Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Setting in Golden Space

At the beginning of last month, I posted a photo edited in a different style from my usual crisp, clear, hyper-real style.  It was simpler and more focused on contrast, light, and shadow.  The silhouetted sunset along the Rivers of America was a fun exercise in doing less in a photo. 

Well, a week ago, I was walking along Tomorrowland, when I gazed westward toward the hub and noticed the setting sun casting everything in front of it into a bold silhouette, darkly superimposed upon a luminous and golden sky.  I happened to have my telephoto lens, and I knew that I had to snap a zoomed in detail of this composition.  It's merely a glimpse, but it conveys the beauty of the whole afternoon. 

The Astro Orbiter stands silhouetted against the warm afternoon sun.
What do you think about pictures like these?  Do you like them and think I should do more, or should I stick with my main style?  Feel free to make your voice known in the Comments below!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Rainy Hollywood Evening

This isn't the most technically crisp shot, but I'll ask you to give me a break, since it was taken on Friday night when it was still raining at a pretty good clip.  With a bit of wind, it was a foregone conclusion that some of that water would catch onto the lens and leave some splotches.  But it was kind of cool being pretty much all alone in Hollywood Land, photographing what I pleased.  On this night, despite being after hours, there was no security to chase me out--perhaps because they hardly desired to stand out in the rain either.  But I slowly swept myself out, moving from land to land and snapping up views that I thought looked cool.

In this case, the rain-streaked streets of Hollywood seemed as good of a shot as any, calling to heart the Hollywood of film's golden era, on a cold, rainy night, the type that might start a good detective thriller.  In any case, it was a sight I've never been able to capture.

The streets of DCA's Hollywood Blvd, lined with rain.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vista del Cielo

Frontierland may predominantly be known for its wild west cowboy theming and atmosphere, but there's also a nice little corner that channels the Old West and its Spanish influences. Situated between the shooting gallery and Big Thunder Mountain, Rancho del Zocalo is a dining establishment specializing in Mexican cuisine.  The building itself, though, evokes that Spanish adobe style, with courtyards and fountains and a very earthy architecture reminiscent of the original California pioneers.  The restaurant has many wonderful little moments, and one of them happens just outside its direct entrance.  Just a charming little view of the sky as a ceiling.

Looking up at the roofs at the Rancho del Zocalo.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Beautiful and Sunny Fantasy

So this photo isn't the usual "empty shot" wide angle I usually post, but I really like it nonetheless.  During the daytime, it's understandably difficult, if not impossible, to take a photo with nobody in it--unless you're at the park before operating hours.  So you do the best you can--at least I do.

In this case, however, I waited for the foreground to clear and snapped a shot that still had lots of people in it, and as I later edited the photo, I found myself really attracted to the quality of light, the vibrance of color, and the feeling of energy and enjoyment that echoed from this scene.  It reminded me of my childhood days at Disneyland--often spent in Fantasyland--and the beautiful afternoon strolls I'd have with my parents as they took me from dark ride to dark ride.  The ambiance in this photo really triggered a yearning sense of nostalgia within me.  I felt that Disney magic I felt when I was a child. And though this composition may not be spectacular in the usual sense, it really holds a special place in my heart.

Fantasyland bustles with tremendous activity!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pacific Wharf in Glow

Just a few hours ago, I got back home after photographing the Disneyland Resort in the rain for the first time ever.  Although the rain is generally a nuisance I avoid, rainy day (and especially rainy evening) photographs are usually pretty special, because of the sleek reflections and unique interplay of light that they offer.  And although the night grew more and more stormy--and thus more and more challenging to photograph--the initial stages of the rain were certainly manageable, and the wet ground did indeed provide a wonderful backdrop for the glimmering lights!

The rain-slicked cobblestones of the Pacific Wharf area.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Towering Above the Treeline

There was once a time when I could never seem to photograph the Tower of Terror at night in a way with which I was happy.  Whether I used HDR or single shots, I struggled to properly capture the light balance, exposure, and colors of this macabre architecture after the sun had set.  Mostly, it was because the blue and purples were too blown out, or the pictures were too saturated, or too dark.  Well, eventually, I learned that shooting in RAW, with the camera on a tripod, at a low, baseline ISO, and a long exposure, preferably using the superior sensor of a full frame camera, all contributed to solving my dilemma.  Was it an expensive solution? Yes.  And can the same photo be achieved without the full frame?  Well, now that I've played around with picture taking, I'd say the answer is also yes.  So good news for the rest of you.  But then again, good photography technically is figuring out the right combinations for the exposure!

The Tower of Terror looms above the trees, as it does.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Alpen Rocks

Sometimes, I take little detail shots without a clear vision of what I want, but the result ends up being interesting in some manner anyway, even if I can't quite pinpoint how.  This is an example... a close-up of the side of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, with a glimpse into the mysterious caverns within.  I was originally trying to focus on the bridge in the middle of the shot, which was redone during the ride's extended refurbishment a couple of years ago.  Alas, I couldn't quite get the angle and instead tried to come up with a visual texture shot.  Is it good?  I'm honestly not quite sure. So I'll let you decide.

A detail on the Matterhorn.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Victorian Boardwalk

Whenever I'm strolling around Paradise Pier, I wonder what it must have been like to have experienced those classic Victorian seaside theme parks of the turn of the last century, with those bright, twinkling lights, screams of fun and excitement, and elegantly dressed patrons, strolling along the ocean.  It was certainly a different era back then.  Wooden roller coasters were marking their first heyday, and a trip to the beach was a more formal affair.  Though I'm sure it's not quite as romantic as I imagine it, I still think it would have been wonderful and memorable experience.  Alas, we'll have to make do today with recreations like Paradise Pier!

Looking forward past the entrance of Paradise Pier.

Ariel's Grotto stands shimmering at night.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gateway to Adventure II

Today's post is simple.  It's another after hours shot, with the gateway to adventure on exhibit.  When Adventureland first opened, the Jungle Cruise was about the only attraction there, and the trees and foliage hadn't yet grown into the tall, lush vegetation that they are today--the kind that transports guests out into the heart of the jungle wilderness.  But today, it certainly does feel like a jungle in there--sometimes because the crowds are so clustered--but mostly because the theming has grown to be so immerssive and atmospheric.

This is also the only time you'll ever see the Dole Whip stand have no line--after it's closed!

Entering Adventureland when it's time to exit.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rocky Red Majesty

Here's another nerdy commentary about the interesting play on perspective you can attain in photography through the use of different lenses, even if the scene is the same. 

Our subject: the grand archway that frames the most spectacular entrance into Cars Land.  I've posted photos before showing its wide, sweeping beauty before, but there's another view I like as well, shot from afar, bringing framing the background closely through the opening, making the monumental rocks seem even larger and more towering.  Through this focused perspective, the background seems even more realistic.  It's all pretty wonderful, and reason #48,291 why Cars Land never stops being photogenic for me!

Ornament Valley is compressed in perspective, which makes it seem even more sprawling beyond.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Golden Hour at the Inn

Known for its wonderfully delicious fried chicken dinners, the Plaza Inn is also a lovely building in its own right. This charming Victorian cornerstone at the end of Main Street is a lovely restaurant that has anchored its location since the day the park opened. Formerly called the Red Wagon Inn, it was the first fine dining establishment and Walt's favorite restaurant when he roamed the park.  The menu back then was more diverse than it is today, and it boasted full sit-down service, akin to the Blue Bayou or Cafe Orleans today.  These days, it's more of a quick serve, but the classic ambiance still pervades, and the food is still delicious!

The Plaza Inn under the afternoon sunlight.
You can read more about the old Red Wagon Inn here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Carthay Tower... at Night

The cupola at the top of the tower of the Carthay Circle Restaurant is a most iconic feature, and quite photogenic too. A few weeks ago, I posted a daytime version of this, so I feel it's appropriate to do a nighttime versiion as well, to complement it.

What I love about the tower is how it is both clean and ornate at the same time, with stylish lines and colorful accents.  It provides an elegant and unmistakable presence to DCA's skyline.  Most undoubtedly, it is nicer than the old metal sun sculpture that occupied this space before, and it's got a wonderful restaurant and classy bar inside to boot!

A fun fact... though it looks assembled together, the cupola is actually one piece, installed onto the tower almost like a cap piece.  A couple of years ago, Disney Parks released a video showing the process, and it's nice to take a look back, now that Buena Vista Street has been around for a couple of years.  Neat, huh?

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Ghostly Balloon

On the night I was taking this shot, I was all set up to snap my photo, when I noticed a lone balloon, tied to the railing, floating in the air, the lone obstruction in my otherwise clean and clear shot of the Haunted Mansion.  At first, I thought of what I could do to hide it, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might actually be humorous to feature this souvenir as the lone subject in an otherwise surreal scene from Disneyland's most macabre property.  And so, I let the balloon simply waft in the almost-still air.  I let the exposure run for half a minute, capturing as much detail as I could from an ordinarily dark scene.  And when I was done, there was the balloon in the middle of the shit, drifting just ever so lazily so, almost like it was a hovering spirit itself. 

At least that's the story I'd like to think this photo tells. What do you think?

Gazing up the steps toward the Haunted Mansion.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Another Afternoon by the Fountain

Man has always been attracted to being near water. Perhaps it's that innate psychological association between water and life and benefit, but people have always flocked to beaches, riverfronts, and lakes. And on a smaller scale, to pools, fountains, and water features.  Not only are they often beautiful, they are actually cooler and more physically pleasant to be around.  So it makes a lot of sense to make the focal point of Disney California Adventure's revised entry place a fountain.  The Carthay Circle Fountain is a beautiful homage to the art deco, with sleek lines and cool colors, and it's a popular waiting spot or relaxation bar.  On a beautiful day, it's certainly a lovely experience to just sit by the water and take in the sights!

Golden afternoons at Carthay Fountain are bliss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From 1900 to Space

I've always thought that the view from the head of The Hub over toward Space Mountain was an interesting juxtaposition between the turn-of-the-century Victorian charm of Main Street U.S.A. and the futuristic sleek lines of Tomorrowland.  There's such a contrast in styles, and Space Mountain seems to loom unnaturally large over the Plaza Inn.  This contradicts the basic theming philosophy of keeping each land contained and feathering transitions to prevent any jarring overlay of themes, but that's just what happens here due to viewlines.  On the other hand, this scene has been like this for so many years that everyone's just used to it. And indeed, even though it doesn't make technical sense, I actually like the way these two structure interact with each other, visually.  It just makes for an eye-catching scene!

Space Mountain looms over the Plaza Inn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Explosive Finale


The following post contains photos from the redesigned final lift hill on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you do not wish to know what the new effects look like, then read no further and do not scroll down to the photos!


Are you sure now?

Last chance... I want to make sure you read the warning in the second paragraph.

Okay, here we go...

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has been open for a month now, and I think enough time has passed to be able to shed some light on the one new redesigned aspect of the ride experience.  Of course, the track has been completely replaced and is now buttery smooth, and the town of Rainbow Ridge (formerly named Big Thunder) has been rebuilt and given a fresh coat of paint, and all the theming elements and animatronics have a new gleam to them from their refurbishment.  But there has been one wholly different part of the ride, and it occurs at the third and final lift hill of this thrilling mine train roller coaster.

Previously, riders coming into the final lift hill ascended a crickety track with boulders shaking awkwardly, simulating an earthquake, with a silhouetted projection of falling rocks (or mostly rubble) reinforcing the instability of the cave.  However, in the new and improved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, riders find themselves in a blasting zone gone wrong.  3D mapping projections trace dynamite trails along the rocks, as explosives shoot forth from each side in a billowing discharge of smoke and "fire."  This culminates with a charge directly above riders' heads at the apex of the hill going off right into their faces!  The effect is achived with a combination of ejected fog, projections, and lighting, but it's quite impressive, and rather realistic! The first time I rode, I was blown away (pun intended)!

Here are a few photos showing how the effects go.

Climbing up the final lift hill.

Though I wasn't able to capture them in this series, there are explosions that rocket from both sides overhead.

And then the grand finale...

A big KABOOM...

Right at the riders! It's quite spectacular.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stars Over the Castle

If you follow this blog regularly, then you know I'm a fan of the hyper-real, luminously exposed, crisp and clear style of nighttime Disney park photography. I think it's a very cool way to view the park, through an aperture that is more sensitive than human eyes can perceive.  For example, in the photo below, upon enlargement, the stars start to come forth in the sky.  That's something that doesn't really happen in light-polluted Southern California, but in photographic form, after a long exposure, a bit of interstellar magic reveals itself.  And what better setting than at the most magical resort there is!

The stars shine bright over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

More Whirling Zephyr

I've posted similar shots of the Golden Zephyr flying around at night before, but I love the long exposure light trails so much that I thought I'd post some more. After all, on that night, I took lots and lots of photos, each at least a little different from the last, and I think they form a cool series of captures of this fun little ride on the edge of Paradise Bay!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Across Radiator Springs

Most shots I've taken of Radiator Springs center down the main drag into town, but a couple of months ago, I found myself staring down Cross Street and finding myself enjoying the view down this perpendicular route to the view most people imagine at Cars Land.  The blinking traffic light (every third blink being longer) hangs out right in center, and the grandeur of Ornament Valley beyond gave this composition a nice layering that seemed different from a lot of Cars Lands views I've seen.

Looking down Cross Street toward Ornament Valley.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Pyrotechnic Wonderland (part 3)

Another Friday, another batch of fireworks photos.  This was taken from my meet-up with fellow Disneyland fan photographers last month.  In this batch, my primary struggle was getting the dark foreground to expose more evenly without overlighting the fireworks of the background--without using multiple shots.  My editing process ultimately decided to sacrifice detail in the shadows in favor of establishing clarity in the fireworks. I'm not sure if this is my preferred look or not, but this sort of playing around is part of how I'll discover my style of fireworks photography.

Hope you enjoy!

A patriotic start to Remember... Dreams Come True illuminates the air.

Look not into the eyes of the idol, during the Indiana Jones segment!

Wispy strings of light streak across the sky.

Fun explosions kick off the Fantasyland portion of the show.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunset at the Treetops III

My continuing series of sunset photographs taken from one of my favorite perches at Disneyland continues with a dramatic descent of the afternoon, lighting up the west side of Disneyland with a magical golden glow.  On this day, wispy clouds helped shine the skies with a soft and dulcet lumination.  The resulting framed view was rather breathtaking.

Another blissful sunset from above the trees at Tarzan's Treehouse.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Guarding the Tower

For years, I've struggled to take a really striking photo of the Tower of Terror at night. But as it turns out, I merely need to wait until after the park closes, set my camera on a tripod, and take a long exposure photo on narrow aperture.  Although there isn't much movement to hint that this is a long exposure, the photo below had the shutter open for 30 seconds.  With that in mind, it's actually pretty impressive how still the security guard remained for most of that shot!  For the rest of the final product, I turned to editing in Adobe Camera Raw to edit the RAW format in which I shot the photo. Cooling the color temperature and amping up the cool blues and violets helped chill the ambiance, and I'm pretty pleased with the end result.  And now that you know my workflow for this photograph, you can go and give your shot at it!

A lone watchman stands guard by the Tower of Terror.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What a Catch!

Although Disney California Adventure has seen a lot of change in its 13 years of existence (including droping the 's), one area that's remained pretty much the same is the Pacific Wharf entry area.  Though a distant mountainscape now looms in the background, the waterfront is largely identical to opening day.  The "Record Catch" photo spot still stands, full of fish and all, and the Pacific Wharf Cafe remains a popular dining spot, especially for lovers of bread bowls.  On a beautiful day, this ride-less land--the only such land in the entire park--is a wondeful place to just take in the sun and enjoy a great, relaxing atmosphere!

A popular photo spot at Pacific Wharf.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Welcome Back, Foolish Mortals

The first ever photo posted on this blog of the Haunted Mansion featured basically the same title.  That was taken back in my HDR-dabbling days, though. These days, I'm getting much crisper results with less processing time, simply by taking photos in RAW using a full frame camera.  I've discovered that the secret (or maybe *a* secret) to really nice looking night shots is to:
  1. Set your ISO to the base level, usually at 100
  2. Narrow your aperture--at least down to f/8, and perhaps even longer
  3. Let your shutter stay open nice and long to get the proper exposure at a greater depth of field from the aperture setting
Oh, and of course, use a tripod.  Because it's impossible to freehand a photo crisply for that long.  The results have been encouraging.  These long exposures (30 seconds in the case below) bring out color and depth that I can't even see in person with human eyes.  But they make for a really cool composition.  Looking at the photo below, one might almost not even mind being the 1000th happy haunt. After all, there's plenty of room...

Enter the house of 999 happy haunts!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Willy's Falls

Taking pictures of Cars Land doesn't get old, but taking pictures of Firewall Falls during the nighttime really doesn't get old. The splendor of the purple and magenta hues juxtaposed against the orange rockwork is pretty magnificent, and the general grandeur of the scene is quite majestic.  Those red rocks echo the geology of the Southwest, and the arid scene echoes with its own beauty.

Firewall Falls, behind Willy's Butte

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Main Street Florals

Spring time is a time of reawakening and a return to liveliness, and that is reflected in the foliage that pops up during this season.  Flowers of all sorts of colors and shapes bloom forth, creating a sunny and beautiful parkscape within this town-themed locale.  It is absolutely lovely to witness this wonderful display of revitalization!

Flowers in front of the Disneyland Railroad.

Beautiful petals of gold and maroon and fuschia adorn Town Square.

The Partners Statue is wrapped by warm florals.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Pyrotechnic Wonderland (part 2)

As I mentioned last week, I recently met up with a group of fellow Disney park fan photographers to shoot the Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks show.  The purpose of this group is to teach other tips on how to improve in photography, and I certainly got some good tips to improve in an area that I've traditionally excelled less in.  But it's still a work in progress. During the editing process, I've found it challenging to balance a desire to provide a more uniform exposure of the ambient scene with making sure the fireworks are still captured crisply and not too brightly.  Here are some more photos from the shoot.  Hope you enjoy them!

A flood of red pyrotechnics cast this scene in a rosy hue.

The Haunted Mansion features fireworks "in the round."

I love the streaming ground-launched comet fireworks. They're very photogenic.

And the Pirates scene is one of the coolest fireworks sequences I've ever witnessed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Carthay Tower

There's something so simple and elegant about the clean top of the Carthay Circle Restaurant building.  The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture produces crisp lines and accented ornamentation that is not overly rich or busy in appearance, and when I see this structure peak out over the trees, I can't help but be impressed by the impact it makes to DCA's skyline!

The Carthay Circle Restaurant spire above the trees.
P.S. Sorry about color balance of this photo being more reddish than it should. I've noticed recently that Blogger seems to have been uploading some photos in a manner that seemingly manipulates them to become different than they appear on my computer. Usually this makes things look lighter than they should or generates hazes where none show up while I'm editing the photos, but I can't tell if it's my computer browser or something more global.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Remnants of a Natural Wonderland

This shot isn't of anything spectacular. Instead, it's more a study in long exposure and the effects that might appear as a result.  The photo is taken from the bridge next to the final turnaround of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it looks to opposite way, toward the Rivers of America (beyond), to an old tunnel that used to all be a part of the Mine Train to Nature's Wonderland attraction that stood in this location before Big Thunder Mountain replaced it.  The previous attraction was a sprawling sojourn through enchanting spectacles in a fantasy Old West world, and to this day, signs of this past life still exist.  The image below shows some of that.

Looking across the bridge from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Inspecting Treasure

It's been a while since I've featured some photos from inside Pirates of the Caribbean, so here are a couple below. 

The funny thing about the original Pirates attraction is that it is chronologically backwards, and yet I never really put two and two together until I road the Disneyland Paris version, which begins with swashbucklers in action raiding a ship, pillaging a village, and celebrating their merrily wicked ways before ending with their remains and their treasure.  That certainly makes more sense--the inevitable fate to all no matter how rich and materialistic their lives are.  But at Disneyland, this is done in reverse.  It's a flash-forward before the action happens.  Regardless, I still love the attraction, and given its popularity since the day it opened, back in 1967, so do the masses!

An undead pirate takes a magnified eye to his gold.

And another simply admires all of his riches.

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