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!

This photo, shot with the Nikon D750 and Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens (read my review of this lens), might be my favorite of the bunch. I think it’s a great example of going for an odd perspective for an interesting shot. For it, I had my lens literally a few inches from the bush on the left. While I was shooting, a nearby PhotoPass photographer approached me, and asked what I was doing. I’m sure he thought I was a crazy man taking a close-up photo of a bush, but when he saw the results on my LCD screen, he seemed impressed.

Contrast that first shot with this one. As soon as I was done taking the first photo, I switched to the Nikon D600 and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (read my review of this lens) to compose a tighter shot with Cinderella Castle framed by the same bushes. At f/1.4, the foreground lights appear as bokeh, giving the shot a bit of depth. These first two photos are examples of how the same perspective can produce totally different shots with different lens choices.

Next up is the fireworks from the end of Main Street. This is a pretty straightforward perspective, shot with the Nikon D600 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, nothing special about it. I’ll admit I was just playing it safe with this shot, but there’s a reason for that…

That’s because this is the shot I was going for, and I had to wait until the finale to get it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see the perimeter bursts over the buildings, so rather than potentially walking away with nothing, I started shooting the show with the D600 & 24-70mm combo above, and then quickly switched cameras to the Nikon D750 and Rokinon 8mm fisheye combo right before the finale with perimeter bursts started. Fortunately, the bursts were visible. I wish I could have stood between the toy soldiers for the shot, but that area was reserved for PhotoPass. Again, an example of the lens choice making for a big difference between photos.

The next two photos flip the script, with the ground being the focal point, with Cinderella Castle taking a backseat. For this shot, the Castle is still prominently in the frame, but I got low and used the fisheye to emphasize the Compass Rose in front of the Castle.

I’m not totally sold on this photo, as the only thing that’s in focus–the trolley tracks–isn’t all that interesting of a subject. This might be one of those “different for the sake of being different” shots that doesn’t really work. In that case, I guess it’s a good photo to illustrate the point that crazy perspectives and ideas can sometimes seem contrived…but I’d rather try for something unique and fail than just play it safe and achieve mediocrity.

Most parade photos are taken with a standard field of view lens to capture the performer, full float, and a bit of background, but I don’t like that approach. This was shot with the Nikon D750 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens at 180mm, and demonstrates how compression and shallow depth of field can make a photo of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade more interesting.

Same idea here. This is another shot with the Nikon D750, which I purchased the day before this trip. In the past I’ve had trouble shooting the party parades, with my camera hunting for or missing focus a lot. To hedge my bets, I shot with both the D750 and the D600 during the parades. The Nikon D750 nailed focus with ease, and I’d estimate my keeper rate was around 75% with it. By contrast, at most 25% of my shots with the D600 were sharp. There’s a lot of praise for the Nikon D750 online, and it’s pretty much all true. This camera is something else.

There’s really nothing interesting to say about the perspective of this shot. I was pretty much just taking what I could get, as this ‘Frozen Holiday Wish’ Cinderella Castle Christmas lighting show was way more popular than I expected, and it was nearly impossible to photograph as I tried to shoot around kids on shoulders. (My ‘holiday wish’ is to be taller.)

Want to learn more about photography to take great photos in the Disney theme parks and beyond? The best place to start is Tom’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 doesn’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

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of these photos of the Magic Kingdom at Christmas-time? Any favorites? Have any additional questions about how I captured these shots? Please ask or share below, and I’ll offer my feedback!

8 Responses to “Scenes from Disney Parks: Christmas in the Kingdom”
  1. Sue February 1, 2016
  2. Richard December 23, 2014
    • Tom Bricker December 23, 2014
  3. Janice December 21, 2014
  4. Steve December 21, 2014
    • Tom Bricker December 21, 2014
  5. Anifled103 December 21, 2014
    • Tom Bricker December 21, 2014

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