Friday, July 31, 2015

The Wetted Wharf

July has been a pretty humid month by Southern California standards.  Although it's been uncomfortable at times, I can't complain too much, since we've had a little bit of some much needed moisture.  It hardly puts a dent in our drought, but every little bit helps.  It reminds me of that evening last year when I was caught in a rainstorm at the Disneyland Resort.  Though my camera was dampened, I did have the chance to take some rare rainy night photos, and some of those turned out enchantingly.

A rainy evening last year from the entrance of Pacific Wharf.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Clouds Upon Cross Street

I normally talk about how dramatic Southern California skies are generally limited to the winter, but possibly because of this season's extra strong El NiƱo, we've been getting actual weather in the spring and summer, and with it, some suspenseful skies recently as well.  This photo was taken a couple of months ago, in early May.  This particular day was one of those that threatened rain but never actually materialized it.  But those clouds sure did make an appearance come dusk!  And though the light was more gray and dreary than golden, the puffy, moody clouds certainly enhanced the scene.

The intersection of Radiator Springs' main drag and Cross Street on a moody spring day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cruising the Night

Continuing from the previous Paint the Night installment of Monsters, Inc. comes the fourth installment of the series, featuring floats from Pixar's Cars franchise.  This is the most commercially popular Pixar intellectual property, and it resonates deeply with children, so it's no surprise that Paint the Night features Lightning McQueen and company.  And this segment comes in spectacular fashion, with an illuminated dancing "pit crew" along with a spectacular Mack big rig unit that is a feast for the eyes.  Here are some photos of the floats!

Lighting McQueen follows the Monsters, Inc. float, bringing back-to-back Pixar floats.

Lightning is trailed by his trusty transporter, Mack, and some lit up dancers.

I love the shadows the red lighting creates.  It's quite sleek!

And this Lightning has headlights!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Castle in Monochrome

It's very difficult to get clean, crisp nighttime photographs without a tripod, and even more so via a telephoto lens, even if the lens can drop to a low aperture.  So when I was editing the photo below and not satisfied with the color rendering and noise of the single exposure, I decided to play around with the picture in black and white.  Amping up the contrast created a more atmospheric shot, and it also allowed me to clean up (darken) details that I didn't want so noticeable, such as people in the foreground.  The result is something a little different than my typical nighttime castle shot, but which I still kind of like.

A glimpse through the Hub to Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Toontown Skyline

It may not be apparent at first glance, because of the zaniness of the facades, but Mickey's Toontown actually has some pretty interesting architecture.  In the uptown part, on the west side of the land where guests first come in, the facades are bunch together, more commercial, and create some interesting (though small) avenues and spatial pathways.  Things open up a lot more on the west, which is more residential.  But the whimsical architecture is still fun to behold, and I imagine it must have been incredibly challenging to both draw and construct this land, where hardly any straight lines exist.  Mickey's Toontown may not receive a lot of love, as evidenced by some of the more faded paint and decommissioned attractions, but it's still got its own charm.

The "city" side of Toontown is aesthetically hustling and bustling.

Toontown's rolling hills behind Mickey's House.

The Gag Warehouse is kind of a blast--literally.

Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin still commands a line, despite its presence in the back of the park.

This is just a fun area to zoom in on the details.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Golden Hour on Carthay Circle

When the sun gets low in the sky, Carthay Circle is a golden and gorgeous place to be.  The afternoon magic hour casts a brilliant and warm hue on this hub of Buena Vista Street, and the water features, trees, and blue sky combine for one memorable scene.  The one below is a bit of a throwback, as you can see Condor Flats in the background, but it just doesn't get old for me.  It's just beautiful.

Sunset of Carthay Circle Fountain--forever majestic.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Disney's Diamond Birthday Bash

Last Friday, the 17th, the Disneyland Resort celebrated Disneyland's 60th birthday with a one-day even ranging across both parks.  There were cupcakes, pre-parades (well, one), and photo ops.  Nothing overly spectacular, but just a fun event.  I arrived in the afternoon, after the 10am special ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, so here are some shots of my time at the park.

All around both parks, large screens were set up to display photo feeds of guests who tagged their photos with the #Disneyland60 hashtag.  I even spotted some people I knew on the screen!

The parks were offering free cupcakes for the 60th birthday.  These weren't the special and ginormous 60th anniversary cupcakes found at the Jolly Holiday Bakery, but they were still delicious!

Over in Big Thunder Ranch--one of several free cupcake locations, there was a team of cast members lined up with an army of cupcakes.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Portraits of a Hatbox Ghost

On my most recent visit to the Haunted Mansion, I decided to grab my 70-200 f/2.8 telephoto lens and see what photos I could snap with it.  Of particular interest was capturing more detailed shots of the Hatbox Ghost.  I've taken wider angle overview shots of the character before, but I thought it would be fun to get a little closer and compose shots that more resemble portraits.  "Hattie" is mysterious enough already, and these portraits emphasize his disembodied nature.  The wide aperture of the lens also allowed me to get some pretty crisp exposures, so I hope you enjoy how these turned out!

The Hatbox Ghost lingers in the shadows.

Hat on head and hatbox in head, he waits for Doom Buggy riders to pass on by.
And he's so excited to see them that he loses his head over it!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Uptown Buena Vista

Buena Vista Street is composed of two main districts.  There is the cozy, more neighborhood scale closer to the entrance of Disney California Adventure, and then there is classier, more cosmopolitan uptown district composed of the area around Carthay Circle.  It's an interesting progression that doesn't feel jarring, and it even ends in a park icon, or "weenie," just as Main Street, U.S.A. does over at Disneyland. 

I post a lot of Main Street nighttime photos, but I don't do this as much at Buena Vista Street, in part because the monorail crossing at the recreation of the Hyperion Bridge creates an unavoidable break in the space.  But I figured it was about time I try to get a nice shot up the street over at California Adventure, so late last year, I finally decided to hunt for a view.  I don't think this quite mimics the cozy feel of Main Street, but it's still quite serene and inviting!

All peaceful at night on Buena Vista Street.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunset Over Splash Mountain

So I've mentioned my enjoyment of the views from the top of Tarzan's Treehouse.  It's the most elevated [publicly accessible] view in the park, and it's my final spot to turn to when chasing the light at the end of golden hour.  From here, I'm afforded some great views of the Rivers of America and New Orleans Square below, but I can also get some cool silhouette shots of Splash Mountain and the icons in that corner of the park.  The photo below is once such example.  But here, I've chosen to reveal some details from the shadows, rather than cast a total silhouette. The results end up pretty interesting in my opinion, as the light upon the Mansion gives it an even more antiquated look, while Splash mountain seems even more majestic.  Such are the benefits of chasing the light.

Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion take on a different definition upon sunset.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Spotlights Over Adventure

What I love about the spotlights over Sleeping Beauty Castle that are left on after the Disneyland Forever fireworks is that they completely change the nighttime composition of the park.  Now, these beaming "lasers" of light can be seen from almost anywhere in the park, and they provide a dramatic new definition to the nighttime photos that people can get.  On this particular night, I was strolling through the west side with a couple of fellow photographers, when one of them pointed out the view.  I thought it was pretty striking, so I snapped a few shots on my telephoto lens.  Suffice to say, I'm pleased with the final frame, since it gives some nice hints of the grandeur beyond while still conveying the tight space of Adventureland, emphasizing that sense of exploration that pervades this area.

The spotlights over Sleeping Beauty Castle are visible from pretty much anywhere in Disneyland.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Inside Out Before the Play Parade

The Pixar Play Parade has a little pre-parade float promoting the new Inside Out movie from Pixar right now, and it's kind of cute!  Performers tossing and juggling large balls appear before and after the float, which itself feature the five main character emotions from the movie--Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.  They interact and banter about the the day and their roles in the parade, and it's all quite cute.  Here are a few photos!
Performers before the float.

Here comes the pre-parade unit!
Joy is so happy to be here, but the other emotions don't quite share her sentiments.

I thought the float was pretty nice.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Carthay Celebration

Disneyland has been getting a lot of attention for its 60th Anniversary, but there are decorations over in Disney California Adventure celebrating the occasion too!  Most obvious is the Carthay Circle Restaurant, which is draped with a Disney medallion and blue drapery in a less gaudy but still fancy manner, similar to Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The color palette works nicely here, with the blues shimmering on any given sunny Southern Californian day.  It's nice that Disneyland's younger neighborly sibling pays a bit tribute to the park that started it all!

Beautiful Carthay Circle Fountain in front of the restaurant.

The Carthay Circle Restaurant tower, juxtaposed against the Tower of Terror.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Orbiting the Moon

I'm always searching for angles, and while I've photographed the Astro Orbiter whizzing around at night before, I've never done so from near the castle.  But a few weeks ago, after the Disneyland Forever fireworks, I found myself drawn by this angle, especially with the moon rising behind Tomorrowland.  I took a variety of shots, and this long exposure is one of them.  I thought it made for a cool effect and composition.

The Astro Orbiter spins during the moonrise.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Most Magical 60th

Today is the day Disneyland officially celebrates its 60th birthday.  Yes, way back on July 17, 1955, Disneyland held its opening day.  Technically, this was not the first public day of operation, but rather a media event that included invitations to select guests and VIP's.  Of course, what ended up happening became known as "Black Sunday," as throngs of enthusiastic fans crashed the gates, hot temperatures melted the asphalt, a plumbing strike left the park without drinking fountains, and a live telecast devolved into disorder.

Despite this, the park made it through the day.  And ever since then, Disneyland has been a roaring success.  The park saw its one millionth guest enter just seven weeks after park opening.  Its ten millionth guest came just two years later.  Its hundred millionth guest passed through in 1971, before Walt Disney World even opened.  And today, over 650 million guests have made their way into Walt's Original Magic Kingdom--the Happiest Place on Earth.

Above all, Disneyland is a place of dreams, of joy, and of escape into the magic of our fantasies.  It is Walt Disney's most tangible legacy.  So I extend a round of thanks to Mr. Disney and wish the park a very happy diamond anniversary birthday!

A colorful sunset saturates the skies above Sleeping Beauty Castle.
At night, spotlights shine bright like diamonds in this composite taken both before and after the fireworks.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Grizzly Peek

I've always enjoyed the way that Grizzly Peak was crafted, a rocky silhouette of a bear poking up above the treetops, iconic from multiple views around the park.  Because of this prominent positioning, photographers can get a lot of great frames of this "weenie" of Disney California Adventure, so here are a few telephoto angles I've capture over the past couple of years.

The iconic view of Grizzly Peak, from near the lift hill of Grizzly River Run.

An angle from the waterfall path of Grizzly Peak, behind the Grizzly River Run loading area.

Angled from the bridge entrance onto Paradise Pier, near Pacific Wharf.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Vanquishing the Dragon

I can never really seem to do this justice in photographic form, but at the Lego Store in Downtown Disney, there's a Lego Prince Phillip in the heat of battle, facing off against Lego Maleficent in dragon form.  It's a magnificent Lego piece amplified by a nighttime setting, but I can never seem to quite capture it the way I'd like too.  So here's an attempt below, but I encourage people to see this in person if they've never seen it before.

A scene of epic Lego proportion!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sunset on Paradise Park

The end of last month was sort of odd for Southern California. Usually, June is known for its "June Gloom," an entire month filled with gray skies, dreary light, and mild temperatures.  And that did happen--for the first half of the month.  And then the second half came, and Southern California's weather got drunk, forgot its identity, and turned into the East Coast.

Well, not literally, but it was uncomfortably warm and humid for the last couple of weeks of June, and while the combination of heat and humidity didn't actually match the discomfort found in places like Houston, Chicago, or New York during the summer, it was still unwelcome for Southern Californians absolutely not used to these conditions. 

On the other hand, the muggy skies did provide for some pretty nice sunsets not traditionally found during this time of year.  So at last for photographers, the humidity was slightly worth it.  Sort of.

A dramatic sunset on a humid day made the mugginess a little bit worth it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Disneyland Forever and Ever

This will be by far the greatest number of photos I've ever placed in a single post.  A week and a half ago, I (once again) shot the Disneyland Forever fireworks show.  This time, I chose the center position, facing the castle directly, standing almost at the very front (where the standing section transitions to the sitting section, i.e. at the north curb of The Hub).  This allowed me to take straight on shots of the show, and I really like how they turned out.  As a result, you're going to get an entire show's worth of photos.  I'll keep the captions to a minimum.  Just enjoy the pyrotechnic eye candy!

One of the coolest parts of the show occurs right at the beginning, when dozens upon dozens of spotlights shine into the sky.

And then more spotlights appear and surround guests, pointing up to the sky. No photo can capture the majesty of this moment.

Walt Disney appears on the projections.
And the first burst is Mickey Mouse!

And now, the pyros start in earnest!
There are 62 more photos after this, so if you're reading this from the main page, be sure to click on the link to see more!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An Ornamental Evening

When I took this photo a couple of years ago, it was intended to mimic a photo I took in the early morning hours of Disney's second 24 hour day.  Only instead of an early blue hour, this was just a regular nighttime evening, with clouds providing a fluffy texture to the skies.  I find it interesting how two "nighttime" shots can feel so different, simply because of the lighting and time of said night, but that's part of the fun of photography. Even capturing the same thing can feel drastically different with slight adjustments--in this case, 8pm vs 5am!

Beautiful Ornament Valley on a cloudy evening.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dropping Up and In

The Hollywood Tower Hotel is so large and menacing that it's sometimes hard to take in all of the detail.  Here's a telephoto shot of the portion of the hotel scorched off by a lightning strike into another dimension.  Even now, decades after the event, the burns still seem fresh.  Then again, the hotel did effectively have part of its soul torn into... the Twilight Zone!

Up close with the Tower of Terror.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Monster's Night

Part three of my Paint the Night series picks up after the reused World of Color puppets and hones in on the stars of Pixar's fourth animated feature, Monsters, Inc.  The single float is not the largest or most elaborate, but it's a fun, media-heavy float that features the zaniness of the movie.  Sulley and Mike head up the front and end of the float, respectively, while rotating screens show humorous scenes from the movie franchise by allowing glimpses into Monstropolis.  It's all rather cute, and here are a dozen photos to illustrate the point.

The Monsters, Inc. float coming up Main Street.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

One Last Fill Up

Most of the time, gas stations aren't glamorous places.  They're usually a little dirty and dingy, utilitarian, and nothing to admire. You enter, you get your gas, and you leave, because there are much better places to be.  Well, not Oswald's.  This charming little pump glows with a lovely art deco flare, and it also helps that it's really a merchandise stand.  The nice Packard Coupe off the side invites attention too.  At the end of the night, it's a nice familiar sight bidding you farewell... until next time.

Late night at the end of Buena Vista Street.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Pirate's Abode

The Pirates of the Caribbean show building oozes romantic New Orleans charm, and the ornate facade under golden hour light evokes an incredible feeling of nostalgia and coziness.  With its mix of brick, plaster, and siding, the architecture presents an inviting presence for guests to enter and discover what tales dead men don't tell!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grizzly River Splashdown

Now that summer is fully upon us, a trip to the parks often means having to beat the heat, especially in the middle of the day.  At Disney California Adventure, the best way to do this is via a ride over the rapids of Grizzly River Run.  And the finale of the ride offers multiple chances to get drenched and cool down.  If the spinning drop into the splashdown (the first of its type when the ride opened) doesn't do it, then the geysers waiting to prey upon unsuspecting riders probably will.  Either way, there's a good chance guests will come off the ride wetter than they did going on!

The spinning splashdown provides one chance to get wet, and the spin randomizes who gets the splash!

Bystanders observe the thrilling drop.

Yeah, there's definitely a lot of water.


And then there are the geysers along the final turnaround of the ride, before it returns to the loading dock.

Geysers can come from the sides and even underneath the rafts!

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