" January 2016 "

Looking up!

Thank you to everyone that responded to the poll last Friday!  We got a lot of great response and the votes will help shape our posts over the next few months.  A lot of people seem to want some Photoshop / Lightroom editing tips.  This isn’t necessarily my strength, but between Cory, Ryan, Ben, and Alan can be a great resources for this.  A few of the books that I have on my Weekend Reading Series cover Photoshop so I’ll make sure to pass along the things I learn.  We will keep the poll open for a while to collect additional feedback. Now, on to today’s post.

I really like taking pictures of animals, so taking pictures at Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World.  A lot of things are right in front of you, but you need to make sure you look up.   These crazy birds (I know I’m awful, I don’t know the species) make their nests upside down.  It was the craziest thing I ever did see and I was able to get a halfway decent shot of the bird.  I love that I got the wings extended and the background blurred out.  I was using a rented Canon 70-200 f/2.8 that day which certainly helped get the bokeh in the photo.

Someday I’ll get a good a shot of the tigers as Jeff Krause did here and someday I’ll get a shot of the gorilla as good as Ben Hendel did here.  It probably has to do with patience.  Just sitting in one spot along Pangani Exploration Trail or the Maharajah Jungle Trek and waiting for the animals to be in the right spot with the right light seems to be the key.  Someday I’ll develop that patience.

Sorry the post is so short today.  I have a lens review I’m working on for the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 in the works but I didn’t finish getting the photos pulled together yet.  Spoiler alert, the lens is awesome and if you like shooting wide then the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 is a great addition to your kit.

Also, if you are going to be ordering from Amazon.com anyway, please consider following this link.  It doesn’t cost you anything but we earn a very small commission and it helps support the site.

Heads up, we should be having a post coming up from the West Coast very soon………



Ben mentioned on twitter that the gorilla picture mentioned above was taken with a 70-200 and a Tamron 2x Teleconverter.  That puts the lens to a 140-400mm lens.  Pretty far reach without dragging in a dedicated 400mm lens!   Has anyone else out there shot with a teleconverter?  I’ve never tried it, but it sounds like an interesting option.


Late Afternoon Magic Kingdom Photo Spots

Happy Monday! For today’s post, I wanted to share some great photo spots with you. Now, these spots are all great places to take photos at, but they are particularly nice when the sun is starting to set for the day and the warm light of the late afternoon creates an awesome glow. Let’s go!

Rivers of America


If any of you know me, you’ll know that Rivers of America is one of my favorite spots for photography period, but, there is a certain type of magic once the light starts to get low for the day. To achieve maximum warm colors, shooting from over near Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will set you up for success, as the sun will be coming from behind where you are standing.

Tangled Tower


Walt Disney World’s most decorated restroom area looks particularly nice during the late afternoon, plus there are these nice trees in which you can frame your shot. This one was taken at 55mm from over on the walkway near Columbia Harbor House, next to the Memento Mori gift shop.

it’s a small world


The face for it’s a small world is relatively high off of the ground, which means that it won’t get too heavy of shadows from any of the buildings around it. Plus, when the sun hits all the colors on the building, they really pop off of the screen. Since the top of the building is the more interesting part, you also don’t have to worry about people walking in front of your shot!

Cinderella Castle


This shot is a must do for the vast majority of WDW visitors. But, it looks even better once that golden light is lightly touching the castle. This is from the Liberty Square side of the castle, as shooting from the Tomorrowland side would mean shooting straight into the sun. That isn’t a bad idea for a shot either, but for the purposes of capturing the golden light, you’ll want to shoot it from this angle. This shot can be a tiny bit difficult, though. With the sun setting, the entire area underneath the castle can be covered in shadow when you expose properly for the castle. So, you’ll have to work some magic in Lightroom to level everything out.

Main Street USA


Back when I used to vacation at Walt Disney World before moving to Florida, I would almost never be on Main Street USA during the early evening hours. That time would be reserved for dinner, taking photos, or riding attractions. But, Main Street USA is absolutely beautiful as the sun sets. Some of my favorite shots I’ve taken of this area of the park have come from while walking out of the park to head home for dinner and seeing the golden light touching the castle and the Main Street USA buildings. Seeing Main Street drenched in golden light with a castle at the end hits a nostalgic note for many people, as it would remind them of their own vacations, or looking at brochures or photo souvenirs before or after their vacations.

I hope you all enjoy seeing some of my favorite places to shoot in the park. Now, that was just 5 spots, and there are definitely a whole lot more that are awesome when the light starts getting nice. Which are your favorite? We would love for you to share them in the comments below.

For those curious, everything in this article was shot with the Sony a7 and either the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 or the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 lenses, all of which can be purchased through our Amazon link, which helps us run the site at no additional cost to you. Thanks for reading!

Around the Web and our first ever Poll

Cory and I had an email exchange last night about what topics we were going to cover in the next couple of weeks.  We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming down the pike that we can’t wait to share with you.  But as I sat down to put up today’s post I thought we should let the community have a say in what topics should be tackled first.  Thanks to the wonders of Word Press there is a plugin available that will allow you to cast your vote!  So here it is, the first Disney Photography Blog Poll.

So what kind of articles would you like to see more of?

View Results

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Select as many of the options as you want, but remember if you vote Other, we really want you to post a Comment and let us know what Other means!  So make sure you hit Read More and leave a comment.

In the meantime I thought I would just put up some links in this post to where you can find the team online.

The official Instagram account is here, we just passed 4,000 followers!

Ryan has been killing it on Instagram lately too (surpassing 5000 followers) and you can see his Disney pictures here.  And if you are one of the few that haven’t seen his O Foggy Night II shot (that got re-grammed by the official Disneyland account and got over 100,000 likes) here it is:

Occasionally I’ll put up a picture on Instagram but usually it is a shot you’ve seen on the blog.

Ben has got great photos over on Flickr.  His fireworks shots are just great and I hope I apply his techniques on my next trip.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Alan’s The LEGO Awakens series just puts us all to shame in terms of his ability to work on his photography skills.  The work he’s putting into recreating Star Wars shots in Lego is just amazing.

Also, if you are going to be ordering from Amazon.com anyway, please consider following this link.  It doesn’t cost you anything but we earn a very small commission and it helps support the site.


Dark Ride Photography – The Musical

Cory posted an excellent article on Dark Ride Photography a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to follow up on that with a different kind of Dark Ride Photography……taking pictures at the Animal Kingdom shows – Finding Nemo the Musical and Festival of the Lion King.  Really its the same thing, you are just applying the tips and skills to a stage show instead of a moving ride vehicle.  My family and I love all of the stage shows and when we swing by Animal Kingdom, stopping in to see both of these shows are a must do.  When I look at my photo library I’ve got lots of bad shots of the shows as I try to get better.

Tip number one, which goes without saying…..turn that flash off.  It isn’t going to help and its going to be a major distraction for the performers and possibly even dangerous.  Think about it, you’re one of the performers on stilts at Festival of the Lion King and some knucklehead is firing a flash at you.  Would you like it?

Second tip is to get stable.  Unlike the dark rides where the vehicle and the scenes are moving, only the performers are moving in the musicals which will make things a bit easier.  You can’t practically set up a tripod at the shows, but you can use a monopod.  My MeFoto Roadtrip Tripod converts into a monopod and I use my time before the show converting it.   A monopod doesn’t give you as much stability as a tripod, but it can give you a little bit of an advantage over hand holding the shot.


This is from the Hong Kong Disneyland version of Festival of the Lion King.   I took this with my nifty-fifty, 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Third tip….use the fastest glass you’ve got.  As with any Dark Ride Photography shot you need to get the fastest lens you can on the camera.  The fastest piece of glass that I have in my bag is the nifty-fifty, aka the Canon 50mm f/1.8.  At under $100, it is by far the best piece of glass you can get for your money.  You can really do well in low-light with the f/1.8 aperture.  With that being said though, if you can afford to hold off and get the Canon 50mm f/1.4, do it.  It’s 3.5x the price of the f/1.8 but the one time I got to borrow this lens from a friend it was totally worth it.  My best Festival of the Lion King shot was taken with the 1.4 the one time I got to borrow it. If memory serves correctly, Cory had the 50mm f/1.2 back when he shot Canon but that’s over a 10x jump in price.   The image at the top of the post was taken with the Canon 70mm f/2.8 IS II, a lens that I had rented for my last trip.  Someday I’ll have a lens that good in my bag, but not yet.


This is my favorite shot from Festival of the Lion King, taken with a borrowed 50mm f/1.4

My fourth tip is timing….it really is the key to getting a good shot.  You probably wouldn’t believe all the shots I have that are in focus, but the performer’s eyes are closed.  Or ones where I was focused on one performer but I didn’t notice a second performer coming into frame and ruining the composition of the shot.  Or the ones where I completely blew the focus all together.

Let me digress for a second.  My daughter started dancing years ago, but last year was her first year on a competition team.  At the first competition, there was a “professional” photographer at the event and the parents were prohibited from taking pictures.  I wouldn’t have minded it if the photographer was any good.   She used her expensive gear – she was shooting with a Canon 1Dx and a 70-200 f/2.8 IS II, gear I’ll only have if I hit the lotto.  The thing sounded like a Gatling gun when she was shooting.  Spray and pray was what ruled her day.  The photographer had a team with her and the photos from every routine were up on a computer outside the venue where you could order prints.  After my daughter’s routine I went to check out the photos.  Now, granted, nobody was culling the photographs or doing any kind of editing of them so I wouldn’t expect all the photos to be winners.  But I kid you not, every single photograph taken in the 2 1/2 minute routine was out of focus, or the dancer that was in focus was not the dancer that should have been the subject of the shot.  Confused, I went back and looked at the routines from the other girls at the same studio.  Nearly all of the photos were useless garbage, there were a couple of really great ones out of the thousands I was paging through but I guess one would expect random chance to make a good photo if you click the shutter often enough.  I couldn’t believe the parents that were plopping down $10 for each photo (or $99 for the entire routine).

The next competition we went to, there was a professional photographer there too, but at this event parents were allowed to shoot if they wanted.  Notice I dropped the scare quotes when I described the photographer at this event.  This young kid was shooting a Canon 5D Mark II and the same 70-200 f/2.8 IS II.  He was up on a tripod; where as the first photographer was hand-holding everything which does make a difference.  But what struck me the most was the camera wasn’t rocking and rolling.  The shutter was firing on beat with the music.  When I checked out his photos on the computer later, 90% of them were in focus and 90% of them had meaningful action in the shot.  I ended up talking to him during the break.  He was 20 years old, but he had been a dancer for years but a photographer for only about 18 months.  Even though he had never seen any of the routines he was shooting, he just followed the music and pressed the shutter on the beat – knowing that good choreography would have the girls landing a move in step with the music.  I was happy to pay for the photos that day.

The point of the story though is to feel the flow of the two shows while you are photographing them.  The performers are going to hit poses and land moves on beat with the music.  It will make your shots turn out a whole lot better.

So, do you have any tips for shooting at Finding Nemo the Musical or Festival of the Lion King?  If so hit the Read More button and leave a comment.

Also, if you are going to be ordering from Amazon.com anyway, please consider following this link.  It doesn’t cost you anything but we earn a very small commission and it helps support the site.


We are always looking for additional voices here at the blog, so if you are a reader here…..drop Ryan, Cory, or I a note (my email is KeithMKolmos at yahoo dot com – just put DISNEY PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG ARTICLE in the subject line so I’ll make sure to see it).  I’m always looking for ways to get better and we can ALL share something, no matter what your skill level is.  Don’t worry about the writing part, we can help you edit the piece once you have it together.


A special thank you to Bob and Mark who reached out last night with a couple of article ideas.  We’ll be seeing their articles here on the blog soon!  If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to send your note on in!!!