Monthly Archives: December 2010

Shelby’s Guide To…Taking Family Pictures

If there’s one thing that nearly everyone does at Disneyland, it’s taking pictures. But there’s usually a conundrum. One family member (most often Dad) ends up holding the camera and taking all the pictures. At the end it rarely looks like Dad was even there at all. Perhaps Dad stayed home to golf and an invisible entity took the pictures.

Well let me give you some tips for taking pictures of the WHOLE family and proving that Dad really WAS there*.

One very common concern is that another guest will take off with your camera if you hand it over for a whole family picture. While that may be true in foreign countries where people prey on tourists and you don’t speak the language well enough to get your camera back, this really isn’t the case at Disneyland. Much more likely is that someone isn’t going to take a very good picture of you. So here’s my guide to giving your camera to someone least likely to steal it and most likely to take a good picture.

    1. Disney Photopass photographers. Any Disney cast member will take your picture but the Photopass photographers spend their entire day taking pictures so they’re usually good at it. The Photopass cast member will likely insist on taking a Photopass picture but will be happy with taking a picture with your camera too. A Photopass photographer is always an excellent bet and where available, probably your first consideration.

      Tree picture taken by Disney Photopass photographer

    2. Disney Cast Member handling a character. Each character comes with one or two handlers to make sure that things go smoothly with guests, the character isn’t out too long, and those with limited visibility don’t run into walls. Handlers take a lot of pictures for people so are usually pretty experienced, and a good choice for character pictures.

      Taken by a handler

Also taken by a handler

  1. Any Cast Member. Their skills may be hit or miss, but the likelihood of them taking off with your camera is nil.
  2. A guest with expensive-looking camera equipment. I really like to ask the person closest to me who has the most expensive looking camera equipment slung around their neck. One, most of the time their camera(s) are significantly more expensive than mine so again with the low risk of runners, and two, someone who owns expensive equipment is probably going to take better pictures and be able to use your camera than other random guests. No guarantees there though. There are certainly plenty of people who buy thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and take pictures that look like Polaroids.

    Taken by a random guest who looked reasonably adept with a camera

  3. Any guest with children. Again, chances are low that they are going to run off with your camera dragging their kids along for the heist. I love to do a tit-for-tat with guests who are obviously families with one person behind the camera, asking if they would like me to take their picture and then asking them to reciprocate. Unfortunately, picture quality varies widely.
  4. The person behind you in line for a character. They’re waiting to see Mickey too, so they’re not going to get out of line when they’re almost there. The downside is the same as #5–picture quality varies.

    Taken by the guy behind me, because what I REALLY want is a picture of the bench next to Goofy. Thank you.

Other miscellaneous tips:

  1. Offer to take pictures of others. It’s good picture-taking karma.
  2. When you hand over your camera, be sure to be extremely specific about how it works, like “You push this button and you actually have to look into the thingie,” or “hold the button down, it takes a while to go.”
  3. You don’t need the whole castle/tree/whatever in the picture in order for us to get that you’re in front of the castle/tree/whatever.
  4. Consider alternate angles. In the castle picture above, we’re off to the right near Snow White’s wishing well. You get the idea anyway, and we didn’t have to fight the crowds at the drawbridge.
  5. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to look goofy. Nobody is judging you.

*As an aside, I hear a lot of people saying that they “don’t like to have their picture taken” or prefer to stay out of pictures altogether, or maybe they think they’re too fat or having a bad hair day or wearing an ugly sweater they don’t want memorialized. Well this is going to be blunt, but…get over it and get in the damned picture. Really–there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you have young children, they already think you’re the prettiest/most handsome parent out there and your fashion style is impeccable and what’s a few extra pounds. If you have older kids or teenagers, they don’t want to be seen with you anyway, so you might as well just go for it.

And let’s all take a moment and be thankful that slide photographs are officially out of style. I mean, not that slides are bad or anything, but anyone who remembers the agony of hanging up the white sheet on the wall and turning off the lights and clicking and focusing and sticking the projector on a book–no, a smaller book–no, try the phone book, and so on and so forth, can appreciate today’s technology where you make a cute little book on Shutterfly and be done with it. A couple of Christmases ago, we were at Kevin’s grandparents and Grandpa said, with a chuckle, that we were going to watch a slide show of some family vacation somewhere in the 50’s. I laughed because it sounded like a funny joke. It stopped being a funny joke when he actually pulled out the projector and white sheet…

Believe in Holiday Magic Fireworks 2010

So last year my attempt to see the holiday fireworks was a complete bust. For starters, we missed much of the holiday season at Disneyland due to a trip to Europe followed by blackout days, and then the one day we all went–which if I remember correctly was like the last day our passes were good–the fireworks were cancelled due to weather. Kevin did go over on a different day with Theo, but sadly, Theo was pretty much terrified and apparently cried the whole time. We were hoping a year later to have some better success.

Luckily, we did.

So Disneyland shoots off the fireworks from the backlot, which used to be convenient because you got pretty much an equal view of the show from most of the park (it didn’t really matter where you were standing) and they didn’t have to close any of the park down to do it.

Now they go off on the backlot but there are some closer, shorter special effects near and to the left of the castle and they have to close down Fantasyland to do it. They also turned it into a really elaborate show focused on the castle with some awesome castle effects and coordinated lighting and whatnot. Which is really cool…if you happen to be in front of the castle. If you’re not, you kinda miss some parts. So for the record, the very best place to view the fireworks is at the end of Main Street on the plaza slightly to the right of the castle near the entrance to Tomorrowland. And obviously, not behind any tall people, unless you happen to be quite tall yourself.

If you happen to be standing elsewhere, you can still see the show but it won’t look as coordinated or cool, and there will be down times where there’s something happening in front of the castle but you’re over in Adventureland going “What’s going on? Is it over? Why is the music still playing?”

If you can’t get to that particular location (not Adventureland–the other one) then anywhere with a clear view of the castle is a good second bet. The night we went, we stood about halfway down Main Street. We actually were right against the rope of one of those crosswalk areas they create with ropes, which was nice to not have people directly in front of us–especially if you’re short like me.

Pretty good view of the castle here, before the show

The crowd behind us

So in the middle of the above photo, I have no idea what that woman who is significantly taller than everyone else is standing on, but I’m pretty sure it’s not safe. Also, the woman in foreground looks positively panic-stricken. I don’t know why that is either.

Once the show started it was truly fabulous. Really, nobody does fireworks like Disney. I mean seriously, every other fireworks display pales in comparison, like you’re watching some small, municipal 4th of July fireworks show and thinking, “Really, people? Take a page from Disney and spend a gazillion on a DECENT display next year, okay?”

Example of castle-focused effects. Also the only decent picture of the actual fireworks I got

Taking pictures of the fireworks is difficult. Particularly if you have zero photography skills like me. I have a big fancy DSLR camera–I just can’t really use it very well. I also wanted to take a picture of Kevin and Theo, who were standing behind me, but didn’t want to be that jerk who turns around and takes a flash picture and blinds everyone, so I tried waiting until the sky was all lit up. I got several pictures much like this one:


Theo seemed to like the fireworks this year. He didn’t really smile, but he did emit a series of increasingly ecstatic “wow…Wow…WOW!!!”s over the course of the show. He also spent the entire show with his hand out. I don’t know if he was trying to touch the lights or catch the lights or shield himself from the lights, but it was pretty cute.

Following the fireworks, they play “White Christmas” and it snows. And by snows I mean they have these bubble machines that spit out small chunks of bubbles that look like snow, and it’s super-cool. The coolest part is the looks on all of the kids’ faces when it starts to fall.

Yes, I can take a reasonably decent picture of my husband and son. Too bad he's got his hand in his mouth.

There was snow in that picture–you can see it on Kevin’s shoulder. No, I did not specifically request that he wear black fleece in order for me to get a picture showing the snow. It just worked out that way.

And here’s a better picture of the snow and the crowd behind us (minus the freakishly tall woman and the panic-stricken woman).

Doesn't the tree look great? Also, snow!

The fireworks really are a must-see. Actually as for as the holiday goes at Disneyland, there are three things you really, really shouldn’t miss, and the fireworks are one of them.

Yes, I will tell you what the other two are: It’s A Small World Holiday (It’s A Small Holiday World? It’s A Holiday, Small World?) and the Holiday Haunted Mansion. I will post about It’s A Holiday, Small World (that’s not the actual name, but I think it’s funny), but unfortunately I didn’t do the Haunted Mansion this year. The holiday version goes up at Halloween, so I will see you next Fall on that one!

“To all who come to this happy blog: Welcome.”

Which is what Walt would have said had the internet existed in 1955 and if Disneyland were a blog instead of an amusement park. Alas…

We’re about to go on a journey, you and I–a journey to a magical land where there are lots of things to do and a whole year (more or less) in which to do them.

Hold on to your hats and glasses, ’cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!

And please, remain seated with your arms and legs inside the car at all times.

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