Day +129: The Happiest Place on Earth

We got no troubles, life is the bubbles (“Under The Sea”, from the Little Mermaid)– only if this were the case! But rather, life is full of stresses and responsibilities, whether that be family, friends, money, work- and usually it’s a combination of all of these things.

We all need something “magical” to believe in. Something that transcends everyday life, and lifts us into a place where the skies are blue, the memories are beautiful- just for a moment, we escape from those things that trouble us. Whilst some choose methods that ultimately are destructive, like eating, drinking (and even worse habits than those), I choose to walk in the footsteps of Mr Walt Disney. Never has there been (and I imagine there never will be again) a single individual who brings so much pleasure to so many- without him, there would be no Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and so on.

A few weeks ago, I came across this book:


I haven’t read through it yet, but it chronicles the first 30 years of the original “Happiest Place on Earth”- Disneyland. This┬ámagical place, in Anaheim California, is the first of a number of magical kingdoms, which now includes Orlando, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and soon, Shanghai.


Scattered throughout our place are reminders that there is “nice” in this world, and that “Hakuna Matata” does actually mean “no worries”.


In this post, I’m going to do something different. Staying on the Disney theme, I’m going to start off non-photography, and then finish with tips on how to get good pictures in theme parks.

How to have the best time at Disneyland:

  • Don’t expect to be able to do everything in a single trip. Sorry folks, even if you spend a whole, entire week in Disneyland, you still won’t be able to see everything. So don’t even try. Remember, Disneyland isn’t closing down anytime soon. You can go back
  • Especially if you are bringing kids, the sole purpose of Disneyland is to have fun. Most kids won’t even know how much there is to see and do, so don’t stress them out by making them rush through everything. Give them time to savour every little fine detail, something that only Disney delivers
  • Having said that, make a plan of some sort. Prioritise activities based on: 1) when they are available (for example, the fireworks might not be on every night), 2) what is a “must-see” (as per above, you can’t see everything), 3) wait times (get Fastpasses for those attractions with the longest wait, so you don’t have to stand in line for 3 hours)
  • Bring some of your own food / drink into the park, so you don’t have to buy everything (treat yourself to the Mickey ice cream or the Dole Whip, but bring your own bottled water)
  • Take a break in the middle of the day. This is crucial if you have young kids. This way they will survive from early morning (you will get up at the crack of dawn, right?), until late at night (when the fireworks, World of Colour, Fantasmic are on). Go back to the hotel if you can, and let the kids have a nap or a swim. Be aware however, if the parks are really busy. There is a chance that if you leave, you might not be able to get back in if it’s at full capacity
  • Be prepared to line up- don’t get cranky about it
  • Be prepared to spend money- if you can’t afford to buy some stuff, don’t go
  • Get into the whole Disney “feel”. Be prepared to not be an adult for 5 minutes. Wear a silly hat, sing “It’s a Small World” out loud, hug Winnie the Pooh. Adult responsibilities will be waiting when you get home!


How to come home with great photos of your trip to Disneyland

This is the photography bit- and it’s real important. Remember that the basic rules of photography do not change inside the House of Mouse. Proper exposure and composition will greatly add to the pleasure of looking back at your vacation photos.

Bring what equipment you are prepared to lug around all day, even in 30 degree heat. An iPhone is better than a DSLR if you are going to leave it in your hotel room. Bring a spare battery, and make sure there is enough space on your memory card/s. Did I mention, back up your photos! We always bring a laptop / tablet with at least one portable hard drive, and we make sure we move all the days images from the memory card the same night.

Tripods and selfie-sticks are not permitted inside the parks. And remember that there are certain attractions where your gear can get damaged and / or wet. Do you need a flash? Probably not. If it’s too dark to shoot without flash, you probably shouldn’t (ie. can’t) be using it anyway (eg. parades, fireworks, inside the rides and shows). If you have to, crank up the ISO so that your images aren’t blurry from camera shake.

Be prepared to hand your camera to complete strangers for family photos. Truly. Nobody will refuse. Get Photopass (where the Disney photographers take photos for you), and then pay for the CD at the end of the trip. And take pictures of the finer details (you’ll love them when you get home).

Lenses. What lenses should you take? If you have an interchangeable lens camera, bring something wide and something fast. A 50 1.2, 1.4 or 1.8, or a 35 1.4 would be a good lens to leave on your camera (these lenses let in a lot of light, and makes photography at night and on rides much easier). A 18-35 (or similar would also be good). If you prefer a zoom lens, I would take something with a minimum aperture of 2.8. f4, and worse f5.6 lenses are hard to use when the light fades. Big, long, heavy zooms are not really needed at Disney. They are good for parades, etc, but you have to carry them around.

If you’re with your family, remember to have fun! Photography isn’t the main objective. A crappy snap shot with the whole family and Mickey Mouse is going to be a longer-lasting memory for your family than a perfectly blurred out flower taken at f1.2. And remember to get in some of the photos. Otherwise, the whole album will look like you weren’t even there!

Until next time…