The Molly Brown at Disneyland Paris

The Molly Brown river boat at Disneyland Paris cruises the Rivers of America, navigating around Big Thunder Mountain’s “island” and past the town of Thunder Mesa, Phantom Manor, and the rest of Paris’ version of Frontierland. I understand that it underwent a top-to-bottom refurbishment that basically rebuilt the ship in 2011, and it was looking excellent during our Christmas 2012 trip. In the background here, you’ll notice some floodlights above Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. These lights are part of the Disneyland Paris Christmas lighting ceremony which occurs once each night.

Photography Focus?

Sarah and I had plenty of time in Disneyland Paris to see and experience everything we wanted to do. More than enough, actually, considering that there were so many things in Paris and London that we missed by spending one third of the trip in Marne-la-Vallee. But, we’re huge Disney fans, so spending a good amount of the trip at Disneyland Paris was almost mandatory.

Plus, one of my hobbies is “Disney photography.” Within that realm of photography, my favorite subset of Disney photography is nighttime architectural photography. This type of photography can only be accomplished at…night (obviously), which means there’s limited time each day to capture my most “coveted” photos.

In Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I focus on this type of photography as the attractions close and the parks clear. However, at Disneyland Paris this wasn’t feasible for a couple of reasons. Mostly because of our choices–we loved the Disney Dreams nighttime show that starts when the park closes so much that we couldn’t bring ourselves to skip it. By the time this show was over, accessing any area of the park besides Main Street wasn’t possible. Additionally, even if we had skipped this show, portions of the park close prior to Disney Dreams due to the fireworks that are used during the show.

Instead, one night after the sunset, we dedicated a couple hours during Disneyland Paris’ operating hours to photography. It felt sort of weird, as it’s not something we normally do, but since photography is an important part of our traveling, it shouldn’t have felt odd. For those of you who are interested in photography, how much of a focus do you put on photography when you travel?


For this photo, I used the Nikon D600 and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens. If you click on the photo to access the EXIF data (one of the best way to learn more about photography is to study others’ EXIF data to reverse-engineer their methodology) you’ll notice that this is a 61 second exposure. That’s not a misprint. Not only was it a 61 second exposure, but I still had to bring out the shadows when I edited it! This area of Frontierland (over by Phantom Manor) was really, really dark. When composing the photo, I intentionally centered my lens in the middle of a bunch of bushes to achieve the natural framing in this shot. I think it gives another layer to the photo without being distracting. As for the floodlights, they don’t really add much to the shot, but who doesn’t love laser-like floodlights?! Given the 61 second exposure, you might assume I used HDR to avoid massively blown highlights. I didn’t. The Nikon D600 is a dynamic range beast, and it allowed me to recover these highlights (although they’re still blown). The f/16 aperture also helped with this.

Your Thoughts…

I posed this question above, but I’m really curious as to how fellow photographers juggle the sight-seeing act with the photographer-act? Do you see less so that you can spend more time taking photos, or do you just quickly snap photos as you are enjoying your experiences? Is photography a key element of your travels? Share your thoughts on this topic of the day…or anything else…in the comments. One lucky commenter might become an expert pianist!

15 replies
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  2. Chris Marqz
    Chris Marqz says:

    The past few times I took my family to Disneyland I approached it this way: During the day, I’ll take my camera with me while in the parks with my family, but usually it’s just to take photos/videos of the wife and kids. I’ll shoot other things as well, but only if I happen to be there while with my family. Now when the kids go to bed at night (and I get permission from my wife :)), I’ll head back to the parks to concentrate on taking photos. This way, I can take my time and not have to worry about my family waiting for me. It works out great because I prefer to take photos (especially at the Disney parks) at night. We’re going again in a few weeks… can’t wait!

    BTW, I’m really liking the Technical part of the Photo of the Day entries. I really need to learn curves adjustments!

  3. maarch
    maarch says:

    Depend of the moment. I always keep some time here and there to take shots I wanted to. But, when we are ” exploring ” I’ll put it on the side and just go take it out quickly if I see something I don’t want to miss. If it’s the first time going there, I’ll often tone down a bit on the photos and as the trip go on, if we go back to the same place I’ll pass more time taking pictures.

    As for Disney, the first time I went I was to young and wasn’t to much into photography. Then the time after ( first time with my girlfriend ) I had a glorified point and shoot and manage some nice shot. Next time we went, I had a new camera ( my current one ) and was starting to learn even more. So, this summer when we go back I’ll probably give photography much more importance than in the past.

    Like I said, I fell that now that I’ve seen it, I can pass more time behind my camera and won’t fear to miss anything. ( and I got some new toys to try because of this website, finally got a Remote Shutter Trigger, Wide Angle lens and ND Filter. )

    If I had to go back to Paris and London ( our trip we had last summer ) the same would happen. I would probably take WAY more photos.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Given that two items on your ‘new toys’ list are a remote and an ND filter, I suspect that you’ll soon be spending a lot more time taking photos on your trips. Those two things are real time-eaters!

  4. Spencer
    Spencer says:

    I’d say for me photography is just an enjoyable part of the whole travel experience. I don’t really arrange travel around the desire for a specific shot, but I will take some time on occasion to setup (or wait for lighting) on a shot I see while exploring. A year or so ago I went into a photography “slump” while travelling (so much so that my SLR stayed home while we went to WDW), primarily because I got tired of lugging my camera around and letting it dictate my travel, rather than let my travel dictate my photography. Since then I upgraded my bag to be less of an annoyance, and also changed my thought process on how important the photography part is. I want my camera there to capture memories, but I also want to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of memories.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Even though I take A LOT of photos, our travel dictates the photography, rather than vice-a-versa. The only exception to that is late and night and early in the morning, but during those times, I don’t think we’d be doing anything else (besides sleeping) anyway. In that regard, photography “extends” the trip by extending our waking hours.

  5. fattyboombatty
    fattyboombatty says:

    I would love to spend time taking photographs, mainly of all the food we eat at WDW, but I can tell it bothers my husband, he says it ruins the magical experience. This is because we shoot weddings here in Florida and bringing the big cameras = work. I will usually bring a canon T2i as my vacation camera but have been toying with the idea of bringing my Canon 7D or ideally my Canon 5D so I can have more control over my manual settings and have better photos…but I worry about dropping them as I use them as my main “work horses” for my wedding cinematography business. Anyways, we’ve adopted a new motto for our Disney trips from one of my favorite songs “no time for cameras, we’ll use our eyes instead”. That plus, I know you’ll have all the great photographs of WDW on the Disney Tourist Blog! As far as other destinations are concerned I always bring my 5D and 16-35mm l lens but no tripod and I usually just snap photographs as i go and won’t spend longer than 5 minutes setting up a shot, unless it’s a really nice looking meal!

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      If I were a professional photography, I think I’d feel the same way (that “big cameras = work”).

      As for taking more than 5 minutes to set up a shot of a nice meal…doesn’t the food get cold?! 😉

  6. Dirk Thayer
    Dirk Thayer says:

    Like George, I also tend to snap and go which make for disappointing photos when I get home. I am starting to try to take more time but part of the problem is that the family doesn’t share my love of photography so I feel rushed if I try to spend any amount of time on a single shot. I have threatened to go to Disneyland myself sometime and just take pictures!

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      A photo trip is a lot of fun, but if you’re used to experiencing Disneyland with a loved one and you go by yourself, you might find yourself a bit lonely. When Sarah didn’t accompany me down on an assignment that I shot, that’s how I felt.

    • Dirk Thayer
      Dirk Thayer says:

      Yeah, going without the family wouldn’t be the same… I just threaten that and they’ll usually give me a few minutes to get the shot! 😉

  7. George Potter
    George Potter says:

    I’m usually more about being there and less about the shooting. I know that’s one of the reasons I’m improving fairly slowly. I make a good guess at what I’m looking for, fire the shutter and keep moving. I often come home with a good 1/3 of the frames making me wonder what I was thinking. The next trip to WDW, I’m bringing the tripod…and shutter release and I’m going to be more relax and mindful and we’ll see what happens.

    I have a question about your process though. Is the amazing vibrancy a product of the prolonged exposure or does that happen in post? I’m really starting to think of that as one of your creative “signatures” and I like it.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      The vibrancy is a result of a number of things, including the exposure time, curves adjustments, and increases to vibrancy. It’s definitely a signature look.

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