Asia is undoubtedly my favorite land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom for photography. Not only does it have the park’s most photogenic icon, but it also has a fair amount of diversity in its attractions, so you can capture a wide array of shot types (architecture, details, animals, etc.). Expedition Everest alone is quite diverse, offering multiple angles and shot types of the mountain itself, plus some very interesting photo ops on the attraction itself if you dare to take them. On the few days a year when Disney’s Animal Kingdom is open late enough for guests to see it at night (in the winter when it’s open until 8pm some nights and the sunset is early), Asia is absolutely beautiful, and great for photography. In fact, when we’ve been in Disney’s Animal Kingdom after sunset, over 75% of my good photos have come from Asia.
In light of this praise for Asia, it might be surprising to hear that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the least photograph-able park for me. Enemy of the site Josh from easyWDW.com and I have fiercely debated this on a couple of occasions. Both times, the “fierce” debates were rather short, and ended in tears. (I won’t say who cried…but it wasn’t him!) He views Animal Kingdom as the most photogenic park, an assessment with which I obviously disagree.
Like most things I expend energy debating, this is sort of a pointless debate since the photogenic qualities of something are largely subjective. Some people find urban decay photogenic, others like photographing scantily-clad pregnant women to showcase the beauty of life or some baloney like that. I’m not into either of those subjects, but I can appreciate that other people like them.
Animal Kingdom is the same way for me. My shooting style is decidedly wide angle, and over half the photos I’ve taken on recent trips have been with my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. With the exception of Asia, it’s tough for me to capture compelling wide angle photos in Animal Kingdom. This is for a few reasons: the design of the buildings, the incredibly wide walkways throughout the park, and the abundance of foliage. Most of my wide angle photos in Animal Kingdom suffer from too much dead space on the top and bottom of the frame or are filled with foliage but have no dominant focal point. This makes wide angle photography pretty difficult in Animal Kingdom, especially as compared to the other three parks, all of which have stunning architecture that lends itself to my style of photography.
For me, while the foliage is beautiful in person, it presents additional obstacles for photography. Namely, it’s everywhere! This can make capturing a photo of any subject against a nice blue sky with puffy clouds difficult. It’s especially problematic when attempting to photograph the park’s main icon, the Tree of Life. It’s quite difficult to find an angle to photograph the Tree of Life where other trees don’t creep into the frame and minimize the visual impact of the Tree of Life.
My other big knock against Animal Kingdom is nighttime photography there. It’s not even possible for most of the year, but when it is, the only areas that really offer much are Asia, Dinoland, and the Tree of Life (which finally becomes an excellent icon to photograph thanks to its lighting). The rest of the park is dark or doesn’t offer much in the way of dramatic artificial lighting. This, alone, is enough to put Animal Kingdom in last place for me.
Of course, all of these qualms are based on my style of shooting. If I were more interested in wildlife photography or abstract photos of details, I could see Animal Kingdom being my favorite park. However, those things don’t interest me so much when I’m at Walt Disney World, so it’s not. I love Kilimanjaro Safaris as an attraction, but all of my photos from the Safari end up looking like regular ‘ole animal photos that could have been taken in any number of locations. There’s very little that’s unique to Disney about those photos. By contrast, how many other places outside of Walt Disney World can you photograph Spaceship Earth? As photos of the little details that make Animal Kingdom such a unique park, photos of those just aren’t of great interest to me, personally.
Again, this ranking is based solely on my personal preferences when it comes to photography. Everyone has a different style, and based upon that style, I could see compelling arguments for ranking any of the parks first and any of them last.
Check out over 1,000 of my best Disney photos (a whole 29 of which are from Animal Kingdom!) in my Disney Photo Gallery!
What’s your style? Where do you rank Disney’s Animal Kingdom photogenically? Share your thoughts in the comments!