Category Archives: Theme Parks

Captive wildlife

I went over to Tampa last week with Tom M. and toured both the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary and the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary.

Not sleeping
Eyes of the tiger – resting in his den and watching visitors at the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa Florida.

Neither place is intended to be a good photo-op (lots of fences and obstructions) – you have to be lucky to get a good image.  The geometry and light in the scene above worked well, but it’s the only animal photo I made that day that I like.

Volunteer caring for residents at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Volunteer caring for residents at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

So why am I writing about these if they’re not good photo ops?  This is supposed to be a blog about photo ops, right?  Well, we met several volunteers at each place and learned a great deal from them about wildlife in captivity.  If you care about wildlife then there are  things about captives that you should know.

Seeing wild animals such as whales in their natural habitat is exciting and inspiring.  Seeing them in captivity, knowing some of the background on how they’re captured, bred, and kept is depressing.  The tiger in the photo above was well cared for and kept in nicer conditions than many others.  Although sometimes big cats can be returned to the wild, this tiger will never be released.  Wouldn’t it be better if they’d never been captured at all? Places like the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary and the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary are doing their best to care for large, wild animals that can’t be returned to the wild.  But there are so many of these animals that they’ll never be able to keep up.

Are all instances of captive wildlife wrong?  Maybe not.  But many situations are clearly bad and should be against the law.

I know you don’t come to this site for editorials and commentary, but thanks anyway for stopping by and reading this.  And if you care about this subject, you should click on the links in this post to learn more.

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Return to Animal Kingdom

We had family in town last weekend and they invited Lynn and I along on their visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I’ve blogged about this place before (here and here) and this was a chance to return and see if I still liked it as much as last time.

Yes, I did.  I can confirm that Animal Kingdom is still the nicest zoo I’ve ever been too.  It’s enhanced by the rides and shows, and seeing it with our young nieces and nephew makes it an even more wonderful experience.

Here are a few scenes from the trip.  You can see more photos (and larger versions of these) in this set on Flickr.

Male Silverback Gorilla holding grass
Male Silverback Gorilla holding grass. In the gorilla enclosure on Pangani Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

American Crow
An American Crow enjoys a stolen onion ring


Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Year of the Dragon

Today is the Chinese New Year, also known as the “Spring Festival”.  2012 is the Year of the Dragon.

The dragon is the most powerful of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, and is associated with high energy and prosperity. It’s also the only mythological beast in the Chinese astrological stable that also includes the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

I don’t have a photo of a mythological dragon.  But I do have this image:

22. Komodo dragon
Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragons are found in Indonesia and can grow to about 10 feet in size.  They’re carnivores and dominate the ecosystem where they’re found.  This particular one lives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This year is considered especially auspicious because it is the year of the water dragon, something that only happens once every 60 years.  I don’t have a photo of a mythological water dragon either.  Perhaps this one will do?

Rising gator
Rising Gator at Orlando Wetlands Park: Is this a Water Dragon?

So happy Chinese New Year! Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos.
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Intro / Description

I apologize for not publishing  a post  last weekend.  We’ve had a very busy week with family and the Christmas holiday.  I’ll try to make up for it today with this Central Florida Photo Op review of Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme park.

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Islands of Adventure is right next to Universal Studios and City Walk and is one of the newest theme parks in the Orlando area.  It opened in 1998, and this year (2010), Universal added a new “island” to the park – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This much awaited addition has been extremely popular and is a must see for Harry Potter fans.

Ollivanders wand shop

Ollivander’s wand shop

The park also has a Port of Entry and 5 other “islands”:   Marvel Super Hero Island; Toon Lagoon; Jurassic Park; The Lost Continent; and Suess Landing.  Depending on your interests these will be more or less appealing to you.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints: The line to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey winds through Hogwarts Castle and has many, many photo ops along the way.  Be prepared so you don’t hold up people or lose your place.  Most of the photo ops are at close range, so use your flash and fire away.

Tripod/Monopod:  I did see one person using a tripod, but I think it’s very impractical.  When you’re inside and need it, you won’t have time or space to use it because you’ll be in a ride queue.  Outside you’ll have plenty of light, and the crowds will make setting up very difficult.  And the less equipment you have to carry on the sometimes cramped rides, the better.

Lenses:  Nothing too extreme is needed – a mid range zoom is enough to capture many fine images at this park. You can use a flash too, so you don’t have to worry too much about fast, heavy lenses.

Best time to visit:  Winter is a great time to visit, since you’ll be blessed with fine Florida weather.  If you time your visit right, you can even see some color in our trees.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Pick a day when no fronts are coming through and you’ll avoid the rain.  If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to research strategies for the best ways to get in quickly to this area – it can get quite jammed with muggles.  We arrived at the park before it opened, made straight for the area and did pretty well.  Other people have had luck avoiding long lines by going late at night just before the park closes.

Muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village

The muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village


Several rides at Islands of Adventure will get you and possibly your photo gear wet.  Take precautions when riding Popey & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Jurassic Park River Adventure.  There are lockers where you can store your gear.  I wasn’t comfortable taking expensive camera gear through wet rides or leaving it in lockers, so I made do with my small Canon S90 which I could protect in my pocket.

The Mythos restaurant in the Lost Continent area is rated very highly and has some of the best  theme park food in the world.  It’s also fairly reasonably priced.  We very much enjoyed our meal.

The Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer at  Mythos Restaurant

Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer


You can click on any of the photos above to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version.  The link to the rest of my Islands of Adventure photos is right below.  You can look at all of the photos from our Christmas holidays in this Flickr set.  Thanks for stopping by.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set:
Address / Phone: Parking Garage:

6000 Universal Boulevard

Orlando, FL 32819

Main Number: 407-363-8000

Longitude: -81.46228

Latitude: 28.47399

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Harry Potter fans can’t go wrong in this point and shoot paradise.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Return to Seaworld

We went to Seaworld again at the invitation of the United Way group here in Orlando.  They very graciously organize the visit each year to thank people that contribute to the charity.  We almost didn’t go due to the weather.

The harbor area at Seaworld
The harbor area at Seaworld

There was a cold front coming through with a strong line of showers ahead of it. When we got out of bed, it was north of us but moving south fast. We decided we’d go anyway and timed our arrival for just after the rain came through. The park wasn’t very crowded. I think the weather discouraged many people from going.  As you can see above, it cleared up nicely.

We’re not into roller coasters any more so we didn’t do many of the rides and spent most of our time just walking. I practiced with the D7000 and a wide angle lens. The photo above was made at an 8mm focal length – it’s a challenge to frame a scene with an 8mm lens and not have everything tilt in from the edges.

Here’s a couple more from yesterday.

Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
Wood Duck

Demoiselle Crane - Anthropoides virgo
Demoiselle Crane

Seaworld is a pleasant place for a walk and offers a number of different photo opportunities. You can see other photos I’ve made at Seaworld in this set on Flickr.

You can read other posts I’ve written about Seaworld here: 2007, here: 2008, and here:  2009.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Where's EdRo?

So we’re going to try something a little different.  This will be a variation on the game “Where’s Waldo”, except you have to guess where I was last Saturday, based on the photos below.  And you have to find me in at least one photo.  We’ll use my Twitter handle and call it “Where’s EdRo?”.  All of these photos were made in the same general area.  To play fair, you aren’t allowed to scroll down too far before you guess. Forensic investigation of EXIF data is possible, but also against the rules.  There’s no prize, but if enough people demand it, I can see about having something for the next time we play.

The point of the game is to remind you that you need to look around and find the non-obvious photos wherever you are.  Go ahead and get the “trophy shots” (photos that everyone takes at a popular spot), but don’t forget to share your unique vision, perspective, and outlook with others.

Want to play? Here goes…

1. Interesting wall
Clue #1: An interesting wall.

2. Nice light on an Ibis
Clue #2: Nice light on an Ibis.

3. Flowers, leaves, sky
Clue #3: Flowers, leaves, sky.

Have you guessed where I was yet? If not, here’s some more clues:

4. Blue wall, red windows
Clue #4: Blue wall, red windows.

5. River landing and flowers
Clue #5: River landing and flowers.

Do you have it yet? If not, here’s a couple more.

10. Surprise!
Clue 6: Surprise and delight.

One last clue:

18. Rhino profile
Clue 7: Rhino profile

If you haven’t guessed yet, then go to this set of mine on Flickr for additional clues.  I’ve added a total of 21 photos there. Some are obvious and some are not. Hopefully they all let you see this place through my eyes.

Thanks for playing my little game.  Now, go out there and look past the obvious shots.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (Disney's EPCOT)

Intro / Description

Disney opened the EPCOT theme park in 1982.  It is a different sort of park with two main areas:  Future world, and the World Showcase.  They also occasionally have special events, which can greatly add to the photo op quotient.

Future world has a mix of rides, and the ones we enjoyed the most were Mission Space, Test Track and Spaceship Earth.  The Seas with Nemo & Friends is aimed at small children, but there is a nice, large aquarium there as well.

World Showcase is where you can enjoy shopping, food and a sample of culture from many places around the world.  Pavilions include: Norway (don’t miss the Maelstrom ride!), Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure Japan, Morocco (check out the shops and architecture), France, United Kingdom, and Canada.  There are many fine restaurants, and although a little pricey – you don’t have to settle for standard theme park food.  Be sure to make a reservation early.

Moroccan gifts
Gifts of Morocco

The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival runs from March 3 – May 16, 2010 so this is an especially nice time for a photographer to visit.  The entire park is planted with flowers with many Disney themed topiaries throughout.  There was also a collection of bonsai trees near the Japanese pavilion when we were there.

Bonsai tree
Bonsai boca

The Flower and Garden Festival also has some special activities such as The Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden, Fawn’s Butterfly House, The Community Garden and Flower Power Concert Series and more.  I was impressed by all of this, but the Butterfly Garden was still getting started when we were there.

Intense flower 1
Intense Flower

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  Make sure you keep your eyes open – there are photo ops everywhere.

Tripod/Monopod: Definitely allowed – I saw several people with tripods and quite a bit of high end camera gear.

Lenses: For the Flower Exhibition, a macro lens was nice.  You’ll want a general purpose zoom for most of the park.  I didn’t see a lot of need for a longer lens.  I used a 105mm macro on my D700 for the flowers and other things and my Canon S90 for some shots.

Best time to visit: Spring time is a wonderful time in Central Florida.  The weather is great and the The Flower and Garden show runs through May 16th.

Other:  Like many of the Orlando parks, it’s pricey.  General admission is now $79 for adults and $68 for children.  You’ll have to budget an additional $14 for parking and additional money for any food and gifts you buy.  There are sometimes discounts for Florida residents.


The EPCOT theme park is a place where the entire family can have fun, while at the same time providing a large and varied number of photo ops for the photography enthusiast.  The photos in this post are just a few of the ones I made, and there was much more to see.  See below for links to the rest.

My EPCOT photo set on Flickr: The set:

Here’s a slide show of the images (click to start, and when running click  to go to the photo on Flickr):

Address / Phone: 1510 Avenue of the Stars

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

(407) 824-4321?

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Fun family day – will keep the photographer interested!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Return to Seaworld – Orlando

Today was our annual pilgrimage to Seaworld, courtesy of United Way.  It’s always enjoyable to stroll around the park.  There are a lot of images waiting to be made.  I posted the ones I made on my Flickr photo stream in the Seaworld November 2009 set.  Here’s one sample.  This fellow is watching me very intently, and I think he’s starting to realize my D700 isn’t a fish.
Seaworld- Seal__DSC3828-nx2
Nikon D700 @ ISO 200, Nikon 70-300 @ 270mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, cropped

©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Animal Kingdom Update – The Lodge

Intro / Description

You may remember my post from May about Disney’s Animal Kingdom .  Disney also has the Animal Kingdom Lodge co-located with the park.  It is an African style lodge / hotel with over 700 rooms and several restaurants.  Lynn and I enjoyed our visit to Animal Kingdom so much that when we heard about the Lodge, we decided to go to the Boma Restaurant there for brunch on our anniversary in mid June.

Rooms at the Lodge overlook an area modeled after an African savanna, where 30 animal species roam about.  There are also several viewing areas where guests can walk a short distance out into the savannas to  observe what’s going on.  When we were there, we saw Giraffes:



Gray Pelicans:

And African Spoonbills:
African Spoonbills

Photo Hints

For this "expedition, I traveled light, took only my Canon G9, and shot hand held. A little more reach would have been welcome. I think you could bring and use a tripod – I didn’t see any signs prohibiting their use. We were there in the heat of the morning – about 11 am. Most of the animals had more sense than us and were out of sight somewhere cool. If you go, take the weather into account, it will certainly affect the animal behavior, as well as your comfort.


The breakfast at the Boma Restaurant was delicious and enjoyable. We also had fun wandering around the grounds afterward.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a unique experience. There is no where else in Central Florida that you can stay in the middle of an African savanna. Is it worth the premium over other hotels in the area? Since we didn’t stay in the Lodge, you will have to decide that on your own.

Address: 2901 Osceola Parkway, Bay Lake, FL 32830
Telephone number:407-938-3000
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Best food at a zoo.

©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney has a “get in free on your birthday” promotion and Lynn and I used it when we went to Animal Kingdom theme park for my birthday earlier this month. When we checked in, Lynn made me wear the “Happy Birthday, Edward” button they gave me.  Then, everywhere we went – all the Disney employees and characters were telling me happy birthday all day long.  That’s probably more “happy birthdays” in one day than I’ve gotten in my whole life!

Animal Kingdom combines a “zoo without bars” with theme park rides and this results in a very well done attraction that has something to offer everyone.  Lynn and I really enjoyed it and for me it definitely makes the Central Florida Photos must do list .

Animal Kingdom is located west of Orlando off of I-4.  For more information, Wikipedia has a large entry, with articles on the various areas in the park and the animals you can see as well as the rides.

You might want to bring a variety of photo equipment.  My 70-300VR zoom lens on a Nikon D90 crop sensor body (1.5 crop factor) was about right for the long shots of wildlife (but we never have enough glass, do we?).  I also had my 16-85 zoom for scenic shots, and there are a lot of scenic shots.  I saw one or two people with tripods, but I didn’t bring mine in to the park.  I couldn’t have used it on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, and it would have been in the way in many of the other places in the park.  One other thing, even in early May, Orlando is already very hot and humid.  Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.  Cool clothing and sun block are a must.

This close-up photo of a giraffe was taken from the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicle.  Lynn and I went straight here when we got to the park, since it was at the top of our priority list and we didn’t want to wait in a long line.  Even so, it took about 20 minutes before we could board.  It’s a very nice experience, but  photographically challenging.  The vehicle almost never stops and the ride is designed to be bumpy and fun for younger folks, so you’ll have to make sure your shutter speed is high enough to freeze the vehicle’s motion.  This giraffe crossed the road in front of us and they do have the right of way, so I made a nice calm portrait of it while the vehicle paused to let it pass.  You’ll want to try to avoid the middle seats.  I sat on the far left, but I think both sides probably have as good a view at different times.


This next photo is of a mother and juvenile elephant coming toward us along the elephant trail, also on the safari ride.  I like the way the young one is kicking up dust out in front of Mom.
Elephants - dusty steps

The next area we visited was the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where there are gorillas, meerkats, and a number of other animals.  There’s a photo of one of the gorillas in an earlier post .  Here’s a meerkat.


Another thing I liked about this park is the displays that are set up throughout the areas to give them some  cultural ambiance.  Here are two photos from the Maharajah Jungle Trek that I especially liked. This first one is a “water station.

Here is located safe water for Travellers.  Please know it is unwise to drink local water, standing water, water from unidentified sources.

This one is of a cart in the village area.


Finally, here is a photo of the center piece of the park, the Tree of Life.

Tree of Life

I’ve posted a gallery of my Animal Kingdom photos at this location .  Please visit and browse to get an idea of some of the animals and things you can expect to see.  I haven’t been to Africa or India, but it seems like Disney has done a credible job re-creating pieces of those far away places here in Central Florida for us to visit and dream about.

2/9/2010 Update:  I have some additional photos posted in this set on Flickr .

©2009 and 2010, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved.