Disney On Acid

Intentional Camera Movement


Well, on coffee and a lack of sleep anyway.  We boarded Tinkerbelle (one of the many things to like about Virgin Atlantic – they name their ‘planes like WWII bombers and this 747-400 was named after a fairy) for the 8 hour flight to Orlando.  After much immigration, luggage, car pickup, instructions to retrieve key for house pickup, calls to rental company for 40 minutes after they gave us the wrong codes for the key safe.. we rolled into the Magic Kingdom at 2am UK time after dropping the luggage at the house.   I was pretty punch drunk by then and the whole place took on the aspect of some bizarre dream…. I decided to try and make some alternative views of Disney by night, using long exposures….

Here’s our journey from the car park and into the surreal world of the 5 foot mouse….


Some of the signs like this one for the Star Wars ride, are just made for a bit of in-shot zooming.  For this shot, I started off zoomed in, and when I started the 2 second exposure I left it zoomed in for over half that time before winding the zoom out quickly.   This gives you some fairly sharp elements as they burn in and then some blur.   You’ll need to play around with each subject to get the density of the blur right for each one – move too slowly, and your blur may become almost a solid streak of light – you need some transparency in it I think.


There are a number of different types of movement you can use.    Not just a shaky hand – it has to be definite movement: a deliberate gesture.   So what could move in the shot?  Well either something in the frame could  be moving:  say a dress blown about in the wind, or a moving car.   Or the light on the subject could be moving.  I don’t mean a light that’s visible in the frame – that would be the same as something moving in the shot.  I mean the light that is falling on things in the shot.  Third – the camera could move, and this could mean left, right, up, down, rotating it or zooming the lens during the exposure.

The Magic Kingdom Obliged, with nice moving (and surreal) scenery on the “It’s a Small World” ride, to the more recent “Electric Parade” of brilliantly lit floats, from the Westminster Clock tower to dragons, and er.. a mushroom.



It’s a Small World, is one of the oldest rides in the park and well, the results of eating too many of the mushrooms if you ask me.  I came away from it thinking “what da f..  did I just see?”.  It’s 10 minutes of 1950’s stereotyping of global culture, but a veritable mine of blurry imagery:-


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The castle itself was also a great subject for this, and the evil face that appeared in the blur was a bit of a bonus.   Calculating exposure for this can be done starting with a regular shot in one of the auto modes  and then extending the shutter speed to the desired value in manual.  Bear in mind though that you can’t then just take off the extra exposure from the aperture or ISO as you normally would (add one stop of exposure to the shutter, take one off the aperture by closing it down etc) as the subject will be moving and so won’t build up in the same place.   You’ll just need to wing this bit.  Bias it to the underexposed side, as we’ve discovered – ISO is almost meaningless – it costs very little in image quality to just drag the exposure up in post versus raising the ISO at the time.


All of these images were made handheld and “on the hoof”  (i.e. it was a family trip so no time for do-overs or setting up tripods).  Get familiar with your camera, and have it on and ready, lens hood attached – the right way round – and lens cap in your pocket,  so you can instantly dial in what you will likely need when you see an opportunity, as it may never come again.

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