Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Really unique senior portraits in Disneyland and more!

A couple of weeks ago I took some really special senior portraits. They were special for a number of reasons. First of all, I was going to be taking the photos down in Southern California, including spending a whole day in Disneyland looking for good portrait locations. And secondly, the images were of my girlfriend's daughter, Hannah, who works at Disneyland and is about to graduate from college. 

We were down visiting my cousin and her husband who have an amazing place right on Laguna Beach, so we thought we would take advantage of that time and location to get some nice photos for Hannah, who lives in the area. Since we were at Laguna Beach, we decided to start there just before sunset.  

We walked down to the beach about 45 minutes before sunset, for me to pick locations and wait for the best light. At that point, the sunlight was still a little harsh, so I took some photos of Hannah in the shaded areas. I was using my Canon R6 Mark II with the Canon RF 70-200 2.8 lens and a Canon 600 EX-RT flash (to add just a little light to the shadow areas of her face).

About 15 minutes later, the sun was much lower and we were ready for the golden hour photos.  

I was shooting at ISO 100 (and no flash needed for these) since I had plenty of light to work with. I like shooting at f/2.8 to isolate the focus on Hannah and not the background.

For this photo I definitely needed the flash! Actually, for this photo I needed two flashes to light her against the very bright background. I had one Canon 600 EX-RT flash on camera and another one that Laura (her mom) was pointing at her. Laura was so close to her that I had to Photoshop her hand and the flash out of the right side of the image. I set the Canon R6 Mark II to f/20 to bring the shutter speed down to 1/200 sec and powered up both flashes to make sure that my subject was not a silhouette. (Expert note: since the Canon flashes produce a much cooler (bluer) light, I selected Hannah in Adobe Photoshop and warmed her to match the color of the sunset.)

As Hannah walked on the beach, I saw how the late day sunlight was hitting hair. I had her turn her back to the sun and shot this portrait.

I saw her swing her hair around to get it straightened and asked her to do that again for a photo. I put the Canon R6 Mark II in high speed mode and took a burst of images to get this one with her hair flying out and lit perfectly by the late sunlight.

As the sun was just about to go down past the horizon, I had Hannah sit on one of the rocks and once again I lit her with two flashes. So pretty, both Hannah and the location! Once the sun set, the light was gone and we were done.

Hannah had classes the next day, so we spent time walking around Laguna Beach until she was done. Then we drove over to Chapman and walked around campus to look at locations and also made some prop purchases at a nearby store.

This is the classic shot that all the graduates take at Chapman University in front of the arch. That was great, but I wanted to do something different. (I was using the Canon RF 24-70mm lens for this photo and most of the remaining photos you will see. )

When we were out shopping, Laura decided to buy a bottle of Champagne for Hannah to pop in front of the school. We got the cheapest bottle we could find and had some fun.

We went over to this wall and had her open the bottle. It was so cheap that it had a screw top. Ooooops! So when she opened it, nothing really happened. So I had her shake it up and keep her thumb over the top. When she let go, even she was surprised. This photo made us all laugh.

Laura and I also purchased some graduation confetti at the dollar store.  It took many tries to get this right, but we had fun with Hannah blowing this right at the lens. We like the little hats that flew up, but ultimately decided that it would have been easier to blow if it was all small confetti. 

As we were heading back to the parking lot, I saw the sunlight hitting this one wall and knew that it would backlight Hannah perfectly.

Before leaving, we stopped by this one wall (on the side of a liquor store next to campus) to have a little more fun.

The next day we planned on waking up at 6:30am to "rope drop" (be there at opening) at Disneyland, and we did just that. 

We got into the park right at 8am and luckily we had cloudy weather which allowed me to get a slow shutter speed for this motion shot. I knew that everyone would be rushing in to get to their favorite rides, so I asked Hannah to go dead center in front of Main Street and stand very still while everyone else hurried by. I set the camera to ISO 50 and f/18, which gave me a slow shutter speed of 1/5 sec.

There was a large group of people trying to get a dead-center shot in front of the castle, but we saw this wall with a clear background. Hannah hopped up on the wall for some photos in this location.

I was really happy to have clouds in the sky to give us great lighting on Hannah and a nice neutral background without harsh sunlight and deep shadows.

Even though this photo does not scream "Disneyland", I loved how beautiful the cherry blossoms were, and had to take a photo with them in the background.

After taking the photos in the Main Street area, we headed over to Fantasyland, to the rides where Hannah used to work. She hopped on the Dumbo ride (for her first ride ever, which is funny because she worked the ride for a while). I took some standard photos with a fast shutter speed and then slowed the shutter speed to 1/50th sec and panned along with her as she went by. This is one of my favorite photos from the day. Hard to get it sharp, but totally worth the challenge!

We then went over to the Tea Cups for a couple of photos. Since Hannah knows the workers, they allowed us to take a couple of photos before letting the next wave of guests into the ride. 

Then I thought it would be fun to get into the tea cup with her for some more slow shutter shots. For this photo, I lowered the shutter speed to 1/13th sec, and fired off a bunch of photos as we spun around.

Before heading to the park, I had asked Hannah for a list of photos that she wanted. On the top of the list was a photo with her and Winnie the Pooh, so we prioritized that next.

And we took photos with some of the other characters as well.

We could not shoot graduation photos at Disneyland and not have photos with Mickey.

We took the afternoon off and planned a return trip in the evening. I looked on the Disney web site and verified that tripods were allowed, so I brought my Gitzo travel tripod in. With lower light, and not being handheld this time, I tried another motion shot on main street. (Note: Tripods are allowed and will make it through security, but one of the photo cast members told me it was not allowed.)

The reason I brought the tripod in was for this shot in the California Adventure Park (next door to Disneyland). I knew that this location would be much better at night vs the day, so it was the last shot on our list. I set the Canon R6 Mark II on the tripod, changed the settings to ISO 100, f/16 with a shutter speed of 6 seconds. I fired the Canon 600 EX-RT flash to add some light on her, but used the long exposure to get a better background. 

The funny part was that we spent most of the day in the Disney Parks and the only ride I was on was the tea cups to get the motion shot. But we got lots of photos for Hannah to commemorate her big accomplishment. 

I hope this inspires many of you to try different camera settings and locations for your senior portraits.


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