Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bustling on Through Morning

This year's 24-hour event at the Disneyland Resort seemed a little more crowded than last year.  This was to be expected. After a near-calamity of a first year (crowd-wise) in 2012, many people stayed away last year, and though it was busy, by the early morning hours, many people had gone home.  This year, though, perhaps buoyed by last year's promising reports, it seemed that more people stayed later.

As a result, the empty early morning shots I enjoyed taking last year weren't really there this year.  I still made due, narrowing my aperture and opening my shutter up longer to blur out people who did wander by.  And even amidst the crowds, there were little oases of peace, like Carthay Fountain in the middle of Buena Vista Street.  Aside from sporadic guests taking pictures by one of the Rock Your Disney Side signs scattered throughout the park, this area remained relatively calm.  As a result, I was able to get a pretty clear photo of this beautiful focal point of Buena Vista Street!

A still-busy DCA at 4:20 in the morning during the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour event.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rocking a Disney Night Away

Last Friday, Disneyland held its third annual 24-hour day, and of course I showed up!  This time, I was determined to attend the entire event. Two years ago, I had shown up at 6:30AM, stayed for an hour just taking in the ambiance of this then-once-in-a-lifetime event, then gone to work before returning after 8:00 in the evening, just missing the nighttime rush, then stayed the rest of the night in the most crowded Disneyland conditions I had ever witnessed, before going back to work the next day.  Last year, pre-existing plans prevented me from arriving until just before midnight, but I was able to slip in while it was still officially my birthday, before staying until morning.

This year? Well, this year I took Friday off and arrived at 6:10 AM. And though I wasn't there for official park opening, I did end up staying until 7AM the following morning.  Exhausting as it was, I had a lot of fun hanging out with a bunch of friends.  For the second year in a row, the gray morning skies yielded no good sunrise shots, but there were some fun nighttime scenes, including this shot of the Hub just before 5AM, with a blaring castle-side dance party in full effect.  The lighting made for some cool scenes, and here's one in front of the Partners Statue!

A raving dance party allowed everyone to literally rock their Disney sides all morning long last Friday/Saturday.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Gray Jungle Sky

In my opinion, the most immersive of Disneyland's many lands is Adventureland.  Home to excitement, danger, and really dense foliage, this area does a great job of transporting guests to a faraway place because within these confines, guests are truly immersed. A jungle really does grow all around, concealing views and separating Adventureland from its neighboring lands. And nowhere does this feel more evident than the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, where towering bamboo, lush palms, and variety of other vegetation bring about a scene that could be mistaken from National Geographic--if it wasn't for the recognizable iconic temple. Still, it's a great atmosphere, and it truly conveys the spirit of adventure!

Peering up at the gray morning sky above the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Citizens of Buena Vista Street: Donna the Dog Lady

Ever stylish, always sophisticated, and never without her beloved pooch, Donna the Dog Lady is one of the Citizens of Buena Vista Street guests can interact with.  She is probably the classiest of the street characters, but that doesn't make her haughty. No, this unofficial mayor of Buena Vista Street is just as friendly as Phiphi, Molly, Milly, or Officer Blue.  And she absolutely loves it when you ask about her beloved Lady, who is always curled up in her arm, so don't be shy about it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rocking Your Disney Side

Last Friday/Saturday, the Disneyland Resort once again hosted a 24-hour event to kick off the summer season.  This was the second one on Memorial Day weekend in a row and third year overall that they'd done one, and once again, it was a lot of exhausting fun.  This year, Disney invited guests to "Rock Their Disney Side," as part of the current promotional campaign, and dress up as their favorite characters.  Some guests went all out with elaborate costumes, while others were more derivative and had more normal outfits that suggested characters or themes via colors and layers. But it was a lot of fun people-watching, and I thought I'd post some photos of some of my favorites (well, the ones I was able to take pictures of anyway!).

These two were quite the adorable Flynn Rider and Rapunzel. Loved the touch with Pascal and the frying pan.

There were lots of Up inspirations, such as this Carl and Kevin.

The Evil Queen from Snow White and Captain Hook were quite the villain power couple.

Also a villain power couple: Maleficent and Jafar.

Some mixed it up. Certainly Captain America would normally not be seen with Elsa and Anna!

Others were more whimsical, like this Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum... or is it the other way around?

At the Carthay Circle Lounge, I ran into a purple-clad Black Widow and a non-blond Thor.

Alice in Wonderland ran into Mary Poppins in the form of this Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, and Tweedle Choose-Whichever-One-You-Think-He-Is.

Also representing Up, the best Russel I found all day.

And finally, an "Indy Ana" Jones who definitely chose wisely.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Flag Retreat

Exactly a month ago, I attended an event with the Capturing the Magic Facebook group--a community of fellow photographers and Disney fans--to observe the flag retreat, a daily lowering of the flag at Town Square in Main Street.  It's a great event and emotionally powerful, as guests who are also currently serving or who have served in the U.S. armed forces are invited to join in the ceremony and salute the flag while also being honored for their brave and patriotic service. 

The event attracts a lot of guests, and spots fill up quickly.  We were able to snag a spot on the east side of the Main Street flag pole, but it required shooting straight into the sun. Under the circumstances, shooting in RAW helped immensely to recover the detail that would otherwise be lost in the face of such a huge light contrast between the sun and everything else.  It also helped to overexpose shots by one or two stops, since the people would be in shadow if I didn't.

I've been meaning to process these photos for a while, but my procastination might have ended up for the best. Because for Memorial Day, this makes a nice tribute to our brave men and women who protect the United States abroad and serve our communities at home.  No matter what your political leaning is, I think you have to respect the courage that our members of the military display in their service.

The Disneyland Band gathers around Town Square to provide a musical background for the flag lowering.

The Dapper Dans also provide harmony for this nice little show.

They sing several familiar hymns for the Republic, from "America the Beautiful" to "God Bless America."

Even a Disneyland duck waddles through to show his respects.

Members of the army, air force, navy, and coast guard are invited to join in the salute to the flag.

There are no pre-arrangements. They step up when identified by their segment. It's a great moment to applaud these brave men and women for their involvement in our armed forces.

The California and United States flags are lowered.
I timed these shots with the crossing of the flags in front of the sun. It resulted in a neat, almost HDR effect (but these are all single exposures processed in my regular manner).

Saluting the flag, as the Disneyland Band plays.

The Disneyland security detail folds each flag in the proper manner.

There is tradition steeped in this event, which was started by Walt Disney in 1955--the very beginning of the park.

A Disneyland band member pulling double duty on saxophone and flute.

Retired Marine Ernie Napper conducts the flag lowering and adds formality and honor to the flag retreat.
After the ceremony, veterans and current servicemen and servicewomen mingle and interact, all bound by their common vein of service to the armed forces.  It's wonderful to see the moments between these different segments of our history all together.
On this day, everyone stopped to shake the hand of a veteran who actually fought in the Battle of Bulge. It was an honor just being in the presence of this heroic vet of World War II.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Golden Ventures to the Future

A year ago, I wouldn't have been surprised if Innoventions would have closed down by now, to make way for a new and exciting attraction.  But two more Marvel-related exhibits later, and this former Carousel of Progress is still kicking.  I suppose work might be being held off until after the 60th anniversary celebration next year. Or perhaps the Walt Disney Company is happy with the current state of Innoventions. Or perhaps the Imagineers haven't quite hit upon the best replacement yet.  Who knows?  But this baseless speculation did allow me to throw in a paragraph for a photo that, I just realized, I kind of already posted last year.  Ah well, 700+ posts in, and I'm bound to have a repeat somewhere...!

A golden afternoon from Innoventions.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturation Mountain

It's been a while since I've posted photos from Critter Country, so a couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the area to see what kind of nighttime photos I could get.  Splash Mountain, naturally, was a focus.  I've always felt that the attraction is a little more challenging to photograph, because other than the iconic overview from the walkway, it's a little tougher to get unique perspectives.  There's that tall fence in the way, and other perspectives require being in line or even shooting from across the Rivers of America.  It's not as simple as just walking over a few feet!

But I did manage one shot with my camera wedged between the branch pickets of the fencing, staring down at the flume as it returns toward the station.  This is after the drop and before the musical Zip-A-Dee-Doh-Dah finale, and it turned out pretty neat.  I took a long exposure just for the fun of it, and the processing is beyond realistic as well.  Maybe not for everyone, but I like the colors that are brought out.

Splash Mountain in a close-up, hyper-real exposure.
What do you think about the photo? Great, or a little too much? Feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Another 24-Hr Day

Today, the Disneyland Resort is having another 24-hour day, the third year they've done it.  After the insanity of Leap Day in 2012, I was cautious about last year's event, but still wanted to go, since it fell on my birthday.  Fortunately, last year proved to be much less crowded, though still busy.  However, as the night wore on, the crowds did subside.  So here's some snapshots from my remaining photos from last year's Monstrous Summer All Nighter.  They're not my best work, but I figured this was a good time to feature them

There was a projection show at the Castle around midnight last year, with Mike and Sulley "painting" it.

Early morning, floodlights blazed upon the castle in preparation of a Good Morning America live filming.

People were still around and about at 4AM in the morning over at Mickey's Toontown.

But in other parts of the park, things were much more still.

By pre-dawn at DCA, I found myself all alone in Cars Land.

This was the easiest empty-shot version of this angle I've ever had to do!

Hopes for a dramatic sunrise this year were washed away by gray clouds.

But this last view before I departed the park at 6:30 AM was pretty wonderful. I get to do it again this year!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Around the Turn

When you think Cars Land and "rounding the turn," you probably conjure up an image from Radiator Springs Racers. But this is a different turn... the pathway from A Bug's Land into Cars Land, and the unique angle it offers of the main drag of Radiator Springs.

I love the perspective of glimpses, because they best show the layering of Disney theming in a park.  The space is meant to be experienced in 3D, but one of the first feelings one gets upon exploring any Disney park is the unveiling of the space... the layers that start to come together, little by little.  From here, there are hints of the neon and glow of the revitalized Radiator Springs, but they are just hints from this point of view.  Advance further, and then the grandeur becomes fully displayed.  It's a nice moment of architectural drama and surprise--a great use of space-crafting to tell a story!

Ramone's and Luigi's around the bend in Cars Land.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Stretching Room

Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination?

Well, it technically depends on which park you're in.  Over at Walt Disney World, the Stretching Room of the Haunted Mansion truly stretches--the floor remains level, while the rest of the room grows.  At the original in Disneyland, however, the room is actually an elevator that helps facilitate guest passage under the berm of the Disneyland Railroad and into the proper show building located beyond the original park perimeter.  Guests who've been to Disneyland have probably felt the floor give a briefly startling jolt as it beings its slow drop, but unless they've been to both parks, they may not have been aware that the experience is not exactly the same on both coasts.

Of course, at the end of it all, both California and Florida's chambers have no windows... and no doors...

Looking straight up to the top of the Stretching Room.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Midnight Magic

If this scene looks familiar, it's because it's a redo of a photo featured in a post I made a few months ago.  That was one of my first times playing around with a telephoto lens in a way that tried to capture a view that I'd normally take on a wide angle.  But as pleased as I was with that photo, I couldn't help but notice that the higlights were still a little blown out in some areas, particular the pink of Sleeping Beauty Castle.  Thus, a couple of weeks ago, at the end of a less busy evening, I retook the shot, taking a wider range of exposures to capture the large variation of higlights to shadows, and manually composited them together in what is technically an HDR photo, but not the surreal, dreamy type I've pieced together before.  The result might be my favorite Disneyland photo I've taken yet, and I hope you enjoy it as the subject of my 700th post on this blog!

Partners, The Hub, and The Castle.

Monday, May 19, 2014

One Dark Stormy Night in Hollywood

The Tower of Terror is set within a somber, stormy mood of supernatural stagecraft, but the rainy evening of the ride's storyline seldom rings true outside.  But several weeks ago, I was at the park when the raindrops started to fall.  As I hustled through Disney California Adventure, taking snapshots despite the moisture, I knew that the Tower of Terror was one shot I definitely needed to get.  After all, the setting is perfect.  That eerie, menacing tower looked at home in the windswept rains, and even though some of that rain ended up obscuring parts of my photos, there as enough clarity to yield an appropriate atmospheric shot of DCA's most haunted attraction.

The Tower of Terror during a cold, rainy night.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Evening in the Canopy

Ever since I started snapping photos from atop Tarzan's Treehouse, I've had it in my mind to see what everything would look like at night.  But it wasn't until a week ago that I had the chance to do so, scampering up late one night near parking closing.  Setting up my tripod was tricky, because every once in a while, a guest would come bounding up and through as well, and I certainly didn't want to get in anyone's way.  Easier said than done, though, given the narrow passageways throughout the attraction.  But the results were pretty interesting in my opinion, and as I haven't really seen Treehouse night shots, I figured I'd start posting my loot and see what people think.  Here's the first... looking across the rope bridge toward the actual "Disneyodendron eximus!"

Nighttime at Tarzan's Treehouse can be just as adventurous as the day!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Scenes from the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean is currently under a three week refurbishment, so I thought I'd take the time to post some photos from within the ride.  Shooting on Pirates is a pretty great challenge--the extremely low lighting means high ISO and fast lenses are a must--and even then, it's hard to capture a perfectly crisp image (at least to my liking).  Still, it's a classic ride and beloved by generations, so lets take a cruise through the lives of everyone's favorite ransacking buccaneers!

The undead pirates occupy the first portion of Pirates of the Caribbean.

They treasure gold, and they'll be with their treasure for all eternity.

Traveling backwards, chronologically, we encounter Captain Barbossa laying seige to a Spanish fort.

The evil captain commands his forces to fire at will.

The Spanish defenders swear to sink Barbossa's ship with their return cannonfire!

Over in Isla Tesoro, town mayor Carlos gets dunked but refuses to tell his secrets, because he is not cheecken.

On the other side, there appears to be an auction going on. The Redhead seems popular.

The remaining wenches are rather wench-y.
Still, there seems to be a pretty good audience for the bride selection.

Onto the celebratory parts of the ride... here a slumbering sot sleeps with his swine.

And the pillaging pirates are claiming loot from the burning town.
As a kid, I was convinced that this was real fire!

Of course, karma always holds the last laugh, and the pirates cannot escape a fate of imprisonment.

For some, it is their ultimate fate.

Others still have hope of escape.

Captain Jack Sparrow bids riders adieu at the end of the ride.

At the end of the day, he's the one who gets away with the treasure!
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