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. In the gorilla enclosure on Pangani Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
An American Crow enjoys a stolen onion ring
Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. Now, go make some photos!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
And African Spoonbills:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, gentle reader. In this post, I will describe some of the upcoming events that will be happening in this blog.
First, Lynn took me to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for my birthday at the beginning of May. I have a little over a hundred “selects” to go through and finish so that I can post a gallery and write a blog post about our visit. Stay tuned on this one. Animal Kingdom is a photography must see in Central Florida!
Next, there are several ideas I have for future photo expeditions / galleries / blog posts around Central Florida. Here are a few I’ll try to write about: Leu Gardens, Gatorland in Kissimee (and a comparison to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm), Butterfly exhibits (Lucas Nursery and UF), Orlando photowalks, and several more.
Lynn and I are also planning an Alaska Cruise with some very good friends. I’m going to be keeping notes on this and plan to turn it into one or more entries after we return.
Finally, I have an idea for a series of philosophical entries on how to be successful in general and I think these can also be applied to photography in particular. I’m going to try to intermix these entries with my photo gallery / blog entries.
Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, here’s a teaser from Animal Kingdom: