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Working in Layers – Symphony in the Stars Edition

I have had Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud for Photographers for a little over two years now.  For me, the $9.99 per month ($7.99 from this Amazon link) is a bargain.  A buddy of mine is a 3D artist and has always been my go-to resource for getting help in Photoshop, but back when I was using Photoshop Elements (a program I was getting every year for the latest features) I would always stumble into something where Rob would try explaining something to me only to find that those commands / feature wasn’t available in Elements.

I know I’ve said it here before but I’ll say it again and a thousand times more.  I wish I wrote stuff down while I was in the parks or followed a checklist.  I knew exactly what shot I wanted to get of Symphony of the Stars.  I knew that the lights along the Hollywood Boulevard would be dimmed during the fireworks, so I was going to need a “plate” image when the lights were still on.  I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I was still too dumb the first time I shot the fireworks to shoot a bracket of the image you see above.  What in the world was I thinking?  I was set up in my spot (just before the Sunset Boulevard intersection) thirty minutes before the show started and had plenty of time.  I just completely spaced it out.  Anyway, I was able to get a decent plate image (shown below).

Plate

I brought the raw image into Photoshop and made all of the adjustments I wanted.  Then I shot the fireworks as normal.  Remember when you are shooting a plate like this, you need to keep the camera in exactly the same spot without moving.  This is a concept I can completely understand.  But do you see those really tall, really skinny trees lining Hollywood Boulevard?  Those things are going to move on you, and sometimes they are going to move too much for this kind of merge technique to work.  It was pretty windy that night so they moved a lot on me.  Luckily there were several shots that things worked out ok.

Fireworks

So the above image is one of the fireworks shots.  Again, I opened it up in Photoshop and made all of my adjustments.  Then I selected Layer -> Duplicate Layer and told Photoshop to add it to the original image as a new layer.  And when you look at the combined image, initially it looks EXACTLY the image above.  But wait, there’s more Photoshop trickery to be had!   To get the image at the top of the post you have to change the blend mode for the layers.  There are a lot of choices, but what we want is Lighten.

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And Bam!  You get the image like the one at the top of the article or this other one here below.  I wish I had shot a bracket for my plate (and then I could merge it into an HDR image).  But such is life, maybe next time.

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Fireworks Friday

Here’s a post you won’t see every day from Disney Photography Blog…..a fireworks shot from aboard the Disney Magic.

On most Disney Cruises these days (I’m assuming since I’m not an expert) one of the days at sea features a Pirate Night.  The servers in the restaurants are decked out in pirate garb, there is a dance party out on deck, and a show featuring Captain Hook and Pirate Mickey.  It’s quite a blast.

Another part of the Pirate Night is a short fireworks show at sea.  You aren’t getting something like Wishes or Illuminations, but it is a fun little show.  If you get a chance to go on one of these cruises, you need to do better research than I did.

The Pirate Party takes place between the forward and mid-ships funnels and guests can watch the party / show from either Deck 9 or Deck 10.  I opted for Deck 10 since we would be up higher and there would be a clearer shot of the fireworks.

MagicFireworksBlog

Yes the Funnelvision screen is super blurry.  Only including the shot to illustrate where I was set up for the shots.  ProTip – don’t stand here.

As I was getting ready to set up for the show, I had it in my mind that I had seen the fireworks more forward of the ship.  To the right (or more properly starboard) side of the forward funnel.  So I set up on the port side of the ship (I wanted to get an image of the ship in the fireworks shots) and with my back to the midships funnel.  Well, either my memory was wrong or  I was seeing a doctored photo because I was only half right.  The fireworks were being shot off the starboard side of the ship, but they were behind me.

Shame on me for not doing better research.  I probably should have spent more time at the Disney Cruise Line Blog because I’m sure Scott has the right answer posted over there.  The fireworks are coming from behind the midships funnel, so to get any shots I had to quickly spin the camera around and shoot from there.  I don’t have a super wide lens so the shots only turned out so-so.  There was also a knucklehead iPad photographer trying to video tape the fireworks in front of me so I had to crop in and adjust the angle mid show to the moving / blurry white spot out of the images.  All in all though, I liked how the reflections appear in the windows.

Magic3

Shooting the fireworks on the ship is exactly like shooting them on land.  You’ll need a sturdy tripod, a remote shutter release, and in my opinion a good variable ND filter.  I don’t know why I was worried about this when I was planning the trip, but I was worried about the sway of the ship during the fireworks but it really wasn’t an issue at all.

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Lights, Motors, Action!

I’m back.  Sorry for being away so long.  My day job has been super crazy busy for the past few months but things are finally starting to slow down and I can get back to posting here.  Congrats to the Instagram account for passing 6,000 followers this week!

When it came time to plan out my Spring Break trip this past year, there were two things I really wanted to experience and both of them were at Hollywood Studios (I know, right?).  I’ll get to the other one in a later post, but the first thing I wanted to make sure I saw was Lights, Motors, Action!   I knew that LMA was going to be closing at the beginning of April and I realized I had skipped it the last time I was in the park.

When attractions close at Disneyland or Walt Disney World there is usually a groundswell of support online.  The usual discussions of starting a “Save This Attraction” campaign kicks in.  These discussions are trivial I know – since the powers that be have already slated the ride / show / park area to die and there is no stay of execution coming from the Governor’s Mansion.  But I was surprised that there really wasn’t much of a show of support for LMA.  In fact there were quite a few derisive comments as LMA was going down for the count.  Their were fans though, and I was among them.

 

ManOnFireBlog

Stuntmen always fascinate me.  They do these incredible tricks and even set themselves on fire.

I usually don’t like to tell people they’re wrong, but I’m sorry they were.  It’s true the Hollywood Studios we have now is nothing of what the original mission of the Studios was to be (a working production studio), but with the closure of LMA, there is now only one attraction that tries to live up to that spirit.  Lights, Motors, Action! was at its very core, EXACTLY what the studios was meant to be.  I know, we still have a stunt show with Indiana Jones, but I will always think that LMA was a better show than Indiana Jones is.

You may recall I wrote here that I was upset that I didn’t have any good shots of the Osborne Lights before they closed. I didn’t want that situation to repeat itself with LMA so I made sure that I got some good action shots.  I actually misfired on the finale shot (shown above) when we attended the show the first time.  I had preset the camera up, focused on the right spot but I didn’t have the shutter speed dialed in and the shot ends up far too blurry.  I’m not sure what I was thinking.  When I looked at the back of the camera I knew I had blown it and was actually pretty down on myself about it.  As much as I like the show, I was in the parks with my family and I didn’t think we were going to be getting back to the Studios for another attempt at the shot.  Luckily I was wrong.

FirstAttemptBlog

Blown!  Worst attempt at the final ever.  Way to mess up the shutter speed.  Feel the blur.

Thankfully my family wanted to do a second day over at the Studios, so I was going to get a second shot at the show.  There was supposed to be a downpour during the late LMA show and it was predicted to rain the next day (LMA’s final performance day).  Since I’m not a local, I had no idea if LMA ran during the rain or not.  So I was determined to get the shot right this time.

SecondAttempt2Blog

Flying through a wall of fire.

To get the shot you see at the top of this article I switched my Canon over to sport mode so I could get a lot of shots in a short period of time (the Canon 60D can hit 5.3fps).  Since I had seen the show a couple of days before the timing of it was better in my head and I could get the shot focused before the action (and switched the camera over to manual focus when I was ready).  I can’t emphasize this enough.  With shows like this that are repeating, having watched the show before is a big help for timing your shots and knowing where the action is going to be.  The shot you see at the top of the article still isn’t perfect.  The better shot would have been the first attempt where I blew the shutter speed.

As a side note, I would have thought the pyrotechnics during LMA were more precisely timed.  But take a look at the image just above this paragraph.  It looks like the pyros went off early as the car is jumping through a wall of flames.  I actually like the way that shot turned out a lot.  I wish the camera would have had a higher frame rate so I could have gotten a couple of frames before and after the above shot.

AllDoneBlog

Many of the crew were doing their last performances and took an extra bow at the end.

 

Well, it’s been closed for a month now.  The bulldozers and cranes have already started (if not finished) demolishing the stadium and the sets.  We have Toy Story Land coming in its place.  I’ve seen what a Toy Story Land can look like (having been to Hong Kong Disneyland) and I’m excited to see what the Florida version will be like.  But I’ll miss Lights, Motors, Action!

I’ll have another article on Wednesday, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll share the other thing I wanted to do at the Studios on Friday. All depends if I can get the shot edited in time.

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Nik is now free

Back in 2012, Google bought NIK Software and the photography community wondered what Google would do with their new found acquisition.  Well, they made the bold step of making it free as of this week.  Normally $150, this is a great deal.  Snap it up now and give it a whirl.

I’ll post some more details on using the software in the coming weeks, but I thought I would post an image that I edited with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.  The image was taken at Hong Kong Disneyland.