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The Easter Eggs of the Disney Resorts

If you haven’t been down to the Walt Disney Resort around Easter time, you probably never knew that the pastry chefs at the Grand Floridian create massive chocolate Easter Eggs for display in the resort.  I’ve also seen eggs over in the 4th floor of the Contemporary in past years.  This is the 7th year that the eggs have been on display.

You can see a video of how they are made from an older Disney Parks Blog post here.

Team member, and all around great guy, Ben Hendel got a chance to walk through the eggs over at the Grand Floridian to capture some great images of the eggs this year.  Photographing the eggs can be a bit tricky!  There is always a crowd looking at the wonderful creations so you really have to consider your composition to pull off a good shot.   Thanks to Ben for getting the images of this year’s eggs!

 

Celebrate the circle of life with this Lion King themed Easter Egg.  I love all the details in the animals that are hanging off the side of the egg.

Even the villains get in on the Easter Egg action.  Notice how Ben used a shallow depth of field to blur out the background and put the focus on the egg.  

 

A new movie means an opportunity for a new themed egg for the pastry chefs at the Grand Floridian.  Here’s their Moana themed Easter Egg.  

App Update – On Sale this weekend only

Just a quick note about our Photo a Day app for iOS.  An update went live on the store fixing a bug where some past photos were not showing up correctly.  Our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused our existing customers.  If you aren’t a customer already, what are you waiting for?  The price to drop?  Well then this is your lucky weekend.  The in app purchase that unlocks the photos for 2017 – that’s 365 images; a new one every day of the years – is now only $0.99 until Monday April 17th.  So if you’ve been on the fence, now is a perfect time to buy.  If you are looking for the App Store, you can follow the link here.  2017 Photo A Day from Disney Photography Blog underwent a bit of a name change because Apple said so – the app is now called Daily Magic from Disney Photography Blog.  If you already own the app – no worries, the app will update and you will never know the difference.

 

 

Rivers of Light – Review (no spoilers)

Rivers of Light is a new evening show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s currently most famous for having been delayed quite a bit since the intended opening date of April 22nd, 2016. It began public “invite-only” soft-opening shows on February 10th for anybody with a FastPass+ reservations or is an Annual Passholder or DVC Member who is able to collect a wristband. It lasts approximately 18 minutes, and is filled with projections, water cannons, water misters, boats, and floats.

I’ve seen it described by some as a longer version of the intermission scene of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, where the globe floats to the center of World Showcase Lagoon. This is not an inaccurate description, but also not an entirely accurate one either. It joins nighttime rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris, Tree of Life projection shows, and the soon-to-be-opened Pandora: World of Avatar (which itself opens on May 27th, 2017) in expanding Animal Kingdom’s evening offerings. Like the Tree of Life projection shows, it does require you to bring some interpretation with you; it’s not always 100% clear what Disney is trying to get across. That last point, however, is one of the things I really like about Rivers of Light. Different people will see different things in it, and that’s fantastic.

There are no fireworks in Rivers of Light, which is necessitated by all of the animals in such close proximity to the performance area. But do not let the fact that this isn’t a Disney Nighttime Spectacular (TM) steer you away from Rivers of Light, it is still well worth viewing. The folks over at Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, and I imagine also Walt Disney Imagineering, have perfected projection technology on water. Moreover, they’ve been able to project on multiple mediums of water; there are heavy-mist “screens” in the back of the performance area, smaller spheres of mist that move around during the show, and finally greater areas of fog that are used to show moving images.

Floating lotuses and gigantic, illuminated animal floats join two boats, a “warm” red boat, and a “cold” blue one dance a beautifully choreographed dance around the Discovery River, supplemented by beautiful music and four live performers, two on each boats. One of each of those performers is designated the Teacher, and they help tell the story of Rivers of Light along with spirits of tigers, owls, elephants, and turtles, supplemented by projections and dancing jets of water that seem as if someone said “Have you seen the show in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas? We’d like to do that, but we want the foundations for the show to float on top of a lake and move autonomously.” It’s a remarkable thing, to be sure.

I quite enjoyed the show and the message behind it. It is a show that, photographically, rewards wide shots and tight shots, but not too much in between. Discovery River is gigantic, and the floats and boats use every inch of water that they can. As a result, things are very wide left-to-right, but not so much top-to-bottom. Be prepared to crop your shots if there’s a boring sky. Telephoto lenses will not suffer from this so much, but they’ll miss the scale and breadth of everything together. That isn’t a bad thing, however, as the floats and performers are so incredibly detailed that to not capture them close-up would be a crime.

Overall, I really enjoyed Rivers of Light. I did not take a lot of pictures during this soft open show as I truly wanted to experience the show fully, and I find I cannot do that with my eye up to a viewfinder. In doing so, I learned that this is a show I will keep coming back to, even without my camera, because there is so much going on that one truly cannot see it all during a single viewing. Thankfully, with a rumored three shows an evening during summer operating hours, 15,000 people a night will be enjoying Rivers of Light. It appears roughly half of those seats are reserved for FastPass+, so there are lots of opportunities to watch. I hope you take advantage of them, because it’s a show unlike any other on property. The soundtrack is amazing without being an earworm that sticks with you for months (I’m looking at you, Boo To You) and the technology and details are incredible.

Editor’s Note: Thanks Ben for going to the preview and giving us a taste of what the show looks like.  Extra special thanks for no spoilers. I can’t wait until the next time I can go to WDW to see the new show.  

Goodbye Wishes

Well, the shoe finally dropped yesterday.  For many years now people have been speculating that Wishes Nighttime Spectacular would be replaced and yesterday the Disney Parks Blog team revealed that it is finally going to happen.   The final performance of Wishes will take place on May 11th, 2017 with the new show – Happily Ever After – debuting the next night on May 12th.  A nice gift for anyone visiting the parks for Mother’s Day weekend.

This is one of mine.  I have this hanging in my office.

It’s an unpopular opinion but I’ve always felt that Wishes was the best fireworks on property.  I know people love Illuminations: Reflections of Earth but it really has never grabbed me the way Wishes has.  Wishes always found a way to pull on my heart strings.  Yes, I’m a grown man that cried the first time I took my daughter to watch the fireworks at Walt Disney World.  Adopting her was the wish my wife and I made that came true.  So the announcement yesterday was met with great sadness by me yesterday.  But then after thinking about it a bit, and watching some parts of the concept teaser I was filled with hope.

This is one of mine too, this is one of the few ones hanging at home.

  • A new show means a new subject to photograph at Walt Disney World.  Taking fireworks shots is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World and now there is a new show to take pictures of.
  • I keep thinking of what it would be like to try and photograph the  show that first night and how excited I would be.  At this point we all know the timing of Wishes down pat.  But with a new show, it would be an entirely new experience.  I can imagine that jockeying for position near the hub is going to be insane for photographers that night.  Is camping out at noon too early?  Lol.
  • I have three Wishes prints on the walls of my office.  New photos of a new show means I can get even more fireworks on the walls of my office (which we’re moving in 6 months so I get to completely redecorate my office with pictures).
  • The snippets in the teaser trailer look really good, I mean check the Disney Parks blog link above.  They look really good.
  • The name…..Happily Ever After.  It seems that Disney is going to go for pulling at the heart strings again and that’s great.  I saw someone post online that new animated films are being added to the show and Moana was going to be added to the mix.  That’s great news!

It’s always fun to shoot from different locations.  Here’s a shot from Ben Hendel from the top of the Contemporary. A shot featured on 1/6/17 in the 2017 Photo A Day application.

One thing that the news didn’t address was what is going to happen at the Holidays.  Will we still see Hallowishes at Halloween and Holiday Wishes at Christmas?  Or are we going to get a So what say you?  Wouldn’t that be fun if we got new holiday shows as well.

Will Hallowishes be replaced as well?  This photo (and the top one on the post) is by Ben Hendel and featured in our 2017 Photo a Day App.  

Are you excited for the new show?  Are you sad to see it go?  Hit read more and post something in the comments.  Let us know what you think.

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Food and Wine Photography

Editor’s Note:  Hello everyone….with Food and Wine just around the corner, Ben Hendel is back on the blog with a post about food photography while you’re sampling the fine cuisine around World Showcase……

 

The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival has started! And with it comes lots of fun food and drinks to enjoy, and share with your friends and family… even if they’re not with you at EPCOT! How is it shared? Why, pictures of course!

It doesn’t matter if you’re sending pictures messages, Snapchatting, posting to Twitter or Instagram, or have a Facebook album for all your noshing; you’re taking lots of pictures of your food and drinks. So it seems timely to talk about taking pictures of food and beverages. While these photos are taken on a DSLR, do not let that scare you away from using your phone. Most of the principals I’ll go over do apply to any camera, and I’ll be sure to point that out where I can. Learning some of the more “manual” controls of your cameraphone before heading out will give you a distinct advantage in making your food look its best! This article will not limit itself to Food and Wine, however; it will also go over documenting fancier meals you may enjoy, from Disney Cruise Line’s Remy to the Grand Floridian’s legendary AAA Four-Diamond rated Victoria & Albert’s.

First, I’d like to talk about setting a scene. Just because you’re taking pictures of food on a plate doesn’t mean you can’t continue to tell a story. And there are a variety of ways to tell that story, not all of which apply to every situation. Firstly, a good background goes a long way to telling your story. While a trash can makes a great substitute for a table on a busy EPCOT weekend, do you want all of your pictures to have a lot of brown as the foreground? Do you mind the rivets or stamping where the pieces of metal meet? This is not to say that that trash can will ruin a picture, but think about what’s in the background of the shot as well. Take, for instance, this shot of the escargot croissant from the France Pavilion. While I would have loved to have a picture with the Eiffel Tower in the background, angles and places to put my food down didn’t allow for that.

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Instead, I chose a background that included France’s water feature and the recognizable water fountains. One lucky benefit of this was that droplets of water coming off the fountain reflected the sun nicely, and provided me with some interesting bokehs for my shot! I do regret, however, not cleaning my plate better and removing the errant piece of croissant. I find it super distracting, and you should too now that I pointed it out. Learn from my mistake, and make sure your food looks the way you want it before you take the picture. Whether that’s cleaning the plate, or perhaps accessorizing your food, it all will make your pictures better. How much more interesting is this sushi picture, when the shot includes not only the sushi, but common sushi “accessories” like chopsticks and soy sauce?

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Here, I spent time and thought about the layout of the Japan Pavilion, about a suitable background, and realized I could include the booth itself if I went to the landing halfway up the stairs to Tokyo Dining. Not only did the booth now feature into the picture, but so did the crowds, and the beautiful sand-and-bonsai garden. And these pictures were not taken with incredibly shallow depths of field. Both pictures were taken with my general walkabout lens, an old Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8, right in the lens’ sharpness-sweet-spot of f/5.6, though I have another version of the sushi picture that was taken at f/11 that looks fantastic too. How do you get such depth of field on a cell phone? Use selective focusing, usually activated by tapping on your subject on your phone’s screen.

Sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of choosing your background, or having great natural lighting, to make sure your shots shine. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to enjoy a dinner at the fancier Disney restaurants, on land or at sea, where dishes are carefully constructed, like art. Once-in-a-lifetime meals scream to be documented. However, the ambiance isn’t always conducive to photography. The lighting is often dim very dim, quarters are often close, and you certainly can’t set up a tripod to nail your focus and enjoy long shutter speeds. You’ll be fighting to get a good shot, to get an interesting framing. But it can be done.

First off, you’ll want to equip yourself with fast, short (but not necessarily wide) glass. I don’t own any primes, but if you do, especially in the f/1.4 to f/1.8 range, you’ll want to bring them. This is like shooting any nighttime parade; you’re trying to get a sharp image in tough lighting conditions. A good, budget lens for this type of work is a photography’s trusty 50mm f/1.8 prime. Because of the light conditions, you’re going to be working with a narrow depth of field, whether you like it or not. When fighting low light, your aperture is your first line of defense. You will also want to shoot either in shutter priority or in full manual mode. Being able to set your shutter speed is critical for sharp images. Use the aperture to set your depth of field, keeping in mind that shallow is not necessarily a bad thing, and use ISO to expose the image properly.

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Because you’re likely working with shallow depth of field, make sure you pick the right subject for your dish. In the above photo, I made sure the picture focused on the octopus, and not the broth it was in. That dish, beyond behind delicious, was beautifully photogenic as well. The orange broth pops against the white bowl, and the greens (both the green ones and red ones) provided excellent contrast as well. Additionally, the bowl is textured too, and I love the way that it starts out of focus and then falls into it, before going back out of focus at the back. I didn’t have the luxury of time, because you can see there’s a bread plate hanging out in the background. Would I like it gone? Yeah, I would. But at the same time, I didn’t want to hold up dinner. It’s a fine line between documenting a meal, and being a nuisance.

Don’t just focus on food, as well. There are so many details at a meal that people may miss. One of our bread courses at Victoria & Albert’s had butter hand-carved off of an all-butter sculpture of a chef’s toque. Because it was hand carved, it formed the most beautiful ribbon curl, and the inside of that curl had a wavy texture to it. I had to take a picture!

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But it might not be butter that catches your eye. Both Victoria & Albert’s and Remy have stunning plates, literal plates, that greet you as you sit down at your table. They’re not used for food, just as a billboard to welcome you to dinner. Artist’s Palate on every Disney Cruise Line ship has bespoke butter knives that can’t be missed!

 

Editor’s Note:  The food looks delicious Ben!  Great job on the article.  

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