Thursday, June 30, 2016

Entering Disneyland Paris

I've mentioned it in a previous post, but both times I've visited Disneyland Paris, I've entered during very cloudy and dreary conditions.  Fortunately, both times gave way to sunny and beautiful afternoons.  My most recent trip, a year and a half ago, featured dramatic clouds on in concert with gray skies, which at least made for some nice looking shots like the photo below.  Although I've yet to visit Shanghai Disneyland (hopefully to be remedied by the end of the year), I feel like other Magic Kingdoms will be hard pressed to beat the grandeur and beauty and charm of Paris' iteration.  That starts from the moment you pass under the Disneyland Paris Hotel and continues up Main Street, to The Hub and Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and throughout all the lands.  Disneyland is our land, after all, and what a marvelous one it is!

Entering Disneyland Paris on a cloudy day is still a beautiful sight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trains on Exhibit: The Ernest S. Marsh

With the Disneyland Railroad currently down to accommodate "Star Wars" Land construction and infrastructure, the park has done a nice thing and placed steam engines on display at Main Street and New Orleans Square stations.  This allows guests to wander around and look at the trains up close and even access areas that had been previously closed to the public.  Here's a look at the Engine No. 4, parked at New Orleans Square the day I went to visit!

The Ernest S. Marsh looks super spiffy, sitting out in New Orleans Square.
A view from the opposite side.
No. 4 front and center.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Disney Gallery: Disney's Steam Trains

A few months ago, when the Disneyland Railroad went down for refurbishment (or, really, to allow for the re-routing of the Rivers of America and railroad to accommodate the future "Star Wars" Land layout), the Disney Gallery debuted a new exhibit devoted to the Walt Disney's love of trains and the locomotives around Disneyland.  It's a nice feature, full of great artwork models, photographs, and facts.  Here's a belated overview of what it features.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Straight Down Route 66

Cars Land at night is an absolutely beautiful sight.  With so much neon aglow, Radiator Springs makes a lovely show.  And it quite calms the mind to see the Cadillac Range behind.  Bringing a movie to life takes a bit of magic, but the resulting scene is brilliantly fantastic.

Midnight down the main drag in Radiator Springs.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


The nighttime electrical parade has long been a staple of Disney parks.  It all began at Disneyland, with the Main Street Electrical Parade, which in its current iteration for the 60th Anniversary has evolved into the Paint the Night Electrical Parade.  Paint the Night, of course, originated in Hong Kong  Meanwhile, over at Walt Disney World, there was Spectromagic, which both replaced and was replacyed by the Florida version of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Tokyo Disneyland, however, might have the most spectacular, and definitely the most photogenic.  The Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights is just that: a dream of illumination.  And when I say that it might be the most beautiful, I mean it.  Even though Paint the Night is newer, fancier, and has more advanced technology, there is something dazzling in the detail and richness of Dreamlights.  And though Paint the Night definitely has the better theme (Dreamlights reuses the regular Main Street Electrical Parade refrains, which isn't bad--I just love the Paint the Night theme that much), Dreamlights is longer, has more characters, features more complex float designs, and generally demonstrates why the Japanese are superior to us in every way. 

The Blue Fairy ushers in the Tokyo Disneyland Dreamlights parade.
It's necessary, though.  The Japanese have a very high demand for shows--and high quality shows to boot.  There is a plethora of parades, stage shows, sideshows, and spectaculars at both parks, and they are all consistently packed. 
A luminous knight accompanies.
So when I showed up in The Hub to watch both this and Once Upon a Time, I figured the best way to shoot it would be with my trusty Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens.  And fortunately, I think the photos turned out rather well.  Take a look!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Lagoon and the Volcano

Nighttime is splendid at Tokyo Disney Sea, but also challenging.  For although beauty exists everywhere in spectacular fashion, because of Tokyo Disney's no-tripod policy, it is quite difficult to capture "perfect" representations of this perfection.  This means getting creative--finding a trashcan, a low wall, or even using the ground to stabilize the camera enough to allow for a long exposure that may last half a minute or more for a proper exposure--plus a few other shorter exposures to capture the dynamic range.

With last November being my first time ever at the resort, and being limited to only three days ("only"), I took an approach of quantity first, figuring I could sort through later.  Ideally, I wouldn't have that many wasted shots.  To expedite this, I often resorted to nighttime brackets of only two exposures instead of a more even three or five.  Fortunately, with a full frame sensor, two exposures proved to generally be good enough.  In the scene below, calm and peaceful Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island provide a colorful, evocative presence.  It's just a bit of nighttime magic from the most beautiful theme park in the world!

Across the water to Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Waiting for the Storm Ride

Stormrider is a highly immersive 3D motion simulator ride at Tokyo Disney Sea.  Well, was.  It closed earlier last month to make way for a changeover to a Finding Nemo/Dory adventure that will open next spring.  But fortunately, I had a chance to ride the original version last year when I visited the Tokyo Disney Resort.  The actual ride itself is video based, so there's not really much in the way of photos, but I though the queue was pretty elaborately themed.  For just being a virtual reality attraction, there really is a lot of detail. 

Guests in line are introduced to the storyline behind the attraction in the form of a mission briefing.  A captain stands on the gangway overhead and notes the imminent arrival of a massive hurricane.  This is the chance to test a new technology that has recently been under experiment--a fuse that will dissipate the storm and save the coast from its devastation.  The queuing area itself is made to resemble a large, futuristic hanger, before riders are sent off to the flight vehicles for the attraction. 

And as it turned out, the ride itself featured some practical effects in addition to the motion and video immersion.  It was a surprisingly fun ride!  Too bad I only got to ride it once, but we'll see how its replacement turns out.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Midnight at the Oasis

Once upon a time, Aladdin's Oasis was used as a dining area complete with periodic shows.  Unfortunately, it's been many years since that was the case, and these days, it just serves as a location to order Disney show dining packages or use a family restroom.  And every now and then, there's a meet-and-greet with Aladdin and Jasmine.  But the facade is still there, and it's rather pretty at night.  Perhaps one day, we'll see a more regular use out of it.  But until then, it's just a peaceful corner in an otherwise bustling land.

Aladdin's Oasis and the exit of the Jungle Cruise are still after a long and busy day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waiting for the Chef

It may seem odd to recreate Paris just outside of Paris, but that didn't stop Disney Imagineers from creating a California-themed park in the state of California when they designed Disney California Adventure.  Over in Walt Disney Studios, though, only a small portion of the park is Parisian--an area devoted to Ratatouille and built to the house Ratatouille: Remy's Crazy Adventure.  It's richly detailed, evocative of the France area at EPCOT and romanticizing of the City of Lights.  And it seems successful, since it plays upon a movie's portrayal of Paris rather than attempt to precisely recreate the real thing.  At the very least, it's one of the few areas of this park that I find incredibly photogenic.

Guests wait to ride the Ratatouille attraction at Walt Disney Studios, in Paris.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Nighttime Splash

Splash Mountain at night is not exactly my cup of tea.  I'm not a big water ride person in general, and the thought of sogginess in the cool, crisp evening air seems rather uncomfortable.

On the other hand, taking pictures of Splash Mountain at night is much more palatable.  It's such an iconic attraction, and it's fun to find different ways of photographing this class.  In this case, I decided to play with some timing and telephoto, grabbing a shot only via the flash on the ride itself.  I like how it turned out.  It's sort of unique!

Splash Mountain illuminated only by the strobe of the on-ride camera flash during the climactic drop.

Monday, June 20, 2016

House on Phantom Hill

At this moment, the sight below is impossible to view.  Disneyland Paris is currently in the midst of some massive renovations to prepare for its 25th anniversary next year, and the Rivers of the Far West are completely drained, with the island containing Big Thunder Mountain inaccessible.  Phantom Manor is still open at the moment, though.  That spooky dilapidated mansion is wonderfully haunting and iconic, and the ride inside is fantastic too.  So if you happen to be going to Disneyland Paris, know that many attractions are currently under refurbishment.  But one of the best rides in the park--Phantom Manor--is fortunately not one of them.  At the moment.

Phantom Manor looms at the back of Thunder Mesa.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Flights of Fantasy Parade

My trip to Hong Kong Disneyland last year was the least stressful visit to a completely new destination I've ever had.  The park has its own metro stop on the extremely easy to use Hong Kong MTR, and when I arrived, the park itself was pretty much deserted.  Well, not literally, but for those used to regular Disneyland crowds, the Hong Kong Disney bustle would have been a shocker, because there hardly was any!  Lines were often only 5-10 minutes, and my longest wait--the Jungle River Cruise--was 20 minutes because I waited for the English line.

Oh, and I also caught this parade by chance on my way across the park from Tomorrowland.  The Flights of Fantasy Parade is a cute one, with a energetic earworm of a soundtrack and some whimsical though not spectacular floats.  In the middle of it all, there's also a five minute parade stop where guests are invited out onto the parade route to dance with characters.  All in all, it's charming and cute, but not amazing.  All the same, I was glad to have stumbled upon it!

The parade was two floats past when I decided I wanted to snap some photos.

The princess float was quite princess-y.
Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, and Belle greeted the crowd.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Partners in Tokyo II

Last month, I posted a nighttime shot of Walt and Mickey at Tokyo Disneyland. Today, I post some day shots.  As you can see, the Partners Statue is here significantly away from the actual castle.  In fact, it's in front of The Hub, which itself is massive--a double ring to accommodate the huge crowds that pack Tokyo Disney.  It's balanced a bit by the grand scale of Cinderella Castle, though.  And I was fortunate to get generally great weather when I was at Tokyo Disney--a stark contrast to the rest of my Tokyo trip.  But fortunately, my biggest priority was getting nice photos while I was at Tokyo Disney.  Thus, it worked out!

Friday, June 17, 2016

From Anaheim, With Love

Yesterday, the Walt Disney Company officially opened the sixth Magic Kingdom, Shanghai Disneyland.  It is a grand and spectacular park--a reimagining of the classic Disneyland park with a distinctly Chinese influence and new technologies and destinations brought forth to rapidly growing market.  In almost sixty years, Disney Parks has grown from a single entity in the groves of Orange County to twelve parks and six resorts around the world.  It's amazing to see how far things have come.  It's wonderful to see how Walt Disney's special dream has grown and touched so many people.  And it's nostalgic to ponder it all and consider... it all started with a mouse.  And, of course, a man with deep ambitions and the drive to fulfill them.

From California to China, congratulations to the Shanghai Disneyland team--the Imagineering designers and engineers, the construction workers, the performers, artisans, craftsmen, the cast members opening the park, the marketers, technicians, and everyone else involved in such a mammoth undertaking.  It's quite an accomplishment!

Walt and Mickey stand at the heart of Disneyland Park, the center of the original Magic Kingdom.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Elusive Yeti

One of the scenes that's proving to be one of the most challenging shots I've attempted is capturing "Harold," everyone's favorite lovable and ferocious Abominable Snowman from the Matterhorn, perfectly clearly and crisply as the train rounds the corner and has a close encounter with the beast.  I've seen friends who have nailed the shot, but I just can't seem to get the crispness and focus that I want.  It doesn't help that I've never bothered to just ride over and over in front again until I've accomplished the deed, so it's still a work in progress.  But here's a shot from the other day, when I almost got him focused and framed to my liking.  Oh well... next time.

The Abominable Snowman attacks out of nowhere inside the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beacon to Tomorrow

The Astro Orbiter forms a singular icon greeting guests as they enter Tomorrowland.  Framed between two rocky outcroppings, placed in front of the branching off of the old Peoplemover track, this attraction simultaneously anchors the head of Tomorrowland, creates a bottleneck at an entry that once did not have one, and provides some wonderful views around The Hub.  But at night, after the crowds have died down, it reverts to a landmark.  And what a monumental, futuristic one it is!

The Astro Orbiter stands still after midnight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jammin' on the Backlot

After the end of Mad T Party a couple of months ago and the holdover of the space for the Food and Wine Festival activities, Disney California Adventure quietly repackaged the Hollywood Land backlot area into yet another nighttime dance party overlay.  This one is not much of an effort--it's called "Jammin' on the Backlot" and is basically just a themeless holdover of the previous sets.  But it's photogenic at night, and the (much smaller now) crowd seems to enjoy it, so there's that.  Here are some photos.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Welcome to the Japanese Jungle

The Japanese Jungle Cruise is... well, I'm not sure.  I have no idea what the skippers are saying, though I'm sure it's basically the regular Jungle Cruise spiel, but in Japanese.  I know that they are incredibly animated, and just watching them is quite entertaining.  There are a lot of the same scenes as the Jungle Cruise here, and the ambiance itself is quite immersive.  All in all, it's fun--but confusing.  Because, again, I don't speak Japanese.  But hey, at least I got to take this moody blue hour photo!

A glimpse through the jungle back to civilization from the Jungle Cruise at Tokyo Disneyland.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Across the River to the Butte

Frontierland is getting a drastic impact from its neighbor to the northwest--the future home of "Star Wars" Land.  If you go now, you'll see the Rivers of America dammed up beyond a certain point, plus the trail to Fantasyland closed off.  Beyond the fences, dirt, dirt, and more dirt.  Mounds of it--a massive clearing of land for Disneyland's largest expansion in history.  And eventually, it will produce a truly jaw-dropping new themed area.  But for now, Frontierland is a bit messy. 

So here's a photo from earlier days, back before any of this was happening... or even announced.  Looking across the water, it almost seems like everything is quiet and peaceful.  Of course, Frontierland is never really like that during the daytime, but it's nice to imagine such a setting, right?

Looking across the Rivers of America toward Frontier Landing, with Big Thunder Mountain in the background.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Golden Grizzly River Run

I've written about this before, but golden hour in Grizzly Peak is an incredibly magical time of day, when the rustic environment and low afternoon sun combine to create a pretty convincing ambiance reflecting the real great outdoors of the Golden State.  The warm rays of the sun and the verdant glow of the evergreens recall the great state and national parks that make California great.  During moments like this, I'm just thankful that I'm able to witness these sorts of sights--regardless of whether the nature scene is real or simulated.  For times like this, it's best to just enjoy.

Sunbeams stream down onto Grizzly River Run.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Courtyard in New Orleans

Rare are the times I get to photograph the Court of Angels now, ever since it was closed off from the public as part of the Club 33 expansion and New Orleans Square remodel.  Although it was off the beaten path and a "local secret," it was a valued place where I could find some peace and quite and have some nice contemplation.  Sadly, that's not the case anymore, but not being able to visit this lovely space regularly has made me appreciate it more.  And I suppose that's one positive.

The Court of Angels represents serenity in the New Orleans Square night.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sunset Upon Cinderella's Castle

On the same Tokyo vacation day that saw a dramatic sunset as I was leaving Tomorrowland, I also basically ran around as many places as I could to capture vivid scenes of dramatic clouds and sky at a park that I had never previously visited.  The first time visit meant that I was taking a lot of photos in general, but the incredible sunset afforded a very unique opportunity to capture some especially spectacular scenes.  This angle of the park proved especially ethereal, and it also reveals an interesting fact about Tokyo Disneyland--it's oriented southward, the reverse of the U.S. Magic Kingdoms, which means that sunset actually happens over Tomorrowland as opposed to the Frontierland and Adventureland sunsets that Americans are used to.  But hey, regardless of the continent, when there's a beautiful sunset at a Disney park, it's just as gorgeous!

A dramatic sunset falls upon Cinderella Castle in Tokyo Disneyland.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Le Plus Beau Voyage

As with most of the Magic Kingdom parks around the world, Disneyland Paris features an It's a Small World attraction.  This "happiest cruise that ever set sail" is pretty similar to its international brethren, but outside features a little more showiness in the form of an adorable art piece showing the children of the world setting sail around the globe.  It's a great message of unity...and also a pretty nice photo op.

The entrance of It's A Small World at Disneyland Paris.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Celestrial Revolutions

I forget how fun it is to photograph the Astro Orbiter at night, especially when in motion.  The lit up rocket ships and arcing planetary figures create natural illuminating and lovely moments.  They are natural pan shots--the ride itself pans around 360-degrees in a way, and set in front of the rest of electric Tomorrowland, the Astro Orbiter provides a fantastic scene to photograph!

The spinning Astro Orbiter revolves in front of a rising moon.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Menacing Mara

He is angry and possessive, with laser-sharp focus, and one glance into his eyes could spell certain doom.  He is Mara, the idol inside the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and he is the nemesis that confronts riders who board the Indiana Jones Adventure in Adventureland.  Now over 20 years old, this attraction has become a classic, and when fully functional, the effects still provide dramatic narration and some amazing moments.  So do flock to the famed temple, but just beware the eye of Mara!

The massive visage of Mara creates an intimidating presence inside the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Garden of Wonders

Mystic Point may be known for its incredible Mystic Manor ride, but that's not the only attraction in this area!  Right across from Lord Henry Mystic's abode is the Garden of Wonders, a fun walk-through park with some three dimensional optical illusions that play upon perspective.  The idea is that these are archeological antiquities that Lord Mystic has collected over the years, and they appear differently depending on where guests gaze upon them.  Not sure what I mean?  Read on...

In real life, this sculpture is made of three different pieces.

But when viewed from the viewfinder, it appears to be one element!

The same goes for this piece.

Seen head-on, it's like one massive tablet.

There's also ground art that can appear strikingly convincing--from the right angle.  Any other angle, and the illusion is revealed.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Entering Space

Today, we take a trip around and into Tokyo Disneyland's Space Mountain.  The iconic spires are almost identical to the Space Mountain's of the other parks (with the exception of Disneyland Paris'), and the track layout is the same as those in Disneyland Anaheim and Hong Kong.  But since it's Tokyo, the overall aesthetic quality and upkeep is higher, and this means some really great, clean photographic moments!

Space Mountain anchors the end of the main entry boulevard of Tokyo Disney's Tomorrowland.

The ride has a FastPass, as all the Space Mountains do.

The moving ramp up to the higher level is reminiscent of the old People Mover for Disneyland fans.

This is the great perch from where I took that telephoto shot of both Star Jets and Tokyo Disney Sea's Tower of Terror in the same view a few months ago.

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