The Hollywood Tower Hotel

I tried to give this one a very Twilight Zone feel to it. The whole ride at Disney World is filled with Rod Serlingesque treatments, so I thought it would be a fitting adjustment.

This ride is pretty freaky, and I totally recommend it!

The Hollywood Tower Hotel

Up Close and Personal with the Imperial Walker

Imperial Walkers are some of the coolest sci-fi creations ever. I heard Lucas got the idea from looking at those giant seaside cranes in the San Francisco bay. If you ever cross the Oakland Bay Bridge, you can see the huge monstrous ironworks marching into the distance.

I would love to go be on a movie set to take photos. Why hasn’t anyone invited me to do this? I don’t know… But if there is an awesome movie being made somewhere with really interesting visuals, I hope someone enterprising can get me onto the set! I’ll do my best to take some really memorable shots. It’s too late for me to get on the Star Wars set, sadly. Besides, I was only 6 when the first one came out, and I didn’t know that much about cameras… just light sabers.

The Walker (by Stuck in Customs)

Thunder Mountain

This was always one of my favorite rides from Disney World. It was fun to get a chance to take my son there so he could experience the terror of being on a runaway mine train on his own.

I think my other favorite ride was Space Mountain. There were some really great ideas for shots I had inside there, but it’s kinda tough to jump off the roller coaster to get the perfect vantage. Since I do roam around the various parks with all my equipment, getting my tripod into a roller coaster is always kinda tough. I would leave it there with a 16-year-old who pushes the green flashy button to start the ride, but, most of the time at Disney, the exit is a mile away from entrance. So, I usually collapse the thing and put it under my feet. The negative-G humps always make pinning the tripod to the ground more than a little tough.

You might notice this one has a certain look that is different from my typical shots. It’s using some of the effects from my textures tutorial on that subject. Thanks to those of you that have been sending me your images that use the textures — it’s always cool to see how people have combined their stuff with the textures! Miss Aneila (guest blogger) from a few weeks back, did one as well, which is on that page… it’s the one with the pink dress.

Thunder Mountain (by Stuck in Customs)

The Arabian Roof

Nothing makes me feel more like being in a foreign place than having the ceiling being entirely composed of cloth fluttering in the breeze.

Well, I am pretty sure that is what the Disney Imagineers intended when they designed this place. This was an Arabian-style restaurant right in the middle of Disney World, which has to be one of the coolest places in the world for photography. One of the problems there, frankly, is that there is so much to see that it is simply overwhelming. I think, now that I have been there multiple times, you just have to force yourself to drink in the details slowly over time. Wouldn’t being a Disney Imagnieer be just about the coolest job in the world?

My other piece of advice for parents (although, may Disney veterans already know this), plan a nap into the day. There is just no other way to do it with kids. Do the morning and lunch in one place… then maybe one ride on the way back to the hotel for nap time. Get a nice 2-hour nap in, then head out to different park for the evening. It will decrease stress levels by a factor of pi, and, besides, we adults are the ones that really like the naps, right? It’s a vacation, after all.

The Arabian Roof (by Stuck in Customs)

Sometimes, I’d rather be in Disney World

Actually, maybe I should change that title to: “I think I’d like to always be in Disney World!”

They shoot off fireworks every night in the Magic Kingdom, and I feel bad if I miss it. I’m sure that’s a strange thing to feel bad about… To get everything in, I have to plan the days and nights like a neo-Clark Griswald to ensure the perfect storm of technology meets up with whatever spectacular events are happening that day. For this shot, I had got reservations three months in advance at the California Grill restaurant, which has a nice majestic view of the show as the restaurant empties out onto the roof of the Contemporary Resort.

There is not much of a viewing area up there, and there were a bunch of people around me while I tried to get my tripod in place. I could deal with the crowds and fleshy shouldering, but the one thing that always annoys me is people beside me with little cameras that use their flashes to take photos of something a mile away. Sometimes they see I have a big camera, and they turn to ask for advice. They ask, “Do you think my flash helps?” I am really a totally nice and approachable guy, but since this is one of the very few things that annoy me, I usually just give them a shameful negative nod of the head.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the shot, but I had some great sushi in that restaurant. It was made by a Japanese female sushi chef, and she is one of only three “official” sushi chefs in the world (or so the matri’d told me). The Japanese do not let women be sushi chefs normally, as their hands are too “weak”.

Sometimes I'd rather be in Disney World (by Stuck in Customs)

The Pirate Party (and an invite next Thursday night)

On one special night per week at Disney World, they have this pirates and princesses party. This last year, I took my son, who was totally into Pirates of the Caribbean at the time. He went in full regalia and ran around like a nut… it was great and he had a super time!

The fireworks show is over the top on this night, and they project all kinds of cool stuff on the “Cinderella Castle” (that’s what my daughter calls it as she screams it out every time I have to watch that infernal Tinkerbell DVD).

…and next Thursday night you are all invited to my little photography talk here in Austin. It’s free… I know its being put on by a Mac user group, but PC users are welcome too. I think I will be giving a little tutorial too! You can get a map, times and stuff, at this website.

The Pirate Party (and invite for next Thursday night) (by Stuck in Customs)

Waiting for the Parade

After spending a while watching burned out hippies cavalcade on Congress in various states of undress during First Night a few evenings ago, I was reminded of this photo at Disneyworld.  So, I went back to process it and see if it was as idyllic as I remembered.   This is Main Street with the assembled crowds, as everyone awaits the big fireworks show and Disney parade.

Waiting for the Parade

The Sunset of Your Childhood

Haven’t your memories always been a little better than reality? That’s why reality kind of sucks sometimes (!) and it’s fun to escape into our mind’s eye. This is what I try to achieve through this medium. I also try to achieve it in real life, where it often fails in spectacularly sad ways.

But maybe our memories are better than we give ourselves credit for. Here I was in Disneyworld, as young as ever, and seeing this real place with these real colors and tones. I don’t paint over these photos…all these colors are really there, and they are the same ones that are mapped into your brain for all time. As you all know, I contend that many of us remember in HDR…

Anyway, I am piecing together a new version of my HDR Tutorial to be released some time around 2009. I’m thinking about how the process is evolving and moving forward, and I look forward to sharing it with you all soon!

The Sunset of Your Childhood (by Stuck in Customs)

The Ghost of Disney

I sat down on the curb on Main Street to watch the Disney parade come by. Normally, frankly, I don’t like parades. I am very easily bored, and I need to be extremely visually or mentally stimulated or else I just zone out… But the Disney parade was great… they throw everything at you, and then some. Once these ghostly dancers started moving down the street, I felt like I was in some kind of a dream sequence…

The Disney Ghost

The Fireworks Explosion at Disney During the Pirates and Princesses Party!

There is a special night at Disney when they close the park for everyone except for the people that bought special passes to the Pirates and Princesses Party. Things were still pretty busy as we scurried around from one stop to another to collect treasure and engage in the booty-like festivities.

They even had a bunch of Johnny Depps running around (one of them rather convincing), taking photos and giving impromptu sword-fighting lessons. I had read a story about a Johnny Depp-lookalike that worked at Disneyworld that had a secret blog… about all the crazy things that would happen behind the scenes with all the randy moms.

Anyway, the finale of the night was this massive fireworks display on top of the Cinderella Castle… it was more than my 10mm could grab!

The Fireworks Explosion at Disney During the Pirates and Princesses Party!

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