Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Disneyland at Night

For the amateur photographer, there's nothing more exciting and daunting than taking photos in the parks at night. Countless guests to Disneyland become quickly mesmerized by the nighttime glow of iconic images such as Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Haunted Mansion, Main Street Station, and others, and want to preserve these images for their photo collections. And while these attractions and features are perfect places to capture during the day they pose challenges at night due to lighting and position.

Unfortunately, these challenges often translate into blurry or extremely dark snapshots and wind up as pictures relegated to the bottom of the bin or end of the photo album. But that doesn't need to be the case as even the most basic of point and shoot cameras can do with a little bit of Disney magic to bring home an exciting photo or two.

One of the first rules of any Disney property is cleanliness. This attention to detail provides guests with hundreds of places to deposit their trash and hundreds of places to rest your camera. Flashes are great for night time shots but they cast their light on a shallow depth of field, one that leaves the object you want to capture in the dark. Rather than using the flash try a shot with no flash, a longer exposure, and rest your camera on one of the ubiquitous trashcans in the park. Chances are, you'll come away with something more along the lines of a keeper. Worried about resting something on a trash can? An added bonus is the fact you rarely encounter a dirty dustbin so take a second look next time you're in the parks.

Another handy item are the many miles of railing in the park. Most attraction queues have some sort of railing and many in Disneyland offer a flat edge to rest a camera on. Once again, if you're having a hard time with camera shake, look for a railing and try again. If a railing isn't available try finding something you can lean against; while not perfect, it might help in a pinch.

If these tips still fail to help snag that must-have shot, think about which attractions and landmarks in Disneyland offer the best ambient light at night. A quick survey will identify many that bring their own light to the equation such as the Mad Tea Party (always great at night), Main Street USA, King Arthur Carrousel, and New Orleans Square. By way of comparison, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Matterhorn aren't good candidates at night; save those for earlier in the day when they really stand out against a blue sky.

These photographs were taken by the author in February 2009.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Security at Disneyland - A Follow-Up Conversation

My recent post on Security at Disneyland generated quite a few responses and also opened some new lines of inquiry; a sincere thanks goes out to everyone who contributed to the discussion. Based on reader explanations and comments, I thought it best to respond to them in this post and raise some additional thoughts which have come to light after the original post.

FoxxFur indicated anything following 'park clear' could be an issue, and I agree wholeheartedly. That said, the date/time stamp on image files indicates the Space Mountain shots I took in Tomorrowland were at 8:19pm, or 19 minutes following the official closing time of the park that night. This section of the park still had numerous guests in the area with several sitting on benches in between Star Tours and Starcade and was well before a park clear status. So, we're left to take FoxxFur's earlier advice which tells us that anything after park close is subject for added scrutiny and this is a point well taken.

Darklighter reminded us of the special status afforded Disney theme parks (how many other non-government properties have no-fly zones above?) and makes the analogy of taking photographs at an airport or federal building. I mostly agree with this with the exception that many of those places have specific warnings about appropriate behavior, especially photography, whereas Disney goes out of its way to encourage people to photograph. (Kodak picture spots? Red dyes added to sidewalk concrete to make pictures pop?) I'm left to consider his thoughts surrounding unobstructed objects and note taking.

Some people wondered about my attire; by the time I entered the park early that evening it was in the mid-50s. As a result, shorts and t-shirt might have been even more out of place.

Ray brought up a good point about my note-taking. When I enter a park I always have my logbook with me. Others enter the parks with equipment far more expensive than mine but I only bring in my Canon PowerShot A540 point and shoot which provides a small footprint combined with fully manual and automatic exposure settings. (I leave the digital SLRs to other members of the Photos from the Parks family.) It's easy to tuck into a pocket or inside a jacket when Splash Mountain beckons. However, it does have its limitations and, over the course of time, I've found a logbook with notes regarding time of day (a holdover from my film camera days), amount of light, and other attributes comes in handy when looking at photos weeks, months, or years later. It's also common that I'll sketch out a map of what I want to shoot prior to entering the parks and mark particular angles or elements for capture. (This is especially handy when cataloging Main Street windows, for example.) I'll also note the condition of a particular sign, attraction, or facade to check over time and write down ideas for future posts.

While this was certainly no Jim Hill or Dave Koenig situation (I was asked if I made money via Photos from the Parks though), it's interesting to note that many readers indicated the fact I was taking notes was cause enough for attention. What I find interesting, though, is that while my log book was in plain sight neither CM asked to look at its contents while questioning me. Additional research has indicated that at least one of the two who spoke to me has twenty years or more experience and I'm sure he has seen just about everything while in the parks. In the end, I think I'll take one piece of Darklighter's advice and stop by City Hall the next time I step into the parks.

These photographs were taken by the author in February 2009.

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