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Fantasyland Forever – Photography at Walt Disney World

posted on September 30th, 2009 by Gene Duncan, Photographer, Walt Disney World Resort

Hi, I’m Gene Duncan — part of a photography team charged with the creation and execution of all things photographic for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the magic and beauty of Walt Disney World Resort for 35 years, usually with camera in hand. Granted, I have also had extraordinary access to areas not usually visited by our guests.

Five years ago, I spent an afternoon at the Walt Disney World Horticulture compound, commonly referred to as the “tree farm”, wandering through the topiary construction area. Millions of our guests have admired the finished pieces inside our parks, but few have seen them before or after their days “onstage”. I love “getting lost” there when I can …

This image is one of a series I made noting the ultimate whimsy in truly inanimate objects. Each time I look at it, I find something new I had not noticed before. The original transparency was made using a Fuji 680 medium format camera, and then converted to black and white.

From time to time you can expect to see some of my work here on the Disney Parks Blog. Let me know what you think.

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Robert from MI on September 30th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I wish I had your job….how cool!!!


Lee on September 30th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Very awesome first post Gene. I can’t wait to see more photos!


Craig from MA on September 30th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Great shot!


Shari on September 30th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Awesome! Keep ’em coming please!


Linnette on September 30th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Hope to have your job someday! :)


Melanie from NC on September 30th, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Great photo. I’m looking forward to more!


Kawehi on September 30th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I’m always looking to improve my photography skills especially when I visit Disneyland. Hope to learn more from you.


Laura on September 30th, 2009 at 11:50 pm

What a great photo. I love the whimsy of it but also love that you posted the b&w version. Can’t wait to see more of your work. Is there any chance of convincing you to share some hints/tips with all of us that love to capture the magic on film or memory card? Thanks for sharing.


Gene Duncan on October 1st, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Thanks Laura. I am happy to share what tiny bit of knowledge I have with anyone who wants it. Feel free to ask specific questions, and I will do my best to answer them. If I had to begin with just one tip, it would be this- Practice, practice, practice! There is simply no substitute for it. Now that one does not have to continually buy film and pay for processing and printing, practice is easy.


michael from NC on October 1st, 2009 at 1:23 am

Very nice… I would love to look through your archives. Please do share! The older, the better too – I’m sure you have images of wonderful lost obscurities that most of us bloggers only dream of…

Progress City, USA


Douglas from MD on October 1st, 2009 at 7:26 am

Excellent! I’m looking forward to your future posts.


Adam on October 1st, 2009 at 7:48 am

Awesome shot! Love the Mickey shadow in the greenhouse!


Mark from GA on October 1st, 2009 at 9:58 am

Nice to meet you, Gene! I love these pictures. The first time I went to WDW I was a small child and I only have the fuzziest of memories of it. But one memory is clear: the beautiful topiaries around the TTC.

Disney should market some character topiary forms for us Disney gardeners!


BRANDY from LA on October 1st, 2009 at 10:21 am

love it


Sarah on October 1st, 2009 at 10:34 am

What a great photograph, and what a cool job! I can’t wait to see more photographs!


Samantha on October 1st, 2009 at 10:35 am

I’ve really been enjoying the Disney Parks Blog and I’m so excited to see you here Gene – a real Disney photographer!

I love this photo. And I love that it’s in black and white. It’s so interesting.

Thanks Gene, looking forward to more!


Matheus on October 1st, 2009 at 11:47 am

Fantastic work!
I have been missing the WDW Parks ever since my College Program ended, but this wonderful blog makes me feel like I am back there once again.

Hope to see many more updates and posts!


Jeffrey from TX on October 1st, 2009 at 12:11 pm

This is awesomely artistic photography. I would love to see more “unseen” Disney on this blog.


Jacob on October 1st, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Awesome pictures. More behind the scenes stuff would be welcome.


Kristine on October 1st, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Your work is amazing. Look forward to seeing more.


Shannon from MI on October 1st, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Oh what a great job that would be! Can’t wait to see more photos!


Ray on October 1st, 2009 at 2:30 pm

As a frequent park guest who is pretty much always armed with his Nikon D300 attempting to capture that “wall worthy” shot, I’m excited to see a member of the official Disney photography staff writing on this blog. I could only imagine the photos one could get when access is not longer an issue.


Angela on October 1st, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Awesome shot! I know it was a while ago, but what kind of focal length and aperture did you use to get those great shadows? I’m sure a lot had to do with the sunlight you were getting too, but I always seem to lose some of my shadows.


Gene on October 1st, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Thanks Angela. You are so right- it was a long time ago…I can tell you that I was working off of a tripod, and most likely using a normal or slightly longer lens. I stopped the lens down pretty far in order to retain as much depth of field as I could, say f.16 or higher. You can see that it was quite overcast, so my shutter speed would have been fairly slow, and it is the overcast light that helps retain greater shadow detail. As I recall, I darkened the shadows quite a bit, just to add “weight” to the image. I hope that I answered your question, and apologize if I gave you more info than you wanted :-).


Virginia on October 1st, 2009 at 4:39 pm

loved the picture gene. i enjoy taking alot of pictures too and yes, practice is the best thing….you may get that ‘one shot’ after taking 8 or 10 of the same picture! i also use a fuji camera.


Robert from TX on October 1st, 2009 at 4:45 pm

When it comes to landscaping, there is no plaece like Disney. I wish I had your job, even for a day, since I love photography :)


stacey on October 2nd, 2009 at 12:26 am

I can not wait to see more! Two of my favorite things: Disney and Photography! :) Thanks for sharing!


Sandra from IN on October 2nd, 2009 at 11:33 am

Gene, it must be fascinating to have witnessed the changes and history at WDW over the past 35 years! (I’ll bet you have some very interesting “then and now” photos!) I’m acquainted with a few CMs who have, like you, been a part of the WDW family for 30+ years, and I truly believe that the longevity comes in great part from a passion of spreading joy and that “Disney magic” as much as anything else. I look forward to seeing more of your work here on the Disney Parks Blog! 8(:-D


Gene Duncan on October 5th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Yes, Sandra, fascinating would be an understatement. You are totally on target regarding the passion for sharing the love that is the “Disney magic.” Thanks for your comments.


Krista on October 2nd, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Wonderful photo!


Scott on October 2nd, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Hi, Gene! I have often admired and envied the work of the Disney photographers. I will be part of a group of Disney fan photographers meeting at Walt Disney World in early December. We are all very excited to be getting together in our favorite place to share our knowledge of photographing the beautiful parks and resorts. Maybe we’ll see you around?


Gene Duncan on October 5th, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hi Scott- Thanks for your post. I am aware of your upcoming gathering, and depending on schedules, perhaps…..


Barbara on October 3rd, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I always enjoy seeing grest pictures of Disney World. It’s my favorite place on earth! Thanks for sharing.


Brian on October 4th, 2009 at 1:57 am

Absolutely awesome pictures. I have to agree with many of the earlier posts that more behind the scenes pictures would be greatly appreciated. Especially from your archives.


Robert from FL on October 4th, 2009 at 8:39 am


Nice to see you are sharing your awesome talents with fans of Walt Disney World photography. It’s fun to read their comments. As I worked side by side with you for almost 7 years, not only did I cherish our friendship, but I also learned so much about photography from you. You are a true Disney Legend, in my mind. Keep the photos coming and I’ll keep watching for them. By the way, I DID have your job from 1987-1994, and it was the most awesome experience in my professional life as a photographer! Disney has allowed us to be the best that we can be as photographers. I am honored and blessed to have you as a friend and comrade. In closing, for those fans who don’t personally know you, you are one of the best photographers on planet Earth and certainly The Walt Disney Company is lucky to have you for so many years. I look forward to seeing more of your photos on this blog. Bob D.


Gene Duncan on October 5th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

You are too kind….Gracias, mi amigo.


Debra from NJ on October 4th, 2009 at 8:56 am

Great capture! Looking forward to more pics and tips!


Tom on October 6th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Gene –

Excellent shot. I hope you take the opportunity here to post some more of your creative work that we ordinarily may not see for whatever reason (perhaps it doesn’t have that normal ‘stock’ look to make it appeal to the non-photographer audience, etc.). Creative WDW photography has become a passion and hobby of mine (I assume it’s not okay to post links here, so I will spare the inevitable edit to one of my shots). I would love to be able to pick your brain about photography, and hope to see much more of your work here in the days, weeks, and months to come!

Thanks for posting!


Orville on October 9th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Hi! Out of curiosity, but how big is the Horticulture Farm? (I once saw a map that had it looking like it was the size of at least one of the Disney parks…)


Gene Duncan on October 12th, 2009 at 11:17 am

Orville, your memory is right on target. Disney’s Tree Farm and Nursery occupies approximately 100 acres.


Eliel on October 17th, 2009 at 12:15 am

Hi Gene; Nice pics. I like the perspectives in these images.

I enjoy exploring Disneyland with my camera too. Currently working on a self initiated project there.

Keep up the good work!


Brant on October 19th, 2009 at 6:14 pm


Thank you so much for your post. What a fantastic job you have!

I would love to see a gallery of some of your work over the years.

Do you think that we will ever be able to see something like this? It would be great to view some vintage images displaying the history of Walt Disney World. It would be even better if they were offered for purchase. I will bet that there are so many cool photographs tucked away in the files that Disney fans like myself would absolutely be thrilled to see (and maybe purchase.)

I’m looking forward to more posts from you.

Thanks again!


Gene Duncan on October 20th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Thanks Brant, and you are so right. Keeping in mind that this blog is still in its infancy, there is really no telling how it might grow. As it stands, you are seeing small slices of (my) recent history. We are striving to make these slices interesting on many levels, as what you are seeing from my contributions are not necessarily mainstream works, but, rather, personal projects, and often, previously unpublished. Rest assured that we take all comments to heart, and will try our best to investigate new and entertaining avenues, and we appreciate all comments and suggestions from our viewers. Thanks again.