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Maharajah Jungle Trek Archives

July 22, 2016

Waiting for Tigers in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I watch people all the time when I am at Walt Disney World. I particularly pay attention to those taking photographs whether they are using smart phones or full size digital SLR cameras. I can almost tell you which ones will come home with photos they will like and be proud to show to their family and friends. Those are the the people who take a little extra time and patience.

Those who walk up to something, pull out a camera or phone and point and shoot will rarely get a great photo. I used to be one of them. Prided myself in the grab shot as I toured the parks with my family. It wasn't until I started to take the time which, usually meant an extra minute or two, did I start to see better results in my photography.

At the Asian Tiger exhibit on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, I see many people come up to the overlook, see a tiger below walking or lying down, take a photo and move on. Now, they might have gotten the perfect tiger photo they wanted. Chances are, they probably got something like this.

Asian tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1250, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

That was my first shot upon looking down. The first shot is rarely a keeper. I knew if I waited, I would get a better one. I was rewarded only thirty seconds later. The tiger moved his head around and looked in my direction.

Asian tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger looking around on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 1400, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

I realize if you are traveling with a group and especially, with young children, it is hard to be able to spend a lot of time observing or waiting for a better photo opportunity. When you can, you will be rewarded.

Seven minutes later, this tiger jumped up to the water pool and started to drink. I was able to capture a behavior I had not seen before. This has became one my favorite photos of a tiger.

Asian tiger drinking water on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger getting a drink of water on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length.

Remember this the next time you are in Walt Disney World or even when photographing your family. The first shot is often not the best shot. Take a few more and see which ones you like later. I am willing to bet the one or ones you like will come later in the shoot.

February 16, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Portraits

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The definition of a portrait is a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders. In our case, photography is our medium of choice. While the dictionary uses "person", I would substitute "subject" as portraits do not necessarily have to be human.

Take for instance my portrait of an Asian Tiger (Panthera tigris) on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The tiger was posing perfectly for me in between short cat naps.

Asian Tiger (Panthera tigris) on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Portrait of an Asian Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/4, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 160mm (240mm DX) focal length.

For more on taking portraits at Walt Disney World, visit these links: Animal Portraits and More on Portraits (of the human kind)

Deb will share her portraiture skills tomorrow.

January 29, 2016

New Animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Things are always changing at Walt Disney World. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, I photographed new residents on my last trip in December of 2015.

The entrance to Discovery Island Trails before the bridge over to Africa is the home of the Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Cotton-top Tamarins are new world monkeys from Central and South America.

Cotton-top Tamarin at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cotton-top Tamarin at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 4500, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia, I spotted the Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) walking through tall grass. Turns out Sarus Cranes are the tallest cranes in the world reaching a height of nearly six feet (1.8m). They are found in India, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Sarus Crane on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Sarus Crane on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 180, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Staying on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and in the same exhibit area were Asian Antelopes. A whole heard had come up and over a hill to start grazing on the hillside. This lovely male was nice enough to pose for me.

Asian Antelope on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Antelope on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/8, ISO 450, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

While Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are not new to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, these two baby boys are. They were entertaining a large audience of guests with their antics.

Baby Western Lowland Gorillas playing on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Baby Western Lowland Gorillas playing on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 4500, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

I always make it a point to walk all the trails in Disney's Animal Kingdom as new animals go on display or replace other species all the time.

June 22, 2014

Where in the World #337

Where in the World by Erin Blackwell

To all who come to this photo trivia game, Welcome! Along the way, the photos can make us relive memories and see details Walt's Imagineers put into everything we love in Walt Disney World!

So here it is. My last night in Walt Disney World. No, it's okay... I'm fine.
From Millan.Net

Last week's challenge: number #336
Where in the World #336

And here's the answer:
Where in the World Photo Fun
Copyright © Erin Blackwell

The bat area along the Maharaja Jungle Trek of Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Good Batman jokes, Chris Kelly and Team Hill!
Batman

Kristi Strembicki was the first to send in the correct answer! Congratulations to Kristi and to all our winners this week! Tom Hermes, Donna Frank, Candice Grimes, Timmy Saunders, Bethany Boucher, Matt Wildey, Lyn Johnson, Ann Dunnington, Ed Adams, Chris Shirk, Jen, Mike Haven, Christina Trigiani, Mark Niebojeski, Brett Borowski, Teala Van De Ven, Chuck Strom, Larry Bratsch, Terry Blair, Rosemarie Novelo, Karrie Duffey, Karla Meyer , Double Family, Kevin Marriott , Davida, Lyn Smith, Noelle Myers, Maureen Handy, Laura Donmoyer, Alan Mize, Teresa Miller, Melanie Dalton, Matt Holley, Mandy R., Sarah Orman, Lynda Abiuso, Rob Blundin, Chris Lankford, Eric Johnson, Amanda Clayton, Jim &Lorie Sonnen, Amy P, Cathy Fleming, Lucille Angermaier, Jenny, Christi Ison, Melissa Such, Shelly Borella, Penny, Vicki Britt, Kathy Morris, Tony Lliteras, Jim Riley, Kim H., Nicole Lassiter, Jim Finley, Anne Heffentreyer, Beth Powell, Melodie Jurgens, Suzanne Renfroe, Phyllis, Renee Hardiman, Lisa Zitek, Allison Forson, Tim Johansen, Doug Olson Family, Mickey Eckert, Maggie Klotz, Vera And Izzy Williams, Annie Niece, Kevin Morgan, Mary Dieuliis, Hobbes And Snorky, Craig, Judy Simonsen, Chris, Gretchen, And Katie Barnes, Sheryl Bryan, Tina Newton, The Kahle Family, Roxanne Kliebert, Ruben O'meara, Art Hutchinson, Jennifer Rowell, Ed Suscreba, Gabriella, Terry And Matthieu, Maryann Eckenrode , The Emich Family, Lynette Michalos, Cindy Pink, Clay Anthony, Heidi Goodhue, Shelly, Michele Mongeon , Carol Ney, Linda Ranatza, Tyler Otts , Tjg, The Kertes Family, Team Hill, Mary Beth Tarbet, Lori Rienhardt, Gail States, The Parker Family, Elaine Kleinhenz, Donna Begley, Emily Hudson, Jackie Lamendola, Luis Rodriguez, Kirsten Miller, Dawn Bach, Les Stewart, Tricia Petty, Carla C, Kathryn Perkins, Heather Pedulla, Michelle Darabaris, Cheryl Costello, Theresa Rucando, Tom Wert, Claire Gregory , Bob, Brent Lindblad, Jeff Blank, Rebecca Smith, Christina , Jeremy Hardy, Pierre Bernard, Robert Hildebrandt, Deb Gallo, Duskin Henard, Deb Kettering , Chad Adams, Elizabeth Scarborough, Patti Mccaffrey, Ron Harper, Erin Hammer, Kim Paulakos, Sara Alaimo, Sharon Powell, Barbara Baker, Peg Jones, Kirk Hardy, Maryann Romagnano, Carrie R, Team Meeker, The Gunnels Family, Pj Popsuj, Cynthia Gaubert, P Kyle, Lizanne Fisk, Michelle Cassisa, Jen Tremley, Patty Carty, Mike Haeberle, Russ Morgan, Bob Henriksen, Jen Cerce, Deb Ragno, Patti Deluca, Daniel Record, Kathryn Record, Joseph M. Zafia, Shelby Watson, Julia Wickware, Jose Serrano, Paul Ignudo, Jr., Barclay Bakkum, Lee Anastasi, Dave Carriere, Josh Carney, Hillary Waldroop, Eileen Miller, Kyle Burdo, Sheila, Michael And Kelly Barnes, Nicole Shuler, Jane Johnson, Janet T Thorn, Grumpy's Groupies, Team Bonnie Sue, Kerri Coggins, Stephanie Dollar, Smitty, Chris Kelly, Nan Amor, Ronald Delorey, Les Whitten, and Robert Wescovich. Each of you are entered in this month's winners' drawing.

__________________________________ _____________________

Challenge #337 Where in the world is this?

We're in a park, Players, and I don't want this to be to tough, so it's in the FIRST park that they built in Walt Disney World.

 Where in the World #337

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Please send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, June 26th, by clicking on the blue box below. Please do not post answers using the Feedback Form link at the bottom of this post.

See you next week, Players!

Click Here to Submit Your Answer
_______________________________________________________________________

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for some special AllEars® goodies!

April 25, 2014

Photographing around Disney's Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2011

Photographing Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Over the years I have given you tips on how to photograph on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom. However, the stars on this animal trail are the Asian Tigers. Being cats, the tigers sleep most of the day. In fact, up to 15 hours of a tiger's day is spent sleeping. In Disney's Animal Kingdom, the best time of day I have found to photograph the tigers is in the afternoons after 2:00pm. The series of photos below was taken around 3:00pm last October. It helps to ask a cast member on duty when they have seen the tigers and other animals on the trail active.

Besides sleeping, another popular activity of the Asian tigers is the daily cleanings.

Tiger keeping clean at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger keeping clean.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Soon after I took this photo, the tiger got up and started prancing across the compound.

Tiger prancing at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger prancing.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

The tiger had a goal in mind and flushed out a fellow tiger. They raced each other down to the windowed viewing area.

Tiger chases another at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An Asian Tiger chases another.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/6.3, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

They soon settled down and enjoyed a quiet moment together.

Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

Have you found other times during the day when the tigers or other animals are active when visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom? Leave me a comment.

April 29, 2011

The Bird Sanctuary on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of my favorite areas in Disney's Animal Kingdom is on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The Asian tigers are a crowd favorite on the trail but do not overlook the bird sanctuary. Grab a large bird identification chart as you enter to enhance your enjoyment. You will also see some very ornate bird houses just as a real Maharajah may have had in a royal bird sanctuary which was popular in Asia. Today, many of those sanctuaries still exist as national parks and refuges.

A royal bird palace in the sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Royal bird palace in the sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm focal length

Let's meet some of the exotic bird species in the Maharajah Jungle Trek bird sanctuary. It helps to have a lens with a focal length of 200mm or better. If you have a P&S with a 10x zoom or better that will work great to.

The male Mandarin Duck is Asia's version of the North American Wood Duck. Brightly colored and sometimes hard to tell it is a living waterfowl as they are as ornate as the bird house palaces in the sanctuary.

Mandarin Duck in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mandarin Duck in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 1000, EV +0.3, 155mm focal length

The Emerald Dove is the state bird of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. With 'emerald' in the name, you can see why these pigeons were popular with the royal casts.

Emerald Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Emerald Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 5600, EV 0, 300mm focal length

As their name implies, Jambu Fruit Doves eat fruit directly from trees or from items dropped by hornbills or monkeys. Like other doves but, unlike most birds, it can drink by sucking.

Jambu Fruit Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Jambu Fruit Dove in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 320, EV 0, 300mm focal length

Masked Plovers or Lapwings spend most of their time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. Their bright and distinctive 'masked' face is easy to spot in the Maharajah Jungle Trek bird sanctuary.

Masked Plover in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Masked Plover in the bird sanctuary of the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 250, EV -0.3, 200mm focal length

July 16, 2010

Digital Photography Beginner's Guide

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This month marks three years I have been writing weekly (more or less) on the Picture This! Photoblog here at AllEars.net. The questions Lisa got from her inquiry last week got me to thinking in the last three years, many of you have upgraded to better cameras which give you more control. With that in mind, I want to link you to some of the first posts I did here which explain the basics of Digital Photography.

Pirates of the Caribbean plaza in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mechanics of Exposure: This post defines what aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation are. For me, you have to define and understand the parts before you can understand the whole which in this case is called photographic exposure.

Exif Photo Data: In this post I explain the numbers you see under the photos here on the Picture This! blog.

Creative Uses of Aperture: Details on how aperture effects the depth of field in photographs.

Shutter Speeds and You: Read about how shutter speed controls the amount of movement in photographs.

Indian artwork on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Light Sensitivity: Of the three parts of the exposure triangle, ISO or light sensitivity is not easily understood. I lift the veil of the ISO numbers in this post.

Dialing in Digital Exposure: The exposure compensation button found on digital SLRs and advanced Point and Shoot cameras is often overlooked by many new digital photographers. I think you'll agree once you read this how useful the EV button is.

If you have any questions regarding these articles, leave a comment here and I will answer them.

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!

January 16, 2009

Super Zoom on Safari

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In 1998, a wannabe wildlife photographer's dream came true when Disney's Animal Kingdom opened. I've always wanted to bring a super zoom telephoto lens to this park and I did just that during Mousefest 2008. There were three specific locations at Animal Kingdom I wanted to try my super zoom lens, Nikon's 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED Autofocus VR Zoom Nikkor Lens, on. They were the Kilimanjaro Safari, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Kilimanjaro Safari is a ride on large vehicles, called jeeps, which are designed to give a very bumpy ride. In the past, I've used 200mm zoom lenses with much success. The Nikon 80-400VR is much heavier at 3 pounds than those shorter lenses. I was a little worried about being able to steady it even with Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. This proved to be a problem and, when the ride vehicle was in motion, I found it nearly impossible to get any non-blurred photos at 400mm.

I was more successful using lesser focal lengths like with this lumbering White Rhino taken at the shortest focal length of the lens at 80mm.

A White Rhino lumbers past a safari jeep in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A White Rhino lumbers past a safari jeep on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/4.5, 560 ISO, -0.3 EV, 80mm Focal Length

The lens did allow me to get a photo I've never been able to get on all my previous safari trips. The Cheetahs are very far from the road the safari jeeps use and, being cats, are either not in view or lying down sleeping. On this day, they were in full view and posing! Using the lens at its full 400mm focal length (which is 600mm on my Nikon D70 1.5x cropped body), I was able to get the following photo which has been further cropped from the original.

Pair of Cheetahs seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari adventure in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Pair of Cheetahs seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari adventure.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a walking trail featuring African wildlife from Naked Mole Rats to the mighty Silverback Gorillas. One of the highlights for me on the trail is the colony of Meerkats. Like North America's Prairie Dogs, Meerkats have a sentinel member keeping watch of the surroundings when other members are out of their protective burrows. This Meerkat portrait shows the nice bokeh (out of focus background) of the Nikon 80-400VR lens shooting wide open at f/5.6 and 400mm focal length.

Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Meerkat sentinel on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The trail features a family troop of gorillas in a large compound with great viewing locations for people to see and photograph these magnificent animals. Here is a picture of the leader who reminds me of the gorilla, Kerchak, in Disney's Tarzan animated movie. Normally, I would discard a photo like this but his eyes make this one a keeper.

Male Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Male Gorilla on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1000 ISO, +0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

Another walking trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek features wildlife from the continent of Asia. I was fortunate to catch the Komodo Dragon alert and the Nikon 80-400VR gave me the reach to capture this portrait of a species you wouldn't want to be this close to in the wild.

Portrait of the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Portrait of the Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/400s, f/5.6, 1000 ISO, -0.3 EV, 400mm Focal Length

The Asian Tigers are in a compound themed as ruins of a jungle palace. The residents act as royalty often lounging and sleeping as big cats often do. I try to be there in the late afternoon when they are more likely to be active as they are feed about a half hour before park closing. I have gotten many sleeping and resting tiger photos in the past so I was thrilled to get a few on this trip as they moved about their lair.

Asian Tiger on the prowl on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Asian Tiger on the prowl as seen from the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/640s, f/5.3, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

After the Maharajah Jungle Trek, I was ready to put the large 80-400VR lens back into my camera bag. I got some great photos I would not have been able to get with shorter lenses. Though it is not something I think I'd take to Animal Kingdom again in the near future unless I have a need to get some really close up photos of animals I can't find elsewhere.

For more on Animal Kingdom photography, check out my previous articles on Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips and Maharajah Jungle Trek Photo Tips.

August 8, 2008

Maharajah Jungle Trek Photo Tips

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Komodo Dragon on the Maharajah Jungle Trek

The Maharajah Jungle Trek is a walking trail featuring the beautiful and powerful Asian Tigers. Unlike the Kilimanjaro Safari (see link below), you can take your time viewing the animals. At least until those with you bug you to move on. You will need a camera that can take good photos at ISO speeds ranging from 100 or 200 to 800 or 1600 as the light varies greatly along the trail. To be able to fill the frame, a lens of 200mm in length is a must. With the crop factor on dSLR cameras this often gets you a 35mm equivalent of 300mm. A Point & Shoot camera with a zoom factor 10x or more will give you excellent range to get viewfinder filling shots.

When shooting at these magnification, your camera will be using large apertures which means the depth of field or zone of focus will be small. You need to be careful what you are focusing on. Like people, the eyes must be in sharp focus. Viewers will overlook softness in other features of the animal as long as the eyes are in focus.

Luck has a lot to do when photographing an animal doing something when you are there. The photo of the Komodo Dragon above was taken on my seventh trip to Animal Kingdom. All the other times, he would be lying there with his body flopped on the ground. In this case, a bird had landed in his enclosure and he was hunting it. You can increase your chances of seeing activity by walking the trail early or late in the day. As mentioned on the AllEars.net page on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the tigers get very active around 4pm in the afternoon.

Related Links:

Kilimanjaro Safari Photo Tips

May 16, 2008

A is for Aperture Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Aperture seems to work in reverse to common sense. Measured in f/stops, the smaller the f/stop, the larger the aperture or opening of the camera's iris and the more light is allowed to hit the sensor. It also controls the Depth of Field or how much or how little the plane of focus is in your photographs.

In the photo of Expedition EVEREST, I wanted everything sharply focused (a large plane of focus) from the tops of the trees to the clouds in the sky.

Click for larger version of Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/18, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 35mm Focal Length

To get the maximum depth of field, I moved the Dial Mode to the A position to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode. I now had control of the aperture or f/stop setting by turning the command dial (this may be different for your camera so check your manual. There I go again!). I took a series of photos of Expedition EVEREST, waiting for the train to enter the mountain. It took a few tries to get the timing down. Once I downloaded the files to my laptop, I liked this one the best at f/18. It shows every detail in mountain's "rock" and "snow" with a nice base frame of trees and top frame of sky. I took this while waiting outside the Theater in the Wild to see Finding Nemo -- The Musical.

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the sun angle on this hanging Malayan Flying Fox showed how thin the membranes are in his wings. To make sure the background went out of focus, I selected an aperture of f/5.6 for a narrow plane of focus. This technique is called selective focus and is a great way of separating your subject from a busy or unappealing background.

Click for larger version of Malayan Flying Fox soaking up the sun on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Malayan Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus) soaking up the sun on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 120mm Focal Length

February 15, 2008

Photographic Innoventions: Bokeh!

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

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


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

September 21, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Look Up!

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
The Crown and Crest store in Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/15s, f/3.5, 450 ISO, +1 EV, 18mm Focal Length

While "researching" family crests and name histories in the United Kingdom's Crown and Crest store in Epcot, I suddenly remembered the old Walt Disney themepark fan's adage, "Look Up!". I was rewarded with the view you see above of multicolored flags depicting family crests from Ol'England hanging from the wooden rafters.

Did you know most pictures are taken about five to six feet off the ground or eye level of most people? While I was standing for this photograph, many times after taking an initial photograph, I pause and think how I can make it better. Would a different angle help? What if I move closer? Or farther away? Would getting down on my knees or belly give the picture more impact? How about from above? Is it possible to come back at another time of day when the sun is low or at night?

Now, I do know it is very hard to do this at Walt Disney World with the crowds, kids in tow or rushing to get to a scheduled show or dining reservation. However, I encourage you to practice this exercise with subjects around your home, neighborhood or anywhere you have your camera with you. Thankfully, Disney Imagineers make it easy and all you need to do is look up...

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Flags blowing in the wind above the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 75mm Focal Length
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About Maharajah Jungle Trek

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

Expedition Everest is the previous category.

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