Saturday, November 30, 2013

Get Your Gifts on Route 66

Cars Land is DCA's most overtly dressed land when it comes to the holidays. Full of twinkling neon and colors and whimsical auto-derived displays of holiday decorations, this physical manifestation of Radiator Springs bursts forth with holiday cheer and saturation.  Everywhere you go, there's a creatively constructed Christmas tree, or festive garland, or shimmering twinkle lights.  It's most certainly a fun and lovely place to be!

Route 66 sure is festive during Christmas time!

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Holiday Pier-adise

Last year, I posted a very similar photo of this scene of the holidays at Paradise Pier. That was an HDR photo generated from multiple exposures.  I find it interesting to look back at the techniques I used a year ago to achieve what's basically the same intent as what I accomplish through simply shooting in RAW these days--that is, a crisp, clear, evenly blacked photo that exposes detail in both highlights and shadows. 

It showcases the advancements in digital camera technology over the past five years, since that shot was also taken on my older Nikon D300, while this one below is from my new Nikon D600.  The difference (besides a bit of white balance adjustments, and the angle of the shot): last year's photo took much longer to edit, since I had to tone map and adjust in Photomatix, then import the final processed photo plus the various exposure layers into Photoshop and further mask parts of the image to get an even exposure.  Below?  Much more quickly done thanks to the power of Adobe Camera Raw.

There really wasn't a thematic point to this post, other than to muse about the differences in two pictures taken a year apart.

Paradise Pier's offering to Christmas is elegant and stately.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Meandering Magnificence

On this Thanksgiving, it's customary to reflect and give thanks to the blessings in our lives.  In my case, I'm certainly thankful the opportunity to be able to visit the Disneyland Resort regularly and capture the wonder and beauty that is Walt Disney's original theme park creation.  And just as Walt asserted, with the continuation of imagination, the resort has evolved from one park to two, and many expansions and improvements along the way. The latest, of course, is Cars Land--a shining example of world class Disney quality.  To be able to stroll through such beauty is definitely a blessing and something I don't take for granted.  It really doesn't get old, and I hope it never does. 

So happy Thanksgiving to all my readers, and give thanks. The holiday season is among us, so let us all appreciate and be grateful for what we have.

Coasting along the monumental Ornament Valley is an experience full of grandeur!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mickey's Chroma Wheel

When the old Sun Wheel attraction at Paradise Pier was transformed into Mickey's Fun Wheel, part of the upgrades included a beautiful lighting package that enables the ride to display a variety of patterns and lighting sequences--including some that are used during the World of Color show.  This also means that the Fun Wheel is, well, a fun subject of long exposure photographs at night!  Just leave the shutter open, and the resulting patterns can be very interesting. I'll certainly be back to take more photos of this photogenic attraction!

A long exposure of the Fun Wheel at night creates some festive light patterns.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

That Secluded Sea

As an all-inclusive resort in Hawaii, Aulani has--surprise surprise--its own private beach for guests to enjoy.  It's a beautiful setting, with palm trees and blue skies and a blazing golden sun that paints the epitome of paradise.  The beach rings around a bay that keeps the waters calm and serene, which also makes this a nice family friendly spot and a beautiful alternative to those who are tired of the pool... or the lazy river.  What a place, eh?

Aulani's private beach is set in a gorgeous and peaceful bay.
It's a nice escape from reality, which is what Disney properties are all about!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Jingle Cruise

So Disney's done something cute in Adventureland for the holidays this year. In an area that has traditionally been devoid of holiday decorations, the Imagineers have conjured up a whimsical overlay for the Jungle Cruise. Dubbled the "Jingle Cruise," this facade focuses on the idea of the Jungle Cruise Skippers deciding to bring some Christmas spirit to their outpost.  As a result, the queue has been decorated in noel garlands and colorful lights and presents to be shipped to faraway places.  On the ride itself, the spiel has been augmented with Christmas-themed jokes.  No decorations on the actual ride, but that's fine. This is just about having a little bit of fun anyway. Jungle bells, indeed!

The Jungle Cruise has been "Christmas-fied" for the holidays.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Majestic Ornament Valley

A lot of people ask me on Instagram, "How in the world do you get those empty photo pics? That's amazing!!" Well, my answer is simple: I wait. I wait until the park closes, then I wait some more for the guests to clear out. Then I take my shot. 

But there is a cheat to this, and it's demonstrated in the photo below. Rather than wait for everyone to leave, you can do a long exposure that is of sufficient length that people passing through the frame won't really register on the sensor, and thus won't really appear on the photo.  Now, it's not perfect, of course. If someone lingers just a bit too long, he or she will be ghosted on the image. And if someone walks through with something lit--well, that'll register on the camera sensor no matter what (unless you have an exceptionally long exposure, which can only be made with the help of a neutral density filter to lower the amount of light passing through).

In this photo, I had the shutter open for 30 seconds.  My ISO was at 100--the lowest setting, and I also had a pretty high f/stop of f/16 to make everything sharp and increase my depth of field.  The photo was taken at 7:30 in the evening, well within operating hours, but it looks largely empty--except for those clues that sharp eyes can discern!

Stillness in Cars Land--interrupted by the long exposure of a guest walking by with a flashy toy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Whirl Around the Bay

So a couple of weeks ago, I did a nighttime run through Disney California Adventure that included some fun with long exposure shots, such as this photo of the Golden Zephyr.  In that post, I explained a bit of the technical aspects of composing the shot.  In the photo below, the same settings apply.  As it turned out, I hit upon a sweet spot with my settings.  Of course, there's always post processing involved. Shooting in RAW format, I had to open this in Adobe Photoshop (my program of choice, though Lightroom and Aperture are great alternatives, as are some of the non-proprietary software out there) and make adjustments.  I opted for more of a purple-blue tint here, but I like the effect it creates, especially contrasted with the warm yellows of the Golden Zephyr lights. I hope you do too!

The Golden Zephyr spins brightly at night.

Friday, November 22, 2013

More Poolside Paradise

I'll keep this one short and sweet. Disney's Aulani is gorgeous, and the presence of water is everywhere.  Blue skies, verdant palms, and guests gleefully enjoying a dip... it all makes for a Hawaiian dream come true of a vacation.  Just hanging around the pool, I definitely felt a calm, happy serenity.  What a marvelous place to be!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nighttime at the Grotto

Paradise Pier has had several identities over the years, but I like the current concept of an elegant, seaside Victorian amusement park the best. There's a nice refinement present throughout the entire land.  At Ariel's Grotto, the refinement is a little more fantastical than realistic, but it still makes for a fun ambiance.  At night, the glowing bulbs that line the sinewy curves of the building rooftops harken back to a romanticized version of those old turn of the 20th century amusement gardens, full of charm and wonder.  It's fun to just take in, don't you agree?

Ariel's Grotto glows with a whimsical fancy at night.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

La Brea Bakery

Although it has--in my opinion--been eclipsed by other sandwich shops in the same local (Earl of Sandwich, to be specific), the La Brea Bakery is still a nice place to grab sandwiches, salads, and soups.  Last year, this restaurant was even expanded to allow for more indoor seating and the division of a quick serve area from the main sit-down dining.  It's a nice place, quiet despite being at the end of Downtown Disney, next to the Esplanade, and it's been a mainstay at this shopping and dining district ever since it opened way back in 2001.

The La Brea Bakery has closed for the night. The baking will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ready to Rock 'n' Roll

The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is one of the fastest attractions on the Walt Disney World resort property.  Hitting a top speed of nearly 60 MPH, this launched roller coaster sends riders spinning through a bevvy of loops, corkscrews, and inline rolls, all fueled by the wailing soundtrack of one of rock's classic bands.  When I rode this four years ago, I found it to be a thrilling and fun ride--intense by Disney standards, but not bad compared to the average roller coaster.  It's nice that Disney World has the option of something more extreme, though, for those seeking it.

Riders await the launch on the Aerosmith-themed Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Soon, linear induction motors will propel the train from 0 to 57 MPH in 2.8 seconds.

There it goes!!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Winter Dreams of Color

Last Thursday marked the premiere of the new World of Color - Winter Dreams show at Disney California Adventure, a completely brand new version of World of Color created just for the holiday season!  Not able to make it for the debut, I went the second night to see this wonderful new nighttime spectacular. Below are some of the many photos I shot from the show.  It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but the Disney Imagineers are definitely encouraging people to get into the Christmas spirit!

For even more photos of the show, check out today's update from friend-of-the-blog Westcoaster!

Before the show officially begins, there is a rendition of a new song, "Glow," performed by online users from around the world, a "Virtual Honor Choir."
And now, Walt Disney presents... The Wonderful World of Color--Christmas Style!

There is, of course, color.

And an early montage of various Disney films and productions.

The show is hosted by Olaf, the snowman from Disney's upcoming film, Frozen.

He guides the audience through various Christmas experiences.

Disney marketing being what it is, a scene from Frozen is a part of the show--an ethereal performance of "Let It Go," performed by Idina Menzel. Her voice never fails to give me chills--pun intended--in a good way.

The colorful fountains are, of course, the stars of the show.

The show progresses to Christmas as celebrated around the world.

This segment features animation in the Mary Blair 'It's a Small World' style of animation. Pretty neat!

There is no fire in this show, but plenty of fiery-looking lighting.

The Toy Story toys then perform their version of The Nutcracker.

First up are Jessie and Woody.

They jangle a square dance version of Trepak Dance.
My favorite part involves the Little Green Men doing their version of the Sugarplum Fairy.

Olaf then muses about what it'd be like to be able to exist during the summer.

More fountains!

Then Olaf leads a sing-along for the audience, touching upon "Jingle Bells," "Dreidel Song," and "Feliz Navidad."
It call culminates in a splash of color!

And, in a beautiful surprise, hundreds of light installed on California Screamin' perform a kaleidoscope of color.

It's definitely very cool!

The lamps in Paradise Park also join the in color show.

Happy Holidays!

Afterward, there is a post-show rendition of "Glow" with the Virtual Honor Choir as well.

They are not seen this time, but the fountains do their illustrious chromatic dance.

All in all, a fun and touching show that's perfect for the holiday season!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Approach

As I mentioned in a previous post, the approach to Disney's Aulani is not just a walk up to the porte cochere.  It's a build-up of various senses.  Visually, of course, those grand hotel towers soar high above the trees, beckoning explorers to come closer. The lush vegetation is exactly what you'd expect from paradise, but more subtle are the rhythmic drum beats of an adventurous island harmony.  The scents of the tropical flowers along the way paint an idyllic perfume of paradise, and as the lobby nears, the music grows louder and louder, urging guests on, welcoming them in.  This isn't overt if you're in a rush to get in, but taking some time to soak in the atmosphere will definitely yield a chance to experience this wonderful programmed entry!

The approach to the entrance of Aulani is a multi-sensory build-up of visual and musical anticipation.

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