Tower of Terror Night HDR

For those of you who have attended a special event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios like Star Wars Weekend or maybe an ESPN Weekend, you know about the area past Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and to the side of the Tower of Terror. I had only been back there during the day previously.

Three weekends ago, I attended the Villain’s Bash Party in conjunction with the inaugural running of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler by runDisney. This gave me an opportunity to bring in my tripod and do some shooting for a couple of hours before my daughter, who ran in the race, crossed the finish line.

First, I want to show you what I considered the best one shot exposure. As always, the Exif data is below the photo.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 13s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length.

TIP: The lens I was using, the Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR Zoom, is a great travel lens but, when placed on a tripod, the Vibration Reduction or VR must be turned off.  The VR technology will actually cause vibrations when locked down this way. If you use a VR lens (That’s IS for you Canon people) on a tripod, read the lens’ specs to see how to properly use it.

From the setting above, I bracketed around it with eight more exposures in one stop intervals (1/2s, 1s, 2s, 4s, 8s, 25s, 60s, 120s).  The last two exposures are approximate as I was using my Apple iPhone’s Stop Watch App to know when to close the shutter as my camera does not go past 30 seconds. I used Bulb mode and manually opened and closed the shutter with a remote release.

I processed the nine photos in Photomatix Pro 4 Plugin for Aperture.  Applied a favorite preset, adjusted to my liking and finished processing in Aperture 3.x photo management and editing software.

The final image looks is a bit more HDR-ish than I was looking for.

Night HDR Image of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Night HDR Image of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 40mm focal length.

You can see how the shadowed areas were opened up and the combined exposures caught light changing over the time it took to take the photos which was done manually. I have been struggling with night time HDR images for awhile now.  Still a work in progress. 🙂 Any suggestions or comments are appreciated.

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12 Responses to Tower of Terror Night HDR

  1. mylifeincny says:

    The orange clouds definitely add to the haunted feel of the shot. So if that’s the feel you were going for I think the HDR delivers. However – the 13 sec exposure looks more “true” to me. If I were to just compare the photos without reading the back story I might prefer the colorful HDR!


    • Thanks, Debbie! Yes, the 13 second one is what I was seeing though I might go back in and open up the shadows some. I want to work on the HDR sky. Maybe learn how to drop in a different sky or change the cloud colors. Thanks for the feedback!


  2. I struggle with night HDR too. My best results come from a single RAW file. I still shoot a bracket set and then tweak the most centered exposure (or the next brighter one) to bring back the shadows and highlights. If there are still blown highlights I mask in the properly exposed highlights from an underexposed frame. Not true HDR but the results are more my style; not so “HDR-ish”. That said, Tower of Terror is a good subject for the HDR-ish look!


  3. I think the “over” Processing works well for this subject. I also like the first image. Either way it’s a win, win so good going!


  4. Both are beautiful…..bravo!!!!


  5. Kathy says:

    Great job! That is some awesome photography, Scott. I don’t think I could chose a favorite between them. (Although, looking again, am slightly partial to the first one.)


  6. Gerry says:

    Hands down, I prefer the first – but that’s jus’ li’l ol’ me. It is always interesting to see how the experiments work out. You are courageous. (How did the brilliant and beautiful daughter do in the race? Not that it matters – the brilliance and beauty are completely independent of the outcome.)


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