Friday, March 2, 2012
Last week both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom were open for 24 hours straight to celebrate Leap Day. A lot of fans viewed this as a kind of endurance challenge, but I was more interested in being there during the hours between midnight and dawn. So, camera and tripod in tow, John and I set out around 9pm to go document a night at the Magic Kingdom.
Parking was pretty crowded, and since all three ferries were running to accommodate the masses we had to hang out on Bay Lake for a while, waiting our turn to dock. By the time we made it past the turnstiles it was nearly 10:30.
The crowds were thick on Main Street since the parade had just wrapped, so we made a beeline for the top of the train station to get a few wide-angle shots.
We also watched the castle projection show from here, but none of those photos turned out well. The construction screen jutting out from the right spoils the view, anyway.
For this next shot I had to sit on my knees in front of the tripod craning my neck up at an insane angle. I probably looked a little crazy, but I like the end result:
Note that I could take this shot - with no people in it and while kneeling next to a tripod in a major walkway - at around midnight. At that same time Disneyland in CA was shut down due to capacity crowds. So, yeah, we didn't have it nearly so bad.
From there we wandered over to Tomorrowland:
I made a point to take theses shots while the TTA (aka People Mover) was rounding the corner, so I'd get the motion blur. I still have so much to learn about photography in general and night shots in particular, though. I think a longer exposure would have looked much better.
A few minutes after this an astoundingly eagle-eyed reader named Ric managed to find us. In the dark. In a big crowd. And all from my single tweet about the music in Tomorrowland. Seriously, this guy deserves a medal.
Anyway, after we chatted for a while Ric invited us to join him in the Touring Plans Scavenger Hunt, which got started around 1AM. I'm so glad he did: it was a small hunt with maybe a dozen teams, and it was so. much. fun. We raced around the park doing things we usually skip like the Tree House and Autopia, and there were even a few trivia bits that allowed me to flex my useless-knowledge muscles.
I'm not so sure the hunt was good for John, though, who is still recovering from his round with strep & that ear infection. It was only about 70 degrees, but so humid we were all pretty sticky and funkafied by the time we finished power-walking around the park 'til 4am. We also came in dead last, because CLEARLY everyone else WAS TOTALLY CHEATING. (Kidding, kidding. We figure the ride wait-times did us in.) Regardless, we had a blast.
After an ice cream cone and parting ways with Ric, we set up in Fantasyland by the carousel. (Well, I set up, and John sat on a bench playing Teeny Wings on his phone.)
I took approximately a billion photos from this vantage point, give or take a hundred or so. I couldn't help it: as you can see, the concourse was mostly empty, and it's all sooo pretty.
I wanted my shots as empty of people as possible, but funnily enough my "test shot" when a couple was standing in the way turned out to be my very favorite:
Isn't it sweet? She even had her head on his shoulder for a second, but I wasn't quick enough with the shutter. I also love that the exposure was slow enough to get a solid ring of light inside the moving carousel.
Because we were there so long, we got to witness a rare treat: Cinderella's two wicked stepsisters came out - making plenty of noise along the way - and rode the carousel for several trips.
Here they're saying goodbye to the horse:
The only other thing of note for the night was the "dance party" in front of the castle, which started around 1am. It consisted of three parade floats - the generic ones shaped like giant gift boxes - parked around the hub with a DJ on top playing tunes and talking to the crowd. It was funny hearing a mix of "Hokey Pokey" with stuff like "Can't Touch This."
So we wandered towards the hub to see if there were any good pre-dawn shots. I think this one is the best:
Everyone seemed to be gathering around the flag pole in Town Square, just waiting for the clock to strike 6 so they could escape to their beds. There was a hazy mist descending, so you couldn't quite see the top turret of the castle.
I grabbed a few more shots of the main buildings, sans crowds:
Precisely at 6 we made our way out. Everyone was fairly subdued, but happy. Since John and I stay up all night most nights, we were in fairly decent shape for the drive home.
For some reason Disney chose 6am - the official closing time - to take all but one monorail offline, so while we were in line they told us all to turn back. A bit of a mess, but fortunately they brought all the ferries back online. Plus that meant I got this shot from the dock:
And one final shot looking back as the sun started to come up:
Oh, and when we docked a few minutes later, the captain came on the intercom and started whistling "The Imperial March." Which was the perfect soundtrack for a sea of sleep-deprived zombies staggering out into the morning light. ;)
Hope you got a vicarious sleepy thrill out of our shenanigans! As always, I'll have all these pics and a few extras over on my Flickr account, in case you want to just see the slide show.
Update - Since some of you are asking: I use a Canon Rebel XT, and most of these shots were taken with our new wide angle lens.
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