Thursday, December 31, 2015

Once Upon a Time

As we come upon the end of the year, there is one spectacular that traditionally marks the occasion: fireworks.  Yes, much like the 4th of July, we love celebrating the turn of the new year with an explosive and dazzling display of blowing things up.

To fit the bill, I am posting fireworks, but maybe not from where you're expecting.  Instead, today, we travel far east (or maybe not as far west, depending on where you are) to Tokyo, where we find the Once Upon a Time castle show.  Once Upon a Time, like its predecessor, Disney Dreams in Disneyland Paris, is not exactly a fireworks show.  Instead, it's more of a castle projection show that incorporates some amount of pyrotechnics.  However, it's a nice extravangaza to cap off an evening at Tokyo Disneyland, and I've included the parts of the show that feature fireworks to tie the whole premise of this post together.

Have a safe and festive New Year's Eve, and a happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Main Street Merriment

Main Street after midnight: the most peaceful and photogenic of all the lands at Walt Disney's Original Magic Kingdom, and during the holidays, the most nostalgic and magical.  The empty avenue is a stark contrast to the rest of the day during the holidays at the Disneyland Resort.  The hustle and bustle of people are gone.  The neck to neck crowds are a memory.  It is just a few lingering guests, the Disneyland security guards, and the park in all its noel splendor.

Is it any wonder that I (and other Disneyland photogs) never tire of shooting this?  It's one last glimpse of the park before the night ends... one last moment to revel in the wonder.  One last moment--for multiple moments, because we photographers always love to stay as late as we can, to get that perfect empty park shot.  But hey, it's worth it!

Main Street is full of holiday splendor during this time of the year.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration has seen the removal of the traditional overhead garlands across the roofs of Main Street.

I rather prefer this open air feel!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare

At Tokyo Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion is similarly transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay during the holiday season.  Unlike Disneyland California, though, this one has a slightly different name: The Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare.  Jack has wrecked the halls here, but it's a little bit different.  And seeing as how Tokyo Disneyland's Haunted mansion is more similar to the Walt Disney World version, this overlay gives you a sense of how Florida's Mansion might look like decked out for Halloween and Christmas.  Here are 30 photos to illustrate the point...

The moon peeks out over the trees at the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare!
The loading station is a little bit different than in Anaheim, but still decorated.
The Library has been decked out by Zero, tinsel and all!
Love that little ghost dog reindeer!
Further on, Sally sits by a piano played by Vampire Teddy.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Critter Country Christmas II

I took this photo last year, but with a rain storm on that particular evening a couple of weeks ago that left the pavement beautifully slick, I couldn't resist the chance to take a second shot at a... well... shot that I was never completely satisfied with.  The result is a testament to how getting a shot right in camera makes things so much easier.

My main issue with my shot last year was that it was too dark and not really vibrant enough.  Though I shot in RAW, I didn't get enough exposure to sufficiently lighten the image in any of the exposures I used and still avoid noise or image degradation.  This time around, I made sure to properly meter and expose, and the result was a much clearer photo that adds that nice wet ground into the equation.

Christmas? Check.
Rainy evening? Check.
Critter Country in more beautiful saturation? Check.

I hope you enjoy!

The entrance to Splash Mountain at the end of a soggier holiday night than usual!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday at the Harbor

Tokyo Disney Sea is understandably very aquatic themed, and that means even traditionally land-bound holiday traditions often become nautical here.  Such is the case with the "Christmas tree" at Mediterranean Harbor.  Once a night during the holiday season, TDS features a show called Colors of Christmas that lights the "tree" in a wondrous display of music, pyro, and Disney characters.  But it all results in a most prominent piece of floating fabricated Christmas vegetation, and it's all quite beautiful!

During the holidays, after the early evening showing of FANTASMIC!, the Sorcerer's Hat barge transforms into a floating Christmas Tree as part of Tokyo Disney Sea's Colors of Christmas show.

The giant "tree" is visible from all around Mediterranean Harbor.

It's quite lovely and peaceful!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Tokyo Toontown Christmas

Christmas Day may have passed, but with the holiday season still officially in effect, I'm going to keep on posting yuletide photos--especially since I have so many of them this year from multiple parks!

Today, we venture to Tokyo Disneyland again and check out their Toontown.  It's basically a clone of Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, but a whole lot nicer.  Mostly, this is because Tokyo hasn't let painting and maintenance lapse like they have here in the States.  As a result, Toontown looks fresh, vibrant, and lively.  It doesn't hurt that the Japanese pack this part of Tokyo Disneyland like they do all other parts of the park. 

Tokyo Disney provides a festive welcome to Toontown!
For Christmas, decorations have appeared everywhere.  But they're not gaudy or overly done.  Rather, they're a nice, decorative trim that seems to harmonize with the already wacky architecture of Toontown, giving it a casual Christmas feel.  It's nice, actually, and very cozy feeling.

Goofy's Paint 'n' Play House is decorated with a big wreath and tinsel.

Mickey's Fountain is unadorned...

But Mickey's House beyond has a nice set of holiday decorations.
The decorations take on the personalities of their respective residences--some silly, some friendly, and some a little zany. But they're all pretty fun and cartoonishly photogenic.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas at the Castle

Merry Christmas!  I've been posting a spree of HDR Christmas photos lately, and it comes to a head with today's image of--what else--the Disneyland Castle, glistening in the Christmas night.  This year, the Castle has had minimal alterations for the holidays on account of it already being pretty elaborate for the 60th Anniversary.  So instead of snowcapped roofs and icicle drapes, Sleeping Beauty Castle has received a modest wreath over the 60th Anniversary medallion plus some ornaments draped over the lamppost banners.

The more minimal decorations actually seems more attractive to me.  I've always through that the Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle was a little on the gaudy side, though it certainly was breathtakingly spectacular.  But I like the classic look of this year's holiday castle.  It's elegant and stands on its own merits, rather than rely on a bunch of ornamentation "make-up." 

To those who have been with the blog since our first Christmas four years ago, thank you for sticking along for the ride.  And to those who've discovered Disney Photoblography more recently, welcome, and thanks for being here.  I hope you enjoy the photos, and I hope you have an absolutely wonderful Christmas holiday!

The 60th Anniversary Castle sparkles in the holiday night!

Walt and Mickey in front of the holiday castle.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Passing the Holidays at Pacific Wharf

The recent rains have enabled me to do something I've never been able to do--take rainy night shots that are also Christmas night shots.  Two things that photographers love, because of the wonderful and colorful and luminous atmospheres that they provide, combined into one, all at a Disney park!

Shooting Pacific Wharf at night is always relaxing too, because it is generally pretty quiet and deserted, even well before park closing.  With no actual rideable attractions, this isn't exactly surprising.  But I'll take the easier photo ops where I can get them.  And I figured that the peacefulness of Pacific Wharf would set some nice photographic ambiance on this Christmas Eve!

A peaceful reflection on the water, plus a "Christmas tree" buoy.

Lucky Fortune Cookery is always photogenic at night, especially after rain, especially with Christmas lights.

The lights string across to Pacific Wharf Cafe.

Cocina Cucamonga features some festive decorations for Navidad as well!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Brilliance of Carsmas

My HDR photography has come a long way since the beginning days of this blog.  Back then, I shot in JPEG and used Photomatix to combine 3 or 5 exposures, which resulted in some pretty painterly results.  Eventually, I learned to throw the Photomatix result back into Photoshop, where I'd mask out noise and correct exposures for a more event look.  But this was still relatively time consuming and often clipped the shadows to create an overly contrasted scene.  But eventually, I figured out that I could shoot in RAW, create various even exposures focused on the shadows, midtones, and highlights, and then just blend them in Photoshop directly, without the use of any other programs.

These days, for nighttime photography, I've determined that my Nikon D610 can adequately capture the dynamic range of most scenes with two exposures bracketed three stops apart, as long as I shoot in RAW so that I can extend the range of recovery of my shadows and highlights.  These shots below are all composed of two-exposure HDR's, but I think you'll find them to be relatively photo-realistic.  Click on the Carsmas tag and compare these to early works, and hopefully, you'll agree that I've had some improvement as the years have gone by. =)

Sarge's Surplus Hut is a pyrotechnic wonderland.

The Cozy Cone Motel is full of all sorts of coned Christmas theming.

Radiator Springs Curios is home to everything holiday eclectic.

Flo's, Ramone's, and Luigi's make up an illuminated composition.

Finally, at the Courthouse stands Santa Stanley, holiday version of the founder of the town.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The 60th Christmas

For 60 years, Disneyland Park has been getting dressed up for the holidays.  It's a warm and lovely sight that has evolved in various styles over the years, but it has always resonated that magical Christmas spirit that sparks our childlike wonder and reminds us of the good and beauty in this world.  This year, the Christmas decorations have been adjusted around the Disneyland 60th Anniversary celebration.  The castle is not its usual icicle-covered snow castle self, while the overhead garlands on Main Street have been removed to accommodate the Paint the Night Parade.  But it's still beautiful, and there has even been additional lights draped around shrubbery around The Hub to add to the sparking sense of winter wonderland. 

Yes, Disneyland has seen a lot of Christmases come past.  But they never cease being beautiful.

Walt and Mickey look on in front of the 60th Anniversary Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Walt and Mickey gaze down Main Street at the end of the night.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas in Venice... in Tokyo

Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo Disney Sea is an amalgamation of various romantic parts of Italy distilled into one magnificent entry area.  The bulk of the land has the feel of Portofino, of the Italian Riviera.  But just to the left, on a little inlet before guests reach American Waterfront, there is a little canal area that harkens to mind the riverways of Venice.  This area is my favorite part of Mediterranean Harbor, because it is the most richly immersive.  The scale, proportions, and urban space really make the area feel like the real deal, and it brought back warm memories of my post-college graduation trip to Italy that included a sojourn to Venice.

During the holidays, this area is decorated in lavish wreaths that exude an ornate, Renaissance feel.  The theming doesn't really overwhelm the architecture, though, since it's so absolutely rich.  But it adds a nice, festive touch to the atmosphere nonetheless!

A wreath on a lamppost imparts holiday atmosphere at Mediterranean harbor.
A look at the waterway, standing from the main bridge.
Looking more centered.

And right, to the lavish Ristorante di Canaletto, one of the finest restaurants in the park!

Ristorante di Canaletto is a fancy sit-down restaurant featuring exquisite Italian food.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas at Grizzly Peak

In past years, I've never really ventured into Grizzly Peak to photograph during the holidays, because the holiday decorations have been relatively sparse.  That has improved over recent years, and this year, with the conversion of Condor Flats into Grizzly Peak Airfield, the entire area has gotten a nice, cohesive look that looks romantically rustic and very lovely.  Along with that has been an expanded Christmas decoration to the land.  Though it is definitely more subtle and tasteful, there is some visible holiday cheer.  Lets take a stroll through this part of DCA via some photos after last Friday's rain storm!

With glistening pavement, the Grizzly Field Airfield welcomes visitors.

The evergreens are done up in Christmas glow near the air field tower.

Holiday lights beckon from beyond the biplane photo op.

Venturing into Grizzly Peak proper, with colorfully wrapped lamps to guide the way.

Looking back the other way from the entrance of Grizzly River Run.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Festive Frontierland After the Rain

Rainy evenings are normally cause for staying indoors--unless you're a photographer looking for a rare photo op, and you happen to be at the Happiest Place on Earth, where it really doesn't rain all that often!

These holiday night shots were captured after a rain storm last week, when the pavement was still relatively slick, providing a delightful glow to the ground cast by the lights of buildings and lampposts around.  I sprinted all around both parks to grab as many photos as you can, so today, Frontierland comes up to the dock for rainy night Disneyland pictures!

The Pioneer Mercantile has extra holiday glow on this night!

The Golden Horseshoe is similarly lovely in its Christmas dressing.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Force Has Awaken

Unless you've had zero contact with any sort of media, you've probably heard that a little movie by the name of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has come out.  I saw it last night, and I enjoyed the movie greatly.  Without spoiling anything, I will say that it is a super entertaining, fun adventure that pays great movie tribute to the original trilogy, introduces an intriguing and exciting new cast of heroes and villains, has some nice nods to the old Extended Universe, contains a few flaws that prevent it from literally being the greatest movie ever, but is overall a wonderful and very good film.

To mark the occasion, here are a few photos taken from the Season of the Force event, which runs from now until... I actually am not sure.  But it's a must-see for any Star Wars geek!  And I know there are a lot out there!  Happy Star Wars day, everyone, don't spoil anything for those who haven't seen the film, and may the Force be with you!

Star Tours has added a new scene inspired by The Force Awakens.

The Season of the Force offers guests the dark side or the light.  And also plenty of lights!

The Tomorrowland Expo Center, formerly Innoventions, has some great Star Wars exhibits.

Finally, the dramatic lights of the Observatron are glowing beacon in a shot inspired by my friend Abraham's photo.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Evenings on Buena Vista

Disney California Adventure's Buena Vista Street brings about a more classical Christmas setting, with a warm, neighborhood feel of colorful and twinkling Christmas lights and lovely Christmas wreaths and wrapping, it provides a nostalgic, residential atmosphere in contrast to the more slick, polished Christmas look elsewhere.  Everywhere in DCA's entrance land, there is intimate holiday decoration to evoke warm feelings of Christmas past.  Here are some photos of the area!

Carthay Circle is light up and bright for Christmas.

The Carthay Circle Fountain remains a lovely and serene place late at night.

The plaza in front of Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe is cozy and organic.

The Five & Dime is where to find the latest shopping wares--great for Christmas gift seeking!

Of course, Oswald's offers one last chance at souvenirs and goodies before leaving the park.

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