Some Tips for shooting various rides
Pirates of the Caribbean
- The most difficult challenge of shooting PotC is actually not the challenge of getting a decent exposure, but getting around the super hot lighting and achieving a correct white balance. Solution – shoot in RAW and then lower the temperature of the image to around 2200 – 2250 and slide the saturation slider to the left to between -25 and -33 in post, depending on when it starts to look good to you. This will lower those reds/oranges and begin to introduce some natural colors of costumes and sets back into the image (with a proper nod, I learned that trick from flickr friend CodyWDWfan, whose flickr site can be seen here)
- Using a 50mm prime lens works well on PotC. However, a wider angle lens can be fun to use since most of the sets are fairly large. I love using my Canon 24-70 on it.
The Haunted Mansion
- The biggest challenge here is the extreme darkness – set your camera to shutter priority and the shutter speed equal to the inverse of your focal length (1/50 – 1/40 sec. or slower), and crank up your ISO as high as your camera will allow and still produce usable results. I haven’t found overexposure to be a big problem in any area of the HM except for the singing busts and the bride, so I usually swing for the fence with ISO 12,800 and reduce the ISO two or three stops before shooting those areas.
- Use manual focus and try to bring the candle lights into focus. I haven’t found depth of field to be a big issue, so I always try to focus on the candle lights which usually results in the rest of the scene being in focus too.
- Set up your custom functions just in case – I usually set up a custom function “favorite” setting to be around 1/4 sec with ISO at either 3,200 or 6,400 with exposure compensation set to -1. In the event of a ride stop, I roll the mode dial to this custom setting and keep firing. I will also brace the camera on the front safety bar or rest my arm on the safety bar while holding the camera steady. It also helps if your camera has a live view feature for this application.
- Use the ride vehicle in some way to help steady your camera whenever possible (especially in the event of a ride stop as mentioned above). If you can successfully do this, you will be able to use slightly slower shutter speeds.
Peter Pan’s Flight – (the most difficult dark ride to shoot, in my opinion)
- Main challenge here is the motion and speed of the boats. They move pretty quick and erratic when you’re trying to snap pictures. Solution – try to go for a higher shutter speed to stop the movement and as high of an ISO as possible.
- Use the main tips that I suggested for the Haunted Mansion, you might want to also use exposure compensation as some areas of this ride can be pretty bright. You might also have better luck with auto focus and focus lock on Peter Pan’s Flight.
Given the constantly improving camera technology out there, it’s only a matter of time before most DSLR’s have the built in functionality to capture even the darkest dark ride scenes. At that point, the challenge will have evolved from simply capturing a static scene to coming up with a creative composition on a ride where everyone essentially has the same vantage point.
For me, shooting the dark rides is a lot like playing golf. I’m a terrible golfer, but the one or two good shots I hit while playing 18 holes are the ones that keep me going back to play more. In the dark rides, the one or two decent shots I walk away with keep me heading back inside the Haunted Mansion with lenses blazing.
Editors Note: I want to thank Todd for all the work he put into this three part series of posts. I know that a lot of time and effort went into this and I definitely appreciate it. If you enjoyed this series as much as I did (or have any questions), please leave a comment below to let Todd know.