Monday, October 31, 2016

Leave A Legacy at Epcot

Preserved for Posterity

Have you ever noticed all those plaques in front of Epcot.  This is the Leave a Legacy program that was part of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration.  From the Fall of 1999 to about 2007, guests were able to leave their "likeness" etched on stainless steel tiles to commemorate their visit.

There are 30 granite megaliths in Leave a Legacy Plaza ranging from 3 to 19 feet and the heaviest one weighing 50,000 pounds.  Over 550,000 tiles were sold as part of the program and remain on display at Epcot in Leave a Legacy Plaza.  My wife and I have a tile there.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom

Three Themes, One Shot

Rivers of America is the name of the artificial river that encircles Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  In the Magic Kingdom, Rivers of America passes by both Frontierland as well as Liberty Square.

Did you know that there were actually two riverboats sailing in Rivers of America.  In the late 1970s, one of them got damaged during a storm.  Did you also know that the Liberty Belle runs on a track.  I guess that's why sometimes they let guests steer the boat from the wheelhouse.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Be Our Guest in HDR

Another Perspective

In my last few posts, I wrote about the Enchanted Forest and shared a view of the bridge to Beast's Castle at night.  Before you enter the bridge, you pass through a partial arch that marks the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant.  For those not following my blog, this is a shot of the entrance to Be Our Guest restaurant in Fantasyland, in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Be Our Guest at Beast's Castle

Disney at Night

In my last post, I talked about passing through the new castle walls to enter The Enchanted Forest.  Once inside the Enchanted Forest, there are so many trees that you might not even notice Maurice's Cottage on the left.  As you continue on, you come to the bridge that is the entrance to Beast's Castle where "Be Our Guest" restaurant it located.

This is where you get fully immersed in the Enchanted Forest experience.  Even at night, you'll notice the abundance of trees in this area. There is also a waterfall to the left of the bridge and a small river that runs under the bridge.  To get you fully immersed in the Enchanted Forest, Disney imagineers even play recorded bird song at the appropriate time of the day.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fantasyland - Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Fun With A Fisheye - Disney At Night

While not so new anymore, the New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World officially debuted in December, 2012.  As part of the expansion to Fantasyland, New Fantasyland include an area called The Enchanted Forest.

To help you to get immersed in the Enchanted Forest, you pass through the 'new' castle walls.  These walls form the boundary between Cinderella Castle courtyard and the Enchanted Forest area. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections of Harper's Mill

Disney At Night

Harper's Mill is a building located on Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland, in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  The building gets its name from the character "Joe Harper" from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".

Inside the mill is a reference to the 1937 Disney short "The Old Mill".  In the cartoon, a storm is raging and it starts to turn the gears of the mill.  A mother bluebird and her eggs are nesting in the gears and could get crushed.  Fortunately a tooth in the gear is missing and like the cartoon, the Bluebird is saved.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Splash Mountain - Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Disney At Night

Splash Mountain is located in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is a log flume ride based on characters, stories, and songs from the 1946 Disney film, Song of the South.  The ride tells the story of Br'er Rabbit who leaves home in search of adventure.  Along the way Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear try to catch him, but are repeatedly tricked to letting him go.  Br'er Fox eventually catches Br'er Rabbit, but Br'er Rabbit uses reverse psychology to trick Br'er Fox to throwing him down the briar patch here he escapes - this is the 50 foot drop in the ride.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action - Disney's Hollywood Studios Cameraman

"The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be." - Michael Eisner, May 1 1989 

Disney's Hollywood Studios, originally named Disney-MGM Studios, is the third of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World.  The park was based on an idea by Marty Skylar, Randy Bright, and CEO at the time, Michael Eisner.   The park is themed around different aspects of show business from film, television, music, and theater, and draws inspiration from Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Circle of Life - Disney's Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life

In an earlier post, I shared how I captured a full view of the Tree of Life located in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  From a different perspective, I was able to get a close-up shot that shows some of the intricate details "carved" into the trunk of the Tree of Life.

It's amazing how much detail there is carved into the tree.  I tried to count the number of animals I could see in this shot alone and I lost count.  Everytime I try, I see something else.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reflections of Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle, is the iconic centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  At 189 feet tall, through a technique called forced perspective, the castle appears even taller.  One reason for the height was to keep the castle under 200 feet, the height at which the FAA would require the building to have a red flashing light at the top.  No "stonework" was used to create Cinderella Castle.   Despite its looks, the exterior of the castle is made of fiberglass.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Giant Red Fender Stratocaster at Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

Fun With A Fisheye Lens - Disney At Night

The first thing you see when you walk into the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster area at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort is a giant red Fender Stratocaster.  The Fender Stratocaster was originally produced in 1954 and is still being produced today.  This along with the Les paul is often the most emulated electric guitar shapes.  What's interesting is in the pre-ride show, Joe Perry would ask "Chris" to grab his black Les Paul.  I guess Disney Imagineers though the Fender Stratocaster was more iconic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Maleficent - The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade

Steampunk Inspiration

Maleficent is the enormous steampunk-inspired dragon that joined the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World during the Spring of 2014.  This fire-breathing dragon measures 53 feet long and towers 26 feet above the parade route.  The Festival of Fantasy Parade was a part of bringing the stories of New Fantasyland throughout the park.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Disney Magic - Disney Cruise Line

During the Summer of 2015, we had the fortune to sail with Disney Cruise Line on the Magic through Norway, Iceland, and Scotland.  This was the first time I sailed on the reimagined Magic.  We've been on over 12 Disney cruises and I'll have to say this one was the best, not only because of the amazing destinations, but moreso because all the great people we met that we still stay in touch with today and consider many of them our friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arches National Park - Adventures by Disney

The last stop on our Arizona and Utah Adventures by Disney was Moab, Utah.  Here we hiked up to Delicate Arch, went jet-boating and finally rafting down the Colorado River.  We also did a few excursions on our own like ATV riding and horseback riding.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Grand Canyon Sunset - Adventures by Disney

On our first night in Grand Canyon National Park, our Adventures by Disney guides Samantha and Doug hosted a dinner at the Thunderbird Lodge which overlooks the South Rim.  

Behold The Grand Canyon - Adventures By Disney

The hardest thing about this post was selecting the picture I would share.  There are so many great vistas, views, and perspectives of the Grand Canyon, it boggles the mind.

In a series of posts I'll share one or two photos from each location and talk a little  about the immersive experience delivered by our fantastic guides Samantha and Doug on our Arizona and Utah Adventures by Disney (ABD) vacation.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Milky Way Over Sedona - Adventures by Disney

If you've never been on an Adventures by Disney (ABD), I highly recommend one.  This summer we were fortunate to experience the Arizona and Utah ABD.  This was an 8 night itinerary flying into Phoenix with nights in Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Red Cliffs Lodge in Utah with several stops along the way.

In this series of blog posts on our Arizona & Utah Adventures by Disney, I will share a few photos from each location and our experiences along the way.

Before jumping into how I got the shot, I wanted to share some thoughts about our first experience with ABD.  If you've never been on an ABD before, it's not about Mickey popping out while you're taking a hike in the Grand Canyon or off-roading in a Pink Jeep in Sedona.

It's a vacation with the level of service, attention to detail, and planning that you would expect from Disney.  But in addition to that, what makes ABD different from other tour companies are the ABD guides.  Your ABD guides meet you at the airport and are with you for the entire time until you you depart on your plane ride home.  In between, they make your vacation a truly amazing experience.

On this trip, our guides were Samantha and Doug, and we also had a "shadow guide" named Adri.  A shadow guide "shadows" the main team to learn the details of that specific itinerary before they are assigned as a main guide - just another process check ABD does to ensure you have a great experience.  What makes an ABD experience so special and unique is not that the guides are with you for the entire time, but it's how they just make all the Disney Magic happen without you even realizing it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

Sweet Emotion - DIsney At Night

Accelerate to 60 MPH in a super-stretch limo through the streets of LA to get to the Aerosmith concert on time and in the process do two rollover loops and one corkscrew.

This shot was taken at the entrance the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster ride area in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.  I wanted to get a starburst in this shot so I set the aperture to f/22 with a shutter speed of 25 seconds at ISO100.  I used a relative wide angle lens of 16mm (1.5x crop) and my mini-tripod.

Have fun capturing the magic of Disney.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Enchanted Tiki Room

A Tropical Serenade in the Magic Kingdom

When the Tiki Room first opened in Disneyland on June 23, 1963, it was the first attraction to feature "audio-animatronics".  The "Tropical Serenade" was one of the opening-day attractions in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World debuting on October 1, 1971.

To get this perspective, head down to the entrance to the Jungle Cruise.  This is an easy shot to not have people in it because from this perspective, you mostly shoot above the heads of the crowd.

Monday, October 10, 2016


A Fisheye Perspective

Tomorrowland was originally supposed to be Walt's vision of the future.  The problem with that is the future is always changing.  So in 1994, Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World went through drastic changes to resemble the future as envisioned by sci-fi comic strip writers from the early 20th century.  Many of the rides were renamed, and color schemes updated.

Tomorrowland is arguably the most popular of the Magic Kingdom's themed lands due to the popularity of Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. 

Here is an intersting thing to look for next time you are there.  Notice how wide the walkway is going into Tomorrowland.  Then look at how wide the walkway is going into Adventureland which is on the opposite side of the hub.  That's because Disney Imagineers know that people usually go to the right.  In the morning, the wider walkway accommodates the large crowds that tend to walk to the right.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reflections of China

Disney At Night

The China Pavilion is located along the World Showcase in Epcot at Walt Disney World.  It is dominated by a replica of the Temple of Heaven.  In ancient China, the temple was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.  The temple is the entrance to the 360 degree show, "Reflections of China" which take you on a journey from ancient to modern day China.

As you enter the pavilion through the three-arched ceremonial gate, take a left at the pond.  This being a night shot, a tripod is a must to minimize camera shake.

A Fisheye view of Spaceship Earth

Disney At Night

The geodesic sphere known as Spaceship Earth is one of the most recognized structures of any theme park.  Located in Epcot at Walt Disney World, the sphere houses an attraction of the same name which takes guests on a 15 minute ride to explore how communications evolved from the stone age to the modern age.  It is said that the 18-story tall structure is made up of over 11,500 triangles, but who really counted them!  One of the best things I like as a photographer is how light reflects off the sphere.  As you walk around you see different colors from every perspective.

Experimenting with a fisheye lens was fun because of the angle of the support "legs" of the structure and also having straight lines intersecting with a sphere make for an interesting composition.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Lighthouse at Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney At Night

The Epcot resort area is one of my favorites places to stay on property.  The Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts have a charming New England style, while across Crescent Lake, the Boardwalk Inn  takes you back to turn-of-the-century Atlantic City.  For me, I love these resorts because of their walking proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but also because the Boardwalk is an attraction all to itself.

The iconic lighthouse is located directly in front of the Yacht Club on Crescent Lake in the Epcot Resort area at Walt Disney World.  Across the lake, you can see the Boardwalk Inn.  To get this perspective, I set my mini tripod on one of the "poles" just to the right of the lighthouse walkway.

To get this shot, I wanted to get that starburst effect, so a small aperture is the key.  The light in the lighthouse rotates, so I was unsure if I could even get the main light to have a starburst.  To get the maximum burst, I set my aperture to f/29, my shutter speed to 30 seconds, at ISO100, with a focal length of 46mm (1.5x crop).  Given such a long exposure, I had to use my mini-tripod.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Liberty Belle

Take A Journey Back In Time - Disney at Night

Hop on board the three-tired Colonial America inspired, steam powered, paddle wheeler riverboat and take a trip back in time to what life in America used to be over 100 years ago.  The Liberty Belle takes a trip around Tom Sawyer Island along the Rivers of America,  During the ride, you'll hear a narration from Mark Twain about life in America during that time period.

This is my new favorite spot to get a picture of the Liberty Belle riverboat when she is docked in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  To get this shot, enter the stand-by line for the Haunted Mansion.  Just a few feet past the entrance you can get this perspective.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Mighty Everest

Legend of The Forbidden Mountain

The mighty Everest rises above the jungles of the Tibetan Plateau at the top of the Himalayas.  As the legend goes, the mountain is protected by a fierce monster known as a Yeti.  Explorers can take an expedition by train through the mountain if they dare to brave the dangers of of the old train or the Yeti.

If you want to get a good shot of the mighty Everest you are better off not being right up close.  This shot is taken in Animal Kingdom on the bridge from Discovery Island going into Harambe Village in Africa.

Star Light, Star Bright

Getting that starburst in your pictures - Disney At Night

Test Track is one of my favorites rides at Epcot.  In the queue before you get on the ride, you get to design your own vehicle and then "test" it against other vehicles designed by the other passengers in your ride vehicle.  You get ranked against several criteria including a handling, efficiency and finally performance.  The performance score comes after a thrilling high-speed ride around the test track getting close to 65 MPH.  Be prepared for "bad hair" after the ride.

The location of this picture is at the entrance to the Test Track attraction in Epcot.  To get the starburst effect it generally takes an aperture smaller than f/11.  For this picture, I actually used an aperture of f/22.  With such a small aperture, I needed a shutter speed of 10 seconds.  Given the long shutter speed I also used my mini tripod.  The camera was mounted on the tripod and it sat about 8" off the ground pointing up at the scene.  The focal length was 16mm (1.5x crop).  If you look closely, even the smaller lights have some amount of the starburst effect. 

So this effect is fairly easy to achieve.  Just use a small aperture, f/11 at a minimum, use a tripod, and you should be all set.

Have fun capturing the Magic of Disney!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sleeping Beauty Castle

The diamonds are gone, but the magic is still there

As the Disneyland 60th Anniversary winds down, all the diamonds are gone, but the magic is still there.

Sleeping Beauty Castle stands at the center of Disneyland.  It was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany with a little French architectural influence.  Opened on July 17, 1955, it is the oldest of all Disney castles.  Although the castle is only 77 feet tall, it appears taller through a technique called "forced perspective" where in this case, design elements at the bottom of the castle are disproportionately larger than the design elements at the top of the castle.

To get this shot, I used two techniques.  One was HDR, and the other was "reversing" the bokeh effect.  If you are not familiar with HDR photography, check out my post here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fun with a Fisheye

Disney at Night

Have you ever walked up to Cinderella fountain and wondered why she is looking down and you can't see her face?  You wouldn't have that perspective if you were a small child.  When a small child walks up to the fountain to take a drink, when they look up, they see her smiling face.  And as an added bonus, if you look at just the right angle, the crown painted on the back wall of the fountain can appear to be sitting on her head.  You gotta love those details that Imagineers think about.

The location of this shot is on the right side (facing the fountain) of Cinderella Fountain which is located behind Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  To get this shot, I used a fisheye lens on my camera (Sony A6000) on my mini tripod set about 8-12 inches off the ground pointing toward the castle.  Don't be surprised how far into the corner you have to get to get this shot.  You can get very close with a fisheye lens and still get objects in the picture like the water flowing over the edge of the fountain.  In this shot, the water was about a foot from my lens.  Remember my post about clouds.  I love how the moon looked through the clouds in this shot.  For this shot, my camera was set to aperture f/8.0, ISO 200, and a 1.6 sec shutter speed.

If you don't have a fisheye lens and you want to get some completely different perspectives, try one out.  You might have a little fun with it.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Majestic Tree of Life

The Iconic Centerpiece of Disney's Animal Kingdom

When you see the majestic Tree of Life for the first time in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you may think it's real.  As you get closer, you begin to notice the artwork carved into the tree.  That artwork is a collection of over 300 animals meticulously carved into its massive trunk, sprawling branches, and roots.  All 300 animals share the tree in this great Circle of Life.  The tree is over 145 tall and 50 feet wide at its base.  The structure of the tree is actually an old oil rig.

There are many great views of the tree and you can see most of them by taking a stroll along the Discover Island Trail that encircles the tree.  This particular view is from the stand-by queue for the "It's Tough To Be A Bug" show, just a few minutes inside the entrance to the queueing area.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I See The Light

Disney At Night

Okay, be honest.... how many of you cried during the lantern scene when Rapunzel and Flynn sang, "I See The Light".   This scene has been described as the emotional peak of the movie because Rapunzel gets to see the lanterns that she has yearned to see her entire life.  This scene also seems to be the tipping point marking Rapunzel and Flynn's budding romance.

This shot is taken at the rest area between Fantasyland and Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  Apart from the restrooms, this is a great area to take a break.  This area has tables and stools fashioned like tree stumps.  Here's a tip, inside some of the stumps, there are power outlets.  If you are so inclined, you can get off your feet and relax and recharge your batteries (literally).

To get this shot I used my mini tripod on top of a garbage can.  I set my camera to aperture f/8.0, ISO 100, at a focal length of 36mm (1.5x crop), with a long 2 second shutter speed.  Don't forget my tip on using some type of remote shutter trigger or shutter delay.  My Sony A6000 can be set to a 2 second shutter delay and that is what I used to help to minimize camera shake.  From this perspective, you can avoid most of the people walking to and from the restrooms because you are shooting over their heads.

Have fun capturing the Magic of Disney!