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May 27, 2016

Freezing the Action at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I do a lot of sports photography which is the home of fast shutter speeds. The faster the better to freeze the action and allow people to see the sports action in a whole new way. The same can be done at Walt Disney World. One of my favorite's to use a fast shutter is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular as Disney's Hollywood Studios. The action in this show is fast and furious.

To best capture the action, set your camera to Shutter Priority or Sports mode. You want the shutter speed to be at minimum of 1/500th of a second or faster. The lighting in the photo below only allowed me 1/500s with an ISO of 6400 as it was late in the day.

Stunt actors in Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Freezing action during the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 6400, EV +0.3, 210mm Focal Length.

Even at 1/500th of a second there is still some motion blur. Not enough to take away from the freezing of the action. As you can see, you can study the action in the photo. Something you can not do while watching the show.

July 24, 2015

Documenting Details Around Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I have had the pleasure of accompanying Disney Historian Jim Korkis and fellow photographers on tours around Walt Disney World. On each tour, Jim repeated how important it was to photograph and document "everything" in the parks and resorts. Over time, things change, get replaced or plain disappear from guest areas.

With rumors swirling around Disney's Hollywood Studios as attractions are closed without word of what may be coming to replace them, I sought out various details around the park during my last two visits.

Signs in the Streets of America New York area in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Signs in the Streets of America New York area.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 65mm Focal Length.

Streets of America is filled with details movie sets need in a backlot. Authentic locations and details to make people believe they are in New York when it was filmed in Orlando.

Flowers around the mermaid water fountain from the 1984 movie, Splash, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flowers around the mermaid water fountain from the 1984 movie, Splash.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 1100, EV 0, 28mm Focal Length.

This prop always makes me smile remembering this was from Tom Hanks breakout movie, Splash, back in 1984. And, it's right down the street from Pixar Place and Toy Story Midway Mania, something else Tom Hanks had a hand..er, voice, in.

Ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz imprinted in a cement block outside the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz imprinted in a cement block outside the Great Movie Ride.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 31mm (47mm DX) Focal Length.

I was thrilled to learn Disney and Turner Classic Movies were getting together to give the Great Movie Ride some much needed face lifts. The removal of the Sorcerer's Hat brings back the original appearance of Disney's Hollywood Studios and this should help bring back the luster to the attraction, too.

The sign outside of the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost shop in the Echo Lake area of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The sign outside of the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost shop.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 160, EV +0.3, 95mm (143mm DX) Focal Length.

You have heard the rumors and I have heard them, the area known as Echo Lake may look a lot different in a few years. Attractions, restaurants and shops could be removed, changed or replaced. For anyone looking to get the iconic Indiana Jones hat, the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost is where you want to go before it gets replaced with something else in the galaxy.

The window to Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The window to Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine restaurant.
Nikon D7100/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/4, ISO 100, EV +0.3, 120mm (180mm DX) Focal Length.

Back in 1989, when Disney's Hollywood Studios opened (then called Disney-MGM Studios), Who Framed Roger Rabbit references where found throughout the park as the movie had been a huge hit the year before. Over the years, many of the references have been moved or disappeared. As of today, you can still spot the office window of Eddie Valiant's Private Investigations above the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant.

Have you photographed something in Disney's Hollywood Studios in the past which is no longer there or moved to a different location in the park or the resort? Share them with us in the Comments below.

September 26, 2014

Echo Lake Sunset in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

June 13, 2014

Photographing Star Wars Weekends Fireworks

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Star Wars Weekends for 2014 ended each day with the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show. The show is done totally with music from the Star Wars movie saga. The fireworks used are the most advanced I have ever seen at a Disney themepark. Bursts would change colors in different directions and from the inside-out, shapes of galaxies and ringed planets with lots of ground rockets. All this takes place behind the main stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. For safety reasons, Pixar Place and Toy Story Midway Mania are closed before the performance.

While I was only able to photograph Symphony in the Stars once. I have enlisted four other talented Disney fan photographers to show you five locations both inside and outside of Disney's Hollywood Studies to photograph these fireworks from.


From Inside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

I photographed from The Feel the Force Premium Package viewing area. I setup towards the front and just to the left of the stage looking up Hollywood Blvd. It is very close to the stage and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat and I used the Sigma 15mm fisheye lens to cover as much of the sky as I could. The viewing area has a few palm trees and the lens shows you the number of people in front of the stage during the show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.
Nikon D700/Sigma 15mm, 1.3s, f/8, ISO 400, EV 0, tripod.

I think if I was to do it again, I would have found a position as far away or to the back of the viewing area and as close to the rope edge on Hollywood Blvd.

Jeff Krause (SpreadTheMagic on flickr) set up near the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. From there you can see the Keystone Clothiers store and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. The view is cluttered with the tall palm trees and the store itself but you can see more of the high bursts in the sky.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Jeff Krause, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Jeff Krause from Hollywood and Sunset Blvd.
Canon EOS 5D Mk3/16-35IS, 15s, f/9, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

As you can see, there are a lot of people who attend Star Wars Weekends days. Be prepared.

Matthew Cooper (TheTimeTheSpace on flickr) set up in the Echo Lake area and used Min & Bill's Dockside Diner and the lake as a foreground subject. If you get to this area early (and I recommend you do), you can set up your tripod (not yourself) on the inside of the fence surrounding Echo Lake. People won't be able to accidentally hit your tripod legs during a long exposure with the setup.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Matthew Cooper, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Matthew Cooper.
Nikon D800/24-70mm, 15s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm focal length, tripod.

I really like this location. If I had not decided to do the special viewing package, I had planned on shooting from here.


From Outside Disney's Hollywood Studies:

Dave Kliment (ExploringWDW on flickr) photographed from what I am seeing on flickr and elsewhere as a very popular location. The Sorcerer Mickey and enchanted broomstick topiaries are out in front of the park's entrance.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dave Kliment, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dave Kliment.
Nikon D300/10-24mm, 22s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 19mm flocal length, tripod.

Here you can see how high the bursts go in the sky and how wide the ground rockets shoot up. You do loose the Sorcerer Mickey Hat entirely and most of the buildings on Hollywood Blvd. Due to the long exposures necessary for Fireworks photography, the neon lighting gets overexposed but it does not distract from the fireworks.

From the walkway to the Epcot resorts, Dennis Dunkman (ddindy on flickr) photographed at the point of the path which looks directly down Hollywood Blvd. From this location you can really see the scope of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks show.

Symphony in the Stars fireworks show in Disney's Hollywood Studios by Dennis Dunkman, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Symphony in the Stars fireworks show by Dennis Dunkman.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 15.2s, f/11, ISO 200, EV 0, 56mm flocal length, tripod.

Each photographer was using Bulb Mode to open and close their camera's shutter while using a tripod to keep it steady. For more on how to photograph firework shows at Walt Disney World, click on the links below:

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 1

Photographing Fireworks at Walt Disney World - Part 2

May 29, 2014

Jedi Master in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Jedi Master of the Jedi Training Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Jedi Master of the Jedi Training Academy.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 220, EV 0, 135mm focal length.

A Jedi Master leads a group of young ones in the ways of the Force next to the Star Tours attraction in Disney's Hollywood Studies. Each day, children of guests can take part in the Jedi Training Academy. It is a fun show for both children and adults.

You, too, can learn the ways of the Force via this Disney Pic of the Week on Star Wars.

November 8, 2013

Fisheyed Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 22, 2013

Star Tours Queue Tower in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Mon Calamari officers overlook the Star Tours queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios from a control tower, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mon Calamari officers overlook the Star Tours queue from a control tower..
Nikon D700/Tokna 11-16m, 2s, f/8, ISO 800, EV 0, 16mm focal length, tripod.

Mon Calamari officers overlook the Star Tours queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios from a control tower. If you want to photograph in an empty Star Tours queue, stay late during an Extra Magic Hour night. A colorful and spacey Disney Pic of the Week for Star Tours.


May 30, 2013

Echo Park Drive

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Echo Park Drive intersects with Sunset Plaza in this sign near Echo Lake in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Echo Park Drive intersects with Sunset Plaza in this sign near Echo Lake.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 170mm focal length.

There are lots of things to see and do as you walk around Echo Lake in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Next time you are near Echo Lake, look for the details in the buildings and streets which border it. The street sign here is an example of the famous Disney detail and made for my Disney Pic of the Week on Echo Lake.

February 24, 2013

Where in the World #269

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!

Susan and Mike Hill are still digging out from underneath the snow as two of our own head for Disney vacations and two are already there! So here's to Disney:

From Millan.Net Where in the World Players are here! Jennifer Rupert and Luis Rodriguez are there and Claire Gregory and Paul Moore are on their way!

Thank you to Vera Williams, Melody O'donnell, and J

February 8, 2013

Star Tours Queue in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 30, 2012

Tips on Photographing the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 23, 2011

Dining Under the Stars at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I will be going to Walt Disney World next month to meet up with some fellow photographers as I did back in 2009. Before returning to Walt Disney World, I like to review my past trip photos. Over the next four weeks, I am going to share with you locations in each park starting with my favorite, Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS).

Like the real Hollywood, Disney uses large sound stages to create unique and fantastical experiences for their guests at DHS. Drive-In Theaters are rare in today's America but back in the 1950's and 1960's they were extremely popular with families and teenagers to watch such classics like The Blob or The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. To capture such a fun era, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant was created. No matter the time of day or year, people found themselves dining under the stars in front of a large movie screen showing trailers from some of the "best" (I use the word loosely) science fiction movies made when drive-ins where popular. Sprinkled in between the movie trailers are animated shorts and Walt Disney even introduces one of his favorites.

Guests enjoying a meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests enjoying a meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/8s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

Did you notice what people are sitting in? The "tables" are made up of cars which sit four to six adults. Towards the back of the restaurant they have bigger cars for groups and even tables near the concession stand (the kitchen) like the old drive-ins used to have.

Guests sitting in their cars at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Guests sitting in their cars at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/25s, f/2.8, ISO 8000, EV +1.0, 16mm focal length.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant is a favorite of my family and has the best milk shake in the park (notice I did not say resort). If you have not tried it, better make your reservations as soon as you can as it is very busy and popular as the old drive-ins were on Saturday nights.

October 22, 2010

My American Idol Experience

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

One of the elements of visiting a Disney park I enjoy seeing is when cast members will make a guest feel special. It has happened to me or a member of my family a few times. During the pre-show of the American Idol Experience on my last visit, I found myself being part of the show. No, I did not perform.

The comedian who warms up the audience before the show starts saw me photographing from the fourth row. Before I knew it we were doing an impromptu model shoot. It lasted a whole two minutes and got some laughs from the audience. I did not catch his name and he is not wearing a name tag. If anyone knows his name, please, leave me a comment.

As I mentioned in last week's tips on photographing the Kilimanjaro Safari, when at Walt Disney World or any Disney property, be ready as you never know when an exciting photographic opportunity will happen. Here is My American Idol Experience...

My American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
My American Idol Experience.

Heading back to Walt Disney World next week. This time it is for vacation! I will also be photographing for future blogs. If you have anything you would like me to cover, drop me a comment here. See ya real soon!

Oh, I'll be tweeting comments and photos, too. You can follow me @Scottwdw.

September 10, 2010

New Gear!

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I want to first thank everyone who followed my trip down to Walt Disney World last weekend. I tweeted over 35 photos from my iPhone and many other tweets. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

What I did not tell you last week was I was bringing my new camera and lens to the parks for the first time. I purchased a new-to-me Nikon D700 digital SLR camera and new Nikon 28-300VR lens. This is a tremendous upgrade from the Nikon D70 dSLR camera and 18-200VR lens I have been using for the past three years. The D700 is a full-frame camera with a larger sensor (12 Megapixels) and high ISO capabilities. The 28-300VR lens was designed for the full-frame Nikon digital cameras and is the same range in 35mm terms as the 18-200VR for cropped camera bodies.

For this week, I want to share with you some of the photos I took with the new equipment. If you have any questions, leave me a comment!

The larger sensor allowed me to crop this photo of the explosive finale in the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in Disney's Hollywood Studios and not lose the the detail of the fire and water in the air.

Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show explosive finale.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/1600s, f/5.2, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 92mm focal length

The Nikon D700 technology is five years newer than the D70 and its photos take a lot less time in post production. In fact, this photo of Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the The Magic of Disney Animation tour is straight out of the camera except for a little sharpening.

Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the Animation building at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Lotso from Toy Story 3 in the Animation building.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/100s, f/4, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular begins with a low light scene where Indy locates a golden idol. In the past, I was limited to a maximum ISO of 1600 which was also very noisy. The D700 has little noise up to 3200 ISO and even as high as 6400 is very clean.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular scene at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Indiana Jones sizing up the golden idol.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EV 0, 300mm Focal Length

While it is not the camera that creates the photos, new tools can help a photographer improve even more through technological improvements in their gear.

March 20, 2009

Photographing the American Idol Experience

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

There are lots of concerts held at Walt Disney World each day so knowing how to photograph one is a good skill to have. To show you how I do it, I selected the new American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. While concerts, unlike shows, are more spontaneous, the American Idol Experience does follow a script of sorts. That makes it a good place to learn this kind of event photography.

First, let's look at a couple of photos I took of the performers. Look closely at how they are lighted by the show's director and crew.

An American Idol Experience contestant performing at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5, ISO 360, EV +0.0, 70mm Focal length
An American Idol Experience contestant performing at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
American Idol Experience contestants performing under stage lights.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/100s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV +0.0, 170mm Focal length

When dealing with stage lighting like this it is very important to make sure you properly expose the performer and let the other parts of the stage lighting fall where it may. To do this, I used something I have talked about before: Spot Metering. Using spot metering, I could get exposures right off the performers skin. This tends to make a lot of the background dark which is what the show's director wants us to see so it works out.

Spot metering worked even on the judges as the lighting was directly on them. Randy, Paula and Simon's stand-ins looked pretty good and entertained us with their words of wisdom about each contestant's performance.

American Idol Experience Judges at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
American Idol Experience Judges commenting on a performance.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1600, EV -0.3, 130mm Focal length

When pulling back to take in most of the stage, I switched back to Matrix Metering (see the Spot Metering link for more about Matrix Metering) so the camera would give an overall exposure to balance out all the mixed lighting in the theater. Today's digital cameras do an excellent job most of the time with matrix metering. Notice how the camera can not capture the entire range from light to dark as the audience looks a bit underexposed. Something that can be fixed in a photo editor.

The American Idol Experience stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
American Idol Experience contestant listening to the judges under full stage lighting.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 720, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

Lastly, during audience preparation and when announcing the winner of the show, the entire stage has very even and bright lighting. I, again, used Matrix metering which resulted in a good photo of the winner of the show being interviewed by the Ryan Seacrest-like host.

An American Idol Experience winner being interviewed by the host on stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
An American Idol Experience winner being interviewed by the host.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 500, EV -0.3, 200mm Focal length

As you can see, to get the best photos during a concert or live show at Walt Disney World or any venue, you have to be aware of the kind of lighting being used at all times. For each of the three performers, the American Idol Experience director choose different lighting schemes to set the mood of the song they were singing.

Have any questions? Leave a Comment below (link on far right).

Reference Link: How To Photograph Rock Concerts

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.

July 12, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Stablizing Lens Technology

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/13s shutter, f5.6, 1600 ISO, -0.3 EC

In a previous blog entry, Barrie talked about ways to stabilize your camera when shooting in low light at Walt Disney World. Camera system manufacturers now have another alternative for you. New lenses which compensate for image blur caused by small, involuntary movements (wobbly hands, shooting from a moving vehicle, etc.) called camera shake. Manufacturers have various names for this technology. Canon calls it Image Stabilizer (IS) technology while Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) system help give you sharp images with their digital SLR cameras. Other manufacturers and third-party lens makers like Sigma and Tamron have their own versions.

The links I've supplied above will give you the technical details of how these lenses work, I just know that they do. The picture taken during the first scene of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at the Disney-MGM Studios is an example of a Nikon vibration reduction lens at work. This image was captured using available light at a shutter speed of 1/13 second using the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom lens fully extended to 200mm. The best part is, I was sitting in the third row of the theater and hand holding my camera. One must still take steps to stabilize the camera by holding arms in close to the body, holding one's breath and slowly pressing the shutter, however, these lenses will produce a higher percentage of great images in low light conditions. So, the next time you are told, "No flash photography". Smile knowing your VR or IS lens will allow you to capture the show.

You do know photography can be an expensive hobby, right? These new lenses are no exception, ranging in price from $250 to over a $1,000 depending on the focal length, zoom range and speed of the lens. Nikon claims and I have been successful getting an extra two stops without the need for a tripod. This means while I would normally not use shutter speeds below 1/60th of a second. Using the VR lens, I get excellent results at 1/15th of a second or lower hand holding my camera. These lenses will never replace a tripod but they do give you more flexibility for those times you can't or won't carry one with you.

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About Echo Lake

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

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