Platypod Ultra Lightens the Tripod Load for Photographers at Disney Theme Parks

Fireworks at Disney’s Toy Story Land in Orlando. By Gilmar Smith, 2018

Fireworks at Disney’s Toy Story Land in Orlando. By Gilmar Smith, 2018

This past Saturday, I took my little family on an adventure to Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Toy Story Land is a recently added area to the Disney Parks based on the Disney-Pixar Toy Story Movies. It opened this summer, late June.

There, you feel like you’re walking in the actual movie with toy soldiers appearances and photo ops with favorite Toy Story characters. A larger-than-life character, Woody, welcomes visitors at the park’s entrance. There are a couple of new rides: the Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster and the Alien Swirling Saucers spinning ride, along with Toy Story Mania!, the park’s interactive 4D attraction.

As a single parent, an artist and business owner, life can be overwhelming. I rarely go to bed before midnight, and I spend most of my time in front of my computer retouching pictures and writing content. I crave time to recharge, and there’s no better place to do it than at the happiest place on earth, where I can get in contact with my why in life, which is my kids and making their lives as magical as possible.

I crave time to recharge, and there’s no better place to do it than at the happiest place on earth, where I can get in contact with my why in life, which is my kids and making their lives as magical as possible.

The workaholic I am, I can never just leave home without my camera. For this weekend’s visit to Toy Story Land, I committed myself to taking only: one lens, my trusty Platypod Ultra (that takes no additional room and weighs next to nothing), and my camera remote.

My plan was simple. I dedicated the day to my kids, and at the end of the day, as the park was closing, I would take a few pictures.

We had a fantastic time in the park. We went on almost every ride, watched a few shows, ate an overpriced, not-great meal, and even saw a few friends.

I had already envisioned the shot I wanted to take at the end of our day, so after a full day of fun, we went back to Toy Story Land and waited for the crowds to clear. When the parks are closing, you only have a certain amount of time to get your pictures taken before you are nicely asked to leave. My strategy was to start from the back of Toy Story Land and make my way to the front, which was the location for the picture I was envisioning.

Platypod Ultra and Buzz Lightyear

That is where the gigantic Buzz Lightyear lives, at the entrance of the Alien Swirling Saucers ride. Once there, I strapped my Platypod Ultra on a rail so I could get my shot. As I was doing that, I was approached by a couple of photographers I have previously met in the Disney parks, and they were thrilled to see how handy my Platypod Ultra was.

Then, all of a sudden, I had two other photographers approach me. They were asking me all kinds of questions about it. My Platypod has indeed become a conversation starter. I proudly gave them a little demonstration of all the things you can do with Platypod and went to my next location.

Buzz Lightyear at Toy Story Land; Gilmar Smith - 2018

Buzz Lightyear at Toy Story Land; Gilmar Smith - 2018

My daughter wanted to take a look at the ride we were on earlier — she was so amused by it — so I once again strapped my Platypod on a rail and grabbed another shot.

Alien Swirling Saucers at Toy Story Land. Shot with: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm 2.8 II lens at 16mm. Exposure 2.0 sec at f/10, ISO 100.

Alien Swirling Saucers at Toy Story Land. Shot with: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm 2.8 II lens at 16mm. Exposure 2.0 sec at f/10, ISO 100.

It was time for my dream shot, and almost everybody was gone. I put my camera on my Platypod Ultra, on the ground, and framed my shot. I waited a few moments for the last guests to leave the area, and to my surprise, fireworks started going off right where I had framed my shot! It was a very joyful moment, and my kids were having a blast watching the fireworks show, so I didn't feel like they were just waiting for me.

Platypod Ultra at Toy Story Land
Fireworks at Toy Story Land. Shot with: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm 2.8 II lens at 20mm. Exposure 11 sec at F/14, ISO160.

Fireworks at Toy Story Land. Shot with: Canon 5D Mark II, 16-35mm 2.8 II lens at 20mm. Exposure 11 sec at F/14, ISO160.

The first two images were edited in Lightroom. I only added a couple of basic adjustments as Clarity, Exposure adjustments and a vignette. The final image was edited in Photoshop to give me a little more freedom to adjust the lights and the colors and I even added a few fake stars for a more magical look.

And on that note, I hope you all have a magical week!

Gilmar Smith is an Orlando-based photographer, content creator, Photoshop addict & social media junkie! Visit her at  gilmarphotography.com and be sure to follow her on Instagram

Ajna Adams