" How To’s "

Monorail Monday Sunset

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, I’d like to go through the steps I took to capture this photo over the weekend:

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Everyone loves an epic monorail shot. This one was actually the second photo I had taken of this monorail passing by. The first one was on the other side of the walkway facing the Odyssey building and the Test Track building. I completely botched that one, but as soon as I snapped it, I played Disney Frogger and evaded a bunch of people making their way through this part of the park to also capture the monorail coming through past this beautiful Flower and Garden Festival bed and the Imagination pavilion.

So, let’s talk settings. I knew that it was a pretty nice sunset, so I wanted to capture the colors in the sky. The water wasn’t as important, so I actually dialed down my exposure compensation to a -1. This made the edit on the computer a little more complicated, but it got me the oranges and yellows, so I was ok with it. I was in Manual mode, and had set my shutter speed to 1/320, my aperture at f/4, and my ISO to Auto. Since I would be running across the walkway, I really wouldn’t have time to set up everything and figure out the ISO on my own, so I elected to use the Auto ISO. With those settings, my camera decided to give me an ISO of 800.

Once getting home and seeing the shot on the computer, it was pretty underexposed. But, the colors were there, and the last bit of sunlight for the day was kissing the monorail, so I was happy. I warmed up the White Balance a tiny bit, and then did my normal editing process, which includes toning down the highlights a tad, lifting shadows, adding some contrast and saturation, and then sharpening. On a normal daytime image (and even some nighttime ones), that does the trick. But with this one, there were some other complications. The water area was essentially black. So, in Lightroom, I clicked on the little brush in the Develop module, and set my brush to be +1.20 on the Exposure dial, and I proceeded to brush the whole bottom of the photo. I got what you see in the finished result, but from pushing the sensor that way, there was some noise, so I also added some Noise Reduction, but only to the area that had already been brushed.

I also thought the sky could use a little bit more punch, so I created a second brush, boosted the saturation to about +35, and then brushed the entire sky.

At that point, you have the image seen here. Sunset images do tend to take a little more work to get going, but once you arrive at a point you like, they are rather satisfying. Have you ever shot the monorail, or anywhere at WDW at sunset? What tips do you have for everyone? Please let us know in the comments below.

For those curious, this was shot with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at our Amazon store, along with anything else you may need for your daily life. Anything you purchase after clicking the link helps keep the site alive, at no cost to you! Thanks for reading!

What Happens When You Change Your F-Stop

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, we’re going to take a look at what happened when you adjust your aperture, or F-Stop. Understanding what this means is a crucial part of understanding photography, and knowing what situations to use certain apertures in can make the difference between nailing the shot and missing it.

That said, I have a composition from Hollywood Studios over in the Muppet area. I took the same shot roughly six times, starting at 1.8 and then moving up one full stop every shot, until I hit f/9. Check them out!

f/1.8

f/1.8

f/2.5

f/2.5

f/3.5

f/3.5

f/5

f/5

f/7.1

f/7.1

f/9

f/9

So, there are a few things to notice here. When you start at the lower numeric value, like 1.8, the corners are darker. This is called vignetting, and it happens the most at a lens’ most shallow aperture. Some people like that, others don’t. It’s really up to the artist whether to keep the natural vignette, or to correct it in software like Lightroom or Photoshop. The vignetting goes away the higher the f-stop number goes.

You’ll also notice that at f/1.8, the fellas in the boat are nice and sharp, but nothing else is. Using that works really well when doing portraits for a dramatic look, or when you are in low light and want to keep your ISO as low as possible. Once you get up to f/5.6 and higher, you start to see more things in focus and sharp across the entire range of the frame. For most landscape photos, you’ll want to do that to ensure sharpness. But, a higher aperture number will also require a slower shutter speed or bumping up your ISO, so be ready for that.

You may also notice, depending on the quality of the lens, that shooting with a lower f-stop number not only ensures sharpness on only certain parts of the photo, but you may see some softness due to the razor thin depth of field. Because of this, any time you are shooting stage shows or action, like Disney parades, that sacrificing some of that smooth bokeh may be worth it to get a sharp shot.

Hopefully reading about this can help you understand apertures a little bit better and improve your shots the next you are out in the field. The many variations on the Muppets were taken with the Sony a7 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8, both of which can be purchased over at our Amazon store. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, thanks for reading!

 

Using the Rule of Thirds

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, I wanted to share a simple compositional technique that can help your photos very quickly and very easily.

The technique is called the Rule of Thirds. Basically, what it means is you take your photo and draw a tic tac toe board over top of it. That means two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, each one of them either one third across or one third up or down the frame. Once that is done, there are 4 points where the lines intersect. The whole idea is to place your subject right on one of those four points. By doing this, your image can have more kinetic energy and appears more dynamic than simply placing the subject in the center. Take this shot of the Little Mermaid ride at Magic Kingdom for example.

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This photo has a lot going on that you want. There are nice clouds and a blue sky, good lighting touching the building and a nice little amount of warmth. But, when you look at it and Prince Eric’s castle is in the center, it feels stagnant and like it isn’t going anywhere. But, by changing your focus point and adjust your camera ever so slightly, you get this.

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Now, we have a photo that has some motion. By moving the subject out of the center just that little bit, we are also able to incorporate more foliage into the top left hand corner of the shot, which creates some additional framing for the castle itself.

Now, am I saying it is incorrect to place the subject of your photos in the center of the frame? Absolutely not. I could show you thousands of photos that break this ‘rule’ that are stunning and interesting and work perfectly fine. But, thinking with that grid over your photo is an easy way to always be thinking about your compositions and what they mean. Most cameras now a days (iPhones included) even have a grid built into either the LCD or the viewfinder, so you place your subject very easily.

Hopefully this little tip will help a bunch of you while out in the field creating some images. If you’re curious as to the equipment used, these were shot with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 lens, both of which can be purchased through our Amazon store, along with any of your other needs. Thanks for reading!

Dark Ride Photography – The Musical

Cory posted an excellent article on Dark Ride Photography a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to follow up on that with a different kind of Dark Ride Photography……taking pictures at the Animal Kingdom shows – Finding Nemo the Musical and Festival of the Lion King.  Really its the same thing, you are just applying the tips and skills to a stage show instead of a moving ride vehicle.  My family and I love all of the stage shows and when we swing by Animal Kingdom, stopping in to see both of these shows are a must do.  When I look at my photo library I’ve got lots of bad shots of the shows as I try to get better.

Tip number one, which goes without saying…..turn that flash off.  It isn’t going to help and its going to be a major distraction for the performers and possibly even dangerous.  Think about it, you’re one of the performers on stilts at Festival of the Lion King and some knucklehead is firing a flash at you.  Would you like it?

Second tip is to get stable.  Unlike the dark rides where the vehicle and the scenes are moving, only the performers are moving in the musicals which will make things a bit easier.  You can’t practically set up a tripod at the shows, but you can use a monopod.  My MeFoto Roadtrip Tripod converts into a monopod and I use my time before the show converting it.   A monopod doesn’t give you as much stability as a tripod, but it can give you a little bit of an advantage over hand holding the shot.

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This is from the Hong Kong Disneyland version of Festival of the Lion King.   I took this with my nifty-fifty, 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Third tip….use the fastest glass you’ve got.  As with any Dark Ride Photography shot you need to get the fastest lens you can on the camera.  The fastest piece of glass that I have in my bag is the nifty-fifty, aka the Canon 50mm f/1.8.  At under $100, it is by far the best piece of glass you can get for your money.  You can really do well in low-light with the f/1.8 aperture.  With that being said though, if you can afford to hold off and get the Canon 50mm f/1.4, do it.  It’s 3.5x the price of the f/1.8 but the one time I got to borrow this lens from a friend it was totally worth it.  My best Festival of the Lion King shot was taken with the 1.4 the one time I got to borrow it. If memory serves correctly, Cory had the 50mm f/1.2 back when he shot Canon but that’s over a 10x jump in price.   The image at the top of the post was taken with the Canon 70mm f/2.8 IS II, a lens that I had rented for my last trip.  Someday I’ll have a lens that good in my bag, but not yet.

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This is my favorite shot from Festival of the Lion King, taken with a borrowed 50mm f/1.4

My fourth tip is timing….it really is the key to getting a good shot.  You probably wouldn’t believe all the shots I have that are in focus, but the performer’s eyes are closed.  Or ones where I was focused on one performer but I didn’t notice a second performer coming into frame and ruining the composition of the shot.  Or the ones where I completely blew the focus all together.

Let me digress for a second.  My daughter started dancing years ago, but last year was her first year on a competition team.  At the first competition, there was a “professional” photographer at the event and the parents were prohibited from taking pictures.  I wouldn’t have minded it if the photographer was any good.   She used her expensive gear – she was shooting with a Canon 1Dx and a 70-200 f/2.8 IS II, gear I’ll only have if I hit the lotto.  The thing sounded like a Gatling gun when she was shooting.  Spray and pray was what ruled her day.  The photographer had a team with her and the photos from every routine were up on a computer outside the venue where you could order prints.  After my daughter’s routine I went to check out the photos.  Now, granted, nobody was culling the photographs or doing any kind of editing of them so I wouldn’t expect all the photos to be winners.  But I kid you not, every single photograph taken in the 2 1/2 minute routine was out of focus, or the dancer that was in focus was not the dancer that should have been the subject of the shot.  Confused, I went back and looked at the routines from the other girls at the same studio.  Nearly all of the photos were useless garbage, there were a couple of really great ones out of the thousands I was paging through but I guess one would expect random chance to make a good photo if you click the shutter often enough.  I couldn’t believe the parents that were plopping down $10 for each photo (or $99 for the entire routine).

The next competition we went to, there was a professional photographer there too, but at this event parents were allowed to shoot if they wanted.  Notice I dropped the scare quotes when I described the photographer at this event.  This young kid was shooting a Canon 5D Mark II and the same 70-200 f/2.8 IS II.  He was up on a tripod; where as the first photographer was hand-holding everything which does make a difference.  But what struck me the most was the camera wasn’t rocking and rolling.  The shutter was firing on beat with the music.  When I checked out his photos on the computer later, 90% of them were in focus and 90% of them had meaningful action in the shot.  I ended up talking to him during the break.  He was 20 years old, but he had been a dancer for years but a photographer for only about 18 months.  Even though he had never seen any of the routines he was shooting, he just followed the music and pressed the shutter on the beat – knowing that good choreography would have the girls landing a move in step with the music.  I was happy to pay for the photos that day.

The point of the story though is to feel the flow of the two shows while you are photographing them.  The performers are going to hit poses and land moves on beat with the music.  It will make your shots turn out a whole lot better.

So, do you have any tips for shooting at Finding Nemo the Musical or Festival of the Lion King?  If so hit the Read More button and leave a comment.

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CALL FOR ARTICLES

We are always looking for additional voices here at the blog, so if you are a reader here…..drop Ryan, Cory, or I a note (my email is KeithMKolmos at yahoo dot com – just put DISNEY PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG ARTICLE in the subject line so I’ll make sure to see it).  I’m always looking for ways to get better and we can ALL share something, no matter what your skill level is.  Don’t worry about the writing part, we can help you edit the piece once you have it together.

UPDATED

A special thank you to Bob and Mark who reached out last night with a couple of article ideas.  We’ll be seeing their articles here on the blog soon!  If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to send your note on in!!!