Matt’s Top Disney Photography

In Episode 13, we talked a bit about our enjoyment of taking photographs at the Disney theme parks.  We mentioned that we’d be sharing some of our favorite shots here on the blog because, well, if pictures are a thousand words, we would have been talking for quite a bit more time than our podcast would allow to describe them all.  Besides, photos are meant to be a feast for the eyes, not the ears.

It wasn’t easy narrowing down the images I wanted to share.  I was planning on only doing my favorite 5 but I’ve expanded that to my Top 10.  I’ll describe a bit why I chose each particular image and perhaps give a bit of detail.  Feel free to click each one for a larger size than what is displayed here …

BTB1301This was the photo I talked about on the podcast as being both my best and my favorite.  It is also considered my most “interesting” by way of Flickr’s algorithms.  I was interested in getting a nice nighttime image of one of the most photographic vistas at Disney’s California Adventure so I brought my tripod and my Nikon Coolpix 5700 camera and played with the manual settings a bit to produce this.  I did very little post-processing — this image is very near SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) as any image I’ve taken.  I love the brilliant colors of Paradise Pier contrasting with the black night sky and reflected in Paradise Bay.  I was really pleased with how this came out and it gave me confidence to pursue more photography with a higher grade of camera.

BTB1302One of the nice parts about using a digital SLR is not only better manual controls but the ability to switch to “faster” lenses.  I always wanted to take on-ride photographs but I’m a firm believer in not using flash on dark rides (they don’t really come out well anyway).  This one wound up being one of my favorites … I call it my “money shot.”  It’s a challenge to shoot in low light on a moving boat with no flash but it is possible to “freeze” the motion by using a high ISO and a low aperture setting with a “nifty 50″ lens, which lets in more light with a faster shutter speed than other lenses I own.

BTB1303I’ve included this shot of Mike Wazowski from the Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue attraction at Disney California Adventure because it came out really well.  I consider this shot to be my “better to be lucky than good” shot.  Mounted another fast lens (I think it was a 1.8/35mm lens), set the manual settings to what I thought should produce good shots in a dark-ride environment and went to town.  I got several nice images from my first few rides through Monstropolis but this one was hands down the best of the bunch.  I don’t think I could duplicate it if I tried.

BTB1304This is a photograph from the Playhouse Disney attraction, also at Disney California Adventure.  Again, I got lucky that I was able to squeeze the shutter button at just the right time to get all of the tools eyes looking and everyone fairly well in focus during another low-light situation.  The difference here from the shot before is that I had visited the show so many times with my daughter that I had plenty of experimentation with my camera setting to know that I had a good chance of capturing the image that I wanted.  Still, half a second too early or too late and this wouldn’t have been nearly as nice of a picture.

BTB1305I like taking photos during the various shows at the Disney theme parks.  While this isn’t the best example of what I’ve captured, I really like how it turned out.  I tend to not do a lot of post-processing of my images beyond some simple color correction and sharpening but for this image, I had to do a bit more.  It is actually a composite of two shots I took during the show.  I like the red glow and smoke of the Cave of Wonders in one picture and the positioning of Aladdin in another, so I Photoshopped them together to make the best single picture possible.  Having used a tripod might have made this process easier but I was able to line up the two handheld shots well enough to effective blend them together.

BTB1306I really like taking pictures at Disneyland with nobody in them and I *almost* succeeded with this shot.  It helps to get to the parks early or stay until closing to get traditionally crowded vistas with as few of people as possible.  This picture was achieved by getting to Disneyland during Early Entry and waiting for the crowds to run past the castle into Fantasyland to get on their favorite attractions.  I could have done a similar Photoshop process with two photos to remove the few people past the castle walkway but decided this worked well as it is.  Going in the early morning also provides some great lighting that you don’t always get later in the day when the sun is overhead.  I like the shadows and the clouds in the shot.

BTB1307As a frequent visitor to the Disneyland Resort, I wanted to add a favorite photo from Walt Disney World.  This shot is another early morning shot before the Magic Kingdom opened.  The train was posed in this location for those taking The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour, making it something that the average guest wouldn’t just happen upon and a more picture-perfect postcard shot than could normally be found.  I tweaked this photo slightly in Photoshop as well.  The flag was flying at half-mast that day so I moved it to the top and a section of the decorative railing was missing from the top of the station so I recreated it with a section that was intact.

BTB1308We mentioned on the podcast about the possibility of getting good shots even if the weather isn’t perfect.  As much as I like taking pictures on clear, sunny days, this shot of Space Mountain at Disneyland with the rain clouds in the background came out pretty cool.  Sometimes you have to take what is available to you, other times, what is available to you makes the shot.

BTB1309This is not a perfect shot but I like it anyway.  At some point, I’ll try to recreate it to get the tail section of the rocket from the Golden Zephyr at Disney California Adventure in the frame.  While I wanted to stop the blur on my on-ride shots for Pirates and Monsters Inc. above, this one I wanted to show the motion of the ride.  I had to keep the shutter open just long enough to capture the motion blur but short enough to keep the rocket (somewhat) in focus.

BTB1310As I mentioned, taking pictures of Chelsea is something that is important during each visit to a Disney Resort.  I have lots of pictures of Chelsea posing in front of attractions and with characters but my favorites are the more candid captures I’m sometimes able to get.  This one is of Chelsea dressed as Snow White for Halloween at Mickey’s Trick or Treat Party.  We waited to meet the “real” Snow White at a photo location but before any formal pictures were snapped, Miss White conversed with her shy doppelganger beforehand.  It was a much more interesting shot than the posed picture we got afterward.

So these are today’s list of my top photos, though maybe I’ll feel different about them tomorrow.  Either because I’ve taken a new favorite or I see something more critically about one of the ones I previously liked.  That’s the fun part about “Making Memories,” as the old Sherman Brothers song goes.  If you want to see more photos, both at Disney and others, visit my photostream at Flickr:


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About Matthew Walker

A lifelong Disney fan, Matt realized his dream of becoming "part of the magic" by working as a cast member at the Disney Store for 7 years, where he also met his wife, Kathy. He is a two-time Disney Store National Trivia Showdown finalist and has shared his knowledge and photographs on the subject in a number of print publications and websites, including, which he runs. Matt currently serves as the writing director at a technology-focused public relations firm. In his free time, Matt enjoys photography, walking and frequent trips to Disneyland. He lives in Burbank, California with his wife and daughter, Chelsea.

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