Behind the Camera: Into the Dragon’s Den at Disneyland Paris

From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Kent Phillips

During a one-month work trip to Disneyland Paris to photograph that gorgeous resort, I was surprised to find an enormous reptile lurking deep below Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Park. Being much more familiar with my home base of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, I’m used to seeing bunnies and ducks on the grounds of a Disney castle – not dragons!

La Tanière du Dragon

La Tanière du Dragon is a walk-through attraction beneath Sleeping Beauty Castle where guests come face to teeth with a massive, simmering dragon. To capture the image of this mythical beast you see here, I ventured into the dragon’s den one night at around 2 a.m. I enjoy these overnight shoots because it allows me the time and space to appreciate all the amazing details in our parks. It’s normally very relaxing. Normally …

Picking up all the shadows and highlights in this dramatically lit space was beyond the capability of my camera’s sensor; I had to add a little extra light to the scene so it would appear in the lens the same way it did to my eye. I was concentrating intently on my equipment, but every so often heard a sound I couldn’t identify and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It took me a while to register that the dragon was moving – and then it raised its head and steam came firing out of its nostrils.

I’d like to claim at that moment I smiled knowingly and said, “Ah, it’s the dragon. How very cool!” In reality … I’m guessing I came about a foot off the floor. I may also have made a squealing sound I’m not proud of, but luckily there was no one else around to document my less-than-dignified reaction.

I spent an hour or so lighting and photographing the dragon that night, and each time it moved I was still caught by surprise. I used a long exposure on the shutter to let in as much light as possible, which made the backlit steam look even more menacing in the photo – evoking my mood at the time. I give our Disney Imagineers all the credit for creating such an immersive, believable scene – and for the extra gray hairs I got that night. 

Ready to take your picture-taking skills to the next level? Head over to the Disney Youth Programs Kahoot! page to learn photography concepts used by Disney photographers!

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