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Brian Bennett

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Hints and Tips on Photography and Videotaping

Rick Chase (DRCCACHETS@aol.com) has provided two excellent trip reports (March 1996 and March 1997) to this web site.  His reports have featured detailed suggestions and comments about how to capture excellent photographs and video during a WDW trip.  I include his comments here in summarized form:

Planning (and Packing) for Good Results

A little bit of planning can make a big difference in your WDW (or any vacation) photos and videos. As a professional newspaper staff photographer with over 20 years of experience ( you can use the fancy term "photojournalist" if you want ), I probably over plan this part of the trip. But, here are a few tips that might be good to consider.

Be sure you camera is in good working order before you go. If you have not removed the film from last Christmas yet, shoot it up and get it processed before you go. If it is empty, shoot a 12 exposure roll and get it processed. That way you know the camera is in good working order.

Take along extra batteries for everything. This includes camera batteries, flash batteries or video batteries. Most battery styles are available in Florida, but some cameras require unusual sizes. Better to carry an extra one than to be running to every convenience shop looking for an odd-sized battery.

If you need a recharger for anything, pack it. If you need cords for chargers, AC operation, flashes, etc., pack them, too. Don't forget plug adapters if you are coming in from overseas.

Now all of this seems pretty basic, but stick a list on the refrigerator. Write down things and cross them off as you pack.

Here is what I carried on our trip. (Note that this section may not be of interest to many of you, but if you have C41 chemicals running in your blood stream, it may be useful ):

  • At work I travel around with enough equipment to overthrow a small country. This is compounded even further in that I shoot film part of the time and digitally (basically a computer camera) at other times. So, this sometimes involves two full sets of equipment So, when I travel on vacation, I want to travel light enough that I don't have to hire somebody to carry around the cameras. We also borrowed a video camera for the trip.

  • I used a small Domke bag and took along two camera bodies (one for a backup or faster film). I'd stick with something small like a Nikon N90 or 8008 or a smaller Canon EOS body (or similar size in another brand) since they are smaller than a F4S or an EOS1N.

  • I really don't think you need a lot of longer lenses for most WDW and Universal Studios pictures, although the longer ones came in handy at Sea World and Kennedy Space Center. I crammed a 24mm F/2.8; a 35-70mm zoom F/2.8; a 80-200mm F/2.8 and a 300mm F/4 lens into the bag. Most days I left the 2 longer lenses back at the hotel or in the trunk.

  • I took along one strobe that was used mostly for outdoor fill flash. It also came in handy at the character meals for the shots of the family with the characters. Do not use flash during rides or shows.

  • One accessory most people don't consider is a tripod. I have a small, 25-year old Leitz tabletop tripod with large ball head that breaks down into two pieces for easy storage. This allows you to use a table, fence, trash bin or even a wall as a solid base for night shots or some inside shooting as well as video. While this is a little expensive, I have seen models that are both small and economical. It came in handy for Illuminations, Spectromagic and some night time exposures.

  • I also recommend a polarizing filter if your camera can handle one. If you have lenses with different sized filter requirements, get a polarizer to fit the largest lens and adapter rings for the other lenses. That saves a lot of bucks and allows you to use one filter on all lenses.

  • I also took extra 4-packs of "AA" batteries with me as all cameras and the flash took them. I also tossed in an off-camera cord for the flash and carried a notebook and a couple of pens so I could jot down wait times and meal notes. Even if you do not plan on writing an article, your notes come in handy as "memory joggers."

  • The video camera was a Sony 8mm. It was a little larger than the true "palm-sized" units, but it was really compact and easy to use. My wife normally carried that in a school backpack along with an extra battery, an extra tape and the sweatshirts.

  • This Sony handled all of the lighting situations pretty well, including some demanding nighttime shots like the Spectromagic Parade. I did wish the camera had a manual focus option since the auto focus tended to drift on nighttime shots with a lot of spectral highlights (like Spectromagic and Illuminations).

  • I almost forgot..... I took along all color negative film. We use Fuji at work. Since we computer scan the color negs for the newspaper, the experts in that area of the operation feel that the Fuji films scan better for our setup.

  • So, I took along Fuji 100, 400 and 800 color films and also shot some Kodak. I have nothing against any particular brands and have used them all. However, I'd stick to the big names like Kodak, Fuji and Afga, etc. For the video camera I had both Sony and some Fuji videotapes.


Sure, they sell film in Florida. Most attractions sell only Kodak film in limited formats and sizes. Some video formats may not be easily found. If you have specific preferences, you should stock up before you leave. A general rule of thumb is to take twice as much film or videotape as you think you'll need. You can always use it later.

If you are traveling by air, you will pass through airport security areas both heading to Florida and returning home. The signs say that any "lower speed" film will not be effected by the scanning devices. This may or may not be true. But, the effects on film are cumulative. One pass may not hurt, but 4-6 passes may effect it.

If you are a foreign traveler, doses will be higher. A colleague who was on a trip to Japan had all of his film effected by the scans. He did not take any precautions or request hand checks.

You are allowed to ask for hand searches at the checkpoints. Just to be safe, put all of your film in a Ziploc bag (take film out of boxes and keep in plastic cans to conserve space). You can hand the baggies to the agents while you pass your carry-ons through the machines.

I take the extra precautions of putting the baggies of film into special "Film Shield" bags available at any full service camera store for around $13.95. They hold around 20 rolls of 35mm film or a combination of film and tapes. So, if you get an attendant who insists on a scan, the film inside will still be safe.

Somebody on the r.a.d. boards recently noted that they always process their film before they return home. This is a good option. WDW offers 2-hour processing for color negative films. You can drop off film at the parks or send film from your WDW resort. As far as I know, they only handle color neg film.

You will want to consider taking along some higher speed films for inside attractions and night shooting if your camera allows it. Remember that "flash photography" is not allowed on almost ALL inside attractions and rides. Be courteous and follow the rules, please. I repeat, please follow the rules. It's a common courtesy.

As a side note, you are allowed to videotape some attractions (no camera lights allowed), but please stay seated. Do not do a running narrative during a show or ride. You won't believe what some people do to annoy those sitting near them.

Results, Comments, Suggestions

I found that the setup with the two cameras, two shorter lenses, strobe, polarizer and a few rolls of film worked very well. The bag was pretty light and allowed room for my notebook and the Unofficial WDW Guidebook. I had no problems getting on and off rides with the bag. It either rode on my lap or on the floor under my legs.

When we went to Sea World, I added the 80-200 zoom. The bag was a little heavier, but I did use the lens. At KSC, I took the 300mm on the bus tour, and it was needed for launch site shots. But, then I left a couple things in the car trunk to conserve weight.

Speaking of cars, please do not leave your cameras and film inside on the dash in the sun for six or eight hours. The heat will really effect your film and may even turn your stuff into shimmering masses of molten plastic. If you have to leave things in the car, park in a shaded spot and leave in trunk or under a seat so it will be out of the direct sun and maybe even crack a window. Some people even carry a small cooler that will hold these supplies in the car.

For more photo tips, you might check out a few booklets published by Kodak and others that deal with people photos, vacations pics and available light photography. They used to cost around $4-6.00 and are available at a full service camera stores. They also make good reading for airplane rides.

Additional Comments from the Second Trip

For the still photo equipment I wanted to travel light but have everything I would need. My longer lenses were not needed in the parks last year (I used them only for KSC and Sea World). I took a small Domke camera bag and packed two camera bodies (a Nikon N90 and 8008 since they were smaller). Sure, I wanted to take the Canon EOS1N-based digital camera system from work, but let's be realistic here, folks.

For lenses I picked my 24mm F/2.8 and 35-70 F/2.8 zoom. At the last minute I tossed my 80-200mm F/2.8 into one of the suitcases. I took along a polarizing filter for those great saturated colors and Florida skies, a filter adapter ring so one filter would fit on all of my lenses, my small Leitz tabletop tripod that breaks down into two pieces for the camera bag (great for both video and stills), extra batteries and chargers for everything, and a small Mini-Maglight flashlight. For a flash I prefer my Nikon SB units for an on-camera flash, but both of them needed to go in for broken hot shoes. So, I took along a Vivitar 285. I normally use several of these as slave units (lights that are used for extra location lighting), and they are very reliable units.

I also took along a few rolls of the new Kodak Multi-Speed color neg film that can be used from ASA 200 up to 1,000 on the same roll with no processing differences. We tested a batch several months ago at work. If you put it in a camera with auto DX coding, it sets the ASA at 640. I am not sure about availability, but you might want to check it out .The advantage is that you can run in and out of attractions and change your ASA (if you camera allows) to fit the lighting conditions.

By the way, I tend to stay away from the 1000 and 1600 films as I still think they are too grainy. They have improved vastly over the past few years, but I like the Fuji 800 for a faster film and push it for extra film speed.

Want to Read Rick's Full Reports?

Rick Chase -- March 1997

Rick Chase -- March 1996


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