Around The World In Six Hours

Last week was my anniversary and my wife surprised me with a trip to the place where we spent our honeymoon at, Disney. We are fortunate enough to live about two hours away and we try and sneak in a visit once in awhile when we can. If you have never been, you should most definitely put it on your bucket list. Oh, and the other part of that should be, bring your empty platinum card with you, after all this is the home of the $12 hamburger!

There are four main parks that make up the “Disney Experience”; there is the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. I won’t get into all of the particulars here, but this is what you need to know in a nutshell. If you have small kids, the Magic Kingdom is the best place. If you don’t have/or want kids, this is the park that you want to avoid like the plague. Epcot is an educational park. This might sound boring at first, however there are some really neat attractions. For instance, you can experience what the astronauts do during a launch at Mission to Mars or you can actually fly on Soaring. So there are many interesting things to do. Also, there are many countries represented in the “World Showcase”, more on this later. If you like a slower park and fewer kids, Epcot is the perfect place. Hollywood Studios is all about the movies. They show you how everything is put together from props, stunts, wardrobe and filming. This is a great park for all ages. Lastly, is the Animal Kingdom. This place is like Jurassic Park without the man-eating dinosaurs. Animal Kingdom is also a fully functioning zoo and has many interesting attractions. One of the most popular is the Safari ride. This is not a mechanical automated attraction. You board a big truck and you have a driver. He takes you out into the safari and drives you around to see all of the exotic animals. There have been times that we have had to stop on this attraction to wait for the giraffe to cross the road! This park is also great for all ages.

My wife and I used to have annual passes for Disney so it wasn’t uncommon that we would drive up and have dinner and come home. It wasn’t long that we liked Epcot the best as it has a wide range of dining choices and minimal kids running around. Epcot is known for the giant “Golf Ball” that is in the front of the park. This ball is actually an attraction called Spaceship Earth. You board a vehicle and it takes you up in the sphere and you learn about where we got started and where we are going in the future as a human race. The photo below was taken from inside the park.

 Spaceship Earth

At different times of the year, Epcot hosts different events. In the fall they have the Food and Wine Festival, and in the spring they have the Flower and Garden Festival. We happen to be in luck as the day we were there; it was the last day of the Food and Wine Festival. As we making our way down the main area, we saw a lady in a bog pushing around cranberries. All I could think about was those Ocean Spray commercials where the two guys are standing in the bog and something always happens to the younger fellow. Since this was a food festival, Ocean Spray put a bog in. This lady was answering questions about everything cranberries. This was in the early afternoon, so the light was at it’s worst. This was a very fluid situation, as I wanted to get this lady’s photo. I knew that I was going to have to use some fill flash on the dark side of her face. I got a rough exposure and all I had with me for lighting gear was my pop up flash. I gave her all I had and here is the result. I know that the left side is blown out, but after I snapped this, she moved on to the other side. As I say, a photo is better than no photo.

 Workin’ The Bog

Epcot is split into two parts, the front part is called Future World and the back half is called the World Showcase. The World Showcase is built in a semi circle around a lagoon. Some of the countries that are represented here are Mexico, China, Germany, Norway, Italy, Japan, France, Canada, Morocco, England and the good ole’ USA. There are attractions and shops in each of these countries that are authentic to that country. Even the people working in that country are from there. My wife is half Mexican so she enjoys going to Mexico to get some “authentic” Mexican food. You might be thinking, “Ugh, I can get Mexican here in my home town.” Well I have to tell you that I have ate in all of the countries at one time or another and this doesn’t taste anything like what I can get here. Everything has been excellent there.

As we were walking around the World Showcase, we came upon China. Across the walkway, I saw these puppets for sale. Their mirrored sunglasses were reflecting the sunlight and I had to get a photo.

 Not A Muppet, But A Puppet

As I was photographing these guys, a staff member came over and was watching me. This is one place that I like to stay under the radar. I thought I was going to get into trouble. In broken English, I hear, “Is that a Nikon?”. I knew I was home free. I jokingly replied, “Yes, is there any other brand out there?”, and we both grinned. His nametag said that he was from Beijing, China. In his broken English and me filling in the words, we actually had a nice conversation. He was telling me that Nikon is very popular in Beijing and he just bought a Nikon D3000. After awhile, I had the feeling that my wife had enough “shop talk” and I wished him well and we were on our way.

Directly across the walkway was a building that is to the exact replica to the one in China. Disney has always been great at making sure all the details are correct. Inside this building is a 360° wide screen presentation about China. There is a neat Zen garden and Koi pond out front. After looking around for a few minutes, I was trying to find a different angle that hasn’t been photographed to death, this is what I came up with.

 Welcome To China

We saw people starting to gather around in the garden for the acrobat show. Each of the countries has shows that feature the talents of the people who live there. The props were already laid out and Angie and I had to try and find a spot that wasn’t over run by pushy tourists. I had the camera fitted with my trusty 18mm-200mm lens. This is THE lens to take to a place like this were you want to travel light. We were about 50 feet away from where the show was going to be, but I was still able to reach out and grab them. I worked on getting a correct exposure so I would be ready. During the show, there were some acrobats that were spinning rugs. I was getting a good exposure, however there was one problem. The rugs were frozen in the air. I felt that this wasn’t going the show the viewer (you) exactly what I was seeing. This is where talking with that Manual guy comes in handy. I over road the camera and I ended up using ISO 100, 1/60 at f/8. In a perfect world I would have liked to blur the background, but there was so much light, this was giving me the effect I wanted on the rug which was more important.

 Spin Me Like A Record

When the show was over we moved on. We decided to stop in Italy and rest for a bit. As I was sitting there, I looked around and I noticed that some light poles were framing Germany. I rattled off a few shots. Later, I realized that Germany must still be rebuilding from WWII as you can see the scaffolding. This could be removed in post, but I’m too lazy at this point.

 Looking At Germany Through Italy

As I mentioned earlier, Disney is great at the details. While we were passing though Morocco, I saw these lamps that they had used for decoration on this building. These details themselves are great subjects to photograph.

 I Dream Of Jennie

While walking through France, we stopped and got some ice cream. I have no idea how that make this stuff, but it’s like legal crack. My wife and I can’t seem to go by without stopping. One of my hobbies is baking and pastry making. I’m on the quest to find out what they use so I can recreate this at home. Believe it or not, Disney has a few cookbooks out that feature many of the popular recipes at Disney. I think I will start there.

As we were all charged up with crack…I mean ice cream running through our veins, we came upon England. I saw a white dress that was lit up with a spotlight. I couldn’t believe it; Mary Poppins has come to visit! This has always been one of my favorite moves that Disney has produced. This was the first time I got to see her in person. She looks great considering the movie has been out for forty something years now! As she was signing autographs for the kids I wanted to get a few photos. I thought it might look a little weird having a 34 year old wanting a photo taken with Mary, so I settled for the next best thing. This was going to be an tricky photograph as there was a spotlight and she was wearing a white dress. I wanted to use just enough flash to light her face under her hat but keep all of the details in her dress. After a couple of shots, this is what I ended up with.

 Mary Poppins!

We stopped in England for a nature break and as I came out, I noticed this scene that they had set up next to the bathrooms. Again, it was getting dark out so this was going to be a challenge. I wanted the warm glow of the lamp to be the main subject, however I was going to have to use just a bit of flash to get some detail out of the shadows. I dragged the shutter and mixed some flash in. I got some weird looks as I was photographing towards the bathrooms. I guess people thought that I was just some pervert taking photos of people coming out of the bathrooms! What can I tell you, I know I’m not right, but they don’t have to know that!

 English Lightscape

As we made it around to the beginning, I wanted to get some photos of Spaceship Earth again as they light it at night. They use purple and orange lighting to accent its features. I did have a monopod with me. I was thinking that I was going to photograph the fireworks using it. After a few short minutes, I learned something, I HATE monopods. It was useless in these shooting conditions. Next time I will bring my tripod and do it right. I did manage to pack a 24mm f/2.8 prime lens so this was going to get me out of the woods. I cranked up the ISO to 800 and let er’ rip. Here you can see what the front of the park looks like at night.

 Spaceship Earth At Night

Since we had a couple of hours of driving ahead of us I though it might be a good idea to use this time wisely. Why not photograph the traffic? Thinking about the spinning rugs earlier, I wanted to show the speed of going down the highway. (I’m an only child; stuff like this keeps me entertained!) The camera was still fitted with the 24mm lens. I found that at ISO 800 at 1/8 of a second was a good exposure, as the headlights didn’t burn out the road. For an hour I took photos of blurry roads and traffic. I deleted most of them, however here was one of my favorites. It’s not perfect, but going 80 mph and trying to hand hold a camera at 1/8 of a second, it makes for a challenging shoot!

 Homeward Bound

I know that this is a lengthy post. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you get the chance to visit Disney, I would highly recommend it. There is an unlimited amount of subject to photograph and they are always updating.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. I enjoy your commentaries as much as your pictures. Now I feel the need to visit Disney and experience it’s photographic opportunities.

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