The stars are out at the Magic Kingdom

By Paul Gowder on January 28th, 2011   |    Posted in:  Disney Photo Spotlight, Processing   |    1 Comment

Imagineering the Shot

For over a year I’ve wanted to try this, but just haven’t had the chance. Touring with a 6 year old we don’t stop for much, let alone long enough for star trails. This past December we had the perfect setting, a Magic Kingdom view at the Contemporary. As an aside,all photographers should spend one night in the Contemporary with the Magic Kingdom view!

Before the trip, I practiced this a few times on my back deck. I used this time to experiment with different settings. That helped me to prepare, but I still had to do several test shots to find exposure. With a little trial and error I was able to find the settings where the stars were visible through the light pollution.

ISO 3200
f11 @ 3 seconds
161 images over 15 minutes

There are a few different methods of getting star trails.   The one I used was to take a series of images.  These images can be combined in post processing later.

Magical Post Production

The first step in post production is to stack the photos.  This combines all the individual files into 1 image.  I used a PhotoShop Action from Chris Schur.  You can download it here.

After you have your 1 stacked image there is still some work to do.  Shooting in populated areas means lots of light. Because of this, your foreground or subject is going to be blown out.  Before I set the camera to take the series of images, I take a few with the subject exposure correctly.  Then in Photoshop I drag this image onto a new layer of the stacked image.  Using a layer mask I can blend the two images together giving you a subject correctly exposed with your star trails.


The challenge of this is time.  Standing in front of Spaceship Earth for an hour (or more) isn’t in most people’s touring plans.   But with all the incredible night skylines at WDW the possibilities are exciting! Next time you are waiting for Illuminations or Wishes, take a few minutes to try a Star Trails shot!  Make sure you share your photos with us!    And as a bonus you can use these same images for time lapse videos.

But that’s another article…

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Singer   |   Jan 28, 2011

    What a great idea. I bet Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth and Space Mountain would be great locations to do this in.



Kingdom Camera Rentals

Save space when packing your suitcase and let Kingdom Camera Rentals deliver a lens or camera gear directly to your hotel when you visit Walt Disney World Resort.

Be sure to let them know you came from Disney Photography Blog!