I see this subject pop up quite frequently so I thought I would attack it again now that I have the experience of three Disney trips. A year ago, I recommended some lenses (you can read that here) and last month, I talked about vacationing with your camera (that can be found here.) This is written from the perspective of a DSLR user but if you're interested in photography and not a DSLR user, you should still find this to be useful and/or interesting.
For these vacations, I've found that there are three different subjects to photograph:
- Your family
I know - it sounds so complicated but it's really not. Well, it is. But it's not.
The most important subjects, of course!
Forget about vacation for a moment. What's your "walking around" or "everyday" lens? What lens is on your camera most often when you're photographing your kids? For me, that's my Nikon 35mm, f/1.8 that I've wanted to semi-retire for over a year now but can't decide upon a replacement. It continuously back focuses when I attempt to shoot wider than 3.5 so I don't shoot wider which makes the point of having a f/1.8 pointless. But, anyway, that's my walking around lens and I found that focal length perfectly acceptable for the following vacation photos.
(ISO 200, f/4.0, SS 1/250)
(ISO 400, f/3.5, SS 1/250)
(ISO 200, f/4.5, SS 1/1000)
(ISO 320, f/4.0, SS 1/250)
I ran into a problem trying to use my 35mm lens to take pictures of the girls with characters though. When you use a prime lens, you have to zoom in and out with your feet and often times I didn't have any room to back up. Examples:
(ISO 320, f/5.0, SS 1/125)
(ISO 2000, f/3.5, SS 1/50)
I resorted to using my wide angle lens in order to fit everyone in the shot. The photos below were taken with my Tokina 11-16mm, f/2.8 (focal length noted.)
(ISO 200, f/4.5, SS 1/50)
(ISO 500, f/4.5, SS 1/160)
My point in this - you need a wider angle lens (wider than a 35mm, that is) for pictures of people with characters. While I would love, love, love a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, I don't love, love, love the price tag. Using my wide angle for character photos worked out okay for the most part but a zoom would have been ideal.
I prefer to use a wide angle lens for these types of shots. Here are some examples with the lens length noted. (Keep in mind that I use a crop sensor - I'm sure most of you reading this do as well.)
(ISO 1600, f/4.0, SS 1/8) Not a typo, really 1/8
(ISO 200, f/8.0, SS 1/640)
(ISO 200, f/7.1, SS 1/500)
All of the above were taken with my Tokina 11-16mm, f/2.8 lens. I think the wide angle gives an interesting perspective to landscape photos. Here's one taken with my 35mm lens for comparison.
(ISO 200, f/8.0, SS 1/640)
This part of photographing Disney holds the least appeal to me. Photographing the rides really doesn't hold my interest at all. Neither does looking at other photographers' photos of the rides. I have photographed some of the attractions though.
Inside Be Our Guest restaurant. This one was taken with my wide angle lens at 13mm.
(ISO 2500, f/2.8, SS 1/5)
Here's what that same shot looks like (I was standing in the same spot) with my 35mm lens.
(ISO 2500, f/3.5, SS 1/6)
Outside the restaurant, all taken with 35mm.
(ISO 200, f/5.0, SS 1/200)
(ISO 200, f/7.1, SS 1/80)
Electrical Parade, 35mm
(ISO 1600, f/3.5, SS 1/80)
If you want to photograph the rides (and by the "rides" I mean the inside of them, while you are riding them), I think a fast, zoom lens is your best bet. This means that you want a lens with a fixed aperture, not one that changes as you zoom out. And obviously, you'll want a zoom lens as you won't be able to zoom with your feet if you are contained in a ride. Please keep in mind that flash photography is not allowed during rides or shows.
Things to think about
- What are your photography goals for your vacation? There are some folks who plan their vacations to revolve around photography. There are others, like me, who simply want to photograph their vacations. What are you interested in photographing?
- What equipment do you currently have? Are you satisfied with it? What are your needs? Personally, I wouldn't purchase a lens just to use on vacation.
- What is your budget? We can dream about $2,000 lenses all we want but if it's not in the budget, it's not in the budget. Determine how much you can/want to spend before you begin to research/shop.
- For a wide angle lens, I suggest the Tokina 11-16mm, f/2.8 lens. I own this and you can see the results in this post.
- If a new lens isn't in the budget, check your kit lens. The widest end of it may not be considered "wide angle" but it's free and a good substitute, especially if you are shooting outdoors.
- For a zoom lens consider the Tamron 28-75mm, f/2.8 lens. I've been hesitant to order this because I prefer prime lenses and I'm not sure how much I would use this outside of vacation. There is also a Tamron 17-50mm, f/2.8 lens but it doesn't seem to be as popular as the 28-75mm.
- If you are satisfied with the focal length of your current lens or lenses but they are slow for indoor photography (aperture), consider purchasing a Speedlight for your camera. (See my post here for what a Speedlight can do for you and your photos.) This would be for photos of your family with characters as flash photography is not allowed on rides.
- To enjoy your vacation.
- Don't stress over "the perfect photo."
- As a photographer, even a hobbyist, you will sometimes be challenged to make do with the equipment that you have on hand. It may be frustrating but it will make you a better photographer.