Today I am so excited to welcome Deb from Focused on the Magic for Part 2 of the Wishes around the Web series. Last week for Part 1, I shared a personal family memory of my favorite nighttime spectacular, Wishes. This week, Deb will be sharing her photography tips for taking amazing photos of the fireworks.
Thanks so much Beth for inviting me here today to share a few tips and tricks for taking pictures of Wishes.
Wishes in one of the most exciting fireworks shows at Disney World, the other being Illuminations at Epcot. Capturing photos of Wishes and sharing them over and over when I get home is a family tradition of ours. It’s a bit of a challenge to take pictures of Wishes but with a little planning and practice you’ll be comfortable capturing great memories.
- You’ll need a camera with the ability to manually set the controls such as F-stop and ISO and Shutter Speed.
- Fresh batteries. Memory enough to take 100 shots. Later you want to try out an ND filter but for now leave it home.
- A stable surface such as a tripod, gorilla pod or the Disney Quadpod (trash can) which are conveniently located every 20 feet in the parks. I’m touting tripods but I really don’t like them. For years I wouldn’t bring one to the parks. Mine was just too cumbersome to carry on rides and if I stored it in a locker I didn’t enjoy going back for it before Wishes started. I would shoot handheld (with pretty good results) or place a small beanbag on a Disney Quadpod. My favorite Disney Quadpod is located in front of Casey’s Corner. You’ll need to get there early to claim it as it’s become quite popular over time. The Velbron UltraMax IF tripod changed my mind about tripods. Whereas my other tripods were heavy and big, the UltraMax is incredibly compact (14”) extends to 60”, weighs about 2lbs and it can hold 5lbs which does push the limit on my camera with a lens. Oh and it was reasonably priced too! I believe it’s been discontinued but I’m sure there’s a current model that’s far superior.
- A shutter release (cable or remote) or self-timer on the camera. I use a basic cable release. Nothing fancy with a short cable. You can do without it but why not have the extra stability for long exposures?
- A small flashlight on a lanyard that’s easy to turn on with one hand. Your other hand may be holding your camera, tripod or shutter release. Bright but compact as you don’t want to disturb guests during the show.
- A large dose of patience and pixie dust.
Next you’ll need a good location. You might want to scope this out earlier in the day. My favorite is on Main Street, USA. I like to be far enough back that I have a clear view of the front of the castle and a large expanse of sky framed by Main Street. Another great spot is the train station platform before they put up the Christmas tree, when the flagpole is removed.
|Set up shot before Wishes starts|
This is where the lens you choose comes into play. I’ve shot Wishes with a Nikkor 18-200 set at 18mm and 35mm from Casey’s on Main Street with good results. I find my Nikon 50mm to be too tight until halfway down Main Street. The Sigma 30mm lens is my favorite leaving plenty of room to crop later if need be. Most kit lenses or primes will do the job.
Before it gets dark, set your camera to Manual mode. Set your ISO to 100. This will be one of those settings that you’ll have to practice with as I have used 200 with very good results. Set your Shutter Speed to 2 seconds. Set your Aperture to f8. Turn off noise reduction on your camera. Turn off image stabilization (if you’re using a tripod) on your camera. If you are using a point and shoot set it to Night Portrait or Fireworks mode or manual mode.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to take some steps toward damage control. Kids just love to lean on and play with tripod legs. In legal terms it’s called “an attractive nuisance”. Your tripod is also a huge tripping hazard. I’ve used glow stick bracelets on my tripod legs to bring attention to them. Unfortunately that only attracted children to play with the bracelets. Some people use caution tape (crime scene tape) around the legs. A stroller parked in front might help…assuming the child in it isn’t rocking back and forth. Probably the best thing you can do is station a family member on each leg of the tripod to ward off trippers.
Once you’ve squared your tripod away and setup your settings, attach your shutter release. Take a few practice shots of the castle checking to see that the horizon is straight, the castle is in focus and you have plenty of sky above the castle for the fireworks. I don’t know what it is that I do in WDW but my horizons are frequently off;) I can’t blame it on forced perspective either, it’s me. Once your practice shots of the castle are perfected turn off your camera and relax.
This is where your patience comes in. As show time gets closer the crowds fill in and heads will appear in your viewfinder. Do the best you can to readjust your tripod. It’s almost impossible to know what the crowds will do until the fireworks start and even then people move into view. I seem to attract the kid with the Mickey ear hat sitting on his parents’ shoulders and the lady holding the camera up in the air in front of me. Sometimes you have to move more than a little. Take more test shots each time you move until Wishes starts.
When Wishes starts I try to time pressing the shutter release to the Phfssst noise of the rocket launch. If you’re back on Main Street you won’t hear it but up by Casey’s you should. If you release too early you’ll get the first burst of light or miss the explosion. This is where personal tastes come in. I don’t like to see long trails in fireworks but rather short trails and streaks. As you shoot take a look at your LCD screen and adjust if necessary. If the screen shows your pic to be too dark switch to f5.6 or less. If it’s too bright try f/10 or f/11. Using your little lanyard flashlight.
Pass the pixie dust you’re almost finished! As the show comes to an end many guest turn to leave…without looking! Yup, you guessed it - right into your camera and tripod. On one occasion I had Peter in a wheelchair (he had torn his meniscus in AK that day) my camera on a tripod and guests streaming.. more like storming toward me. I couldn’t turn the wheelchair or pick up the tripod fast enough. If this should happen to you go with the flow. Keep your camera on the tripod, close up the legs on the tripod, grab your bag and kids and head for the nearest shop doorway. The shops are perfect places to pack up your gear and gather your thoughts.
Shooting Wishes and creating memorable pictures with your camera can be very rewarding. I hope you found these tips and tricks helpful. I’m not an expert, just a mom who enjoys taking pictures and passing forward whatever I’ve learned over the years. I hope you’ll give it a try and I wish you all great success with your photography.
If you have any questions about this article or photography in general please feel free to email me.
Debs at email@example.com
Thank you so much, Deb, for sharing all these great tips! I can't wait to see how I do on our next trip! Deb has a lot of amazing photos on her site Focused on the Magic. I highly recommend you head over there and see all she has to offer. You can find her on Twitter at @debsdistwit and also on Facebook at Focused on the Magic.
Next Monday, have your favorite photos of Wishes ready because Mary from Capturing Magical Memories will be here sharing her scrapbook layouts and tips for preserving your Wishes photos and memories!
Make sure you checkout the rest of the Wishes Around the Web series:
- Wishes Around the Web Part 1 ~ A Special Family Memory during Wishes (with me)
- Wishes Around the Web Part 2 ~ Wishes Photo Tips with Deb from Focused on the Magic
- Wishes Around the Web Part 3 ~ Preserving Your Wishes Memories with Mary at Capturing Magical Memories
- Wishes Around the Web Part 4 ~ A Disneyland Perspective with "Remember . . . Dreams Come True" with Chad from Days in the Park