Photography on Hot Summer Nights at Walt Disney World Parks

The calendar informs us it is now summer in the Northern Hemisphere. In Florida, it is summer-like for most of the year, with daily temperatures topping 80 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, for seven months each year. Not to mention the humidity! When those really hot days of summer hit, night photography looks more appealing.

Spaceship Earth at Night
Spaceship Earth lighted at night in Epcot’s Future World in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/15s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

What is needed for quality night photography is a way to stabilize a camera for long exposures or use high ISOs to keep the shutter speed in a hand hold-able range. Tripods are the best way to use long exposures. Camera sensors have gotten so good in the last five years and now have excellent noise control at high ISOs and faster shutter speeds.

On a hot summer night, one is apt to stay late in the parks. If you are in the Magic Kingdom at time of closing, you will be treated to the Kiss Goodnight from Cinderella Castle. I used a quadpod (aka trash can) by leaning my body against it and anchoring my elbows on the top.

Cinderella Castle at Night
Cinderella Castle at night in the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/25s, f/4.8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 62mm Focal Length, Quadpod.

While waiting for IllumiNations, I propped the camera on the fence in front of Japan’s Red Torii Gate in Epcot’s World Showcase. I took a series of photos at 1/6th of a second to get the correct exposure on Spaceship Earth. This is the only one that came out sharp. The others had some movement blur.

Red Torii Gate at Night
Red Torii Gate at night in the Japan pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/6s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length, Fence Held.

When walking out of Disney’s Hollywood Studios one night, I photographed Oscar’s Super Service Station hand-held using Joe McNally’s Da Grip technique.

Oscar's Super Service Station at Night
Oscar’s Super Service Station at night in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/40s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0, 16mm Focal Length, Hand Held.

After watching the new Tree of Life Awakenings projection show on some YouTube videos, I made sure I brought a tripod to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which I stored in a locker until it was needed.  After watching the show in person, I determined I would need a long, as in really long, exposure for this part of the show.

Tree of Life Awakenings Projection Show
Tree of Life Awakenings projection show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/16-35VR, 30s, f/11, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, Tripod.

As you can see, there are various ways to get good night photographs at Walt Disney World. I did not even mention bean bags or small tripod-like replacements.

Do you use other ways to stabilize your camera for night photography? Let me know in the comments below.

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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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