Top 12 Disney Photos of 2012

Continuing the tradition of my “Top 11 Disney Photos of 2011” post of my best 2011 Disneyland and Walt Disney World photos, here are my best* 2012 Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris photos. While I’m using the “clever” strategy of giving myself another slot on this list by making it correspond with the year (12 for 12) instead of being a normal top 10 list, I’ve also added a destination this year (Disneyland Paris), so I think that’s fair. Given that we’re heading to Tokyo Disney Resort next year, expect to see a “Top 23 photos for 2013,” next year!

There’s an asterisk next to the “best” above because these aren’t quite my absolute picks for the top Disney photos I’ve taken this year; they are the top photos that I’ve edited and have the rights to post. Several of my favorite photos aren’t present on the list for those reasons. Still, I really like these photos, and I think they’re pretty good. I offer some insight into each photo after the shot, and then some parting thoughts on my 2012 Disney photography, and my goals for 2013 at the end of this post.

Click any photo to view it large via SmugMug.

12 for ’12:

Sunrise photo of Disneyland, captured during

My adventure to start out “One More Disney Day” is something I’ll forever remember, with this shot being especially poignant. I had been running all around trying to find some “good” sunrise color in the sky before coming to the realization that there simply wouldn’t be any that morning. When I got over to this Donald Duck statue, not only did the sun peak out from above the horizon for the first time, but I was able to photograph the hub while it was mostly empty! Despite the crowd, empty hub shots like this actually weren’t too difficult, as most guests were stopping for the PhotoPass photographer on the other side of Partners (you can barely make out the large crowd gathered there in this shot).

Walt Disney World's Cinderella Castle decked out for Christmas in the rain. Read more: purchase prints or downloads, click

This is a photo I recently shared on the blog, and I shared there that this photo cost me $200. I love the reflection in this shot, and the peacefulness of Cinderella Castle at Christmas. What I didn’t previously share is that this photo was taken at the end of a series I took during “The Kiss Goodnight,” where the Christmas Dream Lights are off for about 30 seconds while Cinderella Castle cycles through some non-Christmas special lighting. I actually prefer one of the photos I took during that cycle to this one, but since I haven’t yet had a chance to process that shot, this is a worthy substitute!

Another one from “One More Disney Day” at Disneyland, which was easily my single most successful day for photography ever (it didn’t hurt that I was in the park much longer than normal that day!). It’s difficult to tell since this is a long exposure, but the park was absolutely packed when I took this photo during blue hour right before Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. Partners, this flower bed, and Sleeping Beauty Castle are always favorite photo subjects of mine…when you throw in that gorgeous blue early-evening sky, the combination is unbeatable!

As promised in my “10 Awesomest Posts of 2012” entry, here is a new photo to prevent this post from being a lame curation. I only wanted to include one photo from Disney Dreams at Disneyland Paris, and it was really difficult deciding between this one and one of the grand finale. Ultimately, I chose this one because it incorporates more of the show’s elements (water jets, fireworks, Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant projections, and lasers). I have hundreds of photos from Disney Dreams, but most that incorporate so many elements were unusable because one of the elements was always over or underexposed. This show is a real challenge to photograph!

This photo is unlike the others here in that technically, it’s not all that great, but it was really difficult to capture given the circumstances. I had no idea fireworks would be shooting off as the staged parted and Cars Land opened, so I not only had to quickly dial in the correct camera settings, but I also had to compose myself and hold back my feelings of awe as I saw Cars Land for the first time. Seeing this stunning re-creation of Radiator Springs was definitely a highlight of 2012, and the main reason why this photo made the top 12 list is for the reminder of the memory.

The finale of Holiday Wishes, the fireworks show during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, features perimeter bursts that all around Cinderella Castle!More on Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party:

Even after photographing each show many times, I still get excited to see and shoot the fireworks. I tried Holiday Wishes from a new (to me) vantage point this year, and was really pleased with the results. I wish I would have used a neutral density filter, as I still blew out most of my shots from the grand finale, but I managed to salvage this photo. It’s one of my favorite fireworks photos ever!

Here’s another one from “One More Disney Day” at Disneyland that really reminds me of all the fun I had running around photographing the sunrise that day. Getting the hub empty here took some patience, as I had to time things perfectly between PhotoPass shots and when no stragglers walked through the frame. It took me a few minutes, but I got the shot. I especially like the long shadow of the Pluto (I think) statue platform in the lower right corner.

During the Cars Land festivities, I had the opportunity to be in Disney California Adventure for sunrise. Every morning during the festivities I got up early and dragged myself into the park, hoping for a nice sunrise. And every morning, I was disappointed as a thick marine layer made for overcast conditions. Although I didn’t get to take advantage of that opportunity, once the marine layer finally dissipated one morning, I was able to shoot from a riser set-up behind Flo’s V8 Cafe for this photo. I used my tripod from up there for this, which you’ll notice is a composite due to the spacing of the two sets of cars on Radiator Springs Racers.

On this particular night at Walt Disney World, Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom was lit up by a brilliant full moon, rather than the artificial light normally on the Castle. Read more:

My first night with my new Nikon D600 in Walt Disney World gave me the opportunity to photograph a full moon over Cinderella Castle. As I wrote in this blog post, we stayed in this spot for about 20 minutes as blue hour gave way to night, but my favorite photo of the bunch was this early handheld one. At f/2.8 and ISO 2800, this photo really shows off the incredible high ISO performance and dynamic range of the Nikon D600. Sure, it’s a fairly unimaginative Cinderella Castle shot from a standard location, but the shooting conditions make this one of my favorites.

This photo of Spaceship Earth is another fairly unimagination photo composition-wise, but the reflection makes it one of my favorites. I wrote about my experience photographing Epcot during this rainy night in this photo of the day blog post (which features a different photo of Spaceship Earth that’s probably worthy of inclusion on this list), but, suffice to say, even this relatively ordinary photo was extremely difficult to capture due to the rain. I went home soaked at the end of the night, but also left with some great memories and photos.

This photo is unlike the rest in that it’s not a landscape photo, but is a candid shot of a father and son (I assume) enjoying an attraction. It took me a while to nail this concept, and although I wish the teacup I captured had more exuberant guests in it, I’m very pleased with the results. Not only is the teacup I was photographing sharp, but there are “layers” to this shot with other blurred teacups in the foreground and background, and there are a couple of nice sunbursts adding nice “kisses” of detail to the shot. I’m hopeful that in 2013, I will become better at capturing candids like this, and vacation lifestyle photography.

This Christmas tree bokeh from Disneyland Paris reminds me a bit of snow. I sure wish it were snow...Read more:

I previously shared that this was a bit of a “happy accident.” Despite it not being completely what I intended, I’m very pleased with what it is, as I haven’t seen anything like this before, and I pride myself in unique photo concepts (something otherwise notably absent from this list), and I think this is pretty unique.

All in all, not a bad list, but I’m a little disappointed in my year photography-wise. Not because my photos were bad, but because I feel that I grew less as a photographer in 2012 than any other previous year. Part of this is a natural slowdown–the newer you are at anything, the more room you have to grow. There’s an infinite amount about any subject that you can learn, but the tendency is to see more progress and improvements when you first take up a new hobby. Given this, I partly understand the slowdown.

That said, I’m still just scratching the surface with photography, and have a lot more to learn to round out my skill-set. I didn’t try new things in 2012 as much as I had in the past, but refined and improved upon past successful techniques. My goal for 2013 is to learn new techniques, try new things–fail at them–and try again. I’ve already started to go down this path with Strobist photography, as I got some off-camera lighting “toys” for Christmas and have been experimenting with new lighting techniques. I’m awful at it right now, but I used to be awful at landscape photography, too…

This is why I’m excited about my forthcoming travel photography blog. It will give me a chance to post some of these outside-of-Disney experiments. I’ve found that the process of editing and sharing photos helps me look more critically at my own photos, and also gives me insight into what others think of my photos (I’ve long said that regardless of where you are in your journey as a photographer, I think one of the best things you can do is join a photo-sharing community, post photos, and be receptive to constructive criticism). Beyond that, reading new photography books, photography blogs, and even looking at others’ non-Disney photos on Flickr, Google+, and 500px should also help me grow and learn more.

I know the above couple of paragraphs will be met by some with an eyeroll. I’m not intending to solicit compliments by saying “I stink” or anything of the sort. I don’t think I stink (at least not at photography, my hygiene is another story). I’m very proud of many of the photos I took in 2012–there’s just always room for improvement, and complacency breeds mediocrity.

I hope you liked these photos, and I hope 2012 was a great year for you in photography or in whatever hobby you practice! If you are a photographer and would like to share a link to your favorite (or 12 favorite!) photos from 2012, I’d love that! If you accomplished something of which you’re proud in a non-photography hobby (I’m especially partial to anything that involves cat hijinks), send a link to that, too!

18 Responses to “Top 12 Disney Photos of 2012”
  1. Kristen April 4, 2013
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    • Tom Bricker January 2, 2013
    • Kevin January 2, 2013
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  6. Chirstian December 31, 2012
    • Tom Bricker January 1, 2013
  7. Ann December 31, 2012
    • Tom Bricker January 2, 2013
  8. Nik December 31, 2012
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  10. Kevin Crossman December 31, 2012
    • Tom Bricker December 31, 2012
  11. Todd Hurley December 31, 2012
    • Tom Bricker December 31, 2012

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