Scenes from Disney Parks: Reflections of Christmas


Merry Christmas Eve! Hopefully you’re done with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, making cookies, and are snuggled up at home by the fire watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. My plan for a quiet Christmas Eve calls for a traditional viewing of that (plus A Muppet Family Christmas, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas Vacation, Elf, and It’s a Wonderful Life, for all of you keeping score at home…), but first I wanted to share a quick post with you. Last Christmas Eve, I shared a post about Country Bear Christmas, something with a lot of personal meaning to me. I thought I’d continue the tradition this year with something else I love: rain.

I’ve spent a decent part of the last month or so in the pouring rain, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Really. When it starts raining in the Disney Parks, other guests start heading towards the exits, leaving those who are willing to “brave” the precipitation the parks at their prettiest (save for perhaps when the parks are snow-covered, which I have yet to see) and least crowded. This is especially true at Christmas-time, when the reflections of the lights form long streaks of light on the ground.

If you only focus on the soggy feet or soaked shirt, it probably doesn’t seem worth it to stick around once the rain starts falling. However, if instead of heading for the exits, you take a moment to pause and soak up not just the rain drops but the serene scenes of the park, you’ll notice there’s beauty all around you. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to get soaked in a Disney theme park, but trust me: it’s worth it for the beauty…or for the shorter lines, in the event that you don’t care about the “extra” beauty and would rather just enjoy the beauty when it’s nice out!

You can click on each photo to view it larger (and with high resolution) in my gallery and to see the camera settings I used. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D750 DSLR and Nikon D810 DSLR.

Hope you enjoy the photos. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your families! (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: Christmas in the Kingdom

Here’s another collection of Disney photos, this time featuring Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom at Christmas, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party photos. I said this set of photos was coming back in the last “Scenes from Disney Parks” in early November, but I guess I forgot. Christmas is always a “last minute” time of year for me, so I’ll be sharing a few sets of last minute Christmas photos between now and Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite time for photography in Walt Disney World. From the vibrant decorations to the starbursts on the Christmas lights to wonderful bokeh, the decorations offer new avenues for creative photos. All the lights and different things going on can make for challenging photography (see my Christmas Photography Tips post if you need some pointers), but it’s a fun challenge, and there are a lot of different ways to approach photographing the Christmas offerings in Walt Disney World.

Besides the obvious Christmas theme of these photos, I’ve tried to focus these photos on how perspective dramatically impacts a photos. Whether it’s a change in location, angle, or even lenses, I think a big part of what separates an ordinary photo from a good one is the conscious choice of a better (or just different) perspective by the photographer. Standing in the middle of Main Street and taking a normal ‘field of view’ shot is the obvious choice–it’s what virtually everyone does and how the park was constructed to be viewed (almost as a frame from a movie). With so many photos taken of Walt Disney World, it’s tough to take a photo that’s totally “fresh”, but thinking about perspective is a good first step to unique shots.

For the photos here, after each photo I’ll share some thoughts on perspective or whatever else, and technical details like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D750 DSLR and Nikon D600 DSLR. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers find this useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Walt Disney World! (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: “Regular” Disney World

It’s time for more of my Disney photos in this installment of “Scenes from Disney Parks”! This time, we’re heading to Walt Disney World, with a set of new photos of the parks looking “normal.” I almost opted to dig into the archives and edit some new Christmas photos, but I know not everyone is excited for Christmas as I am, so I’ll spare you that…for at least another week! ;)

I’ve been photography at Walt Disney World has been a hobby of mine for 6 years now, and I’m still amazed at how I keep finding new subjects to photograph and new ways to compose familiar subjects. This is not meant to boast–I’ve been to plenty of non-Disney locations and found myself lacking any variety in my photos outside of the weather after only a handful of visits. It’s more a testament to how photogenic, thoughtfully designed, and inspirational the parks are in terms of photography.

Some people might roll their eyes and think another Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc., photo?!, but I feel like there’s an infinite number of ways to come up with interesting and unique photos of these oft-photographed subjects. The Disney theme parks really are a photographer’s playground, and taking good photos in the parks is sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. Not only is it great hobby, but I feel like it’s a great way to absorb and appreciate more of the detail in the parks (I know there were a lot of things I missed prior to getting serious about photography). So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up photography, and you’re a Disney fan, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. Sorry for the random-ish odd thoughts there, but it was just something that struck me while going through photos from this particular trip, and I figured I’d share here…

As for these photos, after each photo I’ll share some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D810 DSLR–check out my full Nikon D810 Review for more details about the camera. I also have more sample photos from the D810 here. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers find this useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Walt Disney World!



This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. For a while, I’ve been trying to capture a new photo that effectively conveyed the solitude of the Hub when the Magic Kingdom is empty, but not just by taking another generic shot of the empty hub. I think I finally got that here, with the low angle and the lines of the bricks leading to Cinderella Castle. I used the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (read my review of this lens) because originally this was going to be @ f/1.4 to make the bricks out of focus foreground bokeh, but that photo was too distracting that way. There was no real reason why I stuck with that lens for this version of the photo other than laziness, I guess. (more…)

Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland is the only Disney theme park in the world to have Halloween entertainment that is actually scary and targeted at teens and adults, as opposed to the other parks’ Halloween offerings, which are tame and focus more on costumes and candy than scaring guests. Since first hearing about the intense nature of Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Haunted Halloween” a few years ago, it has been something I have wanted to experience. This year, I got the opportunity to experience it, attending the first weekend of Haunted Halloween.

Unlike the other parks, which begin celebrating Halloween shortly after the Fourth of July, Hong Kong Disneyland starts the first week of October. Its Haunted Halloween offerings occur only on weekends, but are included in the price of normal theme park admission. Haunted Halloween coincides with the debut of Disney Paint the Night Parade this year, and the new parade has stolen a lot of the limelight from Halloween. As a result, there’s no Halloween parade this year, and the decorations on Main Street, which would normally be Halloween-themed, are instead promoting the new nighttime parade.

If you look at the lineup in this post and compare it to previous years, you can see a definite decrease in the Halloween offerings at Hong Kong Disneyland. This isn’t just the case this year, as it appears less and less has been done for each of the last few years. Now, some might say this is Hong Kong Disneyland making cuts, but I think it has more to do with the fact that a few years ago Hong Kong Disneyland was a bit sparse, so the extravagant Halloween entertainment was necessary. Now that the park has grown substantially in the past few years, some justifiable cuts have occurred.

Still, I found Haunted Halloween to be no slouch, with two haunted house-like walk-through attractions in Graves Academy and Revenge of the Headless Horseman, a 20 minute show called “Horrors of the Amazon,” Autumn Festival games in Grizzly Gulch, Halloween meet & greets, and more. The highlights for most guests are clearly the haunted houses, with everything else playing second fiddle. Mystic Manor is also especially popular at Halloween, much like Haunted Mansion in the US sees a slight spike in popularity. While Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland might be leaner than it used to be, it’s still a pretty awesome event.

In this post, we will discuss each of the Halloween offerings for Hong Kong Disneyland’s Haunted Halloween, offer our tips, and share some photos from the festivities…



For starters, if you’re visiting for a weekend night during Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland, you might consider wearing a costume. As is the case with the US parks, Hong Kong Disneyland encourages guests to wear costumes for Halloween, inviting guests to “explore your dark side.” There are rules for the costumes, but these appear very lax, with signs (see photo below) informing guests that they couldn’t bring wagons or brooms into the houses. Meaning, wagons, swords, brooms, etc., are all allowed, but just not for costumes. (And you know if it’s on a sign, it’s because there has been an issue before. Perhaps a guest reflexively hit an actor in a house with a broom…or wagon?)  (more…)

The Halloween Tree at Disneyland

For me, the highlight of Disneyland at Halloween is Frontierland. Between the Dia de los Muertos decor near Rancho del Zocalo and The Halloween Tree near Golden Horseshoe, there’s a lot of actual meaning behind the decorations in Frontierland. It’s not simply decorating for the sake of decorating. Disneyland fans are probably fairly familiar with The Halloween Tree, but for those of you who are not, this post offers a bit of historical information about it, and the man to whom it pays tribute, Ray Bradbury.

Most Americans probably know literary heavy-weight Ray Bradbury for Fahrenheit 451This has been a curriculum mainstay for countless grade schools around the United States; I fondly recall reading it as a child during “Banned Book Week.” It was one of the first “significant” (save for the seminal Monster Blood title from R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series) books that really captivated me, thanks to its edgy substance and controversial reputation. (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: Disneyland Halloween

I’m back with the second installment of “Scenes from Disney Parks,” with a set of new photos that I recently shot during the start of Halloween Time at Disneyland. Every photo in this set is from Disneyland and features Halloween as a motif (be it prominent or in the background, etc.).

Disneyland is always a gorgeous park, but I especially like how it looks during Halloween Time at night, when it has a slightly ominous vibe in Frontierland and Main Street has some of my favorite flowers of the year. Seasonal decorations are very well done at Disneyland, and I love how they make familiar scenes “new” with changes in color schemes or by incorporating elements of the holidays into existing displays.

Halloween Time at Disneyland still doesn’t top Christmas at Disneyland for me, but it is a beautiful time to visit. If you want to know more about what to expect when visiting this time of year, check out our Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland.

As for these photos, after each photo I’ll share some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D600. (Unfortunately, I had to send in my Nikon D810 DSLR for repair before this trip, so it was out of commission). You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers out there find this info useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Halloween Time at Disneyland!

(more…)