Webinar Grand Prize: Destination Austin with Trey

Great Prize Bundle – Thanks Photomatix!

Here’s a fun prize! This is open to all that have registered for the Photography Webinar. It starts tonight, but you can still join even up to a week late and just download the classes you missed!

  • Grand Prize: All Expenses Paid Trip to Austin to shoot an abandoned power plant with me – Thanks Photomatix for this prize
    • Plane, +Hotel (2 nights), +Car, +$100 in meals!
      • Note: Plane allotment covers anything below $750.  If you are overseas and want to make up the difference, then feel free to enter below!
  • Bonus Prize: Photoshop CS5 – I have another new copy I’ll give you when you arrive here in Austin.
  • To Enter: Leave a comment below!  People with more than one comment are disqualified.
  • Eligible: You must be registered for the Photography Webinar
  • Contest Ends May 15th at midnight CST. I’ll select a random winner and announce on May 16.
  • Questions? Contact [email protected]

And, of course there are many other prizes as well, such as a New Drobo every class. Pop over to the Webinar page to see them all listed out.

Daily Photo – The Megahangar at NASA

Here is a zoom-in of the image below to give you a sense of the size of this beast.

Imagine a giant skyscraper, but hollow and filled with people making rockets.  That’s what the VAB is.  To really get a sense of the size of this thing, look at the outline of the man standing in the distance, his body backlit by the door.

The VAB, or Vehicle Assembly Building, is the worlds largest single-story building, and it’s where NASA assembles many of the rockets, including the mighty Saturn V.  It’s also the tallest building in the US that’s not in a downtown area.   It’s situated at Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center, and it’s awesome dot com.

The thing is so big that it even has its own weather system.  In fact, on humid days it can even rain inside the building!  In my photo below, you are really only seeing part of it.  Off to the right, they are fueling up the Atlantis for its upcoming mission.  Staring through the girders from another angle, you can easily see the giant orange tank going through its pre-launch ordeal.

Getting into this place was very difficult.  I felt privileged to even get through the various security screenings and get the governmental approval to go inside.  They let in little groups of us from the Tweetup, and I have to thank Stephanie Schierholz for making it all happen.  It’s one of the mysterious places on earth I’ve always wanted to visit, so I was very excited to be inside.  My next goal is to get back inside and get up higher… perhaps even get in while they are prepping the next rocket.

I have many more shots of this building that I’ll be sharing in coming weeks and months… you guys know how I like to keep these threads and stories open for a long time!


Journey of a Lifetime in Africa

Topaz Adjust Review and Problems

If you want to know more about how the photo below was made, and why it “pops” in that way, see my full Topaz Adjust Review.

So, I still use it from time to time to add some microcontrast to images, but I notice it is going super slow. Is anyone else having this problem? I have a pretty fast Mac Pro too… I just can’t figure it out. Also, I still have an old install of Topaz Adjust 3, which I tried out… but it crashes whenever I try to run it. What a pain!

Daily Photo – Journey of a Lifetime in Africa

I have never been to Africa, but it is very high on the list. Very very high. And I understand from many of my friends that it will get very deep into me, and I’ll want to go back many times. That’s okay… and I look forward to that feeling!

This photo below is taken in Disneyworld in the Animal Kingdom. The Imagineers run around and make everything look all Africa-ey and authentic… I don’t really know how authentic this is… but I certainly liked the feeling and style of this wall, so had to take a photo!

High Dynamic Range Photo

The Mystery of the Orient

All the DisneyWorld Photos

If you want to see all my them, click on the Disney World category. After you get to the bottom, click “Previous” to see another batch of 15 or so. I have a lot… and if you love Disney like me, maybe you’ll find a few in there you like.

Daily Photo – The Mystery of the Orient

The biggest mystery here, which you may have guessed by now, is that this is not in the orient at all. This is in the World Showcase area of Epcot. In some ways, I think, Epcot has the least exciting rides and attractions of the four Disney parks in Orlando. But what it lacks in rides, it makes up for in photo ops!

My best suggestion for photographers is the following. First, if you are staying in a Disney resort, then you get special “night hours” at different parks. Be there on the Epcot night, and make sure you are as far away from the exit as possible when the park closes. Then, you can take your time walking back to the entrance and take as many photos as you like! Everything is well lit, there is nobody around, and security doesn’t even seem to mind. No one rushes you out… it’s very relaxing and perfect. And, of course, the World Showcase has all sorts of cool buildings, architecture, and landscaping… countless opportunities for great compositions.

I took this photo right outside of a great Japanese restaurant. I forgot the name, but I had some pretty good sushi. I think this place and the California Grill have the best sushi at Disney, if you are into that sort of thing.

High Dynamic Range Photo

Balloons at Disney

Daily Photo – Balloons at Disney

I’ve been trying to capture a shot of balloons at Disney forever… it took a while before I found something with which I was happy!

Do you know these balloons cost $10?  TEN DOLLARS!  A ten dollar balloon…  but they do light up.  So that’s kinda cool.  What isn’t cool is that you have to buy one for every single kid in your retinue.

One other cool thing (kinda secret) is that if it ever goes flat or pops, you can bring it back to get a free one.  Technically, you could even bring it back the next year and still get a new one.  This might go against the spirit of the deal, but it is a ten dollar balloon for the love of Disney-god.

HDR Photo

To Another World

Music in your mind…

Do you all listen to music when out taking photos? Have you ever tried it? I love putting on my noise-canceling earphones and listening to all sorts of things when I am out taking photos… I never see anyone do this, so maybe I am alone in this practice?

Daily Photo – To Another World

There are no short days at Disney! They are all long escapades, filled with happiness, crying, sticky fingers, strollers hitting you in the achilles tendons, and scary people that should not really be allowed to the buffet area.

This was another one of those very long days. Sometimes, towards the end of the day, one of the only things on my mind is getting back home to collapse — especially after carrying around my tripod and D3X the whole day! But, on this particular exit from Epcot, everything lined up so nicely that I just could not help myself!

HDR Photo

The Grand Entrance

The International HDR Tutorial!

Here is a reminder that we have our tutorial in 3 different languages now!

Daily Photo – The Grand Entrance

This is the entryway to the Portofino Hotel at Universal Orlando. It’s a pretty posh place. I get nervous when I see young kids running around these places at full speed. I get really nervous when I see my own kids doing it!

We stayed here a few nights and it proved to be a perfect location for accessing Universal Studios. There is a little lake/canal system in the back that connects to the main park so you can take little boats back and forth. More importantly, there are a ton of interesting things scattered around for photography!

HDR Photo

The Lego Dragon

New Print Available!

The Adventure Tree, one of my favorite, warm photos, is now available as a limited edition print. This is a wonderful tree I found sticking out alone in a forest in Patagonia. I used a variety and mix of textures to give it a warm and timeless feel.

HDR Photo

Daily Photo – The Lego Dragon

There are these Lego stores popping up everywhere it seems. That’s okay with me… Who doesn’t like a good Lego set?

This one is just outside the Lego Store at Downtown Disney in Orlando. They have a few of those gigantic Lego beasts that were mysteriously built. Anyone that is sensible knows that it takes many hours to build something roughly the size of a human hand. So, these monstrosities must be either built by aliens or an army of industrious Germans that parachute in during the wee hours.

HDR Photo

The Tori Gate

Free London PhotoWalk!

Don’t forget! It will be a lot of fun… It will be at sunset on September 10th. Exact details to come soon.

My general plan is to get started about 30 minutes before sunset. We’ll get started and meander through an interesting and scenic route for about 90 minutes. My PhotoWalks are always laid back and fun. All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced. I’ll stop several times along the way to set up, talk about my shot, answer questions, and the like. And then we’ll meander more until we find another cool spot. Of course, no one is required to listen — people can come and go as they please and seek their own scenic fortune!

After the event, we can all meet at a local pub or cafe and get drinks/snacks and hang out… that will be fun too. I look forward to meeting y’all!

Daily Photo – The Tori Gate

What a perfect post-storm dusk! I was going photo-crazy.

This is a replica of the exact same place I have been near Nikko, Japan. The Nikko one is quite hard to shoot! There are many things in the way, and setting up for the ideal shot is no easy matter. Plus, when I was in Japan, the sky was not so great that evening. It’s the luck of the cards sometimes!

But this evening in Disney World was ultra-perfect. Epcot is the park that has all the little international areas. Japan, Germany, France, etc etc. It’s all a little silly and fake — but it’s also very cool and scenic! I don’t know how it can be both… but it is. Those Disney imagineers do an incredible job of making things look dreamy. I do the best I can to capture the magic as I saw it.

HDR Photo

Beautiful Disney World at Sunset

Minor Altercation

A few nights ago, I had a minor photography/police incident at Downtown Disney (Twitter followers saw the ordeal realtime). Everything is resolved now, and maybe a result of the whole thing is that security will be easier on photographers in the future. We live in hope!

Now, I’ve never had a problem using tripods or “professional-looking equipment” at any of the Disney Parks, like the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, but Downtown Disney seems to have a special set of rules. I was approached by security when they saw the tripod – they asked what I was doing. I said I was a blogger and was taking personal photos. They pressed me more. They asked if I had permission, and I said that in fact I did have permission, although that should not matter; I’m just a photographer taking photos of a place to show the world some beautiful things.

I didn’t have my ID with me, since everyone in Disney World carries around these little Disney ID cards that you get at the resorts. You charge food, goodies, and everything on it. You don’t need a wallet or anything, so I just leave that back at the resort. Since I didn’t have ID, they called in the Sheriff’s Department. I called my wife, who was shopping elsewhere with the kids to swoop in and vouch for me.

My wife was of course quite worried and upset, seeing me surrounded by four security guards and a newly-arrived member of the Sheriff’s department. Luckily (I guess?), she had her ID with her. The police took all her information down (why?) and then left. I assume they finally got the right people on the phone at Disney that knew who I was and that I had permission.

However, I still strongly believe that even if I didn’t have permission, that I, or any other photographer, should be allowed to take photos. It’s 2010! Everyone else is taking crappy photos with their mobile phones and uploading to Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and all over the place. I’m doing the same thing as them, but mine are simply taken with a bigger, nicer camera. What’s the crime? Even more importantly, all I’m doing is promoting the beauty of this place to hundreds of thousands of people here on the blog.

With what little influence I have at Disney, I suggested that they tell the powers-that-be to stop bothering photographers (I know good man William Beem, among others, also had a run-in). I understand there are some new conversations in the works, but I don’t know if anything will really change.   Let’s hope so.

Daily Photo – Beautiful Disney World at Sunset

Hey, you know… I can’t stay mad at Disney for too long.  I think those issues are just at Downtown Disney.

This photo below, from Epcot, is one of the reasons I keep coming back again and again.  It’s such an amazing place, and Epcot may be my favorite new spot for photography at Disney.

This is the “France” area of the World Showcase, which is a huge lake that is circumnavigated by about 10 different countries or so.  Each one has a cluster of buildings set in the theme of the country.  They are all quite authentic, and the areas are staffed with people from the countries.  The Norway area has authentic-looking and -sounding Norwegians.  The Germany area is filled with Germans in postcard-German-clothes.  The Canada area has people that look and sound like Americans.

The afternoon had ripped open a wicked thunderstorm on the whole park.  It was subsiding around sunset, so the clouds were swirling about with these wonderful tempestuous formations.  I set up to take this shot before moving over to the Japanese area to watch the big fireworks show on the lake.  While I was taking these shots, by the way, I had sent my family into one of the pastry shoppes here in the France area to load up on wonderful little morsels to keep us fully loaded during the fireworks show!

If you have seen the wonderful fireworks show at Epcot — where is your favorite place to stand?  I’ve got a new spot.. I’ll reveal that with a bunch of new tips/ideas soon!


The Galaxy Cafe

New Prints Available

In the fray of the new servers, I missed a week’s announcement of new prints that are now available. They are two of my favorites, of course. As always, each of them is a Limited Edition Numbered Print, so each one is unique and collectible.

The first one, “A Razor to the Sky” nearly killed me to capture… even if I accidentally shattered my camera into a million pieces whilst climbing that icy cliffside in the Andes at 4 AM in the pitch black — I would have been happy just to see the morning sun hit these mountains. It was so lucky to see the mystical peaks of Fitz Roy without them being covered in clouds… but I felt happy enough to survive!

The second one, “The Skeletons at Sunrise“, is a different sort of photo.  These are the old dead trees from the fires of Yellowstone back in 1998, just as the morning fog is beginning to burn off.



Daily Photo – The Galaxy Cafe

When I was recently at Universal Orlando, Ethan and I made a late night getaway to do some exploration. We were staying at the Portofino, and they have a wonderful boat system that skirts you down to the main park. We jumped on the boat after dark to go down and visit this little area of shops, restaurants, and dozens of other interesting things to see and experience. I’ve gotten him used to the idea of roaming aimlessly, taking photos of this and that, with no real goal other than exploration and noticing little things.

Ethan and I stopped at a tiny trinket store and bought a few necklaces and bracelets for ourselves and the girls. After that, we grabbed a few hot cocoas, got on the boat, and drifted back home. We took our time, drank our hot cocoas, and helped each other put on our bracelets.

Galaxy Cafe

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