Orlando ; Animal Kingdom Trek

  I was able to spend a couple of days in Disney's Animal Kingdom photographing the animals and scenery/buildings and people. It was a spur of the moment trip so there wasn't much time to research before actually heading out. Airfare cost was very reasonable; even making the reservations the day before. In case your wondering; no, I never do this spur of the moment kind of thing.

   Hopefully this blog will help you plan your next photo trek to Orlando/ Disney's Animal Kingdom. In case you were wondering, there are unlimited hotels at all price ranges in the area. I chose a less expensive one fairly close to the park and the hotel had a bus that would take me to the park everyday. Then I Ubered back to the hotel after I had finished shooting for that day.    

   I really wanted some good images of giraffes and elephants in an African like setting so I road the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride several times. This is something you want to do first thing in the morning when the park opens. PS; I went in Jan. and it was still in the mid 80's so take a hat and or sunscreen with appropriate clothing. After you finish your first safari ride, you can immediately go get a fast pass (which I recommend) and schedule a time to get right back on the ride instead of waiting in line. The later in the day, the longer your wait will be in the normal line (not fast pass line). 

  Details: For this ride , I used a 100-400 zoom lens, which I thought was a little big (heavy) and was hard to keep from sticking the lens in front of someone (thus annoying them). I would have preferred maybe a 70-200 zoom which would have been smaller and lighter and easier to get a more natural shot of a group of giraffes or elephants. Also, it would have been easier to keep steady, since you will be bouncing around in the vehicle due to rough roads. Also, I found the animals to be more active earlier in the morning. Another tip; don't expect the driver to stop when you see a great shot, because he won't. The only time the vehicle would stop is if there was an animal in the road. So pray for animals to be in the road! This helps for a steadier shot.

  Each time you ride the safari ride, you will see something different, so ride it several times a day. One day I rode it 3 times, but the first two were the best. Tip no. 2 is to ask to be seated either on the far right or far left side of the seat so as not to have to shoot over someone. They are very accommodating to help you with this right before you get onto the ride. Tip no. 3! Be ready to shoot right away!! You will start seeing animals almost immediately. I found the left side to be better most of the time, but you really never know which side the animals will be on. I used shutter speed priority, but use what works the best for you. I even did one trip with a 50 prime on. All in all, I rode the safari ride 5 times in two days. The safari trip takes about 15- 20 minutes. There are plenty of animals in the kingdom to keep you busy for a couple of days. I actually got blisters from walking around so much. (tenderfoot).

  It costs about 120.00 per day to access the park, so if you are fast, you could cut costs by only going one day and by bringing your own food and drink. There are also plenty of free water fountains scattered around the park usually by the bathrooms. I mostly stayed in the African part of the park and my favorite area was Gorilla falls which is divided up into two parts; One for the female gorilla, baby and youngsters and the other for the mature male gorillas (silverbacks). There were four beautiful male silverback (what they call the males as they mature and get more silver). Their technical name is lowland gorillas. The males' area is really beautiful and spacious with a waterfall/creek running through. I could have stayed there the whole time. I got several great silverback shots. Not so much with the female and baby/little ones which were behind a glass enclosure. Great for viewing, but not so much for photographing. I personally find the glass (which is thick) messes with the sharpness of the image. I shot probably 50 shots of mother gorilla and cute baby and didn't get one acceptable image!! I will post some gorilla images. Another tip for photographing the gorillas (and other animals) is to use your flash at a low setting. It doesn't take much flash to make their eyes to brighten up. The flash in the daytime will not bother the animals and it is okay with the staff, but always ask before using. PS; There are lots of areas to walk around and photograph animals at your leisure instead of on a rides time schedule. 

  The rest of my time was spent photographing the entertainers, the scenery, the tree of life (which was a work of art from a construction standpoint, but was lacking in beauty for photographing), but great for family photo ops.. I thought the buildings, and props for the fake town of Harambe, Africa were neat to photograph for something different and they were very colorful. I will post some of those shots also. I wasn't that impressed with the Asia area (two sleepy tigers),but the scenery was beautiful. You would have to catch it just right to find the tigers a little more active (as with all big cats). Also, each area had some nice bird photographing places. Interesting though; the town of Harambe looked very real and believable so much that I had to google it to see if there really was a town called Harambe, but alas there wasn't.

 I finished up my third day in the Orlando area by going to Alligator Land and the small Aquarium. I wasn't too impressed with the photo ops. in Alligator Land for alligators themselves (oh there were plenty of them there) but the bird photographing ops were great! Up close and personal with the Egrets, etc. Many photo opportunities with them, even though it was pretty sunny.    Last, but not least was the Aquarium in Orlando. It was small, but they did a great job in making it feel much larger than it actually was. Definitely worth seeing. Photographing was super hard trying to shoot through the glass. I had tried this before at the Baltimore aquarium without much success. I cannot give advice on this except to take a lot of shots and pray for the best. It will be darker, so you will have to raise your ISO and shoot at a slower shutter speed which will make it harder to get a sharper image. A faster camera would perhaps do better. The glass is super thick and some of it is curved which makes it even harder to get a sharp image. I may have got a couple of nice sea turtle shots. No good shark images but the Aquarium was great for children like me!

PS; Did I get any great giraffe/elephant shots? I got a couple of "okay" shots, nothing great. You would have to catch the conditions just right for a nice group of elephants or giraffes' shot. Good luck! The African-like scenery is great, but it's not Africa. We would love to go on a Real Safari trek to Africa. (On our bucket list)  If you have any questions or comments on our first blog about Steve's photo trek to the Orlando area, don't hesitate to ask or comment, but if you are a professional blogger or photographer, take it easy on us. This is our first attempt.  We loved sharing; Steve and Sharon Smith    artbysmiths.com