Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rainy Radiator Springs

Four months ago, when I was at the Disneyland Resort during a rain storm, I knew that I wanted this shot.  The main drag of Cars Land's Radiator Springs is already stunning and saturated at night, but with reflections on the ground, I knew that the scene could be even more spectacular.  The trick would be capturing the luminosity without going overboard exposing the neon, so like last week's post, I had to resort to some manual HDR to combine the most detailed parts of two exposures and replicate something closer to what the human eye would perceive when actually there.  Although I've been not completely satisfied with some of my Cars Land neon shots before, this ended up being a manipulated exposure that I'm largely happy with.  And hopefully, it pulls you into the scene to bring the same uplifting feeling I had when I was there photographing it!

Radiator Springs really glows in the rain!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Main Street Matterhorn

I have to give credit to my friend, Jake, for this angle.  Although I've probably gazed through this angle many times before, I never really registered the juxtapositions of the icons of different lands until I saw a photo he posted earlier this year (or perhaps it was last year).  So when I entered Disneyland Park during the late afternoon last month and saw the golden light cast upon Main Street and the Matterhorn, I spent several moments trying to get the right position and perspective.  I had to compress the view with a telephoto lens, but ultimately, it's the comparison that I find intriguing.  It makes no sense to see the Matterhorn from smalltown America, and it really isn't apparent except from one angle.  But this is the angle, and I think it's interesting.

The Matterhorn looms in the distance, far beyond Main Street.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Water-Washed Wharf

The magnificent glows and reflections of a rain-slickened night can be truly fantastic.  The ground gets this luminous tone that a completely dry surface just can't capture, and a raining evening scene is just so inherently peaceful and relaxing.  Everything slows down, and the atmosphere induces a feeling of revelry in the moment.  It may be late, but when Pacific Wharf looks like this, I'm in no hurry to go home.

A soggy night at the bay is still a beautiful sight.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Powers of Evil Imagination

It's such a powerful and incredible scene... Maleficent transforming into a fearsome dragon, laughing sinisterly as she gazes with disdain upon Mickey Mouse, and then, with a terrible roar, she roasts the air with a sizzling blast of flame, igniting the Rivers of America in a villainous firestorm.  Every time I watch, I wait for the fire breathing with great anticipation.  It's disappointing when the effect doesn't work (which it is sometime apt to do), but most of the time, the sudden burst of heat is thrilling and invigorating.  Very few Disney effects light up my inner childlike glee like this without fail. 

Is it any surprise that FANTASMIC! is my favorite Disney show of all time?

Maleficent breathes fire in the climactic scene of FANTASMIC!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wilderness Tranquility

As expansive as I try to get this shot to appear, it doesn't really compare to being in Grizzly Peak and taking in this simulated wilderness stretching out all around.  The way the light filters through the trees, the way iconic Grizzly Peak juts up in the distance, the way the mist hovers in the forest breeze, all contributes to a wonderful visceral and verdant sensation that really brings the theme to life.  All the green and blue transport guests away from the city and into the gorgeous and grand Mother Nature that the state of California has to offer, and that serenity never fails to soothe my soul when I stroll through.

A quiet afternoon in Grizzly Peak--except for the screaming rafters splashing down.
So, as I mentioned last week, I'll personally be taking a little vacation over the next two and a half weeks. Never fear, though, for there will still be updates to this blog!  They just won't be broadcast over social media.  However, it would be awesome if you would share new posts over Twitter and Facebook and beyond, even while I'm gone, because there will still be new content posted every day while I'm abroad.  Ah, the power of auto-scheduling!  And when I'm back, I'll have even more fantastic Disney photos to share!

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inside the Oasis

It's relatively rare to be able to stroll through Aladdin's Oasis these days. The former dine and storytelling locale is usually closed to the public these days, which is a shame, because it's such a wonderful space.  Alas, it's been many years since this area has been in operation. But several months ago, I was walking through Adventureland when I saw the entrance unobstructed.  With no signage or cast members warning to stay away, I took the chance to explore and take some photos.  Here's a look at a beautiful, peaceful respite from the bustling nature of Adventureland!

This used to be the stage for the story telling of Aladdin.

Guests could dine and enjoy the show, which retold the classic story in an abbreviated version of the movie.

The tiered layout allowed less-obstructed views.

An overview, looking back in the direction of Adventureland.

What marvels and mysteries existing within the Cave of Wonders?

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Colorful Tea Party

The Mad Tea Party presents a wonderful study of luminous color at night.  Those whimsical lanterns over a bed of spinning tea cups create silly interplay of elements, but they also present a challenge photographically, since it's easy to lose color while trying to properly expose for a nighttime scene with multiple sources of light.  In this case, I've taken two exposures--one properly exposed for the lanterns, the other properly exposed for the rest of the scene, and compiled them together in Photoshop, using the masking tool to paint in the parts of the other exposure needed.  I think this makes for a vibrant but realistic scene, and if I did my job correctly, you wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't told you!

The Mad Tea Party is a colorful and glowing sight at night!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Jolly Trolley

It's definitely a shame that the Jolly Trolley is grounded these days, but lack of maintenance would lead to such a fate.  Nowadays, it's not much more than a glorified bench, but it's a pretty one for sure and still the target of many photos for families who want to snap something themed.  The relatively recent new coat of paint has freshened up this little locomotive too, and this made for a nice composition one lovely summer afternoon when I was in the park!

The Jolly Trolley may not run anymore, but it's still a fun fixture of Mickey's Toontown!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Fountain Luminated

I've posted about the beauty of the Carthay Circle Fountain, especially during golden hour, before. But today, I want to focus on the shimmering glow that the lantern atop the fountain seems to have when the light catches it just so.  This lovely art deco piece is a wonderful fixture to a lovely fountain, and that green glass goes so well with the blue and aqua tile.  The whole effect is one of comfort and tranquility.  It's a huge improvement from the old days of Sunshine Plaza and its mosaic wave fountain.  This one--classy and elegant--is a fountain I much prefer.

The Carthay Circle Fountain. It never gets old to photograph either!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The French Market Nouveau

One of my favorite eateries in Disneyland Park, the French Market has also been altered by the expansion of Club 33. Its second floor has been converted from a storage room to Le Salon Nouveau, a jazz club environment with Art Nouveau flourishes.  Here too, windows have been cut out to allow light in and views out, but they're certainly not as prominent as in some other locations. And at night, despite the glow and visibility into the second floor, there's a nice atmosphere about this area, as though the upstairs was some stylish, high profile party going on. Which, if you think about it, fits the mold of Club 33.

The back entry of French Market.

The front entry of French Market.

Looking upward and toward the entrance into the restaurant.

A more overview look reveals some of the second floor changes.

They seem to blend in pretty well here, though!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Saturated Portal

The night I took this dramatic shot of the Astro Orbiter was a lazy evening where I just didn't feel like breaking out my tripod. As a result, for a shot like this that required a long exposure, I set my camera on top of my bag, raised my ISO, and tried to keep everything as steady as possible for three brackets of exposure to capture the huge range in lighting in this scene.  At 100%, this ends up being quite noisy, but it's not so bad on a large thumbnail.  True detailing of the illumination requires more masking and exposures than I have the patience for, but I think this turned out okay for a "lazy shot," relatively speaking!

Colorful and iconic, the Astro Orbitor has become a fixture of Tomorrowland's entrance.
Folks, I'd also like to take this moment to let you know that I will be gone on vacation starting a week from today.  I'm taking a trip to Europe (including a stop at Disneyland Paris), so I'll be a lot less active on social media than usual. HOWEVER, while I'm gone, there will be new posts published each day, so you would do me a huge favor by sharing said posts while I'm abroad and unable to do so regularly myself.  Thank you all for your support!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From Where Stanley Sees It

There are many photos of Stanley's statue in Radiator Springs, but really, he's the one with the great view. Seeing all the hustle and bustle of people coming down the main drag of the town he founded must be a great sight and feeling.  With the town spruced up and restored to its former glory, things are certainly looking nice within this cutest little town in Carburetor County.  And can you beat those crisp afternoons, with a wonderful view of the sun setting behind Flo's?

The statue of Stanley looks over the honorary townspeople of Radiator Springs in the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Treetop Perch

My favorite lens to shoot with is by far my 16-35mm wide angle zoom. There are a lot of great perspectives that can be utilized with the wide range, and even just the amount of scenery captures on this full frame lens really helps draw a viewer into a scene.  In the example below, the nearby window takes on an exaggerated perspective, but that gives it some power in the scene.  The very prominent foreground seems dominant, but the background starts to reveal details like the Union Jack and the quaint architecture of the River Belle Terrace.

Mostly, I think shots like this are fun, and while my love of wide angle is not quite so great as that of Tom Bricker, I certainly sympathize with the enthusiasm!

Taking a wide and slightly distorted look down to Adventureland.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Taste Pilot's Point of View

As I've explained before, empty night shots are pretty easy. The secret is patience. Just wait until everyone leaves, and the shot becomes empty!

Empty daytime shots, however, are much more difficult. Patience is still involved, but timing is required, unless one is present at the very start of the operating day.  Ultimately, getting daytime photos with no one in them is almost impossible, since the Happiest Place on Earth is constantly full of people!

So the trick then switches to avoiding subjects in the foreground of the photo, leaving that to the buildings and scenery to be the points of prominence.  At least that's the thinking of an architectural photographer, who tends to be bothered by the presence of those pesky people.  In this case, for the most part, the people are in the less noticeable parts of the scene, and the focus of my shot is a juxtaposition of Taste Pilot's Grill and the Carthay Circle Restaurant tower. It's almost as though they're staring at each other!

The view from Taste Pilot's Grill over toward Carthay Circle.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

End of the Night in the Country

Critter Country is so peaceful and rustic, so when it's empty at the end of the night, the feeling of the great outdoors all to oneself is even more amplified.  When I ran through my series of Splash Mountain at night photos, I had never before stopped by the attraction so late at night.  Seeing the barn doors into the last bit of queue was a rare sight indeed, but it brought out a tranquil finality to the end of the night.  No access to the briar patch anymore; please wait until tomorrow. But all good things must come to an end, and besides, tomorrow is another zip-a-dee-doo-dah day!

Splash Mountain has closed for the night.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Warmth of the Wilderness

Rare is the day I make it to Disney California Adventure early enough to catch golden hour at Grizzly Peak. The presence of the six story Grand Californian Hotel means the sun disappears over the "horizon" earlier in the day than elsewhere.  But on the back trails of Grizzley Peak, the angle is less sharp, and the beautiful light lasts a little longer.  So here, along this trail that most people actually skip, is a fantastic opportunity to capture a relatively people-free photo. And the wonderful evergreens really lend some realism to the illusion of this being a forest.  Wouldn't you love to camp out and wait for the stars to unfurl?

It's a beautiful day to go hiking through the trails of Grizzly Peak!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Main Street Tulips

The flowers around Disneyland are constantly changing, but one of my favorites are the tulips they plant around Town Square (and The Hub) during springtime. The vibrant yellows, reds, and purples give a lovely life to the gardens, and they practically glimmer in the California sun.  With the beautiful turn-of-the-century town as a backdrop, these flowers become wonderful subjects for photography!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Golden Age of Hollywood

The rule of thirds is a common photographic adage that instructs the photographer to divide a scene into a tic-tac-toe grid and locate the interesting parts of the composition along the intersection of those lines.  This draws interest from the viewer, whose eyes move across to absorb more of the image rather than remain statically focused on one spot. However, like all rules, it's meant to be broken at appropriate times.  In the example below, the shot is symmetrical and looking upward, and there isn't really anything of note lined up at the third points of the picture, but the scene is still compelling, because the motion and thrust of the perspective still draw the viewer into the photograph.

It doesn't hurt that this picture was taken during golden hour either, so that soft, warm sunlight brings extra life and vitality to the buildings and sky and even the ground!

Bright, shining, golden light cascading down Hollywood Boulevard really gives that glitzy glamor to Tinseltown!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bumbling Bumper Buggies

Flik's Fun Fair features a lot of basic carnival rides dressed up in Pixar flair, and Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies is no exception. At its heart, it's a basic bumper car ride. But with theming from A Bug's Life, it's a nicer than what's found at a typical fairground.  Under the big top of P.T. Flea, this assortment of comical collision provides gentle thrills for young tykes, and it makes for a neat photo when I slow down the shutter speed to get a bit of blur.

Tuck and Roll invite a host of guests to tumble all around the big top in this A Bug's Life themed attraction.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Grim Gaze

It should come as no surprise that the Evil Queen above Snow White's Scary Adventures is one of my favorite figured subjects to photograph.  That sneering, loathesome frown as she gazes upon the common folk with disdain is perfect, and her perch above the entrance of the queue is a nice little detail for those sharp eyed enough to notice her. 

At night, this scene is especially atmospheric. As a villain, the Evil Queen naturally would be more suited to the nighttime than the day, and the colors that come with Fantasyland after dark also contribute to this feeling of regal contempt.  It's all quite fantastic, and a cool exercise in nighttime composition!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oswald's Under Blue

A few moments after and on the same evening that I shot the Carthay Circle Fountain during blue hour, I came upon Oswald's Filling Station at the beginning of Buena Vista Street.  The warm golden lights and red signage contrasted beautifully with those blue, puffy skies, and I knew I needed a shot here as well. But without the patience to set up my tripod, since I had another place to get to, I simply freehanded as slow of a shot as I was comfortable with. Fortunately, a full frame Nikon D600 has great higher ISO performance, and some of the walking pedestrians still managed to create some blur.

Blue hour is a wonderful time to shoot, because it doesn't necessarily depend on the presence of the sun, but the sky can still feature some dramatic coloring.  Having moved on past the dead tones of gray hour, blue hour hints as the beginning of nighttime, but with enough day left to splash some hues across the scene.  I definitely encourage all aspiring photographers to practice taking photos during this time of the evening, typically occurring an hour or so after sunset!

Oswald's Filling Station in glorious blue hour.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Welcome to Frontierland

Disneyland is, of course, always magnificent in golden sunlight. But the west side of the park, dedicated to more historical themes, seems to especially come alive in golden afternoon sun.  Our romantic ideals of exploration are heightened by that warm glow and the bountiful blue skies associated with the treks of our pioneering predecessors.  Of course, the journeys back then were far from pleasant, but the sights still must have been majestic, and that feel is something that Disneyland captures exquisitely!

Those sun-drenched gates into Frontierland invite the spirit of adventure and the wild west!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Clouds Approaching the Wharf

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Disneyland chasing the sunlight of golden hour. But as that turned toward twilight, I saw that the SoCal monsoon season clouds were creating a pretty dramatic sunset.  Post-dusk, they exploded into a prism of color, making for a very wonderful scene over the Resort.  This shot of Pacific Wharf might be my favorite taken from this land!

Dramatic clouds hover over Pacific Wharf.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Classic Profile

I love those spires of Space Mountain. The sleek shape and angles make for a timeless aesthetic that still looks as fantastic today as it did in 1977.  That's the true testament to a great design--if it doesn't look outdated decades later, that means the architects have really succeeded. And as fantastic as the ride is inside (my favorite in the park), I have to appreciate the fine form of the building that encloses this classic attraction.

The iconic profile of Space Mountain is a classic.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Screamin' Around the Turn II

A year ago, I posted this shot, but I figure I can recycle angles once in a while, right?  This version has the train still not halfway through it arc, creating a moment of anticipation.  The blue skies and golden sun really give a fantastic feel to the scene, though.  It's the epitome of Southern California!

Rounding the turn on California Screamin'.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Morning Splash

I don't make it to Disneyland in the morning often, unless I'm there for a full day trip. So this AM shot of Splash Mountain is rare for me.  However, I think it's usually important to get here in the morning for daytime shots, so that the sun is shining over the front of the attraction rather than the back. This exposes those lovely rustic colors and minimizes shadows.  Of course, I imagine earlier morning would be better, but that is inherently at odds with my night owl body!

Splash Mountain before the crowds hit in the morning.

It's certainly a beautiful zip-a-dee-doo-dah scene!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pan Pacific Gates

For this shot, I thought I'd deviate from the usual head-on perspectives and capture the entrance gates to Disney California Adventure from the side.  It makes for a more dramatic composition, and my 16-35mm wide angle lens more than handles the job.  Combined with those beautiful blue skies and wispy clouds, and I think this makes for a picturesque scene. Don't you agree?

A sweeping wide shot of the entrance gates at Disney California Adventure.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Figures Around The Hub

Around The Hub at Disneyland, there are several miniature statues of famed animated Disney characters. These statuettes are great for taking photos with and of, and a few months ago, I went around during golden hour taking little portraits of each one.  Check 'em out!

This White Rabbit will be perpetually late for his very important date.
Dumbo unfurls his ears, with Timothy Mouse perched atop.

Pluto is as friendly as ever.

Goofy is just a little Aw Shucks.

Chip n dale are the best of friends!

Donald looks quite dapper in his duck suit!

Sweet Minnie seems to be enjoying the beautiful scene.

And Pinocchio takes in some words from Jiminy Cricket.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


The climactic, pyro-filled finale is one of my favorite parts of FANTASMIC!, so I thought I'd post a couple of Mickey Mouse close-ups when he's up above Tom Sawywer Island, conducting the fireworks.  It's such an energetic and triumphant moment, and it never fails to excite the crowd and cap the show on an ecstatic, wonderful note.

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