Three Lenses (and a Family) Go to Disney World

I brought a Canon T5i, cropped-sensor camera on our Disney World trip last month. In addition to my zooming kit lens (Canon EF-S 18-135mm, f/3.5-5.6, IS STM), I brought two others with me: a wide-angle zoom (Canon EF-S 10-18mm, f/4.5-5.6 IS STM) and a fixed focal length (or prime) (Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM). I thought about this a lot before the trip: Should I bring the extra lenses? Wouldn’t the kit lens be good enough to get all the shots I would ever really want on a trip like this? It’s not like I was going out into the mountains somewhere to shoot large vistas, or walking around a city street looking at people. Why bring the other lenses?

Eventually, I decided to bring them because of the challenge. I’m not good at photography, but I love taking pictures. I love it when they look good (mostly by accident), and I want to make them look good on purpose. Bringing the other lenses with me would, I hoped, force me to think more about how I wanted the pictures to look before I took them. And not only right before I took them: I also told myself I’d only bring one lens per day, leaving the others behind at the hotel, so I’d have to think carefully about the locations themselves, and the most likely conditions, before leaving the room. Actively thinking about these things would help me improve as a photographer, especially if I made the wrong choice. I would have to live with that choice all day, and work harder to make the most of it, which would, again, help me improve as a photographer. Having more than one lens available on the trip would also provide me with a bigger variety pictures I could potentially have: I looked forward, minimally, to my pictures not all looking the same as each other, and possibly not the same as the pictures everyone else takes at Disney World.

The Takeaway

Let me save you a little time: If I could have only brought one lens with me, the one I would have packed would have been the wide-angle, 10-18mm, lens. It’s not great for ordinary portrait-style pictures, but overall my photo collection would not have missed those very much, since I’m not good at conveying location with a tight shot (as in a portrait), and making the location of Disney World obvious would be important if most of the pictures were to evoke the trip. I would not have missed my 18-135mm zoom lens much, though I did take some nice pictures with it, because many of the shots I liked happened to be at its widest angle (18mm), which you will notice the wide-angle lens also covers. I would have missed it for its long reach, especially at shows or at the Animal Kingdom, where photo subjects are often in the distance, but if I had to choose either pictures of my family nearby with a lot of background, or pictures of a rhino in the distance with no background, I’ll take the pictures of my family. So if I could only choose one, it would be the wide-angle lens. It took my favourite pictures, for the most part.

Disclaimer: I don’t know how to use PhotoShop or Gimp or Lightroom to process photos, so these are all straight out of the camera (with the exception of one picture that I leveled, because I’m not a good photographer, and sometimes I take crooked pictures).

The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Goes to the Magic Kingdom

When we arrived in Orlando, we had a few hours left in the day, time to enjoy some part of one park, and we chose the Magic Kingdom. Since I knew it would be dark, with not much to see in the distance (because of the nature of the park itself, and because of the time of day), I decided I didn’t need the reach of my zoom lens, and the wide-angle lens is too slow (dark) for night time shots of people. We were meeting up with family and friends, and I knew I’d want pictures with them as soon as possible, and as soon as possible meant at night. So, I brought my 40mm lens, which offers a wider aperture than my other lenses, to make it easier to take pictures at night. On a Canon T5i body, that 40mm is around 64mm on a full-frame camera, which is slightly zoomed on subjects, but not like a real portrait lens. I have also enjoyed just walking around with it on my camera and taking the occasional extra step back when I needed it, rather than using the heavier 18-135mm as a daily lens.

I also brought the 40mm with me on another day we spent at the Magic Kingdom. Again, even in daylight, that park didn’t seem to require a really long reach, so I didn’t miss the 18-135mm there. I think you could have a lot of fun walking around the Magic Kingdom all day with a 40mm lens, and you wouldn’t miss out on much except for really nice, wide shots (which I did take later with my wide-angle lens).

(From Flickr)


The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Goes Everywhere Except the Magic Kingdom

As I said, I didn’t really think I’d ever need the long zoom at the Magic Kingdom: you can get pretty close to just about everything there just by walking up to it. Considering that it’s the heaviest of the three lenses, any chance to not bring it was worth taking. However, I did bring it to more of the parks than any other lens, because it has such a versatile range. If you are going to a park with lots of shows where you have to sit far away (Hollywood Studios) or a park with lots of things you shouldn’t get close to (Animal Kingdom), you want the zoom lens. Neither of those situations really hold for Epcot or the Magic Kingdom. I brought it to Epcot, but I didn’t end up taking advantage of its reach there, and the pictures I like are either at the wide end, or portrait-style pictures that could have been taken almost anywhere. The zoom didn’t add anything special at Epcot.

(From Flickr)


The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Goes to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, and Environs

If I could have only brought one lens (of the three I have, not of any of all time anywhere), it would have been this wide-angle lens. On our first full day at Disney World, we went to Epcot. Knowing what Epcot generally looks like, I knew the architectural design and the layout of the park lent itself to wide angles, because you could get right up close to things and there was always something on the periphery to look at too. I could live with the distortion in pictures of people (I know and love these people and I have hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of them already), but if my primary goal was to take accurate or flattering pictures of faces, I would have used the 40mm. This lens is not great in the dark (though with Image Stabilization, you get a little help), but Epcot is not much of an evening park anyway. There is a fireworks show on the lake at night, but it’s not like the Magic Kingdom, with its late night parades.

I had the wide-angle lens with me after Epcot closed for the night. We went to dinner at the Wilderness Lodge, so I took a couple of pictures there, then some on a ferry across the lake, and then some at the Magic Kingdom at night before it closed.

On our last day at Disney World, we had some time before our flight to go to one park for a couple of hours. We chose the Magic Kingdom again (because it has the most rides). Since I knew it would be nice and bright out, and that I’d already used the 40mm there, and that I didn’t need the reach of the 18-135mm, I decided to use the wide-angle lens for these last pictures. I was not disappointed, since some of my very favourite pictures from the trip are in that batch (the tea cups and King Arthur’s Carousel in particular).

(From Flickr)


I had a lot of fun playing with these lenses at Disney World, and I don’t regret bringing all three. Each one has its strengths, and they can all be taken advantage of at a place like Disney World, with its endless variety of subjects and locations and lighting conditions. If I were to recommend only one of the three to bring for the entire trip, it would be the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, the wide-angle lens. It was the most fun to use. If I were to recommend on lens per park, it would be: Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, the zoom lens; Epcot, the 10-18mm wide-angle zoom; and for the Magic Kingdom, the 40mm f/2.8 STM. I’d recommend the zoom at the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood studios because of the shows and animals. I’d recommend the 40mm at the Magic Kingdom because of the proximity of everything, and the opportunities to take pictures of things at night, or on dark rides. I’d use the wide-angle at Epcot, where you don’t need a long reach, and there isn’t much to see in the dark anyway.

I’m still not good at photography, and I likely won’t ever be really good. But I think I’m a little better now, and I love the pictures I have, even if some, or most, of them are only good by accident.

A Week In Paradise

It’s time once again for “Backpacking Dad Makes You Look At His Vacation Photos”. You love these posts and you wish I would do more of them? Oh, alright then.

We just spent a week in Hawaii with the kids. We split the week between the Hilton Waikiki Village and Disney’s Aulani resort. While both were very fun, and the kids had a great time wherever we were, Aulani was the clear winner for us. If you’re a long-time reader who has seen how much time we spend a Disneyland, right now you are thinking “Well, duh.”

Aulani reminded me of the Disney cruise we took in 2003. Everything was self-contained, within a short walk, and you felt like you were along for the ride. The Hilton felt more like a Vegas resort plopped down at the beach. There were shops and restaurants and bars everywhere, and crowds of people moving from one tourist activity to another (paying a little bit extra at every station). Where Disney invited the entire resort to an outdoor show, the Hilton put on the classic tourist luau. Where Disney had beach chairs set up all along the sand, the Hilton rented them out. Those are philosophical differences, of course. Disney charges for its little extras up front, building it into the room cost, and the Hilton charges as you go. It’s hard to economize at Alauni, and it’s hard not to feel like you need to wring your money’s worth out of the extras you opt for at the Hilton.

Enough review-y words. That’s not what you came here for. You want obnoxious vacation pictures!

First, here’s my giant face.


And Emily’s winning smile.


And Erin glamming it up.


Adrian contemplates penguins in Hawaii.


This is a good-looking group of people right here.


Fire-dancers? Hey, hey Adrian! Look at the fire dancers!


Adrian? Oh, sorry.


Hey! There’s a mouse at my resort!


And another one! This one is kind of cute, though.


The Fourth of July looks better upside down. And on a beach.


And no beach is complete without Watchmen.


In closing, here’s a postcard.


See you again soon, Hawaii.

Backpacking Dad’s Southwest Road Trip, Part 6: Disneyland

This is Part 6 in a series of stories (and tips) from our most recent road trip. Read Part 1, on the Calico Ghost Town, here, Part 2, on Las Vegas,here, Part 3, on Flagstaff, here, Part 4, on the Grand Canyon, here, and Part 5, on Phoenix, here.

We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t include some kind of Disney destination in our planning. Our Southwest Road Trip led us all the way from home to our home away from home.

One very nice thing about Emily growing up in Orange County is that she still has friends and family there: Grandma and Aunt Bonnie always join us at Disneyland, and Steven (Pop Culture Maven on the Internet) usually comes along too. This meant that as soon as we rolled into Disneyland, we had not one, not two, but three babysitters just waiting to take the kids for a while.

TRAVELING WITH KIDS TIPE #16: Always bring Grandma. Or Aunt Bonnie. Or Uncle Steven. When you are away from home for any length of time, your patience with the kids will grow thin. Take any opportunity you have to let other loving friends or family members spend some time with the kids, even just an hour, while you take a break. It isn’t always feasible, but try to make it happen. And always be the friend who can give other parents a break. You want that to come back around.

Emily and I relaxed for a bit.


And a bit more.


And a bit more.


The timing of our trip nearly coincided with Erin’s birthday, so we treated it a bit like a birthday trip. We were also joined by two other families from back home: all the adults are friends, and all the kids are friends, so we were a giant pack of pals roaming around Disneyland for a few days.


We spent a lot of time in the Radiator Springs area of California Adventure.


We rode every ride there: Luigi’s tire thing, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and of course the Radiator Springs Racers.


We did Turtle Talk, Disney Jr. Live on Stage, The Little Mermaid, Soarin’ Over California, all of the Bug’s Land rides, and Toy Story Midway Mania.


The kids strolled around the pier, declining to go on the Ferris Wheel.


I don’t blame them. I kind of hate Ferris Wheels.

TRAVELING WITH KIDS TIP #17: Glowsticks. You can buy tubes of  them at your friendly neighbourhood whatever (rhymes with Schmarget) for a dollar each. No kid can turn down glowsticks. They’re decoration, which the kids like, and they make the kids easier to keep track of at night. Everybody wins.

But they do like the carousel.


Since we were there, putatively, for Erin’s birthday, we had lunch with the princesses one day. All of the pictures from that lunch have the other families’ kids in them, so here is one of Adrian with Ariel just before lunch. The rest of lunch was just as glittery.


Over the next few days we played at both parks, and in the hotel pool (monorail water slide FTW, btw). And we got both kids to go on Pirates of the Caribbean. Erin has refused to go near that ride for years.


And we rode the Spin n’ Barf…er…Teacups. Here’s Uncle Steven photobombing, well, himself really. I was trying to take his picture too.


And I made Emily take a picture with me in the spot where I proposed in 1998. (Hi, have we met? I’m a cheeseball.)


In the end, we hated to leave, just like we always do.


But everybody has to go home some time, and this was our time. So we packed up the car, waved goodbye to Disneyland, and, after a quick carwash, headed home.

TRAVELING WITH THE KIDS TIP #18: The carwash is your friend. Take a few minutes after getting gas somewhere with a carwash to actually drive through it. It can be in the middle of your trip, or toward the end. It doesn’t matter. It’s not just a good idea to get all the road crap off the car once in a while, it’s another cheap, low-pressure entertainment that the kids can enjoy and you don’t have to unbuckle them for.

Our grand Southwest Road Trip was over.

Until next time, Road.