Capturing an Empty Disney Park

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Walt Disney World hosts millions of visitors each year. There are always people about even during a slow period. Yet, you can take photographs without people in them. One way is to get low and shoot at an angle to eliminate people around you or find a way to elevate yourself over people’s heads. Another way is to find scenes where people can not get to like the photo of the ceremonial canoe I found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom near the Yeti Shrine.

Ceremonial Canoe in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Ceremonial Canoe near the Yeti Shrine.
Nikon D70/18-200VR 1/400s, f/16, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 150mm Focal length

I am a lightweight when it comes to getting truly empty photos of a Walt Disney World park. Let me introduce you to a true heavyweight, Tom Bricker (aka WDWFigment) has perfected empty Disney park photography. What he does is stay late at one of the parks…say, the Magic Kingdom until all the guests have left. He has seen the second Kiss Goodnight more times than I’ve been to Orlando (did you know there was a second one? Have you ever seen the first one?). Long after most guests are sleeping back at their resorts, Tom is getting photos only a paid Disney photographer normally gets a chance to shoot. Here are a couple of his favorites from the Magic Kingdom.

An empty Main Street USA during the Christmas holiday season in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

An empty Main Street USA during the Christmas holiday season by Tom Bricker.
Nikon D40, 5s, f/20, 200 ISO, +0.6 EV, 26mm Focal length

Tom talked about this photo, “Although the rain dampened the mood on portions of the (Mickey’s Very Merry) Christmas Party, it sure did make for some pretty after hours shots (my first with “rain reflections”!).”

In this very unique photograph of the castle below, Tom explains why it is often overlooked. “Most people stop in awe when they first see the Castle on the other side of Main Street, USA. By the time they walk through the Castle to Fantasyland, a little of the amazement has worn off, and they are scurrying off to get in line at their favorite attractions. However, the back of the Castle shouldn’t be overlooked. With its nuances and beautiful architecture, it is unique and awe-inspiring in its own right.”

Cinderella Castle from Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Cinderella Castle from Fantasyland by Tom Bricker.
Nikon D40, 1.3s, f/3.8, 200 ISO, +0.6 EV, 22mm Focal length

Tom uses a tripod to obtain these fantastic photos. He freely admits breakfast is something he seldom eats when visiting Walt Disney World. So, are you up to the challenge of photographing an empty Disney park?

I would like to thank, Tom, for letting me share some of his wonderful Walt Disney World photography!

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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11 Replies to “Capturing an Empty Disney Park”

  1. We were in Disney for Spring break and they had extended hours past 1 am. We had the whole park to ourselves and got some amazing pictures…not as good as Brickers, but I’m learning!!! They were so pretty, I used the pictures on our Christmas cards this year!

  2. Thanks for telling me what the “Kiss Goodnight” is. We have been going to Disney every year since 2000 and I have never known about this. I learn something new about Disney EVERYDAY! All part of the “magic”! lol!

  3. Scott,

    Figment does some great shots. I’ve been a long admirer of his over on the disboards.

    Have you ever heard that the back of the castle is in reality the front of it? 🙂

  4. We have stayed a couple of times during MK Extra Magic Hours til 3am. It did feel at that time as if there were less than 100 people in the park. I never thought to take pictures of the “emptiness”. Next time I will concentrate more on the pictures than riding Dumbo 4 times!

  5. Nice photos!!, Specially the one with the Castle and Main Street after the rain.

    I took some photos like these during my last trip, in Sept. 2008, as everybody was leaving the park, from what I think should be the same place Mr. Bricker did his shots (on the balcony above the entrance, as if you were to take the train). Now, if we could only take down that flag pole!!

  6. Okay, SOMEBODY has to ask!
    What IS the Kiss Goodnight?
    Incredible pics btw!

    Scott replies: It’s a special light show on Cinderella Castle, with music and a “thanks for coming” message, which takes place after the park has closed. Very short, and happens about a half hour after the closing time, and again every half hour for up to 2 hours.

  7. Thank you for making a dull day here in central Pa a little brighter! What awesome pictures!

    Scott replies: You’re most welcome, Cathy! I’m sure Tom appreciates it, too!

  8. So, I presume that Mr. Bricker is not a paid Disney photographer if you mention that he gets shots that only an employee would *normally* be able to get. If that’s true then how does he get access to the parks so late and/or early? It’s been quite a while since I’ve visited the World – am I just forgetting some of the extras on how to accomplish this? Thanks for the blog!!

    Scott replies: Josh, Tom doesn’t get special access or break the rules. He doesn’t rush out at park closing and is respectful of any Disney cast member who asks him to leave. He also makes a point of visiting WDW when Extra Magic Hours go to 1, 2 and 3am. Most people don’t last that long leaving parts of the parks virtually empty.