Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Noel Vista

At the beginning of this year, I closed out my holiday coverage with a very similar shot taken looking up Main Street, framing the Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle between two trees, one natural, one incredibly decorated.  I took several versions of that shot that evening, and the compression of the shot through the telephoto zoom lens I used creates a great juxtaposition between two objects that are otherwise rather far away.

What I really love, though, is the luminosity of this scene.  The Christmas tree lights, the illuminated garland over the streets, and the crystalline glow of the castle beyond all reinforce the light of the holidays--both figuratively and literally.  It's a beautiful moment and a stunning example of two magical traditions--Christmas and the Happiest Place on Earth--coming together as one.

A glimpse between the Christmas foliage up Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Approaching the Holidays

I've said before that I'm not normally a fan of It's A Small World. This is the attraction that everyone loves to hate, and I'm certainly not exempt from that crowd. But the holidays bring a festive atmosphere to this classic attraction, and the Christmas lighting is incredibly extravagant.  From far away, the colorful glow of the Small World facade practically invites guests to see what the buzz is about.  Add to that the general warm holiday feelings of good tidings and joy to the world, and even I have to admit that this holiday attraction is pretty nice.

It's A Small World Holiday gleams in the distance.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Grizzly River Cascades

The scenic part of Grizzly Peak is from the main path in the area, but the back route has its fair share of nifty sights.  The waterfalls, for example, offer a great simulated vista of a California natural wonderland--at the cost of a much less strenuous hike!  The falls thunder down the rocks, and the rafts that occasionally pass by give a glimpse of exciting white water rafting. 

It's all within a contained environment, of course, but it still looks pretty!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Blue Sky Paradise

Paradise Pier is all about beach life, sunshine, and beautiful days.  And being that Disney California Adventure is located in Southern California, real life typically cooperates.  I love it when I wander through the boardwalk of the Pier during a golden afternoon and just take in the ambiance.  The sun and skies just exude a sense of happiness, and I'm thankful for the bliss that the Happiest Place on Earth can provide.

Here's wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving Day holiday, where you can count blessings, spend time with loved ones, and be grateful for life's treasures.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Christmas in New New Orleans

New Orleans Square looks doubly different this time of year, because in addition to the holiday decorations that have popped up throughout the land, this is the first winter season after the Club 33 expansion that brought some noticeable changes to this Crescent City themed area.

The area between Cafe Orleans and the French Market restaurants has seen one of the most changes, with the addition of large windows to the hallway leading to the Club 33 Main Dining Hall and a new bridge connecting to the two Club 33 dining spaces altering the scale and detail of the area.  Analyzed in a micro context, the additions may appear a little foreign, but in the grand atmosphere of the area, I think they work, and as Christmas time has come to the Disneyland Resort, I've found the garland and ornaments to add a nostalgic and romantic charm to the area.  It's the holiday spirit that brings with it warm feelings and kind tidings, and New Orleans Square continues to pervade beauty and elegance.  It's a wonderful place to shoot photos during this winter season!

Holiday garland decorates the windows above New Orleans Square in this post-Club 33 expansion scene.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Twinkling Jingle Cruising

After a moderately successful run last season, the Jingle Cruise is back for a second year during the holiday season at Disneyland.  This campy take on the festivities of December has been thoroughly enhanced and is now even more over the top than before, with lots of theming items added throughout the jungle, and a modified spiel to bring only the corniest of holiday jokes to guests aboard the boats.  That will be handled in a future blog post. For now, here's a nighttime version of the Christmas-adorned Jungle Cruise station.

The luminous and colorful signage of the World Infamous Jingle Cruise.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Partners with the Snow Castle

If this angle seems familiar, it's because it's a Christmas time recreation of the Sleeping Beauty Castle telephoto night shot I took earlier this year.  This time around, the castle has been adorn with shiny lights, glittering garland, and a radiant glow of wintertime luminous "snow."  The Holidays at the Disneyland Resort have officially been underway for over a week now, but I've always been one to celebrate Christmas closer to its actual season (i.e. after Thanksgiving).  But since it's Thanksgiving week, which pretty much officially ushers in the holiday season, I figured that kicking off the week with some holiday photo magic wouldn't hurt!

The Winter Castle glistens in the early morning behind The Hub.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Standing in Front of Soarin'

Soarin' Over California was one of my favorite attractions at Disney California Adventure when it first opened, but over the years, the ride has lost some of it's appeal, since a flyover featuring the same video (especially one shot in standard definition) can only retain interest for so long.  Fortunately, the ride is due for a refresh with new video of new locations, shot in stunning high definition, rumored to come soon.  In the meantime, here's a shot of the Condor Flats area on a rare day when I can get minimal people in the frame!

Straightaway to Soarin' Over California.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Glimpses from the Salon

Earlier this year, Club 33 reopened with an expanded space and a new entire section.  Le Salon Nouveau, aka "The Jazz Club" during preconstruction rumors, is a rich, ornate speakeasy with an Art Nouveau touch, harkening to the swanky lounges of a bygone area.  This area is much more casual and doesn't require reservations for members to access.  With an extensive bar and delicious food in its own right, Le Salon Nouveau is a great, relaxing place for Club 33 members to spend an afternoon or evening.

In the far corner, above the French market, is a grand piano that plays jazzy tunes on its own.

The bar is ornate and quite well stocked.

There is a living room area, and the historic old Club 33 lift has now been turned into a table for one--a nod to history, but also a bit unfortunate, since it seems lonely now.

There are tucked away booths along the hallway to the Salon Nouveau that feature scenes celebrating various Disneyland attractions, such as this ode to the Haunted Mansion.

On this occasion, I snacked on the beef wagyu sliders, which were tender and delicious and came with scrumptious garlic shoestring fries.  I paired it with one of the best Sidecars I've ever had.

One last detail of the player piano.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lucky Fortune Neon

Last year, I posted a photo of the Lucky Fortune Cookery that heavily emphasized photographic perspective, looking upward for a very enhanced execution of leading lines.  Well, that was during the daytime.  This time, I wanted a nighttime version, but rather than only shoot the roof structure (which was really done to avoid capturing the people that would be at the ground level of any daytime frame of this scene), I was able to shoot the entire queue for the quick serve area. 

The colorful lanterns and neon lights make this pretty much an possible shot to truly accurately capture within one exposure, so I took three different exposures--one exposed 2 stops over and one exposed two stops under to go with the properly exposed photo--then manually blended them together in Photoshop to produce a more even and realistic composition.  I used to do this via Photomatix, but ever since I started shooting on my Nikon D600, I've shied away from that, preferring to more directly control how my exposures come together instead.  I'd like to think that this came out pretty well. What do you think?

A very architectural nighttime shot of the Lucky Fortune Cookery at Pacific Wharf.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunset Over the Treetops IV

It's been a little while since I've posted a view from the top of one of my favorite "hidden" (not really) places to photograph at Disneyland, so here's another photo from atop Tarzan's Treehouse, looking over the west side of Disneyland.  The late fall and winter months seem to be pretty conducive to spectacular sunsets in Southern California, a phenomenon that's otherwise relatively rare in a land that's known for it's beautiful sunshine (but not that many clouds, which generally help a sunrise or sunset).  So catching them when they occur is always a goal of mine.  This warm, beautiful scene overlooking New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America (and a little glimpse of Critter Country!) stirs the heartstrings and makes me fall in love with the Happiest Place on Earth all over again.

A blazing end of a November day above New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Chicken of the Sea

When Disneyland Park opened in 1955, at the back of Fantasyland, there was a mighty pirate ship.  This was the Chicken of the Sea, Captain Hook's famous pirate ship, and it was part of a restaurant establishment in the area that is occupied by the Dumbo attraction today.  A few years later, in 1960, Skull Rock was added to the area to strengthen the Peter Pan motif, and for decades, it was a scenic area to enjoy a meal or just take in the sights of Fantasyland from an elevated perch.

Unfortunately, due to extensive wear and weathering over the years, the structure was demolished during the 1983 Fantasyland renovation, and it was not able to be reproduced within time and budget.  Gone forever was an original piece of Disneyland lore.  So when the Disney Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they paid tribute by having an inspired replica anchor part of Adventure Isle, in the park's Adventureland.  So the Chicken of the Sea lives on today in France, a part of a sprawling exploration area that is both scenic and honestly a lot of fun to trek through.

Captain Hook's Pirate Ship, moored next to Adventure Isle in Disneyland Paris!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ornament Expanses

The last time I took an empty, expansive shot of this area, I noticed at the end of my processing that there was a lone stroller in the far distance--the lone blemish in an otherwise "perfectly" composed photo.  Well, when I was presented with another opportunity for the view, I made sure absolutely no evidence of human passer by was existent. After all, in Cars, there are no humans around. Everything is "auto"-pomorphized, which is part of the charm of the setting. 

The other is the romance and allure of the wide open west presented in the movie.  Ornament Valley is beautiful, magnificent, and sprawling with natural splendor. And Cars Land recreates that magnificently.  Look at the scene below, and I challenge you to argue this!

Very early morning, way back on the first day of this year, in Ornament Valley.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Castle Side

I've posted lots of views of Sleeping Beauty Castle, but very few (if any) from this particular side. Most are from the front, the rear, or slightly off to one side.  But in this angle, the Matterhorn is quite apparent beyond, and drawbridge and pathway through the castle is prominently featured. 

I think it's interesting to compare the evolution of Disney castles.  This, of course, was the first, and limited to budget and time constraints. But look how far castles have become when you compare this angle to a similar angle of Disneyland Paris' castle.  It makes you wonder what Shanghai Disneyland has in store!

A glance at Sleeping Beauty Castle from the side.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mickey and the Magical Map

I... might be a little tardy with this one, but earlier this year, I took some photos of Mickey and the Magical Map, and I finally got around to processing these images of a show that debuted over Memorial Day weekend last year.  Well, better late than never. Take a look at the scenes of this wonderfully done 25-minute stage show over in the back of Fantasyland!

The map makers put some finishing touches and sign and dance to the opening refrain of the musical.
The map is a creation of the powerful wizard, Yen Sid.
Mickey Mouse, reprising his Sorcerer's Apprentice role, emerges to join the performers.
The plot centers around Mickey's attempt to become a map maker and finish the last black blotch of the map, which becomes an animated character named "Spot" who runs away.  Mickey's pursuit takes him to various lands.
The world of the Jungle Book is the first, complete with "I Wanna Be Like You" song and dance number.
Three heroines emerge in the next scene. First, Pocahontas.
Then Mulan.
Finally Rapunzel.

Apparently, only Rapunzel gets her man.
Off to the oceans, and a Finding Nemo number.

This one is a very extravagant stage production, with plenty of dancers on stage and in the crowd, and body balloons too!
Mickey realizes that maybe Spot doesn't want to be painted and doesn't have to.  This realization bonds the two.
They set off for the final destination, featuring Stitch!
Mickey realizes the true power of the map is not what's there, but what possibilities emerge from it.  Spot turns out to be Yen Sid's pupil (literally, from his eye), watching Mickey the whole time to see if he gained the wisdom to become a map maker.
The finale is a big celebratory scene featuring Princess Tiana.
Mickey joins in the revelry.
Air blasted ribbons go off, signifying the finale.
And that's the show, folks!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Victorian Lights Under the Sea

Back when The Little Mermaid attraction opened at Disney California Adventure in 2011, I tried taking some of those empty night photos that I feature so commonly now on this blog.  My night photography wasn't quite as advanced back then, though, and I was never able to get a really balanced, smooth, and crisp shot.

Fortunately, I've picked up a few tricks and bits of knowledge since then, so a few months ago, I decided to go back and shoot the facade late at night, near closing.  These turned out a little bit better, and though you can't see my original attempts for comparison, you'll just have to trust me on the assessment on differences!

The Little Mermaid attraction at DCA features an elegant Victorian-inspired facade.

The individual bulbs recall the aesthetic of Victorian seaside amusement parks of past centuries.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Paris by Paris

Walt Disney Studios is located in Marne-la-Vallée, which is east of the city of Paris.  New for 2014 is the Ratatouille mini-land, which recreates, well, part of the city of Paris.  If having a replica of a city whose real version is located a half hour drive away seems odd, well, consider that Disney California Adventure was an ode to the state of California located in the state of California.

As with DCA, the Ratatouille mini-land at Walt Disney Studios is a romanticized version of the source material.  Here, the Paris from the Pixar movie is brought to 3D life--but scrubbed and brightened up with Disney pixie dust.  And I have to admit... it works. The combination of forced perspective and welcoming and warm color palettes reiterates the romance of the city, and the architectural details add depth and richness to the atmosphere.  The ride itself is quite fun too, which makes these facades icing on the cake!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Splash Mountain Blue

Blue hour is an underrated time to shoot, since people tend to catch the warm setting rays of the sun during golden hour and then pack it up.  The hour after sunset, however, allows the sky to form a beautiful dark azure blue, enabling some very moody and romantic twilight shots before the sky actually turns black.

And then there's the bit of a cheat method below, where I shot Splash Mountain around midnight but was able to process the photos to pick up and enhance the blue hue present in the sky.  Some nights at Disneyland, the sky is reddish from dust mixing with the local light pollution, but every once in a while, we get some winds that sweep away the particulates, and the sky takes on a cooler shade.  The result are photos like these, shot in RAW format, dragging spectrum that the human eye can't even pick up.  Pretty neat, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Radiator Signs

Have I ever mentioned that I love Cars Land? Probably a few times, right? Well, the biggest reason for this is the level of detail. The artfully crafted rockwork of Ornament Valley brings the wide open West to life, and the incredible recreation of Radiator Springs transports guests right into the Cars movie.  The town is so architectural... beautiful facades with banners and signage and overhangs reaching out to craft a bit of smalltown Americana along Route 66. It's wonderfully nostalgic and certainly quite rich, and an example of why Disney keeps me coming back to its parks!

Signs, facades, and architectural texture line Radiator Springs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Grizzly Glimpse

This scene reminds me of the days when the Bountiful Valley Farm still existed, before the Cars Land expansion.  That area was nothing really special, just a pretty space with agrarian displays and pretty flowers and plants reminiscent of America's (or, technically, California's) farming belt.  It was really more of an area to pass through, since there were no actual attractions. But remnants remain as one moves from Pacific Wharf over and into A Bug's Land, and the naturalistic moments are pretty nice.

Looking toward Grizzly Peak from A Bug's Land.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Toon Town Architecture

It must have been interesting drafting up the blueprints for Mickey's Toontown. With hardly a straight line in sight, what baselines were there to go off of?  This land of the cartoons seems more sculpted than constructed, and that's pretty much the point.  Why would the zany land of the animated follow conventional physics and human order?  Of course everything would be bulging and curvy and wild.  It only makes sense... that nothing makes sense!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Castle at Dusk

There are three ways to get an empty castle photograph at Disneyland:
  1. Arrive at the park and get to the rope drop before official park opening, then quickly take a photo with hopefully no cast members in the shot.
  2. Wait until well after the park has closed, and then take photos at leisure.
  3. Wait for the area in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle to clear, and then take the photo (and stay for front row seats to the fireworks too).
Well, the photo below is from option three, and there are really only two times during the year where that empty shot can coincide with dusk.  This photo in particular was taken late this past April, when the sun had set after 7:00 in the evening, and the skies were darkening but not quite there.  Not quite blue hour, and well after golden hour, this is normally not a great time to shoot. But when the composition is a cool range of purple, blue, and magenta, the result can actually be sort of dramatic!

Sleeping Beauty Castle in a soft purple light during dusk.

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