Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Garden Paradise

It's spring, and that means reawakening, longer days, and fresh blooms.  The flowers at the Disneyland Resort provide the most obvious sign of this.  Colorful and lively, they really reinforce the motif of rebirth, and add to the lovely ambiance in the parks.  The show below isn't particularly focused in its composition.  The flowers are the subject, but I could have framed them better.  But I like the atmosphere the image conveys.  It's just a pretty, bright, shining day, and at the Disneyland Resort, very often, that is enough.

Spring roses bloom on a beautiful day at Paradise Pier!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Indy Shots in Progress

My new Nikkor 28mm f/1.8 prime lens has given me new opportunities and challenges, and one of them has been the ability to better capture dark ride interiors.  Since these spaces are dimly lit, and I'm always in motion while going through them, the level of difficulty is certainly high.  But a nice wide angle, open aperture lens does make things a little easier by enabling me to use faster shutter speeds to take shots.

Below are some attempts on board the Indiana Jones Adventure, a most complicated attraction to photograph.  With all the jostling and turns and shaking, it's quite difficult to come out with something relatively crisp but not blown out by too high of an ISO setting.  I think I can do better, but these turned out well enough that I'm somewhat comfortable showcasing this on my blog!

The stone skull of a Mara idol burns in the main temple chamber.

The same subject, shot from the side.

Indy hangs out in front of a perilous rolling boulder.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The AMC Atrium

There's a nice framed dome structure over the ticket booth of the AMC Theater in Downtown Disney that I've always thought provided some nice lines and visual drama, so the other night, while wandering Downtown Disney after hours, I decided to try photographing an interesting angle.  Do you think I succeeded?

Looking up to the nighttime sky through Downtown Disney architecture.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Disney Dreams

Disney Dreams is Disneyland Paris' premiere nighttime show.  A combination of World of Color and a traditional fireworks show, this extravaganza combines pyrotechnics, lasers, projections, water screens, and good ol' fashioned Disney magic for a wonderful production, and it's the perfect way to end a day at the park. 

I'm finally getting around to editing some of the photos I shot from the show last year, and I will be posting more. But for now, here are a few of my more favorite shots.  If you care to spoil yourself and see the whole show, you can view a video of the show here.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunset in Condor Flats

Condor Flats may be no more (it's currently being incorporated into the Grizzly Peak area and transformed into the Grizzly Peak Airfield), but that doesn't mean I can't post old photos I have of the place.  Though the small area meant there was never really much to photograph compared to other lands, I did always love wandering through this area during golden hour, when the warm glow of the sun cast a beautiful radiance on the already desert-inspired environment, giving a harsh and rugged beauty to the surroundings.  Those are moments that I treasure at the Disneyland Resort--the most beautiful part of the day at a most beautiful place.

Golden hour at Condor Flats in a photo taken almost two years ago.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Staying at the Magic

These shots were taken less than 18 hours ago, when my friend, Natalie, and I were wandering the Resort after Disneyland Park had closed.  It occurred to me that I had never really shot the Disneyland Hotel before, and I figured this would be a good chance for it, since the early morning hours meant there wouldn't be anyone obscuring the shot.

The Disneyland Hotel isn't anything special compared to all the Resort properties Disney has opened since the original opened. In fact, this hotel wasn't even designed by Walt Disney Imagineering (WED Enterprises back then)!  Designed by Pereira & Luckman Architects , it wasn't formally acquired by the Walt Disney Company until 1988.  Until then, though it bore the Disney name, it was operated by Jack Wrather under an agreement with Walt Disney.  As far as theming goes, though there are touches of Disney charm around the exterior, the architecture is mainly a somewhat plain mid-century modern style.  But the history is rich here, and that nostalgia makes it a lovely place to explore.

Passing under the Sorcerer's Hat while entering the Disneyland Hotel grounds.
Looking up underneath the hat as the twinkly lights go off.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Waiting for Evening's End

Last month, when I was doing some late night photography, it occurred to me that I had never shot the castle from the north side of the Partner's Statue before.  All of my shots had either been in front of Walt and Mickey or all the way in the loop of The Hub, with only the castle in the shot.

So while I was taking my brackets, I noticed one man sitting on a bench, just waiting. He didn't seem to be with anyone, but he was clearly a regular, because the security guards were chatting with him.  I was more focused on the Disney cops getting in my photo, but I couldn't help but bring my glance to this gentleman.  What was his story?  How often did he come here? Did he used to come here with another?

I never really found out, because security was quick to usher me out after this shot.  But I like how the final shot came out, with one person sticking around the Happiest Place on Earth, just soaking up the atmosphere.

A shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle last month, before the latest round of ornamentation.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Back at the Trattoria

I was browsing my catalog to find photos of subjects I haven't posted as much and came upon these Wine Country Trattoria pictures from last summer.  Although these were taken in the middle of the day, when the lighting is not so friendly and maybe a bit harsh, they capture a beautiful day that sparks memories of those lovely summer days when I was a child, and my parents would take me to Disneyland.  DCA didn't exist back them, but the connotation is still there!

Checking in at the Wine Country Trattoria.

A look at the dining area just past check-in.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Just Hanging Around

It has become so ingrained that it doesn't take a diehard Disney fan to echo the spiel delivered to guests inside the Haunted Mansion when they enter the Stretching Room. 

Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm? And consider this dismaying observation: This chamber has no windows and no doors, which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! 

Of course, there is one way out, and it's rather macabre.  But just remember, this method certainly offers a lot of rest afterward.  For all eternity, even!

The Ghost Host reveals another way guests of the Haunted Mansion can get out...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Still Carrousel

It's been a while since I've taken this shot, and recently, I figured I'd try another pass to see how much my photography and processing skills have improved.  Compare this to my first pass nearly three years ago, and I would say that I've improved.  Both of these are HDR photos, but whereas the old iteration was created from several JPEG's and processed in Photomatix, the version below is three exposures shot in RAW and then manually processed in Photoshop, using masking to paint in and out portions that I wanted or didn't want.  I think the result is a much more evenly balanced portrait, but I'd be eager to know your thoughts!  Just leave a comment!

King Arthur Carrousel, still at night.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Thunder Island

Among those who have been fortunate enough to visit multiple Disney parks around the world, the general consensus is that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Paris is the best iteration around.  It is more exciting, more picturesque, and more unique than any of the other versions. 

When I went to Disneyland Paris in 2006, the ride was closed, and I sadly was unable to experience it. But last year, fortune was much better, and I made sure to ride this thrilling attraction.  Indeed, it is most excellent (pardon the unintentional Bill and Ted imitation).  The journey starts on the landward side of Frontierland.  The train actually plunges under the Rivers of the Far West (DLP's version of the Rivers of America) before engaging the first lift hill on the island.  From there, there are multiple drops, helices, scenic flyby's, and plenty of pretty [artificial] nature, before an exhilarating drop back under the river brings riders back to the station. 

It is quite an amazing ride and one of the busiest E-Tickets offered at the park.  For your enjoyment, here are some photos of the ride as seen from another iconic Disneyland Paris attraction, the Phantom Manor!

A view of Disneyland Paris' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Phantom Manor.

Disneyland Paris' Big Thunder is unique in its setting and is my favorite Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Victorian Seaside

The makeover of Paradise Pier several years ago included the redesign of the facades of several shops and games along the backside of the Paradise Pier boardwalk.  Unfortunately, not the entire row was remodeled, but what was changed forms a beautiful and elegant Victorian motif that reinforces the reimagining of Paradise Pier into a classic Victorian seaside amusement park.  Perhaps one day, Disney will finish the job.  But for now, I have isolated frames I can choose to showcase these select parts of the Pier!

Paradise Pier shops front California Screamin'.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Golden Hour Upon Carthay Circle

Carthay Circle is the new hub of Disney California Adventure, and it's a lovely place to spend an afternoon, to people watch, or to just savor the ambiance of 1920s Los Angeles. This area brings forth a glamorous view of Hollywood and the City of Angels.  It's certainly much more pedestrian friendly than the real Carthay Circle, over in L.A. at the intersection of Wilshire and San Vicente.  That's the site of the real Carthay Circle Theater.  But since the home of the original premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves no longer stands, the replica at DCA stands as a suitable replacement.

A summer afternoon at Carthay Circle.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snow White at Midnight

I'm not exactly sure why, but I love seeing purple lighting cast on fantastical looking architecture. There's a sense of spookiness it creates that reminds me of Halloween, and it provides a nice contrast to warm yellow lights that dominate a lot of the park.  Over at Snow White's Scary Adventures, in Fantasyland, this effect takes hold more noticeably than in other places, and it provides a great facade to photograph, especially after everyone has gone home for the evening.

Snow White's Scary Adventures after midnight.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flo's V. Wet Cafe

The lighting at Flo's V8 Cafe is so smooth and beautiful that it's almost too easy to photograph. Just about any photo of this area will turn out beautifully.  So to stand out, you need something unique.  Sadly, these days in California, what counts as unique is rain.  The state has been in a drought for several years, and it shows no signs of letting up.  But during that one night in April last year, when it did rain, I made sure to take advantage!

A rainy evening in front of Flo's V8 Cafe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It Had to Be Snakes

One great thing about shooting with a prime lens is that the wide aperture allows freehand shots even in low light conditions.  It's a nice way to focus on details, such as this stone snake in front of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.  One of many, it seems to watch for intruders, symbolic of the giant cobra that lurks within the temple.  That one is a lot tougher to photograph, but outside, with a lens like my 28mm f/1.8, the task is a lot simpler!

A cobra guards the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Catching the Forest Sun

I've taken photos of this scene before, but this secluded back way around Grizzly Peak always seems to draw my interest.  Maybe it's the sense of calm amidst a wild whitewater rafting environment.  Maybe it's the classic look of the park service truck.  Maybe it's the way the trees part just so to reveal a scene of activity at Grizzly River Run beyond.  But I always feel calm, collected, and cheerful whenever I pass through here.  That rustic feel brings me back to my childhood days, when the great outdoors was a great wonder and mystery, and every turn of the trail brought forth more adventure.  Ah, to have the excitable spirit of childhood!

The Park Service truck sits restfully at the back of the Grizzly River Run loading area.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Waiting Game

When I visited the Paris last year, I scheduled one day for the Disneyland Paris Resort.  I certainly wanted more, but within the timeline of my overall European vacation, the most I could really afford was one day, because I was unwilling to take away additional days from exploring the city.  And despite having only one day, I wanted to explore both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios, ride all the major attractions, AND get a good collection photos to stock up for this blog!  Clearly, I created a big challenge for myself.

Entering Walt Disney Studios at park opening, and the crowd already forming to wait for the new Ratatouille mini-land, located inside the Toon Studios portion of the park.
I had to be strategic, so my thought was to enter Walt Disney Studios first, conquer all the attractions withing a few hours, then spend the rest of the day in Disneyland Paris.  The catch was deciding which WDS attraction I should target first to spend my time most efficiently.  One of the most popular rides in the park is Crush's Coaster, with consistently long lines due to a combination of its popularity and low capacity.  And then there was the new Ratatouille ride, within the new Ratatouille mini-land, which had just opened a couple of months prior.

It may seem like this crowd is heading straight toward the middle of the park, where the movie tram ride is located, but no, that's not quite the case.
Against the advice of my friends, I opted for Ratatouille.  And that's when I ran into the line... snaking all the way from the mini-land, located on the far right corner of the park, out to the heart of Walt Disney Studios, just off the entry that was the Frontlot sound stage.  As it turned out, I should have just gone to Crush's Coaster, did a single rider, then come and wait for Ratatouille, because the land didn't open until an hour after park opening.  But at least I had a chance to take a few shots of the Production Courtyard?  Oh well.  I ultimately ended up having a great day and accomplished pretty much everything I set out to do. But it certainly didn't seem promising initially, when I arrived!

Instead, all of these folks are waiting for the Ratatouille mini-land to open, so that they can check out the park's latest attraction!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Enter Videopolis

Videopolis marks the facade of Discoveryland's quick serve food venue, Hyperion Cafe, and is one of Disneyland Paris' opening day attraction.  Officially, it is the indoor auditorium space that is beside the restaurant.  From the outside, a great airship peaks out from under the structure.  It's a looming presence, and at night, it looks even cooler than during the day. of course, Discoveryland's fantastic lighting scheme doesn't hurt.  I can never get tired of the retro-futurism in this land!

Videopolis at night, with Space Mountain: Mission 2 in the background.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Tower from the Theater

A couple of weeks ago, I showcased a view of the Tower of Terror at night, taken from an elevated perspective.  Last weekend, I managed to make it to the park during the daytime for such a shot.  One thing I noticed from my last shot (and something a couple of my friends pointed out), was that my crop wasn't focused enough.  There were buildings on the sides that were a little distracted and detracted from the composition.  So in retrospect, I should have zoomed in a little bit, like this.  Ah well... lesson learned.  In this photo, I  decided to use a square crop--not only because this makes it ready-made for when I inevitably repost this photo on my Instagram account, but also because the Hollywood Tower Hotel's building mass is tailor made for this aspect ratio!

The Tower of Terror, as seen from the steps of the Hyperion Theater--during the daytime!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Outside the Undersea Adventure

The Little Mermaid features a beautiful show building with a Victorian motif, and you would think that this would make it a piece of cake to photograph.  And yet, somehow, I've rarely been able to get an angle or crop that I'm quite satisfied with.  There are trees in the way, the railings don't align with the flatwork on the ground, and the tiered levels of Paradise Park for an upward perspective that's a bit of a no-man's-land in terms of being elevation--it's not dramatically lower, but it's not even level either.

Usually, I'd just take a picture on my reliable wide angle lens.  That lends itself to more dramatic shots, but in this head-on view of the facade, not quite.  So on this particular day, I zoomed in more to get a less distorted depth of field, and I think I've come up with something close to what I'd like--if all those people weren't in the way, of course!

The Little Mermaid building facade in the afternoon sun.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Bedazzled Castle, Part 2

Yesterday, I mentioned my less than thrilled stance on the Disneyland 60th Anniversary castle makeover.  The photo indicated was taken over a week and a half ago, and the castle has continued to evolve even in the limited time since then.  The photos below were taken just this past Sunday and show additional details being added.  In addition, I've zoomed in and taken more close-up shots of various features of the 60th Anniversary decorations.

The Castle looks relatively nice from an overview perspective, as long as you don't look too closely at any item.
My position remains unchanged.  The aesthetic is definitely very gaudy, and not as elegant as I'd hope.  This may have more to do with my general preference of style in general.  As a person with an architectural design background from relatively recent schooling, I've definitely taken to cleaner, more modern looks.  That's not to say that Sleeping Beauty Castle should look like a 21st century building, of course, but the key word is clean, and there is so much detail in these decorations, all of it glittery and sparkly and glowy, that it almost provides a sensory overload.

I do like the banners with the Disney "D," and I don't mind that the fabric is a different shade of blue from the castle rooftops.
For a lot of people, though, I'll imagine that this is totally their cup of tea. Certainly, it is whimsical and fanciful and quite a sight to behold.  There's nothing wrong about something looking fantastical.  It's just that, in this case, I happen to think it looks too fantastical, to the point of silliness.

I'm conflicted over the drapery, as it looks luxurious in concept but doesn't make much sense on a castle wall.
I'll let you be the judge, however.  Take a look at the rest of the photos, including various detail shots, and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Bedazzled Castle, Part 1

Those who have been paying attention to the Disneyland 60th Anniversary upgrades have probably noticed the recent transformation that has been occurring to Sleeping Beauty Castle.  When plans were first unveiled a few months ago, one of the changes featured a glittering, diamond encrusted castle.  At the time, I thought the rendering showed the castle in a subdued but elegant manner.  However, as the decorations have gone up, I think I've had to change my tune a little.

Now, this opinion is strictly mine, and I can't really make a full assessment because work isn't quite done yet.  But the physical execution has been much gaudier than I expected.  There are diamonds everywhere--appropriate because the 60th anniversary is the diamond anniversary--but to a scale that has become cartoonish. And rather than look elegant, Sleeping Beauty Castle sort of looks like someone decided to detonate the jewels section of an arts and crafts store.

So suffice to say, the look isn't quite for me.  And while there are some elements I like--the banners and some of the drapery is nice--there are others that seem a little too over the top--the castle toppers, actually, for one.  However, I've heard positive reviews from others as well, so certainly, this look seems like it will be hit and miss, depending on who one asks.  I imagine that this castle will be pretty splendid at night, when all the lighting effects are in effect, and the castle sparkles.  To that end, it's like the Winter Castle, which looks rather silly during the daytime but positively spectacular at night. 

Sleeping Beauty Castle from just a week and a half ago, receiving 60th Anniversary decorations.
Do you agree with me or disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Castle makeover!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Sun on Lanterns

I've written about this before, but there are many ways to bring visual image to a photograph.  There's the rule of thirds, the use of leading lines and altered perspective, and there's also manipulation of foreground, middleground, and background to create interest via visual layers.  The photo below is an example of the last method and even retains a bit of the second.  The lanterns hang in focus, illuminated by the golden rays of a setting sun, while bridge just beyond leads the eye toward the background.  That action takes the viewer back toward the middle, where the Riverbelle Terrace beyond finishes off the composition.  It's a bit of a optical journey, but I kind of like the way this photo turned out.  What do you think?

A focused view from Tarzan's Treehouse.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Town Square Bloom

I'm terrible with botany, so I have on idea what kinds of flowers these are, but I haven't noticed them in previous years, and I think they make a wonderful springtime addition to the Disneyland Resort.  For those who don't go regularly, Disneyland frequently changes out their gardens with different varieties of flowers to accent the ambiance of the season.  Different times of the year get different floral arrangements, and they're all quite lovely.  The Disney tradition of horticulture started by Bill Evans lives on today in the lovely landscaping that occurs here and throughout the park.  Isn't it grand?

Springtime flowers in Town Square at night.  Turns out they're foxgloves, per commenter ThunderBall.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Casting Sunlight's Ending Glow

After a while of shooting at a familiar setting, there comes a point when you realize you're running out of scenes to find.  At that point, the challenge switches from finding new perspectives to capturing moments and creating evocative experiences through photography.  These photos of sunset at Paradise Bay are an example of this occuring to me recently.  Here, I've really amped up the warmth, saturation, and contrast beyond what even I usually go.  The idea is to impart a sense of drama and moodiness on the bay.  As such, color accuracy has gone out the window.  But this is an artistic intention, and that's part of the fun of photography--the creative possibilities are only limited by the palette of imagination.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Readying for FANTASMIC!

Twilight upon the river... that middling time when it's after the day, but not quite night.  It's the crux of the transformation of the Rivers of America from an Old West waterway to a thrilling stage for the most spectacular of Disney productions, FANTASMIC!  During this time, crews can often be seen preparing Tom Sawyer's Island, setting the pyro barges, and readying the lighting that is used for the show.  Yes, a lot of work goes into the magic of Disney's nighttime spectacular, much in plain sight, but it's certainly all worth it!

The Mark Twain takes on one last group of passengers before retiring for the night in advance of FANTASMIC!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Curios Parking Job

Adventureland in Disneyland Paris takes on many looks.  There's the exotic island environment of Adventure Isle, the dense jungle around Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril, and then there's the entry area, which has a more Arabian bazaar feel. Inspired a bit by the desert shops of Aladdin's Agrabah, it definitely retains a more bustling feel.  But it's just a layer that is the richness of France's Adventureland!

An off road vehicle parks off the path in Disneyland Paris' Adventureland.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Spectre of Haunted Hollywood

The whole vibe of the Tower of Terror is meant to be eerie. After all, guests are stepping into a supernatural moment frozen in time, and the scene is set as though nothing has changed since that fateful night when five people stepped into an elevator and into their doom. 

As such, the details reinforce the creepy theme, and this winged figurine is one prominent example. Located front and center in the lobby, it has stood touched only by the webs of time and nothing else.  I always like to think that this has the easiest upkeep.  After all, letting dust accumulate actually helps the ambiance. Don't you think so?

A cobweb covered artifact from the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Golden Matterhorn Glow

A lot of times, when I visit the Disneyland, I'm looking less for an epic scene and more for epic light--or at least beautiful, golden light that marks that soft descent of the sunlight into dusk.  It's the most beautiful moment of the day, and it casts itself differently depending on the subject. 

At a place like the Matterhorn, that golden hour glow gives off a rustic feel evocative of the brilliance of nature.  The Swiss connotations certainly help this, but just in focusing on the light, I feel there is a compelling scene.  So in something like the below picture, I don't really have leading lines or specific rule of thirds making the photo more dynamic, but I do that that lovely warm color tinging the Matterhorn with the last caress of the sun.  Here, the mood this imparts to me is enough.

Trees frame a waterfall coming off the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

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