Travel Photography - Walt Disney World, Florida

I tend to keep my personal photography personal, you won’t see very many family pictures on this photography blog (or on my Instagram feed) but in line with earlier travel articles, I thought I would mention a few thoughts from my family holiday last month to Walt Disney World in Florida. Don’t worry, I am not going to bore you with photos of my kids and Mickey Mouse…

I travelled with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II, Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 PRO and Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime, although the 17mm remained in the bag throughout the trip.

Normally I take a smaller camera to Disney - photography is far from my main objective - my Lumix GM1 with the 12-32 lens would normally be a good fit. My previous trip to the USA a couple of years ago included some time in New York and elsewhere, so photography was definitely more in mind, leading me to take my Nikon D750 with a 24-120 f4 zoom and a 50mm prime - it performed brilliantly but did feel large and at times cumbersome to carry all day - certainly this was a key driver to my move across to micro four thirds.

I expected the E-M1ii and 12-40 to have been a good compromise and it actually worked really well for me, but there are a couple of things I would do differently next time. The weatherproofing was very well suited to the Floridian weather - in fact as predominantly a prime lens user, I generally only use the 12-40 zoom for travel and bad weather where the advantages of not having to worry about rain and changing lenses, outweigh the drawbacks of a slower, larger lens. I no longer worry about even heavy downpours with this combination.

I should have taken a spare body. Unfortunately part way through the holiday the rear EVF outer lens got broken. I have no idea how this happened as I am very careful with cameras, but I guess it must have been hit quite hard on something pointy! I did consider taking my original E-M1 as a backup, but at the last minute decided not to, having never needed a spare for as long as I can remember! Won’t make that mistake again although in fact it remained perfectly usable, however I did take more care in the rain. As an aside Olympus Europe’s service back in the UK has proved exemplary in repairing and returning it to me very rapidly (and at reasonable cost).

The other thing I missed was a flash. Although I generally dislike on-camera flash, and built in flashes even more, there were a few occasions when the tiny flash that came with the camera would have been of benefit. Whilst I wouldn’t have taken my larger Cactus RF60X, a small fill flash for some of the indoor pictures would have been helpful. Interesting as in fact the flash is still sitting unopened in the original camera box!

My next thought is more of a Disney tip than specifically around photography. Disney’s own photographers are great and when booking certain Disney park tickets in the UK, the “photopass” is included giving you unlimited high resolution photos at no extra cost, (they will also happily take photos with your camera regardless of whether you have the photopass), I suppose the reality is that there are countless Disney scenery photos on line and with the availability of their own photographers for good quality family pictures and a mobile phone for other memories, you may not even really need a “proper camera”.

In terms of other equipment, as is a primary requirement for street photography, with between five and ten miles of walking per day in the parks being quite normal, good shoes are as high up the list as any camera accessories, my personal preference for Florida is these. I have written previously about my choice of slings and straps - I used the BlackRapid sling throughout and it was perfect and very comfortable - certainly a big improvement over a regular neck strap.

My final thought is around what happens with the pictures when you return. For some years now I have made a point of creating a photo book as soon as I return and I have kept this resolution up consistently now. As a family we really do enjoy leafing through our collection of “photo albums” now and it definitely justifies the use of a “real camera” compared with flicking through photos on a phone screen.

I suspect some may come to this article via a Google search for Disney advice so I will, as a post script, offer a couple of more general comments - firstly book things as early as possible in advance, especially meals; highly organised people (like my wife) get in on literally the first day that pre-booking is available. If you have younger kids book a “character breakfast” as one of these and you will save many queues in the parks waiting to “meet and greet”. Secondly, and vaguely on the photography theme, for lots more Disney specific information, visit photographer Tom Bricker’s excellent DisneyTouristBlog.

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