Chris W. (NDD #300) (80 Posts)

Since going to Walt Disney World and Disneyland at a young age, Chris has always enjoyed Disney music, TV shows, movies, and trips to Walt Disney World. But his appreciation of the overall Disney experience has greatly increased over the last few years. While waiting for the next chance to work on his Disney photography skills, Chris passes the time listening to Park/Resort audio, WDW podcasts, and checking out the work of other Disney photographers. To Chris, there are no bad Disney trip photographs or photographers. Non-Disney pursuits include spending time with his wife and children, watching and listening to baseball broadcasts, and cheering for the Chicago Cubs and LSU. Chris is a third generation professional engineer in Louisiana, working mainly on asbestos, lead, mold and demolition projects. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisWhitePE and you can check out his Flickr photo stream: chris_white2323.


Except for last year, I had a completely unplanned approach to all of my Walt Disney World trip photography. Even last year’s trip photography was 90% random because our schedule changed so much. I had some “priority” items to shoot, and I got to a few of them.

Dead men tell no tales.

Dead men tell no tales.

On earlier trips, unplanned photography was perfectly fine, mainly because I wasn’t into “real” photography at the time. I just wanted to document the trip and capture some special family moments. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do just exactly that. But after a trip four years ago, I wanted to get better photos.

As I look at photographs on The Disney Driven Life, Flickr, and other Disney fan websites, I see all these great photographs that are, well, different, neat, however you’d like to characterize them. Something really great is that these photographs stand out for different reasons. Some photos are of empty park areas taken early in the morning or very late at night. Some are shot at a very different angle or with unusual camera settings. And some are just really well done photographs of park icons or attractions. I say “just” not to take away from the photographer’s skill – I’m saying I really like the go-to shots of the Castle or other areas that have been photographed a zillion times.

can't miss park icon.

A can’t miss park icon.

These different photographs don’t all require the same circumstances. For a decent empty Main Street U.S.A./Castle photograph, all you have to do is be there when the park is empty, either early in the morning or at night. For other areas at unusual times, take photos during one of the 24 hour events. Too easy, right? Probably not. Timing and opportunity are important, but it sure helps to know how to setup the camera and capture the photo. For dark ride and fireworks photographs, setup, equipment, and skill are super important. Don’t forget that 99% of us who want to get these photographs have limited opportunities (number of actual trips and available photography time during those too infrequent trips).

For most of us, I think it’s fair to say that our trips involve days and nights where we run ourselves ragged trying to cram as many attractions, shows, parades, whatever, into each day. That’s because we don’t go all that often, the tickets cost all that money, we have to ride “It’s a Small World” for the 7th time today – I get it. I’ve lived it, and hopefully I’ll get to do that again soon.

Rapunzel's Tower

Rapunzel’s Tower – caught during a pit stop

Even though I’d like a different approach, I’ve accepted it because it’s the reality of my Disney vacation. On a certain level, I’m okay with it. On our next trip, we’ll take our youngest (who’s never been), and I can’t wait to see her experience this trip. But I also know there are things I’ll want to do that won’t fit in with our plans.

Unfortunately, good photography and rapid vacation pace don’t mix. Ask me how I know.

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to get all the photos on my Disney wish list while not alienating my family (just say the word “topiary” around them). Since my previous approach was almost 100% unplanned, I first started by making a list of different areas, and where appropriate, time of day to shoot. I mean, if we’re planning meals and snacks, why not plan photography?

Harper's Mill

Harper’s Mill – caught on the run.

And then I realized that unless I take a trip all by myself, I’m going to have to break up my list over several days, and even over different trips. That’s a little disheartening, but finishing my Disney Photo Bucket List is a goal that I can work on over time, and we’ll see if I get them all. I have a list for the four parks and for some of the resort areas. And by the time I get close to getting the photos on my list, there’ll be changes at the parks that will affect my lists.

Anyway, what I thought I’d do is share my Magic Kingdom list, and I’d like whatever feedback I can get.

Here’s my list, hopefully in a somewhat coherent arrangement by park area:

Main Street U.S.A.:

  • Train Station looking towards Castle – empty park
  • Main Street to Castle – empty park
  • City Hall
  • Fire Station
  • Street details
  • Castle Area
  • Castle from Liberty Square bridge – morning and evening
  • Castle from Tomorrowland bridge – morning and evening

Partners Statue – empty park

  • Castle from Hub – empty park
  • Hub character statues – shallow depth of field
  • Wishes – long exposures from a good spot
Not bad, but would like a shot when the park is empty.

Not bad, but would like a shot when the park is empty.


  • Astro Orbiter – long exposure
  • Outside Carousel of Progress – night
  • Neon details at night
Laugh Floor Marquee. I like the neon.

Laugh Floor Marquee. I like the neon.


  • Dumbo – long exposure at night
  • Outside Enchanted Tales with Belle – night shot
  • Outside Little Mermaid – night shot
  • Outside Gaston’s Tavern – night
  • Empty Fantasyland toward back of Castle
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – inside and outside
  • Peter Pan – dark ride!!!!
  • Carousel – long exposure at night
  • Rapunzel’s Tower – morning and late afternoon and hidden Pascals
Tangled Area looks even better at night.

Tangled Area looks even better at night.

Liberty Square:

  • Building shutters – leather hangers since metal was used for ammunition – one of those little details
  • Tree outside of Liberty Tree Tavern – 13 lanterns in tree – night
  • Haunted Mansion – morning and evening
  • Haunted Mansion ride – dark ride!!!!
  • Rivers of America – morning, evening, night
  • Haunted Mansion from Riverboat
  • “One if by land, two if by sea” lanterns


  • Diamond Horseshoe details
  • Country Bear Jamboree details
  • Pecos Bill details
  • Rivers of America – morning, evening, night
pretty neat with the reflection.

pretty neat with the reflection.


  • Pirates Plaza – empty park
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – dark ride!!!!

As you can tell, I have some photos that I can get almost any time, some that will require setup and staying in one spot for a while (like Wishes), and some that will require staying really late, probably over a course of several different nights. And that’s just Magic Kingdom.

Do you have a bucket list of Disney World photographs? How do our lists compare? Most importantly, what advice would you give me after seeing this list?

Next time I’ll share another list.

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