Photographing the Mad T Party
Cars Land and Buena Vista Street opened last month along with another attraction that seems to get a lot less attention, the Mad T Party.¬† Mad T Party is Disney California Adventure’s latest dance party, replacing the popular ElecTRONica in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.¬† Love them or hate them, these dance parties are quite popular with local teens and twenty-somethings.¬† The loud music and the craziness on the dance floor might be offputting for some, but I highly recommend photographers check it out as the high-energy scene with bright lights, colors and shapes make for some incredible photo opportunities.¬† It’s quite challenging, too, which is an added benefit for anyone looking to expand their skills to include low-light concert style photography.
Mad T Party runs nightly during the summer¬†but will likely¬†run on¬†weekends only¬†during the off-peak seasons.¬† The show starts at 7pm, early enough in the summer that there is still some daylight.¬† This might seem like a good time to photograph the event since there is still daylight to work with, but things don’t really get going until after dark so I recommend showing up around 9pm when the show peaks.¬†¬†There is a main stage where a live band and a DJ dressed as the White Rabbit alternate sets, and a side stage featuring¬†various acts from a dance crew to a human slinky.¬† Yes, I said human slinky.¬† It’s one of the most popular acts in the show and is worth a look.
Some general tips for shooting the Mad T Party
Wait til after dark when things really get going.¬† Make sure to see the live band!¬† They are the highlight of the show, they bring the most energy, and of course they are great to photograph!¬† Before and after the band, the other acts rotate on the side stage so be sure to check them out as well.
Mix it up with lens selection.¬† Try some ultra wide shots of the stage, using the element of the crowd to enhance the photos.¬† For these, I put the camera on live view and held it high above my head to get a more dramatic angle.¬† If the band is playing, try getting up front for some wide close-up shots. Then after a song or two, put on a telephoto¬†lens,¬†anything in the 100-200mm range and stand back behind the crowd and zoom in tight on the performers for a different perspective.
In this type of shooting environment, I recommend shooting in manual mode.¬† Open the aperture as wide as it will go.¬† There is no need to use shutter priority because in this dark environment the camera¬†will likely¬†stick with the widest aperture anyway.¬†¬†So use manual mode and open that¬†aperture up as wide as it will go.¬† Then select a shutter speed that will freeze the action.¬† These performers do move a lot so you need something fast, no slower than 1/200sec I would say.¬† I recommend for the live band to try¬†for 1/400sec.¬† And finally, control your exposure or brightness by setting the appropriate ISO.¬†¬†For this environment, you wont have to go higher than ISO 1600 and¬†most cameras, including point-and-shoot cameras with manual settings capabilities handle¬†ISO 1600 quite well.¬† Most of¬†the photos in this article were at 1/400sec, f/4 and ISO 1250.¬† I do have a lens that opens up to f/2.8 so I was able to bring¬†my ISO down to ISO 800 for some.¬† But generally, I think 1/400sec, f/4 and¬†ISO 1600 will be a good starting place for¬†shooting this event.
Like I said, photographing the Mad T Party is a challenge and that is why I enjoy it so much.¬†¬†Next time you’re at Disney¬†California Adventure, give it a try!¬† And maybe bring some ear plugs… ;)