Two of my favorite lands in any theme park are Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, respectively, at Universal Orlando Resort. They are also two of the most photogenic lands, and as such, I thought I’d share some of my best Wizarding World of Harry Potter photos in this post.
Beyond being photogenic, these Harry Potter lands are just flat-out cool. I’ve shared in the past that I know next to nothing about the Harry Potter book and film franchises, yet I love just spending time being immersed in them. I’m sure I’d appreciate them even more if I were a fan, but they’re great themed environments, regardless.
Recently, I’ve found myself in a bit of a photography-slump, and when that happens, I find reviewing and editing older photos can help bust the funk. While I was doing that, I stumbled upon a slew of Wizarding World of Harry Potter sunset photos that I somehow previously neglected. Those newly-edited shots, plus a few others, are the basis for this post…
I also want to mention that I plan on doing more photography posts on TravelCaffeine going forward. While I don’t intend for the blog to be a travel photography blog (except to the extent that it’s my travel tips plus my photos), I do want to have photography-oriented posts a few times per month.
My camera bag is in the midst of an “extreme makeover” of sorts, but once some of my new toys arrive and I have a chance to take them out and test them, I’m sure I’ll have some thoughts to share. Other photography topics seem like good candidates for this blog, too.
With that said, let’s get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter photos…
This is my favorite view of Hogwarts Castle, from the queue of the soon-to-be-replaced Dueling Dragons. I love how it offers a peak of the castle through the trees, and almost feels like it’s rising out of nature.
Whether it be Hogwarts or Cinderella Castle, I love this type of perspective. I could probably do without that bit of coaster track on the right side of the frame, but maybe that’ll be better-concealed with the new attraction.
Not knowing anything about the worlds of Harry Potter, I have no clue how this snowman ties into the stories. Is it a sculpture that actually sits by Hogwarts? Is it supposed to represent an actual snowman made of snow? Is Harry Potter set in a frigid climate, and someone actually froze here, a la the Shining? Did an enchantress put a snow-curse on an actual human, a la Beauty and the Beast?
I’ll never know, and maybe that’s part of the fun. So many of the direct references in the Wizarding Worlds make zero sense to me, so I can imagine my own scenarios, and project my favorites onto the environment. (By the way, that’s totally a cursed frozen human in my head.)
One of my favorite aspects of visiting a theme park is that people are, by and large, happy. Yes, there are the melt-downs and other unpleasant moments, but the vast majority of people are having some of the best days of their lives. The happy attitudes of employees and guests are contagious, and are one of the intangibles of a theme park visit.
As a photographer, I take advantage of this by waving to people on trains, boats, etc. as I’m photographing said vessel. Without fail, people always wave back. If I tried something like that while photographing people in Los Angeles, they’d look at me like a madman. I know it’s not quite the scenario with this photo, but still…
Watching this dragon breathe fire will never get old. There are two components to this that are awesome. First, and obviously, that it’s a dragon with fire coming out of its mouth. Everyone loves dragons.
Second, the way the entire crowd is enamored with this is really something to see. Sometime, instead of watching the glorious dragon (I know, it’s tough), watch the crowd. People fumble for their phones to take photos, all the while their eyes are glued to that dragon. It’s ultimately a pretty simple effect in the grand scheme of what these lands accomplish, but is the most mesmerizing.
Another view of Hogwarts Castle during that epic Florida sunset. While I loved the ‘through the trees’ view above, I’m not as keen on it here. Probably because I’ve seen what this view looks like with the Great Lake in this spot–as it is at Universal Studios Japan–instead of these trees.
If you’ve seen our Hogwarts Castle Photo Tour (and if not, check it out–I took a tripod inside the castle in Japan) post, you’ve seen the Great Lake view. I really wish this lake existed in Florida, as it provides by far the most stunning view of Hogwarts.
I got lucky for this photo. Diagon Alley was closing early on this particular evening for a private event, meaning that the area was being cleared out before sunset.
One of the biggest challenges about photographing Diagon Alley is that it doesn’t really play well with light. Due to the angle at which its positioned, the golden hour sunlight doesn’t illuminate the buildings for very long, and unless you get a killer sky, the area is not conducive to landscape photography until night falls.
When I first took it, this was one of my favorite photos of Hogwarts Castle. I love the way the pavement offers leading lines and also reflects some of the light.
I’ve come to like it less, primarily because it diminishes the scale of Hogwarts. If you’ve visited before, you know that the castle is huge. So, no big deal–your mind fills that detail in. However, the ‘story’ this photo tells in isolation is one of a small castle thanks to the perspective of the castle in relation to the pavement. An easy fix would’ve been shooting this while a couple of humans were walking past to provide scale, something that I’ll try next time.
Here’s that cursed frozen man, once more. His tale serves as a cautionary one, and a reminder that you should always be kind to wayward travelers.
One thing that sticks with me, though, is the owl. Did the enchantress really need to freeze the owl, too? That just seems cruel.
I like the perspective of Hogwarts you get as you enter the queue. The structures tower overhead, in an imposing way that shifts as you snake through the brief section of outdoor queue.
This is a pretty simple shot, but I liked the way part of Hogwarts Castle is in shadow, and part is being kissed by the last bit of fading sunset.
While it might look like the leprechaun on the giant stack of coins is getting torched, that’s just the perspective. There are so many great views of that dragon in Diagon Alley, but this isn’t really one of them.
I swear I’m not feigning ignorance when it comes to Harry Potter. I will admit that someone did tell me the name of this character (I believe he’s actually a goblin banker?) the last time I posted his photo, but I’ve forgotten it since then. In light of that, I’m going to assume this is Warwick Davis’ famed Leprechaun character, a film that is revered by the locals in Diagon Alley to such a degree that they’ve erected a monument in its honor.
Hope you enjoyed these glimpses of Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. I almost feel bad about only showcasing the icons of both Wizarding World of Harry Potter land, as both are rife with details that often go overlooked. Suffice to say, if you’re at all interested in photography or theme parks, you absolutely need to visit Universal Orlando Resort, if only to see these two lands. They are really unbelievable.
If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on Universal Orlando Resort, visit my Universal Studios Florida & Islands of Adventure Trip Report index page. I also have a Universal Orlando Resort Trip Planning Guide that covers tips & tricks for planning your visit!
Have you explored Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure or Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida? What do you think of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands? Interested in visiting them? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!