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Disney Parks After Dark: ‘Believe…in Holiday Magic’ Fireworks Spectacular in Disneyland Park

by Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort Chief Photographer

" Holiday Magic" Fireworks Spectacular in Disneyland Park
" Holiday Magic" Fireworks Spectacular in Disneyland Park

A little over a year ago I set out to determine whether I could capture an entire performance of “Remember…Dreams Come True” fireworks spectacular at Disneyland park in a single exposure and it worked! I thought the final result was really interesting. With a proven photographic recipe in-hand, I recently set out to see if I could do the same thing with the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular.

Fireworks in Disneyland
Fireworks in Disneyland

Every joyful holiday burst and blast is represented here. How is this possible, you ask? I’ll explain.

I mounted my camera to a tripod with a 24mm lens and slapped on a 9-stop neutral density (ND) filter. For the uninitiated, just think of an ND filter as a tinted window for your lens – it limits how much light can get to the image sensor (or film) over time, which allows you to expose longer without blowing-out bright details. I also pre-set the camera’s long exposure noise reduction feature to tone-down or eliminate “hot pixels.” Hot pixels are bright dots that appear on digital pictures as the result of the camera sensor overheating during long exposures.

My settings were: ISO 100, f/22, and shutter was left in bulb mode (which means the shutter will remain open once triggered until I signal the termination manually with a cable-release). I left the white balance set to auto.

I triggered the shutter with the cable release as soon as the street lamps went dim and, learning from my previous experience, waited about three minutes after the finale to terminate the exposure. Last time around, I had to use Photoshop to make a slight curves adjustment to the castle mid-tones or Sleeping Beauty Castle would have looked too dark. Letting the post-show castle expose for that extra three minutes eliminated the need for any Photoshop adjustments: what you see here is the photograph exactly as it came out of the camera.

My background is in photojournalism, so getting pictures right, in-camera, and with minimal or no lab work is a deeply-ingrained value that continues to shape how I do my work for Disney. That challenge and commitment to photographic ethics makes the work more fun and, in my mind, maybe a little more special.

Total exposure time: 00:12:42

NOTE: Using the camera’s long exposure noise reduction feature adds about 15-minutes to the image write time on an exposure this long. So, keep in mind,if you’re going to try something like this on your own: do not turn off your camera until the image writing process is complete or you’ll ruin the photograph.

Holiday magic abounds in every corner of the Disneyland Resort through Jan. 6, making this a perfect time to drop in for a visit. Don’t forget to catch “Believe…in Holiday Magic” while you’re here – it’s incredible.



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