Typically, when life gives me a puddle I lay down in it and take a picture. When life doesn’t give any puddles however, sometimes you have to find the next best thing. These Leave a Legacy “monuments” at Epcot’s entrance do nicely with providing a bit of reflection and adding additional interest to the photo. Add in a beautiful sunset and a passing monorail and I think you’re in business. These elements all reflect very well on the top of the Leave a Legacy monolith. The gold reflection on Spaceship Earth is the final icing on the cake.
It certainly felt good this past week to be back at Walt Disney World. It had been more than a year since our last visit and although we visited Disneyland in that break, Walt Disney World is the place that still holds all the wonderful nostalgic feelings for me. Most exciting of all for this trip however was the chance to finally see Pandora – The World of Avatar. It’s truly something else to see in person. The pictures really don’t do it justice (yet here I am trying to do it justice via my own photo….) Flight of Passage is a seriously amazing ride though I’m glad we had fastpasses and did not have to wait the posted 180 minutes for it. The Navi River ride however we did not get to ride due to the waits, so I’ll have to wait till next time to comment on it. Until then, enjoy this photo of the floating mountains as day on Pandora fades into night.
Sleeping Beauty Castle is beautiful at night, but man is it a pain to edit correctly. Masking in an underexposure of the pink bits and making the blend realistic is tedious. For this shot that wasn’t even the worst part. The tree on the left needed masking so I could color correct the sky and all of the various selection tools were giving me fits. In the end I used a combination of different techniques to mask it bit by bit until my mask was “good enough”. I probably could have gotten away with just not masking it at all and blending the color differently but if you’re going to do something you may as well do it right… even if it takes a ton of time.
In processing my Disneyland shots I’ve come across some interesting and different challenges compared to my Walt Disney World shots. Therefore, I put the question out to all of you Disneyland photographers… What do you consider to be among the most challenging shots at Disneyland?
This is a ridiculously difficult shot. I rode Snow White’s Scary Adventures several times over the course of 4 days and this is the best I could do. The jerky nature of the ride along with having what felt like less than 1 second to get all 7 dwarfs in frame, for me at least, puts this in the upper tier of difficult dark ride shots.
Processing was very light on this one with a single levels adjustment, a tweak to saturation and a pass of denoise and sharpening using my dark ride denoising technique. I’ve had a few people request more details on this so I’m happy to say I’ll be recording a video very soon that will fully explain my techniques for denoising and sharpening dark ride photos. This video will provide a good foundation for denoising your dark ride shots without losing detail and sharpening them in a way that you sharpen the important details and not the noise.
I’ve got another Milky Way shot today from my stay in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s an experience I will never forget. The quiet that set in after dark was like nothing I had ever heard before. Standing out in the middle of nowhere staring up at the Milky Way truly has few matches. This particular shot is taken on the opposite side of Arch Rock just a few minutes from where we camped. Interestingly when I thought of Joshua Tree National Park and photographing it I thought I’d be shooting a bunch of different Joshua Trees (I did) but what I did not realize is just how many cool looking rock formations there are. I ended up spending more time framing shots with these than the actual Joshua Trees!
Today I want to talk about two different issues I often see with dark ride photos. First off, and the biggest offender is too much denoising. One thing to keep in mind when denoising is that when doing so you are not just removing noise, you are also removing detail. Scrubbing a photo til it’s completely noise free usually means you’ve also scrubbed all the details away. My suggestion for avoiding this is to run a denoise pass, but then use a layer mask to apply that mask only to the dark areas. This is usually where the most noise is present and likewise where the least detail is present. I’ve applied this method to this shot and I think you’ll agree the final image is quite clean.
Next is the tendency to boosts shadows and blacks to show all the little details and trinkets hiding in the shadows. I have to double check myself on this. By doing so you are removing contrast and often making the image look washed out. Furthermore, boosting shadows so extensively often brings you back to trying to clean it up with excessive denoising where you end up scrubbing those details away. I suggest being more judicious with the shadows slider, pulling them up to reveal some detail, but being careful to retain contrast. In my opinion the image with solid contrast is going to look better and be more interesting than the image that’s been boosted, denoised, and washed out… even if it shows off stuff typically hidden in the shadows.
I’ve talked about this a lot over the years, but I still absolutely love using the Nikon 70-200 to compress spaces. I have shot many similar shots of the Walt Disney World hub so of course I had to get one at Disneyland. What I especially like here is that the short height of Sleeping Beauty Castle let me stay horizontal whereas the Walt Disney World hub I tend to go vertical because of the height of Cinderella Castle.
Shooting the lagoon at sunset was an exercise in patience and editing definitely had its share of difficulties considering the number of shots, the passage of time and blending it all together to look real. Well if you try that shot and you don’t think it’s hard enough try to do the same thing at night. This is one of the most difficult shots I feel like I’ve ever done. Seriously, it’s legit tough, especially the edit. This shot is comprised of 5 different shots. 2 for a base blend, 1 for the monorail, 1 for the submarine, and an additional shot for the stars (shot at ISO 1600 to capture as many as possible in the light polluted Anaheim sky).