Using HDR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

In a previous post I wrote back in 2009, I detailed the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique as one way to photograph a scene with a big range of light from very dark to very light. In the article, I used an HDR image I did of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Expedition EVEREST attraction taken from the bridge to Africa. Since then, Photomatix, the software I use for HDR processing, has gone through two version updates and I have gotten better at identifying the right conditions for taking a set of photos for high dyanmic range.

Last December, I returned to the same location. The Golden Hour was in full swing with the Sun setting and bathing the top of Expedition EVEREST in beautiful warm light. The rest of the scene was in deep shadows with pops of bright sunlight coming through. I tried a few single exposures but either got the mountain blown out or the shadows almost in total blackness. I knew a set of photos for HDR was the answer. I took several sets and found a set of 7 photos from -3EV to +3EV captured the entire range of light. After running the photos through Photomatix and finishing up the processing in a photo editor, this was the result:

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 1000, EV 0, 98mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

I feel this photo is a good representative of what my eyes were seeing. That is how I use HDR. Other photographers might come up with a totally different image. I also made sure I took both Landscape and Portrait versions of the scene in several focal lengths.

Expedition EVEREST rising above Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
HDR Image of Expedition EVEREST.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 190mm focal length, tripod, HDR Image.

Notice the difference in the second HDR image from the first one. The Sun was much lower in the second photo so the light was highly reduced on the top of Expedition EVEREST and created more subtle and muted colors.

Next time you are faced with a scene you are having trouble exposing for, create a set of photos and give HDR processing a try. HDR software, like Photomatix, can be downloaded for trial periods. Have fun!

Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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One Reply to “Using HDR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom”

  1. Hi Scott –

    The 1st photo is great! The 2nd photo is spectacular and is my favorite! The shades of pinks, blues and whites on the mountains are amazing – they pop! It reminds me of the colors of the sky on a warm summer sunset. The bridge lights, which have a nice warm glow, and the reflections on the glass-like water make it all come together perfectly to make a very relaxing and exciting photo.

    – Jeff

    Scott replies: Thank you, Jeff!