It can be difficult to photograph the dark rides at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but with these tips, you should be able to come away with some usable shots. Personally, I love photographing dark rides like Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Pirates of the Caribbean because it’s a fun challenge, and adds a lot of re-rideability for me to many attractions. It’s also a great way to document rides and spot details that are very difficult to see with your eyes.
For me, the challenge is mostly what it’s about, as I love competition, even if it’s only with my past “benchmarks.” As I’ve been able to conquer the “easier” dark rides, I’ve tried the faster-moving ones. My greatest “conquests” so far have been the Carnotaurus on Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, and the Lava Monster on Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea. My favorite discovery photographing dark rides has been the various brands of booze Imagineers made up to put in the Saloon scene of Phantom Manor; these bottles are impossible to read with the naked eye!
While this article focuses on dark rides, most of the general advice here can also be applied to stage shows like Country Bear Jamboree and Carousel of Progress. Just be careful not to get yelled at on the latter, as Cast Members constantly change the photography ‘rules’ there!
Before we get started, since I know most people have the attention spans of gnats in this era, I’ll put my most important piece of advice right at the beginning. TURN OFF YOUR $&%#@& FLASH ON DARK RIDES. I don’t care whether Cast Members inform you it’s the rules or not. Turn it off. Not only is it rude to other guests because your flash destroys the illusion that the Imagineers created with carefully considered show lighting, but it makes your photos look like crap for the exact same reason. Why would you want to replace this brilliant and moody show lighting with the washed out look created by an on-camera flash?! Inability to take good photos on a dark ride without the flash is no excuse for using it and ruining others’ experience. If taking good photos without the flash is problematic, there’s this magical place called the internet, where thousands of other people have uploaded photos with Creative Commons licenses! Your family isn’t going to be in these photos anyway, so it doesn’t matter if you use someone else’s photos! Same applies with night parades. If you wonder why this is such a big deal, check out this two-photo comparison (my photo on the left captured someone else’s flash, my photo on the right was .25 seconds later, without any flashes captured): (more…)