Daylight Savings Time at Animal Kingdom

The last few months of the year are upon us, and with that comes daylight savings time. For many of us, this time of the year is kind of a bummer, since it gets dark super early, and the sun is fully risen by the time many of us wake up. It’s a weird shock to the system, and always takes a few weeks to get used to.

But, there is one major positive to this time of year. As many of you know, Disney’s Animal Kingdom runs (for now) on much shorter hours than the other three Walt Disney World parks. Because of the fact that most of the attractions are animal based, this was a necessity. Since Disney is doing a nighttime version of the Safari, adding the Rivers of Light nighttime show, and building an entire area themed to Avatar: The World of Pandora, chances are that by 2017, AK will have full operating hours just like the other parks.

But, until then, it’s 5-7pm closings. How does this tie into this time of the year though? Well, now we get the chance to, on many nights, actually see Animal Kingdom past sunset. During the summertime, it’s nearly impossible to do. So, when this happens, we must take advantage and get some photos!

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Sunset in this park is beautiful, with lots of water features and lots of foliage.

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One of the highlights of my recent trip to the park was being able to see the new Harambe Market area completely without any guests, but without it being nighttime.

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Once sunset falls, we hit the blue hour. Once it gets to this time, it is extremely important to use a tripod to make sure your shots are nice and sharp, while also keeping the ISO down so there isn’t too much noise. There are tons of areas throughout the park to photograph the Tree of Life, but I think they take on a new life once this hour hits. Check out these reflections!

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For many of these shots, you will have to tinker around with the White Balance once you get into your photo editing software. For many of the shots I took last week, the RAW file was rather bland with not a ton of color, so for many of these shots, I changed the White Balance to be quite a bit warmer and more inviting.

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If you walk down the exit area for it’s tough to be a bug, you can find one of the only remaining places to get up close and personal with the Tree of Life.

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Lastly, on my way out of the park, I did the traditional postcard shot of the Tree of Life, although it can be quite a bit different looking once the sun has fallen for the day. The new animal carvings that were added within the past year also help the composition here by adding some interesting foreground elements for us to shoot.

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We may hate how early it gets dark this time of the year, but the opportunity to get some nighttime or sunset photos at Animal Kingdom is worth it! Remember, if you do head out to the park to see it at night, make sure to bring your tripod. Keeping the ISO down low will help cover the large dynamic range of many of the scenes here. I also make sure to bring not just my wide angle lens, but a normal focal length as well to not limit the options for taking photos.

For those curious, these photos were all taken with the Sony a7 and either the Rokinon 14mm lens or the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. Thanks for reading, and we would love to hear your thoughts on Animal Kingdom at night in the comments below!!

 

Printing Your Photos

So we make these trips to Walt Disney World.  We bring all of our lenses.  We fill up countless memory cards.  We drag our tripods all over the place.  We stay way past closing to get shots of the park with no other guests in them.  But what do we do with our photos?  Do they just sit on hard drives probably never to be looked at again?  Our hard work deserves a little appreciation and printing them is a great way to do it.  As I look up from my computer, I have over twenty prints hanging in my office.  Nearly all of them are mine – I do have one of Cory’s photos hanging on my wall.  They’re great conversation starters.  But more importantly, when I’m having a hard day at work or something I’m doing isn’t going right I can look up and take a moment to remember something fun.

I used to dabble in printing the photos myself and actually quite enjoyed it.  But the printer I had couldn’t print edge to edge so I was constantly trimming the images after I was done or leaving the white border in tact.  A number of times I accidentally moved the print before the ink was totally dry and printing myself turned out to be a bit of a hit or miss option for me.  That was all before I discovered Adorama Pix though, and I don’t think I’ll go back to printing images on my own ever again.  They’ve been my go-to source for photo prints for the last three years now and I’ve always been happy with the results.  Their work is outstanding and as luck would have it they are having a sale on prints right now.  The sale ends Monday so get cracking over the weekend!!!  $5.99 for a 16×20, $1.99 for an 11×14 and only $0.99 for an 8×10.  They also throw in free shipping if your order is above $39.

Once you have your photos uploaded to Adorama there are several options you have to go through in order to place your order.  One of the first things you have to decide on is what kind of paper you would like them to use.  Adorama offers their prints on a variety of paper and they do a good job of describing the finishes but I wanted to see how my images looked on each of them.  At $0.99 for an 8×10 it was an easy decision and ordered three images on each of the paper choices.  In fact, when I order prints I usually wait for a sale like this and then order them on multiple paper styles just to see what works out best.

  • LUSTER: Adorama calls Luster their most popular paper and it is easy to see why.  The glossy finish has a bit of a sheen to it and colors just pop off the page.  To my eye, Luster is between Matte and Glossy in terms of just how glossy the image is.  Most of the prints that I have are on Luster paper as I like the slight sheen that the paper has and the texture on the paper is very fine.  Besides the 8x10s I ordered, I got each of the three photos as 16×20 prints and are already hanging on the wall.  Luster just makes your photos pop, especially if you have a lot of color.
  • GLOSSY: Glossy is a step up from Luster in terms of how glossy the finish is.  I tend to like he Luster variant better, especially in the lighting conditions of my office.  The high gloss just picks up too much of a glare for my liking.
  • METALLIC:  Metallic costs a bit more than all the others ($1.50 for 8×10 instead of the $0.99 sale price) but the cost is definitely worth it.  I love the way prints turn out on the Metallic paper.  There is an even more pronounced sheen to the paper than the Luster I mentioned above.  The colors pop right off the page and there is a certain depth to it.  I have a Black & White HDR image hanging in my office that just looks gorgeous on the Metallic paper.
  • SILK : Silk is one of their newer finishes.  The paper has an almost vintage feel to it as there is a linen like texture to it.  You can see the grain of the paper in the image which is really nice.  This is definitely more of a matte finish.  Adorama recommends it for wedding and portrait pictures, but I really like the way this image turned out with it.  The streaks of the fireworks almost pick up a slight lenticular effect to it which is pretty neat.  I can imagine that this paper would look great for a black and white photo too.
  • MATTE: There is almost no shine at all on the Matte finish papers.  Colors are true but it makes the image look just a bit flatter than I like.  I definitely wouldn’t order a fireworks shot on the Matte paper, but I have a picture of an elephant playing in the water in Animal Kingdom that just looks great on Matte.  This is another paper that Adorama recommends for portrait work for how well it handles skin tones.  I think I’ll grab a couple of character shots and try them on Matte next time I place an order.
  • DEEP MATTE: This is only available on 16×20 prints and I didn’t order anything on the Deep Matte.  So I can’t comment on how this paper would look.

When you are editing your photos remember that you are looking at the image on a nice, back lit screen.  Your photos won’t have the benefit of that back light – unless you are mounting them in a light box.  So push the images a little bit more than you are comfortable with as your prints will naturally turn out darker.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP

Color

 

 

 

 

One of the options when placing your order refers to color corrections.  By default, the Apply Image Corrections radio button is clicked on.  As I was ordering this round of images, I messed up and forgot to click the No Thanks option.  Did it ruin the images?  No.  It didn’t.  When I look at what I sent them and what I got back two of the images are spot on to what I sent them.  In regards to my red Wishes photo though, I know I pushed the highlights because I liked the red glow that the people took on in the crowd.  When Adorama color corrected it, they backed the highlights down and the fireworks look better but it lost the crowd.  Again, this isn’t on Adorama, this is on me.  I messed up and forgot to click the radio button that I had already color corrected it.  No worries though.  I already have another order placed to correct it.

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So do you print your photos?  And if you do where do you hang them?  We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

This image was shot with my Canon 60D and the kit 18-135 lens at f/8 and I was using my MeFoto RoadTrip tripod (which I reviewed on the site here).  Please consider following the Amazon link as it helps support the site.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

My daughter loves the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland so I found myself spending a lot of time in the queue during our last family trip.  During one of the waits, I stood right where this photo was taken and said to myself, I bet this would make an interesting photo at night.  So after I got the family turned in for the evening I headed back into the parks for some late night and after hours shooting.  It was an Extra Magic Hours night and the park was pretty empty so I thought I would have a good shot at grabbing the brackets I needed for an HDR image. Boy was I wrong!  Every time I started the +2 exposure bracket someone would wind up walking into the queue and I would have to start again.  I know, I know, many HDR images have that ghost effect where you can see people moving through the shot, but I wanted a truly empty picture.  Looking back at the time stamps I spent over 30 minutes standing in the queue to get an empty shot.  There would be a gap of now people, I’d start the shot, and then a group of teenagers would come running through the line.  Which brings me to the next story……

So I’m standing there in the queue, grabbing the shot and there’s an “excuse me” from behind.  People had been passing me from the front of the queue for a while and occasionally someone would stop to chat about the shot.  But this was the first time someone had approached from behind so it startled me.  I turned around to find one of the ride’s Cast Members standing there.  As I turned around she added “Can I ask what you are doing, you’ve been standing here for a long time?”  Uh-oh, I’m in trouble I thought.  I explained to her I was trying to get a photograph and showed her some of the images on the back of the camera.  I won’t lie, I thought she was going to kick me out of the queue right there and I wasn’t going to end up with the shot I wanted.  But after a long pause she said “Ok, we just wanted to make sure everything was ok and find out what you were doing.”

Not trusting that the camera didn’t move while I was showing the Cast Member the photos on the back of the camera, I started the sequence over again.  This time, however, I got all three shots with no waiting in between and nobody came running down the queue.  Checking the time stamp of the photo, the final shot in the bracket was captured at 12:08 am.  I thought about trying to get a few more extra exposures (I had 5), but the interaction with the cast member made me feel like I was pushing my luck so I packed my stuff up and ventured on to Gaston’s Tavern for some more long exposure shots.

To edit the bracketed images into a single HDR, I used both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop which are a part of the Photography Plan for only $9.99 / month.  We will do a longer piece on HDR image editing shortly, but if you are looking for some basic tips, might we suggest starting with this video here provided by Adobe.

I’m not 100% happy with the way this shot turned out, so I think I’m going to try and get this one again next time I go down to the parks.  Either that or I’ll try editing the brackets again.  When it comes to creating HDR images I’m definitely a novice.

This image was shot with my Canon 60D and the kit 18-135 lens at f/8 and I was using my MeFoto RoadTrip tripod (which I reviewed on the site here).  Please consider following the Amazon link as it helps support the site.

So, have any of you had any good interactions with a Cast Member when getting a shot in the parks?  Share your story in the comments section below.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights Photography Tutorial

Hello everyone! It’s great to be back posting on the blog again after our long and unfortunate hiatus. We’re really looking forward to having a lot of great weekly content, featuring tutorials and ways to learn, not just sharing our own photos.

For today’s article, we are taking a look at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now, 2015 is the last year that these lights will be presented, but if you come down to Walt Disney World between now and January, hopefully some of these tips can be of help. If not, hopefully you’ll just enjoy the photos, or maybe put the tips to use somewhere other than Disney!

Tip #1 – Shoot a normal focal length

It may be very tempting to shoot the Osborne Lights with a super wide lens. While that look is super cool and can lead to some really neat stuff, chances are you won’t get that opportunity unless you wait until the very end of the night once all the crowds leave. This event tends to get very busy, so if you shoot at a normal focal length, such as 35mm or 50mm, you can get some great portraits of some of the decorations.

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Tip #2 – Find the characters

This year, Disney has added a lot of the characters to the lights. Finding them can help your photos become identifiably Disney, and also make for some cool portraits. I won’t post all of them, but here are a few of them.

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Tip #3 – Shoot with a fast lens (if possible)

When it comes to shooting the Osborne Lights, it can be very difficult to be in there with a tripod unless you wait until the end of the night. So, much of your shooting will be handheld. Since you’ll be shooting handheld, having the fastest lens you own will help you for several reasons. If you have something that is f/2.8 or f/1.8, you can let more light in to the sensor of your camera, which can keep your shutter speed up and your ISO down. With a faster shutter speed, you’ll get sharper photos, and with lower ISO, you’ll have less noise to deal with.

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If you have a fast lens like what I’ve mentioned above, you can also take advantage of the 5 million lights that are present in this display. After you find a subject, once you change your aperture to f/1.8 or however fast your lens is, you can blur out all the lights in the background that can make for some pretty cool effects!

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Tip #4 – Try something different

Seeing as Disney is a place visited by so many people, you’re going to see many of the same shots from everyone’s camera. Trying different things or techniques can make for something that you can take home that is unique and fun, and differentiates your shot from some other person on Instagram. For the shot below, I decided to instead of focusing on the Mickey wreath of lights, switch my camera into manual focus and blur them out. Perhaps it isn’t the best photo ever, but I think the result is somewhat interesting.

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Tip #5 – Tell a story

Whenever we are taking photos, telling a story is a very important part of the process. There are plenty of snapshots out there, and some of those are awesome. But, when a photo has a unique element and story behind it, people can relate to it, and emotion can be drawn out of it. In the photo below, I decided to get low to be on eye level with the puppy. The puppy is eyeing up the Mickey lights on the planter, something which many people’s dog have done. The lighting is soft and adds to the overall feel of it. It just feels very Holiday Season to me, and was one of my favorite photos from my trip through the lights the other night.

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Hopefully you can use some of these tips when you visit the Osborne Lights yourself. It’s a great exhibit that I’m personally sad to see going, regardless of the fact that what is replacing it should be spectacular.

If you’re curious, every photo in this article was taken with the Sony a7 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. If you have any questions, or would like to share any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!