" January 2016 "

Using Lines at Hollywood Studios

Happy Monday, everyone! For today’s post, I want to keep it pretty simple. One of my favorite things to do compositionally is the use of lines to help draw the eye to the subject of my photo. I love the trolley tracks on Main Street, cracks in the pavement at Animal Kingdom, and many more things to help create a photo. So, for today’s post, I want to share three photos from this weekend at Hollywood Studios where I’ve used some of the lines in that park for some photos. Here we go!


For this one, I actually used two lines, they just happen to be parallel to one another. They pull the eye across the frame to the Keystone Clothiers building. I went with a black and white conversion on it to create more contrast.


For the time being, at least until April, you can still access and take photos of the Streets of America. The dotted line goes straight up the frame, right to my subject, the New York skyline at the end of the street. I also chose to use a shallow depth of field, shooting at f/2, that way the subject is sharp, and the leading lines are diffused.


On my way out of the park, there was a cavalcade of the Citizens of Hollywood. So, for this shot, I did not use the solid white line as a way of drawing the eye to the subject, but rather a way of conveying motion. The line shows both where the Citizens were, and where they are going. It didn’t hurt that she was nice enough to wave to the camera.

Hopefully looking at these photos will help you find some interesting ways for you to compose your own photos, and maybe think a little bit differently next time you’re in the parks. For those curious, all of these were shot with the Sony a7 and the Sony FE 28mm f/2 lens, both of which can be purchased at our Amazon link, where anything you buy sends up a small commission to help keep the site running at no cost to you. Thanks for reading!

Weekend Reading – The Digital Photography Book

A brief note

Interesting that Wednesday’s post was about backup strategies and then the website went down yesterday, not exactly a good time to make sure that you have a backup of the website and all of its contents, right?  Turns out it was a problem with the server over at Bluehost and Cory was able to get them to work on bringing back the server as soon as possible.  Sorry the site was down for a few hours yesterday afternoon / early evening. Now back to today’s regularly scheduled post…….

Scott Kelby

I mentioned in my post about New Year’s Resolutions post that I wanted to do more photography reading this year.  I found there are a ton of good photography books at my local library (who knew?) and I was going to try and do a book review each month.  First up in the queue though is a book series I actually own, Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book series which is now available in a box set so you can get all five books in one.   For those unfamiliar with Scott’s work, I’ll over a short introduction.  Scott Kelby is an incredibly good photographer, but what I like about him most is his ability to poke fun at himself.  He shoots college and pro football games for a wire service and he does great work.  But Scott isn’t afraid to post the clunkers that he gets on the sidelines too (or the time Aaron Rodgers broke his monopod).  He has tons of books available on Amazon, goes out on tour teaching classes across the country (and internationally) and runs KelbyOne an online platform that offers TONS of video classes on improving your photography technique, Photoshop skills, and more.  If you haven’t tried it out, there is a free month trial subscription available.  You really should give it a shot.

The Digital Photography Book



The Digital Photography Book is a series at this point with 5 books in the series (with a 6th book essentially being a “best of” the first four).  If you hurry – KelbyOne has a contest to give away a free copy to people who retweet a message.  I don’t own the 5th book yet as I already own the first four, so I’ll stick my review to those editions.

Photo Recipes

The best part of this book series, and the reason I keep coming back to them is the layout of the book.  After a brief introduction of the topic with some basic tips, Scott then gives a quick primer for creating a shot that looks like the one he posts.  These aren’t master classes on the subject matter and they aren’t meant to be.  There are entire books dedicated to each one of the topics he covers.  These primers act as your first step to getting your photography better.  They also serve as a great reference works as they literally cover just about everything.  I find that before an event (like my stepson’s football game or a vacation trip), I’ll pull the books out and do a quick re-read of the sections that apply.  I’m not a wedding photographer, nor would I ever want to be.  But I will read through the wedding photography section before going to a family wedding.  Think of this book series as the perfect book to just keep in your camera or travel bag.  Anytime I know I’m going to be on an airplane for a long time, I’ll wind up flipping through one of these books.

Photo Recipes for the Disney Photographer

Now even though Scott has been known to shoot in the parks for fun when he’s on vacation, there isn’t a section in any of these books that end up being a photo recipe for shooting at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t information in there that can be used!  I know Cory did a great job of posting Dark Ride tips here, but Scott does offer tips that would apply to shooting Dark Rides as well.  Just read through is sections on low-light photography (like shooting in a dark church for a wedding, etc).  You might not think the sections on better Portrait photography apply, but what are we doing when we shoot character meet & greets?  Those are portraits aren’t they.  One of the best little sections is in Volume 1 where Scott talks about shooting something that has been shot to death.  The one tip he gave was looking for unusual weather, which is echoed Cory’s sentiments here in his Dark Skies at EPCOT post from last month.


I think you can tell by this point that I really like the first 4 volumes of this book and I should probably pick up the 5th with how much I use the first 4.  They are my go to books when I want to do some reading about photography.  Like previously mentioned I don’t have the 6th book in the series.  The description lists that one as a “Best of the Best” type book with a new section on making the transition from iPhone shooter to DSLR (why isn’t there a section on switching to the iPad as your primary camera, eh @WDWiPadography ??!?!?!?!).  So I don’t think the 6th volume will be on my wish list for now.

Up Next

The next book in the series will be Harold Davis’ Monochromatic HDR Photography book.   Are there any books on your shelf that you think I should be reading this year?  Leave a note in the comments (click Read more to bring up the form) and I’ll add it to my reading list.

Side Note

On a side note, Walt Disney World just announced that Lights Motor Action was being removed and there are rumors that the Earful tower is going to be moved / removed from Hollywood Studios.  It makes my post from last Friday even more of a must read.  There are more things disappearing from the parks and I’m definitely going to have to try and get some photos of these before they are gone.

Backup Strategies

Whenever I talk about backing up photos, I always start with my motivation for backing things up.  A co-worker of mine had his first child at the dawn of digital photography.  He had the same Canon 300D I had and he took tons of pictures of his new-born daughter.  He thought he was on top of things.  He had a server on his home network where all the photos were stored and actually had a tape backup drive that was regularly making back-ups of everything on the server.  Right around her first birthday disaster struck, but he felt assured that everything was ok – he had all of those tape backups to go back on.  After he rebuilt the server and got everything configured right he found out that the tape backup system had stopped actually working over a year ago.  It was always reporting the backups were being completed ok, but there was no actual data on the tapes to recover.  He lost every single photograph he had taken of his daughter.  When he originally came to me with that news, I vowed to never let that happen to me so I began to create my backup strategy.  I might be a little bit extreme in my backups, but I never want to lose everything the way my co-worker did.

Step 1 The Local Copy

When I’m done shooting and have copied all the pictures off of the memory card and onto my main computer, the first step is to make a DVD backup of the photos.  Back when I had my 6.3MP camera this process was much easier than it is today.  I never had to worry about having more pictures on the memory card then I could fit on a double layer DVD.  Nowadays, that isn’t as easy of an assumption and I probably should consider upgrading to a Blu-ray writer.  Once the discs are made, I label them (name and date of the event) and file them away.  Documenting the process here has identified a flaw here in my system.  The DVD copies are stored in a file cabinet near my desk.  Should anything happen to my desk, one of the copies goes with it.  I should probably take the disc copies and move them up to another level of the house.

Step 2 The Dual Hard Drives

Now that the data is on the internal hard drive of my computer (I’m still using my PC for photo work since my 7 year old iMac is bit long in the tooth) and on the DVDs, I move all the files off onto a USB backup drive.  When I started this backup process I bought two identical drives.  One lives on my desk at home and the other sits inside the safety deposit box at my bank.  On the first Saturday of the month, I take the drive off of my desk and swap it with the one in the safety deposit box.  When I brink the bank copy home, I update it with all the new files that have been captured during the previous month.  Running things this way, the most I could ever lose is a months worth of photos.  That’s if something happened to the house and I lost the internal hard drive, the external hard drive, and the CD / DVD copies.

Step 3 Backing Up Online

I resisted online backups for a very long time.  I never felt good about my data living on other people’s servers, and I remember a horror story of one of the early online backup places going belly-up overnight and everyone was scrambling to get their data back before it was gone.,  But travelling to the bank once a month to swap out the drives is growing tiresome and the size of those drives needs to be updated soon as they are starting to grow full, and I hear the Backblaze commercials multiple times a week due to their sponsorship of multiple podcasts I listen to.  I’ve always read their excellent quarterly report cards on long term hard drive performance (you can see samples here) so over this Christmas break I decided to give them a shot.  So far so good, at $5 / month it seems like an easy choice.  I like the idea that – in the event something bad happens – I can order a hard drive with all of my data copied on to it, rather than having to max out my internet connection with getting all of the data back.

Backup strategies are all very personal so I got a second opinion from site contributor Ben Hendel to share some additional thoughts.


When I worked at Apple, one of my managers had a saying: “There are two types of people in the world: those who have lost data, and those who will.” When he told me this, I was already in the first of those two categories, having had a Dell 20GB hard drive nuke itself on me, and much of the data was unrecoverable. So I back up religiously, in multiple ways.

First and foremost, owning a MacBook Pro, I use Time Machine to back up to an Apple Time Capsule device.  Mine is older, but it is a 2TB hard drive baked into a wireless router.  My computer automatically backs up to it hourly.  Because I started to outgrow 2TB of storage, and I wanted more redundant automatic backups, I’ve plugged my Time Capsule, via USB to a 5TB Seagate external hard drive as a secondary source.  In addition to that, for offloading old Lightroom Libraries, and creating backups of photos as I travel, I have a 2TB Thunderbolt G-Drive that lives in my travel bag.  Finally, for backup systems current in place, I also keep a 1TB Hard drive backup at my parent’s house out of state to use as off-site backup, because I’ve suffered a house fire and know how easily data can be lost from inside a house, even if its redundantly backed up.

Again, I’ve lost data before, and I’m paranoid about it happening again.   So I’m also looking at getting a NAS drive for my network as a tertiary way of automatically backup up my data.  And I’m looking at getting an off-site backup solution as well.  Look, in my opinion, you spend thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands on taking your photos.  You should spend more, rather than less, to back up those pictures once they’ve been taken.


Do you follow one or more of these plans?  I know everyone has their own system.  A buddy of mine sends me a bare hard drive every couple of months when he finishes a big project so I’m his offsite backup plan (no, I’m not taking on additional drives at this time, lol).  Chime in in the comments and let us know how you back up your Disney photos.  Hit the read more button below to leave a comment.

Also, if you are going to be ordering from Amazon.com anyway, please consider following this link.  It doesn’t cost you anything but we earn a very small commission and it helps support the sit


The image above is of the Hollywood Hotel sign in Hong Kong Disneyland, if you want to see more Hong Kong Disneyland photos, check out my older post here.

Head into the Queue!

Happy Monday everybody! For today’s post, I just wanted to share a fun story of how a photo came to be.

I was in the Magic Kingdom in the evening over the weekend, and after completely failing shooting all of Wishes in one shot with my new variable ND filter, I wanted to do some nighttime photography. Generally speaking, I didn’t have much of a plan for my photo taking this night. That is probably something that I could work on getting better at for the future. Regardless, this night, I just kind of went where the wind took me. That ended up being in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I noticed that the wait time was only 10 minutes, so I figured I’d head in for a ride since there was still a little bit of time before the park closed and all the guests would start to exit.

To do this, I packed the camera and the tripod all away into my bag, and entered the queue. As I got part of the way through, I noticed that the line had stopped moving. Thankfully, I was in a pretty neat place, with a different view of many of the shots I have taken of Big Thunder in the past. Since the line wasn’t moving, I decided to take out the camera and tripod and fire off a few shots. This was what I ended up with.


I was not much of a fan of this. The way that the windows worked in the queue, I could only get my tripod into a place where this was the only option. At 14mm, this means a lot of ugly stuff on the left and top parts of the frame. Normally, this would have more than likely been deleted on site without even getting a look on the computer. But, I really like the clouds and the motion of them along with the nice scene of Big Thunder. So, once I got home and got onto the computer, I tried to see how I could crop it. I ended up getting this.


Now, this wasn’t as wide as I wanted to go, and I had to cut out some of the awesome sky that I saw. But, instead of coming home with nothing from this time standing in line, I came away with something that I think is pretty usable. I was also very lucky that I decided to pull the gear out and quickly take the photo, because the ride went 101 within seconds of the 30″ shutter finishing and all of the work lights turned on, completely ruining the vibe of the shot. Once that happened, WDW CMs helped get everyone out of the queue, and the opportunity was truly gone.

So, moral of the story is, you never really know when and where a great opportunity is going to show up. You’ll get some different perspectives on the rides and scenery from the queues, and they can definitely be great places to shoot from. It can also be important to not throw something into the trash based off of first looks, either. Many of the cameras that are out there today pack in so much resolution and detail into RAW files that we can significantly crop images and still come out with something that is very high quality, and can be used and shared with many people.

For those curious, this was taken with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. If you buy through our link, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you, and it helps keep the blog up with new posts every week.

Have you ever had any surprise success with a photo? Ever crop something down and get a keeper out of it? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!