How to take better pictures at Disneyland (or any amusement park)

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Disneyland is a tradition in our family.  Unfortunately I suffer from severe motion sickness which limits me to about two adult rides.  The last few years, I have gone with different cameras in tow, and discovered a whole new challenge to taking pictures at Disneyland.   Its not the place to give in to my perfectionist tendencies, there are tons of people, its hot, and the sun is bright.  My strategy is to try to make lemonade, no matter how sour the ingredients.  The photos that accompany this post were taken on my Canon S110 or my iPhone.  Here are some tips to help you explore any amusement park you may visit.

Tip 1:  When photographing family members in front of attractions, look past the obvious “front-on view” to find a different angle. Include the ride if possible.  The cover photo was taken on a remote walkway between this ride and the neighboring section in California Adventure.  Finding an angle that allowed for the ride in motion to be part of the image makes it more interesting.

Most pictures are taken with people stranding right in front of Cinderella’s castle (you’ll see one of mine at the end of this post).  By walking around the side on a little used sidewalk, I was able to capture the castle and the colorful flowers (and all the people walking around were minimized compared to my subjects, instead of standing right behind them posing for their own photos).

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Disneyland and California Adventures provide signage with “Nikon Photo Spots”, and sometimes they have a picture that will show you the angle.  On the California Adventure map there is a camera icon to help point you to them.  I only discovered this at the end of our visit – next time I will chase them all down.  If you have the muscles, a flash would have helped even out the shadows in the images below……the one on my point and shoot wasn’t strong enough.

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Tip #2:  Bring characters to life.  There are many small details throughout the amusement park, that people just walk right by.  I found this little guy, and played with the angle and aperture to try to give him a sense of place and personality.

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Tip #3:  Try to create something interesting out of the mundane.  This is a metal fence around a concession area.  I challenged myself to try to find something interesting about what could be the most uninteresting thing in Disneyland.

1407_MFA_Disneyland_029Tip #4:  Try to find natural elements.  I often think of amusement parks as concrete and metal.  I found this little pool of water behind a dining area that had pretty pink flowers and two families of ducks and their many, many chicks.  I experimented with composition and stopping the action of these active little guys.

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Tip #5: Use creative iphone apps to re-imagine the typical.  I am in the process reacquainting myself with Hipstagram.  I have not figured out what combinations of lenses and films work in what situations, so it is completely trial and error.  I found a closed concession stand and waited until someone interesting walked by.  I think I may have worn out Peter’s patience (it took me 15 minutes before a single person with ears walked on by, and I almost missed her).

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