" Sunset "

Monorail Monday Sunset

Happy Monday everyone! For today’s post, I’d like to go through the steps I took to capture this photo over the weekend:

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Everyone loves an epic monorail shot. This one was actually the second photo I had taken of this monorail passing by. The first one was on the other side of the walkway facing the Odyssey building and the Test Track building. I completely botched that one, but as soon as I snapped it, I played Disney Frogger and evaded a bunch of people making their way through this part of the park to also capture the monorail coming through past this beautiful Flower and Garden Festival bed and the Imagination pavilion.

So, let’s talk settings. I knew that it was a pretty nice sunset, so I wanted to capture the colors in the sky. The water wasn’t as important, so I actually dialed down my exposure compensation to a -1. This made the edit on the computer a little more complicated, but it got me the oranges and yellows, so I was ok with it. I was in Manual mode, and had set my shutter speed to 1/320, my aperture at f/4, and my ISO to Auto. Since I would be running across the walkway, I really wouldn’t have time to set up everything and figure out the ISO on my own, so I elected to use the Auto ISO. With those settings, my camera decided to give me an ISO of 800.

Once getting home and seeing the shot on the computer, it was pretty underexposed. But, the colors were there, and the last bit of sunlight for the day was kissing the monorail, so I was happy. I warmed up the White Balance a tiny bit, and then did my normal editing process, which includes toning down the highlights a tad, lifting shadows, adding some contrast and saturation, and then sharpening. On a normal daytime image (and even some nighttime ones), that does the trick. But with this one, there were some other complications. The water area was essentially black. So, in Lightroom, I clicked on the little brush in the Develop module, and set my brush to be +1.20 on the Exposure dial, and I proceeded to brush the whole bottom of the photo. I got what you see in the finished result, but from pushing the sensor that way, there was some noise, so I also added some Noise Reduction, but only to the area that had already been brushed.

I also thought the sky could use a little bit more punch, so I created a second brush, boosted the saturation to about +35, and then brushed the entire sky.

At that point, you have the image seen here. Sunset images do tend to take a little more work to get going, but once you arrive at a point you like, they are rather satisfying. Have you ever shot the monorail, or anywhere at WDW at sunset? What tips do you have for everyone? Please let us know in the comments below.

For those curious, this was shot with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at our Amazon store, along with anything else you may need for your daily life. Anything you purchase after clicking the link helps keep the site alive, at no cost to you! Thanks for reading!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Which is better? Grand Floridian Sunset

Welcome to another new week, and a new set of posts here at Disney Photography Blog. For today’s post, I would like to get some discussion going. I was lucky to be leaving the Magic Kingdom yesterday when it was very overcast and then have the clouds part and make way for a beautiful sunset. Naturally, I postponed my ferryboat ride back to the car to take a few photos. I had two of my lenses with me on this jaunt out to the park – a 14mm f/2.8 and a 55mm f/1.8. Since I didn’t have a ton of time and I was already out of the park, I decided to walk out past the boat launch for the Polynesian and Grand Floridian to get some photos with the sunset of the Floridian from across the Seven Seas Lagoon. So, I took a few shots with both lenses, and I’m going to post them both below. They were shot roughly at the same time and edited almost exactly the same way. I’ll explain what I like about each one, and then I’m going to ask for all of you wonderful readers to share which one you like best and why. So, here’s the wide one:

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Ok, so here’s what I like about this one. It’s wide. Like, stupid wide. Shooting with lenses like this 14mm are a ton of fun down at WDW. And to me, this photo shows what Walt Disney World is all about. It is huge and epic and grand and all those superlatives combined into one. The clouds here are incredible and nature at its best. It’s also hard to believe the busiest theme park on the planet is just a few hundred yards behind where I was standing. What I’m not really a fan of is the focus of the shot. Is it on the Grand Floridian? Yes. I know that because I shot it. But, someone else might think this was just a pretty lagoon photo with a building that happens to be in the background. Alright, on to the tighter version shot with the 55mm.

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So, I like that this one has a clear and defined subject. This is 100% a shot about the flagship resort of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. It still has some pretty epic clouds, although they aren’t quite as massive looking as the ones in the wide angle shot. But, it doesn’t necessarily have that ‘wow’ factor when you first take a look at it. By shooting it tighter, I also wasn’t able to get really any of the blue color that was in the higher parts of the sky that the 14mm caught.

I don’t want to say which one is my favorite, but I would love to hear from you. Which one do you prefer? Why do you prefer it? Which one puts you more into the atmosphere of WDW? Please let us know in the comments below.

For those curious, these were both shot with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. Thanks for reading!

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!

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!