Scenes from DisneySea: Chasing the Light
While no amount of words can ever do it justice, I’ve said about all I can be said about Tokyo DisneySea and why it’s my favorite theme park in the world. In this post, I’ll spare you the emphatic pleas to visit Japan, and instead let the photos, which make a more compelling case than my words can, do the talking.
The photos here were mostly captured on the same day in the same two hour timeframe, and all but one were shot with my Nikon D850 DSLR camera. Tokyo DisneySea always looks exquisite, but I really lucked out with a beautiful slow burn sunset that left me racing around the park like a lunatic as I tried to capture the light from every angle. Hence the title.
You can read about offer photography gear I’m using in my new What’s In My Camera Bag? (2018 Edition) post. I’ve yet to update that with my Sony mirrorless gear, but it’s accurate as to all of the Nikon stuff.
You can click on each photo below to view it larger (and with higher resolution) in my SmugMug gallery and to see the camera settings I used…
My favorite photo of the bunch is this one of the Cape Cod lighthouse at sunset. I pushed the color a bit in editing this one, but they were nearly as vibrant in person–this was one epic sunset.
Normally, I wouldn’t be keen on the Tokyo skyline in the distance ‘ruining the illusion’ of a theme park that is so deliberate with its sightlines, but it’s such a small aspect of this frame that it doesn’t bother me. (Plus, this is a relatively awkward viewing angle within the park that most guests won’t see.)
Ten minutes later, an even higher elevation ruins the illusion even more and shows the Resort Liner as its track descends to “hide” behind the sea wall, which makes it invisible to park guests at ground level.
Perhaps I’m being giving too much of a free pass, but this ‘real world’ view from the park doesn’t bother me at all. It probably doesn’t hurt that Mount Fuji is visible (upper left corner), and any view with Fuji-san is a good view.
On the same day, but about thirty minutes early, I shot this. I like this perspective because it uses the urban grittiness of the DisneySea Electric Railway tracks to frame the rugged ‘grittiness’ of Mount Prometheus.
I’m not sure how the warm, comforting glow of the sun works with that juxtaposition, but the shadow and light looks cool.
I also shot this photo on the same day (this sunset was really the gift that kept on giving). There is no bad view of Mount Prometheus, a chameleon-like park icon that transforms itself as you move to each different port of call.
In the photos above and below, taken an hour apart from one another, it’s not Mount Prometheus doing the transforming, but the sky.
The first photo was taken just as the sun dipped below the horizon, shortly before official sunset time.
The second photo captures dusk at Tokyo DisneySea, when the always-beautiful park really comes alive.
I’m a huge fan of dusk at all of the Disney Parks, but especially Tokyo DisneySea.
It’s a time when you still have a bit of light and color in the sky, providing that last bit of natural lighting to allow every detail to be visible. Add to that the contrast of artificial lighting, which essentially gives the Imagineers full control over what you see and how you see it, without having to deal with that pesky sun.
As dusk falls, it’s like the entire park is an attraction show scene, with all of the lighting you see being deliberate choices that complement the staging and details of the park.
In places like Mysterious Island, these deliberate choices can sometimes be a lack of lighting. As with the lack of background music there, this can create an ominous and foreboding atmosphere.
In areas of Arabian Coast, the lighting works both to illuminate and deepen or amplify textures.
Few places leverage lighting as effectively as the intimate streets in this area, and in (of all places) Casbah Food Court’s outdoor seating area. That such painstaking attention to detail was given to a counter service restaurant’s overflow seating really speaks volumes about Tokyo DisneySea’s depth.
I was at the mercy of a trash can tripod for this photo, and I may or may not have nudged it a little bit in the “correct” direction to enable me to compose this shot exactly how I wanted.
On its face, this is a simple-enough shot, but I spent a ton of effort framing everything here, from Tower of Terror and the power lines, to smaller things like lampposts and the “Broadway” sign.
We’ll end with this one, a photo with which I’m not really satisfied, but thought I’d share anyway because it’s unique and sorta interesting.
In the last year or so, my fisheye use has plummeted. I’ve made a concerted effort to make deliberate decisions while framing scenes, being willing to cut certain aspects out of the frame even though they “look cool.” Here, I probably would’ve been better off moving to the left a foot, angling the camera more to the right, and cutting out what is currently the left third of the frame. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
We are currently in Japan, so if you want to see more photos from Tokyo Disney Resort or Kyoto, be sure to follow along on Instagram (@tom_bricker and @sarahbricker) where we’ve been posting daily stories about our adventures!
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’re thinking of visiting Japan for the first time and are overwhelmed with planning, definitely check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide. It covers much more than the parks, from getting there to WiFi to currency and much, much more. For more photos and an idea of what we did day-by-day during our first visit, read our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.
What do you think of these photos from Tokyo DisneySea? Thoughts on the use of artificial lighting in the parks to help convey the right atmosphere? Any photo-related questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
Hi Tom, I sadly cannot see any of your pictures in this post although I would love to.
I have been told that tripods are not allowed in Tokyo DL and DS. Is this true? If so how did you get your (GREAT) shots? Thanks!
Gorgeous! The opening photo with the orange sky and the monorail is just stunning. Thanks for sharing!
Tom I don’t know what your “real” job is but with the amount it allows you and Sarah to travel to not only Disney locations but so many other gorgeous spots so often I think it just may be the best job ever!! You’ve convinced me to add Kyoto, Japan to our bucket list and I’ve informed my husband he can look forward to hitting all Asian Disney parks on one round trip airfare because of you post on the matter:). Love your blog especially your photos! I am, sadly not a photographer but really enjoy seeing all your beautiful shots!
Thanks and happy travels
I would love to know what their jobs are as well!
Also, Kyoto tip… try to find the least busy time to visit as the amount of people moving around that city is sometimes unbearable. The “sights” there aren’t able to handle the amount of visitors they’ve been receiving the last few years and my girlfriend and I (as well as friends who have visited recently) find it hard to enjoy anything in the city.
There certainly is a lot to see/do in Kyoto, but timing (and luck?) is everything.
I believe tom is a lawyer from what he said in past
Well, whatever it is he does for a living, I really appreciate his photos and his Disney updates!
I love all of your photos of DisneySea!! The park looks incredible, I can’t wait til I’m able to get to Japan and experience it for myself.
Stunning pictures, Tom! Curious to know where you the magnificent photo of the Cape Cod light house with the city and Mount Fuji visible in the distance.
Joris, that picture was from the deck of the SS Columbia.
What camera would you suggest for a beginner who has a teeny tiny bit of experience with iPhone “photography”?
Very nice! Thanks for sharing. We’re looking forward to exploring in April!