended had a great time. I enjoyed meeting you all. Until next time, Kwaheri!

January 13, 2012

Photographing on the Wild Africa Trek, Part II

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I left you last week, I was still wearing the safety vest (see below). After visiting with the sunbathing Nile Crocodiles, my Wild Africa Trek group headed overland until we were across from the place where the Safari jeeps first enter the savannah part of the Harambe Reserve. For those who have been on the safari, this is the location drivers stop to point out the large baobab tree.

Here's Scott all decked out in his Wild Africa Trek safety vest in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Here's Scott all decked out in his Wild Africa Trek safety vest.
Copyright Disney 2011. Used by permission.

Africa Trek Guide Lauren
Here you can see I had my camera secured via a neck strap and that I had on my flash which I used to fill in shadows during the first part of the Wild Africa Trek. You will also notice the black cord above and behind me which was attached to an overhead cable. They make sure you can not fall too far if you do slip. The vest itself had room for small objects in the zippered pockets like an extra camera battery and memory card.

Here we all took off our vests and climbed aboard a pickup-like truck with bench seating in the back with a canopy overhead. The tour guides switched places at this time. The photographer became the guide and visa versa. The bad news about these trucks is they bounce worse than the safari jeeps making photography very difficult when moving. The goods news is they stop for long periods of time when the guide asks the driver to pull over. This is how I got this photograph of the two young African elephants playing near the water. The truck pulled over and we all photographed them. We also stopped for antelopes, gazelles, kudus, giraffes, wildebeest and the Mandrill baboons.

Young African elephants photographed on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Young African elephants photographed on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 280, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

After the elephants, the truck pulled off the safari road and up to a viewing platform which overlooks the savannah and the flamingo pool. We were treated to an African snack made specifically for the tour by Boma's staff and more Jungle Juice. There are restrooms here which were needed by several of us. I can imagine this place being very hot in the summer months. In early December, it was very pleasant.

Viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 32mm focal length.

The animals came close but not up to the viewing platform. Here is a photo of a Thomson's gazelle which was grazing about 20 feet from the platform. I watched and photographed him for a long time. Finally, he lifted his head and I was able to get a very nice portrait.

Thomson's gazelle from the viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Thomson's gazelle from the viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

This reticulated giraffe played hide and seek with me for most of the time I was watching him. There was some tall palm trees nearby he was ducking his head and neck in and out of. He finally decided to cross over the maintenance road to see if there was better eating on the other side. Notice how his left and right side legs stay together and is called pacing. This is rare. Most animals, including us, have a diagonal gait.

A reticulated giraffe walking near the viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Reticulated giraffe walking near the viewing platform on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 100mm focal length.

All to soon it was time to leave as another tour was getting close. In all, we spent about 45 minutes eating, enjoying each others company and watching and photographing the animals. We all gasped in unison a short time later after resuming our ride down the safari road as we saw two cheetahs lying out in the sunlight with another one walking slowing towards them. The guides quickly told the driver to pull over. As this is not a normal stopping area for the Wild Africa Trek, the driver had to be a bit creative as he pulled into the brush directly across from the cheetahs. There was no way I could have gotten this photo of cheetahs together on the regular ride.

Cheetahs rubbing heads in greeting photographed on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cheetahs rubbing heads in greeting photographed on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 210mm focal length.

The group of 12 trekkers were a buzz about this encounter for the rest of the tour as we continued down the safari road. We did not stop for the warthogs but did slow down enough for me to get this photo.

Warthog photographed on the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Warthog photographed on the Wild Africa Trek.
Nikon D300/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 450, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The lions where being their usual cat-selves. Snoozing through the mid-day and not being very photogenic. The tour guide told me it is best to go on the safari around 4 in the afternoon when they are more likely to be active.

The driver dropped us off at one of the safari terminals. We all gave him an ovation for his expert driving and finding a place to stop when the cheetahs presented themselves. We hiked back to the Wild Africa Trek starting location behind Tusker House to pickup our stuff from the lockers and get one last group photo with our guides kneeling in front; Lauren on the left and Eleanor on the right. This photo proves we started out with 12 and ended with 12. As you can see the group consisted of young and old, fit and not so fit individuals.

Scott and his fellow adventures and guides from the Wild Africa Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Myself and fellow adventures and guides from the Wild Africa Trek.
Copyright Disney 2011. Used by permission.

For me, as an avid animal photographer and conservationist, I felt the price of the Wild Africa Trek was in line with what I got out of the tour. The photo opportunities can not be compared to the regular safari experience as I believe the photos I have shared with you over the last two weeks have shown. Everyone who goes on the tour gets a stainless steel water bottle with the Wild Africa Trek logo on it and a photo CD. The CD contains not only photos of yourself and fellow trekkers but photos of the animals taken by the guides. So, if you do not take a camera on the tour or only a small camera, you will still get good photos of the animals encountered on the trek.

The guides were great. They answered mine and everyone's questions, were pleasant, courteous and understanding of everyone's ability to handle the Wild Africa Trek's trails, bridges and bouncy truck. If you go on the tour and get either Eleanor or Lauren, you'll be well taken care of.

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

January 6, 2012

Photographing on the Wild Africa Trek, Part I

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 23, 2011

The Magic, The Memories and You Castle Gift

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Holiday projection during the The Magic, The Memories, and You! show in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Holiday projection during the "The Magic, The Memories, and You!" show.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 42mm focal length, tripod.

This being the first year of the The Magic, The Memories, and You! castle projection show, Disney added a series of Holiday projections. These projections appear fast and furious about half way through the show.

I want to take this time to wish you all Happy Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas!

I will be taking my annual holiday break next week as I spend the holidays with friends and family. See you in 2012!

December 9, 2011

Deb and Me at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Deb Wills and Scott Thomas in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Deb Wills and Scott Thomas in the Magic Kingdom.
Photo by Bob Desmond.

Being an early Internet user back in the 1990's and a Disney fan, I found Deb's website soon after it launched. It was and continues to be invaluable in getting up to date news about Walt Disney World and a source of great ideas and tips to enjoy the parks to their fullest. I later learned about her successful battle with breast cancer and all the work she does in raising funds in support of cancer research and people in their own cancer fight.

In 2000, I launched my PS Calculator website and Deb contacted me to do an interview and later got to meet her at Epcot (click here to read the interview and see my first meeting with Deb). This lead to a long term relationship wherein AllEars.net hosts a version of my priority seating tools and information.

After I started sharing my Walt Disney World photography online, Deb asked me to join Barrie (and later Lisa) in writing a weekly article for AllEars.net's new blog central about photography. Thus, I became an official team member of AllEars.net and have been enjoying sharing photography information geared towards us, fans of Walt Disney World, for the last three and a half years. In fact, it was at a photowalk I hosted in January on Main Street USA where Deb and I had our photo (see above) taken by freelance Disney photographer, Bob Desmond, in front of Cinderella Castle. Ten years later and we both look great...right?

Today, I am at Walt Disney World and will be joining Deb, other AllEars.net team members and many fans and friends of Deb and her website in celebration of 15 years of AllEars.net. Maybe I will see you there. If not, you can be sure I will be sharing the special adventures Deb has planned for everyone with you here.

December 2, 2011

Chess Playing Pirates of the Caribbean

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

November 25, 2011

Zooming down the Yacht Club Dock

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

While waiting for a Friendship boat to take me to Disney's Hollywood Studios from the Yacht Club dock, I walked around and photographed the scene below. Technically this photo is fine. Good focus, depth of field and color. When I was using film, I would have taken the photo and moved on. With a digital camera, I was able to view the photo on the camera's LCD screen and noticed the large shadowed area in the lower left. I knew I could do better.

Yacht Club dock with shadow, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Yacht Club dock with shadow.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/14, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

While I did have a zoom lens on my camera, there was nothing to stop me from walking a few feet forward thereby putting the shadow behind me and giving me a far more pleasing photo. Remember, when possible, there is nothing wrong with zooming with your feet.

Yacht Club dock with no shadow, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Yacht Club dock with no shadow.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/14, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

November 18, 2011

An Aperture Mantra in the All American Rose Garden

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2011

Jim Korkis' Mysteries of the Wilderness Lodge Tour

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last month I attended Pixelmania 2011 hosted by TheMagicInPixels.com. Pixelmanaia was four days of fun with some of the best and soon-to-be best Disney fan photographers around the Internet. One of the meets was hosted by Jim Korkis, a former Disney historian and author of The Vault of Walt, called Mysteries of the Wilderness Lodge. For those who do not know Mr. Korkis, he is a character worthy of Disney. Being an actor, he is very animated when he speaks and is extremely entertaining to listen to. Like the title of his book, Jim is a vault of information about everything Disney. The Wilderness Lodge was no exception.

The group of thirty people meet up with Jim outside of Roaring Forks restaurant in the courtyard. After being introduced by Tim Devine, head photographer of TheMagicInPixels.com, Jim remarked, as photographers, all of us need to document the Disney parks and resorts during each of our visits. He talked about how things change overtime. Details originally designed into parks and resorts by Imagineers get removed or replaced by managers over the years who were not aware of their significance. Our photos help keep the magic alive for years to come.

Jim Korkis outside of Roaring Forks restaurant at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jim Korkis outside of Roaring Forks restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/9, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 100mm focal length, fill flash.

As the group moved from the courtyard up the hallway next to Artist Point restaurant, Jim continued to point out the reasons why the lanterns looked to be oriental and how the color red, rug and stones where patterned as a nod to the Chinese immigrants who were a big part in creating the railroads which opened up the western United States back in the 1800's.

Upon convening in the huge lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Jim told us the story of the north positioned totem pole. I do not remember the entire story but the frog again won the heart of the princess. A tale known to the native people's of the Pacific Northwest.

Jim Korkis telling the story of the totem pole at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jim Korkis telling the story of the totem pole.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Did you know, the entire lobby floor has meaning in Native American lore? The center of the lobby is the Center of the Universe and the design of the floor is like one large rug. Each side depicting one of the Four Directions: North, South, East and West. Jim told us of an annual ceremony held about this time of year called the Blessing of the Four Directions which cleanses the resort.

The Lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort tells a story of the Four Directions.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

On the balcony overlooking the Wilderness Lodge's stream, pool and geyser, Jim told us about the resort's mascot, Humphrey the Bear. You may remember Humphrey from old Disney animated shorts made back in the 1950's. For your information, no other Disney resort has a mascot. Jim is pointing out the locations where you can see Humphrey the Bear at night as he ran out of time to take us outside to view it.

Jim Korkis making a point on a balcony at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jim Korkis making a point on a balcony.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 50mm focal length, fill flash.

Our last stop on the tour was the Carolwood Pacific Room in the Villas of Wilderness Lodge next to the main resort. Jim told us stories of Walt Disney's personal trains he kept in his home's backyard in California. Something a train buff in the group made sure he caught Jim's every word about (see photo below). The room itself is a marvel and had two of Walt's train cars on display.

Jim Korkis talking in the Carolwood Pacific Room in the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jim Korkis talking in the Carolwood Pacific Room.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV -0.3, 42mm focal length.

Jim Korkis could have talked for hours about the Wilderness Lodge. For those of you who will be attending his SOLD OUT talk on the Carousel of Progress next month during the AllEars.net A December to Remember events, you are in for a treat. Be prepared for the talk to run long as Jim enthusiastically will have a lot of great information and trivia for us.

November 4, 2011

Flights of Wonder Photo Op

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in August, we featured a Disney Pic of the Week theme called Lucky Shot. I received an email from a regular reader and commenter Steve Knapp about his unlucky shot. Here is his story.

I tried posting a comment to your blog about “lucky shots” but something with my office system wouldn't permit me to post it. Then I got busy and totally forgot about it. But I wanted to make sure to let you know my experience with an “unlucky” shot.

I had the chance to take a photo of a lifetime and totally blew it. I was selected for this opportunity during the Flights of Wonder show in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Seated on stage, they released a bird from the back of the seating area and he flew right over me and another tourist. Before the release, the host told us to both focus on a spot at the end of the stage. Using my Nikon D5000 with the 55-200mm lens, I set my dial to “action” and focused on that spot. What I wasn't told was this bird had over a 6 foot wing span and I wasn't prepared for the speed of the bird as it flew. Needless to say, my autofocus shifted to the audience and, well, let's just say it was a nice photo of the audience as the bird flew quickly through my set spot. The other tourist missed the shot, too. As we were being led on stage, I almost shifted my settings to the multiple framed (ie., continuous or burst mode) setting. I should have also switched to using my 18-55mm lens and started shooting as soon as the bird left the handlers hand, tracking it all the way over my head. Attached is a picture of the bird, an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, on its perch, which was my consolation picture! I did switch to the multiple frames setting for the rest of the show, capturing a few good shots of birds in mid-flight.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill in the Flights of Wonder at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill photographed by Steve Knapp at the Flights of Wonder.

Steve went on to say there really is no such thing as an "unlucky" photo at Walt Disney World and he did come home with lots of good photos.

I want to thank Steve for passing on his experience on stage during the Flights of Wonder show. Now I (and all of you) have a good idea what to expect if any of us are selected for such a photo opportunity.

October 28, 2011

Haunted Mansion Interactive Queue

A Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is not complete until you visit the Haunted Mansion. For the party, the Haunted Mansion gets spooky lighting and atmospheric effects (ie., fog) and a ghost greets guests on the lawn as they make their way to the mansion's library entrance.

Ghost in front of the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ghost in front of the Haunted Mansion during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 5600, EV +0.6.

Since my last visit, a new interactive graveyard queue has been added. You can play musical instruments and an organ which has a surprise or two if you play it.

Graveyard queue at the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Organ in the graveyard queue at the Haunted Mansion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

Even Master Gracey has a more prominent location so guests may pay their respects.

Master Gracey's tomb at the Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Master Gracey's tomb in the graveyard queue at the Haunted Mansion.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

I heard there is a mystery to be solved as you follow the clues through the graveyard. Puzzles to be deciphered. Anyone know of this? What role does Uncle Jacob play with all the cash I am trying to borrow? Did he not know he could not take it with him?

Scottwdw visiting the Haunted Mansion queue in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Scottwdw visiting Uncle Jacob in the Haunted Mansion graveyard.

The Haunted Mansion interactive queue is a lot of fun to explore whether you are trying to solve the mystery, photographing all the new and old elements up close or playing along as you walk through.


October 21, 2011

Photographing Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Pixelmania photographers at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney fans photographing around the Tree of Life.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/20s, f/5.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 95mm focal length.

Scott is at Walt Disney World this week and hanging out with a fun bunch of people who love to photograph Disney parks as much as he does. You can follow Scott's adventures from his Twitter account, @Scottwdw.

Scott will return next week with some Disney Halloween fun to share with all of us.

October 14, 2011

Spending Halloween at the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

September 30, 2011

The Spirit of Norway at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Norway pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Norway pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 280, EV +0.3, 200mm focal length.

When I visit Epcot's World Showcase, I always enjoy a stop in the Norway pavilion. There you can learn about Norway's mythology, past, present and future by enjoying a dragon boat ride through the Maelstrom. Norway is the home to my favorite snack in Walt Disney World (School Bread at the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe) and the home to Vikings. The mighty Viking below stands outside the Stave Church where an exhibit of famous Vikings and their history resides.

A mighty Viking outside the Stave Church in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A mighty Viking outside the Stave Church.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 78mm focal length.

I know many people walk right through the theater at the end of the Maelstrom ride. If you have never seen the movie or have not seen it in a long time, take the six minutes to view the beauty of Norway and its people.

September 23, 2011

Dining Under the Stars at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I will be going to Walt Disney World next month to meet up with some fellow photographers as I did back in 2009. Before returning to Walt Disney World, I like to review my past trip photos. Over the next four weeks, I am going to share with you locations in each park starting with my favorite, Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS).

Like the real Hollywood, Disney uses large sound stages to create unique and fantastical experiences for their guests at DHS. Drive-In Theaters are rare in today's America but back in the 1950's and 1960's they were extremely popular with families and teenagers to watch such classics like The Blob or The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. To capture such a fun era, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant was created. No matter the time of day or year, people found themselves dining under the stars in front of a large movie screen showing trailers from some of the "best" (I use the word loosely) science fiction movies made when drive-ins where popular. Sprinkled in between the movie trailers are animated shorts and Walt Disney even introduces one of his favorites.

Guests enjoying a meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests enjoying a meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/8s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

Did you notice what people are sitting in? The "tables" are made up of cars which sit four to six adults. Towards the back of the restaurant they have bigger cars for groups and even tables near the concession stand (the kitchen) like the old drive-ins used to have.

Guests sitting in their cars at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests sitting in their cars at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/25s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant is a favorite of my family and has the best milk shake in the park (notice I did not say resort). If you have not tried it, better make your reservations as soon as you can as it is very busy and popular as the old drive-ins were on Saturday nights.

September 16, 2011

A Collage of Dapper Dans on Main Street USA

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The Dapper Dans on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Dapper Dans riding up and singing on Main Street USA.
Collage produced from Apple's Aperture 3 Software.

In the past I have used Picnik.com to create collages. It is a process were I must first export photos from Aperture 3 to a JPEG file and then upload them into Picnik.com. Picnik.com has preset collage templates which you have some control over. For what I wanted to do with the set of photos of the Dapper Dans I took back in January for an AllEars.net meet, Picnik was not the answer.

In looking for a better way to create this collage, I found a youTube video by Photographer Pete Thorne explaining how to use Aperture 3 and its book function to create multiple photo images. It took me less than five minutes after viewing the video to create the collage you see above. I had a lot of control over the size and placement of each photo. I could add text in hundreds of stylized fonts and place it over, above or next to photos or use an export plug-in to create bordering effects.

This is not an ad for Aperture 3 but you might want to look at the features of the photo editing software you do own. You might be surprised at what it can do. I know I was.

September 9, 2011

Fireworks Photography eBook Review

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2, 2011

Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure by Alan Rappaport, Disneyland, Anaheim, California.
Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure by Alan Rappaport.
Canon 7D/Sigma 10mm Fisheye, 3.2s, f/16, ISO 400, 10mm focal length, tripod, cropped.

Scott is out this week enjoying the New York State Fair. No doubt eating too many fried foods and taking lots and lots of photographs for his photoblog.

In keeping with State Fair time, Scott wanted to share with you a photo by flickr photographer Alan Rappaport featuring Disney's version of a fair. Alan has lots of photos of Disney themeparks in this photostream. He took a vacation to Australia this past summer and has photos and travel information for anyone planning a trip Down Under.

August 26, 2011

FX Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In keeping with our theme of creative processing this week, I want to share with you an app I was made aware of a few weeks ago. If you own an Apple computer, iPhone, iTouch or iPad/2. You might enjoy getting FX Photo Studio to quickly add one or more special effects to your photos.

The interface is very easy. Once you import your photo, you can select, preview and adjust one of almost two hundred special effect filters to apply to your photo. Here are a few of my favorite Walt Disney World photos after selecting a FX (movie shorthand for special effects) filter from the app.

I keep going back to this photo of Space Mountain. As much as I like the original, it is fun to see it differently using creative filters and textures.

Neon Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.
Neon FX filtered Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World is based on our planet but what if it was something from another galaxy?

Alien Skin Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.
Alien Skinned FX Spaceship Earth in Epcot.

Using FX Photo Studio is very easy. After launching the application on a MacIntosh computer, you can import photos from iPhoto, Aperture 3 or LightRoom libraries. On an iPhone, iTouch or iPad, it can import from any photo album. I imported this photo of the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom from my Aperture 3 album of what I consider my best photos.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom before adding an FX filter.

Here is the Tree of Life photo being compared with the special effect called Lindale (selected below in the strip of effects). Once you select an effect, you are given one or more sliders to adjust the effect to your liking.

Screen shot of FX Photo Studio.
Screen shot of FX Photo Studio with the Tree of Life photo.

After I adjusted the effect from 100% to 80% I saved the image back to my computer.

Tree of Life after the Lindale special effect filter added.
Tree of Life after the Lindale special effect filter was added.

See how easy that was to do? FX Photo Studio costs $9.99 from the Mac App store. The iPhone and iTouch versions cost $1.99 and the iPad version costs $2.99 from iTunes.

August 19, 2011

Characters of the Disney Dream

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney characters are a joy to see at the Disney resorts. Seeing them on the Disney Dream cruise ship last January was even more joyous. The ship, while big, is still small compared to a park. Many meet and greets are scheduled so families can find, meet and be photographed with all their Disney favorites.

Here are a few places you will find them if you take a cruise with Disney. Jessie, Woody and the gang from Toy Story on stage during The Golden Mickey's in the Walt Disney Theatre, Captain Mickey Mouse dancing during the Sail Away party, Crush talks with guests in Animator's Palate restaurant and Princess Cinderella charms during the production of Believe.

Disney characters found on the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line.
Disney characters, Jessie and Woody from Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, Crush from Finding Nemo and Princess Cinderella found on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Since my cruise was the Christening Cruise, it featured some additional characters onboard including the Cruise Director Rachel on stage before a show, Lou Mongello of WDWRadio.com fittingly in the Oceaneer's Club with the kids, Dave Marx of Passporter.com marveling at the size of the Walt Disney Theater before a show and Sam Champion did the weather from the Pool Deck for ABC's Good Morning America. There were others like Deb Wills and Deb Koma of AllEars.net, Disney CEO Robert Iger, Whoopie Gooldberg, John Stamos and it was rumored Robin Williams was around. Maybe he played the Genie in Believe?

Other characters encountered during the Disney Dream Christening Cruise, Disney Cruise Line.
Other characters, Cruise Directer Rachel, Lou Mongello of WDWradio.com, Dave Marx of Passporter.com and Sam Champion of ABC's Good Morning America encountered during the Disney Dream Christening Cruise.

One of the nuttiest characters could be seen on a hammock at Serenity Bay when the Dream visited Castaway Cay. This was taken before the hammock took him for a spin.

A Castaway Cay character at Serenity Bay, Disney Cruise Line.
A Castaway Cay character you may encounter at Serenity Bay.

You might not have as many characters about as I did, you will never be far from your favorite Disney characters while on the seas with the Disney Cruise Line.

August 12, 2011

Working with Large Disney Photo Libraries

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Working with photos in Apple Aperture 3 software.
Working with photos in Apple Aperture 3 software.

When I return from a trip to Walt Disney World, I can have hundreds of photos to edit, process and finish. Here is how I go about handling these large amount of photos. The process is called a workflow and I am posting it to help my fellow Disney photographers who find themselves overwhelmed with the task of managing large digital photography libraries.

I use Apple's Aperture 3 photo editing and management software on a MacBook Pro laptop. Adobe's Lightroom is a similar package for Windows and OS/X systems.

1. It all starts with my Nikon D700 camera's Picture Control settings. I use settings to allow me to shoot in JPEG for my Disney trips.

2. When I ingest or import the photos on my computer using Aperture 3 into a new Project, I have an Import Pre-Set specifically for the Picture Control I used which adds color vibrancy, a bit of contrast, auto-levels and sharpening. This gets the photos very close to being processed and saves me oodles of time. The pre-set adds generic captions, keywords, location, ownership and copyright to each photo's metadata. Import Pre-sets are immensely useful and time saving.

3. After importing, I immediately backup the photos onto an external hard drive. Later, I will upload to a Smugmug.com gallery under my Backup category. I usually do that overnight.

4. For these Walt Disney World trips, I then break out each day into a separate album within the overall folder for the trip and, using Aperture 3's batch processing, add more keywords which are specific to the park, resort, restaurant, etc. in the photos. This further describes the photos making it easier for me to find specific photos in the future.

5. Editing each photo is done in two passes. In the first pass I look for focus issues and composition. I look around the edges, backgrounds, people's expressions, closed eyes, under or over exposure and other technical flaws. All those photos I mark rejected and later delete. On the second pass, I give a rating of 1 Star for the photos I feel are good enough to do final processing on.

6. Processing or finishing. I go through each 1 Star photo and really look at each one. If I still like it, I crop the photo (if needed) and do final adjustments. If I do not, I mark it rejected. You crop before adjustments so you only adjust what the final photo will look like. Adjustments I normally do is straightening, pulling back highlights, opening up shadows, add contrast and/or brightness. Each finished photo gets a 2 Star rating.

7. Once I finish up a day, I upload them to a gallery on Smugmug.com for viewing by friends, family and sharing with other Disney fans here and on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Disney forums.

Whew, that is a lot of work but the results are worth it.

August 5, 2011

Doin' Nothing with Mickey Mouse

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Doin Nothing t-shirt found at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line.
Doin' Nothing t-shirt found at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line..

Scott is Doin' Nothing like his buddy, Mickey Mouse, this week but will be back next week for more Disney photographic fun.

July 29, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Disney Photographer

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A Day in the Life is our Disney Pic of the Week theme for this week. This is an added bonus post I thought you would all be interested in reading.

In 1978, Bob Desmond was walking up Main Street USA for the first time on his honeymoon. By the time he got to the Partners statue, he had told his new bride he would someday work for Disney as an advertising photographer. At the time, they were living in Massachusetts. Bob made good on his prediction by 1987 and for the next 6 and a half years worked in Walt Disney World's Marketing department. During a managerial reorganization in 1994, when all departments at Disney were told to cut staffing, Bob had the lowest seniority and was let go. As tough as that was, it gave Bob time to pursue another love of his, the making of hand crafted guitars. His former managers did not forget Bob either and he has worked with Disney as a freelance photographer ever since.

After meeting Bob last Fall, I have enjoyed hearing about his adventures and seeing his work from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. He has been doing most of Disney's character photos over the last 18 months. These are the photos you see in brochures, press releases, websites and signage around the parks. From Aladdin to Tigger (I do not think he has done Ursula yet but give him time), he has been doing what most of us would call a dream job.

Disney photographer, Bob Desmond, working in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney photographer, Bob Desmond, working in Epcot's World Showcase.

As you might imagine, it is not all supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Most of the photo shoots with the characters are done inside the parks. This means getting up very early in the morning before sunrise, setting up lighting, reflectors and other props as needed before the characters arrive so as to maximize everyone's time. Often the shoot calls for multiple locations which means having to work fast in a short amount of time as Bob and his crew need to be done before the parks open to the guests. Add the heat and humidity of an Orlando summer and one's energy can get sapped pretty fast.

Bob is an extraordinary person and photographer who delivers the photos requested by Disney in the best quality he can produce. His 20 plus years of working in the Disney parks is a tremendous asset which is why Disney seeks out his talent again and again. He often suggests ideas during the shoots to give Disney even more options and us, the guests, even more photographic reasons to return to the parks.

Disney photographer, Bob Desmond, and friends in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Disney photographer, Bob Desmond, and friends in the Magic Kingdom.

While it is hard work and has its ups and downs like any job, Bob has always told me how lucky he feels to be able to work within the parks and enjoys bringing out the best in the Disney brand with his photographs. In a recent email to me, he shared these thoughts, "I'm still working and shooting for the company that I love. It was intended by God for me to be there. I really feel that way. I have no other explanation for my good fortune."

I hope you enjoyed this special Disney Pic of the Week bonus feature. If you happen to see Bob walking around Walt Disney World, say "hi" and shake his hand for sharing with us some of the magic of Disney as seen through his photographic eye.

July 22, 2011

Trim Around the Edges at the Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In the past I have talked about watching your backgrounds. This week is about looking at the edges of the frame that you see looking through your viewfinder.

Before and after comparison of the Main Street USA Barber Shop, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Before and after comparison of the Main Street USA Barber Shop.

The photo on the left has two distractions along the edges. Arrows #1 are pointing out shadows on the right side and Arrow #2 shows a partial door on the left which I find distracting. The best way to "fix" this photo is before the shutter is pressed by moving in closer. In this case, I cropped them out using photo editing software producing the photo on the right. That photo features the real subjects; the barber's pole and entrance to the barber shop.

Become aware of the edges and you will be happier with your photos.

July 15, 2011

Deep Colored Partners Statue in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

July 8, 2011

Zooming In and Out at Bay Lake Tower

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is a something you have heard before: There are two photos for each scene. This normally refers to the orientation of the camera in either Landscape (horizontal) or Portrait (vertical). There is another method to getting two photos from most scenes as it does not always work depending on your distance to what you are photographing.

When most people purchase a digital SLR camera, they also get a kit lens or two. The most popular are 18-55mm and/or 55mm-200mm zoom lenses. Many know I like my super zoom lenses in the 18-200mm range for DX (cropped) cameras and 28-300mm for FX (full frame) cameras. Many Point and Shoot cameras also have a zoom range from short to long. Which ever zoom range you have, do not forget to use the power they give you.

As an example, I zoomed in on a monorail as it passed the Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort outside of the Magic Kingdom as the Sun was close to setting.

Monorail Green passes in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Close up of Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

I remembered to quickly zoom all the way out to get a wide angle view of the scene as the monorail continued to pass by the resort.

Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Wide view of Monorail Green passing in front of Bay Lake Tower DVC Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Same scene, two different perspectives without having to move your feet. It is not being lazy, it is being smart to use your equipment to its fullest.

July 1, 2011

Lost in Disney's Hollywood Studios on Route 66

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Guests stop to ponder a map of Disney's Hollywood Studios on Route 66, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests looking lost on Route 66 in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm focal length.

I throughly enjoyed the Disney/Pixar movie, Cars 2, this week and it reminded me of this photo I took in Disney's Hollywood Studios on Sunset Blvd. of some guests checking out their park maps. Almost looks like they are lost on Old Route 66 doesn't it? When I am touring the parks I am always on the lookout for strong human element photos that tell a story.

June 24, 2011

Artist Point Restaurant in Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The last time I enjoyed a meal at the Artist Point Restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, it was a character breakfast with Pocahontas and Friends. Quite a few years ago. On my trip to Walt Disney World last January I stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and decided to enjoy a quiet and elegant meal in one of the best restaurants on property.

Artist Point restaurant dining room waiting for Wilderness Lodge Resort guests to arrive, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Artist Point restaurant dining room waiting for dinner guests to arrive.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

I ordered Artist Point's Signature Entreé, Cedar Plank Roasted Wild King Salmon. You may wonder what a Signature Entreé is. It is a meal linked to a specific restaurant. In the case of Walt Disney World restaurants, they are meals they have been served since the opening of a restaurant and never have left the menu. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and highly recommend it to all.

Cedar Plank Roasted Wild King Salmon signature entree at the Artist Point restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cedar Plank Roasted Wild King Salmon signature entreé in the Artist Point restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, rear-sync flash

You might be a bit more adventuresome in your dining. Then, may I suggest a Buffalo entreé. While the Grilled Buffalo Striploin with Artisan Cheese and Macaroni may or may not be on the menu when you dine at Artist Point, they will most certainly have a meal featuring Buffalo. I would describe Buffalo as a very tasty, tender and lean meat.

Grilled Buffalo Striploin at the Artist Point restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Grilled Buffalo Striploin with Artisan Cheese and Macaroni in the Artist Point restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 2000, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, rear-sync flash

While you are in the Artist Point restaurant, look around at all the large wilderness paintings on display. They enhance the decor and with the view out to the Wilderness Lodge Resort's woods or creek, you'll almost feel like you are in Yellowstone National Park.

Wilderness painting in the Artist Point restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Wilderness painting in the Artist Point restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 2000, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, rear-sync flash

I used all the tips I wrote about when photographing Disney food in a previous article when I photographed the salmon and buffalo plates.

June 17, 2011

On the Boardwalk

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Disney's Boardwalk Resort at night, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Disney's Boardwalk Resort at night.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 8s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 56mm focal length.

I am on the boardwalk this week taking an early summer vacation. While I am not at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, I am on one of the boardwalks the resort is fashioned after on the New Jersey shore. I will be back next week!

June 10, 2011

Visualizing at the Ticket & Transportation Center

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Visualization is a skill photographers use to see photographs before they take them. I know of many photographers who visit Walt Disney World who plan shots months in advance. I have done that and I have seen a good photo by just walking about the parks. The photo below of the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat entrance sign was one where I saw a photo before I took it. The sign itself is perfect for framing if something or someone would be in the frame. This is were patience comes in. I waited for guests to walk through the sign but it was not until these two Ticket and Transportation (TTC) cast members approached each other did the photo come together.

Cast members pass each other under the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat sign at the Ticket and Transportation Center, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Cast members pass each other under the Magic Kingdom Ferryboat sign at the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 98mm focal length.

Have you ever planned or visualized a photo before your trips to a Disney resort?

June 3, 2011

Geologic Fireplace in Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A guest relaxes in a rocking chair in front of the 82 foot tall stone fireplace in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A guest relaxes in a rocking chair in front of the 82 foot tall stone fireplace in the Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/20s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV -0.3, 16mm focal length.

The Geologic fireplace in the lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a recreation of the strata of the Grand Canyon. Over 100 colors in hues of green, magenta, buff, red, black and brown are visible, as are fossilized remains of prehistoric plant and animal life. From the Vishnu Schist to Bass Limestone to Tapeats Sandstone to the Redwall and Temple Butte Limestone and finally ending with Kaibab Limestone and Toroweap Formation, the fireplace represents 2 billion years of the time it took for the layers of rock to form.

I selected the Cross Process I preset in Apple Aperture 3 photo editing software to pull out the colors and details of the fireplace. I used a Tokina DX 11-16mm ultrawide angle (UWA) lens on a Nikon D700 FX camera at 16mm to get the entire structure in.

May 27, 2011

Disney Dream Favorites

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I look forward to next year's AllEars.net Group Cruise on the Disney Cruise Lines next ship, the Fantasy, thought I would share with you a few of my favorite photos from my cruise on the Disney Dream.

Your first view of the inside of the Disney Dream is when your group is announced and you walk into the ship's atrium. High above is the art deco chandelier which was custom designed for the Disney Dream and measures twenty-two feet (seven meters) in diameter. Decorated with Swarovski crystals, it's covered with 24-karat gold plating and cascades thirteen feet (four meters) down from the atrium ceiling.

Disney Dream's art deco chandelier, Disney Cruise Line.
Disney Dream's art deco chandelier in the ship's atrium.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 720, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

In preparation of the Disney Dream's Sail Away party, bartenders at Currents, an outdoor lounge on Deck 13, start to fill thousands of "one-of-a-kind" champagne glasses with the date of the Christening Cruise. I processed this photo to highlight the glasses in the light against the dark background.

One of a kind Disney Dream Christening Cruise champagne glasses, Disney Cruise Line.
One of a kind Disney Dream Christening Cruise champagne glasses.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 42mm focal length.

In The District, an adult-only nightclub area of the Disney Dream, guests enjoy a sports bar called 687. 687 features many big screen HDTVs, a warm and cozy decor, comfortable sitting areas and a selection of beers and spirits. It is a nice place for the sports minded to hang out and enjoy the games while cruising between ports of call.

Sports bar 687 is located in The District of the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line.
Sports bar 687 is located in The District of the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

From what I hear and read about the Fantasy, Disney Cruise Line is going to have another huge hit on its hands. Book now!

May 20, 2011

Photographing Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Over the years I have given you tips on how to photograph on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. However, the stars on this animal trail are the Asian Tigers. Being cats, the tigers sleep most of the day. In fact, up to 15 hours of a tiger's day is spent sleeping. In Disney's Animal Kingdom, the best time of day I have found to photograph the tigers is in the afternoons after 2:00pm. The series of photos below was taken around 3:00pm last October. It helps to ask a cast member on duty when they have seen the tigers and other animals on the trail active.

Besides sleeping, another popular activity of the Asian tigers is the daily cleanings.

Tiger keeping clean at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger keeping clean.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Soon after I took this photo, the tiger got up and started prancing across the compound.

Tiger prancing at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger prancing.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The tiger had a goal in mind and flushed out a fellow tiger. They raced each other down to the windowed viewing area.

Tiger chases another at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger chases another.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

They soon settled down and enjoyed a quiet moment together.

Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Have you found other times during the day when the tigers or other animals are active when visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom? Leave me a comment.

May 13, 2011

Scenes of Epcot's World Showcase

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last week I showed you how my friend and Disney photographer Bob Desmond approached finding details at Epcot. He further explained he likes to "build" a photo showing elements of a park. These photos say "Epcot" or "Magic Kingdom" or other Disney park or resort to someone viewing it.

The fun in this for me was finding those elements in the viewfinder. My first photo was a direct result of Bob mentioning he likes to add elements which are non-static. In this case, I waited for a Friendship boat to enter into the mid-ground between the lamp with flowers in the foreground and the China and Norway pavilions in the background.

Hanging flowers on a lamp post in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Hanging flowers on a lamp post in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

While taking the photo from Italy, I noticed how the China and Norway pavilions worked together in the contrasts between them. As Bob and I continued to walk towards them I kept my eye out for a composition.

Scene from Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Africa, China and Norway in a scene from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 560, EV +0,.3 135mm focal length.

In the photo above, I compressed the elements with my zoom lens of the Africa outpost, golden roofs of China and Norway's castle as the landscaping of plants, trees and rocks add color balance.

Do you think I found elements which say "World Showcase"?

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 29, 2011

The Bird Sanctuary on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of my favorite areas in Disney's Animal Kingdom is on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The Asian tigers are a crowd favorite on the trail but do not overlook the bird sanctuary. Grab a large bird identification chart as you enter to enhance your enjoyment. You will also see some very ornate bird houses just as a real Maharajah may have had in a royal bird sanctuary which was popular in Asia. Today, many of those sanctuaries still exist as national parks and refuges.

A royal bird palace in the sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Royal bird palace in the sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length

Let's meet some of the exotic bird species in the Maharajah Jungle Trek bird sanctuary. It helps to have a lens with a focal length of 200mm or better. If you have a P&S with a 10x zoom or better that will work great to.

The male Mandarin Duck is Asia's version of the North American Wood Duck. Brightly colored and sometimes hard to tell it is a living waterfowl as they are as ornate as the bird house palaces in the sanctuary.

Mandarin Duck in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mandarin Duck in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 1000, EV +0.3, 155mm focal length

The Emerald Dove is the state bird of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. With 'emerald' in the name, you can see why these pigeons were popular with the royal casts.

Emerald Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Emerald Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV 0, 300mm focal length

As their name implies, Jambu Fruit Doves eat fruit directly from trees or from items dropped by hornbills or monkeys. Like other doves but, unlike most birds, it can drink by sucking.

Jambu Fruit Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jambu Fruit Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV 0, 300mm focal length

Masked Plovers or Lapwings spend most of their time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. Their bright and distinctive 'masked' face is easy to spot in the Maharajah Jungle Trek bird sanctuary.

Masked Plover in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Masked Plover in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 250, EV -0.3, 200mm focal length

April 22, 2011

Vertical Monorails at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Many people when photographing the monorail will keep their camera level or in the landscape orientation. I, too, mostly photograph monorails this way. When I was spending some time at the Ticket and Transportation Center at Walt Disney World last fall, I was watching the monorails enter and leave the station. I took photos in landscape and then decided to find a composition which would allow me to use the vertical or portrait orientation.

Monorail leaves the Ticket and Transportation Center station, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Monorail leaves the Ticket and Transportation Center station.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 640, EV -0.3, 28mm focal length.

I like how this photo came out so much, I am going to look for more opportunities to photograph the monorails this way.

April 15, 2011

Aging Space Mountain Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Recently, I came across one of my favorite photos of Space Mountain taken way back in December of 2006. One of the reasons for my fondness is the hint of autumn colors in the trees. Something not often seen in Florida.

Space Mountain photo taken from the monorail, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Space Mountain from the monorail.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 50mm focal length

I thought it would be fun to see if I could age this photograph. Make it look like an old weathered photo which would make people do a double-take as the futuristic design of Space Mountain certainly does not look old.

I loaded the photo in Picnik.com, my favorite online photo editor. I first used the 1960's effect to give it the faded colors I remember so well from seeing old color photos my parents had taken during the late 1960's. Next I applied a texture to give it a roughed up look. Like the photo had been folded and mishandled over the years. Lastly, I applied a dark vignette around the edges.

Digitally aged Space Mountain photo taken from the monorail, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Digitally aged Space Mountain photo taken from the monorail
via Picnik.com online photo editor.

Many editors allow you to manipulate photos in this manner. Some with more advanced ways than I used. I've seen some with frames which make the prints look frayed or cut.

April 8, 2011

Riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

March 25, 2011

Disney in Negative Space

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I never studied art so the concept of negative space has eluded me. I would get comments on my photos saying they had made good use of negative space. Turns out every photo has negative space which is defined as the space around an object of attention. Photos can have little or a lot of negative space. To me, negative space was kind of wasted space. However, negative space generates attention as it puts a stronger emphasis on the subject.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest found in China around Epcot's World Showcase only takes up about a third of the frame yet the contrast of the very ornate structure is easily the main subject of the photo. The blue sky and clouds do work to draw attention to the structure.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in Epcot's China pavillion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Negative Space using sky and clouds.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV _0.3, 58mm focal length.

To be honest, I do not think much about negative space and concentrate on the subject. As I compose a photograph with a lot of negative space, I fall back on the Rule of Thirds. This is what I did when I took this photo of the spires and towers of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

Spires and towers of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Spires and towers of Cinderella Castle.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/11, ISO 320, EV 0, 100mm focal length.

Another use for photos with a lot of negative space is for title photos in photo galleries, slideshows and videos. Using the Cinderella Castle spires and towers photo above I made a title photo for a gallery or slideshow to share with friends and family.

Cinderella Castle title photo.
Cinderella Castle title photo.

I read a lot about negative space this week and I will return to this subject later this year after I return to Walt Disney World with the added knowledge. There is more to negative space than empty space. I know this because Disney uses it in their adviertising.

Toy Story Mania billboard outside the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Toy Story Mania billboard outside the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 24mm focal length.

March 18, 2011

Making Pizzas at Via Napoli

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last fall, I stopped for lunch in Italy's new Via Napoli restaurant which specializes in pizza. They even import water from Italy in the making of the crust. The atmosphere of the restaurant is lively and bright.

Each cast member expertly performed their tasks as I photographed each step in the pizza making process. The pizza crust gets carefully prepared before being passed over for the sauce and fresh toppings to be added per order. Then the pizza gets placed in one of the wood burning stoves named after an Italian volcano. For this pizza, it was Mount Vesuvius.

Making a pizza at Via Napoli restaurant in Epcot's Italy pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Making a Pizza at Via Napoli Restaurant.

After the pizza is cooked to perfection, young and energetic servers from Italy deliver it to a guest's table like these three men you see below.

Servers posing with a creation from the Via Napoli chefs in Epcot's Italy pavillion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Young Italian servers who brought a pizza to a guest's table in Italy's Via Napoli restaurant.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 900, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Each server was in a different stage of their time at Epcot. The one on the left was working his last day after spending two years at Walt Disney World. He was looking forward to returning home and celebrating his brother's birthday. The one in the middle had just started his adventure at Epcot and was being trained to replace the one leaving. I felt he would do well as he was outgoing and very attentive to the guests. The one on the right is in the middle of his time at Epcot but was the most important member of the trio. It was he who brought the large mushroom pizza pie before you. Yes, it was as good as it looks if not better.

Cast members in Epcot's World Showcase countries have fascinating stories about themselves and their homes. Next time you are enjoying a meal at one of the excellent restaurants in World Showcase, ask for more than what is on the menu and get to know a true Disney ambassador.

March 11, 2011

Waiting to Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2011

The Disney Dream to Scale

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

It is not easy to convey size in a two dimensional photograph. If a person looking at the photo has no idea how big something in the image is, they will not have a reference to gauge from. That is when a photographer should supply a reference.

Everyone has read about how big the Disney Dream, the new ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, is but what does that mean exactly? I can give you the Dream's dimensions: 1,114.8 feet long and 121.5 feet wide. Sure sounds big, doesn't it?

The best way is to show the size or scale of something in a photograph is to include something of known size. Most people have an idea of the average size of a person. Adult or child. They can immediately judge size by seeing other people in a photo. That is how I will show you the size of the Disney Dream starting with Deck 11 and the Funnel Vision screen.

Sam Champion of Good Morning America, crew and guests before going on the air from the Disney Dream.
Sam Champion of Good Morning America, crew and guests before going on the air from the Disney Dream.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 400, EV 0, 28mm focal length

In a previous post, I showed you the Funnel Vision, the giant LED screen. I am sure you can appreciate the size of the screen more after seeing the Good Morning America crew and guests standing below it.

I got up on deck early the morning we were to dock at Castaway Cay in the hopes of photographing a Caribbean sunset. While the weather did not cooperate, I did photograph the Sun peaking through clouds while a crew member cleaned the Disney Dream's bell. Do you seem him?

As the Disney Dream nears the island of Castaway Cay, a crew member cleans the ship's bell.
As the Disney Dream nears the island of Castaway Cay, a crew member cleans the ship's bell.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/80s, f/14, ISO 400, EV 0, 62mm focal length

The bow of the Disney Dream looks deceptively small with a Caribbean Sun and ocean in front of it until a crew member came out to raise the Disney Cruise Line flag and clean the bell before docking at the island of Castaway Cay.

When docked at Castaway Cay, crew and guests disembark from Deck 2 of the Dream. Walking next to the Dream really makes one feel small. I used a wide angle lens to further show the size difference between the ship and the guests walking beside her.

Guests walking past the docked Disney Dream at Castaway Cay.
Guests walking past the docked Disney Dream at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16, 1/60s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.7, 16mm focal length

For more information about how to show scale in your photography, click on this link: Showing Scale.

February 25, 2011

Photographing The Magic, The Memories and You!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Bob!

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

February 18, 2011

Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Dream

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 11, 2011

Main Street USA Street Photography Meet

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


February 4, 2011

A Day at Castaway Cay

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Castaway Cay from the deck of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Castaway Cay from the deck of the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/160s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length

The Disney Dream Christening Cruise was for only two nights and included a day at Disney's Bahamas island, Castaway Cay. As this was more of a vacation for me and my wife, we spent most of the day at Serenity Bay adults-only beach. Upon disembarking from deck 2 of the Disney Dream, we made our way over to the Tram Stop to wait for the shuttle to Castaway Beach before catching a second tram to Serenity Bay. The Tram Stop sign says the next tram will be there in 6 minutes...Bahamian time.

Serenity Bay adults only beach on Castaway Cay.
Serenity Bay adults only beach on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length

Serenity Bay is quiet, relaxing and the epitome of a Caribbean beach. The water was travel brochure blue and the beach invitingly filled with colorful umbrellas, chairs, lounges and hammocks for the Disney Dream adult passengers. Serenity Bay is served by the Castaway Air bar for adult beverages including the island's signature Konk Kooler rum drink and the Serenity Bay BBQ which is a smaller version of the BBQ served at Cookies near the Castaway Beach for families.

A starfish off the beach at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
A starfish off the beach at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 56mm Focal Length

The water was a little chilly so not many went swimming preferring to enjoy the warm Sun with many talking about the cold and snow they left back home. The few who waded into the ocean found this beautiful and large starfish just off shore.

Lying on a hammock at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Lying on a hammock at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 35mm focal length

I look peaceful laying there on the hammock, don't I? Well, after finishing my Konk Kooler rum drink, I found myself spinning out of control. The remnants of my drink went flying through the air and I landed with a thud on the soft sand underneath. Once everyone around me knew I was not hurt, as I had ended up on my backside which is well padded, they all erupted in a fit of laughter. I joined in hoping to keep a little of my dignity. Next time I will sit in one of those beach chairs.

The Castaway Cay Tram gets you around the island quickly and comfortably.
The Castaway Cay Tram gets you around the island quickly and comfortably.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length

After my adventure with the spinning hammocks of Serenity Bay, we checked out the family beaches via the tram.

The Pelican Plunge water slide at the Castaway Family Beach on Castaway Cay.
The Pelican Plunge water slide at the Castaway Family Beach.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length

Disney has recently added some new improvements to Castaway Cay including the Pelican Plunge water slide, a 2,400-square-foot floating platform, located within swimming distance of shore.

A tray full of food from Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay.
A tray full of food from Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length

All this relaxing really brings on an appetite. Cookies and Cookies Too host an All-You-Can-Eat lunch buffet serving barbecue ribs, island spiced rotisserie chicken, burgers, grilled fish, corn on the cob, fresh salads and fruits, flat breads, ice cream, complimentary soda and more. A Caribbean steel band entertains during the entire BBQ.

The Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay.
The Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 70mm Focal Length

All to soon it was time to return to the Disney Dream docked nearby. Amazingly to me, they back in the huge vessel for an easy return to the sea later in the day.

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 14, 2011

Image Stabilization and Tripods Don't Mix

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 7, 2011

Scott's Photography Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

Tip Number One

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

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

Tip Number Two

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

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

Tip Number Three

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

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

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

December 31, 2010

Happy Mickey Mouse Ears!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mickey Mouse ears hanging ornament from Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse ears ornament.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 200mm focal length

Scott is celebrating the coming year with family today. He will be back next week!

December 24, 2010

Angels Overhead in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Angels overhead in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Did you know there are 130 angels in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights display at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas to You!

I will be taking my annual holiday break next week as I spend the holidays with friends and family. See you in 2011!

December 17, 2010

TRON Legacy

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

TRON Legacy monorail going past the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
TRON Legacy monorail going past the Imagination Pavilion.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length

TRON: Legacy opens today in the United States as the long anticipated sequel to Disney's 1982 TRON. Earlier this year, the TRON Monorail started running between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot to promote the film. The monorail has two sides, one with a yellow lightcycle and the other side you see above with a blue lightcycle.

I thought it was great synergy between the themeparks and motion picture divisions of the Disney company. Not everyone thought the TRON monorail was a good idea. To those people, I surmise Walt Disney would have done such a promotion in a heartbeat. He wasn't one to miss an opportunity to create a buzz about a new film his company was making.

December 10, 2010

Photographing the Main Street Electrical Parade

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 3, 2010

Picture if you will

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When using an ultra wide angle lens like the Tokina 11-16mm remember to get up close to the main subject of the photo. That is what I did when I photographed the ride photo kiosk you see upon getting off the Tower of Terror elevator. I was a mere six inches from the Picture if you will... sign when I took the photo you see below.

The Tower of Terror ride photo area in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Picture if you will... The ride photo kiosk in the Tower of Terror.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11/16mm, 1/13s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV 0, 16mm focal length

Click here for 10 More Tips on Using a Wide Angle Lens.


November 26, 2010

Grab the Light

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2010

No Tripod? No Problem.

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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