Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Welcome to the Airfield

Last month, Grizzly Peak Airfield opened as the successor to Condor Flats.  This expansion of the Grizzly Peak themed land brought a most rustic ambiance to this home of Soarin' Over California, and the results have been quite lovely. More trees, more browns and greens, and a more scenic view.  Here are a few snapshots from my trek through the area last Friday.

A California Parks inspired sign greets entrants into Grizzly Peak.

Taste Pilot's Grill has been renamed Smokejumpers Grill, with a modified menu that's more burger oriented now.

The jet tower has been replaced with an old fashioned air control tower, and Soarin' is now green!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Details of the Zocalo

Last Friday, while wandering the Resort, I decided to zoom in and find details to photograph. After all, it gets a little tiring after a while taking wide landscape overviews.  To accomplish this, I used my Nikkor 28mm f/1.8 lens and intentionally sent upon taking photos with a wider aperture to isolate the detail and render the background into a blur.  I think some attempts were more successful than others, since the depth of field can become tricky to control, but the results were interesting nonetheless.  Here are a few details taken from the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant, located next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Some succulents fit the desert landscape.

A light fixture located up high.

More drought tolerant plants--apt for the current California climate!

And some flowers located outside the entrance.

Getting tricky figuring out which exact point to focus upon!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

World of Color, World of Pride

(If your political or social leanings run far right, you may just want to skip to the pretty pictures.)

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a landmark 5-4 decision that ruled state laws banning same sex marriage to be unconstitutional, paving the way for same sex couples in all states to get married.  This was a fantastic day and a monumental occasion for civil rights.  My Facebook wall was flooded with messages of love and support, not to mention a whole lot of color!  So it seemed appropriate to end my visit at World of Color, which celebrates dreams and happiness created for all people, and uses a lot of, well, color!

After the the main show, there is a post-show of fountains that occurs as people are leaving.  It's pretty and peaceful, but it has its own tag, when the fountains burst into cornucopia of color in one final dazzling flourish.  Knowing this would happen, I wandered down to the front row to snap some very colorful photos.  It felt symbolic and representative to post in support of all my gay friends who finally are being afforded equal rights to take part in an institution that celebrates their love.  We're all entitled to the right of happiness, and when it doesn't hurt others, there's no reason to deny a group of people something that everyone else has the right to.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Painting a Return

Continuing off my series of Paint the Night segments begun last week, we move on to the intermediate floats between the opening Peter Pan segment and the Monsters, Inc. unit.  Large, light-adorned puppets of Tigger, Genie, and Lumiere rove the street, greeting guests all around.

Genie and Tigger come down Main Street during the Paint the Night parade.
If the design of these characters look familiar, that's because they are!  Way back when World of Color opened in 2010, there was a brief preshow called Carnivale of Color that featured large figures of Tigger, Genie, Lumiere, Mike Wazowski, and and Sebastian.  As the [over-repeated] of "Something something something good!" (not kidding there; we will omit this from the list of Disney lyrical highlights) blared over the speakers, these characters appeared in sections corresponding to their associated colors to hype up the audience in advance of the World of Color show.  This preshow only lasted the summer, and the puppets were shuttered away, seemingly never to see the light of day again (not that they ever really saw the light of day in the first place--World of Color is a nighttime spectacular, of course.

Lumiere follows closely behind.

The floats are quite colorful and vibrant.
But now three of them are back, and it's kind of a nice touch to see these guys back in the public eye.  Although the World of Color preshow was far from amazing, the puppet design was, and the luminous Disney characters are a wonderful fit into the fantastic Paint the Night parade!

Lumiere is especially fitting, since he is literally named "light!"

For part three of this series, click here!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Raven

When I was a child, I always wondered why the Doom Buggies exited the attic scene and then turned around backwards before going downhill into the graveyard scene.  I surmised that it was primarily a comfort issue.  After all, leaning forward while slowly moving downhill was a bit awkward.  But it took me many years before I learned that there was a storyline parallel to this as well!  As it turns out, guests leaving the attic are actually falling out of the window and toward their doom!  It's the culmination of the entire ride, where spirits slowly reveal themselves but don't come forth en masse until the graveyard scene.

Well, during this descent, if guests look upward, they can spot a dark bird perched on a gnarled branch, cawing down to them.  This is the raven, an ode to Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.  A traditional harbinger of death, the raven's presence fits with this morbid storyline arc. 

Of course, it seems un-Disney-like to suggest that the storyline actually has the guests die, especially since the later-appearing hitchhiking ghosts will be following the guests home.  But then again, guests are also later told that they have been selected to fill the Mansion's quota, so who knows, maybe they have passed beyond our mortal coil?

This is open to interpretation, and probably intentionally.  But it's interesting backstory, and something I wanted to serve as an excuse to post some photos of the Raven taken on the ride several weeks ago!

After guests "fall out of the attic" into the graveyard scene, they momentarily see the raven, seemingly taunting them.

A closer look at the sinister bird.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Or Sur l'Hôtel

When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it featured one theme park and three hotels.  Over the years, it was expanded quite a bit from the original count, and today, WDW totals four theme parks, two water parks, an outdoor shopping promenade, four golf courses, multiple recreation facilities, a planned community, and of course, many, many hotels (27, to be exact).  One of my favorites is the Grand Floridian Hotel, a Victorian style premiere resort that opened in 1988 to great fanfare.  The success of this hotel encouraged Disney to replicate the aesthetic elsewhere, and when the Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they ended up incorporating this theme into a hotel that served as the front door into the actual park.

The resulting Disneyland Hotel is the first hotel to directly abut and offer room views into a Disney park, and though today, there are other hotels that do the same (the Grand Californian at Disney California Adventure and the Mira Costa Hotel at Tokyo DisneySea), Paris' is the only resort to provide a glimpse into a Magic Kingdom park.

I imagine that view's got to be pretty magical.  I've said before that Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful Magic Kingdom park of all, so to have an angle of the castle, or of Discoveryland, or of Big Thunder Mountain would definitely be quite the dream.  Alas, I can only gaze up at the beautiful facade and imagine.  One day, perhaps.  One day...

The afternoon sun shines on the parkside face of the Disneyland Paris Hotel.

The facade is absolutely gorgeous, just like the other Disney Victorian style properties.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tinker Bell's Flight

Most of the time, when I'm at Disneyland, I'm not camping out for a prime spot to shoot the Disneyland Forever fireworks.  So recently, when I was at the park after work, I decided to bust out my telephoto lens to see if I could capture some details.  One of my subjects Tinker Bell, and what I found once I processed my photos was a little surprising!

An overview shot from the beginning of the month. Tinker Bell sweeps across a long exposure.
I've never actually zoomed in on Tinker Bell before.  Classic Tinker Bell has always been played by an actress, but to my surprise, the Tinker Bell of the Disneyland 60th Anniversary fireworks has a costume that's a little more elaborate than just an outfit with wings.  There's much more to it, actually.  Read on in the captions to find out what!

In this photo, Tinker Bell certainly looks like Tinker Bell.  The wings, the green dress, and the wand are all there.

But something seems a little odd about her head--in that it seems a little cartoonish.

As it turns out, the actress playing Tinker Bell wears a mask for the show, which ends up a bit unnerving up close!

The mask serves two purposes: 1) Tinker Bell looks exactly like she does in the movies, and 2) it protects the actress' face as she flies around from any stray fireworks fallout or discharge from the shells fired near the castle.

And we'll close this exhibt out with Tink doing a bit of parkour. Well, at least the illusion of it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Onward to Adventure

If you're a fan of Tarzan's Treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robison Treehouse) at Disneyland, then you'd be in heaven at Adventureland in Disneyland Paris.  There, a large portion of the area is taken up by Adventure Isle, a huge outdoor playground and exploration area with mysterious caverns, bridges, elevated perches, and plenty of greenery all around. 

This makes Disneyland Paris' Adventureland unique among all the Magic Kingdoms, as no other park has such a widespread area devoted to pedestrian fun.  And while you might think that all this area in place of an actual attraction may be boring, I find it to be very fun, and both times I've been to the park, the enthusiasm of the guests running around seem to support this.  It's just a lovely area borne of the spirit of adventure.  There's an innocent charm to following what may be found just across the river, or at the top of the tree, or deep inside a cave.  Certainly, Adventure Isle is aptly named.

A fun rope bridge leads to another part of Adventure Isle.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Big Thunder Model Railroad II

I thought I'd share some more photos of the beautiful Big Thunder Mountain Railroad model located inside the Frontier Tower of the Disneyland Hotel.  I've always loved these realistic models, and I think they're a very cool feature to display.  They're a glimpse into the design process at Walt Disney Imagineering, and of course, they're just plain cool to look at.

Looking overhead of the model.

The train on the final turnaround.

Over at the loading station.

That infamous goat...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Parked for a Golden Afternoon

I just love those beautiful afternoons over in Grizzly Peak where the golden sun is filtering through the trees and casting a wonderfully warm hue.  Of course, all of this is artificially constructed, but the illusion of nature is pretty convincing, and that rustic atmosphere never gets old.  It's one of the areas of Disney California Adventure where I really feel at peace, content with just taking in the ambiance.

Golden hour at the backside of Grizzly River Run.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Colorful Beginning

I've seen the Paint the Night Parade over half a dozen times now, and it continues to be wildly enchanting. With a bouncy and catchy beat, beautiful lights, and spectacular visuals, this parade is absolutely captivating, and like the chorus goes, I find myself wondering "When can we do this again?"

My multiple viewings have provided a good amount of photo ops, so I'm starting a series that concentrates on each segment of the parade. First up is the very start of the spectacular, with an entrance by Tinker Bell and her fairies and Peter Pan riding a large drum float announcing the arrival of the parade.

Accompanied by the earworm of a theme song (done by Owl City), dancing fairies herald the arrival of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.

Tinker Bell is joined by her Pixie Hollow friends, Rosetta, Iridessa, and Silvermist.

The fairies greet the crowd and interact with the guests.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mickey's Kingdom

Sparkly and luminous, the 60th Anniversary version of Sleeping Beauty Castle dazzles at night.  It's an even more elegant and spectacular version of the winter castle.  But with this new look has come a surge in popularity of nighttime photos in front of the castle, especially now that they've left the spotlights dramatically lighting up the skies above Fantasyland.  So I haven't been able to just wait the crowd out.  As an alternative, I've taken more carefully framed shots to get people out of the frame.  In the example below, I used a telephoto to really make Mickey pop, draping him with a field of bokeh from the castle.

One of these days, I'll just go ahead and wait well past park closing and hope I get friendly security and cooperative crowds who leave the scene with enough time for me to get my shots.  But until then, enjoy shots like this.

Mickey Mouse stands in front of 60th Anniversary castle bokeh.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Welcoming the 60th

A lot of 60th Anniversary decorations went up in the days just before last month's Diamond Anniversary kick off, and one of the theming bits I haven't posted is at the front entrance, where an elegant 60th Celebration sign was set up behind the Mickey Mouse floral arrangement, while a giant (and blatantly fake looking) "diamond" was added at the base of the flower mural.  I actually like the sign a lot.  It's a simple gesture, but really adds a nice composition to the scene.  The diamond... well, it looks more like a sapphire, but oh well.  Still an overall pretty sight!

A locomotive pulls into the 60th Anniversary decorated Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Retour à Plaza Gardens

Disneyland Paris seems to be a more charming version of all the other Magic Kingdoms, and its Main Street is no exception.  As I've mentioned before, its anchor restaurant at the edge of The Hub, Plaza Gardens, is absolutely lovely.  The atmosphere really recalls a wonderful Victorian setting, and given the history of the country, this seems pretty fitting. But the Imagineers couldn't simply recreate. After all, in Europe, the real thing already holds so much emotional, historic, and monumental weight. No, for Disneyland Paris, the Imagineers had to veer into a mix of inspiration and dream.  So the Plaza Gardens brings extra flourishes, like a storybook.  The trims, detailing, and architectural texture come together to create something memorable, and those recollections are firmly embedded in my mind as souvenirs of a wonderful vacation.

It's quite lovely in front of Plaza Gardens on a golden afternoon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In Spirit of Discovery

Discoveryland is timeless because it is modeled after a future that never was--the science fiction imaginations of Jules Verne interspersed with a bit of a steampunk aesthetic.  Because of that, it remains fantastical and beautiful, conjuring the idea of advancement and, well, discovery!

Space Mountain: Mission 2 and the Nautilus stand as icons of Discoveryland.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Down Route 66

It's pretty fun to shoot a landscape scene with a telephoto.  If you have enough space to back up, the compressed depth of field can be very dramatic.  Take the scene below, where the Cadillac Range and Hub Cab rock features appear to dwarf the Courthouse at the end of Radiator Springs' main drag.  With a wide angle, they would appear much smaller, but the long lens creates a different perspective.  One shot, many ways of composing it. That's the beauty of photography!

Radiator Springs under the watch of the Cadillac Range at night.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Fireworks Fantasy Forever

Last week, I started posting some photos of Disneyland's spectacular new 60th annivesary fireworks show, Disneyland Forever.  Well, that continues with some more photos today.  I've mentioned before that fireworks haven't been my strong suit, but I think I'm getting a little better with my timing and shots.  Some highlights are still blown out, but it's definitely pretty cool getting these "empty castle" shots with the pyros going off in behind!

Tinker Bell soars over the castle near the beginning of the show to kick off the pyrotechnic festivities.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Disneyland Hotel Waterfall

When the Disneyland Hotel received an extensive makeover in 2010, the outdoor spaces were dramatically redone.  Gone were the old Lost Boys Bar (replaced by Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar), the remote control boats, and Fantasy Waters, among various elements.  What was Fantasy Waters? Well, it was sort of a World of Color 0.0... a dancing fountains show with lights and colors and fiber optics.  The scale was much smaller, of course, and it was more of a hidden treat for those who knew about it, but it still brought about fond memories for those who were around when this mini-show was operational.

I like to think that this waterfall is all that remains of that old legacy.  Sure, the location on the hotel grounds isn't the same, but they're both bodies of water that offer some calm and enjoyment.  What do you think? 

A long waterfall by the Frontier Tower of the Disneyland Hotel.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Celebrating More Color

It's been a couple of weeks, so how about some more photos from World of Color: Celebrate?  It's a wonderful tribute to the history of Walt Disney and his creations--cartoon, film, and theme park alike, and it returns World of Color to a complete cohesive show without any scenes removed or inserted separately.  This has definitely provided better flow to the show again, and I think most people will enjoy the popular properties featured throughout the show. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris hosts, and who doesn't like NPH (besides soulless people of course)?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Approaching the Tower

Summer is almost officially upon us, but I still think back to the days of winter, when the sun was low in the sky throughout most of the day, producing a bountiful golden cast upon the earth, and dramatic, puffy clouds drifted lazily across the sky--not so dense as to dull ambiance but enough to provide some visual interest.  Those settings regularly combined to produce lovely wintertime scenes like the shot below.  Sure, it doesn't look stereotypically winter, but this is winter by Southern California standards--not by the snow or ice on the ground, but by the dynamicism and drama in the sky.

Golden hour comes upon the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Around the Storybook

As much as I like capturing the wide, expansive vistas that can be found everywhere at Disneyland, I also enjoy the challenge of honing on details or certain frames to get a unique angle.  It takes a more focused eye to pick out these spots, and sometimes I don't find them, and sometimes I do.  In the case of the scene below, I happened to nice the angle by turning back when exiting Storybook Land and noticing how the curve of the water, the Monstro around the corner, and the Carousel all seems to generate a visual interest.  I also knew that this could only be a shot attained by a telephoto, as a wide angle would lose the compression of the scene needed to keep the eye moving across it.  So I asked a cast member if I could stand on the public side of the gate, snapped a few shots, and came up with this!

Looking toward King Arthur's Carrousel from the far end of dock of Storybook Land.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trees in Neon Glow

On the evening of the Disneyland Diamond Celebration 24-Hour Kickoff, I was stuck inside DCA, unwilling to leave the park because of the 3-hour line just to get into the Esplanade and waiting for Disneyland to reopen so that I could see the 60th Anniversary features in that park.  At one point, I settled down at Flo's V8 Cafe to have some food and wait for some friends to meet, and I noticed the way the neon Flo's V8 Cafe sign cast light on the trees.  The glow and illumination was striking, and the color seemed very interesting, so I snapped a shot.  Upon further processing, here's the result.

Neon illumination on the trees on the backside of Flo's V8 Cafe.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Front Row at Disneyland Forever

Last Friday, I finally was able to shoot the Disneyland Forever fireworks in a proper and prepared setting.  I met up with the Capturing the Magic Facebook group I'm a member with, and we had a nice time setting up and taking pictures of this fabulous show. 

Beforehand, I had struggled with choosing a location for my first attempt to photograph Disneyland Forever.  One optimal location is the very end of Main Street, looking up the street and catching the projections on the building facades.  But previous reconnaissance and indicated that this would require a wait of over six hours--something I wasn't quite willing to do.  Other locations further up the street required less patience but wouldn't quite accommodate the size of our group.  Ultimately, we settled on being pretty much up at the front, and we split into three smaller sets located front and center, front and a little left and center, and curb and center.

My location was just left of center, so that I could capture the Matterhorn in the frame.  I knew that I would want to get both the fireworks, the castle, and the mountain during the Finding Nemo scene, when the Matterhorn transforms into an underwater volcano.  My only concern was that the main bursts that launched behind Mickey's Toontown would be too far left and obscured by trees, but as it turned out, the angle of my position left plenty of room to see the fireworks.  Here are a few of the shots, with much more to come in the future!

Dozens of spotlights shine up into the sky at the beginning of the show.

The first fireworks burst is the Mickey Mouse silhouette.

Tinker Bell flies through the scene as the show launches through its theme.

Pretty streams over the the castle.

One of my favorite parts is the Finding Nemo segment, where the Matterhorn turns into Mount Wannahockaloogie.

The show is dazzling and beautiful in its own right.
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