" Wishes "

Wishes – Fireworks from the Ticket and Transportation Center

Recently I had to take a business trip down to Orlando. It was a last minute trip and I knew there was no way for me to get in to the parks…..but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to see Wishes in person one last time before it goes away on May 12th for Happily Ever After.  I’m a DVC member so I could have gone up to watch the fireworks from the top of Bay Lake Tower.  Or I could have watched them from the observation deck of the Contemporary.  I’ve watched Wishes from those locations before and but I’ve never tried watching the show from the TTC so I thought I would give that a shot.

First rule of fireworks photography.  PACK ALL OF THE GEAR YOU NEED!  Since this was an in and out trip to Orlando all I brought with me was the camera, tripod, and shutter release.  I left my Variable ND filter at hope (DOH!) and my hot shoe mounted bubble level (DOH!), but I did remember to bring my step up rings.  I didn’t even bother to bring all of my lenses.  All I had with me was the my 50mm f/1.8.

Watching Wishes from the TTC is great!  They pipe the music in and it’s not very crowded.  The only real problem is the ferry.  Once you get set up you have to guard your tripod set up from the crowds of people that are leaving the Magic Kingdom.  One small dive down the rabbit hole.  Who the heck leaves the Magic Kingdom right before the fireworks?!?!?!?!  The ferry’s were PACKED with guests streaming out of the park.  Don’t these people know that the show won’t be around for long?  And who hates fireworks?!?!??!?

Back to shooting the fireworks at the TTC.  First things first.  During the beginning of the show the Ferry is still running.  So you are going to get streaks of the Ferry running through your shot early on in the fireworks.

Second, 50mm f/1.8 is far too wide to shoot the fireworks.  Look at the lead image of this blog post.  The island on the left is so dark it acts as a dead spot in the photo.  You probably want something at least 85mm.

Third, like I said above.  Don’t forget all of your gear.  I’ve never shot fireworks without my ND filter.  Texting Cory right before the fireworks started, he told me to go with a smaller aperture.  By the time the finale got around I had dropped down all the way to f/18.  But I still left the shutter open too long.  Blow out city man!

If I were going to do the show again I would definitely remember to bring my variable ND filter and my hot shoe bubble level.  I know, I know.  My Canon 60D has an on screen digital level.  Trust me – the bubble level is much easier to use.

One other thing.  There was a relatively small group of people shooting from the TTC with me that night.  For the life of me I can’t imagine trying to shoot the fireworks in Bulb mode on your camera WITHOUT a remote shutter release.  Look there are tons of them here on Amazon and there are a lot of models under $10.  That’s all I spent on mine.  The camera is going to vibrate when you press the shutter.  It ruins the point of putting the camera up on a tripod.

I’m really happy I got to see Wishes in person one last time.  Wishes has a special place in my heart.  After seeing the teaser footage the new show and music could be really good, but it will never have the sentimental value of Wishes for me.  I didn’t nail the images as well as I hoped but I still got some keepers out of it so I’ll take that as a win.

PREVIEW

Do you like to go into the park with only your camera and one lens?  Would you like to have quick access to a second lens WITHOUT using a big bag in the park?  Well LensFlipper might be what you are looking for.  The team at LensFlipper sent us a review unit and Ben’s review is going to be up on Monday.  I’ve seen the review and you’ll definitely want to check back on Monday.

 

Goodbye Wishes

Well, the shoe finally dropped yesterday.  For many years now people have been speculating that Wishes Nighttime Spectacular would be replaced and yesterday the Disney Parks Blog team revealed that it is finally going to happen.   The final performance of Wishes will take place on May 11th, 2017 with the new show – Happily Ever After – debuting the next night on May 12th.  A nice gift for anyone visiting the parks for Mother’s Day weekend.

This is one of mine.  I have this hanging in my office.

It’s an unpopular opinion but I’ve always felt that Wishes was the best fireworks on property.  I know people love Illuminations: Reflections of Earth but it really has never grabbed me the way Wishes has.  Wishes always found a way to pull on my heart strings.  Yes, I’m a grown man that cried the first time I took my daughter to watch the fireworks at Walt Disney World.  Adopting her was the wish my wife and I made that came true.  So the announcement yesterday was met with great sadness by me yesterday.  But then after thinking about it a bit, and watching some parts of the concept teaser I was filled with hope.

This is one of mine too, this is one of the few ones hanging at home.

  • A new show means a new subject to photograph at Walt Disney World.  Taking fireworks shots is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World and now there is a new show to take pictures of.
  • I keep thinking of what it would be like to try and photograph the  show that first night and how excited I would be.  At this point we all know the timing of Wishes down pat.  But with a new show, it would be an entirely new experience.  I can imagine that jockeying for position near the hub is going to be insane for photographers that night.  Is camping out at noon too early?  Lol.
  • I have three Wishes prints on the walls of my office.  New photos of a new show means I can get even more fireworks on the walls of my office (which we’re moving in 6 months so I get to completely redecorate my office with pictures).
  • The snippets in the teaser trailer look really good, I mean check the Disney Parks blog link above.  They look really good.
  • The name…..Happily Ever After.  It seems that Disney is going to go for pulling at the heart strings again and that’s great.  I saw someone post online that new animated films are being added to the show and Moana was going to be added to the mix.  That’s great news!

It’s always fun to shoot from different locations.  Here’s a shot from Ben Hendel from the top of the Contemporary. A shot featured on 1/6/17 in the 2017 Photo A Day application.

One thing that the news didn’t address was what is going to happen at the Holidays.  Will we still see Hallowishes at Halloween and Holiday Wishes at Christmas?  Or are we going to get a So what say you?  Wouldn’t that be fun if we got new holiday shows as well.

Will Hallowishes be replaced as well?  This photo (and the top one on the post) is by Ben Hendel and featured in our 2017 Photo a Day App.  

Are you excited for the new show?  Are you sad to see it go?  Hit read more and post something in the comments.  Let us know what you think.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

MeFoto RoadTrip Travel Tripod

On my first couple of trips to Walt Disney World, I didn’t really have a tripod.  Sure I had one of those cheap tripods that you can find at BestBuy or Target, but the head wasn’t very stable and to be honest, I didn’t feel like trusting my Canon 60D to a the $39 tripod that came free with my video camera years ago.  But after seeing the wonderful fireworks and empty park shots that Cory, Ryan, and the rest of the Disney Photography Community takes, I knew I had to upgrade my gear with a good tripod.  Enter the MeFoto RoadTrip.

roadtrip-colors-red

The aluminum MeFoto RoadTrip comes in a 12 different colors at the time of this post (I think it was fewer when I bought my red one back in 2013) so you can choose the one that bests suits your personal sense of style.  Weighing 3.6lbs this isn’t the lightest tripod but it is by no means heavy.  It is extremely well put together.  Everything just feels right when you use it.  The controls for the included ball head are solid and hold your camera level when they are tightened down, and the twist locks on the legs keep your camera at the height you want.  There is even a hook on the end of the center column for attaching an additional counterweight on windy days.  I have hung my camera back there when I want to make sure my camera is steady.   The RoadTrip has a max rated load of 17.6 lbs, so with my Canon 60D (1.7 lbs) that means (in theory) the tripod could support the big Canon 400 f/2.8 lens (8.5lbs) with no issue – although having shot that lens before I’m not so sure I would push the tripod that far.  The RoadTrip has a maximum height of 61.6″ with the center column fully extended so it’s tall enough when trying to get a good fireworks shot in on Main Street. The RoadTrip can also be converted into a monopod with a little bit of work, which I’ve been able to use when shooting some of the stage shows in the parks when setting up a full tripod is impractical.

The only downside to the RoadTrip is the individual twist and lock leg extensions.  The folks at MeFoto were thoughtful enough to include four separate leg extensions for each of the the tripod’s legs.  This allows the RoadTrip to fold up into an extremely small package when you are done.  But this means you have to twist and lock the legs a lot when you are either setting up or shutting down after an evening of photography.

The photo for this post was shot right at the hump on Main Street during my last trip to Walt Disney World, Spring Break of 2014.  I love shooting Wishes – the fireworks show holds a special place in my family’s heart – and the RoadTrip has helped me get some great shots.

So that’s what I’m using?  What tripod are you using?  Put it in the comments?