Disney Daytime Neutral Density Filter Photos

I was recently in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in the middle of the day with a few hours to kill while doing other things. It was unseasonably hot, so naturally, I decided to stand in the sun, set up my tripod, and fire off a bunch of 30 second exposure photos in a bunch of different locations. This “Scenes from the Park” photo post is the fruits of my sweat, sunburn, and tears.

That amount of effort for capturing a photo in the Florida heat may sound insane and, honestly, there’s nothing I can type to convince most people otherwise. If you’re serious about photography, there has to be a little crazy in you; in my case, make that a lot of crazy. I would, and will, do it again without hesitation.

Warning: photographer jargon ahead…

As for the logistics, the photos of this post are enabled by use of a neutral density filter and tripod. I’m a big fan of neutral density filters and the creative opportunities they provide–check out my Neutral Density Filters Guide for more on that. I’ve also done a post on using neutral density filters for fireworks photography previously, but I thought it’d be fun to share some of my results from daytime photos here.

In my case, that’s the 10 Stop B+W ND Filter paired with the MeFoto RoadTrip Tripod and Nikon D810 DSLR. If this type of photography interests you, tripod and camera aren’t all that important; the big thing is getting the right ND filter. While I suggest a cheap-o one for fireworks, you want quality when shooting during the day, as the range of light really exposes the weaknesses of cheaper ones.

Let’s visit the Magic Kingdom on this very “breezy” day (okay, it wasn’t breezy at all, but that’s the easiest way to explain cloud movement)…

I’ll start with my favorite of the bunch, by a very wide margin. If you’ve heard me talk about wide angle lenses, you’ve heard the term “converging lines.” Well, I never expected clouds to form those, nor did I expect them and sun flare to appear so perfectly behind Cinderella Castle. I know this shot may seem ordinary to those who aren’t photographers, but I was so excited to see the results in my viewfinder here, as it was basically the (photographic) stars aligning.

My next shot was actually my first, and it was about this time that the first guest came to give me a quick crash course in photography. I smiled politely and nodded, figuring it was an attempt to help me avoid using a tripod in the middle of the day (what kind of idiot does that?!). Still, I have never given unsolicited photography advice in the parks, and wouldn’t. (Well, unless you count saying something to some idiot repeatedly using flash in the Haunted Mansion Stretching Room. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I have 3 photos of the Mark Twain in motion that I really like. I elected to edit this one, even though the boat is less distinct, because it’s so prominent in the frame. People may miss moving clouds in a photo, but there’s no missing a moving boat!

You learn a lot when taking long exposure photos–mostly unimportant stuff like just how many trashcans are on Main Street. Based on my night work, one thing I’ve learned is that Cast Members at work can be incredibly still. Trying to use that to my advantage for once, I tried this shot earlier in the day…and the balloon-selling Cast Member was like a jumping jellybean! Later in the day, the clouds weren’t moving as much, but the Cast Member did her part perfectly.

Like the Cinderella Castle shot, this is one that I really like because of the way the clouds are moving.

I’m curious as to whether anyone can spot what is “off” about this photo…

I struggled in New Fantasyland, trying 6 different spots, most of which were duds. My ideal location was in the queue for Little Mermaid, but I don’t like to disturb the guest experience. Instead, this was my best option, and is just a basic shot with some palm and cloud movement.

Honestly, I’m not one for daytime Haunted Mansion photos, especially those with gorgeous, puffy clouds. That’s just not the “right” ambiance of Haunted Mansion. However, if I’m taking a daytime photo, getting people as “ghosts” is about as good as it gets.

One of my biggest concerns when the Hub redevelopment was announced was the fate of the sea serpent topiary. Yeah, crazy, whatever. I am so glad this view is still as good, and serpent-friendly, as it is, and I really like the movement of the clouds and the tree here.

Want to learn more about photography to take great photos in the Disney theme parks and beyond? The best place to start is Tomโ€™s Photography Guide, which covers a variety of topics from links to tutorials, tips, and tricks to recommendations for point & shoots, DSLRs, lenses, and more!

If you do want to purchase new photography equipment, we recommend the following trusted & authorized retailers. Buying from these retailers helps support this blog, and doesnโ€™t cost you a thing:
B&H Photo

For other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts:

Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Choosing the Best Travel Tripod
Choosing the Best Camera Bag for Travel


What do you think of these photos? Do you think it was worth the time and effort to use the neutral density filter, or would these have been just as good as quick snaps? Any favorites? Have any additional questions about how I captured these shots? Please ask or share below, and Iโ€™ll offer my feedback!

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