Friday, January 31, 2014

The Center of Fantasy

I was reviewing old photos when I stumbled upon this shot I took a few months ago.  There's something about walking under Sleeping Beauty Castle that echoes Walt Disney's footsteps--probably because this experience literally does mirror a path that Walt himself took countless times during his visits to the park.  It may just be a passageway for many, but for me, it's a portal between worlds, and an ethereal experience.  The heavy stone arches and vaults have a sense of history and magic to them.  This place is the heart of the park, it's very core, and the monumentality of the Happiest Place on Earth comes to a head right here.  So I think it's appropriate to take a moment and appreciate just all that's there to offer here at Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom.

Walking through the archway of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Door to Nowhere

Has anyone ever wondered where this door leads? Is there really an employment office inside, because if so, I find it mighty peculiar that to get up there, one has to basically... well... float.  You see, if I were to zoom out, I wouldn't find much of a platform just outside the door. Just an eating area--one whole story lower.  So it really is a bit of a conundrum.  Perhaps they really do use some pixie dust to get new employees!

A detail at the food court in Pacific Wharf.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Looming Tall

In A Bug's Land, everything is designed to make guests feel like they're little bug's shrunken down into the insect world. As a result, objects that are small to humans are recreated in ways that tower over guests, forcing that bug-eyed perspective.  Towering over all of this, an unmistakable presence, though, is the Tower of Terror--the ultimate in making one feel diminutive.  Its eerie exterior, creepy ambiance, and frightful screams emphasize its looming nature.  And just as insects probably fear when the other shoe will literally drop, Tower gives all guests that phobia of... a drop.  So I suppose it makes sense that this ride effectively guards over A Bug's Land!

Flik's Flyers under the gaze of the Tower of Terror

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Inside and Out

One of the wonderful things about the Aulani Resort---and really about Hawaii in general--that appeals to my architectural design aesthetics is the mixing of outdoor and indoor space in the grand lobby area.  Here, glassy expanses offer beautiful views of the outside foliage and landscaping.  Fountains run from outside to the inside, bringing in a calming bubbly brook of water flow.  Horizontal folding doors open up to allow the fresh ocean breezes and serene tropical sounds.  It's all very much in line with modern architecture and even sustainable design.  But above all that, it's just a really nice atmosphere to take in.  Of course, with Hawaii's warm climate, it's much easier to do this than in a cold local where the elements need to be shielded against. But I'm still glad that these wonderful spaces blend the exterior and interior into one cozy area.

A sitting area near the grand lobby entrance, with views and doors opening up to the outside.

The mixing of outdoor and indoor functions fantastically, making for a lovely space.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Zephyr at Bay

The past few times I've posted a picture of the Golden Zephyr, it's been in flight, with long exposures showcasing the sleek, sinewy lines of illumination created by the twinkle lights tracing across the shot.  This time, I've used a similar long exposure time, but with the Golden Zephyr at rest.  Although the exposure is technically the same here as what it might be if I'd used a shorter shutter speed and more open aperture, I feel like the colors and saturation are enhanced with this longer shot, as though the camera is really taking in more of the scene. I love the way the aqua hues of the water and the sky turned out, and the gleaming red structure looking like it's been freshly painted, and the warmth of the oranges and yellows to provide a soothing light.  It just all seems so inviting.

The vibrant and bold colors of the Golden Zephyr at night.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Squall at the Bay

The morning of the Monstrous Summer All Nighter last year didn't bring beautiful sunshine or bluebird skies, but there were still photographic moments.  Instead of a blazing dawn, though, nature seemed to take a different course that still yielded its share of drama.  The stormy clouds and purple skies made for a moody sight--something possibly more like the coasts of Brittany than the shoreline of Southern California.  But it was a different sight, and I liked the feel of the scene.  And so, even though it wasn't the shot I was expecting to take on the morning after another Disney 24-hour day, it was still a powerful shot taken.

Early, early morning at Paradise Bay brings dramatic "seaside" clouds!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Starry Mouse

I've always found the neon space suit Mickey on the Star Trader facade to be strangely soothing and relaxing. Something about the progressive flight of the Mouse "through space" creates a sense of calm--quiet like space, but still fun like Mickey Mouse.  It's sort of hypnotic, I think.  A gaze can turn mesmerizing, and before you know it, suddenly a couple of minutes has passed.

Or maybe I'm just weird.  Has anyone else ever also been entranced by this?

Mickey goes through his full floating space motions along the facade of Star Trader.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Steamy Splashdown

This view is one of my first memories of Disney California Adventure.  Granted, I wasn't a young child when I opened, but I was certainly not yet in adulthood, and I remember going to the park for the first time in 2001, a few months after it had opened, and strolling up the Grizzly Peak area first, after we had gone through the old entrance area, Sunshine Plaza.  The morning sun was warm and refreshing, and this recreation of the California wilderness was vibrant and invigorating.  And as I came around the turn and saw Grizzly River Run for the first time, I couldn't help but feel an awe at this representation of nature--simulated in setting, but still very real in execution.  Even back then, before its park-wide refurbishment, Disney California Adventure still had its moments of greatly beauty, as any Disney park does have.

The final cascade of Grizzly River Rapids drops riders into a steaming thermal spring.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Inside the Market House

A few months ago, I posted about the reopened Market House on Main Street, now serving Starbucks coffee instead of the old Nestle brew. Here's a look at some of the spaces inside.

The main sitting area of Market House is an annex dressed up as a book shop.

Guests can enjoy their snacks and brews in a studious setting.

These are the books of Mr. Peavidy, bookseller.

The furnishings are warm and Victorian, with a cozy classic feel.

Guests can still play checkers, though off to the side.

The main space has been greatly opened up to accommodate much more guests waiting to get coffee.

It feels cavernous when empty but fills in nicely during busier times of day.

This is, in essence, a Disney-fied Starbucks, similar to the location across the way at DCA.

All in all, though, I think the interiors has been nicely done.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Symphony of Light

Here's another fun shot with long exposure play, this time with the Silly Symphony Swings.  The spinning mast creates a centrifuge of illumination, which I thought was a neat effect.  The general feeling of lightness is one of my favorite aspects of the re-invented Paradise Pier.  It adds energy and bountiful spirit and really gives fresh life to an area that was more quiet before World of Color gave guests a reason to stick around after dark, and I really enjoy strolling through and taking in the sights.

The Silly Symphony Swings whirling at night.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Marceline's Confectionery

Right next to Catal is a place where those with a sweet tooth can indulge their candy-oriented fancies.  Marceline's Confectionery is a good ol' fashioned candy store that makes a lot of their sweets in house, and there's even a nice viewing window for those to "window drool" outside.  Marceline, of course, is Walt Disney's home town, and I suppose this store tries to capture that old time feel of the small town candy shop--the one all the kids flocked to after school or were always begging their parents to take them too. I mean, who doesn't love sweets, after all?

Marceline's Confectionery offers a sweet selection of delectable treats.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Night Flying

Ever since the Boardwalk area of Paradise Pier was redone a couple of years ago, the atmosphere has been much more vibrant at night.  There is a very pleasant sense of that elegant Victorian seaside park, and the energy that the area attracts reinforces the ambiance.  It's what the Imagineers set out to do when they revamped this area from a cartoony, surfer Californian theme to something more refined.  Guess those Disney designers know what they're doing, don't they?

Dusk has descended upon Goofy's Sky School!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seeing the Sun Away

All photographers aspire to frame something in their own unique perspective, often turning an everyday view into something creative and head-turning.  The composition of a photo is key--what is left out is often just as important as what's left in, and sometimes, a detail shot works as well as that sweeping, wide panorama.  Such is the case here, with this sunset scene at Tarzan's Treehouse.  The subject, the show building facade of Pirates of the Caribbean, has been distilled to just its rooftop elements, and the lone tower seems to be seeing the sun over the horizon.  The dashing sky, with those dramatic clouds, doesn't hurt either.  And though I've posted a few views from this perch, I think this one carries a different personality, even though it's taken from basically the same place as the others!

The sun sets over the treeline in this view from atop Tarzan's Treehouse!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Iconic Mountain

In addition to being one-of-a-kind across all Disney resorts around the world, the Matterhorn also provides a great backdrop from numerous vantagepoints around the park.  In Fantasyland, however, it seems to really find a home as the looming peak beyond the rooftops of an idyllic Bavarian village. And it works, really!  It's not hard to blend a fantastical notion of Germany and Switzerland into one scene.  After all, this is the land where dreams happen!

The Matterhorn peaks out over Fantasyland.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ablaze Between Water and Sky

Last month, I wrote about "the day the sky exploded."  It was a rare occasion when I was actually at the Disneyland Resort to capture an amazing sunset (or in this case, the remnants), so I naturally took numerous shots.  This view is from a little different of a perspective, closer to the main part of Paradise Bay, and more standalone as a non-holiday photo.  The sky is just as amazing... something out of a dream, really.  And it is surreal.  There's a dual sense of fiery energy and serene peace between the vibrant sky and cool water.  It makes for a majestic scene, and I certainly hope you enjoy it!

The brilliant evening glow of the fleeting sun creates a very real sense of Paradise at the Pier!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hawaii Snapshots

Here are a few more pictures from Aulani.  Everywhere you turn, there is beauty to behold. That stereotype of blues skies, bright sun, breezy palms, and that relaxing ocean rhythm? It's here.  Along with it are details and tributes that truly reflect the Hawaiian culture.  And the staff is among the friendliest I've seen, making an exerted effort--even by Disney standards--to make sure all guests enjoy great service and are nothing but smiles.  If you can shell for the investment, it's well worth staying here for Disney fans.  They've truly crafted something marvelous!

Relaxing near the main pool, facing back toward the hotel.

The main lobby building spills out onto gorgeous koi ponds.

There are plenty of quiet spaces for relaxation and reflection.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Monumental Gateway III

Some views are just so majestic that you want to photograph them over and over again, and even if the angle is just a little bit different, it's still ok, because each visit seems just as fresh and inspiring as the first time you saw it.

At Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle is easily the number one most popular example, but at Disney California Adventure, my personal favorite is the Pacific Wharf entry into Cars Land.  Here, guests walk under a grand stone archway and into the gorgeous confines of Ornament Valley.  The panoramic grandeur that unfolds all around is sweeping and overwhelming, enveloping stunned guests in a pristine beauty and a striking representation of the rugged, rocky West. 

At night, the view becomes even more sublime, as the subtle lighting brings out the warmth and texture of those beautiful canyon rocks and sedimentary geology.  So this may be a view I've posted before, but it never fails to amaze me.

Another view at the incredible entrance into Cars Land!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The House of Blues

Those who know me know that I'm a bit of a concert nut, but until last year, I had only gone to the House of Blues in Anaheim a handful of times.  But whether it's because my musical tastes of evolves, or because I've become a little more updated on live music news, I found myself at this intimate, medium-sized venue multiple times last year, seeing acts that ranged from Reel Big Fish to Imagine Dragons to Capital Cities.  The House of Blues is a pretty nice space that holds much more than might appear at first glance, and they routinely have a pretty good list of line-ups.  The restaurant downstairs offers some pretty tasty American dining cuisine as well, and all in all, it's definitely in the top echelon of Orange County performance venues.

The House of Blues, long after the last encore has finished its finale.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tortilla Jo's

Tortilla Jo's is a festive Mexican restaurant in Downtown Disney offering sit-down dining with a menu of traditional Mexican cuisine, from burritos and tacos to fajitas and enchiladas.  The quality is actually not bad, comparable to a solid level Mexican restaurant.  Nothing is super fancy, but the servings are hearty and the staff friendly.  It's a nice vibe and a vibrant place to have a meal!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Nighttime Bouquets

Now that a Flower Market has popped up off of Main Street, wandering off the main path allows the discovery of a lovely urban garden, a pleasant softening of the street facade and vibrant addition to the secluded feel of Center Street.  Late at night, at least until the park has closed, there are still guests sitting at tables nearby, taking in the charming atmosphere.  It's one of those just very nice and lovely moments that are just as powerful as the wildest ride or most spectacular show.  And it's a beautiful example of how, as long as there is imagination left in the world, Disneyland will never be complete!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Tough Story to Swallow

Open wide for an adventure in Disney fantasy! I hope you have a great appetite for tremendous stories, because you're about to be engulfed into a world like no other.  It's a realm of miniatures, and creating it was no less than a monumental feat, given the detail and model making required, along with expertise in horticulture to create a believable environment.  No fishy business here--all the plants inside Storybook Land are real and carefully grown!  Whale, I've gone on long enough with these puns; I just hope you've survived long enough to enjoy the tail.

Monstro, ever hungry, waiting for the next Storybook Land canal boat.

Friday, January 10, 2014

'Ama 'Ama Restaurant

The signature restaurant at Aulani is 'Ama 'Ama, named for a local mullet fish, and while I can't speak for the quality of the dining (unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay long enough to eat), I can say that this is one lavishly lovely dining space!  We start with a lovely entry walkway that is modern and Hawaiian at the same time, making use of warm wood materials as well as light glass and sleek steel.  Inside, the sweeping panorama of the Pacific beckons beyond.  A lovely infinity pool draws us to the dining area, where the open air seating belies that spirit of Hawaiian nature and breezy atmosphere. 

I imagine it's pretty bustling come lunch or dinner service, but it was nice to walk around and take photos at my leisure with no one in my way.  I can't state enough just how invigoratingly nice everything has turned out at Disney's newest hotel resort!

The entrance into 'Ama 'Ama Beachside Restaurant.

This is the magical view greeting guests entering the main dining space.

The fountain is lovely. The space is modern with an island touch.

Light, open spaces make for a relaxed but elegant setting.

In a few hours, the restaurant will be bustling with diners!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Evening in Tinseltown

The glitz and the glamour of classic Hollywood is on full display at Disney California Adventure.  Bright lights, glowing marquees, friendly art deco, and busy showbiz dot DCA's version of Hollywood Boulevard.  So it's rare to come upon this scene looking so still, but that's exactly what you'll find--if you wait long enough.  But don't worry, tomorrow, things will be flying at a dizzying pace once again!

How often do you see the streets of "Hollywood" this empty?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Buggy Night Out

I don't have a lot of photos from A Bug's Land because I've found it more challenging to get the glamorous shots I've been able to get in almost every other themed land at the Disneyland Resort. However, the other day, I saw a photo posted by an Instagram buddy of mine, Chris Marquez, who I admire for his crisp and very clean photography, and I realized, "Wait a minute, I could try taking nighttime photos!!"  So I spent part of New Year's Eve (well, by the time this photo was taken, it was technically New Year's Day) wandering through A Bug's Land, snapping empty nighttime photos. You'll be seeing more of these in the future, but the point of this little anecdote is to express my appreciation to the other Disney fan photographers out there who inspire and challenge me to look at the park in new ways and improve upon my photography. Thanks!

A Bug's Land after closing hours at Disney California Adventure.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

To Bavaria

I like the angle of this shot, since it's not necessarily the typical overview poster in typical Disney photographs. But it does hone in on that sense of space and the articulation of the Fantasyland facades that make this area among my favorite architectural spaces in Disneyland.  Originally, Fantasyland was composed of flat carnival-like facades with castle block walls and simple battlements and looked more like a Renaissance Faire setting than the Bavarian Village motif it takes on today.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the immersive Disney-type look we have come to expect.

Of course, there was a perfectly good explanation for the relative plainness of the original Fantasyland facades--money.  There was a lot of park, and only $17 million to build it.  Sure, that's $137 million in today's money, but even that is less than the cost to build Radiator Springs Racers.  So clearly, not everything could be perfect in Walt Disney's original Disneyland.

Fortunately, the Imagineers rectified this in the early 1980s.  This involve shutting down all of Fantasyland--a practically unheard of feat back then. But when things opened back up, the results were immediately noticeable, and most certainly acclaimed.  That charming German village feel is cozy, welcoming, and sheltering.  It is immersive, both in its theming and in the way it cuts in and out of the space of the public pathways.  This spatial texture contributes to those sentiments and are a major part of why Fantasyland just feels like such a wonderful place to walk around.

Spires and rooftops in Fantasyland harken back to a charming German town.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Leaving the Holidays Behind

Folks, today is the last day of the holiday season at the Disneyland Resort.  Once Tuesday rolls around, you'll have to wait until November before you can see the Happiest Place on Earth in festive Christmas garb, or ride the Haunted Mansion Holiday or Jingle Cruise or It's a Small World Holiday, or see the Christmas Fantasy Parade or Believe in Holiday Magic.  Yes, it's a new year.  The breaks are over, and it's time to return to normal.  But fortunately, we have the cherished memories of warm times with loved ones and the spirit of the holiday season to tide us over.  And at Disneyland, any time is a magical time.  So we're not really bidding good-bye to the holidays--as Walt Disney liked to say, it's more like a, "See you later."

This busy and bustling scene epitomizes Disneyland during the holiday season.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Illuminating Circles II

In full disclosure, the photo below is just a different angle of something I posted a couple of months ago. Then again, this series also happens to include some of my favorite photos I've ever taken, so I'm not going to feel guilty showcasing variations of it.  In that previous post, I shared the technical information behind formulating this shot.  Here, I'll simply point out how just a different angle gives a different feel to a scene.  The diagonality of the November post gives the photo a sense of uncertain off-kilter and enhances the feeling of movement.  I feel like one is almost enveloped into that scene of flight.  Here, with the angle more or less level, the Golden Zephy becomes more of a canopy (of light), circling overhead, while showing more of the background gives a firmer sense of layering and depth.  Here, we're not flying over the water, but we're still in a pretty gorgeous scene.

Another long exposure of the Golden Zephyr in flight.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The New Year Glow

For the third year in a row, I spent New Year's Eve at the Disneyland Resort.  This year, I sought to make it a fruitful photographic adventure, and one of the highlights of the night came at the end of the night, when I came upon Sleeping Beauty Castle lit up for the brand new year.  It was quite a sight, seeing the spotlights shining through the air, with the Winter Castle glittering with a wintery glow.  I do wish Disney would have this setup more often, but perhaps that would take away from how special it looks when they do light up the area in front of the castle.  Regardless, the view was breathtaking--so wonderfully representative of that Disney pixie dust.  What a wonderful way to kick off 2014!

Sleeping Beauty Castle aglow in the immediate morning of the new year.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sunset at the Treetops II

If you can't tell from this post or this post, Tarzan's Treehouse during sunset has turned into one of my favorite places to photograph.  The high vantagepoint coupled with an often magnificent sun setting over the horizon really generates that high spirit of adventure that pervades Adventureland and, really, all of Disneyland park.  There's something about that grand view and being at the top of the treeline and the thematic buildings in this sweeping vista that all works to fill one's heart with excitement and joy.  Or at least it does with me.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Holiday by the Sea

I like this photo because there's that air of a cozy winter's day by those great old seaside amusement parks that is the basis of the theme of Paradise Pier. Of course, at Disney California Adventure, the setting isn't really by the sea.  In fact, sharp eyes will spot the wholly land-locked Anaheim Convention Center beyond the California Screamin' queue canopies, in the background.  But the feel is similar.  Especially with the wispy and charismatic winter clouds Southern California seems to be getting these days, Paradise Pier definitely carries with it an air of excitement and joyful expedition. 

Paradise Pier's sunny holiday disposition is casual and ever-cheerful.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Pointing Toward a Brighter Future

2013 started off with big goals for Disney Photoblography.  I wanted to expand photography coverage, delve into video making, and increase the impact and presence of my blog.  And to some extent, I met those goals.  I did post a couple of videos, though far less than I intended.  I feel like the quality of the photograph has improved.  And you the audience has grown.

But please pardon me if the momentum hasn't been quite so sustained, because 2013 ended up being a bustling year for me personally as well.  I expanded my photography coverage and practice outside of Disney as well, shooting a few events for friends.  Professionally, I finally took the big step into licensure by starting my architectural licensing exams.  Going to Disney parks finally saw a new competitor in concert-going, as I attended a record number of music shows.  And as those who know me personally know, I entered the wild and exhausting new world of home ownership.

All of this means that my time has certainly been reconfigured, and as a result, this blog has "merely" stayed at its original concept--a "photo a day" site with great Disney photos.  With that in mind, I won't make grand commitments for 2014 like I did a year ago, but I will continue to strive to deliver great photos that reflect that magic I feel whenever I'm at the Happiest Place on Earth.  Thanks for being a part of the ride. Whether you've been here since the beginning or just recently started reading, I appreciate the support. And as always, if you like what you see here, please share this site with your friends, whether it be via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, some other social media site, or good old-fashioned word of mouth.  Thanks!

The Partners Statue: Disneyland's ultimate icon of achievement.

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