Friday, April 19, 2013

Photo Friday: What's in Your Camera Bag?

I recently talked about some of what I carry when I travel to support my electronics, but today I want to focus on the items in my camera bag.  These items are ready to go whenever I leaved the house with my digital SLR camera.

I'll leave out the camera itself, since when I travel that often spends more time around my neck than actually in the camera bag.  I also left it out of the photo because I was using it to take the picture above.  The rest of the items in my camera bag are as follows:

  • An Extra Lens
    • I still use the "kit" lens that I purchased with my camera years ago, a Canon 18-55mm zoom lens (pictured above).  Lately, more often than not I've had a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens that I purchased on Ebay attached to the camera body
  • Extra Batteries
    • In addition to my digital SLR, I also often carry a point and shoot camera as a backup and a small video camera.  Extra batteries for both these and the SLR live in my bag
  • Battery Chargers
    • Even carrying extra batteries doesn't mean I won't have to charge them before return home, so the chargers always come with me on the road.
  • Extra Memory Cards
    • Both CompactFlash and SD cards to accommodate the different cameras I carry
  • Cables to Connect to a Computer
    • Both the still and video cameras connect to my laptop via USB cable.  I try to download whatever I shot before the end of each day to my computer in case I need to clear the memory cards, as a backup if something happens to my camera and/or memory card, and to see how the pictures and videos from the day turned out (in case there's something I may have a chance to reshoot before I return from wherever I'm traveling)
  • Cable to Connect to a TV
    • I rarely use this anymore, but there's still a cable with an RCA connector in case I want to plug the camera into a television and look at pictures
  • Remote Shutter Release
    • keeps the camera from wobbling when you're shooting on a tripod.  It is very difficult not to move the camera a little when you actually press the shutter button, so this inexpensive device solves that problem.  It's also a big help for long (bulb) exposures, so you don't have to hold your finger on the shutter button. Here's a link to the one I bought, but you can find similar items for your camera.
  • Lens Cleaning Stuff
    • I've been fighting a losing battle against dust and smudges on my lenses for awhile now, but some things that help are a lens cleaning pencloth, and wipes.
  • Neutral Density Filters
    • I have these mostly to allow longer exposures of fireworks photos, but any time a longer exposure is needed these are a great addition to the bag.  I bought an expensive Hoya 77mm Neutral Density ND-400 filter a year ago, which I haven't really mastered yet, but I'm liking the adjustable NEEWER® 77mm (ND2 to ND400) filter I bought a couple months ago.
  • Extra Lens Cap
    • Though I have not yet actually lost a lens cap, I've dropped one in my backpack or otherwise misplaced one for an extended period of time on more than one occasion, so I finalized purchased a spare, though I now need another for my Sigma lens
  • Cheap Poncho
    • I've spent enough time in Orlando over the past year that it pays to be prepared if the weather takes a turn for the worse.  This isn't very durable, but I got this four pack for under $5.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What's in Your Bag? (Electronics)

After listening to a recent WDW Today podcast about technology some of the hosts of that show carry with them while visiting Disney World, I've chosen to document what's in my travel bag.

All of the items below are permanently reside in my carry-on luggage, which I'll bring along for short one or two night trips or longer vacations.  When I arrive at my destination, the chargers that plug into wall outlets stay in the luggage, while the smaller items find their way into a backpack that I carry around just about everywhere I go.
  • Extra Cell Phone Battery
    • I bought an extended life battery with my Droid 2, so I carry it's original battery just in case
  • Portable Cell Phone Charger + Charging Cable
    • In ancticpation of buying a phone without a removable battery, I bought a Motorola Portable Power Pack to charge my phone on the fly.  This has worked well enough that I seldom use the second battery anymore.  Those with needs for more battery life can purchase similar gadgets that will charge their phones multiple times in one day.
  • Camera Battery Charger
    • I have two of these, one in my camera bag and one that with my carry-on luggage.
  • Cell Phone Charger
    • I bought an extra phone charger that I leave in my luggage, so I don't have to think about packing the charger that lives in my house.
  • Cell Phone Car Charger
    • I also have an extra car-charger for my phone, since I often use my phone as a navigation system while driving away from home and that runs the battery down pretty quickly.
  • Video Camera Charger
    • Even with two batteries for my video camera, it's not unusual that I'll need to recharge while on the road.
  • Laptop Charger + Extra Laptop Battery
    • I just about always bring my laptop computer along while traveling, so the charger and an extra battery (not pictured) come along too.
  • Gorillapod
    • This has been great for my point and shoot camera at night or any time a long exposure is needed and it can sometimes be useful for setting up a video camera if there's a rail or something else to lock onto.  I now have two small Gorillapods (they also make a larger model).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What's So Special About Wishes?

At some point in the past year I've become a convert.  Fireworks shows are fun, but for quite a while I preferred to use the time when most Disney World guests gather for fireworks to take advantage of the shorter lines for attractions.  After all, there's nothing all that special about watching flashes of light in the air, right?  I figured I've already seen the evening shows, so why waste time fighting the crowds to see them again?  Besides, you can still sorta watch the fireworks while you're walking around the park.  Turned out I didn't realize what I was missing.

So what changed?  Why so many questions at the start of this article?  The answer begins last April, one evening after my cousin and his family decided to head off to bed after dinner and I decided it was too early for me to turn in.  I jumped aboard a boat from Disney's Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom and arrived just as Wishes was beginning.  Rather than fight my way through the crowds on Main Street or sneak through the gift shops, I decided to stop and watch the show.  When I walked through the turnstiles I headed straight up to the stairs to the train station on Main Street in time to see the last five minutes of the show.  The following evening, I returned to the Magic Kingdom with my cousin, his wife, and their five year old son.  All of us ended the evening watching the fireworks together, this time from the middle of Main Street, standing among the crowd, hearing the oohs and ahs from people around, including those in my family, who had never seen the show before.  So, maybe there was a little more to Disney World fireworks than I remembered.

Fast forward to late June when my sister and I returned to Disney World and she and I stopped and watched Wishes twice.  In between park visits I had purchased and read How to Photograph Fireworks, an ebook from the some of the contributors to the Disney Photography Blog, so I was eager to try out what I learned.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my tripod to the park the first night we visited the Magic Kingdom.  Fortunately, that meant we watched Wishes again the second night we were in the park.  Watching the show with my sister added another layer of sentimentality to the show, as two years before her now-husband proposed to her during a fireworks cruise on Seven Seas Lagoon.

My initial foray into fireworks photography was fun, but left plenty of room for improvement.  Thus, still not completely satisfied with the images from June (the first tripod I brought along was too short and I wanted to try shooting the show through a neutral density filter), I returned to the Magic Kingdom in late January of this year.  I had a day in the parks alone after watching a hockey game in Tampa the night before, and with no one else's schedule to keep but my own, I setup for the show well ahead of time, which meant I found a location with an unobstructed view of Cinderella Castle and also gave me a chance to setup a video camera.  The visuals I captured don't do Wishes justice, but the audio is pretty remarkable.

I setup my cameras (video and still) among one of the stroller parking areas facing the Magic Kingdom's castle.  After I scoped out my great location for the Celebrate the Magic projection show and Wishes a number of people came and went, some of whom picked up their strollers, which made more room along the rail where I was stationed.  A young family soon joined me in the same location, politely asking if they would be blocking my cameras.  They weren't, and I figured that even if they were that it was more important that the kids enjoyed the show than whether or not my pictures and video turned out the way I hoped.  As Magic Kingdom cast members moved everyone out of the nearby walkway, across the masking tape line they created, I urged the family to let their kids sit at the railing next to my cameras.  The family settled in, and it must have been instant karma that my video camera recorded their joy as they were amazed by what they saw.  It's pretty easy for regular visitors to Walt Disney World to take for granted some of the amazing spectacular shows the park offers, but spend a little time with some people who haven't been there before or who don't see the shows very often and it's pretty easy to remember some of what Disney does best.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

After visiting Epcot's International Flower & Garden Festival in 2012, I returned the following year intent on capturing the park in bloom on camera. Below is my photo report.

Mickey and some of his closest friends greeted everyone at the park entrance with a backyard cookout with a cake celebrating twenty years of the Festival.

Phineas and Ferb joined the Festival, setting up shop behind Spaceship Earth.

Mickey and friends were also on display near the Festival Center.

The former Wonders of Life pavilion hosted speakers and special exhibits for the Festival.


An exhibit featuring Disney's "Horticultural Heritage" highlighted what is involved to bring the annual Festival to life and included a tribute to Disney landscaping pioneer Morgan "Bill" Evans.

An enclosed Butterfly Garden was setup in Future World, featuring flowery versions of some butterfly-sized favorite fairies.

Buzz Lightyear stands guard outside Mission Space.

Radiator Springs also came to Future World, with Buzz Lightyear and Mater in Cars-themed surroundings. The area featured some puzzles intended to make the Festival more appealing to children.

A "Garden Retreat" provided a place to sit and rest.

The Festival features more than just topiary, as flowers are present throughout the park.

Characters from the Lion King took center stage on the main path out of Future World.

Upon entering World Showcase, guests were reminded on Disney's upcoming animated release of Monster's University

Flower and Garden merchandise was hard to miss.

Norway featured a troll topiary

Flowers were all around World Showcase.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were at home outside the Germany pavilion.

The United States pavilion showed off some friends from Toy Story.

The France pavilion featured Belle and Beast.

The pathway between the France and United Kingdom pavilion included princesses with their princes.

Pooh and friends were lurking in the woods next to the United Kingdom pavilion.

Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, Tick Tock waited patiently for Captain Hook.

Special gardens were on display for those who wanted to bring new skills and knowledge back home.

A play area with Oz themed photo opportunities helped promote Disney's latest big theatrical release.