Debi and Joel met while working at Disneyland, and Debi still works there. It’s such a big part of their life, it seemed a logical choice to have their engagement photos taken there too. While I’ve been to Disneyland a number of times – as have most Californians – I had never done a photo shoot there. What a fun idea!
Funny thing, when I got home after the shoot and prepared my film to send to the lab, I was concerned. I didn’t seem to have shot very much, compared to other engagement shoots. I figured it must have been all that walking around, looking for different locations. When I got the images back from the lab, though, I was stunned: so many awesome images! In fact, there were too many to put in this (admittedly long) blog post. The shear variety of settings made every image count. My fears were for nothing, and wow what a shoot!
Debi had some ideas for out-of-the-way places and secret locations. Places I didn’t even know existed (I’m not sure Joel knew about all of them either!). We started out simply, by heading to the wishing well at the castle. You knew there was a wishing well, right? No, I didn’t either. Then we hit the merry-go-round in Fantasyland.
I am happy to report that Debi and Joel were successful in removing the sword from the stone, and took home a wonderful souvenir of their day.
Debi called in some favors and got us somewhere that very few employees, much less the general public, ever see. We were able to visit the Disney Dream Suite. This is a ‘secret’ suite of rooms in the New Orleans Square part of the park. It was originally designed by Walt Disney as a place for his family to stay, entertain guests etc, in a secluded area right in the heart of the park. Walt died before the suite was finished, and completion was abandoned. At one point it was turned into an art gallery of Disney animation. But about ten years ago it was decided that the original plans for the suite would be completed. The suite is now used for VIP guests, and is not open to the general public.
We snuck under a rope barrier next to the line for Pirates of the Caribbean, and headed toward a elevator. Debi rang the door bell and our identities were verified over the speaker. A caretaker for the suite came down and escorted us up, and we were given the tour. I had to keep reminding myself to take pictures, because it was all so interesting!
Many of the rooms had ‘Disney magic’ built right in, with music, visual effects and animatronics at the push of a button. One room had a train running around the ceiling of the room, with timed sound effects as it passed various miniature scenes. Another room had a magic mirror with lighting effects appearing behind the mirror. Anywhere else and some of that would have been cheesy, but it’s Disneyland and it’s a historic recreation of sorts. So it was just…cool.
The Dream Suite is built around a little atrium, where you can get some sun and be completely removed from the noise of the park. It has lounge chairs, a fountain in the wall, and would be a great place to relax. Or you could head out on the front balcony to watch the light show in the evening, with a view of Tom Sawyer’s Island during the day (below).
After the Dream Suite, we wandered around the New Orleans district a little more, where Debi again found some secret nooks and crannies in which to take photographs. These are open to the public, just out of the way. It really helps to have a guide!
Then we headed out of the Magic Kingdom and over to California Adventure, for a different style of setting for our engagement photos. I sure do love Debi and Joel’s sense of humor! They had me laughing so hard I couldn’t take pictures at some points. Fortunately I was able to catch my breath and catch a few images in the process.
What a wonderful sentiment. I wish them a ‘happily ever after’ of their own!
By the way, Debi and Joel took advantage of my special engagement photo offer, which you can read about here.
Technical details: Since I knew I’d be wandering around two separate theme parks, with no access to my car, I needed to pack everything for light travel. I brought ‘only’ two cameras, my Mamiya 645AF and my Nikon F5. Lenses included my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses for the Nikon, and my 80mm and 150mm lenses for the Mamiya. The film I used was Kodak Portra 160 for earlier in the day, and then I switched to Portra 400 as it got closer to evening. I might have used Portra 400 in the F5 all day, I don’t recall.
I also had an SB-28 strobe with me, which I used indoors in TTL mode a few times. I bounced it off the ceiling to make the ‘chair’ portraits in the Dream Suite for example, as well as lighting the ‘Happily Ever After’ room, which was almost completely black otherwise. My lab (Richard Photo Lab) did a nice job of color-correcting that image, which had the strobe bouncing off a blue wall.