Why the Court of Angels is important to Disneyland and photographers

By Guest Contributor on September 10th, 2013   |    Posted in:  Articles, Disney Photo Tips   |    2 Comments

We want to thank Mark W. for allowing us to post his photo and commentary on the blog today. Mark had posted this photo yesterday on his flickr photo stream and it quickly drew the interest of many in the online Disney / Twitter community. Since the Court of Angels is one of the more popular photography spots at Disneyland, we thought it was important to help spread the word here on the blog.

Mark has also taken the time to detail how he captured and processed this amazing photo.

View Mark’s incredible Disney photos on flickr | Follow Mark on Twitter


The Court of Angels

“When we approach the design of a land from a conceptual perspective, we work to make the place convincing in every way. The rides are not the only attraction; the land itself is an attraction as well.”
John Hench, Disney Artist & Imagineer

If you’re a Disney fan photographer, you probably recognize the space in the photo above, but for those who don’t, this is Court des Anges (Court of Angels) in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Since New Orleans Square opened in July 1966 – only months before Walt Disney’s passing – the Court des Anges has been one of the most secluded, relaxing, and photogenic places in any theme park in the world.

Unfortunately, the future of the Court is currently in doubt. There’s been no official confirmation either way, but based on reports from journalist David Koenig among others, it is now widely believed that Court des Anges will be closing forever to Disneyland guests after September 28, 2013 – a victim of its proximity to Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33 and all the potential revenue that an expansion of the Club could bring. Recently a blog post at “Disney Dose” has garnered some attention for claiming that “the Court of Angels will not close.” While I’d like to believe that this blog post is correct, I think concern for the Court is still warranted. Right after I took this photo, someone from Disneyland Guest Relations told me to, “Take as many photos as you can right now, because the Court of Angels will be gone soon.”

In my opinion, this is a travesty. As Tom Bricker pointed out in his article on the topic, Disney theme parks need relaxing, beautiful, detailed locations like this that exist for no other reason than to be relaxing, beautiful, and detailed. This is a large part of “the Disney difference” that Disney built its reputation in themed design on, and while it may not appear to matter much on the surface, it is things like Court des Anges that encourage return trip after return trip to explore all the details.

Additionally, Court des Anges is important not just for its essential role in the overall experience of Disneyland, but for its historical significance; being derived from concept sketches by Herbert D. Ryman. [Sketch 1Sketch 2 (Source Article)] Herb Ryman was unquestionably one of the greatest artists to ever work for Walt Disney, and in my opinion, is the greatest draftsman to ever develop concepts for the Disney theme parks. (Walt evidently had a very high opinion of Herb as well – Walt personally chose Herb to create the Disneyland concept sketch that Walt used to sell Disneyland to its original investors.) As more and more of the original Disney artists’ influence on the parks is altered or removed, it becomes even more important to preserve what we have left.

So what can be done? While it is doubtful that Disneyland would significantly alter its plans for Club 33 expansion at this point, it is also true that Disneyland tends to be more attentive and responsive to guest concerns than other Disney resorts I could mention. I don’t think it could hurt to let Disneyland Guest Relations know how you feel about the potential removal of Court des Anges by sending them a physical letter. Sending “snail mail” to Disney Guest Relations carries much more weight than any other form of contact, so if you’d like to do that, here is the address of Disneyland Guest Relations:

Disneyland Resort
Guest Relations
P.O. Box 3232
Anaheim, CA 92802-3232

Hopefully Court des Anges isn’t going away anytime soon, but if you have the chance, I highly recommend that you make a visit to the Court as soon as possible. Enjoy the ambiance and all the details, and preserve what you can in your photos before this unique, beautiful, and charming space disappears forever.

“The secret of Disney is doing things you don’t need, and doing them well. And then you realize you needed them all along.”
Ray Bradbury

About the Shot

I spent a lot of time in Court des Anges on my recent trip to Disneyland – both because I had never photographed it before and because I knew it might be going away soon. I took a fair number of detail shots in there with the excellent Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens that Cory’s been a big fan of lately, but for this shot I wanted to try to get as much of the Court in one shot as I could with the soft light from blue hour.

After setting my tripod up very low to the ground in the corner opposite the angel statue that I knew I wanted as the center focal point of the image, I angled my camera up and at a slight horizontal tilt to capture the beautiful popcorn lights. I switched to manual focus and in live view, zoomed in tight on the angel and focused so that the angel would be as sharp as possible. Once I was focused and the Court was clear of passers-by, I took three exposures in bulb mode (10sec, 20sec, and 40sec each) at f/8, ISO 100.

When I got home, I realized that the shot was just a little too wide, so I cropped the photos just a tad in Lightroom. I matched white balance across the three photos to what I thought was most accurate-to-life, and then combined them using the Merge to 32-bit HDR Lightroom plug-in. I tweaked the white balance in the resulting HDR image to get it where I again thought it was accurate, and then gave a slight boost to constrast, clarity, and vibrance while pulling the Blacks slider to the left to give the image some extra pop. After that, I boosted the shadows quite a bit and decreased the highlights somewhat to open up the dynamic range. I like to keep my editing fairly simple so that was it!

Camera Gear Used

Today’s photo was taken with the Nikon D600 and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, both of which are available at Amazon. If you ever shop at Amazon, please click on the links here, as doing so will help support the site. Thanks for reading!!

About the Author

For more great photos from Walt Disney World and Disneyland, be sure to follow Mark on flickr.

Follow Mark on Twitter for more Disney commentary and discussions.


  1. Scott Thomas Photography   |   Sep 10, 2013

    I will be in Disneyland next week about a week before the possible closing of the Court des Anges. I shall make sure to spend some time here and enjoy the space. WDW’s Main Street has two such places which many people don’t even see as they hurry into the Magic Kingdom. Let’s hope greed will not totally eliminate relaxing, beautiful, and detailed places in the parks.



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