Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Midnight at the Portcullis

You can find photos OF Sleeping Beauty Castle all over.  After all, it is arguably one of the most photographed structures in the entire world.  But how often do you see photos from within the castle, looking out?

Well, okay, probably a decent number too.  But not as much as the opposite view!  And there's something peaceful about this scene at the very end of the night.  The cool blues and purples come together for a serene nightcap, and everything just feels right.

Looking through the entry archway of Sleeping Beauty Castle, back out to the Hub.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Scenes at the Treehouse

If you've frequented this blog, you'll know that photographing from atop Tarzan's Treehouse is a longtime favorite habit of mine.  You can find plenty of photos overlooking the Rivers of America and New Orleans Square and beyond if you dig around.  But photographing the treehouse itself can also be pretty fun, in part because of the variety of angles and details that can be found all up and down this arbor abode.  Here are a few shots of Tarzan's Treehouse that I've taken over the years.

Golden hour upon the Treehouse.
Gazing up from the Riverbelle Terrace.
The rope bridge across from one side to another.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Radiator Reflections

There are few places as insanely naturally photogenic after the rain (or during) as Radiator Springs.  All the neon reflecting off the ground provides a saturated glow of wonderful color, and the splendor of the setting really brings a sense of nostalgic romance.  It's normally rare enough to get rain in Southern California (this winter season excepted).  So it's a great delight to be able to capture scenes such as this.

The glistening reflections of Radiator Springs after an evening drizzle create a magical scene.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Waiting for Neverland

The queue for Peter Pan's flight is going to be a bit of a wait at any Magic Kingdom park--so great is the popularity of every version of this ride.  It's no different at Shanghai Disneyland, where this classic-inspired attraction frequently commands lines that can rival the park's E-Tickets.  Fortunately, there's some cute scenery to take in while waiting--namely some statues featuring some of the characters from the story.  Hey... if it was quick to reach the Second Star to the Right, it wouldn't be quite as fulfilling, right?

A glimpse of sun in the morning outside Peter Pan's Flight at Shanghai Disneyland.

Captain Hook and Mr. Smee stand proudly.

Wendy Darling reads to her younger brothers.

Ever the good dog, Nana comes bearing beverages.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

At Shanghai Disneyland, the Gardens of Imagination has the distinction of being the first Disney Magic Kingdom park hub to actually have attractions.  Whereas in the other Magic Kingdom parks, The Hub is simply where the lands meet at the spoke of a wheel, in Shanghai, the Gardens of Imagination are a themed land in and of itself.  With peaceful ponds, a park-like terrace, a promenade celebrating the Chinese zodiac, and a few attractions, this is one unique center of the park. 

One of the rides in the Gardens of Imagination is Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  Normally, this attraction would be found inside Fantasyland.  At Shanghai, it's in front of the castle, off to the left.  This unique setting allows different perspectives than other parks, with the front side of the castle in view instead of the usual opposite.  Just one of the interesting tidbits about this park that is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tomorrowland Illuminations

The lighting designers overseeing Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland must have a field day programming the light patterns and illumination settings throughout this land.  At night, Tomorrowland pulsates and dazzles with moving and rippling color and lights that behave organically, as though they're alive.  Moving across a futuristic landscape of curves and steel and glass, the various lights bring extra pizzazz across the land, creating an environment that truly seems out of tomorrow!

Another stunning nighttime overview of Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Airplane Shoreline Relations

When one crosses the bridge from Port Discover over to the Lost River Delta at Tokyo Disney Sea, one may notice a prop plan nestled up against the rocks over to the left side.  It might look like any other old fashioned plan at first glance, but upon a second not-even-really-that-close glance, one will notice the plane's identification number bears a coincidence with a certain eternally pessimistic droid.  Perhaps the odds were finally too much in this crash landing?  Who knows...

A not-so-subtle easter egg at the Lost River Delta in Tokyo Disney Sea.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Storm Clouds Over the Mansion

It's been awfully rainy in Southern California lately.  After years of drought that was incompletely alleviated by last year's El Niño, this year has seen an abnormal but welcome (and at this point, potentially overwelcome) onslaught of storms that has soaked up the parched local landscape.  This has afforded some great rainy evening photo opportunities, but it's also provided some dramatic scenes every once in a while, such as the scenes below when I was at Disneyland this past Sunday.  The ominous gray clouds over the Haunted Mansion seemed incredibly fitting, especially with the famed manor partially concealed behind the trees--some lying dormant for the winter.  The vibe isn't quite enough to match Phantom Manor's creepiness at Disneyland Paris, but it's close!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is the biggest, most technologically impressive, most spectacular attraction Disney has ever built.  Anchoring the Treasure Cove themed land at Shanghai Disneyland, it is the new flagship dark ride E-Ticket of the company--a showcase of what can happen when physical sets and state-of-the-art audio animatronics are combined with 3D projection mapping and dynamic ride vehicles to create a truly immersive and impressive new ride.

Unlike the other Pirates attractions at the other parks, this ride is specifically based upon the movie franchise, rather than upon the original Disneyland version that first touched off the story.  Imagineers figured that the Chinese audience wouldn't really have any emotional attachment to a 1967 attraction due to lack of exposure, but they would certainly understand the characters, stories, and themes of the hit movie franchise.

Today, we take a photo tour through the entire experience, from load to unload.  Needless to say, if you're planning on going to Shanghai Disneyland anytime soon and want to be completely in the dark on the ride so as to preserve the maximum wow impact, warning: there be spoilers ahead!

After guests board the traditional looking Pirates boats, they're off to the Caribbean seas.  The first thing they spot as they round a corner is the familiar Jolly Roger, giving them a familiar warning--in Mandarin, though.

The first room is a twist on the old Blue Bayou float-by.  It's much more Caribbean in nature, as opposed to Disneyland's bayou feel, since guests are already in a tropical setting when boarding.

Off to the side, guests dining at the Barbossa's Bounty Restaurant can glimpse a bit of the ride.  Unlike other Disney parks, this is a quick serve restaurant as opposed to a reservation-required sit-down.

Passing by a waterfall before we begin the ride in earnest.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Spires Galore

It would make for a bit of a challenging game to count how many rooftop spires are in this photo, because there are quite a lot.  From the whimsical exterior of Sleeping Beauty's Castle to the Fantasyland building facades near and far to the Disneyland Paris Hotel in the background, there are plenty of cylindrical pitched roofs that abound.  But I love how whimsical this focused scene ends up, because of all the rooftops.  The Fantasyland of Disneyland Paris has to be incredibly storybook because there are real life chateaus and palaces in this very country.  Otherwise, the local demographic would probably look at it, shrug, and say, "Meh, we have it better over there." In my opinion, this succeeds wonderfully.  And I don't get tired of these views.

A cornucopia of rooftops mark the skyline of Fantasyland and Disneyland Paris.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Great Roaring Mountain

For feature I never got to really see up close (because Roaring Rapids was closed), I sure took a lot of photos of Roaring Mountain during my time at Shanghai Disneyland.  Then again, how could you not?  It's massive presence creates an epic outline standing tall all over the park.  The forced perspective works incredibly well, forming an iconic and epic looking piece of geology.  Add to that a spectacular waterfall, and you have the makings of a favorite photographic target.

The towering peak of Roaring Mountain stands out all around Shanghai Disneyland.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Refusing to Be Cheecken

In the town of Isla Tesoro, poor Carlos the mayor is constantly being effectively waterboarded by being dunked in a well by pirates, while his wife routinely peeks out of her second floor shutters to yell encouraging advise like "Do not tell him, Carlos," and "Don't bee cheecken!"  It must be nice to have the constant, unending, badgering support while one is getting tortured.  But give Carlos credit, he never tells.  Even over the years, as the pirates' questions have evolved from wanting to find out the location of the treasure to where Jack Sparrow is, Carlos remains mum.  It's quite admirable having such resolve.  We celebrate this fortitude with these documentary photos from Tokyo Disneyland's iteration of Pirates of the Caribbnean.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Winter at the Hotel Hightower

The Hotel Hightower is an imposing sight no matter what the conditions, but on a stormy day, it seems even more ominous and eerie. With looming clouds thickening beyond, it feels like only a matter of time before supernatural forces converge on this American Waterfront icon.  Especially when this tower's owner is a notorious and unrepentant thief of priceless artifacts constantly tempting the deities behind them.  Sooner or later, Harrison Hightower's reckless plunder is bound to come crashing down.

The Hotel Hightower on a winter morning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Evening at the Boudin

Rainy evenings and Northern California seem to go hand in hand, so it's pretty natural to stop by the Pacific Wharf on a night when it's drizzling.  The glimmering ground and the damp air are decidedly non-Southern California-like.  But it's a pretty scene to stand in front of that rustic seaside architecture and take in that taste of Monterey and San Francisco, blended into one amalgamation. Little surprise is it that other photographers feel the same way.

The Boudin Bakery entrance on a rainy evening.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Butte-y Reflected

Disneyland photographers know: when it rains, look for the puddles.  Because placing a camera right on the ground in front of a puddle transforms a scene into an instant lake reflection, the scene mirrored in the water on the ground.  It's a wonderful and lovely effect that transforms a scene totally, especially given the low and atypical perspective.  In the case below, total credit goes to my friend, Brad, for spotting this puddle and nabbing a shot of the Cars Land walkway around Radiator Springs Racers.  So, really, I basically stole his shot.  But it's a pretty shot, is it not?

Willy's Butte reflected in a rainy evening puddle.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rain Drops Keep Falling on Main Street

If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you may recall two recurring complaints I have related to missed photographic opportunities at Disneyland: catching dramatic sunsets and being at the park during rainy nights.  Well, given the recurring precipitation that's been falling upon Southern California, I might be able to cross the second off my list.  Last Friday marked the second time in the past few weeks that I've been able to take photos in the parks while the nighttime streets were covered in a shimmering coat of rain, and I'm very pleased with the opportunities. 

You'll be seeing more photos in the upcoming weeks and months.  The batch below, however, represents early evening shots I took on Friday, while the parks were still relatively busy, and I just didn't feel inclined to whip out my tripod to take multiple exposures to get the images properly lit.  As a result, the highlights are a little bright, but I like the dynamic nature the passing guests bring to these scenes.  The stroll through Main Street on a cool, rainy evening is quite a romantic one, and these scenes capture some of that essence.

Guests walk past the Penny Arcade in the evening rain.

A similar scene over by the Main Street Emporium, with a slightly longer shutter speed for more capture of movement.

Town Square glistens under the evening drizzle.
The water brings unique reflections and great photo opportunities.

All of these photos were taken free-hand, without the aid of a tripod.

As a result, I had to go "Tokyo Style" and find a railing, pole, or trashcan to brace the camera for the longer exposure.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Fanciful Manor of Henry Mystic

Lord Henry Mystic may be a noble and esteemed collector of various artifacts and art pieces around the world (the right way, unlike his unscrupulous Society of Explorers and Adventurers brother, Harrison Hightower), but his architecture style is simply all over the place.  Just look at his home, Mystic Manor.  At first, it seems like a Victorian Mansion, but that's the base model.  There's a Russian-looking dome, plus two other spires of hodgepodge style.  The colors are all across the spectrom, from yellowish light tans to coral greens to regal blues and purples.  Beside the entrance, an almost fully circular archway suggests Asian influences.  Palm trees all around accent the building's influence--the now-torn-down Bradbury Mansion in Downtown Los Angeles' Bunker Hill.  It's all quite strange and fascinating and beautiful at the same time, which might be about the perfect way to describe Mystic Manor as a whole!

The eclectic and whimsical front facade of Mystic Manor.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Side Glance at the Enchanted Storybook Castle

In photographs, I've noticed that the Enchanted Storybook Castle, at Shanghai Disneyland, tends to have a "blocky" appearance when photographed from the front.  The towers and structure rise up in a way that seems to lack the elegance and organic nature of other castles.  But in person, this effect is minimized, and the castle certainly feels more free flowing as one walks around it. 

It's the movement in and about the castle that is key.  This allows different perspectives and angles that reveal different sides and characters to the castle.  And one of my favorites comes from the side approach, where the castle looks decidedly less stiff in photo and begins to rise more freely and gracefully.  There's a bit of character that reminds me of Disneyland Paris' castle (still my favorite), which is always a good thing.  I like this view because it is so different than the front head-on view.  It's positively magical.

The Enchanted Storybook Castle from the right side approach.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Up Close with Them Fo’c’s’le Swabs

Once in a while, I'll bring my camera on board Pirates of the Caribbean and actually succeed in getting some focused shots within that dim difficult-to-photograph space.  In this series, I brought my 70-200mm f/2.8, which let me get closer and hone in on subjects more intimately.  And even though f/2.8 is a relatively open aperture, even this was challenging to get proper exposure.  Fortunately, part of the beauty of a dark ride is the play between light and shadow, so I took advantage of the ambiance to shape the mood of each shot.

After plunging down a waterfall into a dark cavern, guests float by the witness of past duels.

Clearly, it did not end well for this pirate.

A crab scuttles about, ignorant of the buccaneer battles before it.

This rager certainly looked to die for.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Train Conductor

The Disneyland Railroad currently remains closed for renovations related to the Rivers of America adjustment to accommodate "Star Wars" Land (now officially set to open 2019, by the way), but the locomotives are still on display over at Main Street and New Orleans Square stations.  For train lovers, this is a great chance to admire these beautiful steam engines up close.  It's also a great chance to pick the brains of the Disneyland railroad conductors who normally work the attraction.

These cast members are passionate about trains, and many have been with the park for significant amount of time.  Ripe with stories and memories, they provide fantastic conversations to anyone willing to chat.  I had one such experience last year, spending a good thirty minutes learning from and conversing with a conductor named Augie, who related his own memories of the park and of his love of trains.  I left the experience with a profound admiration for Augie and the other cast members who run the railroad.  Each has wonderful stories to tell, and it's great that they have a chance to share their love even while the Disneyland Railroad remains not in operation.

Disneyland Railroad conductor, Augie, sitting in the engine car.

A closer shot.
The exterior of the C.K. Holliday on display during a beautiful summer day last year.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Shanghai TRONset

Last month, I posted one of my very few decent sunset photos taken at Shanghai Disneyland.  This wasn't for lack of trying; the skies just weren't really cooperative most of the time.  But what I did capture occurred over in Tomorrowland, and the glowing oranges contrasted nicely with the cool whites and aquas of the TRON Lightcycle Power Run building.  So here's another overview shot, taken a little bit earlier than the photo I posted a month ago. 

Another photo of a sunset behind the TRON attraction at Shanghai Disneyland.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

They Dig Dig Dig

Although the original version of this ride has existed at Walt Disney World for several  years now, the Seven Dwarfs Min Ride roller coaster was a new experience for me when I rode it in... Shanghai Disneyland.  Yes, there's one of those in their Fantasyland also, and it's actually one of the anchor attractions for the park, picking up some pretty large crowds and long waits among the Shanghai Disneyland guests. 

The attraction evolves the runaway mine train roller coaster type by adding swinging cars that tilt from side to side along hinges at the front and back of each car, giving a more dynamic sensation that still remains pretty family friendly.  But there's also a significant dark ride portion that takes guests into those brilliant diamond mines that Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey work every day.  Here are a few shots from the place "where a million diamonds shine."

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Plaza Gardens Fountain

I find myself drawn to the Plaza Gardens Restaurant when I flip through my Disneyland Paris photos.  Perhaps it's because I've been fortunate enough to pass by it in beautiful golden hour both times I've visited the park, or perhaps it's the gorgeous Victorian decor, or maybe it's just a spirit of romanticism.  But I love this area and its inviting and charming atmosphere.  And really, look at it.  Can you blame me?

The fountain outside Plaza Gardens is elegant and lovely.

The sign is plenty classy as well.

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