Bag: Think Tank Urban Approach – Through most of my 20s, I preferred messenger bags to backpacks. When I started carrying more camera gear, however, I started feeling the weight of a messenger bag slung over my shoulder as I walked around the parks. In my search for alternatives, I settled on this bag from Think Tank that is designed for mirrorless camera systems. It features a nice carry compartment, with (kind of) easily adjustable configurations. The ability to unzip and completely open the flap also has the added benefit of making it quite easy for security to examine your bag on your way into the park.
Camera: Sony a6000 – I bought this camera about 2 years ago (in 2014) after extensive research to determine which camera system I wanted to grow into (in no small part because of Trey Ratcliff’s recommendation). The camera is small and light enough to not be a burden to carry around every day, but it also has excellent image quality. Since it is a crop sensor camera, the lens are also still fairly small and light (ask Elyssa what it’s like to carry a DSLR and a long lens around all day.) Finally, its 11 fps continuous shooting mode (yep, it can take 11 pictures a second), is really helpful on dark rides (where one strategy is to take a bunch of pictures, in hopes one of them turns to be sharp and in focus.)
Yes, it doesn’t have the low light performance of a full frame DSLR or mirrorless option, but it holds it own pretty well. I’ve been extremely pleased with what it has to offer (so much so, that I use it professionally).
The a6300 is the upgraded model for my camera, with some nice features (including better auto-focusing and low light performance), but you’ll pay about $500 extra for those upgrades. Sony also just announced the a6500, which looks like it will be another $400 bump above the a6300.
Favorite Walk Around Prime Lens: Sony 50mm F1.8 – A nice, fast 50mm lens that has pretty decent optics. At 50mm you don’t have to get right next to things to take a picture, but if you do get close, you end up with some nice bokeh in your photos. Depending on what you’re going for, it’s also a pretty good lens for nighttime parades (where, again, you can’t really be right next to what you’re photographing.) Since the lens is fast, you can use it on dark rides pretty well, but the 50mm length might make the shots a little tighter than you’d like. Also, cast members probably won’t understand that they can’t zoom when you hand them your camera with a prime lens to take a picture of you at a meet-and-greet.(TECH JARGON: 50mm on a 1.5x crop factor camera gives you a 75mm equivalent. Most people find that 70-80 range to be really pleasing for portrait photography.)
Favorite Walk Around Zoom Lens: Sony 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 – Though this lens won’t win any awards for its speed or optics, it provides an excellent focal range for when you’re walking around Disney parks. It’s also a great lens for long exposure, nighttime photography and fireworks pictures (where lens speed isn’t as important since you have the camera at something like f11 and it’s locked down on a tripod, anyway.) Obviously, this won’t work for dark rides or night time shows, but it will be just fine during the day. (TECH JARGON: 18 gives you pretty wide shots, and 200 on a 1.5x crop factor is a pretty solid zoom.)
On-Ride Lens Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Contemporary – Taking photos on Disney World rides, especially Disney World dark rides, can be an exercise in futility. Your best bet is getting a normal-ish range lens that’s as fast as possible, and this lens fits that bill. While I can get away with using the Sony 50mm on dark rides, the 75mm equivalent focal range on that can be a little too zoomed in if I’m trying to get a picture of the overall scene.
Camera Strap System: DSPTCH – If I’m actually wearing my backpack, I prefer to have a wrist strap. If I’m walking around without it, then I prefer to have my camera on a long “sling-like” strap. DSPTCH’s connector system makes it easy for me to switch between the two. (Basically, I leave the connectors attached all the time and I just snap my desired strap into place as needed.)
Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip (not pictured) – Though this tripod might not be good enough to shoot landscapes in windy conditions in the mountains, it works extremely well at Disney World. I don’t carry it with me all the time (a few hours with an extra 3.5 lbs on my back and I feel it), but when I’m going to be taking long exposure or fireworks shots, it’s great. (NOTE: It uses Arca-Swiss plates, so I have a bunch of them, including 1 that I keep in my bag.)
Filter: MeFOTO Polarizer – A polarizer helps you get richer colors in the sky and a reduction of glare off reflective surfaces. If I’m waking around and taking photos on a nice, sunny day, I usually try to remember to put this on.
Other Accessories: I also carry various photography-related accessories with me, including: a remote shutter release for use during fireworks and other long exposure photography, a bubble level so I can make sure my camera is level when on my tripod, extra camera batteries, and a case full of extra memory cards.
Power Pack: Anker PowerCore 20100 – My feelings about Disney’s Fuel Rod program are well documented (tl;dr – Not a fan). I think it makes much makes much more sense for Disney Guests to invest in a quality, higher capacity battery to bring with them on trips. I went with one of the larger options, since I occasionally use it to power my iPad in addition to Elyssa’s and my iPhones will traveling.
Headphones: Jlab Audio Epic2 – If I’m touring by myself (or otherwise roaming around taking pictures) I normally like to be listening a podcast. Currently, I use my “running headphones” to accomplish this. Though they don’t sound amazing, I prefer their smaller size (compared to my over the ear ones) when I’m walking around.
eBook Reader: Kindle Paperwhite – I’ve had some model of Kindle for over 10 years. Admittedly, I used it more in the days before the iPad (where I do a lot of reading now) and–from an aspirational perspective–I wish I used it a little more now. That said, it’s a perfect device for bus rides, relaxing on a bench somewhere, etc.. (If I could justify it based on use, I’d upgrade to the Kindle Voyage, which has an auto-adjusting back light and the “PagePress” bezel (so you can turn pages without having to tap the screen.))
Weather Related Preparation
Rain Ponchos: I prefer the “cheap, thin, use once and throw away” variety to thicker ones that would last me longer. I normally have these in my bag if there is any chance of rain.
Cooling Towels: After experimenting with different kinds of cooling towels (including the ones that come pre-packaged and cool with exposure to air), Elyssa and I have settled on the “wet & snap” option. Basically, to activate the cooling features of the towel you just get it wet and snap it. These can be very quiet refreshing on a warm day (and iare also useful to cover up exposed shoulders, necks, etc… if the sun is really beating down.) Our preferred brand is Alfamo, but we also like the ones from Dr. Cool that we have acquired through the years of running various Disney races.
Backpack Rain Cover: Comes with my backpack. I’d prefer if my bag had water resistant fabric, but this works okay when it’s raining.
Sunglasses Case: I keep my Mickey Mouse Wayfarer glasses in there when I’m not wearing them. My only regret with these glasses is that I didn’t buy multiple pair before Disney stopped selling them.
Notebook: I don’t take a lot of notes with pen and paper, but when I do, I use Field Notes Brandnotebooks.
Ziplock Bags: These come in handy more than you might expect. Everything from switching out an pair of socks that got wet in the rain to holding the newest Lego mini-fig that you bought.
Magic Bands: – It can make for a long day if you forget your Magic Bands and have to go back to your resort to grab them. Don’t be a dummy, have another set of bands to use (just in case).
Hand Sanitizer: I have no brand loyalty here, just something to use before we start eating our corn dog nuggets.
Sunscreen: Beach Bum Face Stick – I normally don’t carry normal sunscreen with me in the park (I put that on before I leave my resort), but I like being able to touch up the non-bearded areas of my face during the day and this stick works great for that.
Cleaning Wipes: Shout Wipes – I definitely enjoy having a No Way Jose (or two) on my trip, but I prefer not to be wearing some of it all day if things gets a little drippy. I’ve found that these wipes can handle most of the situations that I run into.
Gum: Dentyne Ice – If you don’t bring gum to Disney World with you, then you’re not going to have any. Though I don’t chew gum as much as I used to, I still like to have the option available to me should I want it.
Snacks: I almost always have a couple of granola bars, a bottle of water, and/or a soda with me when I first enter the park (drinks not pictured above). Depending on the day, I normally go through all the drinks I bring in, but the granola bars are more of an “in case I really need this” type of precaution.