Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Town Square Holiday

The holiday season is a time of reflection and remembrance. As the year comes to a close, we look back at the events of the past twelve months. We revel in the triumphs and learn from the missteps, and we make resolutions for improvement and new goals in the upcoming year.  So take a moment from hectic pace of the holidays and relax and take pause.  Allow yourself to take in what you've accomplished throughout 2013.  Be they good or bad, they have shaped you and influenced you moving forward.  Hopefully, you can find yourself at peace with that.

Bidding adieu to Main Street at the end of a holiday evening.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Day the Sky Exploded

...with color, of course.

It was a couple of weekends ago, when I had stopped by the Disneyland Resort in hopes of finally being able to capture the spectacular skies of a brilliant sunset.  In typical un-Southern California-like fashion, the end of the days previous had been shimmering with fiery glow, and I knew that if I could capture this at one of the most picturesque places in the world, I could probably come up with something special.  Since it was wintertime, and the sun set in the southern sky, I went over to Paradise Pier to see what I could find.  And while the actual sunset itself wasn't necessarily noteworthy to any exaggerated extent, I think you'll agree that its transition to dusk more than delivered on the expectations!

The saturated afterglow of an epic sunset graces Paradise Pier!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Carsmas Glimpses

I haven't covered Christmas in Cars Land this year as much as last year... maybe because I posted so many photos last year, or maybe because this is the second year of the holiday ambiance, so the novelty factor is a little less.  But there's no denying the creative beauty around Radiator Springs during the holidays. The visual puns are absolutely fantastic, and at night, the cheerful glow seems even more magical.  It all makes for a fantastic environment in this corner of Disney California Adventure during the winter season!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas at Pacific Wharf

December has seen some pretty beautiful days here in Southern California. I suppose that's the appeal.  It can be the middle of winter, and yet we'll still have an 80-degree Christmas day (like we did just a few days ago).  That makes for great shooting days, even when the days are short.  Add to it the puffy clouds that seem to manifest during this time of year, and I'd argue that winters at Disneyland are an even better time to take photos!

The entrance to Pacific Wharf, simply adorned in Christmas trimmings.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Main Street Flower Market

Several weeks ago, something new popped up in Main Street.  It was a flower market, lushly sprinkled on the east side of Center Street, giving the area the friendly feeling of a newfound surprise--one with festive holiday trimmings!  This new feature recalls similar flower markets in Disneyland and Disney World in the past, but as far as I know or recall, there hasn't been something like this at Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom in decades.  But the appearance of the Main Street Flower Market is a welcome addition to an area already full of ambiance. It's absolutely lovely, and you'd be hard pressed to tell that the flowers weren't real!

Little features like this make Disneyland worth coming to over and over again.  This one was made without fanfare, and I think it's been a nice hit.  I hope we might get more of these little quiet places of beauty around other parts of Disneyland Park in the near future!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Trolley of the Season

I happened to capture a moment of bliss the other day, when I was taking in the holiday environment at Carthay Circle.  This encompassing everything I associate with Disney--that beautiful ambiance, bright and cheerful theming, and most importantly, the happiness that Disney inspires.  One can't help but just feel good amidst the beauty and energy of the parks. 

A smiling Red Car Trolley driver enjoying the happy season.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In the Spirit of Christmas

If you've felt a build-up in the photos I've been posting over the past week or so, then I've accomplished my goal of unveiling an emotional journey reflecting the spirit of the season.  I've highlighted it with this photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle, empty.  These clear, empty nighttime shots seem to be very popular in the Disney photo viewing community, probably because it takes a lot patience and work to attain them, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy them either, whether it be seeing what fantastic photographers like Tom Bricker at Disney Tourist Blog or Matthew Cooper at The Time The Space Photography churn out, or it be trying to emulate that luminous clarity myself.

The great thing about Disney photography is the warmth and magic it inspires in others who view it and the joy it gives the photographer to both accomplish a great shot and know that there are others who are getting joy in viewing those photos.  We Disney fans all love the parks to a high and probably unhealthy degree, but it's all in the best of intentions.  A hobby like this allows us to pass along those inspirations and emotions that we get from exploring the Happiest Place on Earth onto others.

What I guess I'm trying to say is that this blog is a dually fulfilling enterprise, because I derive satisfaction from both being able to create and share great photos of Disney parks as well as the positive feedback from you the viewer.  So I have a genuine sense of appreciation for that love of Disney that we collectively share, because it inspires connections and emotions that are in the spirit that Walt Disney sought to instill.  So enjoy a Merry Christmas, and may it be joyous and wonderful.  Happy Holidays!

The grace of a beautiful holiday night enshrines the Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Holiday Eve

It's wondrous, isn't it? That excitement and anticipation on Christmas Eve. At least that's the case when we are young.  Innocence still at heart, we eagerly await Santa Claus to slide down the chimney and deliver toys and goodies and our most desired playthings.  We go to bed unable to go to sleep, thinking only of what excitement the day will bring when we can open our presents.  It's magical, really, to be able to believe.

Of course, as we grow older, that innocence fades, but that's why I love Disneyland. It's a place where that childlike wonder can return, and scenes like the view below can inspire awe and excitement, and that glee that we felt for Christmas when we were young.

At the end of the night, there is peace, and the anticipation of the new day.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Glorious Paradise Christmas

Last week was a boon for amazing sunsets.  All week long, the skies were set afire by the setting sun casting its golden rays against dramatic clouds.  It seemed to start over the weekend, and I was fortunate enough to actually be at the Disneyland Resort for once to capture it. 

When it comes to capturing the skies with the setting sun, my favorite place to shoot in Disney California Adventure is Paradise Pier.  The wide open spaces and the waterfront and skyline make for excellent subjects to position against a dramatic sky.  You'll see more from this day next month when we return to non-holiday photos, but for now, here's a look at the fleeting light from the Paradise Pier Christmas tree.  These colors are not something we get a lot in Southern California, but when they happen, my goodness, what a majestic sight!

A fabulous sky unfurls at dusk at Paradise Pier!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Western Noel

I've done a few comparisons between shots I took last year and processed in HDR and similar angles I've shot this year, but in RAW. Well, here's another... a front overview of the stately Golden Horseshoe during Christmas, similar to a photo I took last year (and as it turns out, similarly titled--although I had named this post before checking what last year's version was called!).  What I've been able to get more this year is luminosity in the shadows, which is more to the style I've developed.  There's something I love about that smoothly lit shot that catches more detailing than maybe even the human eye notices at night.  It's also neat to see the skew in perspective from my full frame wide angle, which really emphasizes the architecture of the Horseshoe.  It just goes to show that even little adjustments can have noticeable effects on the composition!

The Golden Horseshoe draped in wreaths during the holiday season.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas at Carthay

Cozy Buena Vista Street takes a classical, old-fashioned, and more subdued approach to Christmas.  It feels more Normal Rockwell compared to Main Street's more vibrant cosmopolitan Christmas, and this makes sense, since BVS is more like a friendly neighborhood than a bustling town.  So at Carthay Circle, despite the grandeur of the Carthay Circle Restaurant and the towering Christmas tree, things still feel intimate.  Quite fitting for the most family-oriented of the seasons!

The Buena Vista Street Christmas tree, with Carthay Circle Restaurant in the background.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Snowcapped Perfect Night

Is there anything more warm and fuzzy than seeing that beautiful Sleeping Beauty Castle draped in a covering of twinkling, icy "snow" at the end of the night?  The castle stands elegantly, calling to you, and though you want to stay, you know you must leave.  But the magic of the scene is certainly spellbinding, so you linger for a few moments, drawing out the night as long as you can.  For Disneyland is hard enough to leave during the regular year. But Disneyland during the holidays? Well, that's magic that is nearly impossible to let go.

The Winter Castle glistens with Christmas magic!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ramone's House of Yuletide Art

If you inventory my photos of Cars Land, you'll notice that Ramone's has the least showings on this blog. Truth be told, I find Ramone's to be the least photogenic of all the Cars Land structures.  The symmetrical but unspectacular facade don't make for an ideal composition, and even the green and purple neon at the night are far from my preferred color combo.  It's just not my thing--and yes, that's definitely subjective.

But every once in a while, I'll find a perspective I like. So here, playing simply with changing the angle of the shot, I was able to snag a view that emphasizes the iconic tower signage at Ramone's House of Body Art.  Now if only the area wasn't also used as a huge stroller parking area...!

Ramone's House of Body Art also takes a subtler approach to Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Castle on a Winter's Eve

It may be the most photographed location in the entire park, but Sleeping Beauty Castle has always been a challenging subject to evenly shoot--at least for me.  It presents a particularly sharp challenge in having a bright top half and dim lower half at the same time, and the dim part is composed of cool colors, which don't always expose details properly when trying to compensate for the lighter roof areas.  This is exacerbated during the holidays when the castle takes its Winter Castle form, with bright, glowing twinkle lights that further trick the typical camera sensor into thinking that the scene is brighter than it really is.  So, if you want to get a nice shot of the castle in one take, you'll have to over-expose a little to capture the glistening "ice" on the castle, but not so much that the texture of the castle walls becomes washed out.  And of course, it always helps to shoot in RAW, so that more light information is processed, allowing for greater manipulation.  In the photo below, I was able to brush adjusted exposure levels over various parts of the composition as needed to even out the overall scene and make it more similar to what the human eye sees.  And to be honest, I think this is one of my better jobs.  Hope you like it too!

The Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle listens on a cool winter night.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Dapper DCA Christmas

Whenever I post a beautiful, calm, nighttime photograph from the park devoid of people, I almost inevitably get questions about how I was able to achieve the shot with no one in it, or how late it was, or if I have special privileges.  The answer pretty much every time is that I wait until it is late enough where people have left the frame.  It's typically a waiting game--stand there long enough (and sometimes, it is a long time!) and the scene is sure to clear up. But some places take longer than others. In the parks, I can always wait until park closing, then wait a little more, and if I'm patient, I'll be the last one standing.  But outside the parks, in the Esplanade, there is an almost inexplicably constant stream of traffic, even late at night.  There's always bound to be someone by a gate waiting for a friend, or a family strolling across, or a child running around to use up the last of his or her theme park day energy.  So unless I cheat and do and particularly long exposure, it's actually been somewhat challenging to have a purely empty DCA entrance gate shot.

Fortunately, in the photo below, I happened to be leaving Disneyland Park at 1:30 AM.  It was the latest I'd ever left the park during a normal operating day, and boy, did I finally have the right timing!  Especially considering that a couple of minutes after I took this shot, they actually shut down the show lights along Buena Vista Street for the evening rest of the early morning.  That's when I knew that I might have been at the Resort for too long--even for me!

The elegant serenity of the Disney California Adventure gates well after park closing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Carols Departing Daily

I find the Jingle Cruise to a be a cute, whimsical thing--a nice overlay but not a transformation, and a fun manner of incorporating Christmas into Adventureland. When it first started several weeks ago, the holiday decorations were confined to the loading dock building, with the ride in its normal appearance. But recently, it seems some of the jungle animals have taken on holiday attire of their own.  Still, my favorite part of this holiday theming is the festive manner the Jingle Cruise takes on at night.  Bits of color here and there, all in a cozy and warm spirit.  It might make for longer lines, but I think the Jingle Cruise is still swell.

All is aglow in holiday spirit at the Jingle Cruise!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Sleek V8-Ride

In Cars Land during Christmas time, Flo's V8 Cafe may not look much different, but look closer.  Behind the cool neon and sleek lines, there is definitely a bit of garland and tinsel, and even a Christmas tree around the corner.  But the iconic building structure is still the focus. It's a facade that is ever so photogenic, and every photo seems to be something that leapt off the Cars movie.  Flo's doesn't need much more during the holiday season, and it's sort of nice that the park decorators respect that!

Flo's is glowing with "Carsmas" grandeur!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Holiday Apartment

For devoted Disneyland fans, the Disneyland Fire Department holds a special place in their hearts.  Not necessarily because of the fire department space itself, but rather because of the space above it.  On the second floor, overlooking Town Square, is Walt's personal apartment.  Walt had it built as a part of Disneyland so that he could stay at the park to oversee operations and be more intimately involved with the park.  It provided a convenient place to stay after observing guests or interacting with park cast members.  As a tribute to his memory, the window from the apartment overlooking the park always has a candle that remains lit to represent his spirit.  But during the holiday season, there is a Christmas tree as well--a reflection of the season and another warm, nostalgic symbol of care.

A Christmas tree is lit up inside Walt's Apartment during the holidays.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mary Blair in Lights

As I've mentioned before, the bright and blazing facade of It's a Small World Holiday Edition is quite striking at night.  The vibrant, fully saturated colors painting that classic Mary Blair canvas are a visual overload, but in a nice, festive manner.  The little mini-shows and video projections that play every so often are pretty neat as well--a nice present to those waiting in line or just nearby, echoing the spirit of the season.  Season's greetings and sparkles from everyone!  That's the feeling I get whenever I'm here!

Standing in front of It's a Small World Holiday, all lit up.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Crescent City Christmas

Main Street is easily Disneyland's most decorated land during Christmas time, but I love the ambiance New Orleans Square reflects as well. In classic Crescent City fashion, everything is lively and jazzed up, full of color and vigor.  It's a holiday celebration, all right, and everyone loves a swingin' noel time.  Wandering the streets and seeing those French Quarter facades adorned with twinkle lights and ornaments and wreaths makes for a magical experience--one that I certainly don't grow tired of!

New Orleans Square offers a festive and colorful rendition of the winter holidays.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yuletide Partners

I love this view of the Partners Statue because it reflects Walt and Disney, looking on at the magical kingdom they have created.  Disneyland's rousing success over the decades has been built on the creative genius of Mr. Disney and the universal appeal of his most famous creation.  The gift that they've bestowed upon the world--that timeless love and belief in fantasy and magic--is especially fitting during the holiday season, when we all exchange presents reflecting our appreciation of each other.  I certainly appreciate the creations and legacy Walt has left behind.  It certainly is magnificent.

Walt and Mickey look down Main Street, lit and dressed in its Christmas finest.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jingle All Night

I really enjoy how the Jungle Cruise has been done up for Christmas. It's playful and charming and full of holiday fun.  It's not over the top (the jokes more than make up for that), but it works.  Now, the theming for the Jingle Cruise has mostly been confined to the queue area, but that's fine to me. It's an overlay, not a reimagining, and it's nice to see the holidays spreading to other lands at the Happiest Place on Earth!

The Jingle Cruise at night.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Slumbering Snowman

Over in Fantasyland, the newest iteration of the princess meet-and-greet involves the new Disney animated film, Frozen.  Here, guests can meet the Snow Queen, Elsa, and her sister, Anna--the main characters in the film.  Outside, thought, guests in line are salutated by Olaf, the magical snowman and comic relief from the movie. The animatronic is charming and jokish, as he is in the movie.  And after a long day of talking, it's time to take a restful nap. So that's just what Olaf does after hours.  He snoozes and snores, waking up only occasionally to announce, "Good night."  It's kind of cute, actually.

Olaf snoozes at night, after a full day of guest interaction.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Silent Night

It's never really silent at Disneyland, of course. But when I was editing this photo, I couldn't help but conjure up the old Christmas carol. The scene is so peaceful, so calm and serene, and everything just feels perfect.  That's the magic that Disney possesses--a magic that few can match.  It's no wonder that Christmas time is the favorite time for many people to visit the Disneyland Resort.  Especially once night falls, that holiday good will practically glows. And I love it!

Peaceful Main Street is a breath-taking sight during the holidays.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Courthouse Cheer

Cars Land is full of yuletide cheer, but it all culminates at the Courthouse, where the statue of town founder Stanley has been altered to include an inviting Santa hat and a caboose full of toys and goodies for all the good cars and vans.  Air filter wreathes, hub cab ornaments, and stylish ribbons adorn the Courthouse behind and the tree beside.  It's a cute Christmas scene, full of whimsical fun... and can you really resist Stanley's holiday charm?

Santa Stanley holds lots of treats for Radiator Springs!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Since 1995, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has delighted Walt Disney World guests who really love an overwhelming abundance of colorful, sparkling, moving Christmas light displays.  Originally started in the 1980s in Arkansas by Jennings Osborne to satisfy a simple request by his daughter, the display grew grander and grander with each year, until it attracted national media attention and intense tourism.  This brought with it increased traffic and, expectedly, complaints by neighbors annoyed by all the extra time-consuming attention, and eventually, the display was shut down.  However, all the hoopla attracted the attention of Disney Imagineers, who proposed moving it to Hollywood Studios (then Disney's MGM Studios).  The relocated attraction was an instant hit, and every year, guests gather and revel at the incredible amount of lit displays.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Twilight

A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around the parks (as I'm opt to do), when I caught sight of the rising moon coming up from the east.  The luminance it brought to the clouds in front of it was striking, and I noticed that with the Buena Vista Street Christmas tree in front, there was quite a unique saturation of cool color.  The result made for a moody shot during "blue hour," and I think an interesting composition.

The Buena Vista Street Christmas tree aglow during twilight, with the moon behind it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Florida Main Street Christmas

It was about four years ago this time that I took my first and only trip to Walt Disney World.  At that time, my photographic standards weren't quite as scrutinizing as they are now, but I did find a few photos that I felt were nice enough to share.  Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom was certainly grand and magnificent and ornate enough on its own, but with a Christmas overlay, it looked even more magical.  While Disneyland's Main Street is cozy and familiar, Main Street in Florida has a Victorian grandeur that befits the larger scale Disney World.  Both are fantastic in their own ways.  But walking down the Magic Kingdom Main Street for the first time definitely left me giddy with a childlike excitement. I suppose that's the Disney magic in effect.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Merry Main Street Magic

Main Street. Quiet at the end of the night. Strung up in garland and twinkle lights. Emanating with Christmas spirit and holiday sparkle.  All is calm, and most certainly bright, and it's a warm, romantic, and beautiful sight.  That is the allure of the Happiest Place on Earth during the winter festive season.  Such beauty and charm emanate throughout the park, but perhaps nowhere more strongly than in Walt Disney's first themed land.  It's the avenue guests enter at the beginning of the day and the final view they take in at night, and it's a special feeling to see such wonderful ambiance!

Main Street after hours during the holidays.

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