Animal Kingdom Lodge

Editor’s Note:

Hello Disney Photography Blog fans………a few weeks ago, I asked if any of our readers wanted to contribute an article and I got a couple of responses.  Today’s post is the first article from reader Mark Giglio about photographing Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I want to thank Mark for taking the time to write this article for us and I love the perspective he brings.  We often head back to the Disney Parks to try and get a shot that we’ve been working on over multiple trips and this is a story just like that.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge first opened in April 2001 and from my first visit in 2003 I’ve held the belief that it is one of, if not the most, visually impressive resorts on property.  The thatched roof lodge is decorated in wood and earth tones and has a vast six story lobby with a glass walled centerpiece.

Like many things at Disney the Animal Kingdom Lodge is spectacular, but incredibly difficult to photograph.  A combination of factors lead to this common conundrum: grandness of scale, populated areas, and limited photographic angles.  I got my first DLSR in 2007, just 22 days before going to Disney with my family, and perhaps Disney was that extra motivation to pull the trigger on a DSLR with a college student’s budget.  While I didn’t stay at the lodge in 2007, dinning at Boma provides a great excuse to walk around the grounds and take a few pictures.

The first thing you see when you walk into the lobby is the floor to ceiling glass wall covered in vines, and capturing an image of that has been my goal.  The very first image I captured of this wall was from inside looking out and featured the ostrich lights.  Unfortunately patience and care was not with me (and probably still isn’t).  I didn’t wait for the staircase to be clear, and I wasn’t standing centered.  There is also a giant bright eyesore in the bottom left corner that instantly draws your eye to it.



There are some merits to this photograph, which make me want go back to get a better version.  First the single tall tree in the middle is a nice visual element.  Secondly the multiple reflections of the Ostridge lights intrigue me.  And last is the time of day, the lighting inside and out are nicely balanced.  Next visit I’ll probably use a wider angle lens to provide some gap between the center tree and the lights while simultaneously capturing more the wall.  As always a good tripod and some careful framing would help substantially.

My first outdoor shot focuses on the Christmas tree (but chops the top off) and shows a narrow portion of the wall.  Both of these attempts were with at 50mm f1.4 at 1.6 and 1.4 respectively, shot handheld at ISO 1600.  The narrow depth of field is apparent, and ISO 1600 shows the limit of earlier cameras, both in terms of noise and dynamic range.


My next try at photographing the feature wall of the lodge came in 2014, this time armed with a tripod and wide angle lens I tried to capture the grandness of the whole wall, producing the photograph below.  I must have walked around for 10 minutes trying different angles, trying not to chop the tree, lights and chandeliers too much.  I’m quite pleased with this shot, a notable improvement over the last two.


My latest attempt, again thanks to a Boma reservation, came in 2015.    That’s the photo at the top of the post.  This time I was more conscious about the balance of outdoor light to indoor light, and I wanted to capture even more of the lodge.  The last photo is my personal favorite.  Is it perfect, well no, but I like the wider capture, the fact there is details in the clouds and shadows and the slightly off center framing.

One of the wonderful things about being in a Disney family is that you get to go back to the places you love, often times getting many opportunities to get a photograph just right.  The other side to that is Disney often changes things giving us new opportunities.  Do you have any places you’ve photographed multiple times, or are they any places you wish you had another chance to photograph before Disney upgraded an area?


Editor’s Note:

Thanks again Mark for the great post.  Everyone, please consider leaving a comment below (you have to hit Read More) to bring up the comment link.  Also, if you are going to be ordering from 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.

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Chris White

about 1 year ago Reply

First off, great post, for a couple of reasons. I love AKL and Kidani Village, so you got my interest just by the location. But I enjoyed this post because Mark showed how his photos got so much better by being patient and sticking with improving his shots, even ones from the same location. Mark, you should be very happy with those shots. I'm not too far along on working to becoming a good photographer (hopefully a great one someday), and we have a Disney trip coming up in about 3 months. Last time out, I had a chance to shoot Flower & Garden, and really made a mess of it, mainly because I thought I could just point and shoot and not pay attention to the camera. Now I'll get another chance at Flower & Garden, and also try some other shots. And while I probably won't get anything like what you guys usually post, Mark's article gives me some confidence that the photos from this trip will be my best ever, which is good enough for me at this point. Thanks again for getting the site back up, and increasing the frequency of adding comment. Great work as always, and Mark, I hope you post again sometime.


about 1 year ago Reply

Hi Chris! Thanks for your comments! Mark really did a bang up job on his post and we might be seeing more from him in the future. Everyone can always get better and I'm sure your upcoming trip will result in some good Flower & Garden shots. I know Cory has shot the Flower & Garden show a lot over the years and we'll make sure to add some tips on that show in the future. Thank you for writing in, we appreciate all of our feedback.


about 1 year ago Reply

Mark, thanks for posting an image that you were somewhat critical of! All too often, what I find as I surf to get better with my photography, are individuals' best work; being afraid, I would presume, of criticism if some image is flawed in some way. But I believe that seeing an image that a photographer DOESN'T like, and he/she pointing out the "whys" is much more helpful for guiding me to how to think of a shot. This is a great example of that. I stayed at AK years ago, and although we didn't stay there in our last two visits I always make a point to go there just for the lobby. I've shot many pictures from as many angles as I could find (from all 8 upper and lower corners and everywhere in-between) yet still haven't quite captured the true beauty of this room. I've even done several HDR versions, which greatly enhanced the images, but not perfect yet. So thanks for posting. I found it quite thought-provoking.

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