Cinderella Castle by the Light of the Moon
On my first night in Walt Disney World with the new Nikon D600, I was itching to put the camera through its paces. Unfortunately, we had to eat dinner before heading out causing us to miss the sunset, and then I had a delay getting into the Magic Kingdom because my ticket wouldn’t read (of course Sarah’s worked just fine and she went in without me!), causing me to miss a gorgeous blue hour while I waited in a long line at Guest Relations.
When I finally did get in the park, the last of the blue hour light was vanishing, but the sky was still fairly bright thanks to an intense full moon. I’m not one to do serious nighttime shooting while the parks are still crowded, so I took a few handheld shots in Tomorrowland before we started out our night right, with a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. After that, we headed over to Liberty Square to watch the Boo to You parade from a relatively poor location. Throughout the parade, my attention kept drifting towards the moon, which seemed to be getting brighter and brighter.
After the parade, I couldn’t take it anymore. I told Sarah I had to stop to try to get a few photos, as I had never seen such a beautiful nighttime sky over Cinderella Castle and I didn’t want to miss it. It was still fairly busy from the post-parade chaos, so I didn’t use my tripod. Instead, I hiked up the ISO to 2800, opened up the aperture to f/2.8, and fired off a series of 1 second exposures with the camera braced tightly against the bridge’s handrail.
After seeing this photo on the LCD, I knew I had to wait a bit longer for the crowd to dissipate so that I could use my tripod to capture a “proper” low ISO night time shot of this scene. I knew if I waited until closing, the sky might be less impressive and the moon might be covered by clouds. By the time I had a chance to use the tripod, the moon was already covered, and the sky looked fairly different. We ended up staying in this spot for about 20 minutes as the sky continued to change and smoke appeared around the Castle (an effect from the Villains Mix and Mingle show), leading to some strikingly different photos all taken within a relatively short amount of time. I’m not normally one to share similar photos from the same “compositional set,” but expect to be seeing more photos of Cinderella Castle from this night in the Magic Kingdom…
I think this first quasi-handheld shot of the set turned out to be the best of the bunch. I know that it’s a “plain” Cinderella Castle shot, but I love it. The beautiful sky and the fact that there’s no artificial light on the Castle (a real rarity) makes it different from the norm. While it’s unfortunate that it was shot with open at f/2.8 and at ISO 2800 (with absolutely no noise reduction), I think the quality of the image despite those settings really shows off the capabilities of the Nikon D600 (my review) and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (my review).
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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I think this may even knock your Sunrise at the Magic Kingdom shot off of the top spot (which I believe was taken from the same angle?) I’m no expert, but to me this shot seems perfect.
That’s tough. I really like that sunrise shot, but I am such a sucker for night shots that I might agree with you.
This picture is AMAZING!!!!!!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I try to get shots from this exact vantage point, but I am working with a point-and-shoot camera, so I can’t expect beauty like this! What a talent!!! Thank you for sharing!
This is actually a great perspective to shoot the Castle from during the period just before sunset if you’re using a point and shoot. The Castle will be perfectly illuminated, making it much easier on the camera.
Stunning photo. Great timing with the natural light and the placement of the moon!