Mele Kalikimaka WDW Adventure 2015-COMPLETED

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by juneaubiscuits, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Aloha! My name is Len and this is my first trip report here in a forum. (I've since added two more trip reports, one on Disneyland which you can find here: https://www.disboards.com/threads/mahalo-disneyland-for-60-magical-years.3542682/ & one for Disney Aulani: https://www.disboards.com/threads/hauoli-makahiki-hou-from-disney-aulani-resort.3567718/). I've been an avid Disney park fan for most of my life, but have never visited any of the locations during the Christmas season. My wife and I, along with some friends, were finally able to rectify that this past year. Come along as you take the journey with us from Hawaii to far off Orlando. I'll be stopping off for a bit at Universal Studios first to take a look at the Harry Potter attractions. If you stick with me, I promise we'll get to Walt Disney World in good time. Before I begin, I wanted to share with you one of my first photos from the Magic Kingdom after closing...

    [​IMG]Main Street Christmas 2015 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
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  2. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    We flew out Thanksgiving Day, so traffic was pretty light. Although my wife Sue and I were excited, we were also a little sad to leave our two girls back home. Their names are Lohelani (Border Collie/Husky) and Juneau (Husky/Malamute). They were left in good hands with a great dog sitter, but seeing their sad faces as we pulled out of the garage is always gut wrenching.

    [​IMG]Juneau & Lohe (No Leashes) by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
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  4. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Prior to the trip, I looked through my photos from our last trip to WDW back in 2004 (Expedition Everest was still being built as I have a few pictures of the steel frame of the mountain). The first thing I noticed was the need for a better wide angle lens. The second, and more glaring issue, was that I had very little night shots. Part of the reason was most of the nighttime photos I had were shot in auto with a flash (a good number of them looking washed out and overexposed). I began shopping for a Nikon WA lens since I owned a D7000, and ended up purchasing the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. This lens came highly recommended by Disney blogger supreme Tom Bricker. Finding Tom's blog was both a blessing and a curse. I fell in love with his night photography and those "empty park" images. My Nikon is a crop sensor camera, and Tom is a full frame shooter. I initially checked into, and balked, at the prices for a full frame camera body and lenses. I convinced myself to stick with the D7000 (a very capable camera) and learn how to shoot in manual mode. Yes, I've been an auto shooter most of my life and was totally turned off (and scared) by the thought of going manual. Once I understood that shooting in manual would be crucial to getting some decent night photos (along with a tripod and raw settings), I set out to teach myself by scoring the internet and doing some reading. During Christmas 2014, Nikon ran a great deal on their bodies and lenses. It was too good to pass up, so I made the jump to a full frame Nikon D810 along with their "Holy Trinity of Lenses". It was a huge investment, but besides Disney, it really pushed me to get out and shoot quite often.
     
  5. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    As stated earlier, we left on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days @ WDW and 2 days @ Universal Studios. Flying to Orlando from Hawaii is a day's journey with 2 stop overs (basically a 2 week vacation with 2 days lost to traveling). Our 1st stop over after a 5 1/2 hour flight was at LAX airport. Compared to Honolulu International Aiport, LAX is almost a destination onto itself...LOL! We had a couple of hours to kill, so Sue and I grabbed an early dinner at Rock 'N Brew's. I don't know if it's because I was overly hungry, but man, that was the best hot dog I've ate...EVER!

    [​IMG]Rock & Brew's Sign by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    Rock & Brew's Sign by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Rock & Brew's Interior by
    Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    Rock N' Brew Meal @ LAX Airport by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    Rock N' Brew Meal @ LAX Airport
    by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
  6. glennbo123

    glennbo123 DIS Veteran

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    Hello! Following along.

    Love that photo of Main Street after closing Len! How did you manage to get that?
     
  7. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Thank you for your interest and compliment! I took that photo after park closing...approximately 1:30 in the morning.
     
  8. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    After leaving LAX, our next stop was in Atlanta which took another 5 1/2 hours, give or take. Finally on the last leg of our flight to Orlando which was an easy 2 hour trip. By the time we got in our shuttle van, it was around 7:00 in the morning. The driver dropped us off at two different hotels. Our friends booked a night at the Hard Rock Hotel, while we checked in to Portofino Bay Resort. Both groups did it to take advantage of the "free" Universal Express line benefit (we really didn't get much value out of it since we spent most of the time at the Harry Potter areas. Express is not valid for any of the rides). Upon checking in, I admired the Christmas tree in the lobby.

    [​IMG]Christmas Tree @ the Lobby of Portofino Bay Resort by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Christmas Tree @ the Lobby of Portofino Bay Resort 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
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  9. Gracefulskinny

    Gracefulskinny DIS Veteran

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    :wave: HI there! Joining in. DH was born and raised in HI and still has a bit of family there. We've made that flight from the east coast. Its Brutal! At least you had nice long layovers. (when we went out there was only an hour between flights! :scared1:)
     
  10. annie170

    annie170 DIS Veteran

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    That photo on Main Street is absolutely stunning! Out of curiosity, were you the last people to leave that night?
     
  11. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    After dropping off our luggage with Baggage services, we headed straight for Universal. I know this section is geared towards WDW, so I'll just post a few favorite photos and move on to Disney. We were there for two full days, but got to do only a fraction of what we had planned (No ET!). Let me just come right out and say it....Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are amazing places. The level of detail and design are on par with the best of Disney Imagineers. If I were Universal, I would expand on the Harry Potter license as much as possible. This is a property that will stay relevant and in eye of popular culture for a long, long time. And this points to one of the areas where Universal falls way behind Disney. They just don't have characters and movie tie-ins that are as popular as Disney's stable. I love Back to the Future, ET, Terminator, but those movies tend to ebb and flow, in terms of popularity. Disney does an incredible job of keeping their properties in the forefront. Other than Potter, there other two strong properties are Minions and Marvel Superheroes. Whether Minions will have staying power or fade out like Shrek remains to be seen. Since Disney bought out Marvel, i'm not sure how much incentive Universal has to keep investing in this property...

    [​IMG]Hogwart's Express 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Dragon Perched on Gringott's 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Universal Studios Harry Potter Hogsmeade 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
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  12. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Hey there! Tell your DH..."Howzit"! True, those layovers helped, but I can tell I'm getting old as that flight really took a lot out of me!
     
  13. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    I left the park around 2 am and there were at least 15 other hard core shooters still there (including Tom and his wife Sarah Bricker). Since this was my 1st time doing this, I talked to some of the other seasoned photographers. One guy, who was super nice, told me that security has to literally carry him out of the park before he stops shooting...LOL!
     
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  14. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    The Dragon atop Gringotts Bank was the #1 photo I wanted to shoot at night! I had photographed it earlier in the evening handheld, but I knew the ISO would be ridiculously high. I waited until park closing to break out my tripod and proceeded to fire away. I failed to capture the dragon blowing out flames as it overexposed my image. Probably should have shot it with an ND filter, but my being a newbie was a bit overwhelming. On a down note, a security guard came up to me and told me that my type of cameras are not allowed in the park! I told her I'm an amateur and only shooting for my own personal use. She said that didn't matter, but since it was almost closing, she would let it slide. I apologized and moved on, but that pretty much dampened my enthusiasm for trying to photograph any more in that area. Not sure what that was about, but no other security personnel approached me at any other time about my gear. Because the area was nearly empty and I'm using a tripod... it probably made me an easy target.

    [​IMG]Dragon @ Diagon Alley Night Shot by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Dragon @ Diagon Alley Night Shot 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Dragon @ Diagon Alley Night Shot 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
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  15. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
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  16. GAN

    GAN DIS Veteran

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    Beautiful photos ...I'm along for the ride!
     
  17. Gracefulskinny

    Gracefulskinny DIS Veteran

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    Wonderful pictures! Bummer that the security guard wouldn't let you use your camera.

    He said to pass on and I quote, "

    "Eh brah, howzit"
     
  18. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    Fantastic...welcome aboard!
     
  19. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    All right, I'm jumping around a bit posting photos as I wanted to put up the night shots of the dragon. During the day, Diagon Alley was slammed packed especially inside the stores. My wife and I had to try the Butter Beer, so we ordered both the standard and frosty version. The frosty was the way to go big time! Unfortunately, Sue had accidentally ordered the "commemorative mug" which was something like...$10.00-12.00 each. That did make the drink a little less enjoyable. Seriously, I think we always come back from a theme park trip with a gagillion cups. And this trip was no exception...these two were the first of many...GULP!

    I also tried to catch most of the stage shows which included Celestine Warbeck and the Banshees and the Triwizards Spirit Rally...

    [​IMG]Sue enjoys Butter Beer @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Celestina Warbeck & the Banshees 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Celestina Warbeck & the Banshees 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Triwizards Spirit Rally @ Universal's islands of Adventure 07 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Triwizards Spirit Rally @ Universal's islands of Adventure 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
  20. juneaubiscuits

    juneaubiscuits Mouseketeer

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    The other show was a "Frog Choir". These performances are simple and entertaining and the crowds seem to enjoy it. It's nothing spectacular, but they're "free" to watch and doesn't require you to wait an hour or so to get a decent view...

    [​IMG]Hogsmeade Frog Choir 07 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Hogsmeade Frog Choir 04 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Hogsmeade Frog Choir 06 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Hogsmeade Frog Choir 09 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Hogsmeade Frog Choir 05 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr
     
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  21. tinawv

    tinawv Dis Veteran

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    Fantastic photos! Can't wait to see your Disney pics. :)
     

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