" November 2015 "

Fireworks Friday – Wishes

I can’t get enough of watching and photographing Wishes.  I know it is heresy among the Disney community to say this, but I’ll take Wishes every night of my trip over Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  Now to be fair, I haven’t seen any of the Holiday variants of Illuminations so that might tip the scale in one direction but I doubt it.  Thanks to tips I’ve gotten from this blog (thanks Cory, Ryan and Adam) and some of the other Disney Photographers like Kevin Davis, Tom Bricker, and Ben Hendel, I’m finally starting to like the shots of Wishes that I’ve gotten.  Now that I have some shots from dead center of the castle printed out, I’m going to have to work on getting some pictures from alternate locations around the park.

In the coming weeks we are going to have an entire series of posts up on the blog for improving your fireworks photography, but for now we will leave you with a couple of tips.

  • You’re going to have to get your camera on a tripod, as mentioned in my gear review here I shoot on the MeFoto RoadTrip.  The shutter is going to be open for a long time and any vibration is going to turn the shot into a blurry mess.
  • You’re going to need a remote shutter release.  Remember how I just said that any vibration is going to turn your photo into a blurry mess?  Well when you depress the shutter, you are probably (I’m sure there are shutter pressing ninjas out there in the world that can depress the shutter without moving the camera, but I’m not one of them) going to get a blurry mess there too.
  • A Variable ND Filter.  You are going to be leaving the shutter open a long time in order to get multiple bursts in one frame like the shot above.  Without an ND filter you are going to wind up blowing out the highlights out.  A Neutral Density Filter works like your sunglasses cutting down the intensity of the bursts and allowing you to get color on the castle and other objects in the image.  As you leave the shutter open longer you need to adjust the amount of filter you are using.


See what I mean about blown out highlights.  The first time I shot fireworks in the parks was at Hong Kong Disneyland and I didn’t have my ND filter set up right.  There are spinners on the front of the castle and you can’t see a thing as they are so bright they overwhelmed the shot.

  • Pray for good weather.  Sometimes when you are shooting Wishes the wind is blowing from the wrong direction and your photographs will turn out to be a mess as the smoke clouds from spent fireworks flood the castle in a haze.


Here’s another shot from that night at Hong Kong Disneyland.  See all the smoke clouds?  When the wind is blowing the right way the castle and your shot will be overwhelmed and ruined.  

  • Memorize the performance.  When you are shooting at a local fireworks display you just have to go with it.  Maybe you can see the streak of the shots going up so you can take a good guestimate of when the bursts are going to pop open.  But with the Disney fireworks shows, there are countless YouTube videos out there that show the fireworks shows.  By memorizing when the bursts are going to come, you can better time when you open and close the shutter.


This shot is from PhotoMagic 2013 about six months after my trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.  I had gotten a bit better then my first attempt, but the shot still isn’t what I wanted.  

Many Disney Photographers have started to capture the whole fireworks show in one shot.  I haven’t tried that yet but the images I see on Flickr are just amazing.  We are going to see a post soon from Ben with a how-to article on this topic in the coming weeks.

On a side note, I would like to thank all the people that have found this blog again after it was dormant for so long.  We’ve gotten a lot of great emails and comments from you and we really do appreciate it.  We are going to stick to a regular post schedule of Monday / Wednesday / Friday for the foreseeable future as we fill the blog with content.  Are there any subjects you would like to see us cover going forward?  Please leave a comment (hit the Read More button below to bring up the comment form) and we’ll try to work on something to help you out.

Timbuk2 Snoop XS Review

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from Disney Photography Blog friend Alan Rappaport (@AlanRappa on Twitter).  Alan was a frequent contributor in the past and we are glad that he’s returned for today’s gear review.  You can find more of Alan’s writing here and see his pictures on Flickr here. On with the review……


Finding the perfect camera bag is a holy grail quest that every photographer explores. For us Disney photographers, there’s the additional challenge of not only finding the perfect bag, but finding one that can also perform under the conditions of a Disney theme park.


To me, this means a bag that’s comfortable for extended periods of use, easy to access, easy to travel with and doesn’t get in the way while enjoying Disney’s attractions. I’m not saying the Snoop is the holy grail, but to echo the sentiment of the Knight from The Last Crusade, I feel I have chosen wisely.


The Snoop Camera bag is a messenger style bag that comes in three sizes and retails from $130 –  $170 (though it can frequently be found on sale at Timbuk2.com).  (Editor’s note: The bag Alan is reviewing is currently on sale at Amazon for $84.99 and free shipping)


For this review, I am going to be focusing on the XS size which is perfect for anyone shooting with compact or mirrorless camera system.


Starting with the outside of the bag, one of my favorite things about the Snoop is that it doesn’t scream ‘camera bag’ when you look at it. This is essential for me when I’m traveling as prefer to keep my gear as incognito as possible. The Snoop is stylish, while remaining understated. It’s currently available in two styles – Black and Diablo, though I do hope Timbuk2 adds it to their custom bag builder at some point.


The exterior is constructed of ‘bomb proof’ Codura fabric backed with a waterproof TPU liner on the inside. While I can’t vouch for the bag’s ‘bomb-proof’ effectiveness, I have been caught out in inclement weather  a few times with it.


The outside of the bag got completely drenched, but my gear remained snug & dry on the inside. To help keep the elements away from your gear, the Snoop features extra fabric at the top corners that fold in like origami when the bag is closed.



On the top of the Snoop you’ll find a sturdy hand strap which is great for managing the bag while getting on or off attractions. To make life even easier when loading/unloading rides is the single-handed shoulder strap adjustment.


This is a unique feature that makes adjusting the length of the shoulder strap a breeze which is fantastic when you’re trying to expedite your exit from a ride vehicle or speed you way through bag check.


Directly under the front flap you have two storage pockets. The first being a clear, zippered pouch that is great for smaller items such as memory cards or spare batteries. Behind that, you’ll find a stash pocket with an anchor for your keys, or in my case, a microfiber cloth.


Flanking the zippered pouch are two Velcro strips which do a great job keeping the flap closed when not buckled. There’s a large strip of Velcro on the underside of the flap, which makes it easy to seal the bag without precisely lining up opposing Velcro sides.


The Velcro can be loud when opening the bag, but Timbuk2 includes Velcro ‘silencers’ along with the Snoop for when stealth shooting is a must.


Below the Velcro straps are two buckles to lock down and cinch up your bag when you’re on the move.


Ok, now on to the main event, the interior of this bag. The Snoop includes a cushy, padded interior with Velcro dividers for you to customize to fit your gear. The bottom of this comportment is well padded, giving your gear a nice soft bed to rest on while protecting it from bumps and bruises.


The camera compartment can easily carry my Sony A7 with one lens attached along with two additional lenses (in my case a 24-70mm & 55mm). There isn’t room for much else, however you can get creative with the dividers to maximize the internal space. No matter how you slice it though, if you travel ‘gear-intensive’ then this may not be the right bag for you. It’s best for shooters who prefer to stick to a streamlined or ‘daily’ kit.


Best part about the camera compartment is that it is completely removable. This makes the bag even more versatile for traveling as it can double as a regular messenger bag when you don’t need to carry your gear along with you.


In additional to the camera compartment, on the inside there is an internal divider that houses a zippered pouch along with two organizational pockets


The Snoop is comfortable on the shoulder, however I wouldn’t  more padding on the strap – especially since the pad is non-removable. You’re mileage may vary here, but as long as you pack a sensible load the Snoop will carry it in stride while going easy on your shoulder.


There’s no magic button to getting at your gear. Like any messenger bag, just swing the bag to your front, open the flap and grab what you need. While the velcro was strong on it’s own, I preferred to keep the buckles engaged to minimize the risk of the bag opening when not intended.


The small profile of the XS makes it easy to swing the bag around to your back and navigate crowds without having to worry about bumping you gear into other guests. It’s also easy to fit the bag between your legs on tight attractions such as Space Mountain or Expedition Everest.


As far as Disney Photography goes, The Snoop is an easy recommendation for shooting around the parks as it meets all the criteria I stated at the beginning of this post. The XS suffers from a few shortcomings when compared to it’s larger siblings – namely the lack of a tripod attachment and no Napoleon pocket on the front. Aside from those two items (and the lack of a custom bag option) I have zero complaints with this bag.


Those of you who travel light in the parks, and are looking for a bag that likes to play as much as you do will be well served checking out the Snoop. Not only is it a comfortable, durable bag, but Timbuk2 is a great company, and stands behind their products offering a lifetime warranty.


Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have any questions. I’d love to hear what everyone’s current ‘holy grail’ camera bag is.


The Snoop Messenger Camera Bag is available directly from Timbuk2, or can be found at Amazon, B&H Photo, and wherever fine bags are sold.  



Removable camera compartment

Easy to adjust shoulder strap

Waterproof liner

Velcro silencers

‘Incognito’ appearance



No tripod attachment (on xs)

No Napoleon pocket for quick access (on xs)

Strap pad could use more padding

No custom options (at least not yet)


Daylight Savings Time at Animal Kingdom

The last few months of the year are upon us, and with that comes daylight savings time. For many of us, this time of the year is kind of a bummer, since it gets dark super early, and the sun is fully risen by the time many of us wake up. It’s a weird shock to the system, and always takes a few weeks to get used to.

But, there is one major positive to this time of year. As many of you know, Disney’s Animal Kingdom runs (for now) on much shorter hours than the other three Walt Disney World parks. Because of the fact that most of the attractions are animal based, this was a necessity. Since Disney is doing a nighttime version of the Safari, adding the Rivers of Light nighttime show, and building an entire area themed to Avatar: The World of Pandora, chances are that by 2017, AK will have full operating hours just like the other parks.

But, until then, it’s 5-7pm closings. How does this tie into this time of the year though? Well, now we get the chance to, on many nights, actually see Animal Kingdom past sunset. During the summertime, it’s nearly impossible to do. So, when this happens, we must take advantage and get some photos!


Sunset in this park is beautiful, with lots of water features and lots of foliage.


One of the highlights of my recent trip to the park was being able to see the new Harambe Market area completely without any guests, but without it being nighttime.

_DSC3398 _DSC3401

Once sunset falls, we hit the blue hour. Once it gets to this time, it is extremely important to use a tripod to make sure your shots are nice and sharp, while also keeping the ISO down so there isn’t too much noise. There are tons of areas throughout the park to photograph the Tree of Life, but I think they take on a new life once this hour hits. Check out these reflections!


For many of these shots, you will have to tinker around with the White Balance once you get into your photo editing software. For many of the shots I took last week, the RAW file was rather bland with not a ton of color, so for many of these shots, I changed the White Balance to be quite a bit warmer and more inviting.


If you walk down the exit area for it’s tough to be a bug, you can find one of the only remaining places to get up close and personal with the Tree of Life.


Lastly, on my way out of the park, I did the traditional postcard shot of the Tree of Life, although it can be quite a bit different looking once the sun has fallen for the day. The new animal carvings that were added within the past year also help the composition here by adding some interesting foreground elements for us to shoot.


We may hate how early it gets dark this time of the year, but the opportunity to get some nighttime or sunset photos at Animal Kingdom is worth it! Remember, if you do head out to the park to see it at night, make sure to bring your tripod. Keeping the ISO down low will help cover the large dynamic range of many of the scenes here. I also make sure to bring not just my wide angle lens, but a normal focal length as well to not limit the options for taking photos.

For those curious, these photos were all taken with the Sony a7 and either the Rokinon 14mm lens or the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. Thanks for reading, and we would love to hear your thoughts on Animal Kingdom at night in the comments below!!


Printing Your Photos

So we make these trips to Walt Disney World.  We bring all of our lenses.  We fill up countless memory cards.  We drag our tripods all over the place.  We stay way past closing to get shots of the park with no other guests in them.  But what do we do with our photos?  Do they just sit on hard drives probably never to be looked at again?  Our hard work deserves a little appreciation and printing them is a great way to do it.  As I look up from my computer, I have over twenty prints hanging in my office.  Nearly all of them are mine – I do have one of Cory’s photos hanging on my wall.  They’re great conversation starters.  But more importantly, when I’m having a hard day at work or something I’m doing isn’t going right I can look up and take a moment to remember something fun.

I used to dabble in printing the photos myself and actually quite enjoyed it.  But the printer I had couldn’t print edge to edge so I was constantly trimming the images after I was done or leaving the white border in tact.  A number of times I accidentally moved the print before the ink was totally dry and printing myself turned out to be a bit of a hit or miss option for me.  That was all before I discovered Adorama Pix though, and I don’t think I’ll go back to printing images on my own ever again.  They’ve been my go-to source for photo prints for the last three years now and I’ve always been happy with the results.  Their work is outstanding and as luck would have it they are having a sale on prints right now.  The sale ends Monday so get cracking over the weekend!!!  $5.99 for a 16×20, $1.99 for an 11×14 and only $0.99 for an 8×10.  They also throw in free shipping if your order is above $39.

Once you have your photos uploaded to Adorama there are several options you have to go through in order to place your order.  One of the first things you have to decide on is what kind of paper you would like them to use.  Adorama offers their prints on a variety of paper and they do a good job of describing the finishes but I wanted to see how my images looked on each of them.  At $0.99 for an 8×10 it was an easy decision and ordered three images on each of the paper choices.  In fact, when I order prints I usually wait for a sale like this and then order them on multiple paper styles just to see what works out best.

  • LUSTER: Adorama calls Luster their most popular paper and it is easy to see why.  The glossy finish has a bit of a sheen to it and colors just pop off the page.  To my eye, Luster is between Matte and Glossy in terms of just how glossy the image is.  Most of the prints that I have are on Luster paper as I like the slight sheen that the paper has and the texture on the paper is very fine.  Besides the 8x10s I ordered, I got each of the three photos as 16×20 prints and are already hanging on the wall.  Luster just makes your photos pop, especially if you have a lot of color.
  • GLOSSY: Glossy is a step up from Luster in terms of how glossy the finish is.  I tend to like he Luster variant better, especially in the lighting conditions of my office.  The high gloss just picks up too much of a glare for my liking.
  • METALLIC:  Metallic costs a bit more than all the others ($1.50 for 8×10 instead of the $0.99 sale price) but the cost is definitely worth it.  I love the way prints turn out on the Metallic paper.  There is an even more pronounced sheen to the paper than the Luster I mentioned above.  The colors pop right off the page and there is a certain depth to it.  I have a Black & White HDR image hanging in my office that just looks gorgeous on the Metallic paper.
  • SILK : Silk is one of their newer finishes.  The paper has an almost vintage feel to it as there is a linen like texture to it.  You can see the grain of the paper in the image which is really nice.  This is definitely more of a matte finish.  Adorama recommends it for wedding and portrait pictures, but I really like the way this image turned out with it.  The streaks of the fireworks almost pick up a slight lenticular effect to it which is pretty neat.  I can imagine that this paper would look great for a black and white photo too.
  • MATTE: There is almost no shine at all on the Matte finish papers.  Colors are true but it makes the image look just a bit flatter than I like.  I definitely wouldn’t order a fireworks shot on the Matte paper, but I have a picture of an elephant playing in the water in Animal Kingdom that just looks great on Matte.  This is another paper that Adorama recommends for portrait work for how well it handles skin tones.  I think I’ll grab a couple of character shots and try them on Matte next time I place an order.
  • DEEP MATTE: This is only available on 16×20 prints and I didn’t order anything on the Deep Matte.  So I can’t comment on how this paper would look.

When you are editing your photos remember that you are looking at the image on a nice, back lit screen.  Your photos won’t have the benefit of that back light – unless you are mounting them in a light box.  So push the images a little bit more than you are comfortable with as your prints will naturally turn out darker.







One of the options when placing your order refers to color corrections.  By default, the Apply Image Corrections radio button is clicked on.  As I was ordering this round of images, I messed up and forgot to click the No Thanks option.  Did it ruin the images?  No.  It didn’t.  When I look at what I sent them and what I got back two of the images are spot on to what I sent them.  In regards to my red Wishes photo though, I know I pushed the highlights because I liked the red glow that the people took on in the crowd.  When Adorama color corrected it, they backed the highlights down and the fireworks look better but it lost the crowd.  Again, this isn’t on Adorama, this is on me.  I messed up and forgot to click the radio button that I had already color corrected it.  No worries though.  I already have another order placed to correct it.


So do you print your photos?  And if you do where do you hang them?  We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

This image was shot with my Canon 60D and the kit 18-135 lens at f/8 and I was using my MeFoto RoadTrip tripod (which I reviewed on the site here).  Please consider following the Amazon link as it helps support the site.