One of the most exciting parts of my job as a Disney Parks photographer is capturing images of a new attraction before it opens to the public, and when I get to work with one of my favorite franchises like Star Wars, it’s even better. On the flip side, one of the most challenging parts of my job is figuring out how to convey the emotion of a new attraction through still photos. I’ve found if I focus on the things that stand out most to me in the moment – stretch out with my feelings, you might say – it usually works out for the best.
Today marks one year since the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a Star Wars adventure of massive proportions, where you blast off Batuu with the Resistance, only to be captured by the First Order and make a daring escape. This one-year anniversary got me thinking back to the time just prior to the attraction’s grand opening when I spent an entire day inside Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, taking literally thousands of pictures.
I was all over Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance that day, and one of the best parts was the hour I took inside the First Order Star Destroyer hangar. There’s a garrison of 50 First Order Stormtroopers in there – quite an intimidating display – and I wanted to convey the awe I knew guests would feel as they enter the huge room. I used wide-angle lenses to capture the scope of the garrison and the hangar, then swapped in telephoto lenses to investigate all the little details of the seemingly overwhelming number of Stormtroopers. After settling on an interesting angle, I would sometimes have to wait for a Stormtrooper to strike just the right pose or for a passing Star Destroyer to be in just the right spot in the background. With a Disney Imagineer by my side, I was even able to walk among the Stormtroopers, finding new perspectives I knew I’d never get the chance to capture again once the attraction opened to the public.
My favorite photo from that morning, though, was taken from the center of the hangar, where guests now walk every day. I got down flat on my stomach, holding my camera as low as possible to increase the Stormtroopers’ reflections in the shiny black floor. Shooting from such an extreme angle, I could make them appear taller in the frame and even more intimidating, while still able to see through them and out into space beyond. By changing my own certain point of view that was just slightly different from that of a guest, I emphasized some of the attraction’s key storytelling details and, hopefully as you look at the photo now, conveyed the feelings I had facing off with all those Stormtroopers!