Main

Spaceship Earth Archives

March 21, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot Yesterland

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Remember the hysteria as the year 2000 approached? People were worried computers would stop working and computerized systems from air traffic control towers to thermostats would cause all kinds of problems. I sure do as I was running the computer systems for a manufacturing company. Meanwhile, Disney proudly waved a Mickey-handed wand over Spaceship Earth proclaiming the coming of the 21st Century (even though technically it didn't start until 2001), I was holed up in my company's computer room just in case something happened. Luckily, nothing did and we all went on with our lives.

Not at Epcot, however, as I took this photo in October 2001, way after 2000 had come and gone. Do you remember what came after this?

Spaceship Earth with the Mickey wand from 2001 in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth with the Mickey wand of 2000.

Since digital, for me, was still a few years down the road, this was taken with a Nikon 8008s SLR camera and a Sigma 24-70mm lens as I used it until the lens literally fell apart.

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Epcot Yesteryear photo.

February 10, 2017

Photographing a Disney Icon: Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I missed a Disney Pic of the Week a couple of week's ago. You know how it goes sometimes. I got busy, was traveling...yada, yada, yada...I ended up missing the post.

I want to make it up to you today. The one I missed was for Spaceship Earth. I figure it is my second most photographed object at Walt Disney World. Cinderella Castle being by far and away the first one. I went through my photos and found three different ways I photographed the big ball which I thought you would enjoy.

I talked about how to use objects for framing other objects awhile back. I even used a similar photo as this one. This was a wide angle photo I cropped in post-processing to bring everything in a little closer.

Spaceship Earth seen through the Red Torii Gate at the Japan pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth seen through the Red Torii Gate from the Japan pavilion.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 100, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Cropped.

When I looked over my shoulder while walking to World Showcase from Future World I saw this composition. I noticed how the trees along the walkway leads you right to Spaceship Earth behind the people, monorail rail and water fountain.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/28-300VR, 1/1000s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0, 122mm Focal Length.

In this last one, I liked the composition and the contrast between the living palm tree and the metal triangles of Spaceship Earth behind it.

Palm tree in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Palm tree in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 62mm Focal Length.

Hope you will forgive my transgression and this gives you some ideas on how to photograph other familiar subjects you know of.

February 1, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Spaceship Earth

Deb's Digest Blog

From aerial photos we turn our attention to Epcot for several weeks. Today, Spaceship Earth!

Spaceship Earth is arguably the most photographed building in all of Epcot, perhaps only 2nd to Cinderella's Castle in all of Walt Disney World. I enjoyed going back through my gallery of photos. From beautiful topiary displays, the magical wands of "2000" and "Epcot", the Lights of Winter Arch, to the Fountain of Nations dancing water... there is much to love. And I haven't even talked about the attraction yet.

Here is one photo that just stood out to me as I looked through all my pictures:

spaceship-earth.jpg


January 17, 2017

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot Aerial

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The aerial subject this week is Epcot. I am recycling an image I took during Epcot's 30th Anniversary celebration which still represented much of what I remember seeing when I first visited 29 years prior.

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

Deb will be here tomorrow to share her Epcot aerial photo.

November 18, 2016

Fisheye Awakening at Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Lately, when I want to use a prime lens these days at Walt Disney World, I put the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens on my full-frame digital SLR. A Nikon D750 in my case. This is the third time I have featured this lens on the blog. Let's get started.

Spaceship Earth is my Cinderella Castle for Epcot. It is my second most photographed object next to the Magic Kingdom landmark. In this photo, I put it at the top third of the composition as I featured the flower bed as you walk into Future World from World Showcase. It's almost like Spaceship Earth is rising from behind the flowers.

Spaceship Earth rising behind a flower bed in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth rising behind a flower bed in Epcot.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0.

Next, I took a trip back in time. I mean way, way back with Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy in the Universe of Energy. The ride vehicles do not go very fast so I used 1/60th of a second shutter speed with the aperture set to wide open at f/2.8. The D750 can go as high as ISO 12,800. Lightroom did a good job of cleaning up the noise.

Dinosaurs inside the Universe of Energy in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Dinosaurs inside the Universe of Energy.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 12800, EV +1.0.

Next, it was my first ride on Soarin' since they updated to a new flight plan. Disney does allow photography without a flash. I requested to sit in the middle of the three rows of seating on the "plane". With the fisheye, this allowed me to frame the photos using people's legs and feet.

Flying towards the Taj Mahal in Soarin' inside The Land pavillion at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flying towards the Taj Mahal in Soarin' inside The Land.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 6400, EV 0.

The Fisheye Lens is not for everything or everybody. I like to use it to get my creative photographic juices going as it does take forethought to use it correctly.

For reference, here are the other two blog posts on the Fisheye:

Fisheyed Disney

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

November 1, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Gardeners

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This week's theme was to focus attention to all those wonderful Gardeners who keep Walt Disney World looking colorful and lush from the resorts to the themeparks and the roadways in between. I did not find any photos of them in my archives nor did I locate any on my last trip. Instead, I will show you the results of one of my favorite locations in Epcot.

Behind Spaceship Earth, there is a garden which changes throughout the year. During the annual Flower and Garden Festival, it gets particularly colorful as it was last March.

Flower garden behind Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Flower garden behind Spaceship Earth in Epcot.
Nikon D750/Tokina 16-28mm, 1/50s, f/16, ISO 6400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length.

I shall keep my eye out for WDW gardeners on future trips as I do enjoy the results of their fabulous work.

Tomorrow, Deb will share the quintessential gardener.

April 19, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Flower and Garden Festival

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Each year's Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot features a different display in front of Spaceship Earth. in 2016, Daisy Duck was part of the display with her own vegetable stand.

Daisy Duck's vegetable stand in front of Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Daisy Duck's vegetable stand in front of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 280, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Intensify CK.

Deb will show you patriotic Flower and Garden pics tomorrow.

March 15, 2016

Disney Pic of the Week: Yesterland Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Of all the changes that has occurred at Walt Disney World since I started visiting back in 1983, Future World in EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) as it was known then has changed the most. In my opinion, not for the better. I remember it as a place of hope and openess. The plazas around the lands were open just like I envisioned future cities to be. The monorails moving quietly overhead and around the futuristic buildings. Walking through the gates and up to Spaceship Earth's geodesic sphere was humbling and exciting. Today, the plazas have been closed in with paths and the Leave a Legacy stones. I hear guests thought the openess made the park feel to large and intimdating.

I really miss the EPCOT symbol water sculpture in front of Spaceship Earth. Today, there is nothing but a rock water fountain. While it is nice, I feel there should be something more there...like it was in 1989.

Epcot symbol water sculpture in front of Spaceship Earth in 1989, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Epcot symbol water sculpture in front of Spaceship Earth in 1989.

Tomorrow, Deb is combining her Yesterland's posts for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Some really cool stuff!

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 5, 2016

Return of the Fisheye Lens to Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Back in 2013, I wrote about my ideas for using a Fisheye lens. What I did not say was how easy it was to leave the Fisheye lens on the camera. Case in point was this day in Epcot. My family started the day with a FastPass+ at Test Track. I had an idea for the Fisheye lens for ride shots. Why I was not thrilled with the ride photos I got, I did really like using the Fisheye on the cars in the show room area of the attraction.

Chevrolet Corvette on display inside Test Track in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Chevrolet Corvette on display inside Test Track through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/25s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0.

After Test Track, we walked across the plaza on our way for our lunch dining reservation and I could not resist this photo. It is not often I have gotten such nice clouds in the middle of a Florida day on my visits.

People walk past Pin Central in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
People walk past Pin Central through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/640s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0.

Call me lazy or creative but I left the Fisheye lens on my camera for our lunch at the Garden Grill in The Land pavilion. I especially liked how the distortion of the lens worked with Pluto's nose.

A couple gets a hug from Pluto in the Garden Grill restaurant in Epcot's The Land pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A couple gets a hug from Pluto in the Garden Grill through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/125s, f/4, ISO 5600, EV 0.

What's a day at Epcot without a monorail photo? Right, not a good one so here it is. Yep, never did take the Fisheye off as we headed out of the park.

Monorail Green heading into Epcot over the entrance to the park, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Monorail Green heading into Epcot through a Fisheye lens.
Nikon D750/Sigma 15mm, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 100, EV 0.

One of the best exercises a photographer can do is take a prime (non-zoom) lens and use it all day. If the prime lens happens to be a Fisheye lens, then enjoy the day!

October 28, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Spaceship Earth

Deb's Digest Blog

In order to keep construction employees and support personal working at the Epcot Center Site well informed, a publication entitled "Epcot Center Construction News" was published periodically beginning February 1982. The 4 page basically black and white publication was full of construction photos including many of the employees.

This photo of Spaceship Earth under construction is from the initial publication. I hope you enjoy it.

My collection of this publication has several holes. If anyone has other issues of this publication and is willing to send me scans, please contact me via the comment form below and I'll email you back. Much appreciated!

SE.jpg

October 27, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Though we continue with Epcot, Deb and I are now going to be sharing photos of each Walt Disney World park "castle" or icon for the next four weeks. Starting with Spaceship Earth.

Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time; and for a brief moment we have been among it's passengers.

So begins the narrative as people travel through time and space inside Spaceship Earth. Riding in time machine vehicles, guests learn about the history of human communication and how it has served to take Man from caves to today's technology, which allows us to get information and to communicate almost instantly anywhere on Earth. Spaceship Earth was the first ride I went on in Epcot and still remains one of my favorites even as the script and the ride technology has changed over the years.

Late day sunlight mixes with lighting on Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Late day sunlight mixes with lighting on Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D750/Tokina 1-28mm, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 5000, EV +0.3, 16mm Focal Length.

Tomorrow, Deb is going to take you for a trip back in time to the beginning of Spaceship Earth.


October 9, 2015

Spaceship Earth at Night in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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.

January 16, 2015

Focus on Epcot Photowalk

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Focus on Epcot Photowalk, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Focus on Epcot Photowalk

As I mentioned awhile back, I will be traveling to Walt Disney World a couple of times this year. My first trip is next month and I have planned an All Ears Photowalk around Epcot's Future World. The focus (pun intended) will be on these three photographic items:

  • Hyperfocal Distance or Hyperfocus (Landscape Mode)
  • Selective Focus (Portait Mode)
  • Using a Polarizing Filter

The Photowalk will be held on Monday, February 9, 2015, from 9:30AM to 11:30AM. Meeting location will be outside the Nikon Camera Center. The location is across from Spaceship Earth on the right side as you walk in from the Future World entrance. While you may attend by just showing up, if you think you will be at the photowalk, add a comment to this post. I will not be publishing the comments but will use the emails to correspond with everyone interested.

Click here for Focus on Epcot Facebook Event Sign Up

Before the Photowalk, I will be posting blogs about each of the items to be covered. Note, you do not need a polarizing filter but one will be demonstrated along with a special tip.

January 13, 2015

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

CONGRATS TO Nicole N. ! You are the lucky winner of an AllEars.net Prize package! Your comment was selected by random number generator! Please go to the Contact Us page (http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm) and send your shipping address! We must hear from you no later than January 26, 2015, to claim your prize. Thank you!!


Spaceship Earth looms over Epcot at 180 feet (55 meters) in height. The geodesic sphere has a total of 11,520 full and partial silver isosceles triangles on its surface forming 3,840 points. Disney uses light at night to create a multicolored sphere using those triangles and points which is just too hard NOT to photograph. I have photographed this very composition several times over the years. On my last trip, I noticed the orange color for the first time.

Spaceship Earth at dusk in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth at dusk in Future World.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, EV -0.7, 28mm focal length.

What is your favorite structure to photograph at Epcot?

What would YOU like to see in our Disney Pic of the Week for 2015?! We welcome your ideas as we develop our schedule for the upcoming year. Leave your comments below. On January 19, 2015 we will select on person at random who left a comment to receive an AllEars Prize Package! We must hear from you no later than January 26, 2015, to claim your prize.

September 18, 2014

Clouds and Spaceship Earth in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

For eons, our planet has drifted as a spaceship through the universe.

-- Walter Cronkite version from 1986-1994

Spaceship Earth on an Autumn day in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth on an Autumn day in Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

I have been riding Epcot's Spaceship Earth since 1983 and have heard every narrator for the attraction. By far, Walter Cronkite's version is my favorite. He was Uncle Walter to my generation who grew up watching his nightly newscasts on television.

For the Disney Pic of the Week on Spaceship Earth Exterior, I share an early Autumn day when the clouds billowed up behind the huge geodesic structure.

September 5, 2014

Epcot Night Portrait

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Ever wonder how the Disney PhotoPass Cast Members get those night photos of people in front of Walt Disney World icons? It is not very hard IF you use the right equipment. You will need a flash, a tripod or an Image Stablized Lens and patient subjects.

For the night portrait below, I did not have my tripod with me so I hand held the camera at 1/15th of a second and dragged the shutter to build up the light of Spaceship Earth and Innovention Fountains behind the couple. I instructed them to stay very still until the flash went off.

Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Night portrait of a couple in front of Innovention Fountains.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/15s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 48mm focal length.

By using a tripod, I could have lowered the ISO but the shutter speed would have been longer. Making it harder for the subjects to stay still this late at night. If you do this around sunset, you will get even better results at faster shutter speeds.

April 11, 2014

Down Under Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

January 14, 2014

Disney Pic of the Week: Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Epcot was the first park I visited at Walt Disney World some 30 years ago. While attractions have come and gone, new countries have sprung up around World Showcase and the trees have gotten taller, Spaceship Earth has endured to become the iconic symbol of Epcot.

Spaceship Earth as seen from Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth as seen from Epcot's World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 280, EV 0, 150mm focal length.

Lisa will be here on Thursday to share her Disney Pic of the Week from Epcot.

June 14, 2013

Looking Up at Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2013

Being Creative with Crowds at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 5, 2013

Cropping People from Walt Disney World Photos

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 15, 2013

Travel Photography at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Really, Scott? Isn't the title redundant? We all take travel photos at Walt Disney World, don't we?

Well, yes and no. While photos taken at any Disney property can be considered travel photographs, do they tell a story? Do they give someone looking at the photo a sense of place? Travel photography should do both.

Last fall, Ocean Spray and Disney combined to create the Cranberry Bog Exhibit. My photo below shows the location of the exhibit in Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival. I used a small aperture of f/16 to keep everything in focus from the flowers all the way back to Spaceship Earth including the guests surrounding the exhibit. This is called using hyperfocus.

Ocean Spray's Cranberry Bog Exhibit at Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Ocean Spray's Cranberry Bog Exhibit at Epcot.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 320, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
To show you this technique works with a telephoto setting, I again used a small aperture photographing a Motor Cruiser on the Seven Seas Lagoon as it was leaving the Magic Kingdom. The Grand Floridian Resort in the background adds to the story.
Mermaid I Motor Cruiser leaving the Magic Kingdom on the Seven Seas Lagoon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Mermaid I Motor Cruiser on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 170mm focal length.

Most good travel photographs include people or imply people. Such is the case of the photo below. The seating area behind the Flame Tree Barbecue restaurant is a quiet, peaceful location. While there are not people in the photo, the empty tables and chairs in the background tell you this is a place for them.

Waterfall in the seating area behind the Flame Tree BBQ in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Waterfall in the seating area behind the Flame Tree BBQ.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/5s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

For this photo, the small aperture of f/22 not only gave me a large depth of field but slowed down my shutter enough to give the smooth look to the waterfalls.

Next time you are out photographing at a Disney park or in your own backyard, look for story telling travel scenes.

December 27, 2012

Three Favorite Photos of 2012

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In reflecting back on my two trips to Walt Disney World and a Disney Dream cruise, I found these three photos illustrated my favorite times from each of the three different Disney adventures.

The first trip was broken up by the cruise in the middle and featured two Star Wars Weekends. If you are even a casual fan of the Star Wars movies or the animated television series, you should consider attending one of these fun filled days. You can visit with many of the popular Star Wars characters, celebrities from the franchise are on hand to sign autographs or take part in special behind the scene presentations and shows and see the amazing Hyperspace Hoopla performed each night. Below is a photo I feel shows the fun of Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Janga Fett signs his autograph during Star Wars Weekend in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Janga Fett signs his autograph during Star Wars Weekend in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 116mm focal length, fill flash.

As a couple, my wife and I enjoyed a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream. We found that even on a cruise ship full of families, an adult couple can find plenty of magical and romantic things to do on a Disney Cruise. Below is the Disney Dream sandwiched between the smaller Disney Magic and another cruise ship at Nassau, Bahamas.

The Disney Dream (middle) and Disney Magic in Nassau, Bahamas.
The Disney Dream (middle) and Disney Magic in Nassau, Bahamas.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 170mm focal length.

Later in the year, I returned to Walt Disney World for Epcot's 30th Anniversary and reminisced about the EPCOT Center I first saw back in 1983 compared to the one I visited 29 years later. While things have changed in the photo below of Future World, the mission of Epcot remains the same: to entertain, inform and inspire.

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

Hope you enjoyed my Disney Pic of the Week of My Favorite Three Photos of 2012.

2012 was a very good Disney year for me and I look forward to 2013 with plans to return to Walt Disney World and to take a trip to Anaheim, California to enjoy and photograph all the new and old wonders of Disneyland and California Adventure. Happy New Year!

November 2, 2012

EPCOT30 Celebration

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."
- E. "Card" Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Walt Disney Productions, Oct. 24, 1982

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2012

Prime Epcot

Prime Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

When I am in a photography funk and want to challenge myself, I take my favorite zoom lens off my camera and put on my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. What I call the Nifty-Fifty. I did this for a day at Epcot and came away with some of the best photos I have taken there.

Prime lenses are fixed focal length, tend to be sharper than zoom lenses and have a larger aperture range. The aperture range allows for extreme selective focus by using it wide open like on this lovely flower I found near Spaceship Earth.

Blue flower near Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Blue flower near Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/640s, f/1.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Without the ability to zoom in with the lens, I had to "zoom" with my feet. During a performance of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps in front of the American Adventure, I walked up and photographed the Fife player from three feet away. I did this quickly as I knew others were photographing the performance with their zoom lenses.

Fife player in front of the American Adventure in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Fife player in front of the American Adventure.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Another place I had to move in close was at Germany's Karamell-Küche shop where I found these scrumptious chocolate covered strawberries with Werther's Original Caramel wrapped around them.

Chocolate Strawberries in Germany's Karamell-Küche shop in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Chocolate Strawberries in Germany's Karamell-Küche shop.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

Prime lenses are your best bet when it comes to dark rides like the Gran Fiesta Tour inside Epcot's Mexico pavilion. Here I photographed Donald Duck photographing me during the relaxing boat ride.

Donald Duck is one of the Three Caballeros of the Gran Fiesta Tour in Epcot's Mexico pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Donald Duck is one of the stars of the Gran Fiesta Tour.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 640, EV +0.3.

I switched to Shutter Priority mode while watching the Matsuriza, the Taiko Drummers, in Japan to show the motion of the entertainer's arms and drum sticks. I could not get as close as I did for the Fife player so I used leading lines to draw viewers to the drum and drummers.

Taiko Drummers performing at Japan in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Taiko Drummers performing at Japan.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/20s, f/14, ISO 200, EV +0.3.

As you can see, prime lenses will challenge you and make you think before pressing the shutter. If you have used a prime lens at a Disney themepark, let me know your thoughts.

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.

June 7, 2012

Inside Spaceship Earth: Gutenberg Press

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Johann Gutenberg examining a page from his printing press inside Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Johann Gutenberg examining a page from his printing press inside Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/1.8, ISO 6400, EV +1.0.

The Gutenberg Press scene inside Spaceship Earth shows a page of the Bible that Johann Gutenberg is examining. The page is an exact replica of one from the Gutenberg Bible on display in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Another example of Disney detail and makes for a cool Disney Pic of the Week from Inside Spaceship Earth.


May 18, 2012

Disney Land and Sea

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

May 4, 2012

Disney through a Crystal Ball

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A crystal ball is believed by some people to aid in the performance of clairvoyance like witches and wizards. At Walt Disney World, the most famous crystal ball is found in the Haunted Mansion where the ghost of Madame Leota is calling spirits from the world beyond. Crystal balls are a fun prop to create very unique photos.

Spaceship Earth as seen through a crystal ball in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth as seen through a crystal ball.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/400s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 230mm focal length, flipped, cropped.

Here are some tips for using a crystal ball in photography:

1. Things are upside down or inverted when looking through a crystal ball so you must flip them in your photo editor (see below).

Crystal ball being held up in front of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Crystal ball being held up in front of Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV 0, 230mm focal length.

2. Focus sharply on the crystal ball image and let the background go out of focus.

3. If you can not levitate the crystal ball (I wish I could learn how to do that!), find a secure place for the crystal ball or get the aid of an assistant to hold it (see above).

4. Lens choice is up to you but ones that can focus closely are easier to use.

5. Be careful when using a crystal ball in the Sun. They get very hot, very fast!

6. Find an interesting subject like maybe a fantasy castle.

Cinderella Castle through a crystal ball in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Cinderella Castle through a crystal ball.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 68mm focal length, cropped, flipped.

If you would like to procure your own crystal ball, check out the Crystal Company and have some fun!

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.

January 27, 2012

Lighting up a Monorail in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

May 6, 2011

Framing Spaceship Earth in Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Last fall I spent a few hours with Disney photographer extraordinaire Bob Desmond at Epcot. Bob has been photographing for Disney for over 20 years. After meeting with Bob near Japan in World Showcase, I asked him what he found to photograph after so many years. He gave me a couple of things right off the bat. The first was looking for details most people when vacationing miss. I know when I see photos in Disney brochures and websites, I often see things I have walked by and missed.

With that in mind, we set off in search of such photos. Bob leading with me, the learner, by his side. We first stopped at a location in front of Japan. Bob was patiently waiting for guests to give him a clear shot at Spaceship Earth across the water. I took a slightly different angle and used a tree to naturally frame Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth from World Showcase in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Naturally framed Spaceship Earth from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 34mm focal length.

Bob liked our first attempts but we continued around World Showcase until we came upon the Venetian canals and bridges on the water across from Italy. Here, Bob explained how he liked to get in close using some brightly colored flowers. Get in close is something I have mentioned here a time or two. After Bob was done, I moved in and immediately liked the composition he had found.

Spaceship Earth from World Showcase in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Flower framed Spaceship Earth from World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/640s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV 0, 125mm focal length.

You will notice I decided on a different photographic approach for this photo. I used a long focal length and opened up the aperture to soft focus the foreground flowers as I focused carefully on Spaceship Earth. In both photos I used a circular polarizing filter to enhance the sky.

Next week I will show you the other thing Bob likes to photograph at Epcot.

October 19, 2010

Disney Pic of the Week: Future World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I first visited Epcot's Future World a year after it opened. EPCOT Center, as it was known then, had its critics but I was not one of them. I remember watching when Walt Disney introduced the Florida Project to the world a few months before his death. I still had the heart of the 7 year old as I marveled at Spaceship Earth geodesic sphere. Back then the Innovention Fountain did not put on a show to music as it does today.

The lighting on the fountain and Spaceship Earth at dusk shows the beauty of Walt's vision.

Innovention Fountain with Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Innovention Fountain with Spaceship Earth at dusk.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 800, EV -0.3, 145mm Focal Length

Look on Thursday and Saturday for Barrie and Lisa's Disney Pic of the Week on Future World.

May 25, 2010

Disney Pic of the Week: Spaceship Earth Epcot

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As the iconic symbol of Epcot, Spaceship Earth has been photographed almost as much as Cinderella Castle. Trying to find a unique way of presenting it is nearly impossible. In fact, the photo below is me doing something I saw on flickr by another photographer. This "on the ground" prospective with the dividing concrete line leading your eyes (right?) into the photo came out better than I had hoped. Not having the entire geodesic sphere in the frame and emphasizing all the guests walking towards it, to me, reminds me of Spaceship Earth's theme of Human Communications.

Barrie and Lisa will be here on Thursday and Saturday with their views on Spaceship Earth.

Guests entering Epcot walking towards Spaceship Earth, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A beetle's view of guests walking towards Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm focal length

May 7, 2010

Walt Disney World at f/2.8

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Fast lenses for digital SLR cameras have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or bigger. Except for the Nifty-Fifty which are 50mm prime lenses at f/1.8, fast lenses are expensive. Most of the lenses in this class are considered some of the best ever made. Over the last three years, I have purchased two f/2.8 lenses which I have enjoyed using at Walt Disney World. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX Ultra Wide Angle and the Nikon 70-200mm VR f/2.8. The following photographs were taken with these lenses at their wide open aperture of f/2.8.

The Tokina has gotten a large following among Disney photographers. For the price of around $650 in either Canon or Nikon versions, this is one of the better bargins in f/2.8 lenses. At it's widest setting of 11mm, there is some distortion of things near the edge of the frame. To cut down on the distortion, I try to make sure to keep the camera level and perpendicular to what I am photographing.

I found a post to lean against at my favorite counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbour House, to take this photo of the ordering area. The lens was able to capture the windowed ceiling, the tall ship paraphernalia on the walls and the cast members and guests ordering their food. I'll take the fish and chips with a bowl of New England clam chowder, please!

Ordering area for the Columbia Harbour House counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Ordering area for the Columbia Harbour House counter service restaurant.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 720, EV +0.3, 11mm focal length

Night photography at Walt Disney World is very popular as the parks have a whole different look after the Sun goes down. This is one of my favorite views of Spaceship Earth when walking towards the park's entrance. The colored lights on the palm trees were not as bright as I have photographed them in the past making the geodesic structure the star of the photo. At f/2.8, I was able to hand hold the camera at 1/15th of a second using a reasonable ISO of 900.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 900, EV -0.3, 11mm focal length

For those who have vacationed at Walt Disney World in December, you know it can get cold at night. Returning back to my room in the All Star Sports resort late one night, I took this image of the steam rising off of the main pool area. I thought the sign made a good foreground subject for the story I wanted to tell.

No Lifeguard on Duty as steam rises from the Main Pool at the All Star Sports resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
No Lifeguard on Duty as steam rises from the Main Pool at the All Star Sports resort.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/15s, f/2.8, ISO 900, EV +0.7, 11mm focal length

The Nikon 70-200 VR, VR is for Vibration Reduction which is what Nikon calls their Image Stabilization system, has long been considered one of Nikon's all time best lenses. Nikon recently updated this lens with the new VR II version going for around $2,400. I picked up my VR I version used for less than half of that so deals can be found on eBay and other used lens websites.

Fast lenses have one more trait I should mention: they are heavy. The Nikon 70-200VR weighs in at a little over three pounds. While I have no trouble using it without a tripod, in low light situations like Fantasmic! in Disney's Hollywood Studios, I used my tripod like a monopod (the tripod legs were folded in) to help steady this image of Mickey Mouse welding his fire sword to oust the dragon from his dream. Just a note, this is one lens where you leave the VR on when used on a tripod or monopod.

Mickey Mouse welding his Fire Sword during Fantasmic! in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse welding his Fire Sword during Fantasmic!
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 140mm focal length

The Festival of the Lion King does allow the use of flash photography during the show but, by using the lens at f/2.8 and zooming in, I had more than enough light to take this photo during the Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet scene. This shows the nice bokeh the Nikon 70-200VR creates when used wide open.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet during the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet during the Festival of the Lion King show.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/50s, f/2.8, ISO 1600, EV 0, 200mm focal length

I have tried for years to take a good photo of the fire dancer during the heina scene of the Festival of the Lion King show. By focusing on the performer's face, I picked up this photograph of some lingering fire on his tongue. The brightness of the fire gave me the fast shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second.

Fire dancer performing during the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Fire dancer performing during the Festival of the Lion King show.
Nikon D70/70-200VR, 1/1600s, f/2.8, ISO 800, EV 0, 180mm focal length

These two lenses allowed me to get photos of higher quality than I have been able to in the past. Yes, they are expensive but you can rent them for a fraction of their costs.

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 30, 2009

Project Tomorrow

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

After riding the latest version of Spaceship Earth, I was pleased to see the exhibit area being used again. The new sponsor, Siemens AG, has created Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. As you enter the exhibit, you can not help but notice the huge Earth before you. In a bit of technological wizardry, the photo that was taken early in the ride of you has now appeared indicating the location where you live. Project Tomorrow houses interactive exhibits featuring various Siemens AG technology. These interactive displays and games allow guests to see the future of medicine, transportation and energy management.

Project Tomorrow exhibit area in Spaceship Earth, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Project Tomorrow exhibit area in Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/30s, f/2.8, ISO 1400, EV +0.3, 11mm Focal Length

How I took this photo: You will notice I was standing in the middle of the ramp from the ride exit (you can see the railings on the far left and right of the photo). As much as I would have liked to set up a tripod, I doubt Disney security would have approved. I had on a fast lens, the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, set to it's widest aperture of f/2.8 and focal length of 11mm. My camera, a Nikon D70, was set to Auto ISO which only allowed the shutter speed to go as slow as 1/30th of a second. At this exposure, the camera set the ISO at 1400. I took this hand held using Da Grip. This is one of several images I took in burst mode and the best of the lot. I had good timing as I did not get run over by any other guests coming off the ride.

September 18, 2009

Nifty-Fifty

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The definition of a Nifty-Fifty is an inexpensive 50mm prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and Canon 50mm f/1.8 both come in at under $140 and work on most Nikon and Canon digital SLR cameras. Most other camera systems have this focal length in a prime lens also. A prime lens has a fixed focal length versus a zoom lens that has a variable focal length. My 18-200VR zoom lens, for example, goes from 18mm to 200mm and all focal lengths in between.

What makes these Fifty's so nifty? Because they are a fixed length lens, they tend to be much sharper, lighter in weight, smaller in size and FAST. Most consumer zoom lens' start at f/3.5 and vary up to f/6.3 extended to their full focal length depending on make and model. These 50mm lenses also makes you think when you are using them. If you want to fill your frame more with the subject, you have to move closer and visa versa. The depth of field is a lot more apparent when apertures are opened up to f/2.8 or f/1.8 so focus on your subject is very important.

A couple of notes on my camera with a 50mm lens. Since the Nikon body I use has a crop factor of 1.5, the 50mm is actually a 75mm lens in 35mm terms. I have used a 50mm on 35mm SLRs in the past and that's the only difference. The photos below are great examples of what this type of lens can do.

Using the hyperfocus setting at an aperture of f/22, the lens' smallest aperture, it brought the shutter speed down to 1/50th of a second even in the bright mid-day Sun of Florida. You can see how sharp and colorful the Innovention Fountain and Spaceship Earth are in this photo. When I first looked at this scene I was too close and had to do a Chris Berman and back, back, back up about 25 steps.

Innovention Fountain in Epcot's Innoventions Plaza, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Innovention Fountain performing in Epcot's Innoventions Plaza.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/50s, f/22, ISO 200, EV +0.3

Selective focus is where you open the lens to it's largest aperture and the only thing in sharp focus is the subject. The rest of the objects in front of and behind are thrown out of focus. With an aperture of f1.8, a 50mm lens creates extreme selective focus images like this one. Notice how the guests in the background are totally out of focus and the Mickey shaped tomatoes which are in focus leave no doubt as to the subject of the photo.

Mickey shaped tomatos in Mickey's Country House garden in Toontown Fair in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Mickey shaped tomatos in Mickey's Country House garden in Toontown Fair.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/250s, f/1.8, ISO 200, EV +0.3

Look for more examples of selective focus next week on the Picture This! blog.

When someone says the lens if fast, they are referring to it's largest aperture. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture, the more light is allowed in by the lens to the digital camera's sensor. Even when the light is low, a 50mm lens at f/1.8 brings in four times the light as a zoom lens at f/3.5 and twice as much as an f/2.8 lens. The Nifty-Fifty lenses are a Disney photographers best friend for the dark rides at a Disney park. For instance, Pirates of the Caribbean is a ride I never even tried to photograph until I got a 50mm lens. Though I still had to use some noise reduction software at an ISO of 1600, the exposure and focus was right on for the auction scene.

Pirates of the Caribbean Auction Scene in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Pirates of the Caribbean Auction Scene.
Nikon D70/50mm, 1/25s, f/1.8, ISO 1600, EV +1.0

For more on using a Nifty-Fifty, click this link on You're only 50mm Away from Becoming a Better Photographer.

Check out my flickr set called the Nifty-Fifty for more examples of the 50mm f/1.8 lens. Have fun!

May 23, 2009

Monorail View of Spaceship Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Spaceship Earth as seen from the Monorail in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Spaceship Earth as seen from a Monorail.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/9, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

Epcot's Spaceship Earth is as iconic as Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle. Riding the monorail around Epcot's Futureworld, I concentrated on Spaceship Earth's geodesic shape. This image has good light, good sun angle, height of the monorail track lifting me above all the guests in the park, great clouds for a background and a bit of help from the monorail's darkened windows which acted like a huge polarizer filter and is my choice for our Disney Pic of the Week on Spaceship Earth.

March 5, 2009

Golden Earth

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A lighted close up of the panels on Spaceship Earth in Epcot's Future World, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A lighted close up of the panels on Spaceship Earth.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/8s, f/3.5, 1100 ISO, +0.3 EV, 18mm Focal Length

Abstracts are not my strong point when it comes to photography. I am more along the lines of a photojournalist so this week's Disney Pic of the Week theme on Abstracts was a tough one. I wanted to make sure if you were a fan of the parks you would recognize it being from Walt Disney World. As I was walking under Spaceship Earth one evening, I looked up and there it was. Beautiful lighting transforming the daytime silver panels to a golden glow. The walk was close enough where I didn't need to zoom in allowing the widest aperture the lens had. I braced myself against the short fencing and got my abstract. Hope Barrie is proud of me!

February 13, 2009

Rule Breaking with Symmetry

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Symmetry in it's purest sense is an object which, if cut directly down the middle, would be mirror images of each other. It's one of the ways to break the Rule of Thirds correctly. Hope that doesn't confuse you. It's easy to find a symmetrical object but the images I've chosen to show you here are symmetrical but not mirror images. They are close enough to show you how to use symmetry in your photography.

The first is of the Swan Resort taken from a room in the Dolphin Resort. Like a lot of buildings, the Swan, itself, is symmetrical as is the landscaping and walkways leading up to and away from it. I think the surrounding foreground and background of the buildings and the Friendship boat dock add to the photo.

Swan Resort in the Boardwalk Resort area, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 200, EV 0, 20mm Focal length

The next one is from the Pop Century resort. The large Mickey Mouse phone is symmetrically placed between the resort buildings and the Fooseball men. This is not close to being perfectly symmetrical, yet a pleasing composition with the main subject in the center of the photo.

Mickey Mouse Phone icon at the Pop Century Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-70D, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 18mm Focal length

The last example was taken during the 2007 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The Prince and Cinderella topiary was placed in the center of a sea of flowers flanked by trimmed flowering and green bushes and trees.

Prince and Cinderella topiary in Epcot during the 2007 International Flower & Garden Festival, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Nikon D70/18-2000VR, 1/160s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 18mm Focal length

When taking these photographs, I kept telling myself I was breaking a photography "rule". That is the something I want you to take away from this article. It's okay to break rules in photography when it works (as in the above photos) and you know you are doing it. Just putting something in the middle of your viewfinder does not make it symmetrical.

January 23, 2009

Case for Using a Polarizer Filter

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In this age when photo software can duplicate almost any effect film photographers used filters for, I still find one filter very useful. The Polarizing filter does just what polarizer sunglasses do, they cut down on the glare from the sun. Most people use a circular polarizing filter which means the filter moves once it is mounted on your lens in a circular motion. This gives you various amounts of polarization which you can see in your viewfinder.

In the photos below of the Dolphin resort in Disney's Boardwalk area, I used a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens with a 52mm circular polarizing filter by Hoya. The top image is with the polarizer in it's weakest position with no affect on the light. The bottom image is after I rotated the filter to it's strongest position giving the very deep blue sky color. Notice the loss of light hitting the camera's sensor. In this case, the shutter speed and aperture both decreased for a combined loss of 1 stop (see Exif data in the caption).

Dolphin Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Polarizing Filter Effect.
Top Image: Nikon D70/50mm, 1/80s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3
Bottom Image: Nikon D70/50mm, 1/60s, f/10, ISO 200, EV +0.3

I know what you are thinking. Even the most rudimentary photo program can deepen a blue sky. True, but I didn't have to take the time. It takes a second or two to move the filter into the position I wanted. Besides, that's not the only thing a polarizer filter can do.

Reflections can be greatly cut down and even eliminated using a polarizing filter. Check out the photos below where Spaceship Earth is reflected in one of the water pools near The Land pavilion in Epcot. The one on the left is with the polarizer filter at it's weakest position. The one on the right is at it's strongest position. In this case, only a half stop of light was lost thanks to a very bright Florida sun. You will notice how the reflection is diminished so you can see the rocks on the pool's bottom. This works on reflections through glass, too.

Spaceship Earth reflection in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
Water reflection Polarizing Filter Effect.
Left Image: Nikon D70/50mm, 1/60s, f/13, ISO 200, EV +0.3
Right Image: Nikon D70/50mm, 1/60s, f/11, ISO 200, EV +0.3

Reflections are a bit harder to get rid of in software. At least in the time it took me to rotate the polarizing filter.

Like any filter, circular polarizing filters come in various sizes to fit over many different lenses. Some are cheap, while others are more expensive. Other alternatives is to check a local photography shop to see if they have any used ones or on eBay. Make sure you know the size, in millimeters, of the lens you are buying for.

January 9, 2009

Wide World of Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

A wide angle lens for a digital SLR camera is usually considered a lens of focal length 24mm lens or less (for full frame SLR it's about 1.5 times more or 35mm). Wide angle lenses can take in a wider field of view then normal, telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses. On my last trip to Walt Disney World, I brought an Ultra Wide Angle zoom lens made by Tokina with a range of 11 to 16mm. This lens comes in Nikon and Canon flavors and work only on digital camera bodies. These lenses are a lot of fun to use and give new ways to photograph familiar subjects.

The best way to get the most ouf of a wide angle lens is to put something of interest in the foreground, middle area and background so a viewer's eye can be lead into the photo. In this photo I took from the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue (you can see the roof in the upper left hand corner) at 11mm in the Magic Kingdom, the rock shelf is in the foreground, the train and mountain is in the middle area and the trees and sky is in the background.

A train returns from it's wild ride on Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
A train returns from it's wild ride on Big Thunder Mountain.
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/400s, f/10, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 11mm Focal length

Ultra wide angle lenses are great for sweeping landscapes. I know at Walt Disney World there's not a lot of places for landscapes in the parks. I found the resorts and waterways a better choice. I took this of the Grand Floridian while riding the resort monorail (you can see the monorail's windows being reflected in the sky) for a kind of photo you normally do not see of a Disney resort.

The Grand Floridian from the resort monorail on the way to the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
The Grand Floridian from the resort monorail on the way to the Magic Kingdom .
Nikon D70/Tokina 11-16, 1/125s, f/11, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 11mm Focal length

Again, notice the three elements used. The water in the foreground, the Grand Floridian resort in the middle area with the clouds and sky in the background. Also notice the location of the horizon in the bottom third of the photo to give emphasis to the sky.

I know you hear a lot about how third party lenses (lenses not made by a camera manufacturer like Nikon or Canon) are not as good. However, I have used two Tokina wide angle lenses (and own the 11-16mm) and have no reservations about recommending them to you.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot at 11mm, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

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.

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.

August 10, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Light Sensitivity

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Spaceship Earth. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/10s, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, -1 EC, 135mm Focal Length

Many people have sent in questions about how to get good low-light and night photography pictures at Walt Disney World. The key is to get enough light to your digital camera's sensor to record a well exposed image. You can do this a couple of ways. Use a tripod and increase the shutter speed or increase your camera's sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive the sensor becomes and less light needed to record an image. Instead of using a tripod at ISO 100, you can dial in a higher setting like 400, 800 or 1600 and get a faster shutter speed. Thus, letting you hand hold in low light or in getting fast action shots like themepark rides, children playing or sporting events.

Epcot's Spaceship Earth is a favorite subject of many photographers during the day but, at night, the geodesic sphere takes on a surreal quality. To successfully show this, I increased my ISO setting to 1600. This is the highest my camera, a Nikon D70, can go. There are digital cameras today that go as high as 3200 ISO. I still needed a steady hand, propped elbows on a fence and a vibration reduction lens to shoot at 1/10s. To increase my chances of getting a great photo, I took a series of them with this being the best of the lot.

Shooting at such high ISO settings does bring about an increase in noise. Noise looks like color speckles and is noticed in uniform colors like the black sky in the Spaceship Earth photo. While it is a concern in digital photography, noise is a lot less apparent then with high ISO films. Those would show large grain in the processed prints. There are many software products available to reduce any noise which does creep into our photos.

Obviously, the less noise the better so, the lower the ISO, the finer the images your camera will produce. Check out your camera's manual to see how you can change the ISO and how high and low the settings are.

Quick Tip: Some digital cameras have an Auto ISO Setting. My Nikon D70 does and it allows me to let the camera pick the best ISO for the available light. This comes in handy as the light changes throughout the day into night or going in and out of buildings and rides at Walt Disney World.

July 13, 2007

Photographic Innoventions: Mechanics of Exposure

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Cinderella topiary at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2007
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/11, 200 ISO, -0.3 EC, 18mm Focal Length

In digital photography, exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on to an image sensor. It's really quite simple even though there's a lot of science and engineering behind how your camera does it. I leave that to the engineers and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

In the time ahead, I will be going more in-depth into the photographic terms of exposure and how they effect our photographs. These terms are: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO (or Sensor Sensitivity) and Exposure Compensation.

Aperture is how wide the lens' iris is opened. Like your eye, a lens has an iris. You can tell how wide it is by the f-stop number. Those funny numbers you see on your lens or through your viewfinder often designated with an f/ in front of them. In the photo of a topiary taken during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, the aperture setting is f/11. The lower the number, the wider the aperture is and the more light is transmitted through the lens. Reciprocally, the higher the number, the less light comes through. Aperture controls the zone of focus or depth of field in your images and can be used in very creative ways.

Shutter Speed is how long the camera's shutter stays open to expose it's sensor to the subject being photographed. Most of the time it's just a short fraction of a second. The photo above used a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. The dimmer the light, the longer the shutter speed is to get a well-exposed picture. Low light and night photography can sometimes take seconds or minutes to capture a scene. For fast action like children playing or theme park rides, you'll want to use fast shutter speeds like 1/500th or faster to capture the action. Playing with various shutter speeds is a lot of fun!

ISO is how sensitive your digital camera's sensor is to light. You want to use the lowest ISO you can to get shootable apertures and shutter speeds. The higher or faster, as it is referred to, ISO number, the more sensitive your sensor is to light. With a lot of light available, the topiary image was taken with an ISO of 200. As day turns into night, I will increase my ISO from 200 to as high as 1600. This does increase what's called noise (they look like little specs) into the images. Unlike film, the noise is not nearly as bad as film grain was and there are software products available, which can clean up most of the noise.

Exposure Compensation or Bias is a way for digital photographers to dial in their exposure. Most digital SLR and some advanced Point & Shoot cameras have an exposure compensation button which allows you to do slight adjustments to your cameras image sensor. Usually in one half to one third intervals, this little button can make the difference between an image with too light or too dark areas into a properly exposed gem. In this blog's photo, I made a slight -1/3 (or -0.3) adjustment to keep from over exposing or "blowing out" the light background behind the topiary.

For an excellent book on this subject, I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure which has been updated for digital photography.

Return to Blog Central

About Spaceship Earth

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

Seas with Nemo and Friends is the previous category.

Test Track is the next category.

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