Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Garden Grill

Once upon a time, the Paradise Garden Grill was known as Burger Invasion, DCA's resident burger joint and former purveyor of McDonald's food offerings.  But that was back when Disney California Adventure was kitschy and pop-centric, and when it came time to reinvent the park, this went the way of the demolition crew.

When it reopened in 2011, the burgers had been replaced with a Mediterranean flair.  Skewers with multiple types of dressing, rice pilaf, roasted veggies, and pita bread offered fresh and tasty courses.  The menu has under gone some additional tweaks since then, but I still consider it a nice gem among Disney's quick serve options.  The portions are reasonable and satisfactorily filling, and the presentation of the whole restaurant is certainly much classier.  So next time you're near the back corner of Paradise Pier, near Goofy's Sky School, stop by the Paradise Garden Grill for a snack!

Patrons line up at the Garden Grill on a warm summer day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Up to the Dream Suite

I've been fortunate enough to get into a lot of exclusive spaces inside Disneyland Park, but one place I've never explored is the Disneyland Dream Suite.  Formerly the Disneyland Gallery, this space was remodeled into a lavish apartment that was part of the Year of a Million Dreams, a Disneyland promotion from several years ago that awarded lucky winners fantastic prizes, including staying the night inside the park in this space.  Since then, it's been used to allow a select few to do the same, but usually as part of a special event or unique, one-time giveaway.  It's gotta be nice, though, to have the opportunity. Goodness knows it looks pretty chic from the outside. Perhaps one day, I'll have the chance to see things on the inside!

Looking up the stairs to the Disneyland Dream Suite.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Blue Hour Bakery

Lets make it back-to-back blue hour shots, shall we? Yesterday featured the Tower of Terror from an elevated perspective. Today, we venture to Disneyland Park and return to ground level at the Jolly Holiday.

Since it opened a few years ago, this mainstay at the end of Main Street has consistently served delicious soups, sandwiches, salads, sweets, and drinks.  It's not quite as regularly crowded as it used to be, but I always find at least some line when I go, and the evolving menu remains tasty.  Fares are always fresh and flavorful, and the seating area provides a great place to people watch and take in the ambience.  It's also one of the better lit seating areas in the park, so recently, I've even found myself spending some studying sessions there, just because the ambiance is so nice.  Hey, whatever you gotta do!

Dusk descends on the Jolly Holiday Bakery.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Twilight Zone at Twilight

For a long while now, I've been trying to get a shot of the Tower of Terror from the elevated vantagepoint below.  I was originally inspired by a Disney Parks Blog post from park photographer Paul Hiffmeyer showing the Tower of Terror from a similar angle.  It's not a picture I see often, but it provides a pretty interesting view and really communicates the stepped mass of the building. 

The Tower of Terror at dusk, as seen from the Mezzanine entrance into the Hyperion Theater.
A few weeks ago, I finally got the chance, and while I didn't quite get a golden hour afternoon photo, the blue hour timing might have provided an even more dramatic shot.  The challenging part of this photo was taking three long exposures free handed.  This picture is composed of a 1, 4, and 15 second exposure blended together, but when I was taking it, I was without a tripod.  To make do, I wedged my camera between two horizontal railings of the guardrail, then held my camera as tight as I could.  I'm very picky about how crisp my images are, so even small movement could result in some unsatisfactory blur.  I spent probably ten minutes trying to get the brackets just right, but in the end, I think the effort was worth it.  This is definitely one of my favorite shots I've taken of the Tower of Terror, and I hope you enjoy it too!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

La Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant

The castle at Disneyland Paris is easily the most richly detailed of the Disney castles that have been built thusfar, and not just from looks.  Guests can explore inside as well, and there is a trove of theming to behold.  I've already mentioned the Dragon's Lair below the castle before, so today, we go upward. 

On the second floor of the interior of the castle is La Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, a beautiful space featuring ornate stained glass windows telling the story of Sleeping Beauty.  Consider it a plussed and fancier version of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough at the original Disneyland Park.  The glass is absolutely lovely, and the interior space is quite grand and whimsical.  Definitely spend a little bit of time if you ever to visit the castle and check out this space!

The tree columns give the interior of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant a fairy tale feel.

The stained glass tells the whole story of Princess Aurora.

Mother and father at the celebratory banquet for her birth.

The fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather blessing the child.

Yes, some other things happen, but we'll skip to the end, to the scene that gives Sleeping Beauty its name.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Flo's V8 Reflections

It's been a while since I posted a rainy evening photo.  As I ended up sorting through them, I found that many weren't in recoverable shape, since they had rain spots or blur from the haphazard way I took the photos during the rainstorm.  But this photo from Cars Land survived the culling, and it makes for a nice, lovely set of reflections.  Neon and water definitely make for a nice combo, and the luminous feel of the scene hopefully lets you understand why photographers actually love the rain--when it comes at night!

A rainy evening taken almost a year ago from Radiator Springs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Golden Tinseltown

Hollywood Land is an area that innately glistens with energy and life, and a typical afternoon scene captures this wonderfully.  People are out and about, and the buzz is always fun to observe.  This main boulevard is one of my favorite parts of the park to walk through during the PM hours, and when the low sun hits the buildings just right, the effect is sublime.

A golden afternoon in front of the Art of Animation building.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Columbia at Dock

Docked in Fowler's Harbor, the majestic Columbia serves as a beautiful reminder of our country's history in exploration.  Built as a full scale replica of the first American ship to sail around the world, the Columbia is a testament to the early days of our country, back when the West was quite unexplored, and life much simpler and more rugged.  The ship has a museum below deck, and it offers a more adventurous feel around the Rivers of America compared to the Mark Twain.  And at night, after it's finished sailing, it sure is nice, moored up next to New Orlean's Square!

The Columbia is docked in peaceful waters after a long day of service.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Focused Around Walt and Mickey

To be honest, there aren't a lot of scenic angles at Walt Disney Studios in France.  It remains the least photogenic Disney park of any that I've visited. However, there are exceptions, and the "hub" of the Production Courtyard is one of them.  The beautiful flower bed surrounding France's Partners Statue provides a nice, green softness to an otherwise open and often lifeless-feeling outdoor space, and the facades beyond are enough to give a visual interest and depth to a photographic composition.  It also helped that the sun cleared up the skies a bit whenever I seemed to stop by this part of the park!

Walt and Mickey stand in front of the Production Courtyard at Walt Disney Studios.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spires Everywhere

I've mentioned in a previous post how much I like the perch from atop the Queen of Hearts Castle in Alice's Curious Labyrinth.  Well, photo ops this the one below are part of the reason why.  Being able to get a long shot up high offers a unique perspective that's notably different from the grounded view most guests have.  Here, all the spires of Fantasyland really come into prominence, and the dreamscape that the Disney Imagineers have woven becomes quite fantastic.

The castle at Disneyland Paris, seen from behind.

Friday, March 20, 2015

That SoCal Life

Is there anything more symbolic of L.A. than sand and snow in the same place?  Well, Southern California is one of the few places around where you can go skiing and surfing within a few hours of each other, thanks to our local mountains and our famous beaches. 

The shot below reflects that juxtaposition.  Taken from the second floor balcony of Innoventions, this view of the Matterhorn combines icy mountain with tropical plantlife--a reality that exists in very few locations.  But SoCal is definitely one of them!

Matterhorn and palm trees together are the epitome of Southern California.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tower in the Sun

I've posted a similar angle of this facade before, but not during golden hour.  I'm always fascinated by how potent lighting can be in affecting the mood of a scene.  Normally ominous, the Tower of Terror suddenly becomes glowing and inviting when hit by the late afternoon sunshine. With palm trees in front, it looks like a place you'd love to stay in--if it weren't for the whole supernatural malfunctioning elevator thing.

Golden sun strikes the Tower of Terror on a bright winter day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More Adventures in DisneyBounding

Last week, I featured some photos of some of the DisneyBounders at Dapper Day this month.  Here are a few more photos of dressed up park fans. And though not all of them in this case are necessarily dressed to Disney inspired characters, they're all in some character, which is pretty neat, don't you think?

DisneyBounders of the sci-fi and fantasy variety.

Cleverly dressed are Anna and Elsa from Frozen, and the house from Up on the left!

The 13 Black Cats stunt pilots pose in front of the Jolly Holiday. More of these folks in a future post.

Ellie and Carl from Up, with balloons fittingly in the background!

I happened upon this group while leaving Disneyland park. Another photographer was literally gathering any random strangers he could to take their photos, telling them to "Get in! Get in!," and people naturally obliged!

Finally, I caught a military outfit over in Cars Land.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wilderness Greenery

Today is St. Patrick's Day, which is traditionally associated with the Irish, cloverleaves, and green.  Well, since I don't really have any Irish themed pictures from Disney properties, I'll offer the alternative: something green.  In this case, that green means the verdant forest of Grizzly Peak.  Here are some more photos from that Grizzly Peak back path behind Grizzly River Rapids, and some more of the sights that can be found there!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bonne Nuit de Disneyland Paris

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my 1000th blog post on this site (and 999th day in a row posting).  To mark previous milestones, I've usually posted a photo of the Disneyland castle, or some iconic Disney park monument.  Well, for this one, I'm going across the ocean to the place that has always held my wanderlust heart: France. 

I've mentioned before how much I love Disneyland Paris.  It is the most beautiful of Magic Kingdoms in my opinion, and much of it has to do with its amped up romantic character and atmosphere.  Everything here evokes feelings of dream and fantasy even more than in the other parks I've visited.  It's a park that still retains that feeling of specialness, due to how infrequently I'm able to visit, and I think it's a fitting subject for this milestone post!

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant as seen from Main Street.
And from further back, at the crossroads of Main Street.

And from the end of Main Street, where Town Square is found.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sardines Sardines Sardines

This particular shot at Pacific Wharf isn't of any particular subject, except for the stack of sardine boxes. But I like the perspective it imparts, and the blue skies and bright sunny ambiance are certainly lovely.  To me, this is an example of the little things that make for bliss at Disney parks.

Along the dock at Pacific Wharf.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Story of Arendelle II

A few months ago, I posted nighttime photos of the new Arendelle model in Storybook Land.  Here are some daytime photos for comparison.  The detail is much more evident in the daytime and quite beautiful.  Although it's not an exact replica of Anna and Elsa's home as shown in Frozen, owing to the constraints of the attraction canal layout, it's still quite exquisite.

Arendelle, with the Casey Jr. Circus Train and the Matterhorn in the background.

A long view of the Arendelle model, with Elsa's ice castle in the distance.

Getting closer to the royal palace of Arendelle.

Arendelle's Harbor is quite lovely.

A different angle.
Oaken's Trading Post is off to the side.

One last view of Arendelle.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Castle in the Spring

The vibrant colors of spring fill The Hub with a rich floral pattern, and with Sleeping Beauty Castle as a backdrop, the atmosphere is lively and reinvigorating.  The sense of springtime pastel brushes that spirit of renewal all around, and this sense of rebirth brings an even more joyful mood to what's already the Happiest Place on Earth.

A shot of the castle before the refurbishment, although the current facade doesn't look much different at the moment.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Paradise Park by the Bay

Those sunsets over Paradise Bay are always lovely, even if there aren't any dramatic storm clouds brewing or fiery hues charging over the skies.  Even when there isn't a single cloud in the sky, the ambiance is just lovely.  I can't wait to see the bay filled again, to capture more of this lovely scene!

Beautiful Paradise Bay on a beautiful day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

After Evening at the Rancho

The Rancho del Zocalo is usually bustling with hungry patrons aching for some delicious Mexican food, but after service has concluded for the evening, the tranquility of the space is rather lovely.  The warmth of the Mexican-inspired theming gives a sense of home, and the atmosphere almost seems to bid a good night to the guests.

Outside the entrance into Rancho del Zocalo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blast Area! Keep Clear!

Work is really picking up, so don't be surprised if the text in the posts for the rest of the month are on the brief side. Then again, you probably came for the photos, not the reading, right?

Anyway, with Condor Flats undergoing refurbishment to transform into the Grizzly Peak Airfield and officially incorporate into the Grizzly Peak themed land.  When it reopens in May, it will look nothing like the shot below.  Instead, there will a heavier wilderness vibe instead of a desert vibe.  I definitely look forward to how it all turns out!

An empty exit ramp and queue for Soarin' Over California.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Carrousel de Lancelot

In Disneyland Anaheim, we have King Arthur's Carrousel. In Disneyland Paris, there is Carrousel de Lancelot.  I would assess that this attraction doesn't quite have as regal of a stature as the original Disney park merry-go-round, but this makes sense. After all, Arthur was a king, and the king deserves the grandest monument of all, right?

Disneyland Paris' carousel is bright and colorful.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

By the Casa Della Tires

One of the really nice things about having fast glass is the ability to shoot crisp and sharp images at night handheld.  To those who aren't sure what I mean by "fast glass," I mean a lens that has an aperture that opens pretty wide, at least down to f/2.8, and ideally to f/1.8 or f/1.4. 

The image below was taken from my recently acquired Nikkor 28mm f/1.8.  A relatively wide angle prime (fixed focal length) lens, it allows me to capture an overall feel of a scene with quick shutter speeds, so that I don't have to worry as much about camera shake. 

Looking toward the Courthouse in Radiator Springs, with Luigi's in the foreground.

There are definitely lots of people out there who are firm believers in primes and even subscribe to the theory of only carrying prime lenses.  Sure, you might have change out lenses more, or do more shifting forward or backward in lieu of zooming with the lens, but there's no denying that these guys definitely offer wonderful image quality, because no zoom means less moving parts means more succinct and secure glass.  And so far, just with my own experience, the results are definitely speaking for themselves!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Adventures in DisneyBounding

Confession: the first time I heard about "DisneyBounding," I scoffed.  A variation of cosplaying that wasn't focused on replicating looks and costumes?  That sounded lazy and unimpressive.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  DisneyBounding is meeting of Disney fandom and everyday fashion (though sometimes more than just everyday fashion).  As opposed to cosplaying, where the objective is to look as similar to the character as possible, DisneyBounding is more derivative, relying on a collection of clothing sharing the color palette or texture of a character or idea being portrayed.  It's fancier than everyday wear, but it is not so extravagant as to cause heads to turn wherever one goes.  But for observers who notice the theme being pursued, it can be a fun discovery to behold.

A group of Big Hero 6 DisneyBounders poses with a Frozone from The Incredibles.

Friday, March 6, 2015

More of a Pirate's Life

I recently purchased a new lens with the intention of expanding my dark ride (and general dark setting) photography.  I had been wanting to get a Nikkor 28mm f/1.8 ever since a photog buddy, Michael Besant, let me play around with it when he came to California on vacation last year.  Last month, Nikon had its annual spring sale, which enabled me to add this full frame prime to my camera arsenal.

Naturally, I was eager to test it out, so I took it aboard Pirates of the Caribbean to see what shots I could get.  There's definitely a talent and skill involved with great dark ride photography that I've far from mastered, but the immediate impact of the high aperture wide angle was obvious just from the shots I did snap.  Shooting in RAW, at a high ISO, with the f/stop wide open, I was able to quicken my shutter speed, which made for more crisp photos.  Here's a batch from that first run-through!

After the drops, riders enter an eerie submerged cavern with the ghosts of pirates past.

I was sitting on the left side of the boat, so I could only capture this scene straight ahead.

One pirate inspects his treasure.

A glimpse ahead of another guarding his.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Started By a Mouse

Disney fans certainly recall Walt's famous quote:

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."

Well, technically, it was started by a rabbit--Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But that venture ended when Walt's business dealings with Universal producer Charles Mintz soured, after Mintz asking Walt to take a pay cut due to degrading economic conditions.  Disney ultimately abandoned the character, leaving Oswald to Universal, who owned the rights.

It was on that fateful train ride home that Walt decided to develop a new character and keep all rights to it, rather than leave it in the hands of a distributor as he had done with Oswald.  After some months of development, Mickey Mouse (originally Mortimer, a name to which Walt's wife, Lillian, objected) was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mickey looks on toward the throngs that pass up through Main Street, U.S.A. daily.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dapper Day Spring 2015

Last year, I covered the spring iteration Dapper Day, an informal Disney-condoned event where guests wishing to participate visit the parks dressed in a dashing, fancy, spruced up manner reminiscent of the mid-century Disney park renderings showing guests in their sophisticated Sunday finest.  From a casually organized gathering a few years ago to a semi-sponsored event attracting tens of thousands of guests today (you won't see it on any Disney site, but Disney social media acknowledges it, and they've gained enough clout to be able to offer discounted Disney hotel packages with the blessing of the Resort), Dapper Day has really turned into a fun and fancy celebration.

This year, Dapper Day occurred under clouded skies and threat of rain all day, but that (and actual morning rain) didn't deter thousands of Disney aficionados from descending upon the resort in their most stylish wear.  From the vintage to the Disney Bounding derivative (more on that in a future post), it seemed like everyone was dressed to be seen, but to also have fun and enjoy each other's company.  Here are just a few snapshots from what some guests were wearing!

A huge Disney Bounding meet-up occurred at 3:30 in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and somehow, everyone organized themselves into a photographable throng.

Dapper Day originally had its roots in dressing up in late 19th and early 20th century era fashion.

But it is not exclusive to period pieces, and any sort of fashion will do.

The day is an excuse for guests to indulge in their styles of choice, vintage or modern.

The idea of dressing up in garb not just worn everyday gives the event a sense of importance, and of course, there's always the allure of escapism of bygone era fashion coupled with a theme park predicated on different worlds.

For many, the event is a family affair, with kids getting involved as well.

All sorts of fashions can be seen, some more ornate than others.

Ultimately, the endgame is a sense of fun and role play, and that's why the event continues to grow.

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