Photographing Spaceship Earth at Night at Walt Disney World

Spaceship Earth in Epcot at Walt Disney World glows at night thanks to colored lights reflecting off its silver skin. Read all about how to photograph it at Burnsland.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot at Walt Disney World glows at night thanks to colored lights reflecting off its silver skin.

Spaceship Earth at any time is grand and miraculous, as the narration of the ride inside used to say, but it is especially impressive at night. While the silver “skin” stands out against a blue sky or contrasts with clouds during the day, it reflects the many different colors of light shining on it at night, thanks to a brilliant color scheme devised by John Hench. Those colors definitely stand out against the darkness of the night sky, very much resembling a planet floating in space. And yes, that is the moon in the upper right corner of the photo, as if the moon is circling Spaceship Earth itself.

Photographing Spaceship Earth at night isn’t quite as difficult as you might think, if you know how to set your camera. If you are somewhat close to Spaceship Earth, the light coming off of it is bright enough to allow you to get a good photo, even if you haven’t brought a tripod with you.

Here’s what I did: I set the ISO setting on my camera to 1250. I was tempted to go a little higher, but I didn’t want to pick up too much noise. I then set the aperture as wide as I could, which in the case of this fisheye lens was f/3.5. And because Spaceship Earth was so much brighter than the surrounding area, I set the exposure value to -0.7 step to tone things down just a little. I then held really still, because in aperture priority mode, that gave a shutter speed of 1/15 second, which is about as slow as I can shoot while holding still.

If that doesn’t work for you, you can make a few adjustments to the settings, such as increasing the ISO setting or using a lens with a wider aperture setting to let in more light. Or you could always bring a tripod, or use a small tripod and a nearby trash can or another somewhat tall object.

The good thing about these modern days is that you can see how the photo looks on your camera’s viewscreen immediately after you shoot it, unlike in the old film days when we had to hope for the best and find out later on when the photos were processed by the photo lab. These days, if it doesn’t look right on your screen, just change your settings slightly and try again.

Once I got back home, I took the Raw version of the photo that I shot and ran it through a little processing using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop. I increased the shadows just a bit to slightly bring out some of the foreground and the clouds in the sky, and I decreased the highlights slightly. I also used Adobe Camera Raw to decrease the noise that was present.

And with that, I was happy with the photo, at least until we go back sometime in the future and I try again. Because no matter how happy I am with a Spaceship Earth photo, I will always try again on the next trip. It’s what I do, I guess.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. - Galatians 6:9

About the Photo

I’m sure you already noticed, but there is quite a bit about the photo above, in case you are one of those who just looks at the photo and then quickly scrolls down to the “About the photo” section and happened to miss all of that. Maybe there are a few people like that out there.

Photo: A single Raw exposure, processed in Photoshop. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Lens: Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
Date: June 9, 2016
Location: Epcot, Walt Disney World, Florida

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.