Matt’s Top Disney Photography

In Episode 13, we talked a bit about our enjoyment of taking photographs at the Disney theme parks.  We mentioned that we’d be sharing some of our favorite shots here on the blog because, well, if pictures are a thousand words, we would have been talking for quite a bit more time than our podcast would allow to describe them all.  Besides, photos are meant to be a feast for the eyes, not the ears.

It wasn’t easy narrowing down the images I wanted to share.  I was planning on only doing my favorite 5 but I’ve expanded that to my Top 10.  I’ll describe a bit why I chose each particular image and perhaps give a bit of detail.  Feel free to click each one for a larger size than what is displayed here …

BTB1301This was the photo I talked about on the podcast as being both my best and my favorite.  It is also considered my most “interesting” by way of Flickr’s algorithms.  I was interested in getting a nice nighttime image of one of the most photographic vistas at Disney’s California Adventure so I brought my tripod and my Nikon Coolpix 5700 camera and played with the manual settings a bit to produce this.  I did very little post-processing — this image is very near SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) as any image I’ve taken.  I love the brilliant colors of Paradise Pier contrasting with the black night sky and reflected in Paradise Bay.  I was really pleased with how this came out and it gave me confidence to pursue more photography with a higher grade of camera.

BTB1302One of the nice parts about using a digital SLR is not only better manual controls but the ability to switch to “faster” lenses.  I always wanted to take on-ride photographs but I’m a firm believer in not using flash on dark rides (they don’t really come out well anyway).  This one wound up being one of my favorites … I call it my “money shot.”  It’s a challenge to shoot in low light on a moving boat with no flash but it is possible to “freeze” the motion by using a high ISO and a low aperture setting with a “nifty 50″ lens, which lets in more light with a faster shutter speed than other lenses I own.

BTB1303I’ve included this shot of Mike Wazowski from the Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue attraction at Disney California Adventure because it came out really well.  I consider this shot to be my “better to be lucky than good” shot.  Mounted another fast lens (I think it was a 1.8/35mm lens), set the manual settings to what I thought should produce good shots in a dark-ride environment and went to town.  I got several nice images from my first few rides through Monstropolis but this one was hands down the best of the bunch.  I don’t think I could duplicate it if I tried.

BTB1304This is a photograph from the Playhouse Disney attraction, also at Disney California Adventure.  Again, I got lucky that I was able to squeeze the shutter button at just the right time to get all of the tools eyes looking and everyone fairly well in focus during another low-light situation.  The difference here from the shot before is that I had visited the show so many times with my daughter that I had plenty of experimentation with my camera setting to know that I had a good chance of capturing the image that I wanted.  Still, half a second too early or too late and this wouldn’t have been nearly as nice of a picture.

BTB1305I like taking photos during the various shows at the Disney theme parks.  While this isn’t the best example of what I’ve captured, I really like how it turned out.  I tend to not do a lot of post-processing of my images beyond some simple color correction and sharpening but for this image, I had to do a bit more.  It is actually a composite of two shots I took during the show.  I like the red glow and smoke of the Cave of Wonders in one picture and the positioning of Aladdin in another, so I Photoshopped them together to make the best single picture possible.  Having used a tripod might have made this process easier but I was able to line up the two handheld shots well enough to effective blend them together.

BTB1306I really like taking pictures at Disneyland with nobody in them and I *almost* succeeded with this shot.  It helps to get to the parks early or stay until closing to get traditionally crowded vistas with as few of people as possible.  This picture was achieved by getting to Disneyland during Early Entry and waiting for the crowds to run past the castle into Fantasyland to get on their favorite attractions.  I could have done a similar Photoshop process with two photos to remove the few people past the castle walkway but decided this worked well as it is.  Going in the early morning also provides some great lighting that you don’t always get later in the day when the sun is overhead.  I like the shadows and the clouds in the shot.

BTB1307As a frequent visitor to the Disneyland Resort, I wanted to add a favorite photo from Walt Disney World.  This shot is another early morning shot before the Magic Kingdom opened.  The train was posed in this location for those taking The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour, making it something that the average guest wouldn’t just happen upon and a more picture-perfect postcard shot than could normally be found.  I tweaked this photo slightly in Photoshop as well.  The flag was flying at half-mast that day so I moved it to the top and a section of the decorative railing was missing from the top of the station so I recreated it with a section that was intact.

BTB1308We mentioned on the podcast about the possibility of getting good shots even if the weather isn’t perfect.  As much as I like taking pictures on clear, sunny days, this shot of Space Mountain at Disneyland with the rain clouds in the background came out pretty cool.  Sometimes you have to take what is available to you, other times, what is available to you makes the shot.

BTB1309This is not a perfect shot but I like it anyway.  At some point, I’ll try to recreate it to get the tail section of the rocket from the Golden Zephyr at Disney California Adventure in the frame.  While I wanted to stop the blur on my on-ride shots for Pirates and Monsters Inc. above, this one I wanted to show the motion of the ride.  I had to keep the shutter open just long enough to capture the motion blur but short enough to keep the rocket (somewhat) in focus.

BTB1310As I mentioned, taking pictures of Chelsea is something that is important during each visit to a Disney Resort.  I have lots of pictures of Chelsea posing in front of attractions and with characters but my favorites are the more candid captures I’m sometimes able to get.  This one is of Chelsea dressed as Snow White for Halloween at Mickey’s Trick or Treat Party.  We waited to meet the “real” Snow White at a photo location but before any formal pictures were snapped, Miss White conversed with her shy doppelganger beforehand.  It was a much more interesting shot than the posed picture we got afterward.

So these are today’s list of my top photos, though maybe I’ll feel different about them tomorrow.  Either because I’ve taken a new favorite or I see something more critically about one of the ones I previously liked.  That’s the fun part about “Making Memories,” as the old Sherman Brothers song goes.  If you want to see more photos, both at Disney and others, visit my photostream at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbam/

Matt

10 Years of “Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular”

A post of Facebook, highlighting a story on the Disney Parks Blog, alerted me that one of the Broadway musicals I mentioned in our latest podcast celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday.  “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” opened in the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure January 16, 2003.  The show has been seen by more than 12 million park guests during that time.

Some of the more interesting things about this particular show is that an original song was written and included in the performance that wasn’t in the movie.  “To Be Free” is sung by Princess Jasmine that describes her life like one of a bird living in a gilded cage.  It is a real showcase for the actress playing the part and always draws a loud ovation from the crowd upon its completion.

Secondly, the show continuously changes as the Genie is given fairly ample free reign to ad lib with various current events during his frequent joke sessions.  Jokes often skewer celebrities in the news or even timely Disney-related happenings.  The jokes are generally very funny, rather unexpected during a Disney production and can really keep each performance from feeling like something you’ve seen before even if you’ve seen the show multiple times.

Below are a few photos I snapped during a performance that you might like.  As always, click each one for a larger view …

AladdinJasmineAladdin and Jasmine take a spin on the Magic Carpet during the “A Whole New World” segment of the show.

GenieThe Genie is often the highlight of the performance.  Though his jokes are often zingers, they are also always appropriate for a theme park audience.  The actor playing the Genie usually gets the loudest applause during the curtain call.

JafarJafar is a bit more of straight-man villain in the production than the slightly comedic performance found at times during the film.  Of interest, as with much of the cast, the characters are often performed by a variety of actors of different races and abilities.  For instance, Jafar might be played by a black actor during one performance and a white actor during another.  Many performances feature a wheelchair-bound performer in the chorus.  It’s a nice way of featuring talented performers without strictly adhering to what otherwise might be traditional casting requirements.

“Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” is a nice way to spend 45 minutes at a theme park.  It truly is a high-caliber Broadway-style show and one that everyone should try to catch at least once during a visit to the Disneyland Resort.

-Matt

Christmas Photos from Disneyland

Steve recently posted images of holiday decor around the Walt Disney World Resort and I thought that I would follow suit by adding some images of holiday happenings through the years at the Disneyland Resort.  All images are clickable for larger views.  Enjoy!

Sleeping Beauty Castle adorned with snow and other seasonal decor is a focal point for Disneyland's holidays.

Sleeping Beauty Castle adorned with snow and other seasonal decor is a focal point for Disneyland’s holidays.

At night, Sleeping Beauty Castle glimmers in thousands of sparkling light designed to look like icicles.

At night, Sleeping Beauty Castle glimmers in thousands of sparkling light designed to look like icicles.

A look from the Hub towards the entrance shows the Disneyland Christmas tree in Town Square and holiday garland strung between the shops of Main Street.

A look from the Hub towards the entrance shows the Disneyland Christmas tree in Town Square and holiday garland strung between the shops of Main Street.

it's a small world gets a holiday makeover every year including a Santa hat on the iconic clock face.

it’s a small world gets a holiday makeover every year including a Santa hat on the iconic clock face.

Another attraction that receives a holiday makeover is the Haunted Mansion.  Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws welcomes guests.

Another attraction that receives a holiday makeover is the Haunted Mansion. Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws welcomes guests.

Mickey's Toontown gets a healthy dose of holiday decor in both the residential and downtown areas.  Here a toon tree bends from the weight of an overly heavy tree topper.

Mickey’s Toontown gets a healthy dose of holiday decor in both the residential and downtown areas. Here a toon tree bends from the weight of an overly heavy tree topper.

The Christmas parade is an annual favorite.  This is a photo of one of the gingerbread men who parade from it's a small world to Town Square on Main Street.

The Christmas parade is an annual favorite. This is a photo of one of the gingerbread men who parade from it’s a small world to Town Square on Main Street.

Santa Claus heads up the anchor float of the Christmas Fantasy Parade, complete with plush Mickey and Minnie dolls in his sack of toys.

Santa Claus heads up the anchor float of the Christmas Fantasy Parade, complete with plush Mickey and Minnie dolls in his sack of toys.

Disney's California Adventure used to have a beach theme to its holiday decor.  Here they carted in tons of sand for local artists to make sculptures from.

Disney’s California Adventure used to have a beach theme to its holiday decor. Here they carted in tons of sand for local artists to make sculptures from.

The water tower in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney's California Adventure sported an oversized Santa hat.

The water tower in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney’s California Adventure sported an oversized Santa hat.

Tinker Bell served as a tree topper for the massive Christmas tree at Paradise Pier in Disney's California Adventure.

Tinker Bell served as a tree topper for the massive Christmas tree at Paradise Pier in Disney’s California Adventure.

This is the first year that Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is able to be dressed for the holiday season.  The Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant looks festive with a wreath attached to its tower.

This is the first year that Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is able to be dressed for the holiday season. The Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant looks festive with a wreath attached to its tower.

Cars Land, too, is celebrating its first holiday season.  They had to bring in telephone poles on one side of the street in order to string automotive-themed garland across the Route 66 thoroughfare.

Cars Land, too, is celebrating its first holiday season. They had to bring in telephone poles on one side of the street in order to string automotive-themed garland across the Route 66 thoroughfare.

The Welcome to Cars Land signage in front of the new land has been updated to reflect a holiday theme, including a snow car to welcome visitors.

The Welcome to Cars Land signage in front of the new land has been updated to reflect a holiday theme, including a snow car to welcome visitors.