Scenes from Disney Parks: “Sea of Dreams”


It’s been a while since my last ‘Scenes from the Disney Parks’ post, but one of my favorite songs started playing in iTunes the other day while I was editing photos, and this idea just struck me. The result is this set of photos and another advertisement post begging you all trying to convince you to visit Tokyo DisneySea. Before we get to the photos, I implore you: please watch this video:

That is the commercial for Tokyo DisneySea’s 5th Anniversary, along with the anniversary theme song that I referenced above (here’s a higher quality, Japanese version of the commercial). For me, this commercial fully encapsulates the spirit of Tokyo DisneySea, and why it’s such a special place. I think this commercial will resonate with old school fans of Walt Disney World, especially EPCOT Center, and you’ll probably see why Tokyo DisneySea reminds me a lot of EPCOT Center, despite being very different thematically. If this commercial doesn’t make your eyes water a bit or make you want to visit Tokyo DisneySea, there’s really nothing I can write or show you that will convince you otherwise. (YOU ARE SIMPLY SOULLESS! ;) )

My goal with this set of photos was to capture the romanticism of Tokyo DisneySea in a similar manner as what’s conveyed so eloquently in that commercial. I know that my normal vibrant style of photography doesn’t smack of ‘romanticism’, but hopefully the photos offer scenes you feel you could step inside with a loved one, feeling the glow of the sun or the warmth of the lights during an evening in the park.

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 in high resolution and a larger size in my gallery (please do that–WordPress compresses photos and they really lose some of their impact) and to see EXIF data on it.

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

Luigi’s Flying Tires Closing at Disney California Adventure

As Disney announced today that Luigi’s Flying Tires will close on February 16, 2015 to make way for a new attraction opening in 2016, we thought it would be fun to look back at this Cars Land attraction that hasn’t exactly been the most popular with guests, but is an attraction that we’ve loved. We’ll start with some new commentary on the current attraction and some thoughts about the future, with our opening weekend photos below that.

Luigi’s Flying Tires is a ride in Cars Land that opened in June 2012 as part of Disney California Adventure 2.0 at Disneyland Resort. Even prior to the attraction opening, it was reportedly plagued with issues, from the last minute removal of a spin control to the last minute addition of beach balls to spice things up (later removed to reduce load/unload times) to additional guest instructions by Cast Members to explain how to operate the tires by shifting weight and leaning slightly to get the tire to change directions while still hovering. Despite all of these modifications, many guests have still had a difficult time getting their tires to hover, and have spent much of the attraction sitting in place.

We honed our strategy for Luigi’s Flying Tires early-on, and there was about a 1 minute learning curve on figuring out just how much to lean to achieve the best movement. We’ve had a blast with the attraction as a result, and have done it dozens of times over the last couple of years. This has been particularly true more recently, as waits have been non-existent because of other guests having a more difficult time operating tires and the attraction garnering poor word of mouth. (more…)

My 10 Favorite Disney Photos of 2014

Continuing the tradition of my year-end top 10 photos post, I wanted to share 10 of my favorite* Disney Parks photos from 2014. Normally, I share some thoughts about my growth and failings as a photographer in this year-end recap, but I already shared my thoughts at length on My 10 Favorite Non-Disney Photos of 2014 post.

Rather than re-write a variation of that, you can head over to that post and read my rambling, if you really care. Since most of you are probably here just for the photos, not my words, and because I need to wrap this post up quickly and get some things done before tonight, I’ll cut to the chase here.

Click any photo to view it large via SmugMug… (more…)

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…)