Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Still Tea Party

I recently got a new Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, which I primarily intended for street photography and as a fast lens for events and portraits.  But as I am wont to do, I've played with it in all sorts of scenarios, and I've been surprised at how good of a "landscape" lens this can be.  The images I've gotten, though not necessarily super wide, have been wonderfully sharp and crisp, with no trail-off in quality at the edges like my Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 wide angle zoom includes.  This has made for some fun experimentation with general shots I've taken before, but with my new lens.  And thus far, the results have been quite favorable!

The Mad Tea Party after hours.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Carthay Shanghai Tower

It's a familiar form, but not quite.  Southern California Disney Park fans will recognize the icon below as the Carthay Circle Restaurant, patterned after the tower of the Carthay Circle Theater.  But at Shanghai Disneyland, this is technically neither of the above.  Instead, it's just an architectural anchor at the end of Mickey Avenue, creating an interesting looking corner.  No matter.  It still looks interesting, especially from the Gardens of Imagination side!

A look at the rooftops of Mickey Avenue.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Exploring the Cove

The Explorer Canoes at Shanghai Disneyland routes around a looser waterway than their equivalents do at other Magic Kingdom Parks.  At Tokyo Disneyland, they go around the Rivers of the Far West, while at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, they go around the Rivers of America.  In these three cases, there is a clear and relatively confined route along which to paddle.  But in Shanghai?  After a bit of a river area in Adventure Isle, the waters open up at Treasure Cove into a bay, and there's more freedom to paddle.

Fortunately, this isn't much of a problem, since the Cast Members can control the steering.  But it's certainly a more unique experience to take the canoes at this park than at the other Disney parks!

Paddling by some ominous rocks in Treasure Cove.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Gong xi fa cai! Xin nian kuai le!  Happy Chinese (and Lunar) New Year, folks!  Today marks the first day of the Year of the Rooster, and I figured it would be fitting to post something from the Lunar New Year celebration at Disney California Adventure.  This post features photos from the Acrobats of China troupe performing at Paradise Pier during this seasonal event, which runs through Sunday, February 5.  The act is a fun twenty minutes, filled with skilled jugglers spinning the diabolo, rope twirlers interacting with acrobatics, and balanced tumblers.  It's artistry and gymnastics and a pretty impressive show, and it plays multiple times a day.  Check out some of what happens during this show!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Main Street Electrical Parade Returns

After 21 years away from Disneyland Park, the Main Street Electrical Parade has come home for one final run now until Sunday, June 18th.  This classic beloved spectacular has dazzled Disneyland guests for generations, ever since its debut way back in 1972.  It laid the foundation for incredible nighttime parades that continues today with pieces like Tokyo Disneyland's Dreamlights and the Paint the Night Electrical Parade.  And though the Main Street Electrical Parade may look a little dated in comparison, watching those floats glide and whirl and bobble up and down Main Street really rekindles that magic of seeing this wonder as a child. 

Here is a slew (80, to be precise!) of photos of the Main Street Electrical Parade, taken last Saturday.  It might only be running for a few months, but its nice to have this nostalgic classic back home.

The familiar Casey Jr. Train rolls at the start of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Goofy's the conductor.

No blue fairy, unfortunately.

But the classic drum is back, with Mickey and Minnie helming the float.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Mighty Mountain Over the Sea

In figuring out what photo to post, I realized it had been a little while since I'd done a photo from Mysterious Island.  This area is one of the most awe-inspiring in Tokyo Disney Sea, especially at night, when the immaculate lighting schemes turn this volcanic land into a photographer's dream.  At the literal center of it all is Mount Prometheus, the smoldering volcano that functions as Disney Sea's "weenie" (central orienting landmark, like the castles in the Disney Magic Kingdom parks).  This towering icon dominates the skyline all over the park, but here, within Mysterious Island, it is at its most simultaneously ominous and majestic.  This scene never gets old. And it always remains mesmerizing.

Mount Promethus, the Nautilus, and the waters of Mysterious Island.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lunar New Year Foodstivities

It seems like Disney California Adventure has really embraced the seasonal specialty food scene.  The introduction of the Lunar New Year Marketplace means that three times over the past eleven months, DCA has held some sort of festival event that includes limited-time dishes for food lovers to sample.  For the current event, which runs through Sunday, February 5, the offerings are less and focused on Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisine (to connect to the Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday, January 28 this year).  Guests can find the eats at three booths along Paradise Pier, near the Little Mermaid ride and Golden Zephyr, and also at the Paradise Pier Garden Grill.

Lets take a look at some of the offerings!

At Paradise Grill, the tastiest dish (in my opinion) is the Kalbi Beef Short Ribs ($14.99 + tax), with steamed rice and kimchi.  The short ribs are tender and flavorful but also smoky, just like at a Korean BBQ restaurant!
Also at the Garden Grill: Beef Pho Noodle Soup ($11.99 + tax).  Unfortunately, this was rather disappointing, especially compared to pho I've had at many authentic Vietnamese restaurants.  The broth lacked flavor, and the noodles seemed stringy.  Not really recommended, given that the same dish is about half the price at a regular pho place.
Vegetable Japchae ($10.99 + tax) with sweet potato noodles, onion, shitake mushroom, carrots, spinach, snow peas, broccolini, and tofu lightly sauteed and tossed with sesame oil and a sweet and spicy sauce topped with toasted sesame seeds.  This had a clean and sort of watered down soy sauce flavor.  It wasn't particularly savory but functioned well as a healthier alternative to the other food offeriings at the Garden Grill.
Whole Fish Served Family Style ($24.99 + tax), with a citrus-chili dipping sauce, steamed rice, and Chinese water spinach (ong choy).  I didn't have a chance to try this, but the fried tilapia certainly reminded me of familiar Chinese/Vietnamese dishes I've had.  It looked quite delicious!
The Garden Grill was also selling Almond Milk Iced Tea ($4.99 + tax) with a souvenir glow lotus.  Sweet but tasty!
And the last Garden Grill item... the Cassava Coconut Cake ($3.99 + tax), which had a mellow sweetness and a nice creamy flavor.  Despite the coconut flakes (which I normally dislike due to the texture), I actually enjoyed this!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Roaring Profile

In the way that many monuments at Shanghai Disneyland hold parallels to icons at other parks, one could consider Roaring Rapids and Roaring Mountain to be the Splash Mountain of Shanghai's new park.  Both feature an aquatic expedition in vegetated environments, marked by an unmistakable profile towering above the surrounding skyline.  Of course, Splash Mountain takes riders to the Laughing Place, while Roaring Rapids brings guests face to face with the fearsome Q'aráq, a beastly crocodilian creature.  But still, from the outside, similarities persist.

Golden hour upon Roaring Mountain at Adventure Isle.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Castle of Golden Enchantment

During my trip to Shanghai Disneyland last month, I never did quite get those perfect blue skies to complement shots of the Enchanted Storybook Castle.  The closest I came was the afternoon of my second day, when the sun very briefly peeked out of the cloud cover.  And while there was some amount of blue poking through the clouds, most of the afternoon was still relatively overcast.

Still, when that sun did partly burn through the clouds, I seized an opportunity to run to the Gardens of Imagination to snap a few shots during what amounted to golden hour.  To get multiple views, I had to hustle along the spread-out park area in front of the castle, and before only a few minutes had passed, the moment was gone.  Here are some shots I got during those fleeting moments.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Radiator Rains

Sense a trend?  Of course you do, and if you live in Southern California, you'll immediately understand why.  Over the past few days, we've been getting a nice drenching from several storms (the third and strongest hitting today), which have been a welcome relief from our several-year-long drought.  And dating back the past couple of months, it seems like there have been more rainy evenings than I've counted over the past several years combined.  Of course, that's heaven for photographers, who can capture light both above and from the ground.  There's just something about those dang reflections that attracts us like flies to a lamp.  In this case, many lamps, all lined along the rain-slicked road.  But you can't argue with the results.  It sure is purdy!

Luminous neon glistens on the soggy main drag of Radiator Springs.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

An Adventureland Glow

When it rains at Disneyland, most people head to the gates.  There's just something about being damp and soggy outside that doesn't appear to appeal to most theme park guests.  But when it comes to photographers, the rain is a friend, especially at night.  The resulting slick walkways create lovely glows and reflections that afford photographers angles and perspectives that aren't seen any other (dry) time.  And so, when it rains, we Disneyland fan photogs rush TO the park.  Are we a little crazy?  Perhaps.  But it yields photos like this...

A cozy, rainy, winter evening over at Adventureland.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Those Rainy Orleans Nights

Even though last year was supposed to be the wet "El Niño" year, and this year was supposed to be a drought-exacerbating "La Niña" year, the past couple of months have featured plenty of much welcome rain to the state of California.  And while most of the volume has gone to Northern California and its mountains and forests, SoCal has gotten some pretty good drenchings too.  Unfortunately for me, these have always come while I've been away or busy or otherwise able to take advantage of the photo opportunities of nighttime rain.

Until this past Wednesday night.

With rain (but not hard rain) in the forecast, I left work en route to the Happiest Place on Earth with the hope that the weather gods might smile upon me.  To my dismay, the streets were dry my entire commute over to Disneyland.  Even upon parking, the ground remained parched.  But then, halfway through my walk to the park, the drops started falling.  First, a light mist.  Then a sprinkle.  And finally, a good smatter of rain.  Not pounding, torrential rain--which was actually good.  Just enough to give the concrete a nice, shiny coating to provide those slick reflections photographers oh so crave.

By the time there was sufficient moisture to photograph, the parks were emptying out, with Disneyland having already passed its off-season early closing time.  But along with a friend who was here on vacation from Hawaii, we waited out the crowds, and eventually, we found bliss in the engagement of rainy evening photography.  Few sights are as magical.

The iconic masquerade mask over Royal Street in New Orleans Square.
The pavement glistens outside of the Blue Bayou Restaurant.
The damp evening provided a moody and romantic ambiance.
The large windows of Club 33 above yielded more light to shine down on the wet concrete.
Looking toward the gate guarding the Court of Angels beyond.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lightcycle Running

One of Shanghai Disneyland's shining beacon E-Tickets is TRON Lightcycle Power Run, this park's iteration of the Space Mountain flagship traditionally located in other Tomorrowlands.  It's a fun launched Booster Bike roller coaster with trains patterned after the iconic lightcycles in the TRON film franchise, and at night, the illumination and colors really dazzle.  The launch comes right at the start, sending riders outside and around a sweeping banked curve, dip, and hill before they move inside (into the game grid, in a sense).  Photos inside are pretty much infeasible, since loose articles aren't allowed, and large cameras would be unsafe, but outside, the ride makes for some fun long exposures capturing the dynamic ambiance.  As one might expect, TRON at night is significantly more thrilling than TRON by day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dusk Over The Hub

Sometimes, you go digging in the archives and find a photo you never processed showcasing a moment you forgot about.  In the case below, it was a rare instance when I was in the parks AND the twilight skies dissolved into chromatic drama, tinging the air with wispy strands of warm color.  Standing in the center of The Hub, the heart of the park, put me in a position to observe the kinetic transition from day to night.  The magic of the park coming alive after dark was bountiful in front of me.  It felt fitting to be here, standing with Walt and Mickey as they surveyed the kingdom they had created.  I imagined them pleased with the joy they had brought to countless people over the years.  It was nice that on this day, dusk decided to reflect this warm spirit.

Walt and Mickey look on as dusk settles on Disneyland.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sunny Days and Mediterranean Bays

You may have noticed an Asian Disney trend over the past few days (and certainly over the past month).  That's because I have a huge backlog of photos from Disney parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai--one that grew only larger with my recent vacation.  So sit back, relax, and take in more pictures from exotic Disney locales abroad--unless you're reading from one of the above places.  In that case, enjoy a bit of home!

Walking through the entry plaza of the park into Mediterranean Harbor.
It's a taste of Portofino, with plenty of exquisite, authentic-looking details.
A lone rowboat floats with Mount Prometheus and Mysterious Island looming in the distance.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Enchantment in the Distance

Although I tried to keep Shanghai Disneyland spoilers (both visual and informational) to a minimum before I visited (other than certain essential information needed for visiting, such as park operation and location and such), I did allow myself to take a gander at some Instagram photos and photos from certain favored blogs to whet my appetite just a bit.  One of the views that caught my eye early on was a shot of the Enchanted Storybook Castle viewed from Mickey Avenue.  In their version of "Town Square," a central park and grandstand area featured a nicely framed view right down the middle of the street.  With trees and streetlamps on both sides, they composed a very nice view of the castle, which certainly excited the photographer in me.

Because regular tripods are not allowed inside the park, however, I had to be a bit creative to get this shot at night.  Fortunately, park policy (at least when I visited) did allow miniature tripods such as Gorillapods.  So I stuck my camera on one, and then stuck that on the railing right in front of this scene to frame my view just so.  A few snaps and some layered processing later, this was the result.

The Enchanted Storybook Castle looms in the distance, as seen from the back of Mickey Avenue.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pooh's Hunny Hunt

Once upon a time in 2000 in a Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh's Hunny Hunt arose in Tokyo Disneyland to become a groundbreaking dark ride attraction that still remains the park's most popular ride to this day.  An evolution in Disney's fabled dark rides, this was the first attraction to utilize a trackless system that guided cars by radio waves and multiple sensors.  It's the same system that was later used to develop the spectacular Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studio's fun Ratatouille ride.  And while both successors have their merits, it was Pooh that launched the original fantastic revolution.

The story of the ride is similar to the Winnie the Pooh rides in other Disney parks.  Effectively, it recounts Pooh's time in Hundred Acre Wood, from the blustery day to an introduction of Pooh's friends, and then a hop with Tigger (what a wonderful thing!), before Pooh falls asleep and ventures to the land of Heffalumps and Woozles, and then finally gaining his beloved honey.  While that sounds simple, the execution is not.  The trackless system takes each "honey pot" car around a myriad of routes, choreographed with the other cars, in a whimsical journey through each setting.  Each ride is unique, with multiple possibilities and slight adjustments in routes, and the experience is charming and lovely and full of that childlike innocence that even adults will fall in love with.

Take a look at the ride via the photos below.  And if you ever visit Tokyo Disneyland, make sure to head straight to this attraction right at park opening.  Grab a FastPass, then get in the standby line.  The ride is so good that you'll definitely want to ride it twice--if not more!

An adorable open storybook marks the facade of the ride from the outside.
The line winds around a lovely garden.
There's a lot of old-fashioned charm here.
Before boarding, guests get a glimpse of spaces featuring props and elements from the stories.
This map of Hundred Acre Wood lists various sights that will be visited in the ride.
The queue is very cute, with cozy furnishings.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tarzan's Hong Kong Treehouse

At Hong Kong Disneyland, there is no Rivers of America.  Instead, Adventureland makes up the whole of the original left side of the park inside the berm, and the "Rivers" is made up of the Jungle River Cruise.  The resulting island ends up being Tarzan's Treehouse, accessible only by river raft across the waterway.

Like the California version, Tarzan's Treehouse is a walk-through attraction up a large artificial tree, with sets and scenes retelling the story of Tarzan.  What's different, however, are the views--looking across the water toward Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on one side, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Pointe and Toy Story Land on the other.  Take a little tour through this Far East iteration via the photos below!

Rafts cross the water to Tarzan's Treehouse, which stretches up along the riverbank.

The island has some caves for exploration and some pathways on ground level.

But of course, most of the point here is to rise above ground level to the trees.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The House on the Haunted Hill

It's Friday, the 13th, so I need to post something spooky.  And when it comes to Disney attractions, what is spookier than the eerie looking facade of Phantom Manor, at Disneyland Paris?  This "Psycho House"-esque building is a far cry from the stately Haunted Mansions in Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland.  Instead, it is brooding and foreboding, plainly wearing its cursed status for all to see.

And even though this may not have been what Walt would want (he famously told his Imagineers to keep the exterior pristine and let the ghosts take care of the interior), I really like this re-imagining of a classic attraction.  It makes for a darker feel, but not too dark to be un-Disney.  At least in my opinion!

Phantom Manor looms in this corner of Thunder Mesa.

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