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June 30, 2017

Still Using HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Even with today's software tools like MacPhun's Intensify, I still find taking a set of photographs to create High Dynamic Range or HDR images worth my time in the field and in the digital dark room.

With my cameras from Nikon, it is easy to create a bracketed set of image from -2 to +2 exposures. I stick with five photos one EV apart. Other manufacturers even do HDR in the camera which is quite impressive.

Today, I use MacPhun's Aurora 2017 HDR software as a plug-in to Adobe's Lightroom CC photo editing and management program. After selecting an HDR set of photos I export them to Aurora where they get imported. Once the five photos are merged. I have many pre-sets to choose from. They range from very realistic to very unrealistic. In the case of the Yeti Shrine at Disney's Animal Kingdom, I liked the pre-set which gave the image a painterly feel to it.

Yeti Shrine in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Yeti Shrine in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 70mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

Later, after the Sun had set and dusk was coming on, I set up at tripod and took a set of bracketed images of the Tree of Life. I did this before the lighting, just becoming visible, was noticed by other guests. I framed it so one of the new carvings (American Bison or Buffalo) would be the foreground interest.

Tree of Life in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Tree of Life in HDR at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

As good as today's camera sensors are, using techniques like HDR still are needed at times when lighting and shadows in a scene become challenging.





June 23, 2017

Editing Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week I am going to take you through a challenging photo edit using Adobe Lightroom CC.

Here is the before image I took while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom.

Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom [UNEDITED].
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

There are several issues with the original photo. The main object of the rock columns are at an angle as is Cinderella Castle in the background. The exposure of the rock formations is under exposed and the clouds in the sky are a little over exposed. As many photography websites will tell, you should not photograph into the light. Well, during a ride like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you tend to get all kinds of angles as you whirl around the track.

After opening the image in Lightroom CC, the first thing I do is start with the Crop tool which can not only crop but straighten using the Angle slider.

Straighten and crop Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Straighten and crop the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Image.

Then I use the Basic sliders to make the initial adjustments to fix the exposure issues. I start by adding a little Contrast to bring out the rock's textures. I open up the Shadows of the rock formation by moving the slider as far as it is needed to the right. You can see the Highlight (Red areas) and Shadow (Blue areas) Clipping warnings on the screen to guide when you have removed the shadows (when the Blue disappears). Same goes for the Highlights when the Red disappears.

To pop the image, I add a little (not a lot) of Clarity. I bring in the blue of the sky and reds of the rocks, I add a good dose of Vibrance. I like color in my travel images especially at Walt Disney World.

The last thing I do is add a Sharpen pre-set called Scenic designed to add enough sharpening for a landscape type of image.

Processing the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Processing the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Image.

In a still image, you can often notice things you might not see as you are riding a ride. I zoomed in when I saw something not natural looking among the rocks. I found what looks like lights which come on at night.

Lights on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lights on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Image.

Well, I really don't want to see those on my final image so I used the Spot Removal tool in Clone mode to highlight over the lights and let Lightroom do its magic to find and copy a nearby section and blend it in. Unless you know where to look, you will not notice the fix.

Cloning Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cloned out the Lights on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Image.

Here is the final image after editing. How do you like it?

Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom [EDITED].
Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

The trick to processing is to slowly work with the tools until you get the results you like. Play with them when you first start. Go from one extreme to the other and see how it effects the photo you are working on. Over time, you will develop a style. I like very realistic "looking" images for the most part though the image may not start out that way.

There are many photo editors out there. I prefer Lightroom for its photo management tools and the large amount of support you can find online, books and videos.






May 19, 2017

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoyed Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It is not a show with a lot of "Wow" factor like a fireworks show. The music, floats and use of projections on water is very soothing. I will say my experience in watching it was not enjoyable.

I saw Rivers of Light in its third week of production. Yet, the Cast Members seating people were not prepared for what happened to my wife and I. We had used a Dining Package at Tusker House so we would not have to fight the crowd to get a good seat. Our server told us to show up about 30 minutes before the show. Turns out that was not a good idea. Even though we had tickets showing we should be seated in the reserved area, the area was already full. Confused, I asked how this could be? Again, the Cast Members did not have an answer. I had to be very firm with them to get into the handicap area so we could watch the show while standing.

The photos are not from a very good viewing location because of this. You can see poles and lights and I did the best I could.

The boats are a challenge as they move slowly but they still move. I decided to use spot metering and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second for the show and let the ISO climb as needed up to 6400.

Boat float in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Boat float in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +1, 116mm focal length.

The lighted animal floats are much easier to photograph as they are lighted.

Lighted animal floats in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Lighted animal floats in the Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV +1, 116mm focal length.

Towards the end of the show, every float used in the show are in the lagoon. It is a beautiful sight.

Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rivers of Light show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +1, 28mm focal length.

While my experience was not what I am used to at Walt Disney World, I will go see this show again. Hopefully with a Fast Pass and will show up a lot earlier. I wonder if Disney should look into a full reservation system for shows presented in an auditorium or amphitheater setting.

I did complain to Disney and have talked with a Customer Service Cast Member. I hope my feedback will improve other's experience at Rivers of Light in the future.

May 16, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Sunset Blvd.

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After walking down Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios with all its shops full of Hollywood tie-ins and California styled counter service eateries, everyone is confronted by the tall Hollywood Tower Hotel where screams can be heard which thrills many but scares off a few. I often wish Disney could have somehow figured out a way create this area in Black and White.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Tower at the end of Sunset Blvd. in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Twilight Zone Tower of Tower at the end of Sunset Blvd.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/320, f/9, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

I converted this photo to Black and White as I always find it fitting to cast the The Twilight Zone Tower of Tower that way as a nod to the old TV show.

Deb will be here tomorrow with her Sunset Blvd. photo.

April 7, 2017

Disney Springs Intensified

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

During my last visit to Disney Springs, two locations were finally finished and open for business which I wanted to photograph. The first was the Planet Hollywood Observatory which recently re-opened after an extensive renovation to fit in with the Disney Springs theme.

The first photo was taken Straight Out Of the Camera or SOOC to most photographers. It is a fairly flat photo with dark and light regions.

Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

Below is what the Planet Hollywood Observatory looks like after using Macphun's Intensify CK photo editor which I use as a plug-in for Adobe's Lightroom CC. Intensify CK has starting filters of all kinds for many situations. I use a few favorites. The one I used here was the Soft HDR filter which makes a series of adjustments over one image in one click of the mouse. It is a real time saver for me when photos come SOOC with many photo editing challenges. I could have done it all myself but it would have taken 15 to 30 minutes to get it close to this.

Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Planet Hollywood Observatory Restaurant at Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 560, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar located in The Landing area of Disney Springs is just a great idea, period. Disney could have put this anywhere on property and it would have been a hit. For me, the entrance to the building and the use of textured surfaces make it a perfect subject to use Intensify CK with. First, the Before Photo which is heavily backlighted late on a Florida afternoon.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125, f/8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

Here I applied the Enhance Shadows filter at 85% to dramatically open up all the shadows in the original photo. Now you can see all the metal, glass and wood textures used by Disney in the construction of the bar and lounge.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs edited in Macphun Intensify CK.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125, f/8, ISO 2000, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

In each case, after I was done in Intensify CK, I returned to Lightroom to finish up the image. Adding sharpness and clarity. Most times, Intenisfy CK will add digital noise which Lightroom has little trouble dealing with. In the end, I get a great looking image in far less time.

Do you need to be a Photoshop wizard? Not with such tools as Macphun produces for Apple Mac users. Check them out to see all their photo editing products.

November 25, 2016

Harper's Mill in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
HDR Image of Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, f/18, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 52mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

How was your Thanksgiving? Eat alot? Out shopping today?

Scott is doing both as he is visiting relatives in central Florida before moving over to Walt Disney World all of next week. Follow Scott's Twitter account @Scottwdw as he covers all the holiday happenings around the parks and resorts. Not to mention all the meals on this visit. You might find Scott taking a nap on Tom Sawyer Island near Harper's Mill after one of those meals.

November 4, 2016

Bibbity Bobbity Boo...Crane Be Gone!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A while back I was complaining about a maintenance crane being used on my recent trip to the Magic Kingdom. I mentioned I could remove the crane using software. This does take added time so I do not like to do it often. Later in the day, I caught the end of the new Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire on the castle stage when fireworks are used.

Cinderella Castle with a maintenance crane behind it at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with a maintenance crane behind it.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 360, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

I am a fan of the photo editing software by Macphun which run on Apple Mac computers. One of their products called Snapheal has recently been updated so it can be used as a plug-in for Apple Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop programs. You can find many Windows programs which can do the same thing. I had to carefully select the crane using the software's brush tool. I zoomed in to 100% to make sure I did not overlap the roof line too much. Snapheal has three different methods of erasing selected objects. For this job, the Dynamic method proved to be the best to get the crane away from where it first sticks out from behind Cinderella Castle.

Cinderella Castle with the maintenance crane removed at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle with the maintenance crane removed via software.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 360, EV +0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

As you can see, I now have a keeper.

Adobe Lightroom has something which can replace small objects or ones not intersecting with other objects like dust bunnies. For larger objects, Snapheal does a much better job.

Adobe Photoshop can do an even better job. However, since I do almost all my processing in Lightroom, Being able to use Snapheal within LIghtroom or Aperture is much easier and faster for me.

October 14, 2016

Lens Correcting inside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoy photographing with a Fisheye lens even when entering the American Adventure to listen to the Voices of Liberty.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure using a Fisheye Lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 4000, EV 0.

Many photo editors can "correct" distortions in many lenses including fisheye ones. To test this in my editor of choice, Adobe Lightroom CC, I opened up the Lens Correction brick. After enabling profile corrections, the software found and used the profile for the Sigma 15mm lens I photographed with. Using the profile, Lightroom cropped and rotated the image to straighten the curves created by the fisheye lens. The results you see below.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure with Lens Correction.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 4000, EV 0.

This is an extreme example but you get the idea. Check your software and see if it has Lens Corrections for any lenses you own.

September 16, 2016

Anatomy of a Magic Kingdom Sunset

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On my trip last week, I was on my own Friday at the Magic Kingdom. Using an app on my phone, I had determined a location to photograph the sunset. It was from the bridge on the Wishing Well side of Cinderella Castle. With the sunset at 7:38PM and Wishes starting at 9PM, I set up my camera on a tripod at 7PM. If you are wondering why I mentioned Wishes, people started to line up on the bridge soon after I got there to wait for the fireworks show.

As you can see by the picture below, the weather was not being cooperative when I took my first test image about 40 minutes before sunset. From my experience photographing many sunsets in upstate New York, I have learned never to judge a sunset until about 30 minutes afterward. Instead of packing up, I waited.

Cinderella Castle on a cloudy day at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle on a cloudy day before sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

Sunset came and went with no good color in the sky. That was until 10 minutes after sunset when the clouds which, had been slowly clearing, was lit up by the Sun over the horizon. Processing the image in Adobe Lightroom CC, I opened up the shadows in front of the castle and added vibrance to the overall scene. Disney added lighting on the castle which kept it from becoming a silhouette against the bright sky.

Cinderella Castle after sunset at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle ten minutes after sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/3s, f/22, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

The color came and went quickly. 10 minutes later or 20 minutes after sunset, the sky color was gone. The darkened sky was a nice backdrop for the lighted castle using a long 6 second exposure.

Cinderella Castle during dusk at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle twenty minutes after sunset.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 6s, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 22mm focal length, tripod.

Sunsets are different every time and one must be prepared to wait with patience and be ready to capture the fleeting colors when they occur. Even with Disney's wonderful lighting, at sunset, it compliments Nature's own light show.

June 17, 2016

Riding Down Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

February 23, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Panorama

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have written about how to create a proper panorama photo in the past and how NOT to create them. I did fail to mention the easiest way to create what I call pseudo-panoramics.

A pseudo-panoramic is done by cropping an image taken with a wide angle lens in a panoramic aspect ratio like 16x9 or 18x6. While you could use any lens to do this, a wide angle image works out better. The photo below of Epcot's Spaceship Earth at night was done in the 16x9 ratio or sometimes referred to as the HD (High Definition) ratio as that is the ratio used for High Definition televisions.

Spaceship Earth at night in Ecpot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth at night in Ecpot's Future World.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 10s, f/16, ISO 200, EV -1.0, 16mm focal length, cropped.

Many smartphones and cameras today have panoramic modes. Look to see if your's does.

Deb will share her panorama tomorrow.

February 19, 2016

Great Movie Ride HDR at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

June 26, 2015

macPhun with Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Today, photo editing software comes in three flavors: Expensive, Cloud based subscriptions and bits and pieces (aka apps). The exception would be Adobe Elements. An excellent choice as it has most of the photo editing capabilities of Photoshop. I am still considering my next move in photo management software. Apple's Aperture 3.x software is no longer being supported by Apple and it will be interesting to see for how long Aperture will continue to run as OS X continues to evolve. Currently, the new Photo App does not meet my needs (though it may yours).

Thankfully, there are companies who thrive on creating add-ons to programs like Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop. Macphun is one such company which I highly recommend if you are a Mac user. Over the last few years they have put together a very impressive list of photo applications. If they ever come out with the missing photo management piece, that could be my solution going forward. For right now, I use Macphun's applications as external tools to Aperture.

Today I want to show you how I used two of them, Intensify Pro and Noiseless Pro, to edit a photo. I use the Pro versions as they support running directly out of Aperture (or Lightroom or Photoshop). The do create a different version of the image so as not to destroy the original and then put it nicely back into your editor's library. In the case of Aperture, it creates a Stack or Set with the original photo.

As I was walking towards Spaceship Earth in Epcot after sunset one evening, I noticed this composition. I did not have a tripod with me so I did the best I could hand held. The original photos lacks punch and is very dull.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Original (unedited) version of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 2800, EV -0.6, 28mm Focal Length

Of of the main reasons I use Macphun's products is they save me a lot of time. When I open an image for editing in Intensify Pro, I get a series of Pre-Sets or Filters which I can select and see how each affects the image. Once I find one I like, I can change the pre-set's effects between 0 (no affect) to 100 (full effect). I found myself using some pre-sets more than others so I can select them as Favorites and quickly get to them in a separate selection tab. Favorites is something found in each of Macphun's products. For the Spacehip Earth photo I went with one of my Favorites, HDR Soft. I backed it up to 80.

After saving it back into Aperture, I found the noise or grain got enhanced by Intensify Pro. Never fear as Macphun recently came out with a superb noise reduction product called Noiseless. I really like how you can easily select between the different noise reduction settings. The before and after split screen view quickly shows you the effects of the selected setting on the image. For this image, I used the Medium setting at 90.

Back in Aperture, I finalized the image by opening up the shadows and reducing any hot spots (blown out highlights) before adding a final sharpening.

Here is the result.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Edited version of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 2800, EV -0.6, 28mm Focal Length

Macphun currently only has applications for Macs and iOS products. They are easy to use, save a lot of time and are not expensive.

May 1, 2015

Adjusting White Balance Inside the American Adventure

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of my favorite entertainers is the Voices of Liberty a cappella group at Walt Disney World. They perform shows inside the American Adventure under the rotunda at Epcoot's World Showcase. The area was designed for the acoustics and the talented singers take full advantage of them. But (isn't there always one?), the lighting for ambient light (no flash) photography is very challenging in the rotunda. The color cast is very yellow due to the incandescent lights as seen in the photo below.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty BEFORE White Balance Adjustment.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length.


There are two ways to fix the color cast to bring it back to what our eyes see. You can take a Custom White Balance before photographing or change the white balance in post processing. Most photo editors allow you to change White Balance by either the use of sliders or by selecting a spot on the photo which should be white or gray with a dropper. Once selected by the dropper, the editor will alter the white balance based on the spot. It works very well and if not exactly correct, you can then adjust it via the sliders to your taste. That is what I did below. The spot I choose was one of the pillars behind the singers.

Voices of Liberty performing in the American Adventure at Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Voices of Liberty AFTER White Balance Adjustment.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

I use JPEG for my image size and quality so white balance works most of the time. If you use the image size and quality of RAW, adjusting white balance in post processing works even better.

April 24, 2015

Editing a Dinosaur in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

You walk up to the Dinosaur attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom with your camera and carefully compose a photo by getting in close to the statue of Aladar. You move around until Aladar is looking into the frame adding interest. It is a bright, sunny day but your eyes see all the details and colors. You press the shutter to record the image. It looks good on the camera's LCD and you move on to catch up with your party entering the attraction.

Upon opening up the photo on your computer, you are disappointed in how it looks (see below). This is when you put your favorite photo editor to work. Mine is Apple Aperture but most editors can improve on a digital image.

Statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Unedited photo of the statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/4.5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 82mm (123mm DX) Focal Length.

For me, I set about opening up the shadows and pulling in the highlights using the sliders of the same name. I then added general edits over the entire image for Definition (Clarity), Vibrance and a touch of Saturation. This gave me a much better photo but Aladar was still a bit dark and washed out.

If your editor allows the use of Brushes to "brush" in adjustments on selected areas, you should become familiar with how to use them. Here I dodged (lightened) the dark areas under the eye and around the muzzle. After, I brushed in saturation to pull out the colors in Aladar's eye and skin. Lastly, I brushed in a good dose of Definition to pull out the textures of the skin.

The result you can see below.

AStatue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Edited photo of the statue of Aladar outside Dinosaur ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/4.5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 82mm (123mm DX) Focal Length.

Quite a deference and a much better image than what I started with. It pays to take the time in learning how to improve your photos using an editor.

January 27, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Changes are in the air over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, too, as Disney prepares the park of a new night time entertainment experience. Even the Tree of Life is having every one of its leaves replaced. That is like 103,000 of them! The image below was taken in October of 2014 before the leaf changeover had begun.

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

I took this photo a little after noon and the Sun angle was not very flattering on the tree. I knew a single photo would not capture the tree's carvings which were in deep shade. Instead, I took a series of five photos from two stops underexposed to two stops overexposed and combined them into a High Dynamic Range image. Much better.

December 23, 2014

Disney Pic of the Week: Christmas at Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Visiting Walt Disney World any time of the year is magical...but, and I say this having experienced it several times, visiting during the Christmas holiday season is even more magical. All the parks and resorts get decorated in festive colors. Special parties, events and entertainment occur all over the resort. Disney characters dress in their holiday finest and special treats pop up even in the resorts.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort puts a Gingerbread House in its lobby every year. I know, you can see Gingerbread house displays all over during Christmas time. Well, are those a story high? Do people work inside them? Can you buy Gingerbred goodies from the house's counter? You can at the Grand Floridian's.

Ginger Bread House in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ginger Bread House in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 65mm focal length, Intensify Pro.

Here I used some post-processing magic using MacPhun's Intensify Pro photo editing app. If you own a Mac, I suggest you check out Intensify Pro.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her wonderful memories of Christmas.

October 21, 2014

Disney Pic of the Week: The Fab Five

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

If you hang around any Disney fan, you will eventually hear the term: The Fab Five. No, a Fifth Beatle was not discovered. The Fab Five refers to the lovable Walt Disney created characters: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Pluto. You usually only see them all together during live stage shows in the parks. However, at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, each of the Fab Five will come visit you at your table. A little photo processing magic and you can put them all together.

The Fab Five hamming it up at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Fab Five hamming it up at Chef Mickey's.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/640s, f/13, ISO 400, EV -0.3, 24mm focal length.

Lisa will be here on Thursday to share her quacking good Disney Pic of the Week on the Fab Five.

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.

September 14, 2012

Advanced Dark Ride Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

First, I want to outline it for you:

Equipment

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

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

Photography

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

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

Post Processing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

July 30, 2010

Big Al Sings

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

January 8, 2010

HDR Creation

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 18, 2009

Walt Disney World in HDR

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 2, 2009

Pano-Magic

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I recently attended a photo workshop where I saw some fantastic panoramic images. As the presenter went through the steps to create them, I got so excited that when I got home last night I searched through my Walt Disney World photos to see if I had any candidates for a panoramic.

Though I did find some including the example I am showing you today, you really need to create images with the panoramic image in mind. Here's a list of tips when photographing for panoramics:

1. Use a level tripod. The key here is to make stitching the images together easier for the software. I will tell you the software I tried was very good a finding a way to match up images even if hand held. So, if you are going out to specifically create panoramic photos, then use a tripod. If you are in the middle of a themepark without one, go ahead and hand hold.

2. Use the same exposure for all images. Again, this will make matching up the images easier. Also, another good use of the Manual mode.

3. Make your exposures as fast as possible. This is help keep all your images even and, if you have any moving subjects, it will keep down the movements of those subjects.

4. Avoid using a polarizer filter. If you are trying to capture a wide expanse of sky, a polarizer will cause different hues as the camera is moved from one image to another and the angle to the sun changes.

5. If using a digital camera, turn off Auto White Balance (AWB). AWB can change the color cast of an image as the light changes from one image to another. If it's cloudy out, use the Cloudy setting. If bright sun, use the Sunny setting, etc.

6. Overlap the Images. For best results, overlap the images about 20% if you are using focal lengths of 35mm and up. If you are using a wide angle lens then increase that to 40 to 50% because wide angles can distort at the edges.

Now, let's create a panoramic of these two photos I took of a sunset at Epcot's World Showcase. As you can see they are level as I was using a tripod. They have enough overlap to make the stitching easy for software or to manually match them up if I choose to do so.

Two images from Epcot's World Showcase for panoramic stitching, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

I have my photos selected. I edited them the same and matched up the sky colors as best as I could. Check to see if the software you use to edit photos with has a panoramic tool built-in. The last few versions of Photoshop has it and is called Photomerge. I tried out a few different programs and liked Arcsoft's Panorama Maker 5 (for PC or Mac) the best. It automatically did the hard work of stitching the photos together and even has virtual framing options available. There are many other programs out there so try them out to see which one is best for you. Here's the final version after Panorama Maker 5 got done with it's magic.

Finished panoramic of a World Showcase sunset, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
World Showcase Sunset Panoramic

Something to keep in mind. While this is a horizontal panoramic, I saw some vertical ones during the workshop which were gorgeous. I'll be looking for panoramic opportunities on my next visit to a Disney resort.

September 25, 2009

Make a Travel Poster

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I enjoy not only taking photographs but sharing them through the various mediums which are now available to us via the Internet. From blogs, online galleries, photo essays, slideshows and, in the home, with hanging prints and even on my HDTV. I also like to create images from the original photo. The Castle at Dusk Redo I recently did got me thinking of other things when I came upon the idea of doing travel posters.

Remember going to a Travel Agency and seeing all those large posters on the wall of exotic places like Hawaii, Switzerland, Alaska, New York City, Africa, Paris, England, Austrailia and Canada. Wait, Canada? Yes, even Canada deserves a big travel poster and I found just the perfect one using Epcot's World Showcase's Canadian pavilion. Here's the original image.

Canada pavilion's landmark Hotel du Canada just past sunset in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Canada pavilion's landmark Hotel du Canada just past sunset.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 2s, f/22, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 170mm focal length, tripod

Using Picnik.com, an online photo editor, I added the large capitalized CANADA and made it an orange-red to go with the sky. Then placed the maple leaf, Canada's national symbol, graphic underneath. Ah, a poster fit for a travel agency wall, eh? Which, in today's world, is more likely our own homes. I think I will do one for each country.

So, here's a shout out to my neighbors to the North and the return of the National Hockey League (NHL) next week. GO HABS GO!

A Travel Poster for Canada.
A Travel Poster for Canada.

July 24, 2009

Back to the Future

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I know, that is not a title to a Disney movie but Meet the Robinsons really did not fit for this article (see, I got a Disney movie reference in anyway!).

It's been over two years since I took the photo of Cinderella Castle from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and it's still one of my favorites. It's one of the first photos I shared here on the AllEars.net Picture This! blog. Even before Lisa came on board to help out Barrie and I. As much as I like this photo, I always thought the colors looked faded and there was too much clutter in the foreground and to both sides.

Original photo of Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Original Photo of Cinderella Castle at Dusk.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 400 ISO, EV -0.3, 80mm Focal length

Over this time, I have learned a lot about digital photo processing. I am sure you have or will do the same. It's a good exercise to return to some of your older work and look at it from the prospective of your new knowledege of post-processing. This is what I did with this photo.

Using Apple's Aperture 2 software, I first cropped it to eliminate what I considered clutter. In doing so I found I liked a portrait (more vertical) composition than the original landscape (horizontal) one. I, then, started to select different areas of the sky with the color dropper selection tool and enhanced them making them more vibrant. Your software may have a different way of doing this so consult the manual. I had to remove some sensor spots (I had not learned how to clean my camera's sensor yet) and adjusted the exposure to eliminate any overexposed areas. Lastly, I applied sharpening to clean up the edges. The result you see below.

Adjusted photo of Cinderella Castle at dusk in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Adjusted Photo of Cinderella Castle at Dusk.

When you are not able to go and create new images, look back at your photo archives and "see" the future. It's a lot of fun and a good way to learn the capabilities of your photo editing software.

October 17, 2008

Metadata Revisited

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I was talking about adding metadata and how to use it. I seemed to have confused some people about how much work it takes to add captions and keywords. While it does take time to add them, it's not as time consuming as it sounds. Photo management software like Apple's Aperture 2, Adobe's Lightroom 2 and others let you change metadata on more than one photograph at a time. This is called batch processing as you change a whole batch of photos at once.

To return to the example I was using. When loading or ingesting from a memory card onto my computer using Aperture 2, I give pretty general captions and keywords which cover all the photos. After I go through and edit the day's photos, discarding those I do not want, I'll add more keywords. Again, I'll use Spaceship Earth as my subject. I'll select all the Spaceship Earth photos I took and then open up a metadata window. Your program may call it something else like a tab. I click on the keyword field which already has the general keywords added earlier and add more of them. You have to use a comma to separate the keywords. Then press the Change or Update button to process the batch of selected photos with the additional keywords. The same can be done for any of the metadata fields available.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Partial view of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/400s, f/10, 200 ISO, EV -0.6, 52mm Focal length

Adding keywords can be even easier. Applications like Apple's iPhoto pulls up all your defined keywords in a window and you can click on the ones you want to add to a photo or group of photos. It pays to research what your photography software can do when it comes to saving time while entering metadata information.

October 3, 2008

Finding Your Star Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After having figured out a photographic naming system, organized digital photographs on our computer systems, learned about metadata and some powerful software to manage our growing library of photos, it's now time to learn how to edit them. I'm not talking about editing like in Photoshop, I'm talking about selecting the best photos from a typical day of creating photos at a place like Walt Disney World or anytime you come back to your computer with a new batch of photographs.

This process is referred to as rating. Since rating your photos is a very personal thing, I am going to tell you how I approach it to give you some ideas on how you might. I have chosen to use the Star Rating system which many software products support. Simply put, photos are rated from Zero Stars to Five Stars. How you use those Stars is up to you.

When I get a batch of photos from the Magic Kingdom, as an example, onto my computer and start reviewing them, I only use One Star for photos I want to keep for further review. Any photos I don't give a Star to will be deleted. These Zero Star photos are easy to spot. They are technically bad (focus off, exposure too dark or too light, blurry from too slow a shutter speed, etc.), compositionally bad (no subject, subject too small or too big, unflattering people expressions, background too busy, etc.) or for some reason the photo just doesn't look good to me. Again, it's very subjective and personal. For family and vacation photos I am not as picky as I would be for a wedding or portrait work. The picture of my kids with Stitch might be a bit overexposed but it's the only one I got so I'll choose to keep it.

After discarding the Zero Star photos, I'll go back and see what's left. I'll be more keen on rating photos above One Star this time. A photo gets Two Stars if it's technically solid with focus on the subject and excellent exposure. Sometimes I will drop the Star if what I thought I saw the first time doesn't hold up. Three Stars is given to photos I feel are the best of the lot. These photos are technically solid (if not nearly perfect) and have a great subject. Most of the photos I publish here are Three Stars or better. Currently, I don't use Four Stars but maybe you do or will. Five Stars is for my computer wallpapers. They are all landscape in orientation and outstanding (in my opinion) photographs for my computer's desktop.

Below is an example of one of my Five Star photographs of the Liberty Belle Riverboat leaving dock with waving guests aboard and the Haunted Mansion in the background. The photo is nicely composed, very colorful, tack sharp focus and well exposed.

The Liberty Bell Riverboat sets off on it's trip down the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Liberty Bell Riverboat sets off on it's trip down the Rivers of America.
Nikon D70/18-70G, 1/250s, f/11, 200 ISO, EV +0.3, 31mm Focal length

Star Ratings is just one way to rate your photographs. Others use colors and numbers. I first used a rating system using numbers from 1 to 10 but found that too much to keep track of in my head as to what was a 4 versus an 6 or 7. I found this useful link of a professional photographer and how he uses the Star Rating system.

What system do you use to rate your photographs? I would like to know and do a follow up article on what others have found works for them.

September 26, 2008

The Digital Darkroom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Before I go on talking about organizing our digital library of photographs, I want to introduce you to the new breed of software that were released a couple of years ago I refer to as digital darkroom programs. These programs assist you in organizing, editing and outputting (either files or prints) your digital photos in one place. You no longer need more than one program to do each of these tasks.

The two programs I want to talk about are Adobe Lightroom 2 (PC and Mac) and Apple Aperture 2 (Mac only). Now, I know there's a lot of discussion on which one to use in photography forums. I think both do a great job. If you have not looked at either of these programs, you can download free trials from Adobe and Apple.

Photo management software from Adobe and Apple.

What these programs do is import your photos from your camera or memory cards and place them into one image database. If you've been following this series, you know I put my photos into specific folders on my computer system depending on the year and month they were taken. Both of these programs will allow you to keep such a system and give you the freedom to create projects or collections within their image database or library as I like to call it. I use Aperture 2 and as an example I want to show you how I use Aperture's organizational power.

I set up a Project called Walt Disney World. Inside this project I have each of my trips in a folder labeled WDW_YYYYMM (so far I haven't stayed over a two month span yet but I would still separate the photos on my hard drive into separate folders). My last trip from May, 2008 is in folder WDW_200805 and has a few thousand photos. I have some albums in the WDW project I have set up for various reasons. One is called POTW (for the Picture This! Picture of the Week theme) where I have past and upcoming photos for the themes Lisa, Barrie and I have come up with. An album consists of photos I have moved into it. The photos are not actually in the album or folders but point back to the photo's location in the library. ONe photo can be in multiple projects, folders or albums. Luckily, I don't have to worry about where the photos files are as Aperture takes care of all that for me. I just drag and drop.

I can also search for a group of photos and this is where metadata comes in very handy. Let's say I want to create an album with just my photos of Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Since I have added the keywords, spacehip earth, to all my photos I have taken of this attraction, I can pull up a view of all of those photos easily by typing it into the search box. Once I have that view, I can create an album with a simple click of my mouse. If I had not added keywords, it would have taken me a long time to look through each of my WDW folders and pick out all the Spaceship Earth ones.

If you are looking to easily organize, process and print your digital photographs and have not looked at either Aperture or Lightroom, I think you will be very surprised at how versatile these programs are. Both have come out with second versions in the last few months with vast improvements over their first editions.

September 19, 2008

Meta What?

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The last couple of entries we've gone over naming all the digital photos we take and organizing them on our computer systems. This is all done in preparation of creating a database or library of our images. Anytime you have a collection of data on a computer, as our image files are, they are refereed to as a database or library. If you are familiar with iTunes, you have an idea of what a library of music looks like. Photo files are the same as any other media files like music or videos.

To be able to organize and search my library beyond the dates I took them as that is part of the name I use for each photo, I add information to them called metadata. When a picture is taken with a digital camera, the camera adds or embeds information beyond the image you see. That information is the Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) data which includes the technical data like date, time, camera make and model, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV, white balance used, and lots of other things. Very important but what it doesn't have is a description of the photo, why it was taken, who or what is in the photo, where was it taken, and who took it to name a few questions that come to mind when I see a photograph.

This is where metadata comes in and over the years a standard has been developed by the International Press Telecommunications Council, or IPTC for short, called the Information Interchange Model (IIM) which has allowed software publishers to write programs where you and I can add information to our photos and it will be able to be read by the software we use today and in the future. This information can also be used by online photo sites like flickr so when you upload your images, metadata information will go with them.

So, what kind of information do you put in metadata? The entire IPTC standard has way more fields then you or I will ever use. The most important ones for me are captions, keywords, and copyright. When I load my photos onto my computer, I have the software I use do several things. It renames the files the way I want them, puts them in the monthly folder and adds the metadata I enter into the caption, keyword and copyright fields. The captions I use when loading are very simple. I give the basic Who or What, Where, and When of the day's photos. I can later add and or edit the captions to give more or less information. The copyright is very important as this stamps the photo as created by me, the photographer.

Keywords are used by photo software programs to find photos quickly. Google uses keywords people embed in their web pages for fast searching and it works the same way with our photos. Here's an example, every photo I take at Epcot in Walt Disney World has the keywords: Walt Disney World and Epcot. This makes it easy for me to find all my photos taken at Epcot. The more keywords used, the easier it is to find a particular set of photos or even an individual photo in a library of thousands of images.

Here is an example of one of my photographs taken at Walt Disney World. Below I will list the metadata I have added to it to give you an idea of how useful it is.

A replica of the Liberty Bell illuminated after dark in Liberty Square across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Liberty Bell replica across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-70G, 1/13s, f/4.5, 1600 ISO, EV +0.3, 50mm Focal length

Caption: A replica of the Liberty Bell illuminated after dark in Liberty Square across from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Keywords: america, bell, florida, hall of presidents, liberty, liberty bell, magic kingdom, night, orlando, walt disney world

Copyright: © Scott Thomas Photography

To find this photo in my library of photographs, all I'd need to do is search on any of the keywords listed. The more specific the search, the faster I'll find it.

Today, libraries, museums and public institutions all over the world are in the process of digitizing their important archives of papers, letters, books and photographs in their collections. Metadata will be how we find and access all these newly digitized documents as they are made available online for all of us to use.

September 6, 2008

What's In A Name

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the first things I had to deal with when I first started using a digital camera was how to organize all the files I was creating every time I went out taking photographs. The camera manufacturers think their simple system of a strange prefix followed by a number is what anyone would ever need. Blah! After producing hundreds of image files, I ended up doing folders for each time which got even more chaotic.

When facing this ongoing problem, I first identified the need to name this files so I could easily sort them. I read how others were doing it. Many like to use some sort of descriptive name which includes a prefix of meaning (like WDW for Walt Disney World) followed by a date designation and a sequential number. I tried this type of system for awhile but found the prefix was a bit confusing for me and decided to use a standard prefix for all my photos. Here is what a typical name for one of my digital photo files looks like: STP_20080905_025.jpg. The prefix of STP stands for Scott Thomas Photography then an underscore to separate the date which is in long year, month, day format which is easy to sort in chronological order with another underscore separating the sequential order. This works for me. You may have come up with a different system. I only use one camera right now. If I add another camera in the future, I will add a camera type to the prefix so it will be easy to see which camera took what photo. Don't forget, there's a lot of data contained in each photo's Exif which in future weeks I'll show how that can be used.

Now, how did I get from the camera's name for the files that look like DSC_2345 to my system? For that I use a program which takes my files from the compact flash memory card and loads them onto my laptop. As it copies the files down it renames them using the photo file's date and adds the prefix and sequential number suffix around it. For instance, below is my photo STP_20070524_0008.jpg. This also happens to be the location where the AllEars.net Pictures This! Photowalk at Mousefest will start (click on link for more information and to sign up).

Sea Breeze Point near Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Sea Breeze Point near Disney's Boardwalk Resort.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 200mm Focal length

June 6, 2008

Cloning Around

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A couple of months ago I started using Apple's Aperture 2 photo application. The photo editor in Aperture is much better than anything I've ever used. While not a true graphics editor like Photoshop, Aperture does have some tools which are helping me make great photographs from not-so-great ones.

Like this photo of a performer in Disney's Animal Kingdom's Festival of the Lion King show. I caught her just before she was about to blow a kiss to the audience at the end of the show. I really loved this photo except for the object on the right hand side. I believe it's a hand or part of a costume from another performer passing out of the frame.

Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss before cloning.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

I could crop the object out but, with such a high ISO, the image would get even grainer than it already is. Aperture, like other photo editors, has a clone repair tool. What a clone repair tool does is allow you to take a part of a photo and then "paint" over another area duplicating that part. You do this with a "brush". In Aperture's case, it's a circle.

To go about fixing this photo, I selected the cloning tool and adjusted it's size. The area just above the object is what I used to clone. I moved the brush there and clicked the mouse to select it. Then, I moved my mouse with the left button held down over the area and carefully replaced the object with the selected area. Below is the final result after a few tries. Many editors let you start over if you don't like the initial results. If your photo editor doesn't, be sure to save a backup before starting. To see if your photo editor is capable of cloning, look through it's manual or support website.

Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Festival of the Lion King Goodbye Kiss after cloning.

April 25, 2008

Put Your Photos in the Past

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Once in awhile I'll take a picture that calls out for something different. In the case of the photo below when I first looked at it on my computer monitor, I thought it could have been taken back in the time of the American Old West in the mid-1800's. Those photos are in tones of browns, yellows and whites and referred to as sepia which lots of photo software and online editors can create. If you don't know if your favorite editor has a way to transform your photos into a sepia tone, check out it's manual or search through it's help files.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

Frontierland Rail Road Station in Color. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/11, 200 ISO, -1.0 EV, 18mm Focal Length

Now, if it wasn't for the fact that Frontierland never existed in the real American Old West and ignoring the modern sign in the lower left, the transformation into a sepia toned photo makes it look like it was taken back in the 1800's. This is a great way to take a simple portrait or landscape and bring it into the past. You can see a larger version of either photo just by clicking on them.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

Frontierland Rail Road Station in Sepia. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

April 18, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Wonderful World of Black & White

I love color. When I was young and my favorite afternoon cartoon program said they would be showing them in color I was excited. When I tuned in the next day it was still in black and white! I complained to my mother who carefully explained we didn't have a color television yet. A couple of years later I finally got to see not only cartoons but Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights in full, living color. Yes, I definitely like color.

Even in my photography, I have always preferred color over black and white. With the advent of the digital darkroom, however, I have started to explore other interpretations of my photographs. There are all kinds of ways to alter your digital images and one of the most popular is rending them from color to black and white.

Harper's Mill can be seen from the walk way between Frontierland and Liberty Square. You can also see it when taking a cruise on a Riverboat. Disney Imagineers are known for their attention to detail and Harper's Mill is one of those park additions which add to the ambiance of Tom Sawyer Island. I took this in the mid-day sun so it has very bright highlights and deep shadows. This is often referred to as a high contrast image. A perfect candidate for a black and white conversion.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer's Island in Color. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/250s, f/6.3, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

Most photo software and online editors have a way to turn your color images to black and white. Check your editor's manual or help files on how to do this. Editors vary in the amount of control you have from none to total control of the contrast and amount of the conversion. Below is a simple Black and White rending using Picnik.com, my favorite online photo editor. You can see a larger version of either photo just by clicking on them.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

Harper's Mill in Black & White. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008

Also, check out Jack Spence's Blog on The Old Mill which explains some of the background information about the building.

January 4, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Photo Editing 101

Unlike when you used film, digital photography processing is done inside your camera and produces JPEG images. (dSLRs can also produce RAW images. RAW images are often referred to as digital negatives and require processing on a computer to produce the final JPEG image.) If you are like me, you try to get all your photos as close to perfect right out of the camera. It takes a lot of practice and getting to know your camera as to what settings give you the results you are looking for. I learn each time I use my camera so if you are an old hand at photography or just starting your photographic adventures, you will one day look at the photos and wonder if there is a way to improve them.

In researching this entry I found there is no general "how to" information on approaching digital photo editing. What follows is my approach. The photo editor used was Picnik.com and the steps outlined should be available in most photo editing software. The goal for the photo I selected of my daughter enjoying a hammock on the Polynesian Resort's beach was to reclaim the colors as I remembered them.


Before Digital Processing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2008

After Digital Processing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Original Photo Data: Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/500s, f/10, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

Step 1: EXPOSURE

The original image on the left is a bit underexposed as I had dialed in a -0.3 exposure compensation (EV). Not a drastic error yet I wanted to recoup the detail lost. In Picnik.com, I start with the Exposure tab which has two sliders for Exposure and Contrast. I first moved the Exposure slider to the right to add exposure slowly until I got back the detail. Picnik.com has an advanced button for brightness, adjusting highlight and dark areas and local contrast. I like to use the local contrast tool instead of the general contrast slider as it gives me a little more control. Your software may or may not have this option. I used a radius of 5 and strength of 25%. This brought out even more detail in the hammock and tree bark.

Step 2: COLOR

After adjusting exposure, I move on to the Color tab. Here I always first try the Auto Color button. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. As they say YMMV (Your Mileage My Vary). In this case, I didn't like it and hit the Reset button to start over. Next I adjusted the two sliders available. One for Temperature and one for Saturation. I set up my camera to saturate colors so I usually don't have to add any more. However, my camera settings tends to give my photos a reddish cast to light objects. In this case, the sand and hammock color is off. In some software, you may see a Blue and Red indicator on the Temperature slider. I moved the Temperature slider to the left or blue end to a -5 bringing back the natural colors to those photo elements.

Step 3: SHARPENING

I've been learning about sharpening over the last few days and was surprised to find out most digital photos need to be sharpened. Picnick.com allows for two ways to sharpen: a simple slider and a more advanced Unsharp Mask. Don't let the unsharp mask confuse you, it is a sharpening tool. The name is a hold over from film processing days. The simple slider is great and I have used it with excellent results but no higher than a setting of 10 or less. Beyond that, photos start to look unreal.

There's a whole bunch of ways people use unsharp mask tools in photo editing software. Some are very complicated and require very expensive software. However, I want to share with you three simple recipes as recommended by Scott Kelby in his book, The Digital Photography Book (page 18):

For people, set Amount to 150%, Radius to 1 pixel and Threshold to 4 levels
For cityscapes, urban and travel photography, set Amount to 65%, Radius to 3 pixels and Threshold to 2 levels
For general everyday use, set Amount to 85%, radius to 1 pixel and Threshold to 4 levels

In the example photo, I used the general recipe in Picnik.com's Unsharp Mask tool (note: Picnik.com does not have the Threshold setting).

Now, all these adjustments are to MY taste. Yours will be different. What I have found in reading about photo editing is it is very subjective to the person doing the editing. There are techniques you can learn but no rules to follow. If you own a photo editing software product, I encourage you to find Internet resources, books, and video training for it.

I am much happier with the new version of my example photograph. To see larger versions of the Before and After photos, click on either of them. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to approach your photo editing tasks.

December 21, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: From All of Us to All of You

A Very...


Nikon D70/18-70DX, 1/125s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

The Downtown Disney Christmas Tree from 2006. Selective coloring and graphics done in Picnik.com. Update: Use iPiccy instead.

Here's wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday. I will not have an entry for next week but will be back in the New Year! If you get any cool photography stuff under your tree you'd think others would like to hear about, drop me a line!

October 26, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Online Photo Editing

Running applications on the Internet has come a long way since portals like Yahoo and Google introduced Online Email. Now you can run spreadsheets and word processors as well as figure out when you can call for your Advanced Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World.

NOTE: Since the publication of this post, Picnik has been shut down. Today (April 29, 2014), I would recommend this online photo editor: iPiccy.

Just recently, a new online photo editor was officially launched called Picnik which lets you do many general edits to your photos as well as add special effects, shapes, text and frames. Picnik has two versions. A Basic version which is free to use and a Premium version for $24.95 annually. Picnik currently interfaces with some of the more popular photo sharing websites such as Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Photobucket, Webshots and even Facebook. You'll find links on the Photo Tab of Picnik for more information on how to use photos from those sites.


Before Editing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007

After Editing.
© Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/11, 400 ISO, -0.3 EV

I wanted to see just how good such an application might be so I created a free Picnik account and got started. Since this is an Internet application, it doesn't matter whether you are using a Windows, Linux or Mac operating system. As long as your browser supports Picnik, you'll be fine. I had no trouble using Picnik in Internet Explorer or Safari. If you don't use any of the services Picnik interfaces with, you can do what I do and upload a photo directly from your computer. You can only work on one photo at a time.

For our example, I choose a photo I took of Disney Hollywood Studio's Beauty and the Beast Stage Show where I had the wrong white balance setting causing a very reddish cast to the actor's faces. Picnik has tabs across the top for Home, Photos, Edit, Create and Save & Share (see screen shot below). The Edit tab is where you start to improve your images. You can Rotate, Crop, Resize, and even fix Red-Eye. You'll find adjustment tools for Exposure, Color and Sharpen on this tab, too.

To fix my image, I started with the Exposure tool. To enter any of the tools, just click on the corresponding button. In Exposure you can add or subtract exposure and contrast using sliders. An Advanced tool is also available which shows a Histogram and adds sliders for Highlights and Shadows. In this case, I added a little exposure to lighten up the photograph. This is a good place to note that all your editing is done on the entire image. You don't have a way to selectively edit like you would in Photoshop and other similar PC based photo editing applications.


Picnik Application (click for larger image)

The major fix I needed for this example was for color. Under the Color tab, you have Auto Color, Neutral Picker and sliders for Saturation and Color Temperature. Knowing the white balance was my main concern, I slid the color temperature slider to the left which adjusts the color cast towards the blue end of the spectrum. I had to slide it a long ways and ended up at a -65. It looked good but not quite good enough. I hit the Reset button to start over. This time I used the Auto Color button and while it looked a bit washed out at a setting of -84, the skin tones were much better. All the tools in Picnik have a Reset button. In that if you find what you are doing gets a bit odd looking, it's easy to start over. Clicking the OK button, retains the edits. I added a little sharpening in the Sharpen tool, too.

Now the fun begins. While I liked the photo, it needed "something". I entered the Create tab of the Picnik application and started trying various effects. After adjusting the color temperature earlier, I noted the photo looked a bit washed out. Using the Boost tool, I added some color back in adjusting the slider to 5 percent. This brought back a little redness to the faces but it looked more natural. I found I liked the look of adding a Matte around the subjects. You can control the size, strength and color of the matte effect. I emphasized the golden color of Belle's dress and the Prince's suit trim this way. Next, I went to the Shapes tool and added the heart shape. I changed the heart's location, size, color and fading before adding the text in the Text tool.

Once I was satisfied with everything, I went to the Save & Share tab and saved the new image back to my computer's hard drive. Be careful here. Picnik will use the same name for the edited version. Picnik might think about adding some sort of extension in a future update.

I was very impressed with how far Picnik has come in the last three months when I first discovered it. The developers keep adding new tools, controls, effects, shapes and fonts all the time. Being an Internet application, you can access it from any computer in the world. Might come in handy for doing edits from a hotel room in Walt Disney World for all you bloggers and webmasters out there. I suggest giving Picnik a try the next time you need to do some photo editing and see if it might work for you.

October 12, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Collage of Terror

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Tower of Terror collage. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon Coolpix 995, 1/360s, f/7.5, 100 ISO, 0 EV

I love creating new artistic works from my photographs. This one I am particularly proud of as it came together over a couple of years. I first took the picture of the Disney Hollywood Studio's Tower of Terror during a trip back in 2004. I liked the clouds overhead. On a return trip a year later, I was in an hour wait queue to ride the Tower of Terror. Since I had my trusty Nikon Coolpix 995 with me, I passed the time by taking pictures of things I came upon in the queue. Disney Imagineers do a wonderful job of detail and I wanted to capture some of it.

Fast forward a couple of months and I came upon a speciality photo software package called LumaPix FotoFusion which made it very easy to create photo collages. If you are a scrapbooker, you may also want to take a look at this software. FotoFusion has frames in all shapes and sizes. There are backgrounds to choose from or you can use your own graphics or photos as was the case with mine here. It makes it easy to get started creating a collage by selecting the photos you want to use and pressing the Auto Collage button. If you don't like the first layout it comes out with, press it again. Once you see something you like, you can take over for the final arrangment of the images, change sizes of the images, put different frames and borders on them, add text in any font your computer has and use special effects like shadowing and blurs.

Taking my Tower of Terror image from 2004 as the background and grabbing a few from my queue photos in 2005, I started putting together my collage. It's a lot of fun moving the images around, selecting frames, colors and effects, even rotating them. After I got done, I wanted something more. The font wasn't creepy enough. It didn't take me long to find a Twilight Zone font on the Internet which gave an authentic look to the final product.

Photo collages are a great way to create new images from photos you had no idea what to do with.

October 5, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Create a Disney Christmas Card

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Google's Picasa

Google's free photo editing software, Picasa, is a simple to use way to enhance, clean up or fix your digital photographs. I have been impressed with what I have learned in the few days I have used Picasa. It has given me a way to fix some high contrast images I took during this year's International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot.

As most of you are aware, the midday Florida sun is very bright. When I came upon the Donald Duck and Pluto pirate topiaries at the entrance to World Showcase coming from Future World, it was around three in the afternoon. My first attempts had Donald and Pluto well exposed but the bright sky and clouds were blown out. The clouds looking more like unnatural white bloobs due to overexposure. Using the exposure compensation button on my camera, I adjusted it down to -1.3 EV before the sky and clouds became correctly exposed. Unfortunetaly, due to the extreme difference or contrast in the brightness of the sky and the topiaries, Donald and Pluto were now underexposed. In digital photography, it's best to expose for the brightest parts of the scene which is what I did in the photo you see below.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Donald Duck and Pluto topiaries before editing. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/13, 200 ISO, -1.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

I'm sure you can see why I might toss this image into the trash bin. However, I had downloaded Picasa and had been learning it's capabilities. Maybe I can fix it! With a gleam in my eye, I launched Picasa and went about the task of throwing some added light on to Donald and Pluto.

Picasa has two elements to it. First is the Library which catalogs all your images on your Window's based PC (as of this writing, Picasa does not have a Mac OSX or Linux version available). You scroll through all your images on the right side of the Library's window. On the left you can set up virtual folders and see the aging of other photos by folder. You can watch slideshows, email, print and upload to Picasa Web Albums from the Library.


Double clicking on an image brings it into the Picasa Editor. On the left side, you see Picasa's tools with three tab views entitled Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects. For my pirate topiary photo, I started out by adding some Fill Light in the Basic Fixes tab, moving the slider to the right until the detail in both Donald and Pluto could be seen clearly. This kept most of the detail in the sky and clouds without blowing them out. For this image, I didn't need any of the Tuning tools and skipped right to the Effects tab. In adding fill light, some of the color of the flowers at Donald's feet got a bit washed out or dull looking. I used the Saturation tool on the Effects tab to bring the color back. Don't overdo this effect unless you want a really cartoonish look to your photo. I applied just a bit here. As you'll read in most photo editing books, I applied sharpening as the last step in the photo editng process. Here again, you don't want to give it too much or the photo looks unreal. I clicked on the Sharpened tool just once.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Donald Duck and Pluto topiaries after editing in Picasa. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007

All done! What do you think? For a free photo editor, Picasa did an excellent job. Oh, and another thing, when I saved the edited version, Picasa saved my original in a separate folder. Picasa is far from PhotoShop but you can't beat the price for such an easy and useful photo editing tool.

August 31, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Virtual Borders

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 400 ISO, -0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

This proves how popular Cinderella's Castle really is. Just a few entries after Barrie posted about this most photographed object at Walt Disney World and here I am using this photo. I know many try to capture a unique view of the castle. I wish I could say I was trying to here. It just sort of happened and I will tell you about it soon.

Since I wanted my entries to be titled using the Epcot word of "innoventions", I want to share with you a very innovative software product I found. In my travels to many photography websites and forums, I saw other people putting lovely and informative virtual borders around their photographs. My inquires found most used various versions of Adobe Photoshop or Elements to do so. I searched for a less expensive (read: free) alternative. I finally found a product called BorderMaker by programmer Thijs Orbitz from the Netherlands. It fit my needs perfectly.

BorderMaker is very easy to use. The website has some screenshots with very little documentation but it only took me 10 minutes to get the results you see above. Before installing BorderMaker, you have to make sure you have the latest version of the Java Runtime Environment. Don't worry, it's not complicated. Once that is done, you can download and install BorderMaker with ease.

With BorderMaker, you can easily create custom border templates you can save for reuse or to batch process a set of pictures. It can auto-select border and text colors depending on a photograph's color range. Other handy features let you convert a photo to other formats, show Exif data, apply sharpening, add watermarks and even resize the processed image. In the example below, I let BorderMaker choose the border and text color initially. I changed the bottom two lines of text to red. I found the Indy font online and stretched the bottom border to accommodate all the text. The software made this very easy to do.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Another BorderMaker Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007

Now, how did I get the image of Cinderella's Castle? About 20 minutes after sunset this past May, I got on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (most old timers still call this the WEDway People Mover) for a leisurely ride around Tommorrowland. As I came upon the first turn past Stitch's Great Escape, I noticed Cinderella's Castle silhouetted against the pre-twilight sky and took a picture. The first one didn't come out to well as my ISO setting was at 200 so the shutter speed was too slow. I got a very blurred image. I quickly bumped up the ISO to 400 and took a couple of practice shots before entering Space Mountain. From those shots I was ready. Upon coming back out above the Tommorowland Terrace Noodle Station, I went to work. Zooming in a bit, I took a series of shots with this one coming out the best. Some photos call for a title, this one was easy: "Castle at Dusk". I think the virtural border gives the added attention this photograph deserves.

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