Disney photo detailSometimes we take photographs for the sake of creativity, as creative people wanting to play in a creative wonderland. Other times, it’s about capturing the details we know we can’t possibly absorb and hold onto in our memories forever. Sometimes we aren’t able to linger long enough to see what we’re really missing, and other times we can’t get close enough to see what we can’t really see. Photographs—and a long lens—enable us to bring home the details and pore over every one without people pushing past, or having to move on to meet a FastPass window.

These are often the photos we smile at the most. And a lot of the time they’re the worst photos we take!

Disney photo

This display of memorabilia from the “Florida Project” was discovered in a tiny gift shop in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. It wasn’t until we looked at the photographs that we could fully appreciate all the vintage materials.

All that we’ve seen…

Sometimes, we spend inordinate amounts of time and effort trying to decipher a small, dark and blurry image of the featured album cover in Spaceship Earth’s “Apollo 11 Landing on the Moon” scene, only to remain mystified (and eternally frustrated!). Other times, it’s obvious, or there’s just enough image information to figure it out. Yet there are far more subjects that we capture successfully, and in turn, provide some of our most treasured “Wow!” and “Ah-HAH!” moments. Finally being able to read the entire blackboard in the Jungle Cruise queue; or coo reminiscently over the Hot Teas menu that Amy inexplicably fell in love with at Animal Kingdom’s “Royal Anandapur Tea Company”; or enjoy all the vintage graphics in the “Florida Project” poster that we just happened to stumble upon in a tiny gift shop in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, is like having our very own hidden treasure.

All that we’ve learned…

We also take photographs just to see what we get, without necessarily expecting to get anything.

When we take pictures in the dark, in rides where we can’t see much with our naked eyes—and would never use flash or a phone with a bright screen to compensate; or in such bright light that the viewfinder or screen is blacked out, we aim our cameras and hope for the best.

Disney photo - Buzz Lightyear

So that’s how Buzz Lightyear’s ray gun looks so cool—and ray-gun-y! Even for seeing how the neat effect was created doesn’t make it any less neat-looking or effective.

While we delete a lot of those attempts, we also get lucky sometimes, and out of some of those blind and near-blind photographs that we record, magic is revealed.

“Ohmygoddddd…” Amy’s eyes widened over an image we were looking at for only the second time since taking it a couple weeks ago, “That’s how they got that effect!” She was enthralled, “Look!” she made Mark hurry from the kitchen where he was furthering our dinner objective.

There it was: the secret of Buzz Lightyear’s ray gun. And it was ingenious!

Never use flash in a dark attraction—or any attraction, for that matter—but particularly the dark ones. Not only is it inconsiderate to everyone around, but it disrupts the ride experience, which many might be experiencing for the first time, or may only ever get one opportunity to experience. In lieu of flash, increase your ISO or film speed to its maximum, use your fastest shutter speed, and keep your camera as still as possible. The light output from a flash degrades the ride experience as much as seeing a discarded popcorn carton or ice cream wrapper that wasn’t cleared away fast enough.

Seeing the light

It began to become apparent that for all the times our photographs reveal secrets, both tiny and big, obvious and discreet, no magic is lost. In recognizing the duplication of various details and decorations across different parks or hotels, discovering that WDW theme parks are replete with lightening rods, or noticing where the parade speakers and special lights are concealed, no magic is lost. If anything, our appreciation of the magic is elevated by seeing into the minds of the imagineers, as every illusion, safety precaution, and special effect is a puzzle in need of a solution, and every solution is a result of creative thinking and meticulous execution.

So, lo’ and behold, figuring out how an illusion is created doesn’t cancel out the magic of the illusion; and capturing Disney details, usually only seen in passing, for your own enjoyment in the comfort of your own home, neither lessens their value nor makes them cease to be less funny, fascinating or informative.

Disney Photo - Cars Land

Pressing up against the window of the Cozy Cone Motel in DCA’s Cars Land, one can enjoy a number of charming, authentic-looking details.

Disney photo - Cars Land

A long lens made it possible to see all the postcards on display in the Cozy Cone Motel and appreciate that they’re all specific to Cars Land, but done in the style of vintage Route 66 roadside postcards.

Disney photo - Disneyland hotel

A giant collage of Disney memorabilia can be found in the Disneyland Hotel.

Disney photo - Aniaml Kingdom Lodge

A series of engraved brass discs depicting African wildlife and natural themes are inlaid in the floor of the Animal Kingdom Hotel lobby entrance, making them difficult to enjoy for any length of time as this is a thoroughfare for people coming and going with luggage. Were it not for grabbing some photos on the way out, we wouldn’t have gotten to appreciate the beautiful detail and the different stories each one is telling.