More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

More Than Meets the Eye at Magic Kingdom

Kent Phillips

by , Photographer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park

(I would like to preface this post with an advance apology for its mildly technical content. Those with an intense physical aversion to science may elect to skip today’s text entirely and go straight to the pretty pictures. No offense taken.)

Just beyond the spectrum of light visible to the human eye lies near infrared light. And though we can’t see it, the silicon-based sensors of many modern digital cameras can. By using a filter which blocks all visible light, you can get pictures that offer a wonderfully surreal view of the world. Foliage and clouds, which reflect infrared light, look ghostly and white, while sky and objects that don’t, go very dark. This is different than far infrared (thermal) photography, which registers heat.

Okay, science is over. Thanks for hanging in there.

Today’s offering is from Magic Kingdom park, though I may very well take my trusty #87 filter through the other parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in the near future.


  • These pic’s look dreamy. The castle looks like you could step into another realm. Some how the Haunted Mansion looks even more scary! Great effect and science. Thanks

  • amazing photos! thanks for sharing. I loved looking at the surreal pictures. definitely photos i would frame and put in my home or something. 🙂

  • Are you going to sell these? We have a lot of Disney art around the house. These would be a wonderful addition!

  • Kent,

    Is there a particular brand or model camera you recommend more than the other to get similar results? Thanks

    • I’m afraid I don’t know enough about any particular brand’s or model’s sensitivity to near infrared to be of any help, but the consensus seems to be that most brands and models of digital cameras are capable of rendering this kind of image to some degree. Most websites devoted to near infrared digital photography will list their favorites as well as some of the most popular choices. Many of the cameras they list are no longer in production, though that may mean you can pick one up at an online classified or auction site for a good price.

  • Thanks, Kent. I think I’ll give it a try.

  • Kent – Thanks for the addit’l. info. I’ll probably try the Tiffen #87.

  • The only infrared lens available for my camera (Canon G11) is a Hoya IR720 which prevents light below 720nm. Will this be good enough to produce photographs similar to yours?

    • That filter appears to be comparable to the one I used, though how your photos will look depends on your particular camera’s sensitivity to near infrared light. Good luck!

  • these photographs really pop. Are these SOCC or is there post processing?

    • The right side of the Haunted Mansion image was lightened slightly, but the castle shot is a straight desaturated version of the RAW color file.

  • Amazing pictures! I have been interested in IR photography for a while and have been debating which of my less-used cameras to convert. I think I may invest in a filter in the meantime… My husband and I just (on the 22nd) returned from a “just us” trip to Disneyworld and while I love my night pictures of the castle, taken at 2 am during Magic Hours when the park is eerily empty, these IR images are just fantastic. Are you shooting film or digital?

    I am curious what photography you do at DW. I have of course seen the numerous FastPass Photographers around the park, but I hear there are several other photographer positions there. My husband and I have been thinking about our retirement plans, and as a professional photographer looking to move south when it’s time to close up shop, the idea of being a photographer at Disney is a very intriguing one!

    Please keep posting more pictures – or let us know where else we can see your work. It is simply amazing how the magic of Disney is enhanced by the magic of photography…


  • WOW!!! So very cool! Thank you for sharing this!

  • These Pictures are awesome! I love B&W photographs and this is even better, it makes the haunted Mansion even more creepier and I love the way the Castle looks, it’s calm and interesting, looks a bit wintery in

    I can’t wait to see what pictures you take at the other Parks!
    What an insperation you photographs are!

  • I had an older digital camera converted for infrared—I get mixed results but it’s fun to mess around with!

  • These shots are definitely “hauntingly beautiful”–I would be proud to hang them anywhere in my home–they are true works of art! Any chance of being able to buy prints of these at the parks?

  • Cool stuff. One of my friends has been taking some amazing IR photos and posting them to Flickr for the past few months. The top shot looks quite similar to one of his…

  • Beautiful! If only I was still teaching HS Physics and could share this with my students…..

  • Kent – Amazing photo effects. Is your #87 filter a Tiffen filter? If using a Hoya brand filter, which would yield similar effects to your photos, an RM72 or an RM90?
    Can’t wait to see more photos like these.
    Thanks – Paul

    • (Tech warning: anybody not seriously interested in trying this at home should probably skip down to the next comment.)

      The filter I’m using is indeed a Tiffen #87 filter, though #87 filters from B+W, Kodak, Singh-Ray and other manufacturers should produce similar results. From what I can see in its tech specs, the Hoya R72 looks to be the closest thing to an equivalent to the #87. I’m guessing the RM90, which blocks wavelengths below 900 nanometers (nm), would clip too much from the near infrared spectrum and is probably better suited to more technical infrared applications. No matter who makes it, you’re looking for a filter that blocks most (if not all) light below 750 nm – 800 nm, but lets in wavelengths beyond that. Filters that block all visible light produce the most dramatic results but also require much longer exposures to compensate. Filters that allow in a little visible light, like the #89B, don’t yield as much drama, but let you keep your exposures shorter, which can be a bonus as many digital cameras show increased noise in images with lengthy exposures.

      (See? I tried to warn you.)

  • Being an engineer, I love the science and my field is infrared/laser systems. Having said that, I’m the world’s worst picture taker. You have convinced me to dig for more information, start looking for a #87 filter and try again. Great work.

  • These are amazing photographs. What a different perspective of icons that we have seen so many times. I, for one, also really appreciated the scientific explanation of the effect too. Thanks for giving us the images and the lesson.

  • Love it! It’s a magical place on many levels 🙂

  • Beautiful!! I worked with Infrared film back in college, I loved the dreamy look all of my pictures had. I’ve never thought of a filter for my digital DSLR though. Maybe time to make a purchase before my next trip to WDW!

  • These are amazing, you could totally sell them!

  • Wow, wow, wow! Amazing. The first shot of the Castle at first glance looks like an architect’s model. This si so cool

  • Beautiful pictures and two of my favorite Disney icons…

  • The castle picture just took my breath away. I think it actually spoke to me!! Where can I purchase one? No, I’d need 3. Just beautiful!

  • These are beautiful! I haven’t made the transition to DSLR yet, but knowing I could, potentially, experiment with light and filters adds to the temptation. Thank you!

  • AWESOME! What settings are you using? I have a Nikon D5000 and I’d LOVE to be able to take something like this.

  • Beautiful pictures, Kent. There’s something unique about black and white photos.

  • Did you put the heart in the clouds on purpose??


  • Thanks for sharing these beautiful photographs. My family adds a special thanks for the “science” lesson. It looks like we’ll be getting a new filter for our cameras before our next visit to Disney Parks. Please, we would like to see more photography pointers here on the blog.

  • Kent is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!

    We need more KENT! He always has surprises for us.

  • Amazing images! Thank for sharing!

  • Absolutely beautiful and stunning pictures Kent!

  • Kent,

    Those turned out GREAT — really loved seeing such a unique view of two familiar icons, and the angles that you chose to compose the pictures are excellent. The “look” of the Haunted Mansion in that shot, thanks to the filter, is just perfect.

    I take a ton of pictures while at the Walt Disney World resort, and while I enjoy experimenting with the angles of the subjects, I’m a real amateur when it comes to the “technical stuff”; I’m the very definition of the “point-and-shoot” photographer (but I love doing it).

    Does WDW offer any classes or workshops for aspiring photographers who may want to take more than just the “standard” vacation photos? That would definitely be something I’d be interested in; maybe have a small group get together, tour one of the parks (each park could host its own class) and talk about composition, lighting, etc? Just curious.

  • Cool pics! Cinderella Castle looks like a sunny snow day and the Haunted Mansion is even creepier than usual. How long is the exposure – it looks like you caught the clouds moving? I know you have more…please post! Have a swell day!

  • Fantastic images! Which filters were used to capture these frames? Thanks for the lovely post!

    • I used a #87 glass filter to shoot these. Most of the top filter makers offer one. I experimented last year with a cheaper, wratten version of this filter that simply slid into a holder on the end of the lens instead of screwing onto it, but too much light leaked around the edges of the filter during the long exposures. In my case, to answer Jeff and Michelle’s questions below, the exposure in full sunlight was 30 seconds at f/2.8 at 400 ISO.

      Filters are not the only option, though. If you have an older camera you don’t use any more or are simply very serious about this kind of photography, many digital point-and-shoots and DSLRs can be converted to shoot near infrared only by removing the internal IR cut filter covering the camera’s sensor. However, this kind of modification is generally permanent and best performed by a professional. I definitely prefer the non-destructive aspect of using filters.

      In near infrared photography the initial images are in color, though what you see are actually false colors and vary from camera to camera. If you like the look of them (mine look almost entirely pink) then more power to you, though I tend to like the look of them in black-and-white. However, even if you intend to use them in black-and-white, shooting in color gives you better visual information in the files and more options when converting them later on.

      For anybody interested in learning more about this kind of photography, there are good online resources available. Just do a search for “near infrared digital photography” and you should have enough information to make your brain explode in very short order.

  • Wow – looks like a Winter Wonderland!

  • Gorgeous images–one might even say “hauntingly” beautiful. More, please!

  • These pictures are fantastic! I’d love to see more! Thanks for sharing them.

  • visually stunning. My first thought was that the trees were snow covered…

  • Excellent effects and the definition is astounding! Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to view these ‘otherworldly’ shots!

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