Scenes from Disney Parks: Week 1


Welcome to a new, possibly recurring photo-sharing post here on DisneyTouristBlog! Back when I started this blog, photos were a key component, with “photo of the day” posts being the most common posts here. Over time, I noticed that those photo of the day posts weren’t popular compared to the meatier, text-driven posts. This was both surprising and unsurprising: my photography is probably what brought a majority of readers here when the blog started, but most people probably don’t want to read a full blog post about a single photo.

Photos remain a key component of the blog, but mostly now in that they are sprinkled in throughout posts on particular trip planning topics and in photography reviews. After receiving messages from readers asking where I “found” a particular photo and “who took it?” I thought it might be time to get back to my roots and highlight some photography here on the blog. I do take photos of more than just cupcakes and corn dogs, and I feel like there’s something wrong with the fact that I often find myself editing photos of random food and hotel rooms right after trips, while the “good” shots gather dust.

The idea with this new series of posts is to highlight some of my recent, new photos from a particular Disney destination in a single post. Doing a single post with several photos means less hassle for you seeing multiple photos in a single post instead of a single photo of the day post, and allows me to share some photos that aren’t necessarily “home runs” in themselves, but work well to round out a set of other shots. This also helps encourage me to make editing my more artistic photos a priority.

After each photo I’ll try to share a few thoughts on the photo, as well as some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D810 DSLR–check out my full Nikon D810 Review for more details about the camera. I also have more sample photos from the D810 here. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it.

Hopefully casual readers enjoy seeing new sets of photos, and hopefully the photographers find my technical info useful. My goal is to do this about once per week as long as I have enough new photos to do it, and as long as you all find it interesting. Oh, and to answer those reader questions…I found the photos on my memory cards and I took them. ;)

Let’s kick this off by taking a look at some of my late-summer, early-fall photos from Walt Disney World… (more…)

Nikon D810 Sample Photos

Those who read this site for photography know that I recently upgraded from my Nikon D600 to a Nikon D810. In my Nikon D810 Review, I wasn’t short on praise for the camera, calling it “possibly the most well-rounded DSLR ever” and saying that “it’s a camera that exceeded my high expectations and I feel is a very worthy upgrade for many serious photographers, even at its price-point. I can already tell that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Well, I’ve had the camera for a couple of months now, so I thought I’d report back on how I feel about it. First, the bad. The files are huge. There are ways to deal with this and use some of the smaller size settings (as I touch upon in the review), but I’ve been afraid to use them. They would be perfect for mundane photo tasks like taking photos of food (don’t exactly need a 36MP photo of a churro), but I’m scared that I’ll forget to switch back when I have to take “important” landscape photos.

The only other downside, if you want to call it that, is that Nikon recently announced the Nikon D750, a “lower” level full frame DSLR that has a tilt screen, which would be great for me since I take a lot of photos at ground level. Looking at that feature plus the more conservative MP count, plus lower price actually makes me want to try out that camera. (Why couldn’t Nikon include the tilt screen in the D810?!) On the other hand, the controls on the Nikon D810 are better plus dynamic range, image quality, durability, and a number of other things are all better on the Nikon D810. Even though I love the Nikon D810, if both were announced at the same time, I think I would have opted for the Nikon D750 and $1,000 in my pocket. It would be a tough call.

The upsides? Literally everything else. Dynamic range is great, the controls are great, image quality is exceptional, and, in addition to several other things, the camera just flat out performs and is fun to use. Maybe it’s a good thing both the Nikon D750 and D810 weren’t announced at the same time, because I have no regrets about buying this camera, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t go the cheaper route. Your mileage may vary on whether it’s worth the money–for many people the D750 (or models even lower than that) will be more than enough camera. I understand that most people do not need a professional-grade DSLR, so this post is relevant to only like 2% of you, but hopefully it’s helpful to that 2%!

Since that first post only really had boring photos of my pets, the city of Indianapolis, and random junk around my house, I thought I’d follow up on that post with some real world images that I captured at Walt Disney World to demonstrate what the camera is truly capable of accomplishing. Keep in mind that–for the most part–since I’m trying to show how the camera performs when pushed to the limits, these aren’t going to be your standard “pretty” photos (most of my tripod night shots don’t really challenge the camera). Below each photo I’ll provide some technical details.

If you are not a photographer but are a Walt Disney World fan looking for some photos, you can scroll past all of the jargon and simply enjoy the pictures… (more…)

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC Lens Review

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This review covers the pros and cons of the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC, including its biggest feature: image stabilization. Being the only 24-70mm f/2.8 lens to have stabilization (Vibration Compensation in Tamron parlance), this lens is a pretty big deal. It’s also significantly cheaper than its Canon and Nikon OEM counterparts, thus almost begging the question: “is this lens too good to be true?”

That’s what I wondered when I first purchased this lens. I had previously purchased the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and returned it after a few weeks of use because I was disappointed by its performance versus its cost. (Perhaps my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 had created unrealistic expectations?) It’s not that there was anything wrong with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, but for its price, it was sort of a blah lens. Sure, it produced some really sharp photos and as a mid-range walk-around zoom it covered arguably the most important focal range, but I just didn’t feel like the lens had any tricks up its sleeve.

With that very subjective description, now is probably a good time to mention that this is a “real world” review, meaning that it’s based on my use of the lens in the regular course of taking photos in the field and how I felt about it as a result. It’s not based on arbitrary photos in a sterile lab–because no real photographer is out there shooting lab charts for fun or for clients. As an actual photographer taking real photos, I see more value in how the lens performs during ordinary shooting, and how edited photos from it look. If you want to stare at a bunch of photos of sharpness and color charts cropped to 100%, this is the wrong review for you. 

Anyway…after returning the Nikon, I decided to buy the Tamron. The 24-70mm is a lens most full frame photographers should have in their bag, and I was intrigued by the image stabilization. Plus, I figured if it was going to be a boring lens, I might as well ‘downgrade’ and save a bit of money. I knew I would end up needing this focal range, anyway.

Fortunately, it turned out not to be the boring lens I was expecting… (more…)

Nikon D810 Review

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This real-world Nikon D810 review features photos I’ve taken with the new camera, comparison photos to the Nikon D600, and my thoughts after using the camera in the field. Note that this review covers an “off the shelf” production model of the Nikon D810 that I purchased and have actually used to take photos, not a pre-production model that a rep let me hold for like 5 minutes. Most “reviews” I read prior to pulling the trigger to order the camera were of the latter variety, so I thought I’d mention that this is a real review of the real camera. I’ve actually used the Nikon D810 and have edited a number of its RAW files in Adobe Photoshop CC thanks to the new ACR 8.6 release candidate.

If you’re reading a Nikon D810 review, chances are that you’re already read like 57 other pre-release articles and could recite the spec sheet in your sleep (I know spec sheets are the stuff of my dreams!), but in case you haven’t, here’s some perfunctory spec information. The Nikon D810 is a 36.3MP DSLR with no AA filter and an EXPEED 4 engine that makes image processing faster and improves autofocus speed and accuracy. The camera features native ISO of 64 to 12800 (expandable to ISO 32-51200), 51-point autofocus with Group Area AF mode, electronic front-curtain shutter and redesigned mirror mechanism to reduce camera shake, an increased buffer size, sRAW capability, 5 FPS in full frame mode and up to 7 FPS in DX mode, higher resolution LCD screen, split screen zoom in live view for leveling, and a variety of new video features (albeit no 4K). These are the big new things for the D810…but you probably already knew all of that.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll get something else out of the way up front: if you’re reading Nikon D810 reviews because you’re on the fence and are half-hoping for a reason not to purchase the new DSLR, you’ve come to the wrong place. The Nikon D810 is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s the camera I’ve wanted since the Nikon D4, D800, and D600 were all announced within months of one another in 2012.

As you’ll read in this review, I think the Nikon D810 is basically the perfect camera, at least for my purposes as a landscape photographer… (more…)

Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens Review

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The Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX is a 180 degree autofocus fisheye lens for full frame cameras that offers a less-expensive, third party alternative to fisheye lenses by Canon and Nikon. This review of the Sigma fisheye will cover it as compared to the more expensive Nikon 16mm fisheye and to the budget Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 fisheye (see our full review of the Zenitar fisheye) to give you an idea of which fisheye lens might be the best option for you.

I’ve long been a big fan of fisheye lenses, as I really love photographing aquatic life. (A little corny fish eye humor for you to start this review off on the wrong foot…) I’ve owned or tested seven different fisheye lenses, so I’m fairly familiar with the strengths and weaknesses various lenses bring to the table. I also have to admit that while I am an avid fisheye user, there is a lot of potential for overusing the lenses because they are so fun, and that not everyone will like the (what’s sometimes called) gimmicky look.

When used in moderation, a fisheye lens is a great lens to have, but it may not be the best lens to devote significant funds towards unless you will be using it regularly. Whether this Sigma fisheye lens is perfect for you as a less-expensive option or whether you should go for more of a budget fisheye lens is something to give consideration before buying.

Before going any further, if you’re using a crop sensor DSLR (and if you don’t know whether you are or not, chances are that you are shooting on a crop sensor camera), this is not the lens for you. Instead, opt for the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, which remains my favorite crop sensor fisheye lens. My Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 review praises that lens for its cheap price, great optical quality, and unique characteristics. 

As is the case with all of my photography reviews, this is a “real world” review, meaning that it’s based on my use of the lens in the regular course of taking photos in the field, not arbitrary photos in a sterile lab. Some people love to photograph lab charts and look at straight out of camera shots at 100% to take a pixel-peeping look at things, but I’m not one of those people. As an actual photographer who actually takes photos, I see more value in how the lens actually performs in actual scenarios, and how edited photos from it actually look. As such, that’s how I review lenses. Actually! ;)

With that said, let’s take a look at what makes this Sigma fisheye special… (more…)