Disneyland’s fireworks show varies by season. The main show is the incomparable “Remember… Dreams Come True!,” which is a montage of memorable lines from Disneyland attractions. For people like me who are primarily Disney theme park fans, this show is great because it focuses on the parks as opposed to animation. There are also seasonal Halloween and Christmas seasonal shows, and then there’s “Magical,” the summer show. “Magical” doesn’t really have anything to do with summer, and most Disneyland fans regard it as inferior to “Remember… Dreams Come True!” I agree with that, which makes me wonder why Disneyland even bothers with it. On the plus side, it does feature Dumbo flying around Sleeping Beauty Castle and some pyro bursts that are more photogenic than the pyro in the other shows, but that’s about it.
In general, the fireworks at Disneyland are far less photogenic than those at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This is because Disneyland is in the middle of Anaheim, so there are restrictions as to what type of bursts can be used, and where those can be fired. As a result, almost all of the large, distant bursts appear to the upper left of the Castle. Luckily, photographers can work around this by using longer exposures, but it does make for a less impressive show in person.
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This was also shot with my Nikon D700 and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens. More importantly, I used my CHEAP-O® Vari-ND Filter. That’s actually just a name I made up for it, mostly because its real name isn’t that catchy. It’s a cheap foreign brand of variable neutral density filter that is probably very low quality. However, I am shocked by the quality of the fireworks photos I captured with this filter. The CHEAP-O® Vari-ND filter was only $15 (it’s only $13 now!), and it did quite well for fireworks photography, at least compared to what I expected from it. If all of this neutral density filter talk sounds like a foreign language to you, I highly suggest reading more about them in my ND filter buying guide. You will definitely find yourself wanting a neutral density filter after reading that!
As for posting processing here, I decreased the exposure, increased the recovery, increased the fill light, and did a curves adjustment. My goal with this was to reduce blown areas in the fireworks and also make them pop with more contrast and definition. A lot of the bursts here were the soft kind that only picked up faintly in the photo, and I wanted to emphasize them a bit more.
Of course, a fireworks photo post wouldn’t be complete without a plug for the fireworks photography eBook I co-authored, which is creatively titled, “How to Photograph Fireworks.” If you’re looking to up your fireworks photography game, this is the eBook for you!
If you’re a Disneyland fan, how do you rank its fireworks shows? If you’re a photographer, are you a fireworks photography junkie? Even though I have hundreds of fireworks photos, I can’t resist photographing fireworks each time I see them. Share your thoughts on these questions…or on anything else…in the comments! One lucky commenter might star in a YouTube rap video with Big Bird!