Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Thunder Island

Among those who have been fortunate enough to visit multiple Disney parks around the world, the general consensus is that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Paris is the best iteration around.  It is more exciting, more picturesque, and more unique than any of the other versions. 

When I went to Disneyland Paris in 2006, the ride was closed, and I sadly was unable to experience it. But last year, fortune was much better, and I made sure to ride this thrilling attraction.  Indeed, it is most excellent (pardon the unintentional Bill and Ted imitation).  The journey starts on the landward side of Frontierland.  The train actually plunges under the Rivers of the Far West (DLP's version of the Rivers of America) before engaging the first lift hill on the island.  From there, there are multiple drops, helices, scenic flyby's, and plenty of pretty [artificial] nature, before an exhilarating drop back under the river brings riders back to the station. 

It is quite an amazing ride and one of the busiest E-Tickets offered at the park.  For your enjoyment, here are some photos of the ride as seen from another iconic Disneyland Paris attraction, the Phantom Manor!

A view of Disneyland Paris' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Phantom Manor.

Disneyland Paris' Big Thunder is unique in its setting and is my favorite Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Victorian Seaside

The makeover of Paradise Pier several years ago included the redesign of the facades of several shops and games along the backside of the Paradise Pier boardwalk.  Unfortunately, not the entire row was remodeled, but what was changed forms a beautiful and elegant Victorian motif that reinforces the reimagining of Paradise Pier into a classic Victorian seaside amusement park.  Perhaps one day, Disney will finish the job.  But for now, I have isolated frames I can choose to showcase these select parts of the Pier!

Paradise Pier shops front California Screamin'.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Golden Hour Upon Carthay Circle

Carthay Circle is the new hub of Disney California Adventure, and it's a lovely place to spend an afternoon, to people watch, or to just savor the ambiance of 1920s Los Angeles. This area brings forth a glamorous view of Hollywood and the City of Angels.  It's certainly much more pedestrian friendly than the real Carthay Circle, over in L.A. at the intersection of Wilshire and San Vicente.  That's the site of the real Carthay Circle Theater.  But since the home of the original premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves no longer stands, the replica at DCA stands as a suitable replacement.

A summer afternoon at Carthay Circle.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snow White at Midnight

I'm not exactly sure why, but I love seeing purple lighting cast on fantastical looking architecture. There's a sense of spookiness it creates that reminds me of Halloween, and it provides a nice contrast to warm yellow lights that dominate a lot of the park.  Over at Snow White's Scary Adventures, in Fantasyland, this effect takes hold more noticeably than in other places, and it provides a great facade to photograph, especially after everyone has gone home for the evening.

Snow White's Scary Adventures after midnight.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flo's V. Wet Cafe

The lighting at Flo's V8 Cafe is so smooth and beautiful that it's almost too easy to photograph. Just about any photo of this area will turn out beautifully.  So to stand out, you need something unique.  Sadly, these days in California, what counts as unique is rain.  The state has been in a drought for several years, and it shows no signs of letting up.  But during that one night in April last year, when it did rain, I made sure to take advantage!

A rainy evening in front of Flo's V8 Cafe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It Had to Be Snakes

One great thing about shooting with a prime lens is that the wide aperture allows freehand shots even in low light conditions.  It's a nice way to focus on details, such as this stone snake in front of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.  One of many, it seems to watch for intruders, symbolic of the giant cobra that lurks within the temple.  That one is a lot tougher to photograph, but outside, with a lens like my 28mm f/1.8, the task is a lot simpler!

A cobra guards the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Catching the Forest Sun

I've taken photos of this scene before, but this secluded back way around Grizzly Peak always seems to draw my interest.  Maybe it's the sense of calm amidst a wild whitewater rafting environment.  Maybe it's the classic look of the park service truck.  Maybe it's the way the trees part just so to reveal a scene of activity at Grizzly River Run beyond.  But I always feel calm, collected, and cheerful whenever I pass through here.  That rustic feel brings me back to my childhood days, when the great outdoors was a great wonder and mystery, and every turn of the trail brought forth more adventure.  Ah, to have the excitable spirit of childhood!

The Park Service truck sits restfully at the back of the Grizzly River Run loading area.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Waiting Game

When I visited the Paris last year, I scheduled one day for the Disneyland Paris Resort.  I certainly wanted more, but within the timeline of my overall European vacation, the most I could really afford was one day, because I was unwilling to take away additional days from exploring the city.  And despite having only one day, I wanted to explore both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios, ride all the major attractions, AND get a good collection photos to stock up for this blog!  Clearly, I created a big challenge for myself.

Entering Walt Disney Studios at park opening, and the crowd already forming to wait for the new Ratatouille mini-land, located inside the Toon Studios portion of the park.
I had to be strategic, so my thought was to enter Walt Disney Studios first, conquer all the attractions withing a few hours, then spend the rest of the day in Disneyland Paris.  The catch was deciding which WDS attraction I should target first to spend my time most efficiently.  One of the most popular rides in the park is Crush's Coaster, with consistently long lines due to a combination of its popularity and low capacity.  And then there was the new Ratatouille ride, within the new Ratatouille mini-land, which had just opened a couple of months prior.

It may seem like this crowd is heading straight toward the middle of the park, where the movie tram ride is located, but no, that's not quite the case.
Against the advice of my friends, I opted for Ratatouille.  And that's when I ran into the line... snaking all the way from the mini-land, located on the far right corner of the park, out to the heart of Walt Disney Studios, just off the entry that was the Frontlot sound stage.  As it turned out, I should have just gone to Crush's Coaster, did a single rider, then come and wait for Ratatouille, because the land didn't open until an hour after park opening.  But at least I had a chance to take a few shots of the Production Courtyard?  Oh well.  I ultimately ended up having a great day and accomplished pretty much everything I set out to do. But it certainly didn't seem promising initially, when I arrived!

Instead, all of these folks are waiting for the Ratatouille mini-land to open, so that they can check out the park's latest attraction!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Enter Videopolis

Videopolis marks the facade of Discoveryland's quick serve food venue, Hyperion Cafe, and is one of Disneyland Paris' opening day attraction.  Officially, it is the indoor auditorium space that is beside the restaurant.  From the outside, a great airship peaks out from under the structure.  It's a looming presence, and at night, it looks even cooler than during the day. of course, Discoveryland's fantastic lighting scheme doesn't hurt.  I can never get tired of the retro-futurism in this land!

Videopolis at night, with Space Mountain: Mission 2 in the background.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Tower from the Theater

A couple of weeks ago, I showcased a view of the Tower of Terror at night, taken from an elevated perspective.  Last weekend, I managed to make it to the park during the daytime for such a shot.  One thing I noticed from my last shot (and something a couple of my friends pointed out), was that my crop wasn't focused enough.  There were buildings on the sides that were a little distracted and detracted from the composition.  So in retrospect, I should have zoomed in a little bit, like this.  Ah well... lesson learned.  In this photo, I  decided to use a square crop--not only because this makes it ready-made for when I inevitably repost this photo on my Instagram account, but also because the Hollywood Tower Hotel's building mass is tailor made for this aspect ratio!

The Tower of Terror, as seen from the steps of the Hyperion Theater--during the daytime!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Outside the Undersea Adventure

The Little Mermaid features a beautiful show building with a Victorian motif, and you would think that this would make it a piece of cake to photograph.  And yet, somehow, I've rarely been able to get an angle or crop that I'm quite satisfied with.  There are trees in the way, the railings don't align with the flatwork on the ground, and the tiered levels of Paradise Park for an upward perspective that's a bit of a no-man's-land in terms of being elevation--it's not dramatically lower, but it's not even level either.

Usually, I'd just take a picture on my reliable wide angle lens.  That lends itself to more dramatic shots, but in this head-on view of the facade, not quite.  So on this particular day, I zoomed in more to get a less distorted depth of field, and I think I've come up with something close to what I'd like--if all those people weren't in the way, of course!

The Little Mermaid building facade in the afternoon sun.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Bedazzled Castle, Part 2

Yesterday, I mentioned my less than thrilled stance on the Disneyland 60th Anniversary castle makeover.  The photo indicated was taken over a week and a half ago, and the castle has continued to evolve even in the limited time since then.  The photos below were taken just this past Sunday and show additional details being added.  In addition, I've zoomed in and taken more close-up shots of various features of the 60th Anniversary decorations.

The Castle looks relatively nice from an overview perspective, as long as you don't look too closely at any item.
My position remains unchanged.  The aesthetic is definitely very gaudy, and not as elegant as I'd hope.  This may have more to do with my general preference of style in general.  As a person with an architectural design background from relatively recent schooling, I've definitely taken to cleaner, more modern looks.  That's not to say that Sleeping Beauty Castle should look like a 21st century building, of course, but the key word is clean, and there is so much detail in these decorations, all of it glittery and sparkly and glowy, that it almost provides a sensory overload.

I do like the banners with the Disney "D," and I don't mind that the fabric is a different shade of blue from the castle rooftops.
For a lot of people, though, I'll imagine that this is totally their cup of tea. Certainly, it is whimsical and fanciful and quite a sight to behold.  There's nothing wrong about something looking fantastical.  It's just that, in this case, I happen to think it looks too fantastical, to the point of silliness.

I'm conflicted over the drapery, as it looks luxurious in concept but doesn't make much sense on a castle wall.
I'll let you be the judge, however.  Take a look at the rest of the photos, including various detail shots, and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Bedazzled Castle, Part 1

Those who have been paying attention to the Disneyland 60th Anniversary upgrades have probably noticed the recent transformation that has been occurring to Sleeping Beauty Castle.  When plans were first unveiled a few months ago, one of the changes featured a glittering, diamond encrusted castle.  At the time, I thought the rendering showed the castle in a subdued but elegant manner.  However, as the decorations have gone up, I think I've had to change my tune a little.

Now, this opinion is strictly mine, and I can't really make a full assessment because work isn't quite done yet.  But the physical execution has been much gaudier than I expected.  There are diamonds everywhere--appropriate because the 60th anniversary is the diamond anniversary--but to a scale that has become cartoonish. And rather than look elegant, Sleeping Beauty Castle sort of looks like someone decided to detonate the jewels section of an arts and crafts store.

So suffice to say, the look isn't quite for me.  And while there are some elements I like--the banners and some of the drapery is nice--there are others that seem a little too over the top--the castle toppers, actually, for one.  However, I've heard positive reviews from others as well, so certainly, this look seems like it will be hit and miss, depending on who one asks.  I imagine that this castle will be pretty splendid at night, when all the lighting effects are in effect, and the castle sparkles.  To that end, it's like the Winter Castle, which looks rather silly during the daytime but positively spectacular at night. 

Sleeping Beauty Castle from just a week and a half ago, receiving 60th Anniversary decorations.
Do you agree with me or disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Castle makeover!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Sun on Lanterns

I've written about this before, but there are many ways to bring visual image to a photograph.  There's the rule of thirds, the use of leading lines and altered perspective, and there's also manipulation of foreground, middleground, and background to create interest via visual layers.  The photo below is an example of the last method and even retains a bit of the second.  The lanterns hang in focus, illuminated by the golden rays of a setting sun, while bridge just beyond leads the eye toward the background.  That action takes the viewer back toward the middle, where the Riverbelle Terrace beyond finishes off the composition.  It's a bit of a optical journey, but I kind of like the way this photo turned out.  What do you think?

A focused view from Tarzan's Treehouse.

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