Friday, March 31, 2017

The Hypno Hippo

Hidden in the Africa section of It's a Small World, just past a certain recognizable warthog and regal lion, stands a beloved favorite for many people, but a rather creepy and curious creature for me.  He's a pink hippo, with a similarly colorful bird resting on his back, and his eyes have the piercing strength to penetrate one's show.  Like the Haunted Mansion busts, his gaze follows riders as they pass, peering into their minds, absorbing their consciousness.

Or maybe it's not quite that dramatic, but I remember feeling weirded out the first time I ever noticed guy.  The ride might be a voyage all around the world, but the pink hippo is most certainly a major trip!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Remember... Lightcycles Come True

The current configuration for fireworks viewing is annoying for photographers, because there is a constant stream of pedestrians in front of the very front of the viewing area.  This deprives anyone seeking to photograph any fireworks show of a clear line of sight of the castle and the bursts beyond, which is especially a bummer now that Disney has incorporated projections into their old shows they've brought back. 

On the other hand, occasionally, some happy accident happens, and you get a shot that kind of looks like lightcycles racing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle.  And in cases like that, you take annoyances with the benefits.

Light trails both in front of and behind the castle.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lights Out at the Spring Night Hub

A curious thing occurred last Friday evening when I was visiting Disneyland to photograph the tabebuias in practically peak bloom.  They turned off the lights on me!  Normally, even well after park closing, the lights around the all public areas are kept on to continue the welcoming impression of the park.  It's not just for safety; this was something Walt always wanted--going so far as to discouraged closed doors because they implicitly discouraged guests.  On this night, however, just as I was setting up my tripod to photograph the beautiful scene around the Partners Statue after the last guests had left the background, the street lamps and the twinkle lights set in the tabebuia trees themselves turned off.  The only illumination left were the small spots in the flower bed around the statue and the lighting in the castle area beyond.

Never fear, however!  With the magic of long exposure photography, I was able to get suitable exposures anyway!  Sure, they lacked the usual pop of a regularly lit scene, but they also provided a unique photographic moment that certainly doesn't occur all the time!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pirate Scenes

Two Saturdays ago, March 18th, was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the original Pirates of the Caribbean, at Disneyland Park.  The ride had been under a more extensive than usual refurbishment in the weeks prior to get the attraction back into tiptop shape for it's big birthday, and the weekend marked a festive celebration of the venerable and iconic ride. 

This past weekend, I had the chance to ride Pirates for the first time since its reopening.  All the effects seemed to be back in fantastic working order, and I also used it to shoot the ride using my new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for the first time.  I'm pretty happy with the sharpness of the results, especially at certain scenes I've never really been able to capture successfully, like the banjo playing bayou dweller and the dunking of Carlos the mayor of Isla Tesoro, so enjoy the following eye candy!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Swinging Around the Track

When the weather doesn't cooperate with the beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine you're used to, and it's still the first time you've been to a park, you end up hunting for unique frames to craft interesting juxtaposing compositions--especially when it involves the spiffy new castle that's the centerpiece of a new park. 

In this case, the subject is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, and the Enchanted Storybook Castle is set as a background feature to complement the hurtling train.  The movement of the roller coaster directly leads the eye to the castle beyond--not that you can miss it, so prominently it stands.  And even though there isn't a shimmering satin blue to really make this photo pop, the movement inherent in the frame still generates some interest. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Night End's Beat

The Broadway Theater is home to one of the most amazing Disney shows I've ever witnessed, Big Band Beat, a showcase and tribute to the great swing jazz era of the 1930s and 40s.  With song, dance, and Disney characters, it's a high energy hit that attracts crowds galore and requires a lottery for admission into non-balcony seats.  The show has multiple viewings a day, running from noon to about dinnertime.  Hours later, one can almost hear the sweet melodies of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and Cole Porter echo through the now-empty streets. 

The streets of New York are simultaneously moody and serene at the end of the night at Tokyo Disney Sea.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Roaring Icon

I'm still a bit bummed that, during my time at Shanghai Disneyland last December, I was unable to ride Roaring Rapids (which was down for refurbishment) and unable to experience the Camp Discovery challenge trails, which were extremely busy each time I passed by.  This was really the one major part of the park I didn't explore, and though that serves as motivation to return soon, I still wish I'd been able to sample the apparently legitimately difficult climbing courses available within.

Until that time comes that allows me a second chance, I guess I'll just have to make do with these photos of an alluring Roaring Mountain, looking mighty and prominent.

Roaring Mountain beckons beyond, in the wilderness.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Harbor from the Fortress

Fortress Explorations is not only a fantastic playground on steroids for both children and grown-ups alike.  It's also a wonderful vantagepoint to admire the stunning shores of Mediterranean Harbor.  Under the shadow of Mount Prometheus, Fortress Explorations allows guests to admire that Portofino architecture on the other side of the water, transitioning to a more Venetian vibe, all under splendid skies.  It's a breathtaking scene, and editing these photos stirs a great longing to go back to the wonder that is Tokyo Disney Sea.  Look at the photos below.  Wouldn't you want to visit?

The main walkway through Fortress Explorations passes outside of Mysterious Island.
Panning left to right across Mediterranean Harbor.

The scene is quite wondrous.

Fortress Explorations unfolds right below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Paradise Bay Spectrum

That moment after the sun has gone down but before twilight fully arrives can be magical over at Paradise Pier.  If the clouds are set just right, the atmosphere can become a blazing waterfront scene, with pink, warm clouds painted across the canvas of the sky, and the blue hues of the bay providing a soothing end to a lovely day.  There's a certain juxtaposition between the serenity of the bay and the excitement of the sky, and they combine for a dazzling sight!

Lovely cotton candy colors blanket Paradise Bay.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Glistening Mark Twain

Over the past year, the Mark Twain has sat docked at the river side of Frontierland, serving more as a lookout point and part-time entertainment venue than the majestic sailing vessel it normally is.  This is, of course, due to the reconfiguration of the Rivers of America to make way for "Star Wars" Land, which has left the back half of the river distinctly barren.  But while this paddle boat may be deprived of its main function, it still looks as lovely as ever.  And when it's an evening when rain has fallen, the sparkling reflections make it and even more beautiful scene!

The Mark Twain sits, docked, at the end of the path to Frontier Landing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gardens of the Storybook Castle

Shanghai Disneyland clears out pretty quickly at night after closing, mostly on the part of semi-aggressive security guards who sweep clearly and efficiently and move guests onto Mickey Avenue before leaving them alone to shop the rest of the night.  After the nightcap Ignite the Dream fireworks that end the operating day, guests and photographers usually have only 15-20 minutes to get their shots within the Gardens of Imagination, so they certainly need to count.  Of course, with a beautiful castle backdrop and pretty gardens all around, it's no surprise that even in China, people linger as late as they can for those final photographic memories.

A flower bed near the middle of the Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland, with the Enchanted Storybook Castle beyond.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Of Spring Days Past

Once in a while, I go back into my photo archives to find a few old snapshots I never processed.  The series below stems from three years and one and a half months ago, during a winter where the tabebuia blooms seemed to start a little earlier than usual.  Even more odd, I seemed to have caught The Hub at a moment with relatively few people, despite the late afternoon hour of this photo.  Sometimes, photography is all about timing and luck, and such was the case here.  Regardless, those springtime views of Disneyland never get old!

Walt and Mickey stand in a quiet Hub as the tabebuias bloom.
A bit closer...
Partners in front of the castle, with a hint of blooms to the side.
Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Soarin' at Grizzly Peak

It's been nine months since Soarin' Around the World debuted at Disney California Adventure (and EPCOT... and Shanghai Disneyland--each with its own special location-specific ending scene).  The new ride takes guests flying around various landmarks across the globe, rather than only California, with new transitions, scents, and playful interactions within the scenes.  At California Adventure, this coincided with the transformation of Condor Flats into Grizzly Peak Airfield, which replaced the desert ambiance with a more rustic look.  And honestly, I like it.  The green wilderness feel more at home, and there's more of an immersive environment crafted around this extension of Grizzly Peak itself.  It's a place where, fittingly, dreams can take flight.

Just a late evening scene at Soarin' Around the World.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Thunderous Island

It looks so peaceful when things are still in the middle of the island... this "wildest ride in the wilderness" done up in a unique style for Disneyland Paris, hurtling under the Rivers of the Far West to reach a runaway mine train circuit that is beautiful and thrilling at the same time.  When it's not running, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad looks positively serene.  But when it IS running... hang on to your hats and glasses...

Paris' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Phantom Manor.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Captain Jack's Queue

Waiting in line for Shanghai Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction presents lots of visual distractions, especially once guests go indoors and catch a glimpse of some of the furnishings of Captain Jack Sparrow's private quarters.  This hodgepodge of pirate memorabilia is fanciful and exotic, and it sets the mood for a truly epic adventure that awaits riders of the ride.  There's a ton of detail and probably more than a few hidden Easter eggs.  Too bad the time to glimpse these scenes is brief.  Then again, once you ride Pirates in Shanghai, you'll probably want to repeat multiple times.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pacific Wharf Panorama

Pacific Wharf is a bit different these days.  A little... closer to the water.  This is because the bay around the wharf doubles as the overflow tank for Grizzly River Run.  When GRR goes into refurbishment and is drained, all that water goes out to Pacific Wharf, raising the water level.  This provides some unique perspectives during this part of the year, and on a beautiful late winter afternoon, it makes for a lovely sweeping vista.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Space Helix!

Near the end of Space Mountain: Mission 2 at Disneyland Paris, there's a moment when the roller coaster train seems to go through a torquing helix along a zooming turn, creating an invigorating sensation of flight.  Turns out it's just a simple effect of twisting light bars around the roller coaster track in a helix of their own.  In the speed of the moment, riders can't process the construct, and the illusion is very effective.

Of course, take the magic of digital photography and capture that moment frozen and relatively crisp, and the mirage falls away entirely.  Consider this technically a bit of behind the scenes of how this Paris E-Ticket really works.

Zooming through space at Disneyland Paris.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fooding and Wining 2017

Folks, it's back! Another year of delicious food and beverages has arrived at the Food & Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure.  You may recall that this event returned last year after a five year absence (something to do with the whole park being pretty much under construction as part of an expansion project).  Featuring delicious food and delightful desserts and a bevvy of beverages, this culinary event is bigger than ever (at DCA), and here's a bunch of food porn to entice you to check it out for yourselves!

For a complete menu, head over to Disneyland's web site here.  In case it changes next year, Disney Parks Blog also posted a listing of this year's dishes here.  And as a cheap plug, you can get pictures of the full menus and much more over at Westcoaster's update.

The Brie Toast with Fig & Mint can be found at the Nuts About Cheese booth.

So can the Chevre Fromage Blanc Tartine (goat cheese).

At the Uncork California booth, a Mimosa Flight is one of many alcoholic offerings.

One of the most delicious and flavorful dishes is the Fried Artichoke Carbonara, found at I <3 Artichokes.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tomorrowland Dreaming

Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland is bright, uplifting, soaring, sleek, stylish, and optimistic.  The colors, the curves, the flowing use of glass and steel and translucent materials... the fountains, the curving stairs, the futuristic rides... they all come together in a fusion that expresses the wonders and possibilities of tomorrow.  It truly feels forward-thinking--a trait that many a Tomorrowland has struggled to capture.  Add to that the sweeping and soul-cleansing soundtrack by French electronic artist BT, and it makes for bliss to just walk around this land admiring all the scenes.

Staring up at the TRON Lightcycle Power Run building from the Tomorrowland ground level.

The now-iconic view of TRON from the second floor walkway.

Stairs and fountains and continuous curves sweep all around Tomorrowland.

This circular stair seems Apple Store-esque.

The Jet Packs attraction through the canopy and outdoor seating of the Stargazer Grill.

Jet Packs, set in a quilt of various planting materials.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Blossoms at Disneyland

It's almost springtime, and that means the return of the Tabebuia blossoms at The Hub at Disneyland Park!  These photos below were taken last year, but the blooms typically happen around this time every year (give or take a few weeks).  It's a lovely time around the Hub as the trees burst into those alluring pinks that contrast so nicely with the greens of the new foliage in the background.  And in the middle of it all: Walt and Mickey, basking in all that beauty!

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