On a recent trip to Disneyland I rediscovered the HDR app I installed several months ago called, of all things, HDR Camera. I have the Android version, so if you are Apple-inclined, I'm not sure if this applies. HDR ( or High Dynamic Range) photography is rad, combining different exposures from multiple images of the same subject to produce an image entirely new and impossible to get from just one single image. For an example, check out my buddy Charlie's HDR of a snow day downtown. My app can't do images of this quality, but it is good enough to offer a different photo experience while at Disneyland.
The app takes 4 photos, each at different exposures, and meshes them all into one picture. Then it gives you some ways to adjust things like color saturation and contrast to sort of dial in your new HDR image. Most of the time I end up tuning the saturation and contrast sliders up all the way, but that's just me and that's how I like the images that come from this particular app. The hard part is holding the camera still while it cycles through the four pictures. Just breathe out slowly and you'll be fine.
Ok, so the details are done, let's look at some pics! Here are two photos I took of the Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland, something I've been wanting to see for a long time now. See it: it's cool, and something not many people know about. It is a bit too cheesy at times, but hey - who cares?
The Daper Dans are singing, and sounding great. The first image is just my little Droid X on Automatic. The second is another pic I took using the HDR app. As you can see, everything pops a bit more, while not looking too cartoonish, as can happen with HDR photos. Nothing fancy, but it does enable you to take a more vivid photo with minimal work.
I've been really into the Haunted Mansion lately, and on this trip it just screamed HDR to me.
These were taken inside the mansion, in the elevator that takes you down to the ride itself. The top one is normal camera function, the second is the HDR app. The differences here are clear - not only are the colors brigher, but you can see some detail on the gargoyle to the left of the frame. Some of the right gargoyle and the candle flames are blurred out, however, and this is a good example of the downside of mixing 4 pictures in a free HDR app. I'm not sure why this happens, though I imagine it's probably a factor of matching all four pics into one and accounting for camera movement. Oh well, I'm not looking to print these, just to have a little fun.
Nothing fancy here, I was just testing it on the plaque that sits above the fountain in line for Pirates. Ever notice it? It's in HDR, so the color of the tile and grout is a bit more saturated, and I think the detail of the engraving is more pronounced. Not to mention the rad color scheme near the bottom, closest to the water.
HDR is better when you have some cool lighting to play with, and night time at Disney California Adventure offers a playground of lighting effects. This shot is of the zephyr ride (which always seems to be broken when I want to ride it ... ) and the entrance to Paradise Pier.
THIS is what HDR can do for your images. Never mind the ugly blue cropping at the bottom, just look at the almost neon blue sky with the lights playing off the wires. Good shot for a free app. Try taking this with your camera phone and the sky will be dark and the lights blown out.
Leaving DCA, I had to snap this pic of the new sign at the entrance, again reaching for the softness of the HDR app. This was my favorite photo from the trip.
They don't look all that different, but I think the bottom image in HDR is more interesting when you look down at the gates and bars.
I hope this makes you want to futz around with some free HDR apps in the future. They can be great fun, but they eat your battery alive and don't always produce great results, but I think it makes you look at Disneyland in a new way, while looking for cool photos to take. It's not a fix-all for bad photography, but more of an extra tool in your bag to have some more fun.