Cinderella Castle Dream Lights: Reflections of Christmas

At Christmas-time, Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom is enhanced with the “Castle Dream Lights,” which give the Castle a resplendent glow. This look is amplified in the rain, when the lights from Cinderella Castle and all around Main Street glisten off the pavement.

Sarah and I took a quick trip to Walt Disney World this weekend to enjoy our favorite time of year at Walt Disney World: Christmas. Our plan with taking the trip was to book a cheap flight to Florida to earn the miles necessary to book a free flight (which otherwise would have cost $600+ each) to Disneyland for New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, by the time our credits from the flights registered, the awards flights were sold out. Oh well, it was a great weekend, nonetheless, and even though we were only there for less than two full days, it felt like a lot longer. We crammed as much as we could into the trip, even closing out three different parks on Saturday night!

Normally, I would say photos of Walt Disney World don’t do it justice, which is especially true of the Castle Dream Lights. Not so on this particular night, when this unannounced rain really put a damper on the mood. Of course the scene did look more beautiful than this in person, but when rain is pouring on you (of course I packed a poncho for the camera but not myself…who does that?!) you’re really not noticing the beauty all around you.

To make matters worse, tragedy struck after I took this photo. As I moved my camera after taking this shot, my tripod tipped over and my camera hit the ground. I don’t know if that has ever happened to you, but you literally see it happening in slow motion. There’s nothing you can do. It took me a few seconds before I could gather myself to pick up the camera, as I was terrified that the huge bulbous front element on my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 would be shattered. Luckily, it was not, but part of the built-in lens hood was busted. That alone will probably cost a couple hundred bucks to fix, if I were to fix it. It doesn’t affect performance, so I’ll just leave it be. It’s a battle scar that the lens will wear proudly.

I like this photo a lot, but it’s probably not worth $200! 😉

Please click the photo above to view it large.

Technical details: shot with a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens. See our guide for more photography equipment recommendations.

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29 Responses to “Cinderella Castle Dream Lights: Reflections of Christmas”

  1. Theresa says:

    You could probably make back the $200 by selling copies of that photo. Gorgeous.

  2. Jim O says:

    How can something that beautiful even be real. It’s amazing how you keep topping yourself with each gorgeous photo after another.

  3. Steph says:

    I absolutely loved seeing the lights on the castle when I was at Disney two Christmas’ ago. I couldn’t get a shot to do it justice, but this comes pretty darn close. It’s a stunning photograph, and I love how you can see through the castle and the lighting in the archway. Perfectly positioned. Great photo as always Tom.

  4. Kevin says:

    I was at the Dayton Air Force Museum this summer and my daughter bumped me, causing my camera to fall. I know the “slow motion” feeling you describe. Luckily, my camera also survived the fall.

    And that shot might be worth $200. Awesome job.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Absolutely stunning, Tom! Always look forward to your photos!

  6. AM says:

    Once someone kicked my boyfriends tripod over. They just looked at it and then kept walking. :S Luckily, his camera wasn’t damaged! Can’t wait for Disneyland Paris photos!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Ouch. I would have been so irritated! Whenever I’m around people, I either hold a camera strap or have my hands nearly touching the tripod in case that happens. Lots of people have bumped my tripod, but no one has knocked it over…yet.

  7. Tyler says:


    Gorgeous photo!

    What photo editing software do you use? I have a free version of Photoshop Elements 8 for my Mac but it doesn’t seem to be letting me upload in raw. Any suggestions for an economical upgrade? We’re headed to WDW in January and this amateur is ready to start shooting and editing in raw!


  8. Bob Rowan says:

    At the beginning of November while in Disneyland I watched my camera fall to the ground while on a tripod. I was waiting patiently in the hub for a chance at an unobstructed shot of Walt and Mickey. Seeing that I had a tripod, a half dozen future Disney security guards must’ve had be pegged as a “professional” because of my fancy equipment (a 7 year old digital SLR looks with a kit lens), so I ended up taking a half-dozen pictures of different people in front the the castle. One couple caught me as I was adjusting the legs of my tripod and in my haste to help them out (and get them out of my way) I must not have fully tightened one of the legs. A dualpod is dramatically less effective than a tripod and I went through the same slow motion fall that you witnessed, with no ability to change the outcome. Fortunately, the only damage was to the door that holds the camera battery in place and I got through the night by opening the door and closing it again whenever the camera lost power. Even better, when I returned home a few days later I found I could replace the door with relative ease with one from a camera I had previously broken. Still, I need to be a lot more careful in the future.

    For what it’s worth, your photo turned out a lot better than mine!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      At least it wasn’t a big loss. You’re like the 4th person I’ve heard say their camera fell and the battery door broke. Seems like a fairly random thing to break. I guess the hinges there aren’t too strong?

  9. Photogineer (Doug) says:

    Okay you need to put a warning at the beginning of this article saying that this article could cause emotional distress. I could not finish reading it as a small tear rolled down my face as I could almost see this camera is my mind slowly coming to an end. Ouch. I guess this truely shows how well Nikon cameras are built. That other brand might not as made it. :-) just glad no major issues. I can sleep better tonight. Too bad the shutter was not open, could have made a cool shot.

  10. marnie says:

    Its breathtaking Tom! I always look forward to your amazing work!

  11. Ashley says:

    I dunno, this is a pretty awesome shot. Small price to pay to the Disney gods…

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If I actually were going to pay that price, I don’t think it’d be so small! Luckily, it’s not something I’ll need to fix unless I sell the lens.

  12. LB says:

    BEAUTIFUL picture as always!!!
    Love your photos :)

  13. Rob says:

    What an incredible shot!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  14. Christine says:

    Tom – thanks for sharing this photo – your pictures always amaze me as they capture the beauty – usually better than when I’m there… Our MVMCP this year there were bushes and metal rigging in front of the Walt & Mickey statue through the hub and there wasn’t a nice picture to be had. Your picture allows me to gloss over the bad memory with an absolutely fantastic photo.

    And if you can get it to glow like that in a big format it is definitely worth way more than $200 :)

  15. Lenise Zika says:

    You capture the most unique and beautiful photos! I agree with the others – sell this photo and make more than enough to replace the lens hood. Glad to hear your equipment survived so well – that must have been a heart stopping moment – especially with that particular lens.

  16. Katie says:

    Great photo. The story makes me wonder though: do you insure your gear? I had a personal articles policy (rider on my renter’s insurance) on mine (which covered breakage and theft anywhere), and it paid to replace my kit lens when it broke (not sure how–not dropped, but out in cold, wet weather), but immediately afterwards they dropped the policy.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      At present, my gear is not insured. I’m not very risk averse, so my general rule is to “self insure” anything that I can within reason. Of course, I deal with insurers at work and see the ugly side of them (collecting premiums, but trying to deny coverage whenever even remotely possible), so my opinions are colored by that.

      That said, since I regularly use my gear in poor conditions, it might be wise to have a rider for my gear.

  17. Heather S. says:

    Beautiful Picture Tom!!! I have seen several of your water reflection shots in the last 2 days catching back up on the blog and I am def. motivated now to try to get one myself although no where near your caliber the first time it is still a cool type of shot!!

    So Our last trip to Disney May 2011 (I grew up going but it was my Husbands and my 4 kids 1st trip ever) I had just gotten my Brand new 60D and a spanky $500 everyday 18-135 lens. 1st Ride Pirates of the Caribean I put the camera strap around my neck because I know it will be dark but I am so excited to experience this favorite ride of mine after so many years away…. Sometime in the ride I took the camera off of around my neck because I could not get the right angle for a shot. At the end of the ride we stand to get off and I hear this (first I felt it so I knew it was coming that slow motion horror) horrrrrrrrrrrible crashing sound in the dark and I know my Brand New 60D and Brand new $500 lens had just crashed to the floor of the Pirate ship ride boat….. As we walk into the Gift shop at the end of the ride my entire 11 person party are rushing ahead of me because they all know what I may be about to find and they don’t want to be near me.

    So the Lens was not broken and the Camera was not broken but the UV filter I had on the lens was shattered and it had been pushed into the lens so it could not be screwed off. It was a 10 Day trip and I had forgone bringing my old Canon Rebel with me as a back up because I took our nice point and shoot (which was stolen on our last flight into Florida) and I had a BRAND NEW 60D…. All of my pictures from the entire trip have lines through them because of all the shattered glass and one end of the lens looked really bad in picks because the glass was not just broken into lines but literally shattered yet not breaking into pieces.

    The next day I took it to the Epcot Camera store hoping they might be able to get it off or tell me what to do. They tried but could not and I kept thinking man I should just take a butter knife and try to pry the space where it should screw off away from the screw feed and maybe I can get it off but with 11 people and such a packed trip for 10 days I never had a chance to really find a butter knife and try it.

    1st day home I get a butter knife and I can pry it off. Let me tell you to this day I still mourn all the photo’s I dreamed of taking my 1st trip back in over 20 years!!! (We do plan to go this next November for Christmas so I can’t wait to try again!!!

    SORRY for the LONG post :) Just meant to say I totally know the feeling you felt when your camera crashed to the ground at Disney!! :)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Ouch, that stinks! In the future, whenever possible I’d recommend using a lens hood for protection instead of a UV filter. No image degradation that way, plus, if it falls and breaks the hood, the hood breaks away, rather than INTO the glass of the lens (potentially causing the problem you had, or even damaging the glass of the lens). I always use lens hoods, and never filters, for protection for that reason.

  18. Last year, my camera took a tumble while in China at EPCOT. I had it on a strap, on my shoulder, along with my daughter’s pin lanyard. I went to take the lanyard off my arm, and the camera came too, hitting the ground. It almost happened in slow motion, with this huge collective gasp going up from everyone standing around us. The camera and the lens have some battle scars, but they both are still working fine, thankfully.

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