Friday, February 28, 2014

Falls in the Distance

The grandeur of Cars Land is the incredibly believable natural majesty that unfolds through certain angles and viewpoints around Ornament Valley--sights that could conceivably be found in a real national park or monument (if it wasn't for the Disney-content giveaways).  Wide angle shots capture the sweeping beauty of this area, but my recent exploration of shots using my telephone zoom lens has allowed me to hone in on details that give an even more plausible alternate reality. 

Take this shot of firewall falls, photographed partly through the tress, with brilliant Disney Forced perspective reinforced by the compressed depth of field of the telephoto zoom.  Suddenly, the scale very well could be a natural wonder to found in the great Southwest.  These little visual moments keep me excited every time I walk though a park at the Disneyland Resort, and they're a part of what makes Disney parks so magical.

A close-up of Firewall Falls in the splendor of Ornament Valley.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Carousel of Color

One of the prettiest parts of World of Color actually happens after the show. The post-show fountains do a pretty dance of color and vibrance to a warm musical epilogue, and it makes for some great photography.  Since I've been playing with my telephoto zoom lens a lot more lately, I recently decided to play with some more detail-oriented shots of this wonderful part of Disney California Adventure's premiere spectacular.  I think they turned out nicely. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Spotlight on Dreams to Come

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that, on Saturday night, I posted a ridiculous-looking photo of a tripod set atop a concrete fencing stanchion. Well, that shot was to get the photo below.  I was walking by the Storytellers Statue and caught angle back toward Carthay Circle Restaurant, and I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be cool to get a photo of Walt and Mickey looking on toward the reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater, where Walt would first find widespread commercial success in the form of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?  But I needed a higher angle than my tripod would allow, so I had to improvise.  I imagine Walt and Mickey walking up to the theater, their whole lives and successes still in front of them.  Oh, what a dream that must have been!

Walt and Mickey look on toward the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Plummeting Down the Mountain

I was never much of a Splash Mountain enthusiast when I was a child, probably because the drop intimidated me. But once I got over that, I found this Zip-A-Dee-Doh-Dah log flume to be a charming and thrilling attraction with an inescapable soundtrack and an adventurous course.  It's also the symbol of Critter Country, and on this sunny day last year, I found myself staring at the perfect lighting conditions to capture the spirit of the ride!

The iconic view of the most famous log flume in the world.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Most Dapper Day

For the past several years, twice a year in spring (ish) and fall, there has been an informal event gathering of Disney fans called Dapper Day that invites guests to put their finest apparel and go to the parks in fancy style.  Although this event has become associated with a vintage aesthetic, it's really about recalling the days when visiting the Happiest Place on Earth was more than just a casual event but rather was a special occasion that warranted donning one's finest garb.

Some very stylish guests pose in front of the Storytellers Statue in DCA.
Take a look at old footage of Disneyland during its early decades and you'll see that guests used to dress differently when they went to the parks.  Disneyland wasn't a simple "jeans and T-shirt" affair.  No, guests put on their Sunday finest when they visited Walt's original Magic Kingdom, because it was a special and rarefied outing.  Back in those days, there was nothing like Disneyland. Theme parks were a new item, so they warranted something more formal than everyday dress.

Some guests dress up in military uniform.  Actual servicemen are encouraged to come in full adornment too.
These days, of course, times have changed, and someone in a formal suit or eveningwear would look out of place at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure.  But everyone loves a costume party, and an opportunity to wear something extra nice seems to bring out the crowds in droves.  After all, who wouldn't want to see and be seen, all within a setting that is literally something out of Hollywood?

Although Dapper Day is attended predominantly by the younger crowd, age is not a limiting component!
And so, the latest iteration of Dapper Day came and passed yesterday, and it was quite a sight!  Guests young and old in formal attire, all looking snazzy and elegant, all quite happy to be spending a special day with friends and loved ones.  Different people had different spins on what it meant to be "dapper," but the spirit of the event--to present oneself in stylish fashion and have a good time with fellow Disney fans--was alive and well.

Some guests took a more costumed approach, like Prince Philip and Princess Aurora transported to 1920s L.A.!
So, all in all, it was fun for me to stroll through the parks and people watch.  This might not be the thing for everyone--after all, there were plenty of park guests not dressed up and just enjoying the parks like any other day--but I think it's definitely a fun event.  And while not officially Disney-sanctioned, it's definitely something Disney is aware of and acknowledges.  If you followed Disneyland's or Disney California Adventure's twitter feeds on Sunday, you were sure to find retweets of various guests posing for the event.

Dapper Day has become a chance for friends to gather collectively transport themselves to a different era.
If you're interested in more information, you can go to the official Dapper Day web site linked at the top of this blog post.  The event has gotten more and more popular with every iteration, and I'm sure that trend will only continue.

Over at the French Market, Swing Dancing and Dapper Day came head to head in jazzy fashion!

I'm sure that many of the dancers were also veterans of the Disneyland swing dancing circuit.
This simply provided them a venue to look stylish while whipping out some fancy dance moves!
The energy at these things is always so much fun to take in.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Under the Tower's Gaze

It's nearly impossible to escape the watchful stare of the Tower of Terror when one is in A Bug's Land. As if the oversized leaves don't make guests feel small enough, there's that looming monument just to the east, with bone chilling screams of terror.  On the other hand, it does make for a great backdrop, so the photographer side of me certainly doesn't object!

Another night inside a Bug's Land.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Whirling All Afternoon

Last year, I posted an interesting photo I took from the Mad Tea Party, with everything in motion except for a lone teacup almost frozen in action. Well, I thought I'd post some of the other shots in that series.  As I mentioned previously, I can't really do the tea cups, because I get dizzy way too quickly, but they certainly are fun to photograph!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reaching Through the Other Side

I've been going to Disneyland for pretty much all my life, but I never realized that there was a little passageway at the Haunted Mansion line that led from the front entry facade over to the exit.  But as a cast member was locking up the gates last Saturday night, with my friend and I still within the gates and having no intention to ride (because we had just ridden a few minutes ago), I found myself needing a way out, since the front was closed. The CM kindly pointed out that there was a path to the right of the steps, and that's how I found myself looking at the mansion from this side, an angle I don't see as regularly on photos posted online.  'What a neat view!' I thought to myself.  With the hearse in the foreground, I thought it made for an even more interesting scene than the usual queue-side shot.  What do you think?

A few of the Haunted Mansion from opposite the usual angle.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Afternoon at the Wharf

A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling through Disney California Adventure, when I came upon this area of the park and noticed now the light of the low afternoon sun glistened through the passageway at Pacific Wharf.  I was immediately taken back by the warmth of the golden rays on the brick and radiance of ground.  It was another one of those moments that bring sudden serenity, simply because of how nice everything looks.  That's pretty much the drug that keeps me coming back to the wonderful Disneyland Resort.

Walking through the industrial part of Pacific Wharf.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Up Close with Firewall Falls

Firewall Falls might be my favorite part of the majestic Ornament Valley at Cars Land.  Amidst the warm, craggy rockwork of the surrounding canyon walls and mountains, this cascading oasis is a refreshing and welcoming sight.  It's this gorgeous waterfall that first amazes Lightning McQueen when he goes for a drive with Sally.  The movie doesn't show Firewall Falls at night, though, which makes the scene at Cars Land special.  The luminous magentas and purples contrast beautifully with the reds and oranges of the geology beside the falls, and up close, the same stunning effect holds true.

Cruising by Firewall Falls on Radiator Springs Racers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Docked at Midnight II

One of my favorite memories of Disneyland involve strolling along the Rivers of America  after park closing, taking in the peace and tranquility and stillness.  It's a lovely sight, and so incredibly calming and relaxing.  Times like this really reinforce how special Disneyland is. Even as an adult, with adult knowledge and stress and responsibilities, the park can still be blissful magic.

The Mark Twain rests at night, with the buttes of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad behind.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Focus of the Park

I took this shot on Saturday night, closing out the park for the first time in a while, and had plans on describing the technical aspects and behind-the-scenes. But then I stumbled upon this fantastic article by Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog that explains the creative uses of using a telephoto lens. And, well, this describes things better than I could in a short blog post.  The short version: the same scene shot on different lenses and focal lengths can produce drastically different feeling compositions, which is fun way of expressing different moods in a scene.  That said, I think this might be one of my favorite shots of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and I hope you enjoy it too!

The Partner's Statue in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end of the night.

Same view, zoomed in.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Midnight at Cove Bar

During the day, Cove Bar is a lovely and popular hangout spot right next to Paradise Bay where guests can enjoy snacks, mixed drinks, and a beautiful view.  It's prominence as one of the first places inside Disney California Adventure that served alcohol means long lines can often be seen on busier days, as guests wait for a seaside lounge experience. 

During the nighttime, Cove Bar maintains its buzz (pun intended), and even through World of Color, guests continue to flow through.  It is not until the end of the night that things quiet down. Here's a look at empty Cove Bar--a sight seldom seen.

Looking back toward Cove Bar and the bridge onto Paradise Pier.

A glimpse inside at the bar.

Signage proves we are indeed at Cove Bar!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sunset by the Horseshoe

It's become a bit of an obsession for me to capture spectacular, color-soaked sunsets at Disneyland--if only becauseI've been unable to be at the parks to capture all but one of the past several dozen times a vibrant sunset has occurred. Often times, this has been due to changes in plan or unforeseen delays--a frustrating issue for me because I feel like I could have had the opportunity to photograph something extra special, if only so-and-so hadn't occurred.

This past Sunday, though, I was able to snap up some vivacious post-sunset beauty when the skies cooperated and my schedule didn't renege on its end of the bargain.  I've posted nice sunset shots before, but I find the fiery, cloud-tinged types to be the most spectacular--if only because they don't occur in SoCal that often.  Not that I'm complaining about our typical blue skies and clear weather, but scenes are so much more dynamic when there is more than one hue over the horizon.  At least that's how my photographer's mind thinks.  This time, I focused on the Disneyland side, so in the upcoming weeks, you'll see what I was able to come up with at Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom. Enjoy!

A beautiful winter dusk illuminates the sky by the Golden Horseshoe.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

Even though it's not the flashiest ride in the world, I have an affinity toward Monsters Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue.  Earlier this month, however, I realized that I had never photographed this ride. So armed with my Nikon D600, I took a spin through Monstropolis and snapped some shots where I could get them.  The best of those have been featured here, so enjoy these photos!

Sulley and Boo look for a place to hide when Monstropolis has its first human child intrusion ever.
Tucked away on the backside of Hollywood Land, this dark ride is a redressing of an original and infamous dark ride called Superstar Limo, which debuted with Disney California Adventure when the park opened in 2001.  That ride was a tour of Hollywood with animatronic celebrities around every corner, but it was so corny and absurd and subpar by Disney standards that it was panned by the fan community and quickly plummeted in guest popularity.

Reporting to emergency services a sighting of a human child has this monster all tangled up in fear.
So in 2005, it was refurbished and redone, with the original animatronics clad in new costumes or new positions--though keen eyed Disney fans can identify which old celebrity became which new Monsters Inc. ride character.  The original ride vehicles limos were retained and repainted as taxi cabs, and many of the Hollywood facades were repainted to be part of Monstropolis.

Mike, of course, doesn't handle it well.
Mike Wazowski freaking out in the locker room.
As it is, the new ride is a cute recap of the original Monsters Inc. movie.  While the dark ride technology isn't anything progressive, the Pixar source material does lend a more attractive and classic feel to the experience.  Perhaps this is because I've always loved the movie, but there's warmth and heart to the ride storytelling as well.

Skipping ahead because several intermediate scenes did not turn out well, photographically, Boo bops Randall.

Mike and Sulley find Boo's door and return her back to the human world.
Effects are pretty rudimentary (again, by Disney standards), but the famous and main scenes from the movie are all presented in a straightforward and immersive manner. And though I remember thinking that the animatronics could have been more articulated, the first time I rode the redo, it's important to remember that this was intended to be fix on an unpopular ride, and nothing ground-breaking.

Post-incident, a CDA clean-up crew is interviewed by the media.
And for me, the best part of the ride comes at the very end, when riders come face to face with paperwork-demanding Roz, who actually interacts with each car and has unique, relevant comments to the riders, related to their apparel or actions or even responses back to her.  All in all, it's a fun ride, which is the most important point.

Roz comes up with different comments for each car that passes by--all of them hilarious.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bold Shadows by the River

This photo is a bit different from what I usually post, mainly in how not crisp and brightly exposed it is for  a night shot. But there's a moodiness to it that I like, something evokative of the wilderness at twilight.  A sense of mystery pervades the air, and the shadows of the forest conceal more than they show. 

It's adventuresome, and in that same vein, going on Grizzly River Run at night is also an adventure, because at the very least, it takes a lot of bravery to take on potential hypothermia.  I'm not a fan of getting wet on rides in general, but to get wet with no hope of drying off? That takes courage.  So a salute to those who are willing to "go white water rafting" in the darkness. You have more guts than I!

Grizzly River Rapids in the evening.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Harbour Galley Dinner

I haven't done a food post in a while, but last Friday, I had a chance to try something I'd seen on Disneyland's daily Twitter feed--a new item on the menu over at Harbour Galley, a little food stand in Critter Country right next to Fowler's Inn, where the S.S. Columbia docks.  As part of the Resort's recent push to improve the quality and variety of its food offerings, Harbour Galley's menu has been updated with several stuffed baked potatoes as well as a Lobster Roll sandwich, served with a side of seasoned chips. 

This delicious Lobster Roll can be found in Harbour Galley's new menu.
Although I've been very impressed with Disneyland's food improvements over the past few years, I was still slightly skeptical heading in. After all, lobster is a gourmet food item, and offering it as a quick serve, mass-produced fare might mean taking cuts on quality. Fortunately, any worries were for naught, because the sandwich was delicious. The bread was lightly toasted to give a bit of a warm, buttery crunch, and the lobster meat was hearty and plentiful.  I found the creamy mix to be light and refreshing, with hints of dill and chives providing a verdant savoriness.  The chips were rather salty--in fact, too salty for my ideal preference, but that didn't stop me from devouring all of them.  All in all, despite the $13.99 (as of this writing) price, which is among the higher quick serve prices in the park, I will definitely be stopping by again to try this dish in the future.

The Columbia is docked next door at Fowler's Inn.
Oh, and as I was waiting for my food, I decided to take a night shot of Fowler's Inn.  The Columbia is currently under refurbishment, as part of its yearly maintenance schedule, which provides a rare chance to see the ship docked and up close at night.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pulling into Station

Several times in my past few visits to Disneyland, I've entered the gates of Disneyland right at golden hour, to find those beautiful warm rays of low sunshine beaming onto the festive floral Mickey and the grand Main Street train station.  It's a lovely sight--one of the best ways Disneyland can greet a guest when it's not the beginning of the day. Unfortunately from the photographic sense, there are always guests scattered around the entry plaza, so overview photos are hard to come buy.  However, this forces improvisation, so I found myself realizing that if I wanted a clear angle of the station, I would have to get closer. And though this would reduce the area of railroad facade I could capture in an exposure, it made for a more dynamic photo when paired with a wide angle.  With help from Mother Nature's perfect lighting, that resulted in the photo below.

The Disneyland Railroad arrives at Main Street Station on a sunny afternoon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cannery Row II

I love walking down this aisle over in Pacific Wharf.  At the certain right place,I find myself transported up to NorCal, to Cannery Row of Monterey , or at least the nostalgic impression of it.  The weathered wooden siding, rustic brick, and industrial aesthetic combine in an old fashion manner, but it's a nice and pleasant vibe. I talk a lot about little moments of beauty to be found inside Disney parks, and this is certainly one of them.

A beautiful day over at Pacific Wharf!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Splashdown at Grizzly Peak

Grizzly Peak is one of the most beautiful places to be at Disney California Adventure during a bright, blue, sunny day, and Grizzly River Run is the pinnacle.  The rustic environment, majestic evergreens, beautiful cascades, hearty boulders, and spirit of adventure that pervades this entire land is uplifting and refreshing.  It's certainly an invigorating tribute to California's beautiful wilderness, and I particularly enjoy taking in the sights and sounds around the end of Grizzly River Run.  There are so many photographic opportunities around here, one practically need only to aim a camera somewhere and shoot.  And in the afternoons, as the sun descends toward "Golden Hour," things really look spectacular.

A raft splashes down at the climactic finale of Grizzly River Run.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Pirates' Dusk

Normally, the light after sunset isn't particularly conducive to photos, because the warm golden rays of the sun have disappeared, and the sky hasn't darkened quite enough to produce dramatic nighttime photographs. But last weekend, while I was wandering around the Rivers of America, I noticed a rosy glow upon the top of the Pirates of the Caribbean show building, cast by the last rays of the setting sun.  Though ground level had descended into shadow by this time, the top of the building had not, the combination with the early evening lighting that had already come on made for a cozy feeling scene that I can't usually capture during this time of the day.

The lightness of the photograph is thanks to the camera's eye and post processing, but I liked the composition and focus on this small part of architecture. The way the trees rise up behind the building and the way the Spanish colonial-esque facade rise up created an illusion that this might actually be somewhere in the tropical zone.  And once again, I found myself captivated by how little moments of Disneyland could transport me to lands far, far away.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Winter's Sun's Paradise

To the surprise of no one, winter in Southern California is pretty nice. We typically get wonderful weather, while the rest of the country freezes within the grips of vortexes of the polar variety, and that's something that all Southern Californians already appreciate.  But what I love even more is how the low angle of the winter sun means great lighting for photography is available through a much greater part of the day.  During the summer, the sun is high overhead, resulting in harsh shadows, so I'm relegated to waiting for "Golden Hour" if I want to capture some really spectacular scenes. In the winter, I have a lot more leeway, because the sun is low through most of the day, resulting in the same warm tones for which "Golden Hour" is so coveted.  The result has been some wonderful photography conditions!

It's a beautiful winter day at Paradise Pier, and the low angle of the sun makes for a gorgeous warm light.

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