I, Photographer: Disney Park Shooter

David Roark photographs the happiest place on earth.

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Jan11Iphotogmain
David Roark, 52, is manager of photography for Yellow Shoes Creative Group at Walt Disney Parks in Orlando, FL.Diana Zalucky

What's your typical day?
It's tough to say. Tomorrow I'm photographing hippos in Animal Kingdom, because we have a new Experience there. Normally I'd be doing a studio job—we try not to have our photo shoots overlap when guests are in the park.

What's best about the job?
The diversity. Disney is a huge company, with theme parks, resorts, a travel business, TV networks, retail stores. I could be going to Germany to shoot for a cruise ship or to the new resort in Hawaii.

How did you start there?
I studied photography at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies [now at Daytona State College] and then worked at a small commercial photo studio. I got hired at Disney in 1982.

How big is your team?
There are four other staff photographers. Three trained as photojournalists, and two of us are advertising- and studio-trained. Our work ranges from architectural to food photography. You have to be good with people, studio lighting, location lighting. And we have to adapt to a lot of different art directors.

Who are your clients?
We work for Yellow Shoes, Disney's in-house ad agency, as well as outside ad agencies. Our work is about 60 percent advertising and about 40 percent public relations and social media.

Is all your work on assignment?
We also self-assign projects. I'll bring a white seamless into the park and take portraits of guests, out of their element; some of these were used for editorial in Redbook. Runner's World has used my portraits of Disney half-marathon finishers. And we'll put photos like this on Disney's blog.

What gear do you use?
All of our 35mm-format gear is Nikon—we use the D3 a lot—and we have a Mamiya 645 with a Phase One P45+ digital medium-format system. For lenses, everything from 14–24mm to 24–70mm to 80–200mm to 300mm to specialty lenses. We'll use tilt-shift for photos to make stop-motion videos. For ultra-high-res panoramics, we use a Seitz D3 Digital Roundshot.

What is your biggest challenge?
Creating a portfolio for a resort long before it opens—I was first hired to make Epcot look finished six months before it was. To do this, we shoot the grounds, model rooms, and Experiences elsewhere that will be offered there. For an attaction like a new roller coaster, we build a miniature and shoot that. This is one of our specialties and it has a big impact on advanced bookings. Our resort in Hawaii opens in August 2011, but on the website it would be hard to tell it's not already open.

Along with his still work for Disney, David Roark is also know for his breathtaking tilt-shift and time-lapse videos. Below are four of his favorites:

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Underwater image of guests discovering a "Hidden Mickey" at Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 18mm lens in an Aquatica underwater housing.
David Roark
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In-room photo of our new (opening in 2011) resort in Hawaii, called "Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa."
Shot with a Nikon D3 and an 85mm tilt/shift lens.
Art Direction: Jane Yanik
David Roark
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Experiential photo of "kids having fun" at our new resort in Hawaii, called "Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa." The resort will open in 2011.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 14-24mm zoom.
Art Direction: Jane Yanik
David Roark
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Experimental wedding photo from our new resort in Hawaii, called "Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa." The resort will open in 2011.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 24-70mm zoom.
Art Direction: Jane Yanik
David Roark
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Illustration of "kids having fun" in Disney Cruise Line's "Oceaneers Club" aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 14-24mm lens.
Art Direction: Joey Hasty
David Roark
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A recreation of one of the most famous photos ever taken of Walt Disney. The portrait of Mr. Disney features the company founder with Mickey Mouse's shadow cast on the wall next to him. We recreated the entire scene using an actor to portray Walt Disney. This was part of a series of recreations of "Classic Walt Disney Images."
Shot with a Mamiya 645 with Phase One P45+ digital capture.
Art Direction: Will Gay
David Roark
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Travel images from Lucca, Italy, illustrating the Medieval Dance and Long Bow Tournament. This specific event is an excursion for "Adventures by Disney." "Adventures by Disney" provides guided group vacations around the world.
Shot with a Nikon D3 with a 24-70mm zoom.
David Roark
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Moonset above the lagoon at our new resort in Hawaii, called "Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa." The resort will open in 2011(the benefits of being an insomniac!).
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 14-20mm zoom.
David Roark
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A portrait of The Walt Disney Company CEO, Bob Iger, with Mickey Mouse at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 24-70mm.
David Roark
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Sunrise on Grand Opening Day at Hong Kong Disneyland, 2005.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 80-200mm.
David Roark
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A "romantic couple" strolls the beach at Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas.
Shot with a Nikon D3 and a 80-200mm.
David Roark
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Beyonce poses with several of the Disney Princesses in front of Cinderella Castle. This was a PR handout photo taken in support of the annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade holiday TV special. Beyonce was a featured performer in the telecast the year this photo was taken.
Shot with a Nikon D3.
Publicist: Gary Buchanan
David Roark
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"The Art of Disney Topiaries" – a photo of a Disney Horticulturist working on the famous Disney Topiaries. Taken behind-the-scenes at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Nikon D3.
David Roark
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All of the grand opening Cast Members (Disney parlance for "employees") of Hong Kong Disneyland gather for a group photo. This photo was taken the day before the park opened to the public in 2005.
Shot with a Nikon D3.
David Roark
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Mickey Mouse meets a Disney Cast Member (Disney parlance for "employee") at Tokyo Disneyland.
Shot with Nikon F4.
David Roark
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Cover of the 2007 "Adventures by Disney" brochure. "Adventures by Disney" provides guided group vacations around the world. Background shot on location at Jenny Lake, Teton National Park, Wyoming. The dock was built as a miniature model approximately 3' long. It was photographed separately…as was the "Dad and girls"…and merged via Photoshop.
Digital Imaging: Ed Brown
David Roark
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Part of a series "Guests on white." A Richard Avedon-inspired look at Disney guests.
Personal project
David Roark
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Portrait of "Green Bird," a performer in Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba show at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Mamiya 645 with Phase One P45+ digital capture.
Art Direction: Jane Yanik
David Roark
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Various portraits of Cirque du Soleil La Nouba performers. This is from the Cirque du Soleil La Nouba show at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Mamiya 645 with Phase One P45+ digital capture.
Art Direction: Jane Yanik
David Roark
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A photo/computer illustration using a model of the Disney Magic cruise ship.David Roark
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A photo of the very first time the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic cruise ships ever sailed together. Shot from a helicopter.
Shot with a Nikon D2.
David Roark
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Self-assigned work of a NASA Space Shuttle launching over Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic cruise ship at Port Canaveral, Fla.
Shot with a Nikon D2.
David Roark
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A photo/computer illustration for the Epcot theme park's "Sounds Like Summer" concert series in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Nikon D3.
Digital Illustration: Ed Brown
David Roark
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A spontaneous meeting between famed anthropologist, primatologist and author Jane Goodall and "Gino," a silverback gorilla. Taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Nikon F4.
David Roark
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Mickey Mouse takes an early morning stroll through the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Nikon F4.
David Roark
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A photo/computer illustration used as a magazine insert in support of the Disney Parks campaign entitled "What Will You Celebrate?"
Shot with a Mamiya 645 with Phase One digital capture.
Art Direction: Tom Shumilak
David Roark
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A kiosk poster in support of an in-park special event, the "Pirate and Princess Party," at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Shot with a Mamiya 645 with Phase One digital capture.
Art Direction: Tom Shumilak
David Roark
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Part of a personal project that was featured on the official Disney Parks Blog (disneyparks.com/blog). These individual images, taken at the finish line of Disney's Princess Half Marathon, are part of a series "Finishers Portraits" from various "runDisney" events held at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.David Roark
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Personal Project…part of a series entitled “Princesses.” Photographing guests dressed up as Disney Princesses. This idea was later turned into an ad campaign.David Roark
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A photo/computer illustration for "Star Wars Weekends," an annual special event held at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was created using a combination of miniature models and the actual "Earful Tower" (a water tower with mouse ears featured as one of the icons of the theme park). This photo was used as a billboard.
Art Direction: Dave Chow
Digital Illustration: Ed Brown
David Roark
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Part of a series of ads for "Star Wars Weekends" at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Ads featured Star Wars elements imagined in "everyday life." This series won Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts Photo Annual.
Art Direction: Tom Shumilak
David Roark
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Part of a series of ads for "Star Wars Weekends" at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Ads featured Star Wars elements imagined in "everyday life." This series won Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts Photo Annual.
Art Direction: Tom Shumilak
David Roark
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Part of a series of ads for "Star Wars Weekends" at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Ads featured Star Wars elements imagined in "everyday life." This series won Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts Photo Annual.
Art Direction: Tom Shumilak
David Roark
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A series of photo/computer illustrations showing the "magic" of "Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons" at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line.
Art Direction: Dave Chow
Digital Illustration: Ed Brown
David Roark
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A series of photo/computer illustrations showing the "magic" of "Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons" at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line.
Art Direction: Dave Chow
Digital Illustration: Ed Brown
David Roark
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