How many times have you been browsing Instagram and a photo so amazing stops your scrolling in its tracks and wonder in amazement - who took that? In our community there’s a good chance it was captured by Doug Young and through his photo composites, he’s creating fantasy inspired worlds within our very own fantasy world.
And he’s blowing everyones mind in the process.
When did you discover your love for Disney? And when was your first trip to the parks?
Doug: Disney has been a part of my life since I was very young. My favorite movie was The Little Mermaid, a VHS tape - yes, I'm dating myself here - that I most likely destroyed due to repeated use. My family also took me to Disney when I was very young, we would try and visit once a year. My first memory of Disney property isn't Cinderella Castle, but the Polynesian lobby. This was when there was a waterfall, live parrot, koi fish in the outdoor pond but that oh so memorable scent that seems to flow through that main meeting area today.
I mentioned I was young, 6 years old to be exact! I just called my mom to confirm, and moms are never wrong. The description of the Polynesian is truly the most memorable part of the trip, this is what really started my love for Disney.
Tell us about your background and what led you to photography?
Photography and technology have been loves of mine for a VERY long time. My parents did two things for me that started this love that lead me to digital photography and editing. First, my dad let me play with his film camera and always gave me a disposable camera when traveling to Disney. Second, they instilled an early love for technology and computers. They encouraged me to be a part of the computer club in elementary school - nerd alert, I know - and allowed me to play on an old work computer that played "mini-put". This computer didn't even have white on black, it was more of a brown background with orange writing... I'm starting to sound ancient, huh? These two things stuck with me as I grew up and still influence me today. I love my camera for capturing all the memories life offers up and I love technology and the way I can manipulate images with a little bit of research and knowhow. When it comes to technical training, I have none. I did not major in any artistic field during school, I have never had any formal training with my camera or editing tools. Everything I know is from friends, experimentation, and YouTube!
So you made the ultimate move most Disney fans dream of, in relocating to Central Florida. What was that transition like coming from New Hampshire?
The transition was relatively smooth! I interviewed and secured a job in the Orlando area after some long and difficult discussions with my girlfriend Emmie about moving away from home. We both agreed that it was the right thing to do, but would miss our friends and family greatly.
First, we moved in March. Summer came quicker than we remembered in New Hampshire and were quickly overwhelmed by the heat and humidity. We did our best to go out in the early mornings and evenings and still experienced everything we could during that first year. For those who are considering the move and have never made a big transition like that before, let's remember Rapunzel. She left her tower and went through a series of drastic mood swings about either having the "best day ever" or being the worst daughter on the planet. This will be you. Once the initial novelty of living next door to Disney wears off you will have these moments and it is completely normal. You haven't made the wrong move, you have only done something high risk and reality is trying to bring you down. Disney will slowly become home. When the novelty factor wears off something more beautiful sets in, a sense of belonging, and this is what makes being a Walt Disney World local magical.
Who did you look up too or were inspired by in the community when starting out?
My inspiration initially came from outside Disney! I moved to a new place, didn't know anyone, and really didn't have a clue that there was a community. I had sold my big camera just a year prior and was looking for a hobby to keep me busy outside of work and figured taking pictures in the parks I found so beautiful would be a great start. I have two amazing photographers as close friends, Sam Haddix and Kaylee Greer, who are some of the most talented people I have ever met. They take their work to an extreme and if you are into puppies or portraits you'll have to check them out.
It’s easy to see your incredible photos of empty parks and sometimes forget about the early mornings before sunrise and late nights long after the park closes. How much planning do you put into a day of shooting or do you just go with the flow?
Every moment up into park close is up in the air, but as soon as the park begins to shut down there is always a plan! Depending on the type of photos I want to get I plan to begin taking pictures in different areas. The parks close form the outside towards the center so starting your photo adventure as far from the entrance as possible is always in your best interest. As security walks with you towards the main entrance of the park they let you snap away as long as you're being efficient and respectful of their time. This is where light chitchat, friendly conversation, and the overall great nature of cast members make the night even better! Every night is different, some nights need to close faster due to events happening once their doors close like overnights to change decorations or practicing parade or stage shows. This is where the phrase "Happiness is flexibility in a sea of constant change" reigns true.
Do you have a favorite park or location on property to shoot?
Recently I've been looking for more unique angles and scenes to use for composites, but there is nothing like the thrill of a solid empty picture of Main Street USA.
I’m sure it’s difficult to pick, but what is the most memorable photo you’ve taken?
The most memorable photo I've taken is surely one where I have cinderella castle evenly lit on a perfect "blue skies and sunshine" kind of day. I've used it for countless composite images and have different iterations hanging throughout my home!
Not only are your photos top notch but your editing and post-processing are on another level. How much work away from the camera goes into one of your composites?
First, thank you. Thank you for letting me share my style with you and your audience, it's a true pleasure. Depending on the edit I can spend anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours on a single image depending on its complexity. Sometimes I add color, simple lighting adjustments, and *POOF* I'm as happy as can be. Othertimes I have more elaborate plans for me to be standing on a cliffside with rolling clouds over mountaintops and Cinderella Castle in the distance. That's a much bigger project.
What advice would you give someone looking to get started into park photography? And then to someone who has a grasp on the basics but is looking to find their style and tone?
Just starting out? Keep it simple. You don't need the fanciest camera, every lens on the market, and a million accessories to get great photos. I started with a relatively basic DSLR and a single lens. I used this for an entire YEAR in the parks before purchasing my second lens. I shot Canon but every brand has its own version of the same thing, an inexpensive 50mm lens with a low aperture - eg f/1.8. Buy that lens. It'll teach you to zoom by moving around instead of twisting a dial or knob. You'll learn very quickly what kind of photos you like taking and what piece of equipment you want next.
For someone finding their style and knows how to use a camera, I suggest taking pictures of just about everything. Take pictures of parades, fireworks, night, day, open, close, up, down, left, and right. Shoot everything. The pictures you come back to, decide to edit, and post... that's your style. It's the stuff you like working on and enjoy sharing with others. Also, don't be afraid to take risks! There weren't many - if any - people doing big edits with their Disney photos so I figured nobody wanted to see mine. I was wrong. I held off for almost a full year before sharing a highly edited picture on my Instagram and the response was overwhelming... "We want more of THIS!". Find what makes you excited to get out there and shoot instead of what the masses tell you to post, you'll be surprised what you might find through trial and error.
Anything on your parks photography bucket list? Whats next for you, what are you looking forward too?
That's a wonderful question! Galaxy's Edge holds so much promise when it comes to my style that I'm thrilled to start taking pictures there! I have two different previews scheduled before open and both include sunset and closing, my goal is to get some empty shots before that land is never empty again.
In truth? I'm very excited to be doing more on my YouTube channel. Images can evoke some amazing emotion, but I've been having fun with video trying to learn more about storytelling.
Favorite Walt quote?
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
I'm a man of action, chit chat about doing something and never actually executing can be frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I love being an idea guy and spitballing, but when it's time to get down to work, this is my muse.
What do you think Walt would think of the parks today?
Walt believed in progress, pushing forward with new ideas and innovations like we're seeing through Walt Disney World's current evolution. There has been constant progress incorporating new lands and attractions with the latest technology in the parks over the last few years and with that, I think he'd be proud. I also know that he was a man of strong morals and a perfectionist. I'm sure he would have plenty to say in regards to correcting course on the business end of Disney.
Mickey Bar or Mickey Pretzel?
Mickey Bar is kind on any hot Florida afternoon.
Dole Whip or Citrus Swirl?
Citrus Swirl. Both are good, but let's be real here.
Favorite Disney restaurant?
Quick Service: Satu'li Canteen - Animal Kingdom
Table Service: Sanaa - Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village
Buffet: Boma Breakfast - Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House
Bar/Lounge: Nomad Lounge - Animal Kingdom
Favorite park and attraction?
Disney's Animal Kingdom is surely my favorite park, my favorite attraction there is Kilimanjaro Safaris. I love how the adventure is so different each time! Try doing on the safari early in the morning and late at night and tell me it's not a totally different experience!
Best parks tip?
Don't ignore the waterparks! Emmie and I absolutely love going to Typhoon Lagoon on a hot Florida afternoon. We relax, float in the lazy river, and head out just after a few hours. If you're on vacation you can easily get back to your room, shower off, and watch fireworks at any of the main theme parks.
Favorite holiday in the parks?
Christmas! I love all the holiday decorations and the snow on Main Street USA!
All time favorite fireworks show?
Symphony in the Stars! This is the special New Year's Eve fireworks at the Magic Kingdom! They include a fireworks countdown, full 360° perimeter fireworks, and a LOT of firepower! Definitely my favorite show at Walt Disney World.
Most magical experience you’ve had on property?
I had the pleasure of being in VIP seating for the Festival of Fantasy parade after having my lung collapse and a two week stay in Florida Hospital Celebration. A friend of mine in entertainment gave word to her fellow cast members, got Emmie and me in VIP seating while I was still being wheeled around in my wheelchair - I was postoperative day 4 at that point. Each cast member personally wished me a speedy recovery and Emmie a happy birthday - I didn't give her much of a birthday present with a 2-week stay in the hospital. I felt truly cared for by the Disney community during that visit, this is what inspired us to make the move from New Hampshire down to Central Florida!