Friday, August 21, 2015

Wizarding World Eye Candy: My Best Shots

I've been fumbling around in Adobe Lightroom more lately, and it's made me fall in love with photo editing all over again. So last week I went through all of my Universal Potter photos, grabbed some favorites, and edited them up.

'Til now I've been doing most of my editing in a combination of iPhoto (for basic stuff) and Perfect Photo Suite 7. I still like Perfect Photo - it's amazing for detail work - but it's slow going with big batches, like convention pics. Lightroom, on the other hand, has this miraculous "presets" tool, which speeds up workflow a zillion percent, and has some extra fun features besides.

I'm really pleased with how these came out, so I hope you'll forgive the few repeats - though even those have been newly spruced up (and I think improved) in Lightroom. Enjoy!

My favorite architectural piece in either of the Potter areas. Gah, I love this fountain. 

That's an HDR shot, which gives it all that great texture. I love the colors, too: almost monochromatic, but with subtle teals and purples in the upper right corner.

 One of the winged boars perched high above the castle entrance.  

And my favorite castle shot, taken from the side:

It's tough to get a good shot of Hogwarts on a sunny day; the glare bleaches out all the color and tries to turn the whole thing into a silhouette. I did extreme boosts on color saturation, shadows, and detail for this one.

 A repeat, but now with more color:

One of the puppeteer performers:
The puppet shows (there are two) still manage to get me right in the feels, every time I see them. So, so good.

 The clock tower in Hogsmeade:

When the hour strikes that little door up there opens, and a carved owl comes out! Can't tell you how many visits it took before I noticed that.

 The Gringotts statue:

I didn't de-saturate the background; that's just a gray wall behind him. I boosted the color and clarity, and added a vignette. I love how vivid the gold looks, and the crisp lines on his face.

Hey, I just realized it's been entirely too long since I terrorized you guys with creepy dolls!

 Ahh, MUCH better.

This doll is on a high shelf - behind glass - inside the Bourgin and Burkes shop in Knockturn Alley. I love her, and I'm forever trying to get a good shot.

Now here's the creepy part (yes, we're just getting to it) - see how she's looking to the left in that shot? 

Now look at this one, taken with my cell phone on an earlier trip:

 Tell me that eye didn't move.

And then sleep sweet, y'all. :D

No, no, I won't leave you with that; here, have a pretty photo chaser: 

This shot is John's favorite. She's one of the back up singers (aka "Banshees") for Celestina Warbeck. I used Perfect Photo's "Focus" feature to create that subtle shaft of light on her face, like she's looking into a sunbeam. (Focus is one of the tools I haven't figured out how to recreate in Lightroom, btw, and it's incredibly useful.) Then I boosted her color and contrast in LR.

Another repeat, with a color and clarity boost:

And this:


I have hundreds of WWoHP pics sitting unedited in my iPhoto, because I haven't thought they were worth tweaking. I plucked this next one out on a whim, though, gave it a quick edit, and was surprised by how much detail came out once I brightened it up:

I'm not sure what that mist is, since I'm sure it wasn't misty at the time. Maybe it's the 300% humidity? ;) Either way, I like how the head is so crisp, like it's popping through the fog.

And finally, the shot that surprised me most:

Her bloody patches still make me sad every time I see her, even if she DID just escape. 
(Am I maybe too emotionally invested in a fictional, fake dragon? YEPPERS.)

As you know, the dragon sits atop Gringotts bank, waaaay up there:

I took that close-up with a 75-300 zoom lens, standing in the middle of the side street off to the left. No tripod. 

Here's the same photo, zoomed in:

You can actually see the veins in her eyeball. And every pebble of her skin looks as crisp as if I were five feet away, not a few hundred. How cool is that?? Just a lucky shot in every sense of the word, since my others weren't nearly as sharp.

Hope you guys enjoyed the eye candy! If you'd like to see more of my best Wizarding World shots, I've compiled them all in an album here on Flickr.

Technical Note: My camera is a Canon 7D, and I typically use a 17-50 lens. The mermaid fountain & street view were both taken with a wide-angle, though, and several of the close-ups were taken with the zoom lens.


  1. These are great! I don't live anywhere near Florida, so when I do travel to Universal and Disney I tell myself I'm going to take lots of pictures but then I tend to get swept up in the magic and don't get that many. I can't get too upset because it means I'm having tons of fun, but then I see pictures like this and I wish I had enough time there to take it easy and get more interesting shots.

  2. What spectacular photos! I really hope we can get to Orlando some day. My daughters are huge Harry Potter fans and would just die if they could see all of this in person.

  3. As a general rule...I stink at photography. I'm impatient and things just never turn out quite the way I want. I've always wanted to be better...but figured I should stick with my other 800 hobbies. Your pictures are SO gorgeous, I'm tempted to try again and make it 801. Seriously wonderful pics!

  4. You're pictures are great! We are there FREQUENTLY but don't have awesome cameras so we've never seen that level of detail on the dragon even though we're standing right in front of her! :-)

  5. I love the mermaid fountain! It almost looks like a comic book!

  6. Struck by the fact that the woman holding the puppet looks SO MUCH like the puppet !

  7. I just started using Lightroom a few months ago when I was shooting my daughter's play, and I was able to do so much with those shots, even with my VERY limited knowledge. I really should,take a class, because I'm kind of all,over the place in there...
    Now you've really got me wanting to get back to Universal! Some stunning stuff (and creepy!).

  8. You take such gorgeous photos! I really enjoy seeing how you edit them, too. I am an inexpert user of Lightroom, but I absolutely love it. You might want to check out the adjustment brushes-- I'm not exactly sure what the Focus tool you mentioned does, but the adjustment brush will allow you to add brightness (among about a gazillion other things) to exactly the spots you want. When I figured out how to *start* using them (because I certainly haven't figured them out completely, not by any stretch of the imagination!) it was like the heavens opened and angels began singing, haha! A blog that has been so useful and interesting to me is the Lightroom Killer Tips blog. All kinds of information-- for all levels of users of LR.
    I can't wait to see the amazing things you will do!!!


    1. P.S. We are going to Disney World in January-- my first time since I was a freshman in high school, so it's been a while! I can only hope that I can get photos a fraction as beautiful as yours! :)

  9. I love those dragon photos, especially the extreme zoom. I don't know what it is about that picture, but I almost expected the eye to shift and look at me. Wonderful!

  10. Thank you. I am re-living my vacation with your photos!

  11. So, I embiggened to check my hypothesis, but she's looking the same direction in both shots and it's a trick of the light making it look like she's looking the other way.

  12. Jen, thank you for sharing these and for reminding me I need to send an e-mail because I will be at Universal in March!

    Judy P, thank you for staving off nightmares!

  13. I love photo posts! I appreciate that you share the editing you do instead of posting the unedited versions and saving the good stuff for yourself. :-)

    -Just Andrea

  14. Stunning pics. WWOHP is one of my favorite places I've visited. I have far too many photos to have time to edit. You've done a great job.

  15. Awww, c'mon Jen! The humidity is only 299.98% here! Great pics and I am not a HP fan. (Don't hate me!)

  16. Just an FYI that you're not the only one who all but tears up thinking of the Gringott's dragon and her wounds...poor mistreated beast!

  17. Your pictures make me want to go back and re-do our day at Universal. Our week was beautiful for all of our days at Disney, and then our last day, it rained so hard and was so cold when we went to WWoHP. We ended up having lunch at Hogsmeade and then going back to our hotel. :(

    Also, if we do go back to Orlando, I will contact you so we can meet up!!! I wish I'd done that last time!

  18. The second to last photo is amazing I'm in love, that's how I imagine the street looking coming up to start of the school year, everyone out shopping supplies. LOVE it,

  19. gorgeous!
    and lightroom can recreate it, i've done it.
    i just can't remember how right now.

  20. Long shots with a big lens are like sniping. Breath out and trigger between heartbeats. Women have a slight advantage when it comes to doing that, actually (something the Soviets used to their advantage during WWII). The advantage to Digital is you can hammer away and all it costs is some memory, instead of rolls of film that, even if you got a good shot is still able to be messed up in development. But it does give you a ton more pictures you need to go through for sorting good from bad.

  21. I got to go back at the end of May and it was so so so amazing. We live in Illinois and I would recommend to any fan that it totally worth scrimping and saving to see it.

  22. Lightroom is the best! I've been using it for years and it has saved me so much dang time. If you're looking for some great use-right-now tutorials the Clickin Moms blog has some great ones. :)

  23. I was just looking at some old family snapshots scanned by a relative. Part of my job is digitizing historical materials so to my eyes the scanning was fairly poor. BUT you have to think of the original sources, prints from one-hour photo from negatives created by cameras that appear to be barely be able to to focus. You really had to be a professional back then (including up to the 1990s) to get clear, crisp, high quality photographs. We are wonderfully spoiled now!

  24. It's obvious what the mist is...wisps of dragon breath!

  25. I might get to go to Universal this summer for a senior trip, this just makes me more excited!

  26. called the dragon a 'she'. From my readings, dragons with wings are all male. Anyone else?

    1. I'm sure there's lore to support that, but at Diagon Alley, at least, the cast members refer to the dragon as a female. Now you've got me curious if there's anything official saying she's a she, though!


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