Characters in Flight at Twilight at Downtown Disney

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Characters in Flight balloon rising from its platform at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Characters in Flight balloon rising from its platform at Downtown Disney.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

I have been planning to ride the Characters in Flight balloon from the time it was announced. Yet, since it’s first flights in 2009, I have never been able to find the time or the right flight conditions to do so. That was until last month when it all came together on a visit to Downtown Disney including the time of day.

As Barrie, Lisa and I have mentioned many times, the hour before and after sunset is a magical time for photography. The Sun was just setting as my wife and I, another couple and the pilot started our ascent in the circular gondola below the 210,000 cubic feet red and yellow balloon decorated with flying Disney characters. The light towards the Sun was very harsh so I decided to photograph with it behind me. As you can see, it was a good decision.

About half way to our maximum altitude of 400 feet, I noticed the DVC ferry coming into the dock at Downtown Disney Marketplace as the last of the golden sunlight reflected off the Lake Buena Vista hotels.

A ferry headed to Downtown Disney Marketplace from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

A ferry headed to Downtown Disney Marketplace from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

At the top of our ascent, the restaurants and shops of Downtown Disney Marketplace, the Lake Buena Vista hotels and the city lights of greater Orlando stretched out to the horizon .

Disney Downtown Marketplace and Lake Buena Vista hotels from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Disney Downtown Marketplace and Lake Buena Vista hotels from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

Of to the north of the Lake Buena Vista hotels was the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Disney Vacation Club all lit up under the blue color of twilight.

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa from the Characters in Flight balloon, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa from the Characters in Flight balloon.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

The flight conditions were almost perfect for the ride with hardly any wind to speak of, a warm evening and clear sky. The flight was smooth, quiet and full of character and wonderful views of the Walt Disney World resort.

If you would like to see more photos and details about the Characters in Flight attraction, Jack Spence was on hand back in 2009 for the inaugural flights. Just one correction since Jack’s blog was published, the Characters in Flight now costs $18 or $12 for ages 3-9.

Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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3 Replies to “Characters in Flight at Twilight at Downtown Disney”

  1. Great Scott, nice photos!! Too bad we can’t click on the pics and get a larger image.

    Scott replies: We are limited here to a certain size so the photos fit the blog format and load fast. Glad you like the photos!

  2. On my last visit in Sept. 2010, I had taken one of those water taxies down from Port Orleans Riverside (I highly recommend this trip, by the way) to see La Nouba at the Cirque du Soleil theater (also highly recommended). I had wanted to ride Characters in Flight, but the were grounded by the weather. Oh well, maybe next time.

    To paraphrase our favorite space ranger: To tethered altitude; and no farther!

    Scott replies: LOL You did Buzz proud. I have done both the ferry ride from Riverside and La Nouba and highly concur. Hope there is better weather the next time you are at DTD.

  3. You picked a great time of day to go up!

    Great shots.

    It’s something I want to do too, just haven’t found the time.

    Scott replies: That was my issue. During a trip I may only get to DTD once or twice. So, it took a few trips to get the time and flight conditions (a couple of previous trips it was too windy on the day I was there) I wanted.