June 4, 2012 Christopher Arnold

Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

If there’s one thing Disney and Star Wars have in common, it’s a cast of colorful characters.

And for a select four weekends each spring, those worlds collide as Rebels and Imperials from all corners of the galaxy descend upon Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.  I had the opportunity to attend my first — yes, first (what took me so long?) — Star Wars Weekend on June 2, and, well, the Force was strong with this event.

Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker, at Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Guests can get autographs by and take pictures with such classic characters as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, as well as more contemporary stars of the animated Clone Wars series like Asajj Ventress and Shaak Ti.  In addition, actors from the films and voice talents from the animated series take part in the events and meet fans.  This year’s lineup included Jake Lloyd (above), who portrayed young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace; Jeremy Bulloch, who played bounty hunter Boba Fett in Episodes V and VI; and Catherine Taber, the voice of Padme Amidala in The Clone Wars animated series.

Jedi Academy at Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Speaking of the fans, youngsters (ages 12 and under) can sign up to take part in the Jedi Academy (above), where they learn the ways of the Force and take on Darth Vader and Darth Maul.  There’s the motorcade, and the Hyperspace Hoopla at the end of the day…

You get the idea.  There’s lots to see and do.

As a photographer visiting this event for the first time (and re-visiting Hollywood Studios for the first time in more than a decade), I frankly didn’t know what to photograph first. I was shooting wide for architectural images, tight for details, looking for action, looking for color, for composition – I’m amazed my head didn’t explode.  I was all over the place.

It wasn’t until I was watching the aforementioned Jedi Academy that I found a theme.  You see, the Jedi Academy area was packed by a decent-sized crowd of spectators, mostly made up of excited families cheering on their little Billys and Sarahs as they did battle against the evil Sith.  And I was not in the front of said crowd.  I stumbled upon an Academy-in-progress, so I was shooting with a 300mm, bobbing and weaving around errant elbows and stray backpacks, trying to get a shot of Darth Maul showing off his light saber skills.  Except that, in my current position, and with the lens I was using, I wasn’t getting good action shots.

But I did stumble upon a couple of pretty interesting tight shots of the character, like this one:

Darth Maul at Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios

There’s just something about that face, after all.  It’s the face only a mother could love.  Or a photographer, I suppose.

So, while I continued to shoot a variety of images during my visit the park, I then also set out to try and capture a series of tighter portraits of some of the characters I encountered.  Afterwards, I would play around with some different post-processing techniques to finish off the photos.  Some worked better than others, but for the most party, I was pleased with the results.  See what you think, and feel free to share your thoughts.

Shaak Ti, a Jedi

Darth Maul, a Sith

Princess Leia

Interestingly enough, my favorite images were the ones where the actor’s face was still visible, and not hidden by a mask or armor.  I think the actor’s emotion and expression was key, no matter how subtle.   However, there are always exceptions, and I have always had a fondness for a certain galactic bounty hunter…

Boba Fett

The complete set of faces from Star Wars Weekends can be seen on my Facebook page here, or my Google Plus page here.

If you haven’t been to Star Wars Weekends yet, you only have one more chance in this quadrant of the galaxy.  After next weekend (June 8 to June 10), the gang makes the jump to light space and won’t be back for another year.  For more information, visit the event’s official page on the Walt Disney World website.

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