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December 28, 2014

A Sampling of Disney's Aulani

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Aloha! Venturing out of Waikiki to Olina where Disney's Aulani, a very large ocean-front resort sits, took about 45 minutes by car. The only tricky part is H1 East becomes 93 and then you need to make sure you know which exit to take. Luckily, we guessed better than what the GPS said. My advice, ask the locals before you head out. Also, make sure you're on Oahu, HI before you even attempt the trek.

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My mom's plan for the day was to meet with a Disney Vacation Club salesperson, learn more about Aulani, have lunch, shop, and poke around the resort. My plan was to gently nudge my mom into buying DVC. Long story short, she came really close. She got a phone call during the trip that detoured her mindset. And just the other day I asked if she was really planning to buy into DVC and she said she decided to invest in someone instead of something. That someone is me. Awwww.

I will say, Aulani is the only place that ever gave us flower leis the entire 10 nights we stayed in Oahu. We got some plastic shell leis at Hilo Hattie; they're nice but they don't smell pretty.
So, after the Disney Vacation Club fella showed us all room combinations, fed us cookies and water, and we made a pit stop, our parking ticket was validated for 3 hours. Yay!

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We set off to try eating at a counter service location so new that it wasn't on any of the maps. Ulu Cafe sits near the pool, diagonally across from 'AMA'AMA which is where we wound up eating because everything at Ulu Cafe was pre-made. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, you will have difficulty eating at Ulu Cafe.

'AMA'AMA is an open-air full service restaurant with a view of the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Normally I'm the one who has trouble finding something to eat but this time it was my mom whose order wasn't made properly. After 3 attempts, her chicken salad was prepared correctly and delivered by one of the most smug and non-Disney-like Cast Members I've ever met. Given my hundreds of visits to Disney Parks and Resorts, you know she really tipped the scale.

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Menehune hide all over the resort.

While my mom settled the check, I ran off to find characters holding meet and greets on Manawa Island (pool area). Goofy was easily accessible. Mickey and Minnie were in a shaded area along a trail between pools. Luckily, I was able to get close to them without having to wait in line. Agh! Stop yelling at me. It's just like in the theme parks, you can take pictures from the side so long as you aren't in the way of people photographing their super model kids with the characters.

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After the photo shoot, we headed back inside and contributed even more to Minnie's purse by way of Kalepa's Store aka the gift shop. Given that my mom behaved, I told her to pick out something for herself. She went crazy and chose a reusable bag for $5.00. Cheap date. I on the other hand got myself a hat, a t-shirt, 2 postcards, and a magic towel (wash cloth folded real small). For my cousin, I bought a hat. For some friends, I bought postcards. And for someone I have not yet decided on, a giant pencil with an equally huge sharpener.

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You've probably heard about the daily 'IWA, a newsletter/activities list for guests. Before I could search for it, one literally blew out the hotel doors and against the poles holding up the resort map. The Force is strong in me. What a little gem. It told me what the DVC salesperson wouldn't. Like? Well, like the fact that we could see Mickey and friends. Yeah, my mom flat out asked if Mickey was around and he said no, Mickey was nowhere to be found. I don't much care for fibs.

Before you make a day at Aulani, remember these tips. Get directions. Get your parking ticket validated at 'AMA'AMA or by DVC (otherwise you'll need to pay upwards of $35.00). Get the daily 'IWA.

Pool use is restricted to people staying at the resort. A bracelet program is used and monitored to keep tabs on swimmers. We didn't try going to any programs so I don't know if day guests are invited or not.

Questions on visiting Oahu? Ask away while my memories are still fresh.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

October 29, 2014

Catch You Later

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

My inner monologue has been over-flowing with stereotypical Jewish what ifs, guilt, second guesses, and the desire for a nice Kosher deli at Disneyland, all in Jackie Mason's voice. Why? What's all the fuss? As a photo blogger I need a large number of pictures to use in my weekly writing, and to get those photos requires traveling from MA to FL or to CA at least once a year.

I took this year off from Walt Disney World and in place was able to visit Miami,FL, Washington, DC, and Niagara Falls, Ontario. There's a great big world out there that I'd like to see. That's not to say I no longer enjoy all that Walt Disney World or Disneyland have to offer but I need to shift the balance of where I spend my time. So, as the Walt Disney Company continues raising prices my visits will become fewer.

What does that mean? It means I've decided to retire from writing my weekly blog, as seen here, as well as the Disney Pic of the Week. Try to hold back the tears, I'm not leaving you completely. From time to time when I have something to pipe up about regarding pretty much anything Disney, you'll find fresh work from me. Right now I'm not sure if they'll land in the Guest Blog, the Team Blog, in the newsletter or somewhere else on the website. You can always re-read or seek out older Light Meter blogs on AllEars.Net.

I do have some future travel plans that include a visit to Disney's Aulani in Oahu and to Disneyland. With any luck I'll conjure up something worth posting.

Thank you for all of the feedback, it's nice to know someone took not only the time to read my words but to also respond to them.

I'd like to share with you some photos I've taken this year and last year and hope they'll inspire you to take photos of people, places, and things.

I'll catch you later.

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Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, LA


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Parrot Jungle, Miami, FL


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Washington, D.C.


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New York City, NY


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Miami, FL


Happy Halloween!!
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Super Megafest, Framingham, MA


Buy a camera. Document your life. Print the images.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

October 22, 2014

Neon Night Photography

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Over the years, one of the most common questions asked of Scott, Barrie (you remember her), and me, is about night photography. Our reply always includes the need for a tripod or steady flat surface so that your camera is still. Why does it need to remain motionless? Because is in order for the digital sensor or film to record/absorb light in dark situations, the shutter must stay open longer than if it were daylight. If a camera moves during a long exposure, the shot will be soft or blurred. Even if you think you're holding still, so long as you're breathing, you're moving.

I ventured out late one night while vacationing in Miami and hit Ocean Drive on South Beach with my tripod and Canon EOS 30D and EF 17-40mm f4L USM. The neon highlighted hotels and restaurants are alluring and with fewer people taking up sidewalk space than earlier, I planted myself in several spots and got to work.

With my ISO set at 100 and aperture at f8, I let the camera's light meter select the shutter speed. After a few shots, I changed composition little by little, as you'll see.

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.4 seconds

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.8 seconds

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.5 seconds, f10

I changed to a slightly faster shutter speed on this last frame so the color would be more saturated and truer to what I saw with my very own eyes.

Looking for neon at Walt Disney World? Try Disney's Hollywood Studios for some night time shooting. They appear to have more of it than the other parks. Headed west? Disney's California Adventure is the place to capture neon glow.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

October 15, 2014

What Do You Do at Walt Disney World? Results

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

The winner of last week's caption contest is Kay Moss with her submission, Let it go, let it go.......(humming). Kay has won a Minnie Mouse pin. Congratulations!

Now, onto the blog.

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A few months ago I set up an online survey to gain access to your Disney gift cards but no one had a balance. Since that plan backfired, I'll share with you the actual survey results. Keep reading and you'll see why I asked.

The top 100 answers are...

Question 1. What's your typical admission ticket?

Annual Pass: 40
Single Park Per Day: 13
Park Hopper: 47


Question 2. How many hours do you typically spend in a park each day?

Two to Four Hours: 2
Four to Six Hours: 10
Six to Eight Hours: 32
Eight to Ten Hours: 32
Ten to Twelve Hours: 24


Question 3. How many stage shows do you watch per day?

None: 17
One: 52
Two: 29
Three: 1
Four: 1


Question 4. How many attractions do you ride in a typical day?

Three or Fewer: 6
Four to Six: 21
Seven to Nine: 40
Ten to Twelve: 19
Thirteen or More: 14


Question 5. Do you stop and watch the parade?

Yes: 65
No: 34


Question 6. Do you watch street-style performances such as World Showcase Players, Jammitors, and Dapper Dans?

Yes: 47
No: 1
Sometimes: 51


Question 7. How many street-style performances do you watch per day, typically?

None: 6
One or Two: 87
Three or Four: 7
Five or More: 0


Question 8. How much time do you spend each day, eating meals in the park?

One Hour: 31
Two Hours: 59
Three Hours or More: 10

When I take the most common answers and apply dollars and cents, you get a real good look at how much you're paying to visit The Most Magical Place on Earth. Let's say you're spending 4 days skipping from park-to-park.

A 4-Day Hopper currently costs $377.01 for ages 10 and up.. That's $94.25 per day.

You spend a total of 8 hours inside the park(s). You're paying $11.78 per hour. However, 2 of those hours are used eating meals. Now you've got 6 hours to play, which changes your finances to $15.71 per hour.

In a typical day, you watch 1 stage show, ride 7-9 rides, so we'll gauge it at 8 rides per day. You watch the fireworks, the parade, and 2 street-style performances. Let's add those up and you get 13. You're doing 2.2 attractions/shows per hour. That comes out to $7.14 per attraction/show/parade.

Not too bad unless you consider that you spent 20 minutes waiting to ride Peter Pan's Flight, a 2 minute and 45 second journey and waited 10 minutes for Mickey's PhilharMagic, a 12 minute show. Where did the other 15 minutes go? A stop at the restroom and a quick call to check in with your parents adds up. Don't multitask and perform both at the same time. Aaawkaaaard.

How do you get more bang for your Disney Dollar? Well, if you can stay in the park longer, you'll ride more rides, hopefully. Packing lunch will trim off time spent in line ordering and waiting for food. Conquer one land at a time instead of cross-crossing the park and wearing out your tootsies.

If you remove the Hopper option from your 4-day ticket, you'll pay less per attraction. Let's re-calculate so I can show my brother I solved a math problem...sort of.

A 4-day ticket currently costs $313.11 for ages 10 and up.. That's $78.28 per day.

You spend a total of 8 hours inside the park(s). You're paying $9.78 per hour. However, 2 of those hours are used eating meals. Now you've got 6 hours to play, which changes your finances to $13.05 per hour.

In a typical day, you watch 1 stage show, ride 7-9 rides, so we'll gauge it at 8 rides per day. You watch the fireworks, the parade, and 2 street-style performances. Let's add those up and you get 13. You're doing 2.2 attractions/shows per hour. That comes out to $5.93 per attraction/show/parade.

A total savings of $63.90 or $15.97 per day or $2.66 per hour or $1.21 per attraction. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom cost $3.50. You can't even get on a single ride for that price now. That's a 28.2% price increase.

For comparison, a loaf of bread in 1971 was 25¢. A 28.2% increase would mean bread is now $7.05, and thankfully it's not. The average income in 1971 was $6,497.08. A 28.2% increase would pay out at $183,217.66 in 2014. Yeah, I don't make that much money.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

October 8, 2014

Caption Contest

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Tickle your funny bone and come up with a witty and family-friendly caption for my photo posted below. I will choose a winner who will get a surprise gift.

This contest is open to all ages. It is open to residents of the United States of America, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You may only enter once. It is not sponsored by AllEars.Net just me, Lisa, your friendly photoblogger.

To enter, fill out the Comment Form with your first and last name and e-mail address. Be sure to write blog where it tells you to do so. Then in the Comments box write your caption. Entries are due by Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 5 PM EST.

Incomplete entries will not be entered to win.

My decision is final. The winner will be notified by e-mail at the end of the contest and announced on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 and at time of notification must supply his/her complete mailing address.

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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

October 1, 2014

Last Set of Photo Bombs from Readers

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

This topic started back in May when I wrote a blog about sneaking into photos for fun. Nowadays the hip cats (kats? katz? Top Cat?) call it photo bombing. I invited readers to send in their own photos containing surprise guests. If you missed them, you can view them through these magical links.

Disney Photobomb

Photo Bombs by Readers

More Photo Bombs by Readers


There are 3 more photos to share with you all to end this series. Thank you to everyone who sent in a photo.

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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 24, 2014

Photo Sequence: Serveur Amusant

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

One of the things you can try the next time you set out to take photographs is to tell a story. An easy way to do that is to shoot sequential shots of some physical change or act. It can be anything like a bike ride or a baby trying a new food. If you're really enthusiastic, set up the tripod and record a lunar or solar eclipse.

Last year I set my sights on the entertainment at the France pavilion in Epcot. Serveur Amusant is an acrobatic performance showcasing precision, balance, and control. There's no need for words, so the photos will do the talking.

Shot with my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS set to Program and ISO 200.

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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 17, 2014

Circling Spaceship Earth

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

In keeping with our Disney Pic of the Week theme, Spaceship Earth, I'm continuing the subject with tips on photographing the sphere from a moving monorail.

First, board the monorail heading to Epcot at the Ticket and Transportation Center. If you board the monorail to Magic Kingdom, well...that's the wrong line, Charlie. Second, sit facing forward and on the right hand side beside the window. (I'm pretty sure it's the right side.) Next, get your camera ready for some action. You're in motion so you'll need a fast shutter speed and depending on the lighting, a higher than normal ISO. My recommendations are 1/500 and an ISO of 400 on sunny days. Gray skies? ISO 640 or even 800 and 1/250 or faster.

Put the camera lens right up to the window to cut down on reflections. It's not fool proof because light bends.

While Spaceship Earth itself looks the same from every angle, the lighting can change drastically. Check this out. As we neared my subject, I could tell I had a great chance of intentionally shooting with lens flare. I did it! But, I also got some extra stuff in my shot like window and lighting reflections as well as a mysterious person.

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Dagnamit.

As we rounded the track, I was in a position to get a different type of lighting with highlights and shadows in all the right places. My only problem? The rubber edge of the window.

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So close. Wait, there's s simple fix, cropping.

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I even bumped up the contrast a little and gave even more depth to the image.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 10, 2014

Signs that You're in a Disney Park

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Everything is matchy-matchy, themed, and ensembleized (new word) at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. It's like each land is wearing Garanimals (way before my time). But that's what we love, that extreme attention to detail that assists in transporting us to another place where lunch isn't timed and the only dress code is wear clothes.

Signs are designed to co-ordinate with architecture, attractions, or just to stand out. They give us instructions, offer pricing for food, and most importantly, tell us where we are.

Want to photograph something that could change or disappear over time? Take pictures of signs.

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Disney's Hollywood Studios hosts a meet and greet with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater near Streets of America. Alas, Luigi doesn't make appearances.


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Safety is important. On the Disneyland Resort tram, signage can be found above your head.


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Don't mess with pigs, they're snout right.


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Crocs Bits 'n Bites closed years ago. I'm still sad about it. Not familiar with this eatery? Disneyland Hotel.


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Trains, trains, trains, trains. Woo woo.


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Menu signs will really strike a chord. Current prices: Waffle Cone $3.99, Ice Cream Cup $3.49, Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar $3.49, Mickey's Cookies n Cream Ice Cream Sandwich $3.49


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 3, 2014

Phineas and Ferb Fan

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

New characters emerge from Disney and I try to keep up by at least knowing who they are and where they come from. I was clueless about Phineas and Ferb. Far as I could figure out, they met visitors at Disney's Hollywood Studios on the set of a radio station and a hat-wearing platypus peered through the wooden fence. At Disney's California Adventure they had a dance party.

Platypus merchandise was everywhere. To me, it was cute but I couldn't understand the commotion. I knew nothing, not where the characters originated, not their storyline, and not why a blue/green platypus wore a hat.

A few months ago, while home sick, I was flipping channels and landed on Disney Channel, a station I don't usually watch. Elizabeth! It's the big one. Yeah, I get it. Phineas and Ferb came on and I decided to watch an episode. I was hooked. Like most animated shows, it contains humor that goes over the kids' heads because it's meant for adults.

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I laugh every time they play the theme song for Dr. Doofenshmirtz, Inc. A villain with his own company and jingle? Hilarious. Let's not forget the absurd relationship between Perry the Platypus, a secret spy, and the moderately bad ideas from Doofenshmirtz. A villain who's sad when he nemesis doesn't stop by every day to foil his plans; someone needs a hug.

Now that I understand these kids, I am confused as to why they're set up at Disney's Hollywood Studios. They should be at Epcot's Innoventions East or West teaching kids how to draw blueprints or showing off their inventions. Disney's missing out on nudging that free-thinking ability kids have.

Since my initial viewing, I've watched more shows, caught the Star Wars send-off, and rented a movie and season's worth of episodes. I am now officially a fan of Phineas and Ferb. If you're not, watch an episode or two. I think you'll be glad you did.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


August 27, 2014

Madame Leota's Spirit Captured

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Dark rides frustrate folks who want to take a great shot while abiding by the no flash rule. I know people who have ridden the same attraction many times in an effort to get the perfect or near perfect shot that can be enhanced post production. Honestly, when I'm at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, at most I'll take in the same ride three times within a trip. Most often, it's a one-time effort. So getting the exact shot I want on a dark ride doesn't happen frequently.

I lucked out because the ride stopped and I was able to snag this photo of Madame Leota, psychic medium trapped in her own crystal ball, before we began moving.It was a quick stop too, maybe 10-15 seconds.

If you're not familiar with Madame Leota, she floats about in a séance, calling out to ghosts to appear at the Haunted Mansion.

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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, 1sec, f5.0, ISO 1600

You can see the image moved as there's a 2nd profile of her face which is cool but I wanted to try and clean it up a bit, remove reflections from the crystal ball, and darken the background. With many clicks, I dodged, burned, and stamped my way to this version by means of PhotoShop.

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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

August 20, 2014

Love, Disney Style

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Unlike the wedding scene in Spaceballs which has nothing to do with love, this blog does. Disney love, to be exact. Yes, we all love Disney and vacationing at Disney Parks with our money collected from working overtime at job number 1 and picking up extra shifts at job number 2 but that's not my angle. No, this calls attention to the love you find at Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World. The photographic evidence speaks for itself but commentary is always more fun.

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Brotherly love is sharing what you have and taking care of one another, even if you started off as different mammals like Kenai and Koda.


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So this is love between a prince and a girl who can't keep a shoe on her foot. Talk about luck!


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Love of music or love of applause? I'm guessing both.


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Kitty love is purrfect. I'm living vicariously through the little girl because from the back, that could be me...years ago. Meow.


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Forbidden love. I forbid Hercules from loving Megara.


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Gaston, the poster boy for self-love.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


August 13, 2014

Return of the Photo Blogger

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

In case anyone noticed I was missing for a while, I'm back. My computer had a very slow and dramatic demise complete with self-shut off at any moment, booting up from the wrong drive, freezing, and mocking me. It took many attempts to transfer my huge amount of images, music, videos, and other important documents to a portable server before finally bidding farewell to the computer.

After everything was safe, I removed it and installed a new system built by my friend. I call it Dave 2.0. Don't tell Dave, he'll develop an ego. Then a mere 2 or 3 days after that, I broke and skinned my left index finger and cut and crushed nerves. Yes, I'm a lefty. I missed 2 weeks of work and was ordered by the urgent care physician's assistant as well as my own doctor to sit on the couch with my elbow resting on a pillow and my hand up in the air. I just went back to work last week.

No, I'm not posting a photo of my finger...unless you send me $20.00. So, that's where I've been. What's new with you?

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 18, 2014

Why I Love and Miss Disneyland

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

I fell head over heels in love with Disneyland in 1998. Earlier in life I had been there with family while vacationing in California. But it was while I spent part of the summer in various counties that the house of mouse called my name.

Unable to afford an annual pass or even a park ticket at times, I found myself spending time at the Disneyland Hotel and glimpsing at characters inside Goofy's Kitchen. Wandering Downtown Disney was fun, and I could watch the monorail pass along the beam above. It was better than nothing.

Then in 1999 I moved to Orange County and the need to be a part of The Happiest Place on Earth was unstoppable. Once I got an annual pass into my hot little hands, Disneyland became my go to destination. In time, I convinced friends to buy annual passes. My hangout, my playground, and my home away from home turned my frowns upside down. How could it not when Captain Hook walked up to me and squeezed my cheeks or all the times Pluto high-fived me when he walked around without a leash.

After four years (and six apartments), I left California and returned to the motherland, Massachusetts. Many trips to see my friends and beloved theme parks have taken place since 2003 but no matter how many times I visit, the time in between sometimes feels like forever.

Parade of the Stars was awesome and not just because I was in it twice. No, it's because my husband in waiting, Tarzan, made a rear appearance. Countless women met up with my gentle savage and that Jane chick in front of Tarzan's Treehouse. I never found him there. I keep going back because I know that one day he'll show up, on time, and without Princess Parasol.
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Honey, I'm home. Aghhh agghhh aaaagggghhhhh.

Everyone knows that the really cool castles have a drawbridge and Sleeping Beauty Castle is wicked cool. Not only does it have a drawbridge and a moat, but you can also walk through it and learn all about Aurora/Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty. Wait, I wonder which name she signed on the deed. What if it's really Aurora Castle or Briar Rose Castle? I'll have to ask her next time I see her.
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Can't see the drawbridge? Talk to Maleficent.

When Disney's California Adventure opened, I was there. I saw them build it with my own two eyes! When Drew Carey made a crack about feeling like he was actually in California, I was there and I laughed. Ha! Ha! Take that, Eisner.

Cast Members can make or break your day. In order to enhance my days, I looked for Maynard. Sometimes he played Tiki Boy at The Enchanted Tiki Room. Other times he stared eerily at those brave enough to enter the Haunted Mansion. Wherever he was, he made lasting impressions.
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Community still matters to Disneyland suits. Local performers and school programs entertain guests on various stages. Cover bands get people rockin' 'n rollin' while swing bands play for cool kats who jitterbug. I once saw Mickey Mouse and Pluto play air guitar with Sandbox.
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Kids sing and adults listen. A great combination, super sized.

One of my all-time favorite things to do in the park was to find Mad Hatter and Alice and hang out within earshot. Together they are pure comic genius. I still await the day I get to ride Storybrook Land Canal Boats with them. Until then, I watch other peoples' videos on YouTube.
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Mad Hatter asked me to "friend" him. It blew my mind.

At Disneyland, celebrities don't just walk away and head off backstage. When they reach the entrance/exit between realities, they turn around and wave goodbye. Only at Disneyland can you enjoy a heartfelt, "See ya real soon!".
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Next on Cops, an ex-conmunk, an ex-chipmunkcon, a bad guy serves time but only after blowing kisses to his admirers.

After a long day of playing hide and seek, spinning through the Pirates of the Caribbean bottleneck, feeding kitties, waving at camcorders, cleaning fries off the floor of The Golden Horseshoe, reminding Jasmine that I don't want her in my photo but that she can take a photo of me and Aladdin, and sipping a mint julep, I can konk out at my friend's place. Sometimes I have to wait for him to come home but that's okay because it's better than going home.
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Disneyland, I miss you but I miss Disneyland with my friends even more.
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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 11, 2014

More Photobombs from Readers

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Did you miss last week's blog? What about the one from two weeks ago? In the words of Mabel from Pirates of Penzance, "For shame, for shame, for shaaaaame." The last one was with a little more vibrato. Here are the links you need to catch up and pass the exam.

Photobombs from Readers

Disney Photobomb

Thanks to everyone who sent in photos. I'm sure you made a lot of people laugh. Laughter is important!

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The fella knows the people posing.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 4, 2014

Photobombs from Readers

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

In last week's episode I wrote about photobombing. It wasn't a how to course but rather a recap and look at how something old is new again. New-ish, really. If you missed the blog, read it now so my count goes up and my blog looks popular.

Readers were asked to submit their Disney photobomb shots and a handful came in. People are having a good time with this subject so keep submitting photos and I'll keep posting them to my Light Meter blog. Send your photobomb to lisa.allears@gmail.com

Now what you've all been waiting for, the evidence!


Photobomb-TaraLenharth.jpg

Photobomb-PattiMarshall.jpg

photobomb-johngrigas.jpg

Photobomb-MichelleRowe.jpg

Photobomb-KalinJohnson.JPG

Photobomb-IreneK.jpg

Photobomb-AshleyRyan.jpg


Bonus photo. It's not a photobomb because you know you're all going to be photographed, the only element of surprise is what pose people will strike. This group of 4 had decided to act sick. Little did they know what the couple in front of them had planned.'
Photobomb-MarkHusted.jpg

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May 29, 2014

Disney Photobomb

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Photobombing has swept the nation, no, the world as a whole, and the funniest thing is, it's nothing new. Now it just has a name. If you're unfamiliar with the term, allow me to explain. You know how wen you're taking a photo of your kids and your husband leaps into the frame at the last second? That's photobombing. When you're riding in the caboose of Casey Jr at Disneyland and you notice the people sitting back-to-back with you are being photographed and you quickly turn around and smile knowing you are perfectly positioned between the guys, that's photobombing. Not that I have ever done that. :cough:

So there you have it. It's new old news and everyone needs a good chuckle to pictures are popping up all over the internet.

I want to see your photos of someone, human, animal, talking trash can, etc... sabotaging your shot. Send them to lisa.allears@gmail.com

Fowl play.
lkb-DonaldPhotoBomb.jpg
Donald Duck doesn't look amused with the nose-to-nose action between Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

May 14, 2014

Zoom In Or Zoom Out

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

When point and shoot cameras went from fixed lenses to zoom lenses, photography for the average family went to a whole new level. Moms quickly learned to narrow in on their kids' beautiful green eyes and dads got better images of their soccer stars kicking the winning goal. It's a basic function of modern-day digital point and shoot cameras but sometimes, when you're rushing around or trying not to hold up the long line of Pluto's fans behind you, photos are taken on the fly. I'm sure that as so long you don't intend on doing a half-day photo shoot with 3 wardrobe changes, everyone around you will understand, because, they too want priceless memories captured.

You know how much I love to run side-by-side pictures by you, so here we go.

Disneyland's it's a small world facade shimmers in glorious daylight. Taken from afar, you can get an overall look at it, including the umbrellas. There's nothing wrong with it, although I would personally get a better angle for my own photo collection.
lkb-ZoomInOut-SmallWorld-Out.jpg


Use the zoom lens and not only can you get a closer look at the details but there's personality in that clock that isn't as strong when viewed from far away.
lkb-ZoomInOut-SmallWorld-In.jpg


How does this whole zoom in, zoom out thing work with people? Prince Caspian has an interesting costume and it's great to be able to see it but he looks lost with so much empty space around him. Unless he needs room to sign 8 x10 glossies, it's just wasted space.
lkb-ZoomInOut-Caspian-Out.jpg


Zoom in for a half-body shot and look at that boy blush. I commented on how well he was working the camera like a professional model. What? No one else was around.
lkb-ZoomInOut-Caspian-In.jpg


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

May 5, 2014

Scenes from a Coronado Springs Hammock

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

On a bright and sunny Florida day, I spent some time walking the grounds at Coronado Springs. Although I had previously stayed at this particular Walt Disney World resort, I didn't have free time to go exploring. So, I made time, eventually, years later.

While wandering around I found myself thrilled at the sight of an unoccupied hammock. Could it be that I finally have an opportunity to relax on a hammock under blue skies? Yes!

When my inner clock told me to get up, I grabbed my camera and started taking photos of my surroundings and of course, myself.

lkb-ScenesHammock-1.jpg
I take relaxing very seriously.


lkb-ScenesHammock-2.jpg
I love you, palm tree.


lkb-ScenesHammock-3.jpg
That's not the building I stayed in.


lkb-ScenesHammock-4.jpg
Marshy, marshy, marshy.


lkb-ScenesHammock-5.jpg
Another hammock!!! I'm coming, hammock. Don't move!!!


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

April 23, 2014

Reader Feedback

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It's time once again for you the reader to toss out your ideas for us. What would you like Scott and I to blog about? Do you need a refresher on headroom or perhaps you're looking for suggestions on where to take family photos. Whatever it is, write it in the comments section below. We want to hear from you!


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

April 9, 2014

Tips for New Camera Owners

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I'm going to quickly give you a rundown on everything you need to know. Ready?

1. Read the manual

2. Charge your lithium-ion battery. If the camera takes AA, get yourself rechargeables.

3. Keep your camera safe and protected in a padded or hard shell camera bag.

4. All digital point and shoots have some delay. Newer cameras have faster processors. One way to help speed things up is to use a faster memory card.

5. Cameras do not like liquids or sand.

6. Read the maunal. It's worth being repeated.

7. That built-in flash only goes 8-10 feet.

8. If you use any night mode, you'll need a tripod.

9. Cameras have a tendency to get drunk on New Year's Eve, fall down, and require a trip to the repair center. Don't let your camera drink.

10. Do not wipe the LCD screen with your clothes. Use a microfiber cloth.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


April 2, 2014

Light and Shadows at Minnie Mouse's House

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

What can separate one photo from another is the quality of lighting. If you take a look at where lights falls and can recognize where the shadows are and how they affect the scene, you're already taking better photos. Natural light is beautiful. It feels different than trying to create perfect lighting because it's genuine and it is what it is. You can't tell the sun, Dude, can you move about 5 inches to your left? I mean, you can but people will look at you and quickly grab their children and run.

Let's look at an example of how lighting, even in post production can alter an image's effect. This first photo of Minnie Mouse's home in Disneyland is a great example of not only how shadows come into play but what the shadows are of that can impact an image.

AdjustingLightShadows-Original.jpg
It's a little flat, so I brightened things up a bit in PhotoShop, never loosing sight of how important those branches are.

AdjustingLightShadows-Brighter.jpg


Looking to take full advantage of tree branch shadows? Deepen the shadows, fiddle with the mid-tones and highlight the shadows.
AdjustingLightShadows-DarkerShadows.jpg

Any photo editing software program will allow you to alter contrast. If I were to darken shadows in a dark room, I'd run the light and make a circle with my hand to burn in a certain part of the image. To lighten an area, I'd wave my hand so the light doesn't hit the paper as long as it projects onto other areas. Anyone want to build me a darkroom?


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

March 26, 2014

Easy Photography Special Effects

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Sometimes the cooler shots come along by accident. While visiting the China pavilion in Epcot, I approached a figure in a glass display. As I moved, I immediately noticed that the seam in the glass allowed me to have some fun.

What I first saw.
lkb-ChinaMan-GlassCase1.jpg


Slight adjustment in my position and I doubled the gentleman's face.
lkb-ChinaMan-GlassCase2.jpg


Move back and he has a different hairdo and head shape.
lkb-ChinaMan-GlassCase3.jpg

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

March 5, 2014

On Vacation

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

No blog this week, kids. In the words of Will Smith, I'm going to Miami.

conch-playing-statue.jpg

See ya next week.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 26, 2014

Virtual Disney Pals - Finale

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Welcome back to my short story. The final chapter awaits you but if you've missed the previous installments use these links to read up.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The next morning, Giselle dashes off with her best friend Lily for a girl's day. Louie begins sorting through the hamper and puts together a few loads of laundry. While the clothes are being cleaned, he takes out his laptop and signs into Walt-o-graph.

Walt-o-graph > Private Messages > Inbox

To: Goofy4Clarabelle

From: KingLouie:

Thanks again for your help. Giselle still hasn't caught on. Whenever you want, go ahead and let people know your trip is "back on". I doubt she'll see the post today, she's running around with a friend. When we get back I'm sure she'll post an entire book complete with a zillion photos. Ha ha.


Giselle: We should have girly days more often.

Lily: For sure. I was thinking of getting a new bathing suit. Where did you get the brown one?

Giselle: Oh I love that one! It's from the boutique on Wallaby Way.

Lily: Ohhh, yeah. I forgot.


Giselle is called over to the nail manicurist's station. Lily takes out her cell phone and sends a text. The brown suit.


Louie's finished with the laundry, packed 2 suitcases, 2 carry-on bags, checked in for their flights, and printed all hotel and car rental information. All he needs now is his wife.


Giselle: I should call Louie and check in on him.

Lily: Why?

Giselle: He's been doing who knows what all day long. Besides, we haven't talked about dinner yet.

Lily: Eh. I'm sure he's fine. I have to make a quick stop if you don't mind.

Giselle: Okay. For what?

Lily: Um. Buddy forgot his house key! What a lunkhead. And I have class tonight so I won't be home to let him in.

Giselle: (laughing) Men.


Lily gets text. Ready and waiting.


The girls arrive at the airport where Buddy is a skycap.


Lily: Can you go in and give him the key?

Giselle: Sure.


Giselle enters the airport and heads over to Buddy and hands him the house key. As she turns around to leave she just about walks into Louie, her husband.

Giselle: What are you doing?

Louie: Making you very happy. Now hand your license over to Louie. C'mon we have a plane to catch.

Giselle: What? What are you talking about? And my license is in the car with Lily.

Lily hands Giselle's handbag to her.

Giselle: Waaaait. What's going on?

Louie: C'mon, c'mon. Trust me.

Giselle gives Lily the evil eye and heads off to security. It's not until they reach the gate that she finds out what Louie is up to. Yes, he was on Walt-o-graph but he's not Goofy4Clarabelle. He's TheFavoriteGranny and he's been spying on his wife's posts for over a year and having a really fun time doing it.

All the while Louie is telling her about his plan, Giselle's mind keeps venturing off to visions of Cinderella Castle and riding the Tomorowland Transit Authority. She's in her own world.

They board the plane, settle in and Louie smiles. She still hasn't caught on. The captain comes over the speaker.

Captain: Welcome aboard flight 717 with non-stop service to Santa Ana. Our flying time is 5 hours and 20 minutes.

Giselle's eyes open wide. Louie busts out laughing. She looks at him.

Louie and Giselle: We're going to Disneyland!


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 19, 2014

Virtual Disney Pals, Part 3

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Howdy. If you're just joining us, you can catch up by reading the first installment followed by the second installment, then come back here.

Nearly three months have gone by and things aren't going the way Enchanted Giselle had hoped. While trying to assist Goofy4Clarabelle with vacation planning, he suddenly announced his trip was cancelled. His only explanation was that work was to blame. Completely disappointed by the news that "her Disney vacation" was cancelled, Enchanted Giselle put on a brave face and pretended she didn't know all of her husband's plans were all for not.

Walt-o-graph > Private Messages > Inbox

To: Goofy4Clarabelle

From: BarryBandleader

Hey man, sorry your trip was cancelled. You put a lot of work into it. Hope you can go later in the year.

From: Goofy4Clarabelle

To: BarryBandleader

Yeah but it's not! Can you keep a secret? That girl, EnchantedGiselle thinks I'm her husband planning a secret vacation. Apparently she told her friend that he was me, asking all kinds of questions and that she loves cows so I must be her husband. LMAO So, her friend told Giselle's husband and he set up an account and has been going back and forth with me for a while. He asked me to say the trip was cancelled. He's got a plan but said he'll tell me when he's ready. But check this out, just for helping him, he paid for us to see a dinner show. Nice guy. OK, don't tell anyone.


Louie's in his man cave typing away while the TV flickers with a behind-the-scenes show about Disney's Animal Kingdom. His right eyebrow raises and a devilish grim takes over his mouth.

Louie: Hey babe! Can you come here, please?

Giselle: Yeah?

Louie: (pointing at the TV) We should go back. It's been a few years.

Giselle: Yeah, well, one of these days. I know you're pretty busy at work and you're up for a promotion.

She cuddles up beside him on the sofa.

Louie: True but I still have vacation time to use, well not this year but next year. Think Disney thoughts. We'll figure out something. I know you love Mickey more than me, that's OK.

She squishes his face.

Giselle: Never! Donald on the other hand...

Louie: Heeeyyy. Are you still going out with Lily tomorrow?

Giselle: Mhmm. She's picking me up at 9 and we're going out for breakfast, then for manis and pedis, then to pick out a wedding present for Pete and Jane.

Louie: OK, well you'll be gone all day! Can we have dinner together at least?

Giselle: If you're a good boy.

Louie: Or a good duck. Quack quack.


Next week, the saga comes to a close. Stay tuned.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 12, 2014

Virtual Disney Pals, Part 2

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Did you miss the first installment? You can read it here.


Six weeks have since passed and Goofy4Clarabelle has booked a Magic Your Way Package for 5 nights/6 days and is renting a car. The newbie learned a good lesson, before booking your vacation, check to see if there are any events going on. The marathon overlaps the first 2 days of his vacation so he's spending that time in Orlando.

Walt-o-graph > Vacation Planning > HELP!!

Goofy4Clarabelle: Hey guys!! I just want to say thanks for all your help. Now that the hotel and tickets are set, I gotta figure out where to eat. What's a nice romantic restaurant for a young couple? I want to surprise my wife with lots of detailed planning. What else could we do that's romantic?

Oswald613: My daughter and son-in-law eat at the castle all the time. It's not cheap but she likes being a castle. That should get you some points.

TinkerTink: Take your wifey on a carriage ride at Fort Wilderness. It's soooooooo romantic cuddling up under a blanket.

Goofy4Clarabelle: Those are good ideas. Thanks!!! I'll look it up. What else?

EnchantedGiselle: You could watch the sun rise from the Polynesian beach or another resort beach. That won't cost you a penny.

Oswald613: I like your idea, Giselle. I may have to steal it.

EnchantedGiselle: It's not a romantic notion but she might like a behind-the-scenes tour. I have always wanted to try one. Go where all the action takes place that you never see and learn about how things are made, where the secret tunnels are.

Goofy4Clarabelle: Oh!! That's an awesome idea!!! Definitely checking that one out.

At this point, EnchantedGiselle starts putting facts together in her head. Her husband is still acting weird and this new member is planning a secret or semi-secret vacation for him and his wife. She and her husband are a young couple and he's never planned their vacation before not to mention the fact that he says "awesome" just like her husband and to top it off, she has a collection of cow memorabilia, including Clarabelle. Eureka! Goofy4Clarabelle IS her husband. She squeals in delight and calls her best friend, Lily.

Giselle: Lilllllyyyy.

Lily: Whaaatyyyy?

Giselle: Remember how I told you I thought Louie was acting shady?

Lily: Yep. What'd you catch him doin'?

Giselle: He's posting on my Disney fan forum. He's planning a trip for us to Disney!

Lily: Uh. He is? How do you know?

Giselle: Please! He's using the name Goofy4Clarabelle. Helloooo. I collect cows. He's goofy for me. He's asking about romantic stuff to do at Disney with his "young wife."

Lily: Huh. That's weird. Doesn't he know you use that all the time?

Giselle: he thinks he's slick but I caught onto him. I'm going to Disney! I'm going to Disney!
Let's go shopping.

Lily: When?

Giselle: I'll pick you up in 30.

Lily: Hmm, alright. See ya then.

Giselle: Bye bye.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 5, 2014

Virtual Disney Pals

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


"Laughter is America's most important export." - Walt Disney

The famous quote is Enchanted Giselle's signature; it's visible with every post she makes to the Walt-o-graph forum for Disney fans. A member of the website since 2002, Enchanted Giselle boasts over 4,000 posts, averaging 1.2 posts per day. She's been to Walt Disney World 4 times and can't get enough of it. Initially, she joined Walt-o-graph in search of information for her first trip to Lake Buena Vista in 2002, and now shares her knowledge with others.

Walt-o-graph > News from Home > Sneaking Around the Castle

Enchanted Giselle: DH (Darling Husband) is up to something. He's pecking feverishly at the laptop in his man cave. The TV isn't even on and the BU vs BC game is on. Shall I have a look see?

Oswald613: A man's man cave is private. Knock first.

TheFavoriteGranny: Honey, one thing I've learned is that men are terrible at keeping secrets!! They pretend they don't listen or care but when you put a few fellas in the same room...whooo, they go on and on gossiping more than women!!! If you want to know what he's doing, ask him or ask his friends. Lord knows they can't hush up.

EnchantedGiselle: I yelled to him that the game is on. He says he forgot he was supposed to watch it at his brother's. Sure enough, his brother called and told him to get his sorry butt over there. LOL Good thing he's only a 3 minute walk away.

I asked him what all the typing was about and he said he found a bunch of high school classmates online and was trying to catch up with several at once. His 10 year reunion is in November.

Goofy4Clarabelle: Are you going with him? Hopefully you'll have a good time.

TheFavoriteGranny: See, boys gossiping. Worse than women.

EnchantedGiselle: Oh, I don't know yet. I've got lots of time to think about it. He's only friends with 1 guy from school, super sweet guy.

Meanwhile on another thread.

Walt-o-graph > Vacation Planning > HELP!!

Goofy4Clarabelle: I need help to plan a trip to Disney. I don't know what I'm doing or where to find information. Do I need a travel agent? Thanks!

BarryBandleader: Hey, welcome. Do you know when you're going? You don't have to use a travel agent but you might get a better package deal with one. It depends on what you need, you know?

Goofy4Clarabelle: Yes! The second week in January, already bought plane tickets. Just don't know much else. Where to stay? What's popular? Good restaurants? Is parking extra?

BarryBandleader: That's a good time not too hot not too busy. You can stay on Disney's property, they have their own hotels in different price ranges. There are perks if you stay with Disney. Parking is extra but if you're in a Disney hotel, parking's free. Every restaurant is good just whatever you're in the mood for. Lots of burgers, chicken, hot dogs, pizza....ice cream.

Goofy4Clarabelle: Thanks!


Come back next week for more of the continuing story.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 29, 2014

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

This time around (Get it? Around? Carrousel?), I'm going to show you what my loving Canon EOS 30D, Canon 17-40mm USM L, and I shot at Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World.

It was an early morning and I staggered my way through Cinderella Castle into Fantasyland. Cartoon birds hovered around me, chirping classic Disney tunes Everybody Wants to be a Cat and Go the Distance but the Spanish version, No Importa la Distancia. Half awake, I delighted in seeing Prince Charming Regal Carrousel up and running (Get it? Horses? Running?). At least I thought it was running. Maybe I made it move in my mind or with my mind. I have telepathetic powers.

Standing still, I affirmed that it was the carrousel moving and not me. Taking into account the wicked awesome light and the moving subject, I went with shutter speed priority. I set the camera at 1/200 to freeze the action and ISO 400 to handle the light. Records show the camera chose f14 as the aperture.

Ready. Aim. Depress shutter button.

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Alright, the lighting looks good here. I'm going to keep those settings and zoom in.

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I like it. C'mon horsies, work it, work it.

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Yeah, even better. Happy with the results, I moved on in search of Prince Charming. In fact, I'm still looking.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 22, 2014

Make Room for Minnie

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

I have a new strategy when it comes to shopping. Should I find something that I want and know that I truly don't need, I take a photograph of it. My savings thank me because it's far more important to purchase a new mattress than a bag full of pins or a dresser filled with new t-shirts.

All year long I buy gifts to put away for birthdays and holidays. I tend to forget what is waiting to be mailed and so when I find souvenirs that are adorable, I also have to stop and ask myself if I really need to buy what's in my hand. At least half the time I walk away, you know, after I put it back on the shelf.

Sorry many Mickeys and a few Minnies, someone else will have to take you home.

lkb-Merchandise-PlushMickey.jpg

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 15, 2014

Easy Enhancements for Digital Photos

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


There are plenty of reasons as to why photographers do post-production work on digital images. For instance, a shadow may have been so dark that detail was lost or someone's arm crept into the frame and needed to be cropped out. Simple adjustments like these were made in the darkroom by dodging the print or moving the enlarger head. Nowadays, folks make changes with computer programs. Personally, I miss working in a darkroom and embalming myself with fixer. Anyway...let's take a gander at my examples for you of easy enhancements to do at home.

You'll need a photograph and a photo editing program. I used Adobe Photoshop CS3.

No cropping. No editing other than adding my copyright. This is the original image. Please hold your applause until the end of the blog.

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By adjusting specific colors (yellow, blue, red, magenta, and cyan), I make the bricks or make believe bricks stand out more. The colors pop.

lkb-ColorEnhancement4.jpg

Next, I adjusted highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Doing so creates contrast and dimension.

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One more tweak with the colors puts yellow over the edge, the blue and cyan start looking fake, and the red and magenta are screaming for attention. Remember to keep pictures realistic-looking, unless your goal is to hurt eyeballs or re-create freaky movies from the 60's and 70's.

lkb-ColorEnhancement6.jpg

Now you may clap.

No Canada pavilion bridge was harmed in the making of these magical pictures.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 8, 2014

Stop, Look, Focus, and then Take the Photo

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

The plane took me to New Orleans, Louisiana where my friend Terri picked me up and went on to play tour guide for several days. That's right, kids, I'm going to expose you to non-Disney images. Don't freak out on me. All lessons can be applied to Disney Parks or Disney Cruise Line and even The Disney Store, should you need a fix in between trips. Not all of my blogs will have Disney photos this year as my earliest Disney escape won't be until the end of 2014. We'll have fun though, I promise.

As we walked the streets of the French Quarter, a certain statue caught my eye. Sometimes I take photos of things I might want to buy at a later time. As I raised my loving Canon EOS 30D and Canon 17-40mm USM to my eye, it dawned on me that this would be a great subject to cover for my blog which you are enjoying right now.

Let's say you're window shopping at Disney's Hollywood Studios (aka MGM Studios) and you like what you see. You might quickly turn, hit the shutter release button and keep on strolling. Here's the photo you took.
lkb-StopLookFocus1.jpg

Come on now, you can do better. Go on, try it again.

You're looking at window displays and you want to take a picture to remind you to come back later when you have time to shop. You know, like when the teenagers are riding Rock ' Roller Coaster and your husband is across the park hoping to fool Cast Members into casting him as a Padawan for The Jedi Training Academy. Exactly. For now, take the photo.
lkb-StopLookFocus2.jpg

Alright well, that's better. At least now the subject's in focus and centered. You stopped moving and glanced at the LCD screen. I know you can do even better. Third time's a charm.
lkb-StopLookFocus3.jpg

Atta girl. You took the time to compose the shot, focus, and the end result is excellent. Now, if you had only written down the name of the store.

By the way, if you thought I was looking at the nutcracker then you haven't been listening to me. Men!


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 1, 2014

Morning Light over New Fantasyland

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

It's a rare occasion that we Disney geeks are given the chance to enter a park before 8 am. Unless there's a special event or you've scored an 8:05 am reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table (or another restaurant serving breakfast), you'll just have to live with making rope drop. I made it into Magic Kingdom at 6 am-ish on May 24, 2013 for Monstrous Summer 24-hour celebration.

After getting a few things settles, I slowly made my way to Fantasyland and breathed in the free range dew-filled air. It truly was a fantasy, hardly a human (or monster) was in sight. Knowing how popular new attractions are, I sashayed into New Fantasyland and got in line for Enchanted Tales with Belle. Yes, there was a line already. That's okay, I made small talk with other geeks and told newbies it was a roller coaster. There's a reason the other Lisas I've worked with call me Evil Lisa.

While waiting to enter Maurice's (Belle's dad) cottage, I set myself up for a scenic shot with lens flare. Voila! (As they say in France)

lkb-MorningMaurices.jpg

Canon EOS 30D, Canon 17-40 USM L, ISO 400, f14, Shutter Priority

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

December 25, 2013

Photo Album - Princess Tiana & Prince Naveen

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Travel back in time to October, 2009 at one of the Children's Hospital of Orange County's Walk in the Park at Disneyland. Along the route, fundraisers could stop and take photos of many beloved characters. Cast Members wanted people to keep moving so you could not obtain autographs or pose with characters until the park officially opened.

In Frontierland, Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from The Princess and the Frog posed with the Mark Twain Riverboat behind them. Crowds gathered all around to see the attractive couple so I just positioned myself and waited for the pair to fit into the frame, cropping out children's heads in front of me.

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Okay, not too bad. This should be easy.


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I spoke too soon.


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Well, that would have been a good shot.


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I'll take what I can get. It's time to move on.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


December 11, 2013

Future Disney Vacations

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Tough days at the office and difficult times in personal lives are among the moments that we wish ourselves back at The Happiest Place on Earth or The Most Magical Place on Earth. In between flashbacks we plan actual vacations or at least daydream about the things we yearn to experience for the first time and relive the good times of previous trips.

This year I made two trips to Walt Disney World and decided that would be it for a while. Stop clutching your chest, it's not the end of mankind. I am planning to keep my Disney Fanatic Membership. Next year I would like to revisit Disneyland and check out all of the new additions to California Adventure. I was last there in February 2012 when Cars Land was being built and trolley tracks were just being laid on Buena Vista Street.


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Walls and signs were everywhere. I felt so lost upon entering Disney's California Adventure.


The question is when will I fly out to Anaheim. Right now, I'm not sure but I am toying with the idea of being there for New Year's Eve 2015. The greatest New Year's Eve fun I ever had was ringing in 2003 at Disneyland with a few friends.


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Radiator Springs in Cars Land taunts me. I saw it from a window in Paradise Pier Hotel.


Next year I will be celebrating a numerically significant birthday and can't decide what to do. Should my friends, who are scattered across the United States of America, not be available to gather in one spot, I will have to venture out alone, meet up with someone, or drag a relative along for the ride. I could go on a Disney Cruise for a few days if the price is right. Disneyland Paris is high on my Must See List but I'm not flying to France and running around yelling "Oui!" by myself.

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I want to see the dragon!! Elliott, is that you?


The idea of delving into more history suggests visits to San Francisco, CA and Marceline, MO to see The Walt Disney Family Museum and Walt Disney Hometown Museum, respectfully. My friend Yoli is up for those trips as well. We just haven't decided when to go.

Of course I'm not forgetting about Disneyland Hong Kong and Tokyo Disneyland. Those are pipeline dreams that require quite a lot of savings and strategy. It might also help to learn some Japanese and I don't know any at the moment.

Enough about me. What are your future Disney vacation plans?


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

December 4, 2013

My Laugh Affair with Billy Hill and the Hillbillies

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

I fell in love with Disneyland during my 4 year residence in Ocean County. Each time I walked through the tunnel I discovered something new and wonderful. At some point, a friend took me to the Golden Horseshoe to see a show starring a magician, Dana Daniels, and his parrot, Luigi. I loved it and saw the two perform their act countless times.

On another occasion, I found myself at the Golden Horseshoe watching Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform mountain-men versions of well-known songs with some classical high-brow music thrown into the mix. With their fascinating take on it's a small world audio animatronic dolls, I was hooked.

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One day, word came that Disneyland's upper management or "suits" as us locals called them, decided not to renew Daniels' contract. I was not happy with the suits and filed a complaint in City Hall. It didn't matter, they had made up their minds.

Now we've all been given the news that Billy Hill and the Hillbillies will perform their final show on January 6, 2014. Disneyland's suits have once again decided to take away some of my joy. I don't know why; I didn't do anything wrong. In fact, Disneyland should reward me and keep the Hillbilies. In the few years I lived in California, never more than 30 minutes from 1313 S. Harbor Blvd in Anaheim, I calculated that I persuaded no less than 11 people into buying annual passes. All of them became fans of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Add to that another 6 (at least) friends and co-workers (with single or multiple day tickets) who I introduced to the boys' comedic bluegrass entertainment. Everyone who went with me loved the show.

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Billy Elvis aka Kirk Wall

When possible, I planned the day so we could have lunch or dinner at the Golden Horseshoe just prior to the show. By arriving early I secured a table in the first row or better yet, the alluring box seats on either side of the stage. Great seats made the experience even more exciting and funnier. Billy Elvis (Kirk Wall) hit on my friend Jen when we sat up front. She got a wink and a god look at his pros-teeth-sis. He flashed those not-so-pearly whites at me during Puddle Prance when I sat in the box seats and nearly blinded him with the camera flash. Heck, Billy Elvis saw me at every show, then again, I always aimed a 75-300mm lens at him and his brothers.

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The Billys take on The Beatles.

The only fiddler I have met is Billy Fiddle (Dennis Fetchet). I overheard people say he was going to come out and meet a group of devoted fans after the show. I hung around and waited for him to finish his visit with them and then moved in for a photo. Score! Sorry, I meant to say, "Whoo whoo!"

If only I had enough smarts to buy the CD they offered up for sale during the beginning of my fandom, I wouldn't have black and blue marks from kicking myself to this very day. *ouch* By my account, there are 4 CDs that have been released over the years; the first 2 are titled Billy and the Hillbillies, the 3rd is The Billys: I Want u 2 Want Me and the 4th is The Billys: Live! I have half the collection. How popular and cherished are the recordings? No one is auctioning off their copies on eBay. That's right, while a slew of Disneyana sells daily on eBay, fingers are gripped around The Billys' audio collection with no release in sight.

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Billy Fiddle aka Dennis Fetchet

If I could swing it, I'd hop a plane to Santa Ana and hunker down at Big Thunder Ranch where the guys currently perform, and watch an entire day's worth of total awesomeness. From what I've read, I'm not the only one with that dream and I applaud those who are able to applaud the guys in person.

Thank you to every Billy who has ever graced the stage in Frontierland for making me laugh, hoot 'n holler, clap, and stomp my feet. You made my grayest days bright and cheery. Oh, and one last note, I'm still missing a rubber band that wrapped around a wad of cash.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

November 20, 2013

Cropping Photos, Again

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Editing photos is common, especially cropping out excess space. Rather than re-write the lesson, I'm re-posting it for anyone who missed it the first time. I lied, I'm just posting the link.

Cropping Photos with Character: Starring Glo

Ignore the meet and greet info at the bottom, it's from two years ago.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

November 13, 2013

Gift Ideas for Disney Fans

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

If you or a loved one are a Disney enthusiast (aka geek) and are stumped at what to buy for a birthday or holiday present, then continue reading. I have a whole gamut of gift solutions for you (and me).

For the Disney Parks Repeater (someone who visits Walt Disney World or Disneyland over and over again)

1. Memory card(s) for his/her digital camera
2. A digital camera
3. An extra battery pack for the digital camera
4. A durable poncho
5. Walking shoes
6. Travel size versions of his/her favorite toiletries
7. Lightweight backpack (polyamide material works great)
8. Sunblock
9. Book a behind-the-scenes tour (Disneyland or Walt Disney World)
10.Ticket(s) to a dinner show
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For the Collector

Knowing what someone already owns can be difficult unless you live with that person or share in his/her passion. I'd be willing to bet, however, that anything that was just released, or is from another country is a safe choice.

1. Disney pins
2. Vinylmation
3. Figurines (Lenox, Precious Moments, Jim Shore, Department 56)
4. Plates
5. Glass Art (Arribas Bros.)
6. Fine Art (Collectors Editions, Kinkade USA)
7. CDs and Vinyl Records (Gemm, your local record store, Records by Mail)
8. Jewelry
9. Dolls (Madame Alexander, Mattel)
10. Books
Bonus: Variety of Products (eBay, The Bradford Exchange, Overstock)

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Disney Fun for the Whole Family

1. Board Games (Monopoly, Sorry, Operation, Clue)
2. Video Games
3. Movies on DVD or Blue Ray
4. Classic Cartoons on DVD or Blue Ray
5. Card Games (Uno, Go Fish, Crazy Eights)
6. Puzzles
7. Cookbook
8. Model Kits
9. Karaoke
10. Arts & Crafts
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I can't possibly list every type of collectible available; I'd never get any sleep. Feel free to offer up ideas using the comments section below.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 25, 2013

A Little Time Off

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Dear Readers,

I am taking some time off from writing my weekly blog, Light Meter. Presently, I am juggling working full-time, going to school part-time, conducting regular online auctions, and organizing some family projects.

I plan to return in November with my weekly entries. In the meantime, I will continue to provide my half of Disney Pic of the Week.

Thanks for your support.

Sincerely,
Lisa


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 18, 2013

Ordering Prints Online

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

We meet again in this third installment in a non-intended series on photos labs. I started two weeks ago by re-posting an entry on the differences between printing at home and at mini labs. The great response I received pushed me to write again, only this time about where and how to locate mini labs in your area. Finally, I'll take a quick look at online and mail order options. I still stand by my statement that you should always use a mini or if possible, a professional photo lab for printing. The quality is untouchable by any other format.

I contacted three companies who offer printing via digital image uploads to their websites. See for yourselves what they had to say.

Shutterfly
Finding information on their website with regard to how they print came up short. I wrote to customer service and asked, How are photos printed? This is the response I received.

"Shutterfly uses state-of-the-art digital printers designed for professional photo finishers. These printers use a silver halide chemical process, such as is found in traditional photo labs. These printers, combined with Shutterfly's proprietary imaging technology result in the best possible prints from your digital camera.

Additionally, Shutterfly uses Fuji Crystal Archive paper, which has been rated to have not only superior color, but to be the most durable photographic paper available. For more information on Fuji paper, type Fuji into the enter keyword search field on Shutterfly. Shutterfly also uses digital off-set presses to print on archival-quality paper which is acid-free to ensure your pictures will look great for years to come."

I wrote back and asked, When or for what specifically do you use the digital off-set presses for?

They said, "We would like to inform that Shutterfly uses the digital off-set presses for all paper printing products. For example, prints, photo books and cards. "

As you can see, there's a contradiction. First they say they use a silver halide chemical process (exactly what we want) followed by saying they use a digital off-set press (what we do not want) for prints. How do you know which machine they're going to use to print 4x6" or larger? Photo books come out of an off-set printer and have for years. What we're interested in are prints.


Clark Color

Yes, the mail-order photo lab is still kickin'. They will process your 35mm color rolls of film and they have a website for online digital image orders. Their website says, "Our prints and posters are printed on high-quality, long-lasting paper that resists fading for generations. We know silver halide prints provide the best quality image and our prints deliver vivid color reproduction, more natural skin tones, exceptional sharpness and unsurpassed color stability."

I wrote to them and asked, Could you please tell me what process your company uses to print digital images ordered from your website, specifically 4x6's? Is it a wet lab or dry lab?

They responded, "Thank you for contacting Clark Color.

We do use chemicals for processing along with silver halide light sensitive paper.

If we can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us."


Ritz Camera

First of all, my jaw hit the floor when I saw they still have a very small number of brick and mortar stores. Long story short, I was laid off from Ritz Camera in 2009 after they filed Chapter 11. These stores and the website are no longer owned by David Ritz or any company he was a part of however the company who bought him out is still able to keep the various company and store names.

As with the previous online order labs, I wrote to RitzPix. I asked, Could you please tell me if 4x6 digital images ordered through the website are always printed through a wet lab? I know the stores used to use Fuji Frontier machines. Do you still use those?

"The 4x6 prints that we do thru our main processing lab is done thru a "wet" system. Our lab currently uses Fuji Frontier equipment for printing (for) our standard size prints up to 8x12 size.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 11, 2013

How to Find Photo Labs

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Last week I re-posted a blog about Printing Digital Images and got some awesome feedback. Several of you wrote in asking where to find mini labs in your area and I answered those letters privately.

Next week I'll delve into online print services but for now I have suggestions on how and where to find mini labs and pro labs for those who are ready.

I have recently discovered Yelp.com when seeking out record stores that carry actual records. They're also quite good at finding other businesses. Let's say you live in Dallas, TX then these would be the search results for photo labs in the area. Forget the box stores and drug stores, you want the actual camera stores and/or quality photo labs.

Use a search engine like Google or Yahoo for photography clubs in your area. Contact them and ask if they can suggest a mini lab for printing. Another place to call is the local photography or art school. Students should print their own photos on-site but they'll also know where the trustworthy photo labs are located.

Fujifilm has an extensive list of professional labs that use their paper. A pro lab will require you to set up an account and is ideal for those who make their living as photographers but even if they aren't able to do business with you, they too can point you in the right direction.

If you're wondering why you should choose a mini lab, allow me to explain. A mini lab should be a wet lab. This means the photographic paper is processed like the image came from film even if it is digital. The photographic paper goes through a series of chemicals. When high quality professional grade photo paper like Fujifilm Crystal Archival and photo chemicals marry, you make prints that will last for close to 100 years. Those old, old, old family photos are still preserved to this day because of photo chemicals. A dry lab which uses ink or dye sublimation could last up to 20 years. That's a huge difference.

Class dismissed.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

September 4, 2013

Printing Digital Images

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


After seeing a woman print photos in a local drug store today and suggesting she go to a camera store instead, I decided it was time to put this subject back into the spotlight. Hence, I am re-posting with minimal editing, a blog from 2009. I am a huge advocate for camera stores and spent 7 years working for Ritz Camera. In the past 4-5 years, over 800 chain camera stores have closed as well as countless privately-owned shops. The age of digital photography has killed jobs and put Kodak almost entirely out of business, a business they created. For the love of documenting your world for future generations (not to mention quality), put down the cell phone, pick up a camera and print your pictures.

Home Printers

Laser Printers

Laser printers are designed to print text, charts, and graphs. They are not to be used for printing photographs.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets are by far the most popular of home printers. They print quickly, are inexpensive, and may include other features such as copying and faxing. Inkjets emit droplets of ink onto photo paper using ink cartridges. Prints often come out damp and need to dry before they can be handled. Ink can and will smudge and prints are ruined by liquid and long exposures to heat and light.

Ink tanks vary by printer. The best color reproduction comes from having individual color cartridges. Photo paper designed for inkjets range in paper weight, surface, and size.

Printers can be purchased in office supply stores, wholesale warehouses, camera shops, and computer/electronic stores.

Dye-sublimation Printers

Dye subs, as they are commonly referred to, are quite different than laser and inkjet printers in that they heat up the photographic paper and colors are released as a gas. The papers have a laminate-like coating which when heated lock in the dye, making the photograph less susceptible to fading and also water-resisitant.

Dyes and papers are sold as a kit and state exactly how many prints it'll produce.

You'll find high-end dye-sublimation machines for customer use in drug stores and camera shops as they are faster alternatives to mini lab printing. Smaller printers for personal use are sold in office supply stores, camera shops, and by computer/electronic retailers.


Minilabs

Traditional photofinishing labs offer the highest quality print possible. Maintenance is extremely important in regards to how well these multi million dollar machines operate. Manual color and contrast corrections can make nearly any image better or worse, depending upon who is printing - a person or auto pilot.

Minilabs print digital images by using a laser which exposes the photo paper which is then run through a series of chemicals to develop the image. This process is extremely similar to how negatives are printed. Those family photos you have from generations ago have lasted so long because of how they were printed.


Conclusion:

1. Print your photos. Computers crash, CDs are being replaced by DVDs for storage, and memory cards can become corrupt but prints are highly visible and easy to obtain.

2. Nothing compares to the quality of a minilab other than a professional lab that does custom printing.

3. It's actually cheaper to print your photos in a minilab than it is at home.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


August 28, 2013

Caption Contest Winner

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

The winner of the photo caption contest is Scott Caldarelli.

"Pardon me, I'm looking for the rest of my tour group. Have you seen them? They look kinda like me. We're from....um, Brazil."
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Congratulations, Scott. You've won an exclusive Cast Members pin featuring Chip and Dale.

Click here to see all of the entries.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

August 21, 2013

Caption Contest

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

A little game for those of you not currently on vacation. Get creative. Use your noodle. Put on your thinking cap and come up with a funny caption (keep it clean) for my photo posted below. I will choose a winner who will get a surprise gift.

This contest is open to all ages. You may only enter once. It is open to residents of all countries. It is not sponsored by AllEars.Net just me, Lisa, your friendly photoblogger.

To enter, fill out the Comment Form with your first and last name and e-mail address. Be sure to write blog where it says. Then in the Comments box write your caption. Entries are due by Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 5 PM EST.

Incomplete entries will not be entered to win.

My decision is final. The winner will be notified by e-mail at the end of the contest and announced on Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

Get ready. Get set. Get funny!

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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

August 14, 2013

Create Your Own Disney Vacation Postcard

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Legions of Disney Parks lovers return "home" year after year whether it's to Anaheim or Lake Buena Vista or perhaps Paris, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. We've bought the single and multi-pack postcards and mailed them off to family and friends. A question I always ask myself is, Am I sending the same postcard to (insert name here) again? I can't recall which set of postcards I bought last time. Was it Epcot or perhaps Animal Kingdom? Crikey. I haven't the foggiest idea.

Well, I came up with an idea and started creating my own postcards and why not, I have hundreds if not thousands of images from which to choose. Not only that but I can make them artsy and truly separate mine from those mass produced.

Here's what you'll need to create your personal postcards:

1. A sharp image you took on a previous trip

2. Photo editing software

3. Creativity

4. A local printer or online printer to produce the postcards


I started with this recent photo taken at the entrance to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

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Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. I used a mini tripod and set it on a trash can. ISO 800 f3.2 1/6 A long exposure allows the camera to record light and colors correctly in low light.

You don't have to use professional photo editing software to crop, adjust contrast and color, and add effects. I happen to use Adobe Photoshop CS3. Take a look at cnet.com for photo editing software and free trials. Just remember to be careful when downloading anything from any website. Make sure your anti-virus protection and firewall are working.

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With the software I made my first crop, taking out space that doesn't take away from the overall image. Then I added lens flare to the headlights followed by lighting effects. You'll notice the top right and bottom left corners are very dark, also on the top left, creating a more dramatic look.

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Since we're designing postcards, add some text to the photo, perhaps the location or a friendly message. You can search for Disney fonts at www.mickeyavenue.com or a broad range of typestyles at dafont.com

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This font is called Waltograph. I also used a warp text effect called bugle.

One website that doesn't require you to purchase large quantities of postcards is Zazzle.com. Start with a blank slate or select designs.

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Before uploading your image to any website, make sure to read the guidelines regarding image size and quality. You don't want to waste money on blurry images and have everyone call you and ask, Where did you go, again?

Don't worry, my actual postcards don't have half my copyright mark slapped onto the front. It's imprinted on the back.

There you go. You can create your very own unique souvenirs that people will keep.

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"Like my Facebook page and see my photo gifts or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.


August 7, 2013

Escaping the Elements at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Here we are in August with roughly 7 weeks to go before the Fashion Police start writing citations for wearing white after Labor Day. Don't they have other things to do like, oh I don't know, get actual jobs. Yes, you heard me, Joan Rivers. Go write some jokes and get off the red carpet.

In my visits to Animal Kingdom (We all know Disney owns it, right? I don't have to write Disney's Animal Kingdom. OK, good.) I have found it to be the most humid of all 4 parks with the least amount of air conditioning and places to cool off. This list will look bare compared to the others and come with warnings on what to avoid. Kungaloosh! No, that's not it. Nahtazu!

The Oasis

Scattered benches can be found in shaded or mostly shaded areas. Before you cross the bridge into Discovery Island, there's a cavern with benches. They're well shielded from direct sunlight and rain.
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If you cross the suspended bridge, you'll see another bench on the right. It's partially protected from the elements. Watch where you step, it isn't potty trained.
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Discovery Island

Pizzafari - Air conditioning is impossible to find on Discovery Island so unless you want to hang around the restroom, take a seat at the counter service eatery.

Africa

Do not, I repeat, do not enter the hut-looking edifice beside Kusafiri Coffee & Bakery. Yes, there's a high top table there but inside is hotter than outside. I learned that one the hard way.

Mombasa Marketplace/Ziwani Traders - A few folks can sit by the gift shop entrance. You're outdoors and partly shaded.
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Partially shaded open air seating can be found to the right of the restrooms.


Honestly, I can't think of anywhere else to really rest and get out of the sun. Several counter service restaurants have outdoor only seating. There are benches everywhere but they aren't located in desirable areas.

This park needs some adjustments to help keep Guests healthy.


Don't forget, First Aid is the place to go if you feel sick and/or are showing signs of heat exhaustion. First Aid is located on Discovery Island, on the far left, beside Creature Comforts and is staffed by nurses.

If you missed the earlier entries you can read about my tips for beating the heat at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

July 31, 2013

Escaping the Elements at Magic Kingdom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Today's the last day of July. Just one more month before the kids go back to school. Ooh, I think they just booed me. Sorry little dudes and dudettes. At least you get scheduled breaks, when you grow up, you only get a couple of weeks of vacation. Don't grow up.

Here it is, the 3rd of a 4 part series on escaping the brutal summer heat and tropical downpours at The Most Magical Place on Earth. Magic Kingdom is the focus this week. Most of the attractions, including the queues, and shows are held indoors with central air. Finding places to sit and relax without waiting for entertainment seems to be a little more difficult to find at Magic Kingdom but I've put on my thinking cap and compiled a list. While I don't recommend taking up tables in busy counter service restaurants, if your body tells you to sit and get out of the sun, go for it. Please share the blog with anyone you know headed to Walt Disney World.

Town Square and Main Street, U.S.A.

City Hall - Inside, you'll find multiple benches against the walls. Guests speak to Cast Members about dining reservations, celebration buttons, and customer service. Just tell them you have to rest.

Walt Disney World Railroad - Upstairs by the platform is a covered deck overlooking Town Square. Benches can be found inside the train station along with antique penny arcade machines.
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Town Square Theater - Benches and rocking chairs welcome folks on the front porch. Should the wind blow the rain, just step inside the building, although the only seats are for waiting to dine at Tony's Town Square Restaurant.

Casey's Corner - Located at the other end of the street is quick service hot dog "stand". Outdoor tables are covered by large umbrellas but inside and around the corner are some stadium-like limited seating. It's temperature controlled and you can watch old Goofy cartoons.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland Terrace - They're only open for breakfast and have lots of tables and chairs protected from the elements. No central air here, just ceiling fans.

Carousel of Progress - If you can wait 5-10 minutes for the next show to begin, step on up. The show has theater seating and is kept at a comfortable temperature to maintain all of the animatronics. The show lasts 20 minutes.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover - Want to feel a breeze? It might be hot. Take the inclined moving sidewalk up and plunk down in an open air car and speed above Tomorrowland. Tired? Ask the Cast Member if you can go around again upon your return.

New Fantasyland

Gaston's Tavern - Limited indoor seating with additional cafe tables outdoors.

Fantasyland

As there really aren't any shaded or temperature controlled places to sit and relax, Pinocchio Village Haus is your best bet.

Liberty Square

Hall of Presidents - Prior to the 20 minute presentation in a theater, Guests can sit down on padded benches inside a room lined with presidential portraits.

Sleepy Hollow - Pushed back behind Heritage House and the quick service eatery are picnic tables protected from direct sun.

Frontierland

Frontier Trading Post - Should you be lucky enough, grab one of 2 rocking chairs inside the gift shop.

Country Bear Jamboree - Whether you're waiting for the next show to begin or just want to get off your feet, head inside. Multiple benches are available. Show seating consists of long rows of benches.

Between Frontierland and Adventureland is a fully covered walkway with restrooms on one side and a gift shop on the other. Benches line the wall. It's surprisingly dark and cooler than expected.

Adventureland

Pirates Bazaar - Beside the gift shop is a path leading to restrooms. There's a bench or 2 here.

Sunshine Tree Terrace - A small area with tables and chairs will keep you shaded and dry however, it is still quite hot in this spot. Further down in Agrabah Bazaar are built-in seats that look to be cool but they act almost like saunas.

Don't forget, First Aid is the place to go if you feel sick and/or are showing signs of heat exhaustion. First Aid is located between Casey's Corner and Crystal Palace, heading towards Adventureland, and is staffed by nurses.

If you missed the earlier entries you can read about my tips for beating the heat at Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

July 24, 2013

Escaping the Elements at Epcot

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Boston is finally getting a break from a long streak of 90-100 degree weather. The haze was so bad on Saturday that I could see it at every turn. I spent as much of the day indoors as possible. Now consider dealing with those temperatures along with humidity and the likelihood of haze while crisscrossing Epcot. It doesn't take long for the heat to affect visitors.

Last week I posted a list of locations at Disney's Hollywood Studios where you can beat the heat or at least find some shade. Epcot takes center stage this time around. Share the blog with anyone you know headed to Walt Disney World.

Epcot is big and the walking distance from one part of Future World to another can feel like forever when temperatures soar higher than Soarin' over California. Even going from one country to another in World Showcase can be a drag but the worst walk of all is from Future World to World Showcase. Let's take a look at spots to cool off.

Future World

Don't want to attempt launching into orbit? Fear not! Non-astronauts can enjoy the earthly air conditioning inside the building housing Mission: Space. Walk into the gift shop and on your right, you'll see Guests coming towards you who just landed. Head down that hall and you'll find free video games and a play area for young kids. Hunker down on one of half a dozen or so benches.

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Universe of Energy is a 45 minute show/slow-moving ride in the dark. It's the best attraction in any park to cool down. It's possible to get 40 winks depending upon your napping skills.

Innoventions East has a few places to get off your feet.

Across the way, The Land building which houses Soarin', Sunshine Seasons food court, Living with the Land, and Circle of Life has plenty of seating on both levels. Upstairs, people take to benches lining walls as they wait for the next showing of Circle of Life, an animated movie. Downstairs are booths and tables and chairs at the food court. If those are full, head towards the restrooms or Soarin's FastPass machines. Additional benches can be found in both areas.

Innoventions West has places to sit and relax. The new IBM theater itself can fit a decent size group of visitors.

Located in the large building that holds Club Cool (no seats), Character Spot, and Fountainview Cafe are cushioned benches. I usually enter the building from the back, coming from Journey into Imagination or Captain EO.

World Showcase

Canada - The only place to sit that's temperature controlled is the waiting area to see the film, O Canada! You have to remain standing while watching the show.

United Kingdom - You'll find tables and chairs under umbrellas facing World Showcase Lagoon but they're rarely empty. Step into The Toy Soldier shoppe for a slight chance to sit in one of these 2 comfy chairs.

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France - A beautiful country with limited indoor seating. Cafe tables can be found at Boulangerie Paitisserie les Halles and there are two iron benches in the waiting area for Impressions de France.

Morocco - Tangierine Cafe has some seating inside the open air cafe. Lesser known locations to sit down are inside the Gallery of Arts and History and the waiting area of Restaurant Marrakesh. If the dining establishments are busy, you should look elsewhere for somewhere to sit unless you're eating there.

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Japan - Small tables under umbrellas are located beside Yakitori House. More seating can be found indoors and again, if the restaurant is busy, please leave seats to those dining. Shaded benches can be found alongside Mitsukoshi Department Store.

American Adventure - Plenty of tables and chairs are available at Liberty Inn, the counter service eatery. Small benches are available inside the rotunda and if you want to take in a show, The American Adventure attraction runs 30 minutes. Keep in mind you'll have to wait for the next show to begin and take a long escalator up. If you need to sit sooner, try Liberty Inn.

Italy - Here you'll find minimally shaded benches. You might be able to sit for a moment at Tutto Italia if the waiting area isn't crowded.

Germany - Very limited cafe tables are available adjacent to Sommerfest, in an open air setting. Two or three high table tops and stools can be found at Süssigkeiten, the wine store.

China - Step inside the Chinese Hall of Prayer and you'll discover rows upon rows of benches. The building is temperature controlled. Get off your feet and try something to eat at Lotus Blossom Cafe.

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Norway - Attached to Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is another open air seating setup. After riding Maelstrom you may sit and watch a short movie about Norway. You could probably just go straight to the theater from the outside but I've yet to see anyone try it.

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Mexico - One of the funniest things I ever heard at Epcot was "Let's go to Mexico, they have air." The tourist meant air conditioning but my cousin Matt and I used that line throughout our vacation every time we stepped indoors. Once inside the Aztec Temple, head down into the marketplace. You can sit on the edge of the fountain or inside La Cava del Tequila and order tapas. Random places to sit are throughout the pavilion.


Don't forget, First Aid is the place to go if you feel sick and/or are showing signs of heat exhaustion. First Aid is located at the Odyssey Center (side closest to Mexico) beside restrooms and the Baby Care Center and is staffed by nurses.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

July 17, 2013

Escaping the Elements at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Given that we are in the middle of summer and Walt Disney World is teaming with families vacationing before the kids go back to school, I've decided to write 4 separate blogs on where to avoid the heat. Some hideaways can also double in the winter as locations to warm up. I'll be printing this out and handing it to my co-worker who along with his wife and 6 year old son will be braving the heat in a few days. Share this with friends, family, and co-workers and help lessen their chances of getting sun poisoning or worse, heat stroke.

Sunset Blvd
Although Twilight Zone Tower of Terror itself creates screams of panic and twisted happiness, the building and surrounding area offer three spots to sit down and relax. The first looks like it was built out of clay and faces the gift shop/attraction exit. Two curved rows of seating have limited shade.
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The next option is very limited seating but will keep you out of the rain and provides better shade. You can find the bench and I think there's another facing it from the other end, right beside the gift shop's display windows.
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Your absolute best way out of the sun here is to walk from the outside straight through the gift shop. There are multiple benches inside near where they sell photos from the scary ride. It's not only cooling but it's a little bit darker than an average room.


Animation Courtyard
The Magic of Disney Animation is probably the best place to cool off with several seating options. In the Animation Gallery, you'll find a couple of cushioned benches.
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Go into the room with character meet and greets and on the upper level you'll also find multiple benches. Head into another room with art from recent movies where people wait to see Drawn to Animation. You'll discover a room of collapsed teens. Don't worry, there are benches here as well. If you want to watch the show, you'll be treated to theater style seating for about 15 minutes.


Mickey Avenue
Walt Disney: One Man's Dream is worth listing because it's not a ride requiring that you leave immediately. After passing by artifacts, and before entering the theater, there's a waiting area with limited places to plop. Watch the movie in a cool dark theater, again, in a real seat and when it's over, ask the Cast Member if you can stay. It's one of the lesser visited attractions and if you put yourself in the back or front, you won't be in the way.


Streets of America
Why would I list an area that's open to direct sun? Should it rain or not be brutally hot, there is shade to be found at what looks like a the entrance to a grand hotel. Long numerous steps and a platform can keep a good crowd dry and cool.
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Veteran Walt Disney World visitors know that Writer's Stop serves as 3 benefits in one. Here you can shop for books, DVDs, and kitchen accessories. It's a coffee and bake shop serving rice cereal treats, large cookies, cupcakes, and more. Best of all, it's another place to get out of the sun or escape the cold. Cushy chairs and high table tops with stools await.

Many people recommend taking in attractions like The Great Movie Ride (18 minutes once seated), Muppet Vision 3D (13 minutes not including pre-show which is standing room only), Voyage of the Little Mermaid (17 minutes), American Idol Experience (at least 20 minutes), or Disney Junior - Live on Stage (24 minutes).

Those are all helpful suggestions but if you don't want to wait for a show to start, head into the following eateries and find a place to sit.

ABC Commissary
Toy Story Pizza Planet
Backlot Express - head upstairs and to the back, away from windows
50's Prime Time Cafe - there's a bar and a waiting area for restaurant guests. Grab a milkshake and a seat.

Don't forget, First Aid is the place to go if you feel sick and/or are showing signs of heat exhaustion. First Aid is located at the front of Disney's Hollywood Studios beside Guest Relations and is staffed by nurses.

Have a great time and be safe. Share this with anyone you know who's heading down to Walt Disney World.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

July 10, 2013

Miniature Jungle Cruise

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

It will come as no surprise to you that I love the puns and corny jokes told by Jungle Cruise skippers. I have sailed passed the backside of water countless times. As such, I've taken the same photos over, and over, and over again. On a fairly recent trip, I decided to play with the miniature effect in my Canon SX30 IS. In April, I introduced the feature to you all. Today, I'm just going to show you a few of my pictures so you can see how it changes perspective.


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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

July 3, 2013

Under the Moon - Revisiting Germany

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


A few years ago, a little fellow named Claus Stoughton borrowed my blog to tell the tale of his neighbors in Dispolok, Germany. It was a great way for you to get to know what goes in in that train town at Epcot's Germany pavilion. Claus asked if he could post a short update and I told him, by all means. It's a real shame it's been such a long time but we'll take what we can get. I hope you enjoy his news. Oh, and if you missed the original blog entry, follow this link

Hello friends. This is Claus Stoughton. I have a quick update for you on the townspeople of Dispolok. My job and view haven't changed. I received a small raise last year so I ran out and bought myself a hand carved wooden giraffe at the African Outpost to ward off ducks. Turns out ducks aren't bother by giraffes. In fact, they used it as a back scratcher. Live and learn. I'm sure you're excited to learn what's new so I'll get started.

Dieter Lange's fame has dwindled so much from his glory days as a child actor that the media has given up on him completely. Now that they're gone, he misses them. Last month he auditioned for a reality show filming in England. He's not sure if he'll be cast but if so, he's hoping to re-connect with Jordy, a French man who was a pint-sized pop star for a summer.

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Speaking of television stars, the Canadians have invaded and are filming all over the area. Franziska and Oliver bought a house right before they got married but now they are expecting triplets and Franziska thinks they need a larger house. Oliver doesn't want to move. They're currently filming an episode of Love It or List It. I already know the outcome, I'll tell you before I wrap this up.

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Mr. Faust has mellowed a little. It's hard to be crazy 100% of the time when you're old and nap twice a day. The animals on his farm ignore him but sometimes the younger horse finds him so funny that he falls down laughing. Honestly, when have you ever seen a horse do that? It must be all the caramel we smell.

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Passenger trains are still and always will be our chosen industry. We hope you have ridden at least one of our trains, they are quite fast, roomy, and clean. The one thing we can't control are ticket prices. There's been some grumbling about a special guest coming to visit in the fall. A fellow named Thomas. I guess he is a distant cousin of Isaak. I don't know what the big fuss is about. They're trains.

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Thank you for reading my little update. I hope you liked it. Oh, before I go, I promised to tell you what Oliver and Franziska decided.

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They're going to list it and buy this Morocco-inspired home. I hope they have belly dancers at the open house. Auf wiedersehen!

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 26, 2013

Indiana Jones Fire Sequence

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Have you considered upgrading your point and shoot camera to a DSLR (digital single lens reflex)? If you've become tired of missing out on action shots, think about what a DSLR can do for you. There's no lag time between depressing the shutter button and when the image is recorded.

I set my Canon EOS 30D with Canon 75-300mm USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) lens to 1/200 shutterspeed priority. The ISO was 800 and I used continuous shooting mode. I held my position, pushed down on the shutter release button and cranked out a series of photos at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Here are Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood fleeing the scene at the appropriately titled, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.


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Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 19, 2013

Direct Sunlight and Harsh Shadows

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


They don't call it the Sunshine State for nothing, so when you're visiting Mickey's vacation home (just where does he sleep now that Toontown Fair is gone?), take a moment to look at the lighting on your subject before hitting the shutter release button.

Here are a few examples:

The sun is brightly illuminating your friend/frenemy/family and at the same time dark shadows are cast upon him/her/them.

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You have a few options to deal with the lighting:

1. Get new friends/frenemies/family.

2. Move said model(s) to a location without shadows or put him/her/them into the shadows completely. If you move your model(s) into the shade, make sure you use fill flash to brighten up the image and to remove the cyan/blue tint shadows create in photographs.

3. Get closer and/or use the camera's zoom lens so that the shadows (depending on their location) are out of the photo. Should this be your final decision, stand so that the person of interest isn't looking directly towards the sun. Although it's funny to watch them squirm and eyes tear up, it'll ruin the photo if they're squinting or making faces.

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Nowhere else to go? Use this backup plan. Tell your model(s) to close his/her/their eyes and not top open them until you count to 3.. You focus on them and when you are ready, count 1, 2, 3. The moment you see the whites of his/her/their eyes, shoot! This trick also works well on people who blink when the flash fires.

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Today's lesson is $10.00 and payable by... What? Why not? Fine! Deb says I can't charge you. You'll have to provide your own models, too. Have a magical day.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

June 5, 2013

Monstrous Memorial Day Weekend Part II

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Thanks for coming back for the 2nd half of my didn't-go-as-planned getaway. If you missed last week's entry, you can read it here.

Upon waking up on Saturday morning at Ramada Gateway, I realized I was covered in sweat from my head to my cute wide feet. The flashbacks started to my Walt Disney World visit last May (I never learn, do I?) when the same thing happened and I knew it meant I had sun poisoning. I gulped down half a liter (shout out for my readers outside the US) of water, made a few non-prank phone calls, showered, dressed, iced my achilles, and stared at a broken television. At check out, I told the girl about the broken TV and how security had tried to fix it and said he would have someone make notes in my reservation. Guess what? There wasn't any mention of the TV not working. The front desk clerk said she couldn't give me a partial refund because I had prepaid through a travel agency so she gave me a coupon for a free continental breakfast.

My longtime friend Joe (good evening, Joey) called me back and read me the symptoms of sun poisoning and how to take care of it from WebMD. I checked nearly every box. Hooray! I got an A.

I've never been served a continental breakfast before. The beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt New Yorker who served me gave me various choices. I went with cottage cheese, a bagel, fruitcup, and some hideous tap water. The Coke I requested was Pepsi. Ech. I took the Pepsi Challenge multiple times and always picked Coke. You can't fool me. I also had Chobani yogurt that I'd bought the night before at a grocery store practically beside the hotel but I didn't have any silverware until now. You should have seen me try to make microwaveable Kraft Monsters Inc Mac 'n Cheese the night before using a coffee stirrer. It was like an episode of Seinfeld and I was Kramer.

My next, third, and final hotel for the weekend was Pop Century. When I checked in online, I informed them of an early check-in, before 7 AM as I had planned to stay up all night at Magic Kingdom. The security guard was the most jovial I have ever met. She laughed at me when I told her I had sun poisoning. I didn't take it personally, her personality made it difficult to be upset. Cast Member Allen tried to land me a room that was ready but it was a no-go. He had me cracking up as he demonstrated how I should "run from shadow to shadow" to avoid more sun exposure and worsen my condition.

My friend Tracy (see, I have multiple friends) called and sued her medical assistant/mommy voice and told me I had to stay out of the sun for 24 hours starting yesterday. I listened and follow instructions. I lingered around the lobby, had some snacks in the food court, made lunch plans for Sunday with my cousin Matt, signed up for a Disney Vacation Club tour with a pick-up in just 20 minutes, and called to check on my room. It was ready! I dropped off my bags and saw that housekeeping was next door so literally, my room had just been cleared for check-in.

Shortly thereafter I was in a van and off to Saratoga Springs at 1:20 PM for my 2nd DVC tour. The driver was very friendly, too bad he didn't give me the actual tour. Instead I wound up with Joshua from Bethesda, MD. He plopped down on a couch and began reading me the riot act, telling me I had signed up for tour after tour so why was I there again and what did I need because people either buy right away or come back once more and buy. According to him, Disney knew more about me than the NSA (National Security Agency. He insulted my photography skills by saying he didn't know why I was taking photos to show my mom when the website ones were better. He criticized the fact that I was staying at Pop Century and not at a Disney Vacation Club resort. Yeah, he was the kind of real estate agent that doesn't belong there and Disney will get a letter from me in greater detail.

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Gamorrean at Disney's Hollywood Studio, nice guy.

A different driver, who was also very nice, took me back. I had considered eating and shopping at Saratoga springs but after dealing with Joshua, I wanted to get away from the place. I had a chicken sandwich ordered to go so I could watch TV in my room, relax and watch Flea Market Flip. After lunch I failed at napping.

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The party atmosphere had begun. I liked this DJ's blend of Disney songs and Star Wars music.

Evening had begun and I headed off to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The plan was to take it easy, get character photos, have dinner, and see what Darth Mall had to offer. Finally, things got better. I grabbed pics of Darth Goofy, some Star Wars characters, and a video of Darth Vader walking from the gate to his photo op location, back towards Pixar Place, and then turning back towards his meet and greet spot.

I had tried to get into Mama Melrose's for dinner and was told they could possibly take walk-ins after 8:30 PM. No problem. From there I watched Jedi Training Academy with special guest Darth Maul. It was pretty funny. I couldn't tell if the kids got to battle him and Darth Vader or one or the other because I came in late. A little shopping was on the agenda. I got myself a Passholder Star Tours name tag. It's black with pretty gold letters. I'm Leia from Naboo and before you think I'm a nerd (I'm a dork), Leia is my Hebrew name so my name tag is legit-ish.

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Whoever was running the Angry Birds game at Darth Mall flew the coop.

It was about 9 o'clock now so I tried Mama Melrose's again where I was initially told they weren't taking walk-ins anymore. The hostess called 50's Prime Time Cafe and Brown Derby but neither one was taking walk-ins. Finally, it sunk into her head that I was a party of one and suddenly they could take care of me. In fact, I was seated at a table that was empty (they had plenty of open tables) from the moment I arrived. Chef Rafa took great care of me and I had a very friendly server. I wish I had written down his name because if I guess at the spelling, I'll butcher it. He's a cute fella from Morocco. Dinner was chicken, penne, and vegetables. I took half of it back to the room.

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She's not in the photo but I swear the Jedi Master and Darth Maul had googly eyes for each other. It's like Romeo and Edna just in a galaxy far, far away.

Sunday morning came around and I quickly packed most of my stuff, got ready for the day, and polished off last night's leftovers. Why not, protein is good for me. After much back-and-forth discussions within my head, I decided to start out at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was closest to Pop Century and a quick drive to Downtown Disney where I planned to meet up with my cousin for lunch.

Traffic was crazy just in that short distance. It was like being in Los Angeles where driving 1 mile takes 10 minutes. Parking was off the charts. Stage was practically empty but we were routed down and around to Music/Donald, row 62. I got into the park around 10:30 AM and hung out in the shops until the parade started. Then I ventured out into the shaded side of the street, about 5 rows deep and became that person who holds the camera high up in the air, angles it down, and uses the flip out LCD screen to see. If anyone had been behind me, I wouldn't have done it.

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I didn't even notice what's going on in the photo until I edited it.

I spent the next few hours getting more character photos and avoiding the sun. The Great Movie Ride came as a great relief from heat and we got the cowboy live-action sequence. When did Alien move back to the wall? I kept looking up until I realized nothing was popping out. Oh, maybe the other guy went away for the holiday weekend. That makes sense now. Another great place to cool off is The Magic of Disney Animation, they have padded benches in each room. You can also watch Drawn to Animation and sit in an actual chair. Party like a rock star! I grabbed an eclair and bottle of overpriced water at Starring Rolls and sat in the shade. Thankfully, I also had a package of tuna with me. I was starving. I called Matt, my cousin, and the call went straight to voicemail. I left him a message and never heard back. He's coming up here in a few weeks for a family affair. If you could see the expression on my face you'd be scared of what's going to happen to Matthew, and you should.

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Chewie strikes a pose. He's too sexy for the heat.

The car told me it was in the mid 90's. Knowing I should keep out of the sun because I felt as though the sun poisoning may have returned, I headed to Downtown Disney to see a movie. Once I was informed that AMC is split into 2 different theaters, I tracked down the one I wanted. With my kid's pack in hand, my face beat red, and my heart racing, I plunked down to watch Star Trek into Darkness. The theatre was cool and refreshing, at first. About 30-40 minutes into the movie I was freezing and couldn't figure out if I had chills from sun poisoning or the room was just too dang cold. My nose started getting stuffy, my throat was closing, and I felt crappy. I found the manager and told her I thought it was the theater. She asked for the number and when I told her she said they were waiting for maintenance to fix the air conditioning, it was in fact, busted. She offered me a full refund and a pass to use at home. Now that's excellent customer service.

It had cooled off outside and there was a good steady breeze coming off the water. Still feeling off, I asked a pin cart worker if they had a First Aid station. There isn't one and by no means did I require emergency medical attention so I sad and drank my water and called my mommy. The Cast Member was very nice and lent me a water squirting fan and talked to me. A late lunch was necessary so I walked to Planet Hollywood.

My friend had given me a gift card for the restaurant. I had a baked potato and a plain chicken sandwich for $13.00. Yes, that is above normal chain restaurant pricing. Anyway, while I was there I started getting phone calls from Southwest. The 1st one said my flight had been delayed from 9:10 PM to 12:30 AM. Guess whose face turned red again?! The car was due back at 7:30 so I stuck with the original plan. When I gave the waitress the gift card she said I either had to use the whole thing ($25) or pay. They couldn't give me a credit for the balance. I paid, Southwest called back and my flight was now back to its original time and I took my gift card into the gift store.

Long story short, I didn't buy anything. I complained that I've never had a gift card that forces you to use the full amount in one transaction. I was given a coupon for 20% online purchases and the store manager's business card. Aside from my fiasco in April at Trump Taj Mahal where they wouldn't take my Trump gift card, this was the worst gift card headache ever. There's more to this story but I'm in the middle of said Planet Hollywood manager completing my online transaction because the website isn't designed to take a gift card.

I was so happy to head to the airport until Southwest called me, again, and again, and again. By 8 o'clock, they had called me 5 times. By the time we got on the plane at 11:15, they had called 3 more times. I found out there was a mechanical issue with the plane early on in the day. They replaced our airplane around 8 but the only crew they could get was coming in from Milwaukee at 10:30. It was a loooooong day. I slept almost the entire flight home and then had to drive another 45 minutes to my house.

I'm not going back to Walt Disney World in May or June, July, August, and probably not in September. If I ever buy into Disney Vacation Club, it won't be through Joshua. John Ames is a great friend and travel agent. Be nice to airline employees, especially when things are out of their hands. They just might give you special treatment. Clouds can trick you into thinking the sun isn't as brutal as you might think. Finally, I think that the skywriter working on "Jesus loves you" should have spelled out "Jedis love you", that would have been perfect themeing.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook; page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

May 29, 2013

Monstrous Memorial Day Weekend

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


How was your trip?, my co-workers asked me repeatedly on Tuesday. My responses varied from "Eh" to "Not so good" to "I'll write up my trip report blog and hand out copies. It's a long story."

Before I jump into the actual trip, let me back up by telling you what they already know. I booked my flights and made the decision to visit Walt Disney World on May 15th. As I was booking, one flight sold out of the lowest fare. It cost me an additional $48 plus tax. Buying plane tickets before asking for Friday off was a gamble and my vacation day request was denied. The next day, I prevailed by getting a part-time employee in my department to cover for me. My friend and travel agent John Ames provided hotel costs for both on and off property resorts. Since my plan was to spend 24 hours at Magic Kingdom on Friday, I only booked rooms for Thursday and Saturday. The first night was a tolerable price but Saturday's price tag for a value resort was ridonkulous (however the hipsters spell it). Hey, Mickey! I need to take out a loan.

On Thursday, Southwest repeatedly called my cell phone with departure time changes. I think they called 3 or 4 times going back and forth. In the end, we left T.F. Greene an hour late which meant one less hour of sleep.

It should also be known that I ordered 4 memory cards, batteries and a new charger for the trip to be delivered on Wednesday. They didn't arrive. Tracking showed that they left the warehouse on Monday. The end. After some nudging, I got the Amazon customer service rep to re-ship my items via overnight mail. In order for me to get the package, I had to leave work an hour early (unhappy manager) and run home before driving to the airport. Guess what? No package. UPS' website said it would deliver by 3 PM. At 4:45 PM I was still without my purchase, angry, and yelling. Off to the airport I went with 2 stops to try and find a compact flash card. Thankfully I found Staples near the airport parking lot.

You're up to speed with my fellow co-workers so everyone pay attention because I'm only going to say all of this once.

I checked into All-Star Sports around 1:20 AM on Friday. I went to bed and woke up at 5 AM, packed my survival kit bag which included a complete wardrobe change, toiletries, snacks, and, glow sticks. Passing by the pool bar, I grooved to the theme song from The Endless Summer thinking this is a great way to start my day. My luggage was gently tossed into the rental car trunk and a Disney bus drove me to Magic Kingdom. At 6:40 AM I was in the surprisingly empty park. The weather was humid but not hot, about 72 degrees with lots of clouds. Prior to the AllEars.Net meet at 9 o'clock, I enjoyed Enchanted Tales with Belle (funniest guard ever), Journey of the Little Mermaid (the queue is longer than Rapunzel's hair), Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ( stopped, lights came on, lights went off, ride continued), Dumbo (single-handed operation), and Barnstormer with the Great Goofini (insert Goofy screaming).

At the meet I got dizzy. I was thirsty and drank water bottle after water bottle and was starving so I picked up fruit cup and oatmeal. Sleep-deprivation, I figured as much. My plan was not to worry about how many hours were left in the all-nighter but rather to focus on how I felt at the moment. After seeing and talking with my teamsters (Gloria, Koma, and Deb) I headed into Adventureland and stared at Aladdin. Then I climbed the many steps of Swiss Family Treehouse, talked to a Cast Member in the shops, admired Aladdin some more, and then tried to nap in The Enchanted Tiki Room.

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The Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob entertained crowds awaiting the parade.

I lined up for the parade, took photos of the Monsters University pre-parade parade (that's intentional), bopped into more stores, bought a Vitamin Water and Rice Krispie bar then sat in to watch the Country Bear Jamboree. Not feeling so good, I dragged myself to First Aid for air conditioning and a place to sit. I'm not sure if the woman I spoke to in the waiting area was a nurse but I told her I was hot but cold rushes were going through me. She said I was behind on my fluids. Okay. While sitting there I knew there was no way I'd make it through the full 24 hours or even 12 hours. Recognizing defeat and listening to my body, I called John (Mouse Fan Travel) and he found me a room at Ramada Gateway.

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Stars of the silver screen, Sully and Mike. That's Mike with one eye!

I shuffled down Main Street USA to the Emporium and bought the event T-shirt. I checked in early at Tony's Town Square and had a nice made-to-order lunch of pasta, chicken, and mixed veggies. Unsure of when I'd return, I took out my bag from the locker, made my way to the bus stop and headed back to All-Star Sports. Did you catch my error? I forgot to return the key to the locker. That boo-boo cost me $12.00. It was a short drive to the hotel where the nice fella at the front desk upgraded me to a deluxe room. Unfortunately, the TV was broken, something I found out late that night. They don't have maintenance workers on site so a security guard tried to figure out the problem. We decided the physical cable might have been the culprit. No TV for Lisa.

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24 hours? I can't do it. Stop pressuring me. Dang cupcake bullies.

I slept for 3 1/2 hours. When I awoke I felt better so I took a quick shower, dressed and headed back to the Magic Kingdom...until I saw the sign. Magic Kingdom Lot Full, Park at Epcot. Uh oh. Epcot had just closed to non-resort guests and the line for the monorail stretched all the way back to the turnstyles. There was no way I was going to wait in line so I wandered around Epcot, had dinner at Yorkshire County Fish Shop, and started feeling sick again. I quit. Dehydration and lack of sleep got the better of me. At Mouse Gears I had a nice long chat with a Cast Member about a variety of topics and retreated back to my TV-less hotel room for the night.

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Dinner at Tony's Town Square. Yes, the stick says allergy. That's my arch enemy taunting me, pepper.

I'll finish the saga next week.


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May 22, 2013

Gearing Up for My Second Disney All-Nighter

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

It seems so incredibly long ago that I partook of Disneyland's One More Disney Day when the park was open for 24 hours straight beginning at 6 AM on February 29, 2012 and ending on March 1st at 6 AM. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to manage the entire 24 hours and fell short by hitting the 19 hour mark. Various members of my posse came out to play and Yoli even stayed up past her bedtime.

Having just made the last-minute decision to attempt the next all-nighter on May 24th at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, there's barely any time to train. Yeah, I trained last year. Given my experience, preparing for the Monstrous Summer! All-Nighter includes but is not limited to weekend and after-work naps, stretching, striking up conversations with strangers, mapping, waiting in long lines, strategizing, and trying on hats.

Spending the morning, afternoon, evening, night, and early morning in Florida is going to be extremely different from doing so in California. The two major differences are weather and crowds. California can get hot but it's a dry heat and the temps in the morning and at night can be 20 degrees lower than daytime thermostat readings whereas Florida is humid, sticky, hazy, and of course (or curse), hot with little give when the sun hides. Most Disneyland visitors are locals so they showed up in the wee hours of the morning and camped out in the esplanade, ran around, went home for a nap, went to work, and then back to the park. Attendance levels shifted throughout the day. I expect that given Walt Disney World resorts are almost completely sold out, vacationers will approach things slightly differently. One advantage is Star Wars Weekends should pick up some of the numbers. My fingers are crossed that Guests will take breaks and return to their resort for hours at a time and then return to Magic Kingdom or arrive after dinner and play overnight. That gives crazies like me who intend to stay in the park from open to close a chance to do everything. Oh, and if I can't hang with the cool kids, I am in trouble because I don't have a hotel room Friday night to retreat to, so if you see me sleeping in a car, don't be surprised. And no photos!

As for careful calculations and planning, I'll be at the AllEars.Net meet and greet at 9 AM at Tomorrowland Terrace with Deb 1 and Deb 2. I'm treating myself to lunch at Tony's Town Square for the very first time. Criss crossing the park is out of the question because it's bad for my tootsies and in the blinding heat, makes me a target for sun poisoning, which last May (at Walt Disney World) caused me to miss several days of work. Air conditioning and seats will be my friends along with water, multiple sock changes, and my Monstrous Summer! All-Nighter survival kit.

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Pictured above: refreshing peppermint tea bags that do not contain actual tea, self-filtering water bottle , dark chocolate to fight off headaches, bubble gum because I like to blow bubbles, socks for my little feet, granola bar to eat, tuna for late night protein, ears plugs & eye mask for naps, "Sleep" hand lotion to psychology trick myself into think it'll work, my beloved peppermint foot lotion, bandages just in case, deodorant cuz I'm thoughtful, pre-filled toothbrush for teeth, and most importantly sunblock because I need it. Actual survival kit items may change.

Will you be there and can you bring me a pillow?

Training Update! Unintentional night of only 4.5 hours sleep, lasted 6 hours before wanting to climb into bed, pulled through after eating, attempted and failed napping 4 hours later, will go to bed 16.5 hours after waking up. Fatigue included severe drowsiness, lack of concentration, stuffy ears, confusion, and throwing a wrapper into the toilet instead of the trash can.


Photos from One More Disney Day 2012.


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May 15, 2013

Poster Effect on British Revolution

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Last week I posted a quick reference to various In-Camera Color Special Effects available in most point and shoots. We'll now take a closer look at what the poster effect does to images and it's origin.

Posterization has been a cool darkroom process for decades and decades. I would take a slide which is a positive image and print it as if it were a negative. By doing so, colors became flat and brilliant. Light tones turned dark and vice versa. It's wicked cool. Funkadelic posters have the same look. Get technical here.

Digital software replicates the basic look of posterization and my Canon SX30 IS has it built-in.

I took a few photos of British Revolution during one of their performances at the UK pavilion in Epcot. Unfortunately, the stage is in a gazebo with railings and columns all around which can make getting a clear shot extremely difficult even for a pro like me. Dear Disney, please take out the railings. They didn't need them in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Poster Effect retains a skin tone and brightens colors in the image.
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Dang railings.
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If you look at his hands, there's only slight definition in the lines of his palms and fingers. Highlights can blow out.
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The softness and blend of colors gives the image a painting effect.
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You know what to do. Have fun.

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May 8, 2013

In-Camera Color Special Effects

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Here are just a few cool things my Canon SX30 IS point and shoot camera can do. Consult your camera's manual to find out if yours can do the same things and how.

This is a quick recap and preview to stimulate your creativity before taking on summer vacation.

Smart Shutter - Read more about Smart Shutter in one of my previous blogs.
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Vivid - Learn more about the Vivid effect from a blog of mine.
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Poster Effect - I will expand your Poster Effect know how next week so stay tuned.
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Color Accent - Check out an old blog entry I wrote about using Color Accent. I shall write an updated blog on the mode later this year.
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Photos were taken during the Flights of Wonder pre-show at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I love birds, especially parrots.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

May 1, 2013

Road Trip

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I usually write my blog on weekends and this weekend (or last weekend when you read this), I'm off on a non-Disney adventure.

Enjoy one of my more creative writing pieces, Under the Moon, about the little inhabitants of Epcot.

See ya next week.


Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

April 24, 2013

Kilimanjaro Safaris Bonus Gorilla

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

A gorilla on the safari? Surely you must be joking. You're such a jokester, Lisa. There is one, not along the drive itself but read on to learn more, and stop calling me Shirley.

Picture this (the jokes never end), you're bouncing along in the safari vehicle, cursing yourself for finishing off the bottle of ice tea while waiting in line. You're trying your very best to take photos of the hippos wiggling their ears and blowing bubbles. The driver doesn't slow down during the entire ride. The journey ends and when you exit the vehicle, you naturally follow the crowd left and head out. But wait! There's more! What? I said there's more.

Walk forward and to the right. There's a waist high wall, I think it's clay colored. Go up to it and look down, left and right. A single silverback gorilla lives down there. Actually, I have no idea if he's single, I didn't check his Facebook status. He is alone though. I have seen him sitting on rocks in the middle of the waterfall stream, napping in the semi-cave, and in between.

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All he needs is a telephone and he could re-enact The Telephone Hour song from Bye Bye Birdie.


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I turned this photo around 180 degrees so you wouldn't have to turn your head upside down. I'm a nice kid, I know.

Newbies, the Kilimanjaro Safari is an attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom. You'll love it, just visit the potty ahead of time.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

April 17, 2013

Pirates of the Caribbean Pinball

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It lurks in the well-lit shadows of the Tomorrowland Arcade, awaiting players brave enough to tempt fate with a few schillings and fast-action thumbs. Don't be chicken. Commandeer the pinball machine and beat the high score. However, if gold isn't what you're after but rather some "Tada!" worthy photographs, look no further.

Here she sits. Here he sits. Here it sits, the Pirates of the Caribbean pinball machine.

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There are quite a number of shiny objects inside the reflective covering. Be on the ready as you out-maneuver reflections by ducking and leaning, hovering and stretching over and around the machine. First mate, ISO 800, f5.6 at 1/60 with flash.

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Rise up the ranks with macro mode, ISO 800, f6.3, 1/60 with flash. Now there's a better view. Open the treasure chest, love.

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Pirates! Every last one of 'em. Shoot! Wait, the camera is still set to macro and they're too big for the setting..

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Return to normal. Excellent, excellent. Even their skin looks better. Naturally handsome, eh savvy? Good angle, good shot.

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Now, where were we headed?

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Find out about my current activities on my Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter @lisano1.

April 10, 2013

Fish-eye Muppet Fun

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Grab your point and shoot camera manuals and see if your camera can do this, fish-eye effect. Fish what? Fish-eye lenses are especially designed for SLR cameras and some high end point and shoots. Nowadays with computer programs in digital point and shoot cameras, the effect can be replicated. Just keep in mind it's not exactly the same as an actual fish-eye lens.

A fish-eye effect creates an ultra wide-angle image and distorts it so that the image looks like it's arced forward in the center. The illusion makes the photo look like it can wrap around.

Sample pics will better explain the results. A cut out of Sweetums holding a 3D paddle ball greets Guests at the entrance to Muppet Vision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

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As seen normally by human eyes.

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I dialed into Fish-eye Effect on my Canon SX30 IS and retook the photo. See how Sweetums' body had changed.

The 3D paddle is going to serve (Get it? Serve. Ha ha) as a wicked awesome demonstration of the special effect.

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Again, here's a normal view.

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Fish-eye Effect in action. It's cool but what if I were to slightly shift my stance which will change the angle.

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Yeah, now that's cool! Mind you, if I were taller my point of view would probably be even better.

Give it a try the next time you're at the park or try Fish-eye Effect on something at home like your kids or that nosy neighbor.

To locate Fish-eye Effect on the Canon SX30 IS, turn the dial to SCN (Scene Mode) and then press FUNC SET (Function Settings). Scroll right until you find Fish-eye Effect and then depress FUNC SET again. That's it!

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April 3, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Epcot - The End

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Here they are, the links to each part of the epic trip report including the prequel. If you missed an entry or want to relive my vacation with my friend Yoli, happy reading. Make sure you have sufficient light, we don't want you to hurt your eyes or worse, miss out on funny commentary.

Prequel - Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World posted September 5th

Prequel - Reservations posted October 10th

Prequel - Obsessed posted November 21st

Prequel - Ready posted January 23rd

Disney's Animal Kingdom posted Feb. 13th

Magic Kingdom posted Feb. 20th

Disney's Hollywood Studios posted Feb. 23rd

Downtown Disney and More posted Feb. 27th

Epcot posted March 6th

Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando posted March 13th

Epcot, Again posted March 20th

Disney Resorts and Celebration posted March 23rd


Magic Kingdom, Again
posted March 27th

Our final full vacation day's activities were up to Yoli, my crazy friend and part of my CA posse. After a few days into the trip she was undecided as to whether Epcot or Magic Kingdom would win out for the coveted 7th park day. It was while we were enjoying our 2nd visit to Magic Kingdom that Yoli declared Epcot as the winner and benefactor of our third visit. I was thrilled because Epcot is my favorite park at Walt Disney World and my pal loved it for all the same reasons.

We set out early in preparation of conquering the must see or must see again attractions, have time to soak in atmosphere, and have plenty of time to pack. Memories are a bit hazy but here's all that we can recall and are willing to confess.

Having tried the "sissy" version of Mission: Space as Yoli called it, she was determined to attempt the regular ride. Off she ran. I followed behind and took some time to enjoy the Jammitors, grab a few photos, and mingle with the children to whom the musicians were handing out stickers. Yeah! You know I got one, too.

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Come on, shake your body baby. Do the conga. I know you can't control yourself any longer.

She came out of the attraction and was fine for the most part. Yoli said I would never be able to handle the original ride That's fine by me. I can also skip the toned down ride and be perfectly content.

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Blast into the stratosphere or the gift shop. They're both exhilarating in their own right.

We headed back to The Land in search of a short wait for Soarin'. The line was still too long for our taste so we grabbed FastPasses, got breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, played with phones, and finally got to ride. We had a good time but prefer the building and themeing found at California Adventure.

Off in the distance stood Club Cool. "Yoli, do you want some sodaaaaa?" She said no. "Are you sure you're not thirsty?," I asked. Nope, she was fine. Torture is fun. We took a Friendship Boat over to World Showcase. Italy is where we spent a good amount of time shopping and watching Sergio (sans name tag) do his schtick.

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Romeo? Romeo! Where are you? I am sick and tired of waiting for you. Ask for directions, already!

Yoli ordered lunch at Liberty Inn. I got my food from Yakitori House and traveled all the way back to America, up hill both ways, on foot, to eat with my friend. It's amazing how many people watched as I carried my tray of teriyaki chicken. Were they hungry? Had they never seen an explorer before? Was there a warrant out for my arrest? No. After lunch we split up for a few minutes. When I returned to American Adventure, Yoli was videotaping Voices of Liberty. I'm glad she got to see them perform, she gets all mushy over anything patriotic. We watched American Adventure the show, co-hosted by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. Think about it. That's really freaky. Twain wasn't even born until 1835 and Franklin died in 1790 and yet there they are, together. I have just one question, was it the DeLorean or the phone booth (air guitar riff)?

As we were passing through France, we happened to glance inside Chefs de France and saw Remy doing his little dance on the fruit and cheese plate. He was so cute. I can't even begin to tell you how long I've wanted to see Remy and never made a reservation because there's nothing on the menu I think I can eat. Ooh! I was wicked excited. Yoli liked seeing him too. Lucky Newbie.

We watched Impressions de France again because the last time we were surrounded by talkers who didn't comprehend our disconcerting glances. It was much better this time around. Oui. We wrapped up our tour and started heading out but I remembered that VISA cardholders can get a free 5x7" with characters, something we kept missing. Into Innoventions, we found the location and only had to wait a couple of minutes while 2 other parties had their fun. Holy crap! Yoli must have jumped sky high when she saw we had Mickey Mouse and Pluto entirely to ourselves. A Character Host and PhotoPass Photographer were on hand to help. They were very friendly and took lots of photos. Honestly, Yoli was on Cloud 9. The same gigantic smile and look of wonder that came over her face the morning we walked into the Magic Kingdom was out in full force. She said it was the perfect ending for our over a decade in the making journey.

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A great time with an incredible friend.

Before we could hit the road, we had to pick up the print. While waiting we rode Spaceship Earth again. Yoli konked out in the back seat. I told you, she can sleep anywhere. The photo was ready when we returned to the store. Yay! We said our goodbyes to Epcot and schlepped back to the car.

Our evening included 3 games of air hockey in the resort arcade. I won the first match, Yoli won the second, and we tied on the third. We had dinner in the food court. Lots of packing was accomplished but we had plenty of time to finish before leaving for the airport so we didn't have to stay up very late.

A quick recap of our 11 night spectacular spectacular.

Animal Kingdom

I am never going anywhere near Expedition Everest again. I no like it. The PhotoPass lady with Russell and Dug was mean to us and said we couldn't take any photos unless we got in line even though we just wanted a quick snapshot of the characters. She's lucky I didn't yell "SQUIRREL!" Oh wait, I did.

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Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles. Buy one get one half off.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

I loved meeting Caleb at The Great Movie Ride because he had actually read this blog series. We had an awesome time at 50's Prime Time Cafe and the food was great, too.

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Dorks.


Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure

Watching Yoli make her way through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was like seeing the opening scenes from That Girl. She was everywhere. I had a huge problem with guest services and my dietary restrictions prior to arriving at Three Broomsticks. Thankfully, the restaurant's chef and manager sorted things out but the communication gaps and lack of actual assistance up till that point was unacceptable.

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Let us stance as if to dance and take a chance with crepes from France.

Disney Resorts, Celebration, and Downtown Disney

I'm darn proud of hitting so many resorts in one day plus Celebration. Next time we can visit 8 more. Too bad the weather didn't allow us to fly in the hot air balloon. I'd love to see HGTV film an episode in Celebration with Drew and Jonathan Scott.

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As we rode the monorail over a few parking lots, I noticed that most of the cars were silver, black, or red. Write your own joke.


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Forget shouting, when I want Yoli to show up, I sing Menudo songs.

Epcot

I love everything. This was a great park for us to find Cast Members with the same names as ex-Menudos. Ooh, and getting our World Showcase passports stamped was fun. I still need to adhere the rest of the stickers.

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The shirt seen 'round the World.

Magic Kingdom

Between finally seeing The Three Little Pigs and other characters and the Fantasyland expansion, I was super happy.

One of Yoli's most memorable moments was the night my feet hurt so much that I could barely stand. I was in the midst of physical therapy for both achilles. We were in our room and I decided to try and wrap my feet in hot wash cloths because every therapy session started with heat. Well, it got cold quick so my friend, the awesome dependable person that she is, took it upon herself to run back and forth from my bed to the sink with hot wash cloths. She'd wrap my foot then run back, soak a washcloth and wrap the other one. This went on for a good 5 minutes or longer until I said, it was alright, it probably wouldn't work. My therapist later gave me a speech that I should have called him for instructions on what to do. Seriously, how awesome is Yoli for doing all that. (and the crowd goes wild)

I'm going to close this series with 2 things. The first is to let you know that Yoli and I are hoping to take a Disney Cruise or visit Disneyland Paris in 2014. Disney is sailing out of Puerto Rico late next year and it would be the perfect place for a few Menudo fans to go on another shopping spree. We want our other Menudo/Disney fan friends to join us. They know who they are.

Lastly, the video of Yoli first walking into Magic Kingdom. Remember, she's a Californian so comparisons are expected.

Thank you for reading my trip report. Hey Yoli, I had an incredible McTime. Whaaaaa?



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March 27, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Magic Kingdom, Again

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Welcome to the never-ending trip report. Previous chapters are listed below.

Disney's Animal Kingdom posted Feb. 13th

Magic Kingdom posted Feb. 20th

Disney's Hollywood Studios posted Feb. 23rd

Downtown Disney and More posted Feb. 27th

Epcot posted March 6th

Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando posted March 13th

Epcot, Again posted March 20th

Disney Resorts and Celebration posted March 23rd

Once upon a time, two crazy friends took an 11-day vacation to Walt Disney World. Let's begin with day 9. It might not be so much as the beginning of the story itself but it's the start of day 9. This marked their 8 theme park visit since their arrival in Orlando. The excitement was still in full force but their feet and bodies were not. Sleep? Lisa slept through the nights getting 6-7 hours of rest. Yoli kept waking up, falling asleep, and waking up, and falling asleep, and repeat.

Forget the narration, it's too late for me to switch gears.

We set off in our matching Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World shirts because we're awesome. As before, we drove to Magic Kingdom's entrance plaza but this time I followed the blue line to AAA Diamond Parking and voila! we wound up in Villains right near the front. In fact, we walked to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then set sail on the ferry. Yoli loved the ferry until the cold breeze turned her into a popsicle.

Our first order of business was to take a train ride all around the park. I desperately tried to keep my mouth shut so as not to tell Yoli it was going to stink in comparison to Disneyland's train ride. She figured it out. The difference in what you can see from the train in one park versus the other is huge. Back at the Main Street Station, I lost Yoli the second I disembarked. I went left. She went right and kept on chugging. Someone, please sell adult fuzzy backpacks with leashes.

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Are they giving away turkey legs?

We strolled along Main Street taking photos and then headed straight to Fantasyland and into the expansion. Ahhhh. Finally, I got to see the sparkling new attractions' signs and wait times. Dude! I was not going to wait an hour to meet Belle or 90 minutes to maybe grab a sandwich. We kept going. Gaston! Where are youououou? Nowhere. We poked around Bonjour Village Gifts. I have to say the dinnerware would be good for entertaining. The area was super busy so we left and tried for Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. It was down, under.

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I wonder what kind of candy they give out on Halloween, perhaps wax lips, Teaberry gum or candy watches.

There's a wall separating princesses from circus folk so you have to back track and walk around to visit the rest of the expansion. The wait for Dumbo 1 and Dumbo 2 (What would Dr. Seuss say?) was too long and you can't play inside the circus tent without waiting in line, said the Cast Member who nearly made clowns cry. The Great Goofini is much like Gadget's Go Coaster at Disneyland so we bypassed it and decided to wait and meet Daisy and Minnie Mouse at Pete's Silly Sideshow. My feet hurt and the line barely moved after 10 minutes so we cut out, took a quick photo from the side and did some more browsing at Big Top Souvenirs. I tried to lure Yoli into a sugar high by offering her a cupcake but she declined and went outside to sit in the sun.

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Gypsies are all the rage. Daisy should have her own reality show soon.

Lunch was served at Columbia Harbour House. The high-demand seats upstairs were open but my pal didn't know about them and sat elsewhere. Oh well, training takes time. With full tummies we visited the Country Bear Jamboree. I silently griped about some of the physical changes to the bears and their raccoon friend. Sometimes updates aren't for the better. Yoli was thrilled to see the bears again because the show closed forever to make way for Winnie the Pooh's attraction in Disneyland. Oh, I'd better not think about it or I'll become miserable.

We picked up some FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, ventured off to Tom Sawyer Island, and found a new spot to watch the parade. Also, if I point out, we avoided stairs as much as possible because our feet were in great pain. Plopped down just before the deck that faces Liberty Square, we watched the floats go by, waved at Guests, and enjoyed the sunshine.

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Aladdin and I never came face to face on this trip. I'm going to blame Yoli and not poor timing.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for us. The line was long and moved a little slower than normal but Yoli didn't notice, she was busy playing with her phone and then once we inside, touching everything in arm's reach. I advised her that the drops are bupkis compared to those at Disneyland. She agreed. It was cool though, seeing what was the same and how the attractions differed from coast to coast. She's not a big Jungle Cruise fan like I am (hard to believe) but sacrificed some time to check out the ride. We had a great skipper whose name eludes me. To this day I love the guy who sang, Gene Wilder's scary tunnel song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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She actually stopped narrating and began posing for me. You had to be there.

Back to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for a visit to the wildest ride in the wilderness. We agreed this version is longer and thus has more drops and turns. That evening we also saw The Enchanted Tiki Room, flew on magic carpets, had dinner at Pecos Bills, revisited Hall of Presidents, and I got my ice cream cookie sandwich from Sleepy Hollow. In addition we went back Haunted Mansion.

Time to try New Fantasyland again. Lines were sooooo much shorter now. We waited 20 or so minutes for Enchanted Tales with Belle. The whole experience was cute and certainly different from any other attraction in the parks. I liked Lumiere and Wardrobe participating in the show. I would like to mention that Yoli nearly killed me at one point. We were seated inside the salon (or whatever the room is) and when Belle made her appearance I muttered "Eh". What do you want from me? I was still searching for Gaston!

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Imagine if this took place at the Apollo. Now that would be lively.

As we approached Be Our Guest Restaurant and the stud guarding the doors, we were turned away. It was closed. Maaaan. He wouldn't even let us peek inside. Come to think of it, I'm surprised Yoli didn't touch him and try to sweet talk her way in. Wow, she must have been tired or I missed it. A quick stop at Gaston's for Yoli's night cap, hot chocolate and then we rounded off the Extra Magic Hours with a visit to Pooh, a ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway, and one last circle above Tomorrowland via the People Mover.

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She's so happy to be anywhere but the 101, 405 or 5.

Main Street USA was deserted.

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We bought Mouse Ears. I rocked mine from early evening on. Yoli sported hers later. Obviously, I'm way cooler.

Some final shopping was 100% necessary as we only had 1 more full day at Walt Disney World and we were somehow awake.

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The sad walk out.

Next week I'll recap Epcot, our last full vacation day. The day we left we just lounged around until it was time to head to the airport. Get ready, the trip will be ending soon.


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March 23, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Disney Resorts and Celebration

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Get ready because this was a long day filled with adventure, danger, and wild creatures in the night. Our story begins on a cool January morning at All-Star Movies at Walt Disney World. It was the place we collapsed each night after running amok through the parks. Having only visited the food court, gift shop, and front desk thus far, we set off on a photographic tour of themed buildings and terrorizing-sized Toy Story movie characters.

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And here I thought a 3-story Buzz Lightyear was scary. Imagine being swept up by this angry broom. Angry Brooms, coming to a video game system near you this summer.

Having escaped the evil clutches of Little Bo Peep, we ran to the SUV, piled in, and sped off to see Celebration once again only this time with ample sunlight and a mission. I needed to mail a package to James, a thank you gift for getting Yoli and I into Universal's theme parks. While I took care of that, Yoli familiarized herself with the visitor's center, a history of the town, which homes were for sale, and what she might buy as a souvenir.

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Wow! Celebration Ave in the town of Celebration, that's mind blowing.

We then made the excruciatingly long trek to the bakery on foot. Gosh, it had to have been at least 100 feet away, door-to-door. A quick carb pick-me-up and some fresh air and we were ready for another drive around town. Yoli was on the ready to shoot both photos and videos of the pretty houses we can't afford.

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I am willing to live in either of these houses and I like yellow so that helps.

Back at Walt Disney World, we stopped at the newest resort, Art of Animation. As we approached the main building, again, on foot, we pondered hiding in the luggage compartment of the bus heading to Cape Canaveral for a Disney cruise. Too many manager-ish eyes were watching the bus so we acted like good little tourists and went shopping. We split up and grabbed photos of the pool, merchandise, neon lights, and other cool stuff. Yoli even bought me a present, a multi-pack of popcorn I should have bought earlier in the week but didn't and then couldn't find it again until we got to Art of Animation. The Cast Member made me close my eyes as he rang it up and placed it in a bag. No reason to spoil the surprise that she took it from my hands and demanded to pay for it.

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Is anyone else having a Journey into Imagination flashback? Not the ride but the play area.

The resort I had to show Yoli was Pop Century and it was for one reason, the groovy signs. Not that the signs were groovy but rather actually said, "Groovy." Why? Yoli says "groovy" all day long. You'd think she was a teenager in the 1960's. She wasn't. She was a teenager in the 1980's. She should say things like "awesome" and "bodacious". Kids today. Needless to say, she loved it.

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If you'd like to help Snap and Crackle get their own larger-than-life signs, send your donation to...

The clock was ticking and we had to haul tush to make our afternoon tea reservation at The Grand Floridian. This was my big surprise for Yoli although I did tell her at the Ticket and Transportation Center while waiting for the ferry on our 2nd vacation day. When we arrived, I dropped her off at the front entrance and then parked in a land far, far away. Okay, here's something I simply do not comprehend. The guests who pay the most money for a room at Walt Disney World have to park the furthest away from their resort. It doesn't make sense. There's a lovely parking lot right up front but it's for valet. Everyone else has to enter the resort area, sadly pass by valet parking, drive across the street and park in a semi-enclosed lot. Whaaaa?

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A view of the new watered down play area. I bet the tea tastes like chlorine.

We had a lovely lunch in the Garden View Lounge. Yoli had tea, teeny sandwiches, scones, and dessert. I had a gorgeous custom designed chicken salad and skim milk. The manager and waitress went far and beyond to make sure I had lunch too. I couldn't eat anything on the tea menu with all of my restrictions and honestly, I expected to just sit there and look cute while Yoli had her afternoon tea. They took good care of me. I still need to write a letter to Disney.

After Yoli videotaped the same room a million times, we went upstairs to look around. She got more video and we hopped aboard the monorail and disembarked at the Contemporary. I grabbed some photos for future blogs, Yoli wished she had enough moolah to buy everything she saw and then we headed out through the back towards the marina. I had never been to this part of the resort before. With little time and the light starting to fade, we headed back inside and went for another ride on the monorail

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Do you think anyone would notice if it went missing? It's a good size for my front door.

We changed monorails at the Ticket and Transportation Center and rode the rail to Epcot and back. It's a nice ride and I always like seeing things from different perspectives. Having swapped monorails one more time, we rode it to the Polynesian and explored the main house. I was trying to give us enough time to arrive at Fort Wilderness for the sing-a-long campfire so we didn't stay too long at the Polynesian. Something happened with the monorail in the meantime so we got to take the bus back to the Grand Floridian to pick up our vehicle.

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Can you spot what's wrong in this photo from the Tambu Lounge?

It was dark out as we headed to Fort Wilderness. I was prepared to answer a ridiculous amount of questions from the security guard as it always happens to me at this particular resort. Well, I'm happy to report it was a short and pleasant exchange. In fact, it took longer to find parking. It took some time to arrive but the right bus came and took us to the stop for the campfire. I forgot how long the walk is. Over the river and thru the woods for real.

We had a good time clapping along with the singing cowboy and watching the kids make s'mores. Like good examples, we waited for Dale to come to us and then we sprang to our feet. The movie that night was Toy Story 3 and as much as we both enjoy the movie, we bailed after 15 minutes or so. It was cold out, we were hungry, and beat.

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Left to right: New Englander, forest dwelling Floridian, and Californian.

We managed to stop and shop before leaving. I found a cool surprise, my former classmate, Mike Faverman's book, Ultimate Camp Cooking. That reminds me, I still need to email the photo to Mike. Let me just put it on my to do list....okay, got it. The store was cute but I'm not outdoorsy so I just bought a postcard.

The plan was to head back to the hotel and have dinner in the food court but as I drove past Port Orleans I remembered Yehaa Bob was performing. Yoli said she awake enough to check out his show so I banged a u-ey (that's a u-turn for the non-Bostonians) and went back. Oh, I thought I had found us a great parking spot near the entrance but I was so far off it was catastrophically sad. Anyway, we found a tall table and 2 stools in the back, hunkered down and laughed our butts off and sang, and clapped, and hooted and hollered for hours. What a show! Why I had never seen Yehaa Bob before disturbs me. I'm blaming my fellow Disney nuts. Yeah, Juan, I'm talking to you, and Erin, Johnny, Susan, Terri (especially Terri), let's see who else, oh, Sheryl, Sharon, and the rest of the lot. Oy, I'm so disappointed but it's fine, I've moved on. Oh, and Karen!

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Perhaps he is Don Music's father.

Don't worry, we had dinner in the food court. Well, technically we took turns going to the food court, getting dinner, and bringing it back to the lounge and eating in between guffaws.

If you've lost track, we hit 8 resorts in 1 day plus the town of Celebration. Even though we stayed at All-Star Movies, it counts because we walked the resort and took photos. What a fun but long day. I think we passed out as soon as we made it back to the room.

Next up on Wednesday, the Magic Kingdom revisited.


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March 20, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Epcot, Again

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Where does the king keep his armies? In his sleevies. Badumbump.

Did you miss one of my 3 thousand trip report blogs? Do not fret, they are posted as such;

Disney's Animal Kingdom posted Feb. 13th

Magic Kingdom posted Feb. 20th

Disney's Hollywood Studios posted Feb. 23rd

Downtown Disney and More posted Feb. 27th

Epcot posted March 6th

Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando posted March 13th

Wow. Is this vacation over yet? No way, dude! After today's rehash there are still 3 more days of magical experiences to go. Yes, it was a long trip. A wicked awesome trip! No more dilly dallying, gotta get on movin'.

The sun was high above, where it belonged..and should remain. Geckos clung to resort walls until they saw their cousin from the Geico ads and high-tailed it behind vending machines. It was a lovely morning at All-Star Movies so we left and headed to Epcot. Having conquered the "left side" (Test Track, Mission: Space, Universe of Energy, and friends) we headed right to pursue The Seas with Nemo and Posessive Seagulls, Journey into I Remember Imagination Pre-Kodak, and The Land.

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Anytime Yoli forgot something she'd say, "A boat! I saw a boat." She also speaks whale.

Our first stop was to ride in a clam shell and not-so-much help but witness a frantic father and his memory-challenged friend seek out Fabio, err, Nemo. Fabio's not orange, he's more of a dirty blonde and he lives on land. I imagine it would be impossible to hang photos of himself on an underwater reef. Nemo was found so we went in search of dolphins, manatees and fish. What we located was a scuba diver. Crush can be found in California, of course, so we skipped Turtle Talk, dude.

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Under the sea. Under the sea. Darling, I have no idea what you're doing with a bucket of sand.

Hmm. I may have put some info regarding our second day at Epcot in my first day at Epcot report. You know how I said we went to The Land and nothing was working except for Soarin' and the line was too long? Yeah. That happened on the second day not the first. Yoli and I are equally at fault because I asked her and well...we saw a boat.

I directed us to Journey into Imagination and, hold onto your hats, there was a line. I'm not talking 3-4 people ahead of us, a real line with multiple families. I nearly fell down from shock. Once safely locked into the red space egg, we learned about trains, skunks, that humans taste like chicken, and most of the "newer" boxes of movie theatre-like candy is no longer for sale. We each designed a dragon on them there computer jobbies. Oh, and we made beautiful music together by frantically flapping our arms as cartoon Figments played instruments and disappeared and reappeared via puffs of smoke.

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Isn't she pretty? You wish you knew Shazam, Mariah Carey, but you dooooon't.

I love Coca-Cola merchandise and when I drank soda more often, it was Coke that I craved hence I introduced Yoli to Club Cool. It's good to try new things, spread your wings, and see what the rest of the world has to offer. Is this set up working? Alright, alright, let's just go to the video which starts with China followed by Israel and then...Italy!


Yes, that's me in the background encouraging Yoli to "try Italy." If you want to be a member of the club you gotta be cool.

Since we traced through World Showcase counter clockwise last time, we strolled clockwise this time around. I bet you didn't see that coming. We're edgy. Stopping first in Canada to take photos followed by my desire for another Off Kilter CD, we graced the gift shop with our presence. Stop biting your nails in suspense. I indeed got the CD, Celtic Armadillo. Now I own 2 of their albums.

While visiting the United Kingdom we shopped, met Tigger and Winnie the Pooh (Tigger signed my hat) and enjoyed a concert by British Revolution. As you may recall, I previously wrote that Yoli was willing to eat fish sticks. I took her to Yorkshire County Fish Shop for some fish & chips. They were yummy, less expensive than Raglan Road, and there were 2 decent size pieces of fish. I was about to ask a couple seated to the right of the fish shop if we could join them when the lady offered to let us sit with her and her husband. That was nice of them. After they left we extended an invitation to a dad and his adult son.

Super shy Yoli met Alice, Mary Poppins (My pal even asked Mary if I could have her parrot head umbrella. She said no.), and chatted up a PhotoPass photographer on the bridge to France. France is always enjoyable, I especially love the male scenery.

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They're even cute upside down.

After glaring at yakkety yakkers during Impressions de France we made our way around the gift shop. I had a lovely time talking with several Cast Members to whom I gave our coveted Newbie and the Geek Guest Star stickers. They immediately wore them.

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Meet Paul and Marion. She calls him Pauly, isn't that sweet. Another girl calls him Paulette. Tee hee hee.

In Japan I got my kaki gori, honeydew style. It was a cool day but it had been years since I had tasted one so I indulged. We met up with Cast Member Benki in Morocco who two days prior, had promised to give us a tour of the pavilion upon our return. What a nice guy, very professional. He answered our questions, educated us, and even let Yoli adjust his scarf. She said it's her OCD that makes her do such things but I think she just wanted to touch him like she touched my Aladdin many years ago.

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Our Moroccan tour guide. Such beautiful eyes. Yoli, keep your hands to yourself.

We managed a showing of American Adventure but had to enter via the exit. Some event was happening in the rotunda. The show is growing on me and let's not forget it's a good place to rest and kick off your shoes. The rest of the pavilions drew us in with promises of merchandise and cute foreign boys. Italy is nice. I had to ask a strapping German boy to open my water bottle. At least half of the case was difficult to open. I tried once again for the Werther's shop but the line was too long for me to bother.

Again we braved the cold seas with vikings then switched to a preferred temperature on a cruise with a duck, a rooster, and a parrot. We had dinner at Nine Dragons in China and both ordered the honey sesame chicken. It's light, sweet, and I like the veggie slaw but my favorite part of the meal was dessert. It's a cold, thick type of porridge or soup made from red beans topped with toasted coconut. It's delicious, try it next time.

Illuminations could be partially seen from our table and the music was piped into the restaurant which was pretty cool. We wanted to beat the crowd out but decided to take our time since Extra Magic Hours was in full force. The next day's plans would allow us to sleep late.

Come back on Saturday to find out just how many resorts we visited in a single day.


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March 13, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


If you've missed any of my previous trip report entries, shame on you! I'd put you in timeout but you've clearly suffered enough by not keeping up with the group. Go ahead and start reading, the links are readily available.

Disney's Animal Kingdom posted Feb. 13th

Magic Kingdom posted Feb. 20th

Disney's Hollywood Studios posted Feb. 23rd

Downtown Disney and More posted Feb. 27th

Epcot posted March 6th

Let it be known that this day would not have been possible without the generosity of my former classmate and former neighbor, James. He hooked us up with Park-to-Park tickets. The next time you're here visiting (I'm talking to James), I will sing and dance for you at the end of the driveway just like the good old days.

We set course for adventure outside of Walt Disney World, specifically Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando. The 20 or so minute drive took us down I-4 and I pointed out a few things along the way, like the outlet mall, Sea World, and that I don't like driving on I-4. I don't know if these folks are locals or tourists or both but they don't all seem to know where they're going.

Upon arrival at the toll plaza, I wondered if my AAA Diamond Parking Pass would work. I knew it wouldn't but a girl can have teeny tiny dreams. After parking, the epic adventure from the parking garage to the park entrance began with the escalator followed by walking then moving sidewalks then walking then a steep escalator then lots of walking thru...City Walk, over a bridge, a little more walking and finally, the main entrance. It is not a feet-friendly layout but we made it.

Since both parks were closing at 7 o'clock, we decided to carefully select which rides and shows to see in each park and aim just for those. The main objective was of course, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter thus we began at Islands of Adventure. Pretty pastels and bold colors in Seuss Landing caught Yoli's attention and as she began to wander, I had to remind her that Harry was waiting and the Cat in the Hat would wait...by the gate...in a crate...with a plate.

The gigantic mythical creature at the entrance to The Lost Continent nearly made my friend jump up and down with glee. She thought we were entering The Wizarding World, the poor dear. Trudging on and pointing out what's what that we weren't going to do, we soon found ourselves in England. Like a stereotypical tourist, Yoli took photos of everything in sight, squealing with each shutter button compression. After running around snapping photos, I roped her into the line for Ollivanders wand shop, a quick show with very limited space. That was the longest line we encountered all day and it was much shorter than the wait times I saw in December 2011.

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Up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Hogwarts Castle. Everyone must be in class.

Shopping was of course next on the list since we landed in a store. I bought some stationary for myself featuring a phoenix. Yoli got a new broom. No she didn't, her old one flies just fine.
She did manage to buy a few other items though, like pins and postcards. We had the postcards stamped with the Hogsmeade owl post stamp. This is a freebie found just outside of Dervish & Banges. I kept telling Yoli to ride Dueling Dragons but she decided to forego any ride (such as roller coasters) that she can do at home to make the most of our limited time.

We did ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, of course. My equilibrium wasn't 100% thrilled with my decision but I just telling myself I was having fun and to concentrate on the overall experience. I came off the ride a wee bit off balance and nauseated but as I would learn 2 months later, the sickly feeling in my throat came from Expedition Everest which moved a neck bone out of place. I love my chiropractor. Yoli was alright and loved the attraction from start to finish.

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Pumpkin people are coming tonight. They're gonna give you a terrible fright. Something, something, on Halloween night.

While visiting Harry Potter, we had lunch at Three Broomsticks (including Butter Beer), visited every gift shop, watched the Triwizard Spirit Rally, caught part of the Frog Choir, chatted up employees, and listened to Moaning Myrtle. I think hearing Myrtle in the restroom is hilarious and well-executed themeing. Yoli finds her annoying. However, she loved this section of the park so much that she said if we didn't do anything else all day, she wouldn't care. She was very happy. Awww. Well, we did do lots more so she became even happier.

We skipped The Lost Continent and went back to Seuss Landing. Here we had time to shop, of course, you always have to shop, ride the Caro-Seuss-El and insanely spin on The Cat in the Hat ride. Characters were out and about so we took photos of and with several. I like the Grinch. I don't think Yoli has a favorite. She was ready to leave the park but I know she has a weakness for Spiderman and couldn't let her leave without experiencing The Adventures of Spiderman, a 3D journey thru New York and escape from bad guys. I think Spidey's in New York. My comic book knowledge is minimal at best. She met Spiderman and posed with him. Oh Peter Parker, if you only recalled what she did to you at Universal Studios years ago, you would have either run away or asked for her phone number. Don't ask me. This site is rated G.

Time to move onto the next theme park. Luckily, Universal Orlando is right next door. We skipped anything that Universal Studios in California has and again carefully selected what to see and do. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is brand new so we became minions for a short while. It's in the same building that housed Jimmy Neutron and The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera (I love Hanna-Barbera more than Disney. I want them to have a theme park. pouty face). It is also a simulator ride and I found it funny that I could totally tell we were in the same room only the vehicles had changed and the screen got bigger.

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It sure isn't your temple's minyan.

The day consisted of Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue, Men in Black, E.T., Lucy - A Tribute, a glimpse of the parade, and my favorite store, Kwik-E-Mart. They carry the best gummy fruit snacks I've ever had. Hey, has anyone managed to keep their Interpanetary Passport from E.T.? You know, the card they swipe that has your first name attached. I want one.

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Wolfman rocks Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue. He's like a furry Jon Bon Jovi.

We actually wrapped up before 7 PM, calling it a successful day. I wanted to show Yoli a portion of International Drive just because we were right there and she might see something of interest. What caught her eye was Sweet Tomatoes, which I had coupons for back in the hotel room. Since we were hungry and still trying to check out I-drive, we decided to eat at Sweet Tomatoes near Walt Disney World without a coupon. That's right, we are rebels. Not wealthy rebels but a few bucks wouldn't break the bank. Sweet Tomatoes is the same as Soup Plantation on the West Coast which made a happy Yoli even happier.


Bonus material from Newbie and the Geek are only available on my Facebook page. I'm also on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

March 6, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Epcot

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Happy Birthday to me. OK, now that I got that out of the way, if you've missed any of my previous trip report blog entries, the links are posted for your clicking convenience.

Disney's Animal Kingdom posted Feb. 13th

Magic Kingdom posted Feb. 20th

Disney's Hollywood Studios posted Feb. 23rd

Downtown Disney and More posted Feb. 27th

Epcot takes time to explore, more than a day or two. This was our first day at Epcot, well, Yoli's first day, I've been there like a bazillion times, give or take a day. We were already tired from 4 days of running around so I tried to steer towards entertainment that would get us off our feet for longer periods of time at least to start.

As there wasn't any wait at all for Spaceship Earth, I lead Yoli to her first Epcot attraction. What a nice, slow, long ride to rest weary time travelers. As we passed scholars transcribing stories, we laughed at the guy sleeping with a pen in his hand. He's so Yoli. She can fall asleep anywhere. Isn't that right? YOLI! Ay. Another highlight from Spaceship Earth was the birth of my new catchphrase, Hooked on Phoenicians works for me!©®™

I think we got FastPasses for Test Track next. Let's pretend that's what happened. Why am I even telling you I'm unsure, it's not like anyone can correct me if I'm mistaken. Seriously, people! As if!

We then obtained FastPasses for Test Track and waited out the time by learning all about energy and TV show production with Bill Nye, Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Lee Curtis, Albert Einstein (he must know Doc Brown), Ellen Cleghorne (where is she nowadays?), Michael Richards, random dinosaurs, a voice over guy, and Alex Trebek, who my mom thinks is sooooo handsome.

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Do you think we're being too literal?

The new Test Track changed more in the queue than it did in the actual ride. You'll stay busy waiting to go for a spin and the set looks different enough but if you're a fan of Tron you'll probably like the neon and black lights.

Yoli attempted Mission: Space, the easy version. I took photos, outside. We both had a good time. Heading to the "other side" of Future World, we checked out Innoventions where I lost Yoli. How? She sat down in the IBM theater. Who does that? It was onto the Character Spot next to fulfill autograph books and to force Yoli into posing for photos. Did I hear that? I just laughed so hard at my own joke that I broke the sound barrier.

Landing in The Land, my objective was to watch the Circle of Life movie but it wasn't operating. Escalator down to Living with the Land lead us to another dead end. Oy. Soarin'? I was not going to wait whatever ridiculous amount of time was posted for the standby queue. We left The Land. We left Future World. We entered Mexico.

Today's present for both of us was the World Showcase Passport kit complete with stickers and a big pin featuring flags of all nations (but mostly America) and Mickey Mouse. For years I wanted one and put it off not wanting to be a dork on my own. You can finish my thought. Inside the pavilion we shopped, sailed with my friends, The Three Caballeros, sought out boys with the right names, and took photos.

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Yoli used her smartphone to take this photo. The quality stinks. I just want to point out that I finally broke down and bought myself one of the parrots on a perch you see in the background. Thanks.

Outside, Mariachi Cobre was performing by the lagoon. I sent Yoli over to see them while I waited to meet Donald Duck in his sombrero.

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Donald was the second character to sign my hat which I then placed on his hat. Yeah, I'm a wild child!

Off to Norway for some school bread. I love their school bread. I wish I had some now. That's make a nice addition to my birthday meals. I can taste it now. As I was saying, we sailed with the vikings of Norway, I tried to lock Yoli in the Stave Church, and she tried the perfume-y hand cream, Laila

China? You bet! Saw the movie, shopped, met Mulan, watched the performers, and bought panda socks for myself. I helped combat foot pain by putting on a second layer of socks everyday, half-way thru the day.

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Mulan looks graceful. Yoli appears to be ready to punch herself in the jaw.

Mulan: Hello soldier.
Me: (looking aroind, wondering who she's talking to)
Mulan: Where are you visiting from?
Me: Massachusetts.
Mulan: Oh, I hear Massachusetts has the toughest soldiers.
Me: No, you're thinking of New York.
Mulan: Not Massachusetts?
Me: No, we're the ones with all the colleges.

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Ma! Ma! Ma! Look at me! Ma! Mommy! Mother! Madre! Look!

A quick trip thru Africa (it's what, about 30 steps from edge to edge?) and we wound up in Germany just in time for Yoli to see her favorite princess, Smurfette. (snicker, snicker) Oh, there's Snow White. Great. Where's what's-his-princely-face? He only shows up for parades and musical numbers. Odd.

In Italy we waited around to see Sergio, the juggling mime. We waited and we waited. Yoli wandered off taking photos and when Sergio arrived I was totally bummed out that he wasn't wearing a name tag. We needed a Sergio for our ex-Menudo Cast Member game.

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For all I knew, his name could have been Waldo. Hey! I found...a mime.

Did you know a variety of characters now descend upon American Adventure? Well, in between America and Italy. Itaca? I saw Max, Brer Bear, Mickey Mouse, Pluto, White Rabbit, Yo Mama*, and lots more. *I'm slap happy. It's 10:28 PM. My friend Jenn will confirm that I get slap happy at this time of night. Poor Jenn.

In Morocco we also took photos, shopped, had our passports stamped, and I inquired about a tour of the pavilion. Years ago they had a sign-up desk for the daily tour(s) but it has since closed. The Cast Member offered to give us a tour when we returned in 2 days. Cool.

Yoli let me have dinner in Japan at Yakitori House. She's not a fan of Japanese food but was pleasantly surprised with her teriyaki chicken, light on the teriyaki. I had the same meal plus the salad with ginger dressing. I love the ginger salad dressing. If only I had some for my birthday. Sigh.

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Noriko came over to our table. I think she was checking to see if Yoli liked her food. Noriko was pretty funny to talk to, we all yakked on and on forever. We saw her outside later, at an info/reservation booth for Tepan Edo.

That night we visited France (so many kissable boys, so too young for me), the United Kingdom, and Canada. I also got to see Off Kilter perform their last show of the night. They were great but I missed Jamie and Tony. Tony could have gotten us bonus points because I happen to know that he played keyboard for Menudo.

Being the good friend that I am, we staked out a spot to watch Illuminations. I don't think either of us loves fireworks but if she didn't see the show, went home, and everyone said, How could you not watch Illuminations? I'd feel like a schmo. Then we slowly and painfully walked back to the car.


Newbie and the Geek bonus videos/photos/info can only be found on my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 27, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Downtown Disney and More

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Our fourth day of vacationing was the most relaxed which might be an odd statement once you read all that we did. The morning began as usual with eating breakfast in our room at All-Star Movies. We'd each bought cereal, milk, and fruit and had the same thing almost every day. I also had some Chobani Greek yogurt once in a while, ya know, to keep my mornings cutting edge.

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My place setting: Lion King placemat and Toy Story aliens flatware. Yoli's place setting: Disney Princesses placemat, Cars flatware. Matching Mickey Mouse cups were a gift from my friend Agatha.

Two of my Floridian friends very kindly brought Yoli and I on a shopping expedition at Company D and Cast Connection. These stores are exclusive to Cast Members and the occasional guest. Combined, we spent a total of $327.63. Dude! I can't believe it either and I was there! I'm looking at the receipts right now. Here's the breakdown: 15 pins, 2 canvas bags, 1 pair of sunglasses, 1 sunglasses case, 4 cookies & candy, 1 assortment of ice cream sprinkles, 7 T-shirts, 1 toy, 1 Cast Member costume shirt, 1 Mickey head display box, 2 Vinylmation vehicles, 4 Vinylmation keychains, 1 D23 magazine, 2 CM decals, 3 luggage tags, 3 pens, 3 keychains, 2 notepads, and a bib.

If you know someone who can get you into these stores, go! Company D sells items that you can't find anywhere else because they're exclusive to Disney employees. Everything is going to a good home, mine, until birthdays roll around. Cast Connection carries a lot of what's available in Character Warehouse shops at the outlet malls but wait, there's more. Furniture, fixtures, displays, electronics, housewares, bedding, and other items that are no longer need for theme parks, resorts, and wherever else on Disney property are sold here. I saw a bunch of stand alone video games for sale. Sonic the Hedgehog was marked $99.00.

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My bed. My assortment of purchases throughout the trip.


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Yoli's bed. She bought everything and then some. Her suitcase weighed over 50 lbs. Her backpack ripped open at the top and her carry-on was puffed out like a Q-Tip. No? Puffed out like Puff Daddy. Still not there? Puffed out like the Stay Puft Marshallow Man. Yeaaah.

Next up was Downtown Disney. I went up to the Disney VISA kiosk only to find out they only sign up new cardholders there. To retrieve a rewards card, you have to visit Guest Services. Why? That doesn't make any sense. I write monthly checks to Chase Card Services not to The Walt Disney Company. Guess who's getting a very unhappy letter from me?!

I had bought a Groupon deal, $20.00 for two people to soar on Characters in Flight. One small problem, it was too windy and the balloon was grounded. (Grumble, grumble.) So we did what any young ladies would do, we went shopping in West Side. Yoli's friends met up with us and we walked through what used to be Pleasure Island. Don't get me started.

Lunch was at Raglan Road. On Tuesday afternoons, they don't have entertainment just so you know. A manager took good care of me and my dietary restrictions. Yoli and I both had the fish and chips. I love Raglan Road so I'm sad to say this meal was not up to their standards. We each had one medium size piece of fish and a bunch of chips (thick french fries) that cost $17. Yeesh! I'm a wee bit foggy on what Yoli's friends had but I think one had the lobster wrap and the other ate a burger. My main objective was to inhale Ger's bread and butter pudding. I ate about half and even shared a little with anyone who wanted to try it.

After a little walking, Yoli's friends decided to head home. We then began shopping our way through Downtown Disney. Thank goodness for cell phones, I kept losing my friend in World of Disney. At some point I plopped down on a slab of concrete outside Disney's Pin Traders. Yoli ran around window shopping. Upon her return, we braved additional walking for Goofy's Candy Company where, as I discovered, you can sample Goofy's Glaciers. These frozen drinks come in a variety of flavors. Pucker Purple tastes like grape gum. Blech. Gawrshly Berry Blue is blue raspberry. Yum.

I finally got my Disney VISA rewards card then called Chase to transfer my points. We popped into Ghirardelli for free samples then Arriba Bros in search of the cactus glass I should have bought years ago because they don't make it anymore. On the way out I whined about closing the Adventurers Club and Comedy Warehouse.

Among places to visit off-property was the town of Celebration. We still had some light so I drove us around and around, and around, looking at houses and the center of town. We selected which homes we'd buy in each neighborhood, something that came easily as I kept finding dead ends. Hey, I could see Route 192 up ahead, I simply couldn't find it.

A quick stop at the drug store was imperative as poor buddy learned the hard way that she's allergic to neoprene, the material from which nearly every camera strap is made. I believe she also replenished her Oreos and milk stock. See, I told you she likes cookies and milk, the party animal.

We summed up the day off from the parks while having dinner at our resort food court. We both had the chicken penne alfredo, hold the alfredo on mine. I think that was the night I got key lime pie from the fridge. Not so good.

Believe or not, we set out for Disney's Boardwalk. Where did we get the energy? I parked at Boardwalk Inn after driving up and down, over and under the parking lot multiple times until I caved and just parked. I never seem to get a spot near the sidewalk. Anyhoo, we walked thru the hotel, out to the back, and down the stairs. I pointed out shops and restaurants to Yoli as we walked but before we got too far, we stopped to watch a magician. He was excellent and hilarious. We laughed and laughed until his show ended. The next few hours were spent at Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar. I've only been once before and they had a decent crowd but tonight, they were packed. IBM employees took up most of the tables, stools, and air. They were in town for the company's new exhibit at Epcot's Innoventions.

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Cheers! Seinfeld! Wings! Night Court!

Neither Yoli or I drink so I had a Shirley Temple and Yoli didn't have anything. It was fun, I just wish people were quieter so I could hear the performers better. Sometimes it took me a while to figure out what they were singing. My favorite was the theme to Charles in Charge. Yoli rocked out to AC/DC.

We hobbled back to the SUV, I drove to the resort, and we hobbled some more to the room. Every night I helped my feet relax with my tried and true C.O. Bigelow Mentha Tingling Foot Cream. Nighty night.


Newbie and the Geek bonus videos/photos/recaps are only available on my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 23, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Disney's Hollywood Studios

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



Last Wednesday I recapped our day at Magic Kingdom.

The week before that was Animal Kingdom

Disney's Hollywood Studios marked our third consecutive day in a theme park. I'm certainly accustomed to back-to-back-to-back (to-back, etc..) adventures that last from morning until night but Yoli isn't. When I advised her on preparing for the trip, I suggested she hit the Disneyland Resort from open to close for a glimpse into what our days would be like. Now she knows what I meant. (insert evil laugh here)

I finally figured out how to take advantage of AAA Diamond Parking that day. The trick is to follow the painted blue line starting after the parking lot toll booths and continue until you are directed to parking up front. Yay! (Make sure you have your AAA Diamond pass ready to show.) We were so close that we walked to the entrance.

The plan was already set for Yoli to ride Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Rollercoaster on her own, upon arrival. I carried her bag around as I set off in search of more photo blog ideas. We met up after her first ride with Aerosmith. She loved the coaster but thought the ride itself was over too soon. Tower of Terror proved to surprise her with enough differences from California Adventure's version that she became nervous since she no longer knew what to expect. Meanwhile, I had a lovely time in the gift shop and purchased a hotel room key-style key chain for the guest room in the house I don't yet own.

Yoli grabbed an ice cream treat and we piled into the theater to see Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage. It was nice to sit down in the shade, the morning had started off a tad bit hot. Somehow I don't get to see this show very often, I'll have to change that habit. My one request is for Beast aka Adam to be played by Robby Benson. Yes, I am one of those girls who adores him. He's so dreamy.

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Martin Mull and other famous actors' hand and shoe prints can be found inside the theatre just before the top row of seats.


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Gaston as the new Bachelor. Coming this fall on UWISH.

Over at the Animation Courtyard, we checked out more gift shops and fulfilled our thirst for meeting more characters. Yoli wanted to see Sorcerer Mickey while Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph were on my list. The lines weren't too bad for any of them. I think we spent about an hour The Magic of Animation building.

We slowly hurried (you read that correctly) across the park towards Lights!, Motors!, Action! Stunt Show. By the time we got there, the show had already started and we were in the midst of a huge crowd being moved like cattle up who knows how many flights of stairs. Pass! Yoli and I exited stage right and had fun running amok on Streets of America and wishing The Muppets would come to life at the Stage 1 Company Store.

After playing, I steered us to Toy Story Pizza Planet, remember, my friend loves Toy Story...and pizza. Yoli had a kids mini chicken sub and a kids pizza. I brought food with me, it was either turkey or tuna, I forget which. It was nice to sit and get off of our tired feet for a while. Sitting was great later too when I grabbed a carrot cake cookie from The Writer's Stop.

Yoli's a Star Wars fan so I wanted her to see the exterior of Star Tours. It does make Disneyland's entrance, 2 sliding glass doors, look even more bland that it already is. Sorry Disneyland but it's true. I still love you! Well, once again my awesome skills at stumbling into parades came through and we caught Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade. Yet again, our view was meh because 1.) We're short, 2.) We showed up late, and 3.) My Gadget shoes are busted.

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This is Remy, he's a naked rat. Mickey is a mouse with thousands of outfits, fancy genetics, a girlfriend, and a pet dog. Remy got jipped.

I hadn't seen any Citizens of Hollywood yet and my day would have sucked without them so we headed back to Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Finally, at 3:30, three cars came out, each with a different cast. Over on Sunset Blvd a group of Citizens introduced themselves and then the focus turned to me. I got scared when one of the actors pointed and said something to the effect of, "That girl leaning against the post has a camera". Thankfully that was the end of my 15 seconds of fame. The skit was 99 Cameras Walk into a Bar.

When my memory card filled up I ran to the camera shop. I lied. I walked to the camera shop, bought another SDHC card, initialized it, and grabbed photos of Jack Diamond performing card tricks and the Hollywood Public Works Dept. It's possible that the latter has worked in my hometown. The same spot keeps sinking in front of my house. Anyway...we went back to The Magic of Animation so Yoli could meet Mr. Incredible and Frozone. Outside we met Handy Manny (he needs a new marketing director, there isn't a single thing to buy featuring the fella) and Jake (who has tons of merchandise).

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Meet your neighbors, Holden Hollywood, Shelby Mayer, Dara Vamp, and Ben Appetit.

Thankfully we did manage to catch Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. My favorite part was watching to see if Yoli realized the guy in the Hawaiin shirt was one of the actors/stuntmen. You'll have to ask her if she knew. They did have to restart part of the show when the skull doors didn't open properly. That was a first for me.

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He would have won Hawaiian Shirt Day at my office. He also would have won Stand in Place Day.

Tonight's dinner took place at 50's Prime Time Cafe where I had the best server, Cousin Craig and chef, Frank, ever at that particular location. My previous experiences were all rather stinky. I had an adult size version of the kids grilled fish of the day meal and a vanilla Coke. Yoli had the sampling of Mom's favorites and a cherry Coke. We both had apple cobbler a la mode. Chef Frank was so nice that on his own accord, he split the 1 dessert we ordered to share into 2 bowls so I wouldn't have to take off the granola. I love you, man. He even knew one of my other favorite chefs, Jeff from Spoodles and Cape May Cafe and called him to let him know I said hi.

The rest of the night consisted of The Great Movie Ride, One Man's Dream, Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Toy Story Midway Mania. Yoli made it beyond park closing at 10 o'clock. Hooray! For the record, I trounced her in Toy Story Midway Mania until the very last game where she destroyed me. Ugh!

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I have auburn hair. Do you think if I jumped up on stage and kissed Prince Eric he'd realize I'm not Ariel?

Next Wednesday I'll tell you all about our shopping adventures, a minor letdown, Jellyrolls, and Celebration.

Bonus photos/videos/info from Newbie and the Geek are only available on my Facebook page.

February 20, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Magic Kingdom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Last Wednesday I wrote about our experience at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Magic Kingdom was going to be the one that would strike comparisons against Disneyland. It happens to me on every visit so I knew it would undoubtedly do the same to Yoli. While other people trump one park over the other, Yoli said it best repeatedly, "It's different but the same," a statement that might sound inexplicable to those who haven't been to both Magic Kingdoms.

Today's surprises were matching long sleeve black Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World T-shirts and matching white baseball hats with the logo, as well.

I gave Yoli the rundown on transportation options; Disney bus that drops us off near the park's entrance, we drive, park, take the tram to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then hop on either the ferry or the monorail. She chose the ferry, a wise decision that enabled her to take advantage of what Walt Disney World has to offer.

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Yoli comes complete with her own Minnie ears headband. Comprela ya!

She was off and running, taking photos, exploring the ferry, and when she held still, I pointed out the nearby resorts. Back on land, I tutored Yoli on how Guests differ from coast to coast. Disneyland has more locals while Walt Disney World has more tourists and that one fact makes for how the parks are visited. The first exhibit of this behavior was at bag check. Californians know to form two separate lines on either side of a table unless told otherwise. Florida tourists tend to form one very long line. I found a short line beside a long line and asked the lady standing in the middle which one she was in. She said there's only one line. I pointed out that security wants lines on either side of the tables and gave her the option of going ahead. She felt that would be cutting the line. It wasn't, as I explained there were two lines. She stayed put, Yoli and I got in the short line and so did others who heard me.

Inside the gates, Yoli posed for the PhotoPass photog in front of the floral Mickey head. I was handed camera after camera by other tourists wanting to have their photo taken as well. Too bad I didn't count how many times this occurred during our stay, I'm just curious.

We spent a lot of time in Town Square partly due my need, not desire, need, to see and photograph all of the Long Lost Friends. January 27th was the last day of appearances so we had our photo taken with The Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf. I suggested that the 4 of them star in a new show on HGTV. Follow me here, each pig builds a house for potential new homeowners in a competition. The Big Bad Wolf serves as both the host and home inspector. Whosoever home sells, is the winner. Brilliant, right?! Self-high-five.

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Ludwig Von Drake and Scrooge McDuck would make for an interesting team on The Amazing Race.

Yoli went shopping and I waited until the characters came back around and grabbed some quick snapshots. The plan was to photograph them going backstage but I was told the wrong location. Oh well. It wasn't as if Yoli couldn't find something to do. In fact, I called her when I was done and she told me which shop she was in. I got completely turned around because 1.) I mentally switched store locations over to Disneyland and 2.) Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party came along. I couldn't find Yoli so I shot the parade. She couldn't find me so she shot the parade. We discovered we were only about 20 feet away from each other during the parade.

Just before turning right towards Tomorrowland, Yoli stopped for the required Cinderella Castle shot by Ruben, a PhotoPass Cast Member. He was super friendly and when I read his name tag, a light bulb popped up over my head. Yes, it was glowing. Ruben is the name of one of the 32 ex-Menudo members. We should find as many Cast Members with the same names as the guys from the group thus creating a spectacular new game for Menudo fans who visit Walt Disney World. Of course Yoli was 100% on board and we spent the rest of the trip examining name tags and taking photos.

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It would have been hilarious if we saw one of the guys who was actually in the group. Believe me, I was on the lookout.

Ticking off nearly every attraction in Tomorrowland, we did in no particular order, Monsters Inc. Laugh Factory, Stitch's Great Escape (I'm a really good friend), Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (I can't believe I won), Carousel of Progress (Yoli misses it greatly, so much so that she's forgotten the lyrics and created her own), People Mover (aka TTA), and Space Mountain, which Yoli took on by herself. I went off and grabbed photos for future blogs. As soon as Yoli found me after exploring space, Stitch showed up. We each posed for photos Elvis style and I had him sign my hat. Let me point out that the Elvis pose was my idea and a certain Newbie copied me. Just sayin'.

Lunch was on our minds so I brought Yoli to Cosmic Ray's and delivered the news that each bay had different choices. That came as a surprise to her. So many choices! While she read every menu board, I found a manager and read thru the almighty book of ingredients. I went with something new, a kid's turkey sandwich sized for an adult. It's nice when you find someone who thinks outside the box. Yoli got a chicken nuggets meal that she couldn't finish. Unfortunately, I discovered later that their deli meat was a one-time trial for me. We ate and watched Sonny Eclipse and then I forced Yoli to pose by the stage. Oh, she's so shy. Not.

As we headed towards the hub, the 3 o'clock parade came at us. Finding a decent place to stand was tough but then again we just happened upon the parade because a certain tour guide forgot all about it. Whaaat? We enjoyed what we saw, waited for it to pass by and were held behind a rope for a few minutes while the floats cleared Liberty Square.

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Blowing kisses in the wind.

Yoli works for a presidential library, making Hall of Presidents a top priority. She enjoyed it very much and the matching gift shop. Before it started getting dark we sailed on the Liberty Belle where Yoli saw that Tom Sawyer easily occupied more land in Florida than in California. Uh oh.

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"Woo woo." Billy "Dennis" Hill

Additionally we visited the Haunted Mansion where I got to point out one of the very few Hidden Mickeys I know and where Mr. Toad is remembered. Direction reversed, we walked out of Liberty Square and into The Hub where Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party was once again in action. This time they stopped for the party portion and we took more photos from different angles.

Dinner was filling at The Plaza Restaurant. I had a substantial cheeseburger and my friend had the meatloaf meal. Stuffed and rested, there was more to see and do. Off to Fantasyland via the path left of Cinderella Castle, we braved the dark and flew with Peter Pan, watched Donald Duck chase down Mickey's sorcerer hat and sailed among singing children and animals. She was mesmerized by it's a small world's facade because not only is it indoors but looked almost like a bad knock-off of Disneyland's attraction.

Yoli asked me, "Where's Snow White's Scary Adventure?" They tore it out, I said, to make way for a princess meet and greet. "Where's Pinocchio's Daring Adventure?" He doesn't have an attraction here, I sadly stated.

My Disneyitis had been itching all day to see the New Fantasyland or really, the Fantasyland expansion. As I approached Yoli sitting on the new wall-length bench guarding Beast's castle, she announced, "I'm done!" The poor thing was beat and couldn't function any longer. I called her kaput at 9:47 PM.

The next installment will post this Saturday, February 23rd. See you then!

Do you want to see bonus photos, videos, and recaps from Newbie and the Geek? "Like" my Facebook page.

February 13, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Disney's Animal Kingdom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


We did it! After many, many years of prodding my friend Yoli to join me at Walt Disney World, we have finally taken our vacation and what an epic vacation it was. We spent the first night by the airport at a Travelodge Inn (not recommended) and the following 10 nights at All-Star Movies (highly recommended). During our very long stay we visited Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure, Downtown Disney, Disney's Boardwalk, the town of Celebration, International Drive, 8 Disney resorts, Company D, Cast Connection, and other locals. Needless to say, Yoli was fully immersed into Walt Disney World. :curtsy:

Keep an eye out for my other upcoming blogs with lots of photos and recaps.

My first hiccup came when picking up my car at Orlando International Airport. The line at Dollar was long and it was about 12:15 AM. To make matters worse, it appeared that those renting didn't have reservations and were taking a long time to select a vehiclet. My own experience crept along when I asked the girl if they were offering complimentary upgrades. She could have said, Sorry, not at this time" and that would have been the end of it. Alas, she kept trying to upsell me and barter even though I kept saying I'd just take the compact I reserved. She went from $10/day extra for a midsize car to $5/day down to $3/day. I thought I had landed in Orlando not Tijuana. Finally, she did my paperwork and I went to get the car.

Half asleep, I took the elevator up when in fact Dollar is on the ground level of the parking garage. Back down I went, schlepping my brand new purple suitcase and magenta carry-on bag. As I made my way to the proper aisle, an employee approached and asked if I needed help. By now it was about 1 AM. I said, "I need to pick out a compact...unless you'd like to offer me a free upgrade." Note to self, never ask the reservation agent, always ask the parking lot attendant for upgrades because he gave me an SUV. Score! No hassle, no Let's Make a Deal scenario, he just signed my contract. Thanks!

Finding the hotel was a piece of cake although the sign wasn't illuminated and I nearly missed the driveway. Finding the room was another story. The front desk clerk had no idea where the elevator or my room were. Awesome service. That's sarcasm in case I lost anyone. Well, I found the elevator and Yoli guided me to our room. It was mostly clean but I'd never stay there again. It was a blind special offer from Priceline of $39.00. You get what you pay for...unless you can get a free upgrade.

2 AM came around quickly and we put ourselves to bed knowing we had to get up at 7 AM. When that alarm went off, we were pooped but excited for what the day had in store for us. After getting ready, I grabbed a waffle from downstairs. Once Yoli was all set we drove straight to All-Star Movies. It was so early that I figured the room would not be ready but at least I could get the parking pass and room keys.

Melissa was so nice and helpful that when I nearly begged for a room in the Toy Story-themed buildings, she called her "connection" who handles room assignments. A little buttering up on my part to her buddy, "He sounds good-looking from here" and "My friend loves Toy Story and this is her very first visit to Disney World" must have helped or at least made him laugh because I got my wish. He put us in building 9, first floor, facing trees, just steps away from the humungous Buzz Lightyear statue. It was perfect and the room was ready. The luggage was dropped off, snacks were packed, and were on our way to Disney's Animal Kingdom after one more item. Each day I gave Yoli a little present, that day she got a Mickey Mouse water bottle because trekking thru a dinosaur-infused land makes you thirsty.

I had to take care of something at Guest Services at Animal Kingdom so I told Yoli to go into the park and check out the stuff up front. That's the first time I lost her. I found her up by the ducks. We began making our way through Oasis and when I put my camera down after photographing parrots, I'd lost her again. Dude! This was going to be a long trip. Just as I was about to call her, she showed up on the other side of the cave walking towards Africa.

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Yoli gets ready to enter Africa by pressing on the proper drawings in the right series. Shhh. I know, I know but she thinks it's real.

Okay, with Yoli in tow, we journeyed into Africa, looked in a few shops, watched Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe, visited the Single Rider attraction (restrooms became known as single rider), and grabbed FastPasses for Kilimanjaro Safari.

Strolling along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is Yoli's favorite memory of Animal Kingdom because she apparently loves gorillas.

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Gee, I wonder where the gorilla is hiding.

From there we took a safari ride where just like in the TV specials, a giraffe walked up to our jeep and headed straight for Yoli. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or worry it might try to bite her. I went with utter surprise and missed photographing this magical moment. You win some, you lose some.

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Kitties!! We were bouncing along when I snagged this shot of the lion and lioness. Meow.

From Africa we crossed into Asia where DiVine was enthralling guests. Then we watched Flights of Wonder as I absolutely love birds, especially parrots including those that ride bikes on high wires. (angry face aimed at Disney for always making a jab at Jungle Island formerly Parrot Jungle in Miami) Next we obtained FastPasses for Expedition Everest and went on the 3 o'clock hunt for Nemo in musical form, watched the Jammin' Jungle Parade, and then had a late lunch at Flame Tree BBQ.

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Dale! Dale! I'm over here! Dale! Dale! Dale! Ma! Ma! Mommy! Ma!

:sigh: I have food allergies and dietary restrictions so I had brought a can of tuna with me and snacks but I figured I'd see what Flame Tree BBQ might be able to concoct for me. After looking thru the almighty book of ingredients, the manager and I agreed upon the salad minus chicken and replacing a few ingredients along with a small order of fries. To say I was surprised and annoyed with the next moment is an understatement. The manager said I still had to pay regular price even without the chicken. I mentioned you can order a hamburger meal without fries and the price drops so why couldn't someone order a salad without chicken and have a few dollars removed? He said they can't change prices. My bowl of lettuce, carrots, and red grapes cost me $9.00. He threw in the fries for free but still...$9.00 for rabbit food? Ech.

We went back to use our Expedition Everest FastPasses and as we walked thru the queue I kept thinking, what am I doing? I've never ridden it before but after having watched videos on YouTube I thought it looked like Matterhorn meets Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. WRONG! Very, very, very wrong. Going backwards threw me over the edge and from that point on I had to close my eyes. Few attempts at opening them only made me feel worse. If you saw someone gripping a wall in the gift shop under heats lamps, it was me trying to regain composure. As I relaxed I realized I had grind my teeth and my jaw hurt. The lights as it turned out, only made me sweat more. It wasn't fun and when I finally let go, we walked very slowly to our next destination.

The park was open until 8 PM that night so we walked thru Dinoland while it was still daylight and then into Camp Minnie Mickey for the last showing of Festival of the Lion King. I was so loopy from Expedition Everest that I couldn't find the show entrance. On the third attempt, I located the proper doors. Yeah, turns out going into the ladies room or exit don't work. As always, the performers did an amazing job.

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The stilt walker and giraffe had a conversation. I know you all think I'm kidding but I'm not.

Feeling better, we got in line to meet Minnie Mouse then King Louie and Baloo. Yoli was excited to see all of them and I had fun singing "I Wan'na Be Like You" to King Louie and dancing with Baloo. Back to my old self, I was ready for the jolting ride on Dinosaur. I did just fine and Yoli and I kept making references to the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland because the vehicles are the same and instead of a giant boulder coming at you, it's a dinosaur right before plunging down.

Perhaps we lingered too long in the gift shop because when Yoli tried to get on Primeval Whirl it was 8:01 and they were officially closed. She took the news well. It had been a long day and we did see and do quite a bit.

Loaded back into the SUV, I tried to locate a Target near the park for groceries. I had read that one was close by but my GPS took us aaaall the way down 192 past the 535. They had everything we wanted and more. I grabbed some California sushi rolls for dinner and lost Yoli for a good 20-30 minutes in the store. Too bad they didn't carry adult leashes.

Back in the room, we unpacked and created what looked like a mini-mart of granola bars, various types of drinks, Rice Krispie bars, candy, cereal, health and beauty products, cans of tuna, flour tortillas, etc... We watched TV, ate dinner, and konked out.

It was an exciting start to an epic trip.

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

February 6, 2013

Runaway Blogger

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


No Light Meter blog this week, folks. I was busy playing tour guide at Walt Disney World to one of my very best friends, the infamous, Yoli. I'll return with new entries starting February 13, 2013.


You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter as lisano1.


January 31, 2013

Cinderella Castle Door to Freedom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Enter the walkway to Cinderella Castle and you'll find yourself looking at murals telling Cinderella's story. Gemstone colors reflect light off the walls and an enormous drape closes off the path during shows on the castle stage. When the curtain is drawn and sunlight angles inward, a mystery stands by quietly.

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Where does the door lead? In an unexplored world, one that exists only in your creative mind, anything is possible.

Disney Pic of the Week - Cinderella

Come on over and "Like" my Facebook; page or follow me on Twitter, my handle is lisano1.

January 30, 2013

Dude, Where's My Blog?

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


No Light Meter blog this week, folks. I'm presently playing tour guide to one of my very best friends, the infamous, Yoli. If you see someone wearing a shirt or hat with the artwork below, it's one of us. Come up and say hello. I'll return with new entries starting February 13, 2013.

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You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter as lisano1.


January 23, 2013

Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World - Ready

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


My crazy (in a good way) friend Yoli and I are about to embark on my longest Walt Disney World vacation and her first. The next blog entry will be an actual trip report. If you haven't yet read up on the planning to get us to this point, follow these links to my prequel.

First entry, second blog, third chapter

Two months feels about right. Yes, for the past two months I have had one Disney park map or another posted on my wall at work. Turning to Fran who sits 2 seats down from me, I'd say where I felt like going (in the park's map pinned at the time) and ask what she wanted to do. You can envision it.

Me: Franny, I'm going on a safari.

Fran: I'll join you but I want to stop and get something to eat first.

Me: OK, what are you in the mood for?

Fran: Ice cream but not from a cart. I want the homemade ice cream cookie sandwich.

Me: Franny, we're not going to the Magic Kingdom today.

Fran: (rolling her eyes) Fine. I'll take an ice cream sandwich from the cart.

The woman who sits between us sometimes laughs, occasionally tries to join in but more often than not has no idea what we're talking about. We have other Disney fanatics at work, too. All last week Howie asked me how many days until my trip and every day I told him to go away because he has a cold. I told everyone who is/was sick to get the heck away from me. I've been taking echinacea pills three times a day to try and ward off their cooties. They all know of my upcoming voyage or at least they should.

Disney gift cards have showered upon me. A friend from CA mailed one to me as a sort of thank you/thinking of you present. My brother and sister-in-law left one for me as a Hanukkah gift when I stayed at their pad in NYC. The other day my mom said, "I have something for you but you can only use it for food. You have enough things." and handed me a gift card. Fair enough. Last weekend my friend and her family also bestowed upon me a belated Hanukkah gift in the form of a Disney gift card. My pal since middle school, Joe, rebelled and presented me with a gift certificate to Planet Hollywood located in Downtown Disney. Duuuude! I'm hardly going to have to fork out money for anything because on top of all that, I have a nice chunk of change to cash in from Disney VISA.

Having forced Yoli to read more menus, I created more dining reservations. Even so, there aren't many selected. Personally, I like to eat around World Showcase. Here and there we'll pack lunches and always carry snacks and water. With all of my dietary restrictions, deciding where to eat will most likely fall on my shoulders. Any chance they now let adults pass as 9 year olds? She doesn't eat much. Vamos a ver. We will see.

Due to my addiction to making this trip as wicked awesome as possible, I found myself buying toys and other Disney-themed items for my amiga. Holding onto them until we arrive in Orlando proved impossible and so Yoli received a Disneyfied Christmas stocking from me. Contents of her purple Tinker Bell stocking were a Cars toothbrush, Tinker Bell and fairy friends toothpaste, Toy Story Band Aids, a Kermit the Frog Pez, maps of Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, a Newbie and the Geek luggage tag, a kit with stickers, coloring book & crayons, a Jasmin eraser, 2 Mickey and pals hand warmers, and some gum and microwave popcorn.

As I'm writing this, I'm waiting for her to let me know she's home so we can talk about our aventura. My packing began the other day after I realized it was time for a new suitcase. My goal is to finish packing sooner rather than later since we have snow in the forecast. Let me rephrase that, sometimes we lose power from heavy snowstorms so I hope to finish packing shortly.

Alright I'm off the phone. It's a good thing too because she forgot where we're staying. Newbie. She's cramming knowledge into her head as I type. Those recently aired old Disney behind-the-scenes style shows have been viewed. Now she knows all about and wants to ride Test Track pre-rehab and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster (I'll hold her bag). Yoli would also like to check out Coronado Springs Resort to compare to another place she's been. After she gets through the Walt Disney World planning DVD, the list will probably grow and that's exactly why I sent it to her so she can get an idea of what there is to see and do. Oh yeah, we might have to visit Disney Quest so she can design and ride her own roller coaster.

Well kids, I hope you've enjoyed my pre-trip report. If you see me in the parks, say hello. I should have some AllEars.Net trading cards with me.

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Yoli and I at Disneyland teaching Eeyore some classic Menudo dance moves

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January 16, 2013

Metering Modes with Fairy, Silver Mist

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Let's get technical, technical. I wanna get technical. Let's get into intermediate photography skill level in regards to metering. Don't you walk away when I am talking to you. You can do this. It's a good lesson that will broaden your knowledge, starting with an explanation of metering.

Your digital camera's metering system reads the amount of light in the photo you want to take. It then determines what the proper exposure (aperture, shutter speed) is based on the amount and variations of light it reads in the entire scene. Generally, when using a shooting mode like auto, the camera's metering system does a decent job.

When you learn to use the three metering modes, you'll find you want to use them in certain situations. The pictures you take are less likely to be washed out. It's time to go over sample shots. Hooray! Oh, and yes, I know the tips of Silver Mist's wings are cut off. I don't like using the LCD screen on my camera but it was an extremely hot and humid day when I took these and well...the viewfinder would have looked like it went for a swim had I used it. Moving on...

...to the first photo taken with Evaluative as the metering mode. Your camera secretly divides the image into many fragments from which layers of light are measured. It then mathematically decides how to balance the image. Often times it is the most precise way of taking into account varying light sources, heat, and brightness.

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Center Metering does exactly what it sounds like, the camera takes lighting information based on light from the center of the image and the immediate surrounding area. For this photo, that means looking at Silver Mist's blue dress, the palms behind her, and most likely her face and legs.

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Lastly, we have Spot Metering. Whatever focal point you select is where the camera will read light. I chose her right wing (our left) and as you can tell, it looks much better than in the other two photos. The exposure is just right, it's not washed out and it's not too dark...no, these wings are juuuust right. This third image is the best overall exposure with awesome contrast that never loses detail.

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I specialize in concerts and 99% of the time, I use spot metering to read the light on a singer or musician's face where lighting is hopefully the brightest.


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January 9, 2013

Plan to Save Money

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Repeat Disney Parks vacationers know to look for package deals and resort discounts when booking trips. We use experience when making decisions on packing, transportation, and entertainment for ourselves and kids while en route. Overall, we've got mad skills and that's why others ask us for advice.

As I create my upcoming epic adventure with my friend, I find myself going the extra mile to save us both money. I have no idea what Yoli's budget is, only that she wants an inexpensive hotel room and to go grocery shopping. My recommendation to her was to set aside $30 per day for food. Some days, she'll spend far less and others she might go over but it's a safe amount to not magically starve.

I'd like to share with you how I have and am still pinching pennies before we leave for Florida.

If you book your trip at least 3 months out, start searching for free product samples. On average it takes 4-8 weeks to receive freebies in the mail. Travel size items such as deodorant, laundry detergent, sunscreen, and heel balm take just a few clicks to obtain. Ask your dentist if she/he has trial size toothpaste.

Need something to read on the plane, train, or in the car? Magazines both well-known and not-so-much offer free editions and/or complimentary subscriptions. You can also download free e-books.

My advice when ordering freebies is to make sure that when you supply your personal info that you're on the company's website or their Facebook page. Beware of third parties who first ask for an e-mail address or require you to take a survey. Never pay for shipping. If you're looking for a specific brand name item, visit their website and check for samples or coupons. Plenty of time before you leave? Write to the company and ask for a free trail size item and/or coupons.

Free Samples

Woman Freebies

That Freebie Site

Sample Stuff

E-books

Gutenberg

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Should you rent a car, going to the market can save you bundles of cash. Every Disney resort room now has a mini fridge. By picking up a loaf of bread, deli meat, cheese, whole fruit, granola bars, etc... you can pack lunch. We're going to Target for groceries so when promos popped up in my Facebook news feed, I grabbed them. With coupon in hand, by spending $50 on items I need at home anyway, I earned a $10 gift card. I took advantage of this offer the second time it came up, too, so I now have $20 worth of gift cards to spend on food. Additionally, I have been cutting coupons for a few items thus making my savings go even further.

For those days when you're not in a park, try a restaurant off-property. My mom loves Sweet Tomatoes, a healthy all-you-can-eat buffet that issues coupons weekly via their newsletter.

Check Restaurant.com for gift certificates sold at below face value. Read each restaurant's restrictions. Create an account and receive even greater savings by e-mail. In the past I have purchased certificates for Crossroads at House of Blues in Downtown Disney, Todd English's Blue Zoo at the Dolphin Resort, and Garden Grove at the Swan Resort.

Save on dining, recreational activities, spas, and shopping via Groupon. Search the Orlando, FL area for current deals.

When renting a car, be sure to look up discount codes from Mousesavers.com and check each rental agencies deals for AAA members, government employees, and public percentages off. I usually start my search at Kayak to see what the current prices are for many agencies at once. Then I start with codes and coupons and book the best deal I can find without putting down a credit card. Just a few days before my vacation, I try bidding on Priceline and see if I can get a better deal. Be sure that all of your info is correct because if your bid is accepted, getting a refund or changing the reservation is tedious and not likely.

I'm certain most of you have great tips for saving money and I welcome your suggestion. These are just a few of mine based on my up-coming journey. Oh and if you get addicted to signing up for freebies, you're on your own.

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January 2, 2013

Officer Peabody, Citizen of Hollywood

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day? If you lived in Hollywood, Disney's Hollywood Studios, to be precise, you'd encounter quite a number of colorful characters. Seeing as Hollywood draws in men and women with big dreams of becoming famous stars of the silver screen, the place is crawling with actors. No city is inhabited solely by one type of profession and so it is the duty of Disney's Hollywood Studios Patrol Department to keep peace and order in tinsel town.

Meet Officer Percival Peabody*, a banana-slinging, cautious-minded cop who makes sure foot traffic moves safely along Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. When off-duty or on-duty but when things look calm, he can be found playing a dating game in hopes of finding himself a single lady.

Here's Officer Peabody setting up a speed trap. These documentary-style images were taken with a Canon EOS 30D and Canon 75-300mm USM lens. Set to Aperture Priority f8, and ISO 400, the camera selected shutter speeds accordingly. Fill flash was used to brighten up shadows and freeze almost-fast moments.

Laying down tape.
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Making the tape stick.
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Not sure that's where the tape goes.
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Optimistic that no one is speeding.
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Sounding the police siren at speeders.
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Pleased with his camouflage.
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Displeased with news that the camouflage doesn't work.
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Kungaloosh! * From Percival's good friend, Emil Bleehall.

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December 26, 2012

Black and White Challenge - The End

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Here marks the end of a year-long blog where I asked readers to shoot in color and B&W or at least convert color images to B&W to expand creativity. Thank you to everyone who participated. I'm sure your fellow Disney fans enjoyed your pictures.

If you missed the series, here are links to each blog.

Disney Vacations: Color vs Black and White Challenge

Entries

Entries 2

Entries 3

Mike

I've attached images in both B&W and color from a recent Disney trip for the Light Meter column assignment. These were converted after shooting. I shot exclusively in B&W while in school, my hero was Ansel Adams but haven't done so since the world switched from film to digital.

Epcot restaurant seating during a rainstorm

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Happy New Year!


December 19, 2012

Front Row at Lights, Motors, Action!

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Be it a concert, theatrical performance, or sporting event, people love sitting in the front row. You're close to the action, so close that you can see performers sweating or catch an out of bounds ball. As exciting as it is, sometimes sitting in the front doesn't work out the way you thought it would. Viewing may be limited to actors close to the edge of the stage and you can't see the ensemble (a fact I'll deal with this weekend at Evita).

This blog begins yet another not-so-regular series to show you which attractions at Disney Parks are great for photographing from the front row and which seats are more trouble than they're worth.

I spotted an open spot at Lights, Motors, Action! (Disney's Hollywood Studios) in the front row a bit left of center. I set my lovely Canon EOS 30D with Canon EF 28-135 IS USM set to Shutter Priority 1/500 and my film speed to 400. I was ready for action. This was my view.

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Clearly, sitting in the 1st row at this show is not ideal, especially for photography.

Believe it or not, I did this on purpose to show you just how bad the photos can be from this location. My timing rocks.

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Next, I wanted to show you if you shift around on the bench you can snap a vehicle above the bar. It's still not good.

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Below the bar? Scrunch down.

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At least it's not so bad after cropping.

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Alright, that's enough. My back hurts. You get the idea. Next year we'll explore more entertainment from the front row.


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December 12, 2012

Save the Photography Industry and Your Memories

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



Last week, my jaw hit the floor as I walked into my local privately owned camera store and photo lab. Nearly everything was on sale from 25 - 80% off and they had sold all photo printing and processing equipment. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. "Now what?!" was all I kept mumbling to myself. Now where do I have my photos printed? Now where do I buy accessories? Now where do students get their Ilford black and white paper and dark room supplies? Now where do people go for expert advice?

I know the answers to these questions of course but it doesn't stop the pain of knowing that little by little, that driving passion has been shifted because of technology. Sometimes "moving forward" costs people their jobs.

Let me go back about 20 years and then bring you up to speed. When I was a student in photography school, professional digital cameras were starting out. They cost tens of thousands of dollars and no one really thought anything of them. It was too much money and the technology was lightyears away from matching the quality of ISO 100 film let alone ISO 1000. We chuckled and continued shooting, developing, and printing from film.

Over the next few years, a small number of new digital cameras were released both for pros and consumers but they were still high priced Most folks were using film cameras and happily going to the photo lab at the camera store in the local mall

By the early 2,000's digital consumer cameras were the new rage. The technology had gotten better, the cameras a bit smaller, and prices had come down so more people could afford them. People realized that even though digital cameras cost more than film cameras, it was less expensive to buy memory cards and print select images than to develop many rolls of film and have only a few keepers, depending on their photography skills.

At the same time, the largest chain of retail camera stores in the United States, Ritz Camera, saw the coming changes and bought equipment to print digital photos. They also started buying merchandise that didn't belong in their stores including stuffed bears. For a while, the company was ahead of the competition by printing digital images but then drug stores and "mart" stores got into the digital game.

Jump forward to 2009 and what was once a chain that boasted over 1,100 camera stores was down to 800 and declaring bankruptcy that lead to closing roughly 50% of its stores. By now, the vast majority of people were on their second or third digital camera and printing less and less photos. Instant gratification of seeing images on LCD screens, in e-mail, social networking websites, and even on cell phones has stopped the automatic desire to print out photos.

We're nearing 2013 and the camera store retailer is out of business. Since declaring bankruptcy the first time, at least 4,000 people lost their jobs including technicians, sales people, upper management, and those who took pride in getting the colors and contrast just right in your family pictures to be passed down from generation to generation.

Cell phones, tablets, smartphones, pocket sized video game consoles...whatever it is, the image quality does not compare to that of a camera. Period. You can try to plead your case with me but facts are facts.

While Kodak has been a pioneer in film photography, it pushed digital camera production and accessories starting in the early-mid 1990's. However, they've since struggled to stay afloat and little by little have closed production plants, stopped producing film, and just this year filed for bankruptcy. Did they, the makers of photographic paper for mini labs shoot themselves in the foot by creating and holding patents on digital imaging? Perhaps.

If my rant leaves you with nothing but one piece of advice, it is this, print out your photos at a camera store's mini-lab or pro lab. Technology changes constantly. Your memory cards will one day be obsolete, some already are. Electronics break. Digital files can become corrupt. You won't be able to show pictures from your son's college graduation, your newborn niece, the vacation you saved up for for three years, and every other special moment when the future changes the industry again. Print your photos and hold onto what matters most.


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December 5, 2012

Disney Abstract Photography in Blue

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


A brief reminder that one last blog showcasing your photos from the Black and White Challenge will post in a few weeks. Get your images in now to make the cutoff of Friday, December 21st. You can find the details and links about the challenge and get in on the action.

It seems that I keep saying, break out of your normal vacation photography mindset and step back to see things from a new perspective, and I'm doing it again. Being creative is fun and gives you a nice boost of adrenaline. It's exciting to try something new and your friends and family will "Oooh and ahhh" like aliens from Toy Story in great awe of your talent.

Quick lessons on how to get fancy photos:

1. Remember that abstract photography is the complete opposite of photojournalism. You're not supposed to see exactly what is happening but rather pay attention to light, shadows, color, shape, and texture.

2. Keep it simple, it's easier than you might think.

The inner tubes at Blizzard Beach were loosely stacked and created a good opportunity for abstract imagery. However, from my perspective, foliage was in the way. The greenery and single brown leaf created too much information.

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By slightly changing my point of view and a little cropping in post production, my image is now what I wanted.

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3. Pay attention to patterns and designs as they are great for abstract images when you zoom in tight.

4. Use appropriate camera settings based on your desired look. Apertures like f8, f11, and f16 will provide pictures with everything in focus. Whereas f6.7, f5.6, and f4 will only sharpen one plain or focal point.

Test Track has or had depending on the rehab, a queue that leads you through a small and funky room. Triangular blue metal adorns the walls. I'm not sure what they're supposed to be, if anything specific, but they make for great abstract photos.

Points coming from various positions is fine but that void on the left and black ceiling make you stare at it and try to determine "What's back there?" That kills the whole idea of appreciating color, texture, shape, and lighting.

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By physically moving and viewing the wall from a different perspective, the image is now stronger and more artistic.

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5. You can combine other aspects of photography with abstract.

Follow the neon and you'll find yourself at Soarin' over California. Cold metal, warm neon lights, long leading lines, and repetitive drilled holes form the abstract image you see here. By placing myself against the wall and angling my camera lens, I've made an adjustment to how we normally view the wall. Try it next time you're waiting in line.

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Want to see more? Read my blog, Create Abstract Photos Thru Glass .

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November 28, 2012

Mirrors, Water, and Shiny Surfaces

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It's time to break out of your comfort zone again and get creative with your travel photography. We'll look at images having to do with reflections on different surfaces. Are you ready for some fun? Yippy!

The Evil Queen said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, how do I get a nice clear photo without my flash bouncing off the glass?" I'm glad you asked, Queenie. Here are a few pointers:

When using a removable flash, bounce the light off a wall or the ceiling.

Try shooting from an angle instead of straight on.

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This Mickey Mouse mirror can be found at Writer's Stop in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

No matter how hard I try, I can never get John Travolta's handsome face to appear in my kiddie pool like Olivia Newton-John did in Grease. But if I did I would know to...

Take a few photos showing not only the reflected image but also part of the landscape around it. You can choose which you like best when you get home.

Still water is easier to focus on than rippling water.

It's okay to be artsy.

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With the right lighting and time of day, you can see the side/back of the Castle Couture shop rolling in the water surrounding Cinderella Castle.

You'll encounter cool possibilities when you don't look for them. For instance, I didn't approach the band in search of a tuba player who's instrument reflected the crowd but there they were!

Focus on what matters most and when you have optimal light, use an aperture like 11 or 16 to keep everything sharp.

Move slightly left, right, up, and down when possible to see what works best.

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I love Disneyland hence I love the Disneyland Band. Dappers Dans aren't too shabby either.



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November 21, 2012

Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World: Obsessed

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


First installment of Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World

Chapter two, Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World: Reservations

The two hyperlinks you see above are portals into this epic journey still in the developmental stages or in Disney speak, trip planning. Start at the beginning so you're up to ludicrous speed and can then fully breathe in and experience the scent of luggage airing out from its attic captivity. Sure, we're not leaving for a few months and the luggage will remain upstairs until then but surely it deserves recognition and to know it is loved.

As this will be Yoli's very first trip to Walt Disney World, let alone Florida, I've gone crazy with ideas, things, and plans to make it even more memorable. I'm pretty sure I'm acting like a parent taking their child, based on the various trip reports I've read and posts on AllEars' Facebook page. Now if you think about it, it's funny because Yoli is 9 years older than me. Yeah, she's like wicked old and can nap anywhere, any time. She'd give my dad a run for his money in The Great Nap Off, IndiaNAPolis, So You Think You Can Nap.

I have been stockpiling Pixie Dust like a maniac and even had a co-worker bring something back from Epcot for our vacation. Yeah, I could buy it when I get there but I don't want to. :big cheesy grin: Guess what? Two more of my co-workers are heading to Walt Disney World before me and I am going to task them both. A ha ha ha ha haaaaa!!! :throws arms into the air: Hey, Macarena!
.

While putting together all of this awesomeness, I was unable to attain a special surprise dining reservation. After failing miserably, I told John Ames from MouseFanTravel, my beloved pal and travel agent, about the travesty. Wouldn't you know it, he secured the reservation for me and on the day I most wanted. Yet, he did this on Halloween so I wondered, is this a classic John (Juan to me) trick? Nope, it turned out to be a treat. In the words of my former co-worker Crystal, wackatcha! I have no idea what it means but it sounds exciting. Wackatcha!

This month I've begun posting short video clips found on YouTube on Yoli's Facebook page. Each one is roughly 2 minutes or less so as to offer a glimpse into a specific feature. The first video was of Mariachi Cobre playing outside of the Mexico pavilion. Yoli loves all kinds of music and embraces her family's Mexican heritage so I knew that would be a winner. Also, in the video, they're playing Cielito Lindo, a song Menudo covered in 1982 and if you're a regular reader, you recall I'm a huge Menudo fan and so is mi amiga.

Her second video gift was a clip from The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. In it, Indy fights the huge German mechanic and rescues Marion from the plane. I aided the suspenseful build-up by typing out "Da da da daaaa da da daaa. Da da da daaa, da da da daaa." The third video called upon Yoli's lifelong dream of becoming a ballerina. Taken from Festival of the Lion King, the video clip features the aerial bird dancer. The fourth and final park video for November was filmed from one of Aladdin's magic carpets in Adventureland. We both love Aladdin but Yoli has to remember that he's my boyfriend and to keep her mitts off my man.
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I received some Mickey Mail, a booklet with photos and info on our resort, the theme parks, and shopping options. After flipping through it and happily exclaiming, "Duh! I already know all of this!," I sent it to Yoli.

It is a very rare occurrence that my flight's departure time is altered by the airline but not only has 1 of my flights changed but so have Yoli's. They're not anything to call and complain about, they're just a matter of minutes, no more than 30, but I find it interesting. I imagine they could alter yet again in the next 2+ months. Don't worry, I'll let you know.

Another strange moment came when 2 months after booking one of my flights, I looked to see if I could catch an earlier one for the same cost. The result was a not surprising no, but my flight had come down by $30.00 so I called JetBlue. In a matter of minutes, I was issued a credit towards a future flight. Not too shabby. I thought, let's see if I have the same luck with Yoli's flights on US Airways. Alas, the price of her roundtrip itinerary went up by $120.00. At least we know she got a good deal.

Let's discuss rental cars. Sales come out roughly 30 days or less before their start date. In researching rentals this early, I find that "name-brand" agencies think people are frivolous millionaires, and are asking for $500 - 700 for a 10-day rental of a compact car. Dude. It's not going to happen. On a feeling (ESP kicking in), I checked Dollar and booked a compact for $177 before fees and taxes. Mind you, it is now back up with the ridiculous prices. I will try to beat that as we get closer to takeoff.

Last but not least in this fascinating installment is yet another schedule change. Being the diligent planner that I am, I check the posted park hours for our trip every few weeks. Well, wouldn't you know it, there's already been an alteration, a good one, although now I have to make some executive decisions. Animal Kingdom was set to close at 5 PM DST (Disney Standard Time) during each day of our trip. Now, they will remain open until 7 PM DST for a couple of nights. Alrighty, I've gotta flip some park days around and reconfigure my strategy for non-park activities. It's cool, I can handle it. I'm not the "geek" in Newbie and the Geek for nothing.


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I wish all of my fellow Americans a happy Thanksgiving with their loved ones. And to everyone who is planning their high school reunion like I am for this weekend, do something nice for yourselves, you deserve it.


Stuffed yourself silly? Wobble on over to my Facebook page.

November 14, 2012

Understanding White Balance III

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It seems that every two years I write a blog about white balance. Each one is different than the next. In the first blog I used outdoor images on an overcast day and a set of hostage-held plush under targeted lighting. My second entry showcased skin tones under mixed lighting. This time around, we'll look at a moving subject kept indoors under bright lights.

Understanding White Balance

Understanding White Balance II

White Balance is a process that a digital camera uses to correct color by measuring heat coming from the light source. In other words, in order to record colors properly given the lighting conditions, the camera looks for white within the image to adjust off of. If there isn't any white then the image can look dull and flat not to mention the wrong color.

A large variety of point and shoot cameras allow you the user to adjust the white balance by selecting one of these options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Tungsten H, Fluorescent, and Custom.

Taken with my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, these photos come from the Magic of Animation meet and greet at Disney's Hollywood Studios. You can look up character encounter schedules at www.wdwent.com.

I stood back, away from the Guests in line off to the right side of the room for these photos.

Set to Auto, the white balance did all of its own thinking and slightly over-corrected for tungsten lights. We can tell because there's a very slight blue/green tint, the opposite of yellow/red in photo color correcting. The image is slightly soft from the shutterspeed making up for the lack of bright lighting. We see lighting differently than cameras do.
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Here I chose Fluorescent as my white balance setting. It did an okay job but not as good a job as Auto.
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Tungsten corrects for yellow/orange glows but in this case because tungsten overpowers fluorescent (I believe there is mixed lighting in the room), it still shows. The camera felt there wasn't enough bright light as tungsten bulbs are usually "soft", the shutter slowed down to allow more light through the lens causing a blurry Mickey.
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For my last shot, I simply used the flash with white balance set to Auto. Had I been closer, the flash would have illuminated Mickey Mouse better. Seeing as he has an orange glow and the background is a deeper orange/yellow, we know for sure that tungsten bulbs are in place.
lkb-WhiteBalance-SorcererMickey-Flash.jpg


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November 7, 2012

Caption Contest Winner

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



Two weeks ago I posted a photo caption contest. Today, I am happy to announce the winner is Sarah H. for her caption, "Here, Eric, honey. Your cowlick is acting up again."

Sarah has won an assortment of my photography note cards and postcards. Sarah, send your mailing address to me at lisaberton followed by @ and allears.net

Congratulations! Thank you to everyone to everyone who participated.

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October 31, 2012

Scary Sights at Disney Parks

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Disneyland, The Happiest Place on Earth and Walt Disney World, The Most Magical Place on Earth are both fantastical dreams come to life. Through the imagination and hard work of Walt and Roy Disney, legions of Imagineers, construction workers, designers, architects, plumbers, electricians, Cast Members, and countless others, we are able skip our way into Disney Parks. Everyone wants to have the greatest vacation ever.

If we love Walt Disney World and Disneyland so much then why do we mistreat them? We're all human and we can easily put a drink down for a moment to tie a shoe or search thru a handbag for towelettes, and then wander off and forget all about the $2.59 soda. It happens and I'm not pointing a finger at those forgetful moments.


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An empty cup is usually a sign of intent versus a full or half bottle or cup. Found at the exit from the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.


Unfortunately, there are a large number of Guests who don't use the readily available trash cans and recycling cans located all over the parks, resorts, and everywhere else on Disney property. I find the situation exceptionally scary.


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How many times have you had to edit a photo or move your traveling companions aside because a trash can was in the shot? They're everywhere for our convenience.


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A lollipop stick in the queue for the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom. I found lollipop wrappers in the queue as well.


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Pipa, the talking recycling can at Animal Kingdom's Conservation Station entertains and educates kids and adults alike about the importance of recycling.


Nationally, cigarette butts account for one-quarter or more of the items tossed onto streets and other roadways, San Francisco and other cities report. - The New York Times, Leslie Kaufman, 5/28/2009.

"...cigarette butts in the landscape bed off our patio." - Review of Disney's Boardwalk Inn, Trip Advisor, Dutchess2245, 10/15/2012

"The transition to become smoke-free will allow Disney to better accommodate the increasing number of guests requesting non-smoking hotel rooms, DiPietre said.

The ban follows a 2000 measure that restricted smoking throughout Disney's theme and water parks, limiting smoking to designated areas, DiPietre said.

Guests caught smoking after the ban could face cleaning surcharges as high as $500, DiPietre said." - USA Today, Jim Ellis, 5/3/2007

Smoking is allowed in designated areas complete with ash trays. Those who choose to smoke are accommodated so there's no reason to find cigarette butts anywhere other than in an ash tray.

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Found in Epcot's China pavilion

Not all trash is found on the ground or even at eye level. I saw this plastic bottle sticking out from the high wooden beams that help support Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland. Tossing bottles or any other object to land on or get stuck on something isn't funny. It's disrespectful.

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I have often picked up bottles, cups, napkins, and other trash and thrown it away. The biggest cleanup I did was after a family threw french fries and ketchup packets all over the floor. Mom, dad, and the kids decided that this was the way to clean the table at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe. I was disgusted.

When I lived in CA, I considered (and still do) Disneyland my home away from home. It was "my park" just like California natives consider it to be their park. There's a feeling of pride, security, and family when you are consistently in the same place. I bet Floridians and even those of us who visit Walt Disney World often have those same feelings. So let's set a good example and keep our Disney Parks clean. How embarrassing would it be if Mickey Mouse fined you for littering?!

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October 24, 2012

View from a Monorail

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Riding around on the monorail just for the sake of doing so is a nice way to relax and see things from a different perspective. It's even better when you can find yourself a window seat without standing passengers in your compartment.

There are 3 routes to enjoy. For those rushing back to their vehicles from the Magic Kingdom or who've just arrived at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), take the express train. This is the shortest ride and only serves two stops, Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center.

The second longest ride makes 4 stops and is referred to as the monorail resort route. Stopping at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Magic Kingdom, and Contemporary Resort/Bay Lake Tower (BLT). You can get off or on at any of these enormous resorts and go shopping, enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, check out the overall themeing, or watch the Electrical Water Pageant.

Your third option takes passengers from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot and back. This is the longest and most scenic of the routes. Monorails actually loop above Future World giving Guests a bird's eye view of the beautiful and colorful landscaping.

I picked up my Canon EOS 30D with Canon 17-40mm L USM lens, set it to Shutterspeed Priority at 1/500, the ISO at 400 which I later upped to 500, and grabbed a few shots before feeling crowded. If you're traveling with a point and shoot camera with manual controls, you can do just as I did. Otherwise, you can try Sports Mode. No matter what you shoot with, keep the lens as close to the monorail window as possible to reduce reflections.


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Space Mountain is viewable from both the express route and resort route.


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The world's largest BLT, although not at all easily digested.


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Take a gander at Chef Mickey's, a buffet with characters.


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Space Mountain again? Yes, so you can see the express route track, literally.


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Bay Lake ripples between the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness. Catch the free ferry service from Ft. Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom.


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October 17, 2012

Caption Contest - The Little Mermaid

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


You've seen the movie. You've seen the live show. Now see what you can come up with for a funny caption. I'll pick a winner to receive a special prize. This contest is open to all ages in all countries. Send in your caption by October 31, 2012 by properly filling out the Comment section below.


lkb-CaptionContest-LittleMermaid.jpg


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October 10, 2012

Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World: Reservations

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Before I jump into what's new, those of you just joining us can catch up here. Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World

During one of our earlier phone calls, Yoli mentioned using a travel agency to book her flights to and from Orlando. As if! Please, I knew that would never happen because I can't sit still long enough to let someone else do the research. Just ask my high school reunion committee who have dubbed me Super Sleuth because I found a whole bunch of classmates, and it wasn't easy. Fast forward to a phone call in early September. I called Yoli to go over airfare I had found given that she wanted to fly in and out of the same airport (such a diva) and, AND!, limit her airport choices from 5 (LAX, SNA, BUR, LGB, and ONT) to 3 (Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Ontario).

While my pal lounged in the shade by the pool while being fanned and fed grapes by two gladiator-like studs (scratched record sound). Wait, this is Yoli we're talking about, right? They fed her popcorn, not fruit. Also, she might have been sitting at her fluorescent-lit desk at work. It's alright, I called when she was just going off the clock. While my pal half-listened, I pummeled my way through nearly every airline's website plus Kayak looking for flights that landed in and took off from MCO around the same time as mine. The other contingents were price, route, layover locations for time and ease of reaching the next gate. Many, many, many screens and options led me to twist Yoli's long-distance arm into breaking her rules and finding a price she liked ($291.00), routes I approved (Phoenix & Charlotte), and layovers that are liveable (90 minutes & 73 minutes). She'll land about 2 hours before me and go home an hour after me. Oh, and she's flying out of one airport and landing at another. Tee hee hee. Thanks, US Airways.

With that giant task out of the way, I could go back to training her and asking millions of questions. I swore I had ordered a free Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD for her months and months ago but she didn't receive anything. Back to the website, this time I had it shipped to my house so I could see exactly what she would see ahead of time. I swear this is the only type of micro-managing I've ever done. It's really not my style. Well, I watched said DVD and as a regular visitor I thought they could have done better including eliminating very old footage of entertainment at World Showcase.

Yoli's birthday was last month. A portion of her 7-day Magic Your Way We Don't Have to Park Hop ticket is her birthday present. Another portion is her Christmas present. The rest she paid me back for. When I'm wealthy, I can do more. Since we have this ginormous trip ahead of us, I couldn't send her just a birthday card. She also got the book Walt Disney World Little Known Facts About Well Known Places. She loves it. She also has the Disneyland edition. I want the Disneyland edition. (pouty face).
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Wouldn't you know it, just a few minutes after I came home from mailing her present, the mailman delivered the vacation planning DVD from Disney. I laughed then I watched it. The following weekend it made it's way to the post office and eventually into Yoli's hands. I have no idea if she's even watched it yet. Yoli, are you doing your homework?!?!?!?

The other pieces of this planning puzzle are hotel reservations, finding a good deal on a rental car, a few more ADRs, secretly planning surprises, and coordinating with friends. I jumped in head first to find us a place to stay near the airport on the night we arrive. Whoa. What? You're staying off-site the first night? Yep. Are you insane? In this situation, no. Hear me out before you throw me into Yzma's laboratory and shove potions down my throat.

Yoli lands around 10 PM. I land around 12 PM. If we were to stay on-site, we'd arrive close to 1:30 AM after collecting luggage and the rental car. It'll be pitch black out and my Californian amiga would be deprived of that fantastical rush we all get when we see and drive under or past the giant purple signs with Mickey and friends welcoming us. I've got to do this trip right by my friend. I can hear you all agreeing with me. Yes, Sheryl S. in New York, it would suck if she missed out on that experience. Thank you for understanding.

Many, many, many days and hotel website comparisons later, we have, fingers crossed, a decent room booked a short drive from the airport. We'll be able to get a good night's rest (given we can actually calm down) and be ready for our magical adventure to commence.

As for the rest of our stay, we are officially booked onsite and it came as a not-as-easy-as-it-should-have-been task. Like many of you, I was going loca waiting for Disney to announce discounted resort rates for January. After studying historical discount release dates on Mousesavers.com, my best guess was early October for the news. I was right! On October 4th, the first set of deals was released for Disney VISA cardholders. The weird part is my happy anxiousness vanished and I wrote to my pal John Ames from MouseFanTravel. He got me some numbers which seemed a bit off to me. John planned on calling Disney back in the morning to check things out further. Call it a Gibbs-esque gut feeling, I HAD to call Disney and find out immediately. Also, I'm just really nudgy sometimes.

I talked to a very nice Cast Member originally from Santa Barbara, CA now living in central FL. She came up with the exact same prices as John but (and here's where the course changed) she said my hotel was only 5% off. I read the ad to her but she very nicely repeated the discount. Reservation agents can't receive e-mail but they can go on the Internet. Luckily, she obliged my request and I read her the advertisement's URL letter by letter, slash by slash, and underscore by underscore until it popped up on her monitor. She began reading it aloud and when she got to my resort said, "Uh oh." Immediately, she asked to put me on hold and spoke with her supervisor. When she came back she had good news, they were going to take care of me but had to book the reservation now. It took longer than usual because to get the deal meant booking us at a different resort at the proper discount and then having another reservations location "upgrade" us to the right hotel so the discount stuck. Phew!

But what about John?! I asked if he could be credited and the Cast Member said no so I tried calling him but he couldn't pick up. If this situation happens to you, let your travel agent know you booked your resort or package but want him/her to still handle it for you. They'll have you sign a consent form that literally allows them to take over your reservation. This way the agent gets his/her commission and if you run into any problems while on vacation, he/she will handle them for you as well as special requests.

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If your travel agent doesn't answer his/her phone, there's probably a good reason.

As for Advance Dining Reservations, I have made only 2 so far. Parks aren't crowded in January and I don't foresee long waits for walk-ups. It would be nice too if Yoli saw a restaurant that interested her. My friend is a picky eater, like a kid, so sometimes I send her menus to read and sometimes I ask sneaky questions. Here's the perfect example, I asked Yoli if she eats sushi or fish sticks. She said she eats fish sticks. Well, there really aren't any fish stick meals in the parks per se but (who knows where I'm heading with this?) Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion serves fish and chips. Ha! It's a small step out of her kiddie meal box. Heck, we can split the order, walk it off and then try pastries in France. I'll just tell her they sell fancy cookies. She'll bite.


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October 3, 2012

Making Lens Flare Work for You

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Tell me something, have you ever had sun streaks in your pictures? Did the person or thing you aimed at turn out dark? There's a way to successfully incorporate lens flare and keep your subject recognizable. No, I'm not talking about digital enhancements. I'm referring to manual exposure and good, solid photography skills.

You'll need a camera that allows you to select the f-stop, shutterspeed, and ISO. I used my Canon EOS 30D and Canon 17-40mm L USM. Start by selecting a film speed appropriate for the lighting condition. Keep in mind that you're going to have a small aperture and the ISO will have to help make up the difference of light reaching the film plane or sensor.

Choose a shutterspeed that's comfortable for you to hand-hold unless you're using a tripod. If you're using a digital camera, take your first test shot and view it in various sections on the LCD screen. From here you can determine what changes to make to your settings. Film users are used to bracketing so they've already taken a few shots while I type this paragraph.


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Closing down the f-stop will create more detail and sharpen the image. These photos are only a 1 stop difference.

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No cross screen filter nor digital filter was used. Cool, huh!

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September 26, 2012

Black and White Challenge Entries 3

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Welcome back to the Color vs Black and White Challenge. In an effort to get you, the reader to try new ways of seeing, I offered up this suggestion in March. If you haven't seen the original post

Disney fans responded by submitting their own photos as seen in blogs Entries 1 and Entries 2.

Even more of you have submitted photos and I applaud all of your efforts. Should you be inspired by what you see today, go back to the initial blog, follow the instructions and send it your photos. I'll post one more blog of readers photos in December to close out the challenge.

Noelle

I love black and white photos. Here are a couple I have done! One of them I also included the Sepia toned one to show the contrast. I don't have the color versions, I took them In black and white on my camera, originally, I think.

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BWChallenge-Noelle-SepiaLiberty.jpg


Paul

I admit, I missed your original post on this subject. The reason? We were on the Disney Magic. Here is one photo

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Collette

Here are photos from the AllEars "December to Remember" last year that I changed to black & white in iPhoto. It is a shot of the organ in the Haunted Mansion queue because I'm an organist. One always thinks "spooky" things should be in b&w, I guess. I took these with a Canon G12, and I think it was in Auto mode.

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Ben

Ben didn't submit any text so I'll point out that his second photo utilizes cropping to make the image more intense. It's not a black and white version but rather digital sepia tone. He also darkened the background and increased contrast.

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It's your turn. Show us what you've got!

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September 12, 2012

Brighten up Your Photos with Fill Flash

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


A quick story before we get to the photos. I was at Epcot and as I started crossing from Club Cool towards the Mexico pavilion, I thought about the Segway tours they offer. Then a group on a Segway tour went driving by me. Weeiiird. My next instant thought was, wouldn't it be funny if there was a parade out of nowhere? Guess what? A marching band came from the opposite side of World Showcase and towards me. Actually, the tour group had to divert left of the band. It was such a strange and funny moment. Next time I'm going to think about Tarzan and rain and cross my fingers.

It's a bright sunshiny day and you're taking photos of the family. It's a partially cloudy day and you're photographing friends in the shade. In either scenario, lighting is a key factor in having a great photo to frame rather than a snapshot that you won't bother printing. An easy fix to those dark faces and raccoon eyes is fill-flash.

When shooting outdoors in sunlight, point and shoot cameras, for the most part, will not fire the flash. Those with advanced built-in software might fire the flash but the odds of a micro chip being smarter than a photographer all the time is zilch.

You'll want to override the camera by selecting a mode that will let you turn on the flash. Any camera with Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutterspeed Priority, and Program will let you. Other possible modes are Portrait, Indoor Party, Smart Shutter, and Face Recognition. You will need to consult your camera's manual to know for sure.

I used my CanonPowerShot SX30 IS set to Program without flash.
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Then, I popped up my flash and tried again. The darker portions of the above photo opened up nicely without losing detail. Using a flash also eliminates the blue hue cameras record of shaded areas.
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September 5, 2012

Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Yoli is going to Walt Disney World for the very first time and she has it made. How? Why? What do you mean? The answer consists of 5 words that when placed in a particular order make a huge difference in one's total vacation experience, Disney geek personal tour guide. That's right, I'm going too. You see, Yoli is one of my very best friends (awww) and she happens to reside in California. When I lived out there, I turned her and others into repetitive Disneyland Annual Passholders without a single thank you note from Mickey or accounting. It is because Disneyland sits in Californians' backyard that they don't generally venture to Walt Disney World.

I have been telling Yoli and the rest of my CA posse that eventually I would show them...the other parks. Last year I got tired of waiting so I put my foot down and sent out an e-mail that said, we're going to Walt Disney World in 2013 so start saving. I caught one fish, a wiggly Mexicana addicted to popcorn who quotes Grease and Spaceballs and breaks into Menudo songs and dance routines out of thin air. We were born to be buddies.

We are in the beginning stages of trip planning with me leading the way, as expected. Our vacation days have been approved at our jobs. I purchased my airfare on sale from JetBlue and am checking prices and flights for Yoli almost nightly. Remember how I said Californians don't often go to Florida? The proof is in the flight schedules and dollars. Currently there are numerous incomprehensible flight plans. Raise your hand if you'd like to fly from Los Angeles (or Santa Ana or Long Beach) to Orlando by way of Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, or Seattle. Did I mention we're going in January. What? No one thinks those are good routes?! Shocking! As for red eye flights, if memory serves me right, I have found 3 non-stop options starting at $260 one way. The search for a deal continues.

Once she has her plane tickets purchased, I can begin prepping her for what to expect. But why train a Disneyland veteran for Walt Disney World? Simply put, she's had it easy. The distance between Disneyland's gate and California Adventure's gate is about the same distance as walking from one end of World of Disney (Florida) to the other. Florida's parks are larger with rougher terrain, torrential downpours, humidity, warmer nights than CA, colder winter temperatures than she's accustomed, and an immensely larger percentage of tourists vs locals. I think she'll be alright, she served in the Army Reserves.

Yoli's told me she trusts me to do all of the planning. Well, duh. (snicker, snicker) I am collecting information from her little by little which will lead me to determine where we'll eat; the popcorn cart. the peanut butter and jelly sandwich cart, and the cookie cart. Once discount rates are announced, my friend (I have more than just Yoli) and MEI travel agent, John Ames, will book our resort. Yes, I know where I want us to stay and Yoli has seen photos but she's probably forgotten by now so don't say anything because we can't afford the Polynesian and will wind up elsewhere.

Part of Yoli's responsibility (She's gotta do something!) is to look over the maps I sent her and to watch the free planning DVD that I'll get out to her next month after I watch it a dozen times. Sure, I can lead her all over the parks but what if I bypass Mission: Space because I'm a wimp and she's just loca enough to try it. Then I'm a bad tour guide and a crappy friend. I can't handle the self-inflicted guilt, I'm Jewish. Hence, she will have to do some reading and video watching. Oh, I know, I'll send a bag of microwave popcorn with the DVD!

Keep an eye out for future installments of How to Train Your Yoli, Some like it Humid, Invasion of the Disneyland Veteran, Newbie and the Geek Take Walt Disney World. It's a mesh of The Muppets and triple threat dinnerware.

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Get off your butt, Gonzalez!

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August 29, 2012

Epcot Artists and Artisans

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


My favorite Walt Disney World park is Epcot with World Showcase ranking above Future World. I look for something new to experience with each visit. One overall aspect of World Showcase that can easily be missed are the artisans and artists. You are welcome to photograph these fine folks as they work but take into consideration that you don't want to distract them. This is after all, their livelihood.

Here are some simple tips for getting great photos.

1. Some people work at their craft indoors to avoid outdoor elements like wind. Ask if he/she minds if you use a flash to take a picture. In this case, the woman told me not to use a flash. Thankfully there was a good amount of window light in Germany.
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Canon PowerShot SX100 IS f4.3, 1/80, ISO 200, Macro


2. Pencil and charcoal sketch artists in France sit outdoors under umbrellas to help shade their work space. It is easy to photograph them from a short distance of 4 to 8 feet away and use fill flash to compensate for shadows. Cameras record shady areas with blue tint. A flash will eliminate the hue.
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Canon PowerShot SX100 IS f4, 1/500, ISO 400, Program


3. While many of the people you'll encounter work at a slow to moderate pace, Myuki in Japan is super fast. You'll want to make sure your camera settings can keep up with her as she creates colorful animals out of soft rice candy before it hardens. Set your camera to Action or Shutterspeed Priority at 1/125 or quicker and keep your finger on the shutter release button so the camera constantly refocuses.
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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f4.5, 1/400, ISO 400, flash, Shutterspeed Priority


4. Try photographing from a different angle. Now, I don't mean you should climb walls and dangle from a wire but if the opportunity presents itself and you ask nicely, you might just get a super cool shot. In this case, I was part of the medium for this henna tatooo artist in Morocco.
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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f4, 1/60, ISO 400, flash, Program

More creative minds can be found in these pavilions:

Mexico - Hand-carved wooden animals & fantasy creatures. Watch as they are painted in fine detail.

China - You might luck out and see someone purchase (or buy it yourself) an item that is personalized.

African Outpost - Watch as a gentleman hand carves wildlife from wood.

Did I miss something? Write in and share with your fellow Disney addicts.


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August 22, 2012

Wide Angle Lens Love

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I'm a Canon girl. I bought my first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera when I was 16 years old at Levine's in Boston, MA. I remember the day rather well (a miracle for me). My heart was set on the Canon Rebel S because (remember I was 16) it was endorsed by Andre Agassi and he was hot. That's right, a celebrity endorsement worked on me. While I might have made my buying decision for questionable reasons, the fact is that camera was the love of my life for a few years until I got the twins, Canon EOS A2. Yeah, I've got two of those. Later, I got my hands on a Canon EOS 30D, my first and so far, only DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. I also have 2 digital Canon point and shoot cameras. All of my lenses and flashes are by Canon as well. Heck, I even have a Canon camera backpack. You get idea.

One of my lenses is a 17-40mm f4L USM (ultra sonic motor). It is designed for both film and digital cameras in Canon's EOS line. When mounted on a film camera, it is an ultra-wide angle with a short zoom. If used on a digital EOS that is not full frame (7 Canon pro bodies are full frame), it shoots like a 27mm-64mm lens due to the 1.6:1 conversion ratio for the Canon EOS 30D body.

A wide-angle is anything with a focal length of 35mm or wider, 28mm or 24mm. An ultra wide-angle lens would be 20mm, 18mm, and 17mm.

Now that we've covered some technical data, let's see what this baby can do for you.

It's great for large scenes and landscapes.
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f13, 1/320, ISO 250 at 20mm
Dumbo has cloned himself and relocated to the new Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Use it to fill the frame with a room or big subject matter within a very short proximity.
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f4, 1/60, ISO 250, with flash at 17mm
This was Mickey Mouse's bedroom. His country house was torn down when Mickey's Toontown Fair was foreclosed last year at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

Zoom in on a close range subject for sharp details.
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f8, 1/200, ISO 250 at 40mm
You can visit Neptune at the Italy pavilion at Epcot.




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August 15, 2012

Come to American Adventure, We Have Candy

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Standing near the register in Heritage Manor Gifts, the shop at American Adventure in Epcot, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief over the gunfight between young brothers running amuck. I personally am not a fan of toy weapons. Then I noticed that a lot of the historical merchandise was gone. If memory serves me right, there are now T-shirts from various athletic teams. Sure, it's difficult to say what should be for sale since you're actually in the United States and there's a part of me that questions what exactly represents us as a country.

Allow me toss out some ideas in case anyone from merchandising sees this. Let's start with toys, perhaps packaged jump ropes with instructions on how to jump double dutch, space shuttles, Sam the Eagle plush, Disney sports balls, Betsy Ross, Amelia Earhart, and Michelle Obama dolls, etc... Adults might enjoy cook books, puzzles depicting historical events, books by Mark Twain or other famous writers, and anything a teacher can use in class. It's possible some of these items are in the store now, things change.

In the meantime, enjoy a sugar high. Coke sold separately.
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August 8, 2012

Black and White Challenge - Entries 2

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Earlier in the year, I posted a blog challenging you all to break out from your regular photography routines. A few people took me up on the test and the first set of entries were posted in April. Since then I've only received images from 1 other reader whose work is showcased today. C'mon, grab your cameras and get out there and try shooting in black and white. You can also shoot in color and then convert your photo(s) to black in white with photo editing software. I dare you. No, I double dare you!

Did you miss the initial post? Have a read thru and then follow directions to submit your photos.

Hillary

This picture is one of my favorite pictures of all time. We had booked a room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for one night in a standard club level room. Magically, we were upgraded to a 1-bedroom suite, and this was the view from our balcony right before we checked out the next morning. It was amazing to watch these majestic giraffes just a short distance away. This picture always takes me away to a peaceful place full of zebra domes.

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I decided to see how this photo would look in black and white. I still prefer the color photo due to bright blue and green, however, I really like the black and white photo because it reminds me of photos taken by African explorers in the late 1800s. It makes me imagine that Kidani Village is the palace of a king from a long lost African empire.

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August 1, 2012

What's in Your Stroller? II

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It's time once again for a new chapter of What's in Your Stroller? Last we left off, a squirrel had opened a bagged loaf of bread at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We journey now to the Disneyland Resort for a glance at Californian strollers, dude. Who knows, one of these baby carriages might belong to a celebrity or better yet, a celebrity's nanny.

Found hanging around Critter Country waiting for the owners to return. What isn't in this stroller is the question.
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I hope these leftovers don't require refrigeration. Cali can reach temperatures of 100 or higher during summer months. Okay, I was there in early March but still, it gets totally hot.
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Just when you think you've seen everything, stroller in a stroller.
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We head back to Florida now for a bonus picture and a lesson. Stormtroopers make for bad babysitters. Uh, where's the girl!?*
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*Thank you to the mom who let me borrow her already vacated stroller.

July 25, 2012

Outdoor Portrait Lighting Jedi Style

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Making girls soon on the mean Streets of America was Anakin Skywalker, of Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The brooding soon-to-turn bad guy, stood out in the hot sun (ours not his), greeting fans, posing for photos, and signing autographs. Let's find out if he used Jedi mind tricks on me.

My Canon PowerShot SX30 IS was set to Portrait. The sun was up (as opposed to down, in the middle of the day) and off to my right.

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Oy! Or whatever might say Yoda. The lighting is bad. I'm going to pop up the flash to even out the lighting.

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Shazbot! Using a mode like Portrait that makes all photo-taking decisions won't fire the flash in daylight. However, this looks much better than before because he moved over.

That's it! I'm going to Program.

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Yeah, baby. That's much better.

Let's try a little fill-flash. It didn't make a big impact but it did lighten his skin tone a little.

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When taking people pictures under natural lighting conditions, be very careful to avoid uneven lighting. Dark shadows and blown highlights both lose details. Shadows around the eyes make folks look like raccoons, hence the term raccoon eyes.

On my next Disney trip I aim to show you advanced lighting techniques. Sit tight, it's not until 2013.


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July 18, 2012

Remember to Change Camera Setting

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Having used film cameras my entire life, I was perfectly happy with what I had and the knowledge of how my equipment would perform. I used the proper film speed for where and what I was doing. For my SLRs, I had my flash and battery booster to make it recharge quicker. I love it all.

I've begrudgingly adjusted to digital photography. I know the advantage of endlessly changing film speeds and the incredible amount of control I have over a point and shoot camera.

What happens every once in a great while is I'll temporarily forget my previous settings as I move onto to something new. Let me share a fairly recent example.

I was at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel taking photos of the check-in desk and signs. In an effort to avoid glare from various shiny surfaces, I set the white balance to Fluorescent, to work with the lighting. Before we were called in to be seated, I dashed outside and took a shot of the sign.

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I looked at it on my LCD screen and saw that is was yellow. After letting out some unspellable sound, I set the white balance for Day Light and re-shot the sign..

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Whew! That's much better.

As you move from one lighting condition to another, stop and ask yourself, Do I need to change anything (ISO, f-stop, shutterspeed, pre-set modes)?

Granted, those of you who only use Auto don't have to worry about changing settings.

Learn more about white balance from my previous blog.


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July 4, 2012

Dealing with Dietary Restrictions at Disneyland

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Last week I relayed information about dining out at Walt Disney World when you have dietary restrictions and food allergies. Today, we'll look at how the Disneyland Resort handles the same situation.

First, for those unfamiliar with Disneyland and California Adventure, these parks are smaller than their siblings in Florida. Meaning there are fewer places to eat and kitchens are rarely shared. In addition, calling to make a dining reservation is simpler. Call 714-781-DINE (3463) and the Cast Member will take all of your info. Advise the Cast Member of food allergies, special diets, and dietary restrictions. There's no lengthy reservation number to worry about forgetting to take with you, your name is enough. Should you forget your name, the First Aid station is on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland and in the Pacific Wharf section of California Adventure.

When you check in at the restaurant, remind the host/hostess that you'll need to see a manager of chef. You'll be asked to advise your server who will then act accordingly. In some cases, depending on the menu and your allergies, it might not be necessary to seek out a chef but have the server act as your liaison.

An advantage that the Disneyland Resort has over Walt Disney World is because they deal with fewer Guests and special requests, it is easier to contact the restaurant itself in advance. I have personally spoken to chefs and managers days before my arrival so they know what they'll need ahead of time. In one instance it meant not marinating a piece of salmon. In other instances it meant grabbing food from another kitchen that's not connected. To locate a restaurant's phone number, try calling Guest Relations 714-781-7290 or dining reservations 714-781-DINE (3463).

The almighty book of ingredients (Can I get an Amen?!) does not exist at Disneyland. Why? I'm glad you asked. The Disneyland Resort relies on various vendors for food supplies and it changes somewhat often. Suppose they need to order chicken strips and vendor A can't fill the order. Disney will then contact vendor B. Vendor A's chicken strips could be marinated with spices while vendor B's chicken is plain. See the problem? What happens at counter service eateries in my experience, is the manager will literally cut the label off the box of chicken (or other food) and bring it to you. Now you know exactly what you're getting.

Something else to note is to never assume something is safe. Pasta is cooked with black pepper (or white pepper) at Red Rockett's Pizza Port. That never would have crossed my mind but in talking to a chef there, I learned the easy way. They accommodate me every time by cooking my pasta separately.

During my last visit, my friend Yoli and I had brunch at Goofy's Kitchen. The chef walked me through the buffet pointing out what was and wasn't safe. Then he asked what did I want that wasn't pre-made. He made me a pizza with my selection of ingredients, American cheese, black olives, mushrooms, and zucchini, hold the sauce. Other food came my way and as usual, the chef made too much for one person in one sitting. Did you know that if your food is not from a physical buffet, you can take your leftovers?

Always allow for more time to eat since your meal will be made under supervision and separately from menu items.

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Remember, you can bring your own food into the parks but Disney cannot heat or refrigerate (certain exceptions apply, call Guest Services) it for you.

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June 27, 2012

Dining at Disney World with Dietary Restrictions

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


The simple pleasures in life occasionally are overlooked like the saltiness of fresh sea air. It is unfortunate that for a countless number of people, something as enjoyable as sitting down to a good meal is rather difficult due to allergies and dietary restrictions. I myself cannot tolerate things like black pepper, white pepper, and onions. Nowadays it feels like food allergies are more abundant than ever but then again it just may be the result of incredible modern day medical care that we are able to pinpoint these problems.

A smart restaurant trains its staff to properly handle a customer's allergies and restrictions. Those are the ones I revisit. The rest get a letter or phone call informing them of a bad situation. Luckily, Disney Parks takes the matter very seriously.

When you first make your Advanced Dining Reservation at Walt Disney World, be sure to tell the Cast Member if you call 407-WDW-Dine or to enter the info should you book it online about any and all food allergies and restrictions. Sometimes I call and other times when it's late at night and I have finally made a decision, I book online. I recommend calling (you can call after booking online) if your problem doesn't fall into one of these categories.


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Checking "Other" does not open a box for comments.


If you're like me and you've had your fair share of both good and bad experiences, you might want to reach out to Walt Disney World's Special Diets Team, a department that only handles dietary requests. I'll save you the extra step I took in finding these folks. Write to the team at specialdiets@disneyworld.com. Along with a pre-written letter about talking to chefs and how best to meet your needs, you'll also receive a form to fill out and fax back. The Guest Allergy/Dietary Request Form requires your contact info, the specific allergies and/or intolerance, and Advanced Dining Reservation number/location/date. Once your fax has been received, it is their job to send the info to each restaurant listed.


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I asked during my trip in May if my list was received at every restaurant noted. No one could confirm but rather said they get requests all the time and would make me something to suite my needs.

For those wondering, I ate at Coral Reef, Sci-Fi Drive-In, Crystal Palace (a friend's reservation), Nine Dragons (walk-in), and Bongo's Cuban Cafe. Everything went very well at Coral Reef and the Sci-Fi. I waited 30 minutes at least at Crystal Palace to speak with the only chef on duty. I've never waited that long anywhere before. Nine Dragons' did a great job especially since I walked in without warning them ahead of time. Then there's Bongo's which failed miserably. I never saw a chef or a manager until the end when I requested to see one. They washed a marinade off the chicken and tried serving it as "fresh." Thankfully I have a keen eye and only took a tiny bite before calling the server.

Households that keep Kosher should call 407-939-3463 at least three days in advance for sit-down restaurants. Pre-packaged meals come from Webermans and are available at select counter service eateries.

Whenever I check in at a restaurant, I first tell the host or hostess that I have restrictions. She or he might not tell my server or more commonly, tell me to inform my server. Usually the server will ask for details and when I say it's complicated because I don't fit any list they have, he/she runs frantically to find a chef. See, in addition to what I can't tolerate, there's a crazy long list of restrictions as well. Most chefs are eager to please guests. If you come across one who gives you a hard time, inform your server that you need to see the manager.

As for counter service options, I approach a cash register-operating Cast Member and tell them I have an allergy. Out comes the manager or chef with the all-powerful book of ingredients. I love the book. It answers all my questions and I can zip thru it quickly because I know what I can't eat.

Give yourselves extra time for dining. In order to meet your needs a chef may have to gather ingredients from another kitchen and personally oversee your meal from start to finish. I find that it is worth the wait and you'll find that you got more food than everyone else.

Next week, I'll go over my dining experiences at the Disneyland Resort.

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June 20, 2012

Photo Album - Star Wars Weekend T-Shirts

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It's been 6 years since I last experienced Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I'm not a big Star Wars fan but I do love events, especially those that are themed in detail. As I wandered about during this year's kick-off, I noticed that Disney shirts had been replaced by Star Wars ones and thought, Hey, this would make for a fun blog. here are just a smidgen of what I saw.

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I realize this is a Nike shirt but I'm giving this fella the benefit of the doubt that this was his attempt to blend in because it says "Force".

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The man wearing this T sat in front of me during the parade. His buddies kept acknowledging him.


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Available at Darth's Mall.


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Stormtroopers are very popular, especially as shirt designs.


Last but not least, this is the shirt I wore (although this isn't my body) that earned me 3 high-fives from Cast Members as soon as I walked through the turnstyle.

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June 13, 2012

Enchanted Tiki Room Lighting

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Buenas dias. My naps are getting more and more elusive. Look at all the people. Welcome to Lisa Berton's Enchanted Tiki Room Lighting blog entry. My goodness, you're all staring at these words, I'd better type faster.

The singing flowers and talking birds enjoy a cool and dark environment which is why you might find yourself having difficulty in taking their photo. As you know, flash photography is not allowed at this attraction, at least not during the show. If you ask nicely, a Cast Member might let you take a quick photo with flash as people are leaving.

So what do we do during the show? We use the manual settings and put all that we've learned to work. If you've forgotten, I'll give you these pointers.

A. Use a high film speed. High ISOs are designed for low light and/or very fast moving subjects (race cars, bullets, panthers, etc...)

B. Open up the lens to let in the most light. Lower f-stops (apertures) allow for more light to reach the digital camera's sensor.

C. A semi-slow shutterspeed (1/40, 1/50, 1/60) can stop slow-moving objects. Remember, these birds like to spin around on their perches.

D. If you find it challenging to hold your camera steady, use a mini-tripod. If the seat in front or beside you is empty, go ahead and take advantage of the space.

Here are two examples of hand-held shots taken at Disneyland.

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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f3.5, 1/60, ISO 1600

Lighting changes throughout the show so take multiple photos. The slighest difference can make one image "pop" more than the others.

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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f3.5, 1/50, ISO1600

While I did slow down the shutter a tiny bit on this second image, it is not the reason why the color looks altered. Colored gels illuminate our bird friends in various combinations, directions, and intensities.

Before you Heigh Ho your way out, re-visit my black and white challenge to you all from this previous blog. It runs all year long and your up-coming vacation is the perfect opportunity to show off what you can do. See what others have already submitted.

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June 6, 2012

Composition at Character Meals

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Eight weeks after booking your dining reservations, it's finally time to lean back and breathe in the warm vanilla and cinammon goodness of your efforts. The character meal is comprised of characters appearing at a restaurant to match its theme and not a meal comprised of characters. Ya know, I just want to spell it out for the newbies. Welcome! For example, Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club has a seaside theme where Minnie, Donald, and Goofy show off their vibrant beach/swim wear.

Characters make their way to each and every table where they will sign autographs, pose for photos, replace anyone missing from your table (Donald stole my seat when I went for waffles), and on rare occasions knock over your glass of skim milk (I promised I wouldn't tell who it was) and then run and grab napkins, clean the table and show you how sorry he is.
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This ia great opportunity to get nice family photos in a room temperature controlled setting without a stroller obstacle course. When Baloo (or Pluto or Stitch or Lilo or...) comes over, say hello and ask him or her to pose with said relative, friend, frenemy, or boyfriend/girlfriend you haven't yet introduced to your parents. If the character gets down to be level with your model (I find that in FL they do this with kids whereas in CA they do it with anyone seated) try to also be eye level with them. Should the character stand beside or behind your pal, you should also stand so you're not looking up Goofy's nose.

You know how much I love providing photographs of what does and doesn't work.

Location: Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Meal: Breakfast buffet
Characters: Pooh and Friends
Models: Susan (in blue) and Pam (in red)

Eeyore was the first to come by. Susan adores him and so we made sure to take a photo of them together. The average snapshot (based on 7 years of working in a retail camera store) looks something like this.

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On the plus side, the photo is in focus because I held the shutter button down halfway to focus before snapping the photo. It's well lit from natural light and my camera's flash. On the minus side (Down side? There's 2 sides to every Schwartz.) Susan and Eeyore are off-center, there's a random arm on the left, and on the right sit other patrons who are probably all quite lovely but they don't need to be in my photo album. Years down the road someone will ask you who they are and then you're going to have to lie and make up names and backstories which lead to a deprivation of character lawsuit against you from "Mr. and Mrs. Brickhouse" and then you'll spend 3 years in jail without visitation rights. Don't photograph other diners.

Fill the frame with your loved ones and whoever's vacationing with you.

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You're too old to suck your hoof, Eeyore.

Are you traveling with multiple humans? Great! Get them all in the photo. With Tigger bouncing his way between Pam and Susan, I took 2 photos. Here we have too much space above Tig's (we're buddies) head, the group is off-center, and again there's excess empty space in the shot. We can also lose the table and wait for Susan to hand over her camera to Carl (who is off camera).

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A nice close group photo works great. Tigger is the center and centered. Yes, you can gently crop the tippy top of a head or use the camera's viewfinder (if it has one) so as to not move the camera while shooting. Again, use the flash for proper lighting.

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We now have a nice photo to print, put in the photo album, and cherish without going to prison. Now if little Ralphy would expand his palette beyond mac 'n cheese, you would be an even happier mommy or daddy.


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May 30, 2012

Indiana Jones and Canon's Smart Shutter

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Millions of folks with point and shoot cameras don't take advantage of even half of what their cameras can do. I recently chatted up a gentleman in a wholesale store who was looking at cameras. He had just bought a camera and was comparing prices. I was surprised, as I always am, when he said he only uses the Auto mode.

With this in mind, I set my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS to Smart Shutter (a mode found under Scenes on the top dial) and photographed the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

You be the judge. Is it really a smart shutter?

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May 23, 2012

Horton Sees a Digital Zoom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


My Shooting Location: Universal's Islands of Adventure, Toon Lagoon, Me Ship, the Olive

Subject: Horton, who sits atop Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing

Camera: Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

Balance: Elbows locked and rested on a wooden fence.

Lunch: I brought tuna and bought a croissant and bite size honey dew at a bakery.

Mode: Auto

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Digital zoom set at 1.7

Q: What is a digital zoom?

A: A digital zoom is a camera trick that goes vroom. The optical lens goes as far as it can. Then the digital zoom increases the size of the man. He'll become somewhat blurry. Though he's not in a hurry.

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Digital zoom set at 2.1

Q: When can I use it?

A: If there's plenty of daylight don't have a fit. Make your body steady. Take the photo when you're ready.

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Digital zoom set at stanard, 50x

Q: Will my pictures look better?

A: Think of a fuzzy Deinse Huxtable sweater. The pixels get bigger and the clarity lesser. Listen to me, I don't lie like Vanessa.

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Digital zoom set to standard, 140x

Here's proof, a visual, an example of my reason. Horton's trunk with a flower in season. It's hard to decipher and blurred it surpasses. If you stare too long you might need to wear glasses.
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This portion was cropped out of the full size version of image 4.


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May 16, 2012

Photo Album - ( I Survived) One More Disney Day

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



A long, long time ago (February 29, 2012) in a state far, far, away (from my home) a fantastic event took place. Legions of sleepless fans and sugar-induced kids of all ages descended upon a happy place for it opened it's gates for 24 hours straight begining at 6 AM Pacific. These photos and comments tell the tale of one such crazed girl who lasted almost 19 hours without a nap. Although her oh-so-awesome friend Yoli took a nap for her while sitting upright in a not-so-comfortable wooden chair, upstairs in The Golden Horseshoe while a gazillion people made endless noise before Billy Hill and the Hillbillies took the stage for the first time that day at 11:15 PM to a standing room only crowd. :breathe:


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When I arrived at the esplanade, it was still dark out, and only those who had slept overnight were allowed through the gates. I couldn't make heads or tails out of the queue. There was an undercover Disney security guard at bag check for those with bracelets. He's not a morning person or good at being undercover since he showed me his badge.


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For those familiar with the area, there were multiple lines running thru the bus drop off lot. Then the line went down Harbor Blvd and supposedly ended at the satelite parking lot. I sat down on a bench and waited for the line to end and here it is.


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At least one news crew was present. This cameraman got the ears people camped out for 8 hours or more to receive. The same image was used on large button pins and handed out for free to everyone.


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Start your morning off with a hug from Minnie.


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Yes, the first thing I did was rent a locker. It was one of the best decisions I made. My friends and I made good use of it as we added and subtracted clothing layers throughout the day.


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My little buddy Logan piloted Dumbo for me. He found my backseat driving comical as I kept saying "Up, up, up!"


lkb-OneMoreDay-Treats.jpgMmmm. Chocolate covered apples. I don't think I bought anything. What's wrong with me?


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Is this a Woozle? I was probably getting tired by this point. I should have had some candy.


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This is the infamous Yoli. That's all I am going to say. Sit girl, sit.


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I think it was my friend Jenn who first noticed this very un-Disney-like lack of cleaning. The light was filled with dead bugs and there was heavy dust in the ceiling, and around the light. Maintenance, please report to Roger Rabbit Car-Toon Spin and examine the queue.


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Around bedtime, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy hosted a pajama party. They danced and posed for photos. It was very popular with those still conscious.


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On our way out we caught more pajama party fun and these 2 hams. It was a good end to a very long morning/day/night. Yoli & I left Disneyland around 12:30-1 am, drove back to the hotel down the street that I had so smartly booked and konked out. We hit Downtown Disney, Goofy's Kitchen, and the Disneyland Hotel about 8 hours later.


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May 9, 2012

How to Check Your Auto Focus

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


You got the shot but you're not sure if it's in focus. It's better to find out right there and then if A. You need to take the photo again - or-
B. You can keep the settings you have and continue shooting

It's quite easy and while I don't have graphs and diagrams to show, I'm certain you can follow along.

Step 1. Take the photo. I'm just sayin'.
Step 2. Press the review button. It should look like this. icon_review.jpg

99% of the time, a photo will look clear on a small LCD screen because it is so small. In order to view the image and get a real sense of what it looks like, you'll need to enlarge it. Every camera is different. Some require you to move a knob like you were zooming in while taking a photo. Others have a special button with a + symbol on it. To know exactly how your camera increase images on the screen, consult the manual. They love it when you hold them and gain knowledge from their semi-glossed pages.

Step 3. Enlarge the pixels on the screen to look carefully at portions of the photo. You can move the image left and right using the 4-directional pad, dial, or Atari joystick. I'm kidding, try Nintendo's controller.


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Take a good look at it and then make your decision.

Here's proof I take sharp photos with point and shoot cameras.

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Peace out.

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May 2, 2012

A Vivid Glance at Disneyland

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I'm going to make this blog short and sweet.

Playing around with my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, I took a few shots when the train we were riding (Disneyland Railroad) pulled into Mickey's Toontown station. Seated with my friend Lisa and her 2 little boys, I quickly grabbed 2 snapshots. For the first image, I set it to Program (P) and ISO 400. The camera selected the f-stop, f4, and shutterspeed, 1/640. I then changed the settings by turning the dial to Scene and selecting the parrot icon for Vivid. Again the camera made the techincal decisions; ISO 80, f4, 1/125. These are the results.


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Check your camera's manual to see what kind of cool things it can do.

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April 25, 2012

Roller Coaster Series: The Incredible Hulk

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Bag and hat holders rejoice! While the wild portion of your crew is loop-dee-looing and clutching onto the safety harness, you can relax and take photos. This is the start of a mini-series (before it becomes an interntational silver screen gem) of photographing steel, wooden, and other solid building materials, roller coasters. With each new thrilling blog (spread out over the year) I'll show you how to deal with various "obstacles" and offer important tips on how to get great vacation snapshots. Strap in. We're off in 3, 2, 1!

Action photos are one of the more challenging images to grab with a point and shoot camera because they take longer to record the image than a single lens reflex camera does. It can be frustrating at times but with some practice and knowledge, you can walk away knowing you nailed the shot.

There are various types of action photography. This turn we'll go over single frame still shots where you wait for the moving target to enter the frame. In other words, you hold still and the Tiki Room flies away.

First, find the location that gives you a clear view of the tracks and the car (or train, pod, bobsled, etc...). Most importantly be sure that the ride will be moving towards you or go by sideways. Strangely enough, there's no expression to be found on the back of someone's noggin.

Second, set yourself up. While the idea of using a tripod or monopod seems strange for a fast shutter, it does help steady the shot. If those items aren't with you, try leaning on a fence, trash can, or other permanent and sturdy fixture. When such things aren't available, keep your elbows in against your sides/chest to minimize camera shaking.

Third, find a spot to focus on. Make sure you aim the lense's focal point on the same plain that the roller coaster cars travel. If you focus on a tree behind the tracks, you'll wind up with a lovely sharp photo of the tree but not your peeps. I usually lock my eye on the tracks themselves, keeping my finger halfway depressed on the the shutter button so I'm always focused and ready to go.

Fourth, dial in the mode or manual settings. You'll get better photos when you make the decisions. The camera has no idea you're waiting for a speeding to train to come hurling by. The 2 best settings are Manual (M) where you choose the shutterspeed and aperture or Shutterspeed Priority (Tv) which decides what aperture to use based on the shutterspeed you select. Don't forget to make sure the ISO (film speed) is compatible with your lighting situation. The lower the ISO number (80, 100, 200), brighter light is required.

Fifth, be ready and anticipate when your loved ones will fly by. Point and shoots have a short delay between the time your trigger finger depresses the shutter button and when the photo is actually taken. Stay a step ahead if you can by mentally timing when the coaster passes by or better yet, grab a few test shots before your offspring and crazy friends go whizzing past you.

The examples below were taken at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida within the first 30 minutes of park opening. My camera of choice is a Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. I decided to use the Auto mode. It's not easy to tell on images of this size but the car and people are not sharp like the rest of the photo. You know how I love to teach you what not to do as well as what you should do. :cheesy grin:


The set up. The Incredible Hulk Coaster blasts fog before the car comes out the chute.
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Timing the fog and when the riders would appear takes mad skills.
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Sometimes you get lucky and wind blows the fog away or it's only released for every other car. I forget which.
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Since I had already framed various portions of the track, I grabbed some other action.
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Now, if it doesn't matter who's riding the coaster and you just want some cool photos, get the morning light to backlight the tracks, wait for the fog and the car and then go to town.
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April 18, 2012

Photo Shoot with Goofy and Donald Duck

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


A huge draw at any Disney park is the opportunity to meet characters, the movie and TV stars that appeal to multiple generations. Moms and dads delight in photographing their children with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse while grandparents feel nostalgic about when they brought their family for the first time.

Then there are the solo travelers, like myself, who have photos with characters but sometimes would just take pictures of the characters themselves. We walk up beside the line and snap away during the nano second between visitors. When I want something more out of a character and the line isn't too long and the sun isn't making me melt, I wait. At the front of the line, a Cast Member will offer to take a photo of me with the character. I politely decline and turn to the character(s) and tell them we're doing a quick photo shoot.

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Alright boys. Work your magic.

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Show me your serious side.

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Work it. Work it.

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Okay, now happy.

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Yeah, now cool.

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Thanks! You're the best.

I never take more time than a family of 4 would take. My Canon EOS 30D is set to go as is the flash to brighten up gloomy days or shadows. There are words I never say to a character when photographing them even if it's a fashion shoot. These do not exist on Disney property. I'll let you decipher my code.

Next time I hit the parks, if an opportunity presents itself again, I'll try out my point and shoot camera. If you use yours outdoors, set it for action/sports or better yet, continous shooting mode.



Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.

April 11, 2012

Black and White Challenge - Entries

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Two weeks ago my blog entry encouraged my readers to try photographing in black and white or to at least convert some color photographs into black and white to see the difference. A few of you sent in photos and I'm delighted to post them. This challenge will run for the rest of 2012 so be sure to send in your photos. You can read the original blog here.

Craig

I have problems with my color vision (commonly called "colorblind" but more accurately "red/green color weakness") so although I usually take color pictures, I often appreciate B&W simply because I know what I see is what others see. If I play with the color in a photo as you and Scott sometimes do, I might end up with something that looks fine to me, but screwy to all you normal people (well, normal sighted, anyway.)

This is a picture that I took at Disneyland several years ago. I have it among the pictures which rotate as the background on my computer but I really like the black and white version, and have it in the rotation, too.

Thanks again for your photo hints on AllEars.

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"Normal sighted, anyway" made me laugh. I see you pointing at me. Just don't point at me in cyan. I'm a little weak in that area.


Lauren

My name is Lauren and Walt Disney World is my passion. I am 14 years old and have been to WDW 19 times. I read all the blogs on AllEars every day. I just love it. My favorite is Picture This! because when I go to Disney I always take tons of photos.

When I saw your challenge on the Color vs. Black & White, I took to it! After searching through my photo files I only found a couple of black & white ones and they were from IllumiNations and were a little blurry. So the first image is from January 2011, when I was there for my 13th birthday.

I then decided to find an image that I could turn black & white with my Photoshop CS5. This image has a story behind it. So my dad found out that Disney offers educational classes for certain age groups. So he signed my up for an Animation Class. I got into MGM, sorry, Hollywood Studios, before it even opened. I noticed after the picture was taken that a Cast Member was adding finishing touches to the Planet Hollywood Store.

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How about a strong round of applause for Lauren! Keep up the good work!


Jeffrey

Thanks Lisa, love the blog!!

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I guess he's shy. We can always make up a story or 2 for Jeffrey.


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April 4, 2012

Miniature Effect

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


My new Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and I set out to test out its many cool features, one of those being the Miniature Effect. You've probably seen commercials using this trendy style of filming over the past few years. It's intrigued me and driven me crazy at the same time but having it available on my camera will only lead to trouble on my part, fun trouble.

The camera utilizes selective focusing, vivid color, and contrast. Selective focus is also known as tilt shift and specialty lenses are available for SLR cameras. Point and shoot digitals have built-in software that attempts to mimic the look.

I have some examples for you to peruse. Taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom, you'll find this docked boat adding to the overall feel of Asia. As you walk over the bridge from Dinoland into Asia, you'll spot the boat off to the right. If you're coming from Asia, you'll find it behind Drinkwalla, a refreshment/snack stand.

A normal shot looks fine.
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A totally different image emerges when using Miniature Effect. It's so simple that it's just a matter of turning a dial and pressing a few buttons. As always, I encourage you to read your camera's manual. Off the top of my head, I do not know what other cameras offer this feature.
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I walked down to the "dock area" and grabbed a closer shot.
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The effect is visible but doesn't have as much of an impact as the shot of a larger scene.
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When I return to Walt Disney World next month I'll test out Miniature Effect on more subjects.

Now say "toy boat" 5 times fast.

If you missed last week's blog, I challenged everyone to shoot in B&W as well as color to submit photos. Check it out. I'll start posting pics next week.

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March 28, 2012

Disney Vacations: Color vs Black and White Challenge

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I was (and still am) a brat while studying photography. My photojournalism teacher and I used to go head to head over her assignments and what I wanted to do. One such item was my determination to only shoot in black and white. To me, photojournailm means documenting history as it occurs and for some reason in my 19 year old brain, that meant it had to be in black and white. It came as a relief to my Boston Globe longtime staff photographer teacher and probably to my classmates as well, when on a vacation to California I began shooting in color. I was told that my images showed that I loved the state and came alive out on the west coast. They were right because less than a year later I made my first attempt to live out there. Sure, I only lasted 2 months but we won't get into that now.

The reason I bring all of this to light is because I want you to step outside of your norm. My guess is that 99.9% of you always shoot your family vacations in color. That's how digital cameras are set up unless you manually change the settings. The other option, if you're worried you won't like the results, is to shoot in color and then when you come home, convert the photos to black and white with photo editing software. It is a rare possibility that your camera will record an image in color and in black and white at the same time. To find out, consult your camera's manual.

Consider this your assignment. The next time you take a Disney vacation or go on any outing, shoot in black and white. Send me 1 or 2 of your favorite photos and I'll post them throughout the year. If you shoot in color, send me (lisaberton followed by @ and the name of this website) the image in color as well as a black and white version so folks can compare the two. Everyone who takes part will receive some AllEars.Net trading cards from me. How's that for some incentive!

I will follow thru on my upcoming trip in May. Until then, here's an example to get you going

The entrance to El Centro, the main building of Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, is vibrant and with hanging flower basket and cool to the touch tiles. Sunlight shines down through skylights when the sun is overhead.
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Part of what makes a color image work in black in white is tones. Black and white photography is comprised of the Zone System which gives us 10 steps of range from white to black. Varying shades in a black and white image give it depth and contrast.
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Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.


March 21, 2012

Photographing Hogwarts Through Trees

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Witches and wizards, grab your cameras and take aim. Put down the wands. No magic is required for this assignment, only creativity. I want you to choose a large subject and look at it from a distance. Are there trees between you and what you're aiming at? Good. I want you to use the branches to your advantage. Use them to add dimension to the shot.

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These branches add a touch of mystery to the shot because they keep us from getting a clear view of Hogwarts. Be certain not to block so much of the subject that the average person can't make it out.

More drama can be created with a few simple adjustments. A slight change in angle includes the top of a fence at the bottom of the frame. This tells the viewer to stay back. Mother Nature adds some quick moving clouds for pops of white in the sky. A quickie post production darkening of midtones and a new photo emerges.

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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be found at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.

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March 14, 2012

Saratoga Springs Leading Lines

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


There are a variety of factors that go into a well-composed photograph. Today we'll look at leading lines in the form of a walkway. A leading line takes the person viewing the photograph from one point to another even if one point is the edge of the frame.

As usual, I have some examples for you of what doesn't work and what does.

In this first photo we see a small part of the walkway that one could virtually step onto but it's not an easy step. It simply does not work.

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Next, the walkway is clear at the beginning and guides along. Sure, that lampost feels like it just cut us off but we can see the continuing path. This image is alright.

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Now, having seen these 2 images, what do you think the 3rd photograph would look like and why? Feedback is great in helping me determine what level you folks are at in your photography and gives me ideas for future blogs.


Yep, I'm on Facebook.

I'm delighted that so many of you responded! Thank you. I'm even happier to know you have learned about leading lines and composition form all of our blogs (but mostly mine).

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By moving right, the lamp post jumps out of the walkway so your eyes can visually wander down the path. You can also follow the curve of the shrubs on the left that wind out and in to the walkway.

March 7, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


I gave myself the gift of taking the day off. See you guys next week.

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February 29, 2012

Training for 24 Hours at Disneyland

For centuries, athletes of all nations have put their bodies through extensive rigorous training and carefully selected nutrients to help strengthen muscle. Men and women alike spend endless hours in heat, humidity, and freezing temperatures, practicing at the sport(s) in which they compete. No hurdle is too high. No limbo stick is too low. Although each person hungers for victory, only one can be crowned winner.

True that One More Disney Day, the 24 hour event taking place at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, will not produce a winner per se, there is a competition within my brain.

My dear readers, fellow Disney enthusiasts, and friends who I am forcing to read this triumphant ensemble of words and imagery, I will be taking part in Disney's test of endurance in California. Oh yes, "they" are testing us. Can we, the I'm with Dopey T-shirt wearing, monorail spiel spieling Peter Pans handle attraction after attraction, show after show, turkey legs, ice cream sandwiches, special event merchandise offers, and Mickey in presumably a fashion show of his wardrobe so extensive that Ken bows down to him!? :breath: And most of all, will it be possible for us all to behave and refrain from becoming cranky? I asked you a question. I can't hear you. Ok, OK, no need to shout. Good, because I am sharing my exclusive training guide with you. (No, not you, you. Yes, yes, you. Stop pointing at yourself. I see you. Yes, that's a lovely haircut. Perhaps next time you should give a stylist a chance. They can work without bowls.) Behold my secrets! Read them. Absorb them. Share them! (use the icons at the bottom of the page and make this thing viral)

Hydration
Our bodies are our temples. Some of us have additional temples we visit but not as often as our mothers would like. When you are out walking or running away from invisible chasers, stop and smell the flowers. It doesn't matter if you're in a park, flower shop, or snooping around the neighbor's garden. Down some H2O to stay hydrated. No need to buy bottled water when it's free everywhere else. Turn on the sprinkler, find a bubbler, or grab a vase and chug. Floral arrangements don't last long anyway.

Animatronic Affiliation
Going into a Disney park without proper assimilation to mechanical ducks, feral cats, mother-in-law pacaderms and the like is dangerous. Do yourselves a favor and adjust even if it just once, a few short days prior to passing thru the turnstyle. Amazingly enough, animatronics can be located in restaurants, furniture stores, and Walmart.
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FastPass Sprint
The golden tickets are in high demand. Train your feet for mad dashes that borderline on jogging because running is not allowed in the parks unless you paid a hefty fee for the quickest visit ever and can't even go on a ride. Do laps around the office, continuously avoiding eye contact with co-workers or you'll never build endurance. Flee from your car, into the grocery store, and stop short at the ATM. Cash withdrawls are optional but make for great card insertion practice.

Stroller and ECV Escape
Getting from one land to the next is no easy task when you are trapped in a moving obstacle course. You must move like a gazelle and prance along, dodging strollers pushed by distracted moms who subconsciously seek injustice on your tired toes. Be sure and test out the balls of your feet, your human break pads, to avoid coliding with ECV drivers who aren't afraid to use their all-American right to beep at you, both electronically and verbally. Practice at your local mall on a weekend. Holiday sales events are reserved for advanced conditioning.
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Character Study
Disney gets a thrill from releasing cooped up characters during special events. You just never know who will be around the corner reliving all the glory of when he or she was the talk of the town. Dig deep and reach far, far back at the local movie and TV rental website for discs you've never seen or shamefully forgotten. You don't want to be the guy who people talk about on popular websites for yelling "Snoopy" at Goofy.
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Voluntary Insomnia
To fight for the gold, one must have stamina and determination. Toothpicks may also help. 24 hours without sleep doesn't come easily after 24 years of age. Like any athletic challenge, practice can make you or break you. Stay up late. Get up early. Wait a week or 2 and do it again. Challenge yourself to go 18 hours straight without a nap. Slap yourself silly (not the same as slap happy) if need be. The only one who can vote you off Tom Sawyer Island is Mr. Sandman. Reward your success with a long nap. You'll need to rest up.

Constrained Delirium
Finally, know the signs of losing your mind and control the urge to make irrational split-second decisions. Accepting a dare to determine just how many pickles fit in your mouth at 3am is not a good idea. Donald Duck is permanently pantsed. Leave the foul mood fowl alone. Stay in control and keep away from bad influences. Beware of elderly women who "want you to stay healthy" and offer you fruit, as well as a middle-aged chain smoker with dalmations in her van.

Now get out there and prove yourself a winner...at Walt Disney World. I'm taking home the crown from Disneyland.

Check in with me at 7:30am Pacific today (Feb. 29th) at the tiled court by Jungle Cruise's exit. We'll find an attraction that's open early.

Check in again at 9pm Pacific along the wall between Star Tours and The Star Trader gift shop. We'll shake ourselves awake on Star Tours.

February 22, 2012

Disney on Ice - Lowlight Action

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Before I begin, I want to let you all know that I am hosting 2 meets at Disneyland on Wednesday, February 29th. These events will take place during Disney's One More Day in celebration of Leap Year. You can sign up via Facebook. RSVPs are not necessary but help with estimating how many people I should anticipate. I hope to see you there!

7:30am The Early Birds - Adventureland
Meet at the tiled court near the Jungle Cruise exit. We'll enjoy an attraction that's open early.

9:00pm The Night Shift - Tomorrowland
Meet against the wall between Star Tours and the gift shop, The Star Trader.


Betwixt visits to Mickey Mouse's home (Disneyland) and his favorite vacation spot (Walt Disney World), one can catch up to him and his pals at a Disney on Ice performance. Each touring show has a different theme.

I enjoyed Dare to Dream this past Friday at TD Garden in Boston, MA. Three stories are condensed to create one show; The Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, and Tangled. Prior to the start of each tale, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy get things rolling with a brief summary, playfulness, and some snazzy New Orleans jazz-inspired outfits. The show closes with a huge production number including fireworks, and a plethora of Disney couples.

Photography without flash and videotaping are allowed for personal use. Lighting is low and often times characters are only semi-spotlighted or skate through projections or colored gels. When multiple ice skaters are on the floor, the difference between those in spotlights and those in overall lighting tends to differ by 1 to 2 stops. For instance, the spotlight skaters might register at f8 with lots of light while someone under general lighting reads f5.6 (the lens needs to open up to compensate for less light) on the camera's meter.

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This is a fine example of how varying the lighting is at the show. My camera was set to Shutterspeed Priority at 1/320 and my ISO was 1250. Pattern Metering, which read many points in the image, set the aperture at f4.


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Again, we see variations in how brightly lit some skaters are compared to others. Those magenta and purple gels make people darker.


The basics for photographing action in low light using SLR manual controls are:

1. Use a fast ISO such as 800 or higher.

2. Open the aperature as much as you can. The lower the number (f2.8, f3.5) the more light is allowed through the lens.

3. Shoot fast! Action requires a fast shutterspeed. If 1/125 doesn't cut it, go faster and try 1/250 or 1/500.

4. Keep your camera focused on the subject and follow him/her with the camera (stay in your seat) as she/he moves.

5. Poise that index finger and keep it pressed half-way down on the shutter button so the camera keeps focusing and you don't lose that split second when you take the photo.

6. Try continous shooting and high continuous shooting. You'll grab a fast series of images.


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As soon as I saw the material drop from above, I knew they were going to take off flying. I changed my setting to high speed continuous and fired about 4 shots in 1 second.


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7. Give your moving subject room within the frame. You never know when an arm or leg might swing out. You can always crop the photo later.


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This is the original image. Yes they're a bit small in this shot but that's okay because it's in focus.


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Voila! An action shot of Minnie on one foot (although it'd be nice to see part of her left leg).


The same can be said for those using point and shoot cameras with a few added notes. Keep the camera at eye level and lock your elbows against your sides. You need to hold the camera steady. Holding the camera above your head is not only loose and shakey but you're now blocking the view of those sitting behind you.


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Standing on a stable, Tiana gives folks a chance to grab a great shot of her under bright lighting.
1/250, f4.5, ISO 1250


All images were taken with a Canon EOS 30D and Canon 75-300mm USM lens. Images of The Princess and the Frog were taken about 15-20 away from the ice. All others were taken from a suite on the 5th floor.

Media tickets were provided by Feld Entertainment and TD Garden.

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February 15, 2012

Sunlight on City Hall

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Lighting can make or break an image. The greatest moment caught on camera lands in the land of delete when you can't make out who it is or what's going on because the photo is underexposed (not enough light) or overexposed (too much light). Lighting can make the simplest of boring old items dramatic and pronounced.

On a September day, I entered the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World with the intention of looking up. Taking into consideration the sun's position, I walked forward and back, this way and that all while aiming my lens at the castle flag atop City Hall. I zoomed in and out, trying a variety of combinations of angles and distance.

Each photo has a different look and one is not necesarily better than the other. These are merely an example of how you can work direct sunlight to your advantage and have fun playing with the outcome.

The sun was roughly in a 10 o'clock position behind the building. The wind was blowing moderately, moving the flag sweepingly.

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February 8, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Disney Resorts, Downtown & the Last Bus

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

It was my last vacation day in the sunshine state and I managed to sleep in a little. I finished packing my bags, checked out, and loaded up the turbo charged station wagon. There was only one thing I wanted for breakfast and I headed to Saratoga Springs for it.

Mickey waffles are delicious and adorable. I got them from the kiddie menu accompanied by red grapes and a small carton of skim milk. From the physically over 9 menu, slow cooked oatmeal joined my tray. Everything was yummy and my tummy was quite happy. Back in the gift shop I looked for more cool stuff for my house I don't yet own and came up short.

I randomly selected a parking lot and wandered around a building and took photos for future blogs. People must have slept in or already hit the parks because I only saw 6 or 7 humans and 2 of them worked at the resort. It was a quiet visit.

One can never do enough shopping and so off to Downtown Disney I drove. Portions of Downtown Disney were packed and busier than I have ever seen. First I hit up the Marketplace and found a few spots that weren't too bad like Arribas Bros. The Christmas shop wasn't a zoo as I expected and the Hanukkah merchandise consisted of 2 small shelves on 1 endcap. Tren D was difficult to manuever through and Art of Disney had random clumps of shoppers.

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Edna 'E' Mode wants you to say no to capes.

The area formerly known as Pleasure Island and may someday be known as Hyperion Wharf which might be under construction was filled with folks walking around. I had lunch at Raglan Road at 1 o'clock. When I arrived it was about half-filled and then looked as though it hit or nearly reached capacity within an hour. As usual the staff was accomodating but Chef James wasn't around and while the food was good, it wasn't wicked awesome like my previous meal and I had to send it back to the kitchen because they forgot something. When it came back, some of my lunch was cold but I just couldn't be bothered to say anything.


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What you can't see is to my left is the fireplace with Christmas stockings hanging from the mantle. It's almost as funny as when Buca di Beppo put my birthday party in the Pope Room. Get it? Cuz I'm Jewish.


The plan was to soar with Characters in Flight but as I approached I found a long line and smokers in the area. Shops in West Side were bustling. In an effort to get the heck away from everyone, I boarded a boat to Old Key West. You should try it sometime. It's a nice relaxing 15-20 minute cruise that drops you off by registration and Olivia's Cafe.


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I wonder if this is Tarzan's idea of upper class.

A few photos, window shopping, and pin trading later, I found myself chatting up the fellas at bell services. One had to run off and transport guests but that didn't stop him form hamming it up.


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Randy in action. People need transport stat!


Back on the boat we sailed to West Side and crowds were still crazy. I opted to find dinner and more peace and quiet at Caribbean Beach Resort. During my September 2011 vacation I discovered that I love the mattress in my pirate ship. I put the gals at guest services to work as they tried to find out the make and model of the mattress but the housekeeping manager had left for the day. Ask me if I have called back. No, I keep forgetting. If anyone out there can verify it for me, drop me a note, please. That was the most comfortable mattress I can remember ever sleeping on.

I hung out by the pool, picked up some stuff in the gift shop, and I think I got something to eat on the plane. I can't remember. I do recall not feeling well and resting until it was time to return to Orlando International Airport.

This flight was much better. By the time we landed and I got my suitcase, I had missed the midnight bus back to Logan Express. There was 1 more bus at 1:15am and yes, I waited for it. Exhausted barely describes how I felt upon arriving home at 2am.

The End.

Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.

February 1, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Outlet Shopping & Disney Resorts

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Yes, gentlemen, I used the "s" word. No need to hide your wallets, I have your credit card numbers memorized and the stores thank you for contributing to Florida's economy.

My morning began when I woke up without any cell phones chiming or buzzers buzzing. I took my time, ate my Cheerios, and enlisted driving directions from my GPS even though I pretty much knew how to get to Orlando Premium Outlets formerly known as Belz Factory Outlet World. I expected a herd of last-minute shoppers to be out early since it was the day before Christmas but I arrived to find plenty of parking.

By the time 11am rolled around, Disney's Character Warehouse started to pick up. I made my purchases and got out to find the parking lot had filled up and people were circling like vultures driving SUVs. Among my finds, a Donald Duck DJ t-shirt, a padded pink laptop case (that proved to be 1" too short for my mom's computer), a credit card case, a ghost Mickey popcorn/trick-or-treat bucket, and some pins.

Thinking I could additionally make out at Disney's Character Premiere shop over on Vineland Avenue I chugged on over and found the parking lot to be utter chaos. I drove up and down aisles and had 2 parking spaces snagged from me by ruthless drivers. Just as I was about to give up, a nice couple pointed me to their car as they were leaving. Sad to say I did not buy a single item. I was through wasting time.

I stayed at Coronado Springs for a couple of nights years ago in an emergency-type situation. I never wandered around the grounds but I did make it into the gift shop and Pepper Market. Determined to actually see the resort, I headed over and was greeted by Cast Members with free cookies and lemonade. Mmmm cookies. Num, num, num. But cookies weren't enough for me and so I found myself back at the Pepper Market talking to the staff and chef. I was the last person seated before they closed until dinner. While I waitied for my specially-prepared meal, I kibbitzed with one of the girls working. She looked like a taller version of one of my very best(est) friends and I picked up on her slight Puerto Rican accent which just increased the similarity. We yakked like we'd known each other for years. It was pretty cool since I was alone the large majority of my trip.

Full of food, I ventured out and wandered around some of the buildings. A housekeeping manager came by and I asked him what the building was across the lake. He said it was another style of guest rooms but actually I was pointing at something else. He told me I should go for a walk and enjoy the layout and guess what? I did. It was a long walk past various settings, the pool and bar, over a bridge, and a heart-pounding escape from pocket protector-wearing conference attendees.

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This building houses genius kids who convinced their parents or other relatives to pay for their vacations including airfare, food, park tickets, and clothing they'll outgrow the following day.

Once back to the main building, I skipped into Panchito's Gifts and Sundries. Excited to please my love for The Three Caballeros in merchandise form, I discovered they carry next to nothing of my feathered friends. I fell to the floor sobbing in a major meltdown. Porque? Estoy enamorado con Jose Carioca. Necesito una figura de accion o arte que no me cuesta tanto. Porque?? 7 seconds later I was up and looking at shiny objects.

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Ancient Mayan flower blooms before 21st century replica wall.

Am I the only one who is confused by Animal Kingdom Lodge's various driveways and entrances? Since they added onto it, I find myself driving right by the original entrance and landing in the parking garage. I did it again on this last trip. Having parked on the first level, I found the elevator and took it up. Wandering the halls, I found a small room where Cast Members were also giving out cookies. Another treat set up was for the sugar-enhanced children to create crafts with painted ostrich egg shell fragments. No one asked if I was a DVC member which was kind of surprising since that was a Disney Vacation Club "only" building.

I gave it another shot and found the entrance I was actually looking for. Yay! Inside there was a line of people and strobe lights going off. Santa sat in a high back chair for good posture and posed with guests. I went into the gift shop in search of something ultra cool for my future house but didn't find anything I wanted. Boo. There were some fun and games at the cash registers. A few Cast Members were taunting each other. I stood around to watch and egg them on. You won't find them on any entertainment schedule. It's spontaneous Disney magic.

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The old "Remove the Minnie Mouse pin while not looking trick" fell apart when he used her hand as a gameshow buzzer. I'll take "Don't Even Try It" for 1,000, Alex.

Before I left the lodge or village or whatever it is currently named, I saw Mickey and Minnie. Yeaaaah boy. I hung around as long as I could without making myself late for a dinner date with friends at Wilderness Lodge. I crossed my fingers that they might appear at my next stop.

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Mickey Mouse demonstrates his newly-learned karate skills, wax on, wax off.

Winding my way over to Wilderness Lodge was fine. I made it without getting lost. Thank you very much. Hey I have been known to mix it up with Fort Wilderness. It's not my fault there are 2 resorts with the word "wilderness" in the title. It'd be easier for me if one of them was just named A Lot Like the Grand Californian. Then I'd know exactly what to expect and then be disappointed that the lobby doesn't connect to Downtown Disney. No, Minnie and Mickey did not make it over to Wilderness Lodge but Santa was there when I arrived and he looked really different. Perhaps it was all the flash bulbs.

I had a lovely first time dinner at Artist Pointe with my friends. My special meal was chicken and vegetables. The server had a good time with the list of things I can't eat and when it came time to order dessert and I passed, he passed as well... on the list of why I couldn't have any desserts on the menu.

It was nice to spend time with my friends, chatting, and catching up. I found myself winding down quickly and headed back to the hotel with the super long name to begin packing. It was the only "early night" I had and it felt good to unwind and go to bed at a decent time.

The answers to last week's quiz.

Which sitcom star voices Sideshow Bob? Kelsey Grammer

Why is the animatronic shark used in the Jaws movie named Bruce? Steven Spielberg named it Bruce after his attorney.

Name my favorite Brendan Fraser movie. George of the Jungle

What did Alfred Hitcock use for blood in the film Psycho? Chocolate syrup.

What childrens show (no longer in production) scares me more than Barney? Teletubbies


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January 25, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Universal Studios

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

That darn alarm clock woke me up again. After dealing with sore tootsies and long walks not on a beach, I decided to use the hotel's free shuttle service. With several departure times to choose from, I selected the second which would give me lots of time to walk slowly to the main gate.

The driver was full of energy and made sure we all knew which bus we were on and where he would pick us up. Thumbs up for Bob. At least I think that's his name. Slow and steady, I made it to Universal Studios' entrance with so much time to spare that I ate my Corn Pops while waiting for the park to open. Once the family of the day did their thing sans any characters, they let us in. Well, they let other people in. The guy at the front of our line had trouble with his ticket and finger scanner. Eventually I made it to the turnstyle where I too was rejected. The woman working there gave me grief saying the problem was my finger. Lady, even Abby's hippo Bert could have told you my print was a match.

While everyone went straight towards Shrek 4D, Revenge of the Mummy, and Hollywood Rip Ride rockit, I veered right where I was stopped by staffers. There was an imaginary rope to drop. No, I'm lying. After 5-10 minutes the call came thru to the walkie talkie that all of the attractions were open. Still taking my sweet time, lots of people walked, jogged, skipped, sashayed, and even rolled by me. Eventually I made it to my first ride of the day, The Simpsons (sing it).

Up the incline queue, into the building, and stopped in the main waiting room for what seemed like forever. Then into a smaller room where we watched instructions and then into the vehicle. I was climbing into the front seat when a guy asked if I'd sit in the back so e could be with his girlfriend. Sure, no problem. Uh, wait. There was a problem. I was now buckled in beside a screaming non-English speaking foreigner with a shrill voice. I gave this woman a look that said, Do you REALLY have to shriek at everything? She didn't get it. And so I left The Simpsons Ride with an echo in my ears and a headache. TV trivia for 3 points! Which sitcom star voices Sideshow Bob?

With barely a soul in sight, I continued moving forward and put my belongings in a locker beside Men in Black. Universal doesn't allow bags on certain rides and provides free locker rentals for an allotted amount of time. What I didn't know was it changes from attraction to attraction and increases or decreases depending on the expected wait time.

It was a complete walk-on, you know the type where walking through the entire queue seems silly because there's no wait whatsoever. After my first defense against aliens I asked to ride again. The gentleman told me to go upstairs, across the platform and back down again. Okay. When I got to the bottom the 2 guys asked me why I went all the way around. They were so cute and friendly. They told me next time, I should let their co-worker know they said I could walk right thru the curtain which is all that separates loading and unloading. :clap, clap:

After my second spin, I did just that and within a nano second I was back fighting creepy crawlers. That third ride was enough for me because the ride vehicle does some quick spins and as you learned previously, my equilibrium is not what it used to be. Gone are the days of loving the Round Up at carnivals. Heck, some parking garages put off my balance.

I picked up some postcards in the gift shop and went to retrieve my bag. The system said I owed money. What?! No way! I called over the attendant who explained the whole locker rental time change thing. See, I was timing myself at an hour based on my 1 hour and 15 minutes of rental time the day before with Harry Potter. He overrode the program so I could retrieve my stuff free of charge. Whoo!


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This section of my trip report needs a photo.


The Jaws attraction was scheduled to close permanently so I just had to go for one last cruise. I expected a decent wait but it wasn't bad, maybe 20 minutes or so and I got there within 5 minutes of it opening (an hour after park opening). The captain was awesome! Good acting skills with just a hint of cheese for flavor. As photography was prohibited, I didn't get his photo or his arch nemesis. Movie trivia time for 6 points. Why is the animatronic shark used in the Jaws movie named Bruce?

Disaster! No, no, no, nothing went wrong. Disaster was the thing I did next. This was my longest wait. The posted time was 20 minutes and I had I made the cut-off for the next show (missed it by about 7 people), I would have slid in in less time. I waited a good 40 minutes leaning on a trash can and guard rails in various seductive poses. If you love Christopher Walken then you must experience Disaster. I don't love him... I do enjoy his work...uh, not enough to send him Christmas cards :shrug: or call on his birthday :tilt head, turn hand palm up: but...well, you get the idea.

After the labyrinth I trudged thru at Islands of Adventure, I decided to plunk down some money at a real restaurant for lunch. It was my first time eating at Finnegan's Bar and Grill and it was A-OK. The chef and I went over my dietary restrictions and came up with chicken, boiled potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables. They serve a nice soda bread before the meal on a wood shamrock-shaped cutting board. With my AAA card, I saved 10%. Actually, I tried to grab the attention of a family sitting near me to tell them about the discount but they didn't notice.

The mummy hunks as I like to call them were just outside Finnegan's. No visit to Universal Studios is complete without seeing these classically-trained stilt-walking specimens. I wasn't going to get any closer to Revenge of the Mummy. Come to think of it, I've never even looked to see if there's a gift shop for it. Do they sell mummy hunks?
Bonus trivia! The Mummy trilogy stars Brendan Fraser. Name my favorite Brendan Fraser movie.


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Beef on a stick. :giggle:


Following lunch I wandered around, took photos of "New York," saw Doc Brown (not to be confused with Dr. Brown's which is delicious), and breezed through the Twister gift shop (thank you, I'll be here all night). In truth I was just killing time before the next Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, another item to knock off my list of "new" experiences.


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Honey, I can't find Pirates of the Caribbean anywhere on this gosh-darn map.


Why had I never seen this show before? Seriously. I kept asking myself that question. Perhaps I saw a Beetlejuice show at Universal Hollywood and didn't like it. No idea but I LOVED Orlando's version. I even considered seeing a second show but never made it back. Why I enjoyed the show so much was the music is mostly from the 80's, the monsters can sing (Bride of Frankenstein belongs on a record label), it's kitchy, and I kept visualizing Sergio from Menudo as the Wolfman. Oh, and the warm up guy was a hoot. If anyone recalls the older gentleman who kept folks entertained at Disneyland before Fantasmic!, this guy was his devlish brother.


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It's not easy being married to someone who's green.

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Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue sponsored by MAC.


Over to the Hollywood side I walked and watched the Horror Make-up Show. I was one of the last ones seated which meant the show started soon after. I got an end seat in the 4th or 5th row beside a well-behaved little boy. I don't remember seeing this show before or perhaps not this version. It was entertaining and I had hoped to learn the process of applying monster make-up but that wasn't in the script. Movie trivia for 3 points. What did Alfred Hitcock use for blood in the film Psycho?

When I entered the park in the morning many, many attractions were closed so I shuffled on back to knock them off my list. I watched Animal Actors on Location which is comprised of parrots, a pig ho wants to work, dogs, amoebas, ducks, cats, centaurs, and other -legged friends. Continuing into Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone I saw Fievel's Playland which is adorable and oversized so you feel like the size of a mouse. Now, I know who Fievel is but does this generation of toddlers? E.T. was calling my name so we went for a bike ride together which turned into a escape from the cops and an interplanetary flight to E.T.'s home planet. That was exhausting. Thank goodness we exited into a gift shop so I could buy something to remember him by. "Could buy" being the operative words becaue I didn't see anything I needed.

Just as I headed to a snack cart to buy anything that looked bad for me, terrible noises and flashing lights came from beyond. A deep voice wouldn't stop pounding in my eardrums. I fell to my knees to beg for mercy. When I lifted my head, I saw the cause of my pain. A Day in the Park with Barney and his store. Agh! The horror! Bonus trivia question. For 8 points, what childrens show (no longer in production) scares me more than Barney?

In order to regain my sanity, I headed to the Kwik-E Mart. There I chatted up some fella working the register and picked up some yummy fruit snacks and a wash cloth featuring The Simpsons for my future guests in the future guest bathroom in my future house. Yes, I am awesome.

Someone said the parade was starting and so off I went to see Macy's Holiday Parade. For some reason, I thought they were re-running Thanksgiving. I was wrong, it was a Christmas-themed parade. They had lots of balloons but the characters like Grover, Curious George, and Scooby Doo were out in the park. In the parade there was Uncle Sam, a football, Macy's stars, and so on.


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I get it. He's trapped in a box.

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Do NOT try to braid the strings, ladies!


Universal is obsessed with stilt walkers so a few of those were tosed in the mix along with characters on various modes of transportation (The Simpsons in an RV) or on a float. It was a nice parade but my favorite was at the end when a nice Jewish boy escorting Santa's float walked by wearing a menorah hat. And thus my people were represented.

The last stop at the park was Shrek 4D. I fibbed my way into the dungeon so as not to wait for the next show. The fella working the doors asked if I was with the family reunion ahead of me. I said yes. And under my breath I said I was the adopted white girl. My "cousins" sat on either side of me and I had to use my favorite non-thrill ride prank. It goes a little something like this:

Me: Hi. Have you been on this ride/show/attraction before?
Victim: No, it's my first time.
Me: Well, then make sure to put on your seatbelt.
Victim: Thanks. (looks around for seatbelt)
Me: (laughing) I'm just kidding. This thing doesn't move/barely moves.
Victim: Oh! You got me! (laughing)

After riding around with Donkey, we were deposited into a...gift shop! I didn't buy anything there either. After an easier walk thanks to the other pair of sneakers I brought, I made an early bus back to my hotel. I popped into the deli-type shop and bought a croissant. With my handy dandy microwave, I reheated the extra baked potato from the day before (my room had a fridge). The croissant met the package of tuna and they were immediately married and then devoured. I was so pleased with my culinary skills.

A nice rest and a full tummy meant I was ready for more action but not any old sort of fun, I went to Disney World! (the crowd goes wild) Set to knock even more off the list of Things I Have Not Yet Done Even Thought I've Been to Walt Disney World Almost Thirty Times - Seriously What is Wrong with Me? I aimed for Atlantic Dance Hall. Buuuut before I got there, I came across a free Boardwalk show. Woohoo!!


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Magician/comedian Brian Staron entertained the crowd of kids, adults, and quiet hecklers.


Atlantic Dance Hall was empty. The only people there were the DJ, a few bartenders, 2 custodians, a greeter, and me. P-a-r-t-y!! If you've never been, they play music videos on humungous screens overlooking a dance floor. I was told it's always quiet leading up to Christmas. Since no one was around I asked the DJ to play Ricky Martin. The response? "I haven't played him in like 10 years." Uh, dude. I thought DJs kept up with music.


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Pink hair is so Lady Marmalade 2001.


One more item came off my list, Jellyrolls, the dueling piano bar. I sat at the bar in the back of the room and asked the waitress for a menu. They don't have food there as it turned out, just popcorn. I don't drink but she brought me a glass of water and a basket of popcorn. The show okay. I liked 2 of the 4 performers. One duo kept singing songs I had never heard or strongly disliked. The other duo I kept up with most of the time. After an hour and a half I called it a night and left.

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January 18, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Harry Potter & My Equilibrium

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Previous installments:
Solo Trip to Orlando - Transportation Mishigas
Solo Trip to Orlando - Forraging for Food & Find Lost Items

I made my way out of Seuss Landing by way of gift shops and quick photo opportunities of Dr. Seuss characters. I did not buy a Thing 1 or Thing 2. I did not buy a shirt or shoe. I did not hand over my cash. I did not say suffering succotash.

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Thing, Thing's girlfriend, Thing 1, Cat in the Hat, and Thing 2

Time was still aplenty before my appointment at Three Broomsticks for a late lunch/early pre-dinner. Attractions in The Lost Continent don't appeal to me. Actually the entire section doesn't do a darn thing for me. It feels like I stumbled into a traveling gypsy circus surrounded by ancient remains.

I heard the call for final seating to a magic show knowing it was an attempt to sell magic tricks but I thought, why not. The guy was good and after his demonstration of what's for sale, I told him he should try getting work doing voice overs. He appreciated my compliment.

Back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I walked. It was still busy but the lines to get into stores, with the exception of Ollivander's, had shrunk. This was around 3pm.

Personally, and this is where I realized I should have done more research, I found myself lost and confused in the Wizarding World. The area is shaped like and upside down backwards L. When I first entered in the late morning/early afternoon, I came from Jurassic Park and turned right which in my recollection was how they ushered us in. When I returned, I came from The Lost Continent so I entered from the opposite end of the village.

I made my way into shops, knowing I wanted to buy something for the future guest room in my future house but I didn't know what. Once inside Dervish and Banges, I considered a few items but they didn't grab me. Turning into a smaller room, Owl Post, I think it was called, I looked around a bit and was drawn over to the wand section. There an employee/student asked for my birthdate and found the appropriate wand. Mine was pretty and I gave it some thought but decided to stick my budget for the guest room because it will be filled with (here's the huge draw for my friends to visit when I eventually own my own home) crap you would never buy on vacation. But sometimes I find nicer things and this was one of those monumental shopping experiences. I found a pretty blue pillow that was stiched in white. One side reads The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The other side says Hedwig with an owl soaring. It's sophisticated yet touristy. Perfect! However, I didn't want to carry it around so I planned to return later.

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Fried brooms, pan seared brooms, BBQ brooms, boiled brooms, sauteed brooms...

Further up, I found a crowd of people watching the Frog Choir. I caught just a few minutes of the show before it ended. While it's listed on the map, there's no mention of what time the shows are. I couldn't find a sign either. This explains why every so often I saw people sitting around waiting...and waiting...and waiting because the Triwizard Spirit Rally took place in the same spot.

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Eventually I caved and the frog won our staring contest.

Time to eat! I went to The Three Broomsticks restaurant and was told my adorable chef was on break. Dude, we had a date! After nudging the young girl, she went to find out when he'd be back and returned with another chef who knew exactly what my order was and took care of me. My plate was a veggie mix, corn on the cob, baked potatoes (he gave me 2 since they were done special), and the infamous Butterbeer which does not contain beer.

When you pick up your food, a hostess-like person takes you to a table. I asked for a view of the beach which completely confused the poor dear. She sat me in the middle of the room. Every once in a while I'd catch shadows dancing across the walls. If you go, look up.

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This is a bar not a deli.

After dining, I finally found the rides. First I braved the Flight of the Hippogriff, a coaster I rode years ago under a different theme. Last time it was a unicorn or pegasus, I think. It might look fairly harmless but I got tossed about and slid back and forth all while attempting to take photos.

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Hagrid wasn't home. I wouldn't be either if they built a roller coaster next to me

Then it was time for the main attraction, the ladies room. The men will have to let us know if this happens to them but in the girls room, Myrtle can be heard. I couldn't always decipher what she said but on at least one occasion she welcomed me back. Weiiiiird.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a big, huge, colossal deal so I went to check it out. You enter the castle at ground level and turn right to store items in a locker. It's free but the amount of time it's free depends on the average wait. Once my bag was stowed, I went up a flight of stairs to the single rider entrance. Along the way I passed walls filled with paintings, some which conversed among themselves.

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The black or empty frames are camera shy.

While waiting to board, the magical talking hat went over safety precautions. Here's how the ride went, you get on the moving sidewalk when told to, speed up your step, sit down in an individual seat that's in a box of 4. The Hogwarts student pulls down a huge safety harness like on loop-dee-loo roller coasters and checks to make sure you're locked in. Then you soar through various scenes. Sometimes you are watching a video and other times you're surrounded by very large moving figures. All the while you turn every which way except completely upside down. When the movie shows you flying straight down, you're turned downwards. It is not for anyone with motion sickness, closterphobia, a fear of heights, or just doesn't like too much motion.

The first time I thought it was very cool. Disney doesn't have anything that comes remotely close to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Score one for Universal Studios.

You leave through a gift shop (shocking), Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods. Here you'll find lots of clothing, hats, plush, maps, and it is where you'd buy the ride photo. It connects to the lockers as well. I got my bag and wandered around some more. I caught part of another Rally, saw the line for Ollivander's was still very long, filled out my postcards, had them stamped with a special Owl Post rubber stamp, mailed them, and then went back to ride again.

This time, about 1/3 of the way through the adventure my equilibrium told me I was an idiot for trying a second time. Not only that but I also felt queasy. I closed my eyes and hung on. When it was over, the fresh air felt good but I had to sit and relax.

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Wanted: Teacher who will not turn psycho on the students.

Since I had not taken my camera on the attraction, I went back once more but not to ride but to go on the walking tour. Yes, you can walk through the castle and the regular queue without lining up to ride. This way you can take photos, linger, and watch as Dumbledor, Harry, Ronald, and Hermione offer advice to Muggles.

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What words of wisdom did Dumbledore share? I don't recall that's why I'm asking you.

Pooped out and tired from a long day, I made my way back to Dervish and Banges to buy the pillow. Slowly, very slowly, I made my way out of the park, through Universal City Walk, up the escalator, walked then used the moving sidewalks that functioned, down the escalators and to my car.

My package included a $25 voucher to the hotel's restaurant so I got a free dinner, a huge piece of the worst cake I've ever had along with bland (and this is coming from a bland eater) ice cream, and a soda to take back to my room. Surprisingly, the voucher included the tip and tax. In the end I owed like $2 and change.

Bedtime was the big test. Would some weird feeling come back to my legs again? With the lights and TV on, I climbed into bed, waited a few minutes and sure enough that odd sensation came back. Thankfully I realized it was the throbbing of my feet that sent out the pulse to the sheet causing it to vibrate. I'm special.

Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.


January 11, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Food Forraging & Finding Lost Items

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


The alarm clock on my cell phone had the audacity to wake me up 7am. Getting up after 5 1/2 hours sleep didn't come easy. I need at least 7 hours to function at 80%. An hour or so later, I headed for my car despite my previous plan to use the free shuttle service to Universal Studios :gasp:. This way if I became exhausted I could head back to my room for a nap and try again later.

The Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway (still too long of a name) is just a mile or so up (or down) the road from Universal Studios :gasp:. Even I couldn't get lost or at least I'd like to think that. In a matter of minutes I parked my bitchin' white station wagon on Spiderman's level in row 1...150?...155?... eh, it doesn't matter now. I found the car. If you've never parked in their garage, it is a major schlep just to reach a park. There are escalators, (occasionally) moving sidewalks, many steps through Universal City Walk, and a bridge to cross before reaching your destination.

Finally, I made it to Islands of Adventure. Within minutes I found my first lost item. Walking thru Port of Entry, I saw a man pull cash from his pocket to buy something at a drink cart. Presumably he was thirsty. He didn't know a $5 bill floated to the ground. Before I could get the words out to tell him, a boy of about 7 or 8 saw it fall, picked it up, turned to his mother and said, "I found it on the ground." I gave him a stern look and stated, "It belongs to that man. It fell out of his hand." I pointed and told him to give it back. The boy gave the money back to the guy but had I not stepped in, the little thief would have pocketed Abraham Lincoln. And I thought pros hid among tourists. Sheesh.

The mental plan was to hit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter first if it wasn't packed or at mid-afternoon if it was. I approached an employee and asked. The wait for Harry Potter' and the Forbidden Journey was already 90 minutes. I turned left and dove into Marvel Super Hero Island where I discovered Storm Force Accelatron, a tea cup-like ride I never knew existed. Why? It's pushed far back from the street behind The Incredible Hulk Coaster tracks. Had I not been shooting the coaster from various angles, I would have missed it again. I went for a spin, literally.

In my sleepwalking mode I fell off the curb yet remained vertical in front of Doctor Doom's Freefall. Apparently his evil attacks aren't limited to those who volunteer for his gravity project.

Bewildered and yawning, I plunked down in a cafe that was open (door) but not open (for business) and ate the Cheerios I brought along. Ahh, the idea of peace and quiet vanished by way of the cafe blaring songs songs about heroes. Billy Don't be a Hero. We Don't Need Another Hero. Zero to Hero. I kid, I kid. Universal Studios wants everyone to know they're not affiliated with Disney. They REALLY want to make sure people are informed. Stick with me throughout my journey. :wink:

Then I encountered a timeshare sales rep who was friendly so I listened to his offer and signed up for a tour on Saturday. That is until he asked me for a $30 deposit. Uh, no. I have been dragged on many timeshare tours by my parents and even on my own accord and no one has asked us for money. I took the form he filled in with all of my personal info, stuffed it into my backpack and left. While the salesman didn't work for Universal, he was on their property and it reflects upon them. Universal Studios isn't Disney.

I love The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. I loved that it was a walk on even more. After escaping the villains, the dad on the end asked the employee if we could go again (my idea). We were denied. Did I mention this section of the park was empty? Okay just making sure.

Next up was Toon Lagoon which is inspired by comic strips and water. All three attractions will have you soaking wet before exiting. I hung back and watched people gurgle. For kicks I explored Me Ship, the Olive, a boat owned by Popeye. His crew consisted of 2 tall and skinny boys in their late teens/early twenties. With plenty of time on my hands I decided to entertain myself by kidding around with them. One juggled, the other wore an ID tag that said, Trainer. I told the trainer to show his trainee how to juggle more balls. It was a sad demonstration of misleading title. That was fun! They had a good time. Toot, toot.


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Mickey's Toontown & Donald's Boat opened in Disneyland in 1993. Donald's Boat opened in the Magic Kingdom in 1996. Universal's Islands of Adventure opened in 1999. Hmmm.


Do you know what's sad? Not being allowed to ride Pteranodon Flyers because I don't have a kid between 91 cm and 142 cm. I took the spanish language map. Sitting there looking pathetic, I asked out loud, Does anyone have a small child for rent? No such luck.

Protected by my clear Mickey Mouse poncho just like everyone else at Universal's Islands of Adventure, I boarded the Jurassic Park River Adventure rafty thing. With me was a large family who enjoyed getting wet and posing for the ride photo. Had I known where the camera was, I could have also modeled. Dinosaurs behaved disgracefully everywhere I looked. Word about town is they are miffed about the new TV show Terra Nova, calling it a pirated copy of Jurassic Park with non-union dinos.


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Enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter if you can get in. The place was jammed. I made it inside and just sort of meandered about town. Believe it or not, there were lines to get into gift shops. Standing by the steam engine train, I saw a ticket on the ground. It was a 3-day pass for both of Universal's parks in the name of Peter. My ticket had my full name on it, this one did not. The entrance to Dragon Challenge, a roller coaster I would never ride in a million years was just steps away. I presented it to the 3 "students" working there and watched to make sure it was put in a safe place. I also advised they have it scanned to identify the owner. Normally I don't tell people how to do their jobs but they seemed nonchalant regarding the pricey loss.


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Amazingly we all survived the screaming Mandrake in the window. Muggles cannot purchase Mandrakes which okay because TSA regulations prevent transporting them.


Having looked up food options online at home, I knew my best bet for real food (ie: not pizza, burgers or hot dogs) was Mythos or Three Broomsticks. The chef at Three Broomsticks was adorable. ADORABLE! He went over ingredients with me and we came up with a vegetable plate including fresh-husked corn, and a baked potato. However, since all of their baked potatoes are pre-seasoned with black pepper, my number one enemy, it was going to take a few hours to find a plain one and bake it. We agreed I'd come back in a few hours.

The fact was my hunger wouldn't hold that long so I tried to find a grilled cheese sandwich. Mythos had one on the kiddie menu but had a 45 minute wait and won't do take out. When I crossed from The Lost Continent into Seuss Landing, I came across two suits. Perhaps I had a look on my face because they asked if I needed anything. I relayed my story and they sent me to Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous saying if a grilled cheese isn't on the menu, the chefs could make one for me. Great!

Wrong! I asked the girl at the counter who then asked a chef who told the girl I should go to Casper's Ghost by the park entrance. What? Where? Casper belongs to Paramount Pictures. I was annoyed but as I turned around I saw 2 chefs coming to work. I asked them about making me a grilled cheese and they told me they couldn't. Perplexed, I reminded them they have American cheese (for cheeseburgers), bread and whatever surface they cook burgers on. Why couldn't they make my grilled cheese? They still told me no and that's when I had enough and blurted out those words Universal hates to hear. "I don't have these problems at Walt Disney World" The chef wasn't pleased. He gave me some long story about not being legally allowed to package food to go (Hi. Counter service is to go.) because they follow theme park laws and he didn't have the equipment to make a grilled cheese. He sent me to Green Eggs and Ham.

Guess what? No grilled cheese there either. I checked Confisco Grille because phoenetically it was the closest to Casper's Ghost. Nope. In a shop I talked to employees who sparked an idea. The Croissant Moon Bakery had baked goods including a plain croissant. I bought one along with cut up honey dew. Then I made a sandwich with the packet of tuna that I had with me. Finally, lunch! Oh and by the way, they were cheaper than my grocery store.

With several more hours to play before my date with the chef, I spent some quality time in Seuss Landing. While waiting in the queue for The Cat in the Hat ride, I saw a white baseball cap perched on the railing. After asking those nearby if it was theirs and swarms of people passing by it, I picked it up and handed to the girl seating people in the cars once I made it to the front of the line.

In my car were some funny people who questioned the empty seat beside me in the front. To prevent them from worrying about my solo travels, I let them in on a little secret. My good ole invisible pal Fred was with me. They felt better and said hello to Fred. He just waved.

Coming out of the gift shop I saw a small crowd in a semi-circle all down on bended knee. Curious, I approached to find a Who from Whoville napping. She was resting up before the big show, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

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Who could it be sleeping on my floor? Go away, she'll only wake and roar.

This was the strangest place and path to a show I've ever experienced. We walked out behind Seuss Landing, through a parking lot, passing construction, and around the corner into an actual studio with stadium-like seating. The whole way I kept mumbling "This is ghetto" to myself. The show was cute. I like the Grinch(es) and how he/they tried to sound like Jim Carrey.

There's more to this day so I'm going to stop here. The next installment will be Solo Trip to Orlando - Harry Potter & My Equilibrium. Until then, cheerio.

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January 4, 2012

Solo Trip to Orlando - Transportation Mishigas

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Just getting there was half the battle.

I stayed an extra 45 minutes at work, off the clock, because the bus station to the airport is practically up the street.

I arrived at the station 25 minutes before the bus' departure time of 6:30pm and awaited for my mom and her friend Judy to arrive. My mom would take my car home. Inside the station I bought my bus ticket. The attendee didn't say anything. Remember this for later.

The bus came in around 6:10pm and let passengers off. My mom arrived with Judy and at 6:17 I handed my larger carry-on to the driver, turned and walked into the station to use the ladies room. When I returned 2 or 3 minutes later, the bus was gone.

Apparently, right after I walked into the building and the driver put another bag in stow, he hopped inside and drove off. I was livid. We talked to the guys selling tickets who could not have cared less. They handed me a phone to speak with a surpervisor who berated me for not stepping on the bus and adamantly denied that the bus left early. You can imagine how aggrivated I was that he basically called me a liar and so I informed him the station had quite a few people inside who witnessed the bus leaving at 6:19 and not 6:30. The ticket sellers said it was the 6:00 bus running late, a fact they should have told people they sold tickets to.

I got absolutely nowhere with this man other than him saying my bag would be dropped off with the state police somewhere after the last terminal. We hung up and the 6:30 bus arrived maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, also running late. Again, no announcements were made. I told the driver what happened and asked if he could take me to the state police. He had me call the supervisor again. I got nowhere fast with him but the driver did agree to take me. That being said, I'd have to find my own way to the terminal building for my flight and hope I'd make it on time.

En route to the station, I overheard all that was said over the CB radio. Someone must have realized they screwed up because word came out that the bus driver with my bag was to stay nearby and meet us at my terminal to give me the bag. He arrived seconds after we pulled up and I asked him, did you make an announcement that you were leaving? He said no.

Believe me, Massport is going to get a long letter relaying everything that happened along with names and times.

At the airport everything was fine. The line at security was short, I cringed inside the Naked Scanner, as I call it, and plopped down at my gate with plenty of time to spare.

Before we left, the pilot informed us that it would be a mostly bumpy ride due to weather along the coast. He was right but at least we knew ahead of time and he kept us updated.

Recently, I watched all of the Harry Potter movies, in order of course, for the first time. I found it funny and freaky that one of the flight attendants could pass for Severus Snape's younger American brother.

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Snape on a plane.

Now, whatever you do, don't repeat this to my co-workers because one in particular was fuh-reaking out that I went on vacation by myself. The guy who sat next to me was very chatty which is fine but he asked me where I was going, where I was staying and who I was with. I lied to him. I'm not one for lying but in this instance it was the proper thing to do. He also got too friendly. He didn't do anything that warranted calling Snape over to cast him to the wing but he did hold my wrist and move my hand when I was trying to find the draft coming from above. I lost him in the airport after we deplaned.

Next up was the car rental. My bids weren't accepted but an offer came in from for a few bucks more which was still far below the regular asking price for a compact car. Write this down. I paid $21 when the regular asking price was $54 a day. That's insanity.

The line built up because they only had 2 agents and one was tied up with a group of 5 who were at the counter for a good 30 minutes if not longer. When my turn came I thought I'd save the fella some time by saying I'd fill the tank myself, pass on their insurance, GPS and toll pass. I had come prepared. He was not thrilled with me and began arguing about insurance. I passed.

Everything else was fine. I picked a white Ford station wagon because I am wicked cool and because the other cars were icky. My ride to the hotel was a new route to me thanks to my handy dandy GPS. It was like Route 1 light, if you're from Massachusetts or US Dixie Highway light for the Miami dwellers.

Soon enough I checked into the Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway Hotel (is the name long enough?) and found my room. It was after 1am and I was exhausted. Once in bed, I turned off the lights and relaxed. After a couple of minutes I started feeling something weird by my legs. It left like someone was rolling a ball on either side from my feet to my knees. I knew I was alone and that there weren't any critters. I turned onto my side and most of the weird sensation went away. I decided that if the TV turned itself on I was going to run out screaming. Thankfully, I fell asleep.


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December 28, 2011

2011 Test Track Highlights

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


As another year comes to a close, I suggested to my fellow Picture This! bloggers that we each select a favorite photo and memory from 2011 to share with you.

I visited Walt Disney World in September with my friend Terri. We're all for getting onto rides quickly so we opted to go single rider for Test Track. We were not only placed in the same car but the back seat as well with a tall fellow between us who belonged to the family in the front seat.

When the doors opened and our car zoomed off, I started shooting and tried real hard to lock my elbows into place. It wasn't until sometime after the ride ended that I went through my photos and realized I had nabbed a few good shots.

I love how the kid's angled himself along with the "road".

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I love even more how our speed is fantastically featured between his hands.

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I wish you and yours a happy and healthy New Year. Próspero Año Nuevo.

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December 21, 2011

Fancy Free at Walt Disney World

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Upside, inside out, she's livin' la vida Mickey. Yeah, Minnie Mouse has it pretty bad for him. Many of us aren't too far behind as we venture down, left, right, and up to Walt Disney World for another series of magical days. It seems that no matter how many visits we make, there's always something we didn't notice before, know about, or is brand new. Let us not forget to welcome new travelers who could use a little insider info.

A few suggestions come to mind as many folks gear up to face huge crowds during school and college breaks. Do you know of some freebies to take advantage of both inside and outside the parks? Share your thoughts by completely filling out the Comment section below. Be sure to write "blog" where you're directed to otherwise your ideas will literally land in the trash and I'm not talking about PUSH.

Resorts

Resort guests have an abundance of cool things to enjoy including:

* Wildlife viewing at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

* Pianist/comedian Yehaa Bob Jackson's show at Port Orleans Riverside in the River Roost Lounge.

* Rix Lounge at Coronado Springs is a nightclub/bar with a DJ spinning Top 40 tunes Thurs - Sat. There's no cover charge.

* Fort Wilderness's campfire includes a singing cowboy, an appearance by Chip and Dale, and a feature film.

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Theme Parks

* In Epcot you can dress and take home your own Velcro frog from Innoventions West.

* Kids' Discovery Club gets children involved in hands-on learning at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

* The best freebie at Disney's Hollywood Studios comes from being selected to participate in or volunteering for Citizens of Hollywood, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, American Idol Experience, Phineas and Ferb, the Backlot Tour, and for kids only, the Jedi Training Academy.

* Enjoy olde-fashioned flip-reel movie viewers on the platform level of the Walt Disney World Railroad's Main Street Station at the Magic Kingdom.

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Downtown Disney and Boardwalk

* Atlantic Dance Hall is a free 21 and over club located on Disney's Boardwalk.

* Relax on a boat ride leaving from Yacht & Beach Club or Boardwalk and cruise to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the Swan and Dolphin resorts.

* Kids' dance party, holiday carolers, musical performances, and more throughout Downtown Disney. See www.wdwent.com for times and locations.

* Enjoy additional Disney transportation such as the monorail which can be picked up at Epcot, the Ticket & Transportation Center, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian resorts. From Downtown Disney watercrafts travel to Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside.

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December 14, 2011

Camera Scene Modes - Fish-eye Effect

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Explorers, we're heading into new territory today so find a buddy and follow along.

My new Canon PowerShot SX30 IS has all sorts of neat-o functions for getting creative. I played with one such feature while taking aim at Epcot's Spaceship Earth and the fountain at Innoventions Plaza.

Step 1. Turn the dial to SCN which stands for Scene Mode.

Step 2. Press the Func(tion) Set button.

Step 3. Dial over to Fish-eye Effect.

Step 4. Press the Display button to bring up options Off, Low, Medium, and High.

This first photo was taken with Fish-eye Effect set to Off. You get a clear view of what everyone's favorite geosphere looks like normally.
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Now the fun begins with this picture shot at Low in terms of image manipulation intensity. You can see that the gate is arcing and Spaceship Earth's shape has changed.
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Even more good times can be had when using Medium. Watch it all change form.
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Last but not least, High, comes in for the greatest variation under Fish Eye.
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December 7, 2011

What's in Your Stroller?

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Generally speaking, there's a (partially false) sense of security when we escape our daily routines for spinning in tea cups and run far away from stress and into the open arms of a larger-than-life mouse. Our shields come down and skipping becomes a formal mode of transportation. How wonderful it is, all of it. We must be careful though because bad people also go on vacation or at least pretend to be tourists.

Years back, my cousin Matt and I found ourselves looking at strollers parked outside various attractions and buildings. We were amazed at what people were willing to leave out; designer handbags, toys, food, purchases, clothes, and so on and so forth. I even started photographing strollers in pure disbelief of what was sitting out and in part for possible police reports should things go missing.

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I don't have kids and have never had to supply a small army with food, water, and a change of clothes. Are parents not carrying backpacks stuffed to the gills? Perhaps that or a locker would be safer than leaving things in strollers.

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Personally, my feet wouldn't last more than a few minutes barefoot on concrete.

Another thing to consider is that when you leave food out, you can wind up with uninvited guests picnicing in your stroller. I was looking at strollers in Animal Kingdom and thought the Cast Members were watching me. No, they were watching a regular bandit prance through a marketplace of goodies.

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Notice anything strange?

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How about now? Yes, that's a squirrel with a kung-fu grip on a loaf of bread. I saw him or her but probably a him, knaw through the plastic and eat the bread. Cast Members said the squirrel and friends have learned how to open containers, bags, and other packaging.

Do you have a funny story or a serious message to relate about your stroller? Please share it with the rest of the class and our forrest friends.

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November 30, 2011

Goodnight Germany Pavilion

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


It was a dark and peaceful night. Humidity was enemy number one. People were just the way I like them, scarce. A voice bellowed in my head. It was Barrie Brewer's* and she was telling me, "Take some photos, you big dork!" I reached into my camera bag and retrieved my brand new shiny blue itsy tripod. I raised it high into the air and proclaimed, "You are not the boss of me!" and then set up my shots.

I took full advantage of Manual Mode and set the ISO to 100 which makes for richer color. The aperture or f-stop was fully open at f2.7, allowing in as much light as possible and a softer focus. The only specs I changed was the shutterspeed.

This first image was shot at 1/2 second or .5 as it shows in the camera.
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There's great detail everywhere and those people in shadow are just backlit enough to see they're there.

The second image had a longer shutterspeed of 2 seconds.
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The longer exposure loses detail in some of the areas under bright lights. It's very difficult to try and fill in washed out images if not impossible.

For me, a happy medium would have been a 1 second exposure.

Remember, long exposures require stillness so bring a tripod with you or rest your camera somewhere flat like on a trash can or table. Gently depress the shutter button so as not to move the camera. I take it a step further and hold my breath while doing it. Another option is to look into your manual and see if a remote control is available for your camera.

*Barrie Brewer appears in this blog courtesy of her sister Zelda, although neither of them are aware or are being paid royalties.


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November 16, 2011

Munchkin Cam

Raise your hand if you've experienced The Great Movie Ride and found your entourage stuck behind another group in The Wizard of Oz room. Yeah, that's not supposed to happen but it did and I took full advantage of it.

Seated on the far right hand side of the bench, I had the perfect opportunity to grab some photos with my Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. Keeping the bottom of the camera flat along the edge of the vehicle door and holding it firmly in place, I let the camera make use of its night mode. Why the night mode? While things might look bright to us, they don't to digital camera sensors. The low lighting and inability to use the flash calls for specific settings such as a wide aperture and slow shutter.

The results are:

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Uh oh! Here comes the wicked witch!

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There she is! Hide!

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Is it safe to come out?

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Hey everyone, the wicked witch is gone! Who are all these people staring at us?

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Who cares! Let's all sing together.

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It's a small world afterall.

The photos were adjusted for color. The lighting in the room makes for very yellow and red photos. In fact, while I was tinkering with the colors I came to realize that more than likely, all of the "homes" are painted white.

November 9, 2011

Create Abstract Photos Thru Glass

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Bored with taking the same old photos on every vacation? Change your viewpoint and try something new. Put your creativity to work.

As I was standing by the entrance/exit to the restrooms behind The American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios, a thought came to mind. What sort of effect would I get if I shot thru the rippled glass wall? The answer is, neato abstract photos. Using my new Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, I set the camera to Macro (the flower symbol) allowing me to place the lens as close to the glass as possible. I allowed the camera to focus as best it could and while the images are misshapen, they're still in focus.

I took 3 shots to show you the difference in how positioning the camera matters.

The first photo was taken with some distance between me and the wall. You can see the block of glass as it is. This is not exciting.
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Next I placed the camera up to the glass and found cool colors and shapes. If you know what you're aiming at, you can identify it for others. My camera was aimed at the side entrance to The American Idol Experience. Look carefully, and you'll see the walkway, silver guard rails, and the top of the building modeled after the Pan Pacific Auditorium, which the park entrance also mimics.
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With this final shot, I changed the glass block I shot through. This slightly varied angle makes a big difference. There's more color, more going on, and it's a bit more of a challenge to decipher shapes.
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A whole new World (get it?) of images await. Just take a look around.


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November 2, 2011

Trip Report: Final Musings/Dining Plan

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Ladies and gentlemen, my Labor Day weekend visit to Walt Disney World came to an end. My friend Terri and I had a great albeit, far too short of a vacation. I'm lucky if I see her once a year as we live on opposite ends of the US. This was the first time I ever booked a package deal and for this particular trip, it made sense but it'll probably be another year or so before another package will work to my advantage.

Included was the Disney Dining Plan, for free, consisting of 1 snack credit, 1 counter service, and 1 sit down restaurant per person, per night. Here's a breakdown of what we had and additional commentary. Oh, and beverages might not be listed because we either had a bottle of water, soda or iced tea.

Snack credit - Club Cool
Terri - Bag of multicolor candied popcorn. Estimated value $3.99

Snack credit - Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery
Lisa - One zebra cupcake consisting of white cake, buttercream frosting, and black and white chocolate shavings. Don't eat in the hut next door unless you enjoy saunas. Estimated value: $3.99

Snack credit - Sleepy Hollow
Terri - Ice cream cookie sandwich. Best item of the whole trip. So delish! Value: $4.19

Lisa - I wanted the Mickey-shaped waffle (retail price $4.59) but it wasn't on the Disney Dining Plan. I wound up with the funnel cake covered in cinammon and powdered sugar. This was both my first and last funnel cake. Hello...the waffle was cheaper, why it wasn't accepted on the plan I'll never understand. Value: $4.99

Snack credit - The Writer's Stop
Terri - Some kind of baked good but I cannot remember what the heck it was. Estimated value: $2.95

Lisa - An enormous carrot cake cookie. It consisted of two layers of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting inbetween. Next time, I'll have to share. Value: $2.95

Quick service - Sunshine Seasons Food Court
Terri - Ginger mongolian beef with broccoli and white rice. Tasty but miniscule portion. I had a large but tasteless chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Value: $9.99 and $1.99

Quick service - Yakatori House was closed. A stand temporarily carried some of the menu.
Lisa - I got the chicken teriyaki meal which comes with vegetables and rice. No traditional Japanese desserts were available. I was given a chocolate chip cookie which I gave to a kid. Plus a bottle of water. Value: $8.99, $2.50 and probably $1.99 for the cookie

Quick service - Columbia Harbor House
Terri - Chicken tenders and fries, chocolate cake for dessert. You should probably mention that the man gave us samples of the lobster salad and I totally would have ordered it if I wasn't jonsing for french fries and nuggets at the time. Value: $8.19 and $3.59

Lisa - Shrimp basket with broccoli fries. It's a nice new edition to what I can eat at Magic Kingdom quick service locations. I had the apple crisp for dessert and a bottle of water. Value: $9.99, $3.59, and $2.50 I'm supposed to mention that the Cast Member aka "the man" gave us (I gave mine to Terri) samples of the lobster salad and Terri would have like totally ordered it if she wasn't like jonsing for fries and chicken nuggets.

Quick service - Pop Century food court
Terri - Grab and go turkey sub sandwich from cooler and a chocolate chip muffin for dessert. Value: Unknown

Lisa - Custom made salad by a chef along with pre cut watermelon and a bottle of Vitamin Water. Value: Unknown

Sit-down restaurant - Raglan Road
Terri - Best meal of the trip by far for me. Serious Steak, 10 oz sirloin topped with Irish whiskey marmalade glaze, with fresh basil oil, mashed potatoes, and topped with crispy fried onion strings. Dessert was Trifle Sinful - kitchen baked Swiss roll, Gran Marnier, berries, custard and cream and if you can recall from my face, it was awful. Value: $27.00 and $8.00

Lisa - Also, my favorite and most fantastically yummy meal of the trip. Chef James wasn't too bad either. I'll be good. My entree was the Salmon of Knowledge with a tweak here and there. Dessert was the oh-so-decadent Ger's Bread & Butter Pudding. I went to town and had a ginger ale, too. Value: $25.00 and $8.00 Terri's dessert had some dense white tasteless concoction which caused the facial reaction. If only I had taken a photo.

Sit-down restaurant/Character meal - 1900 Park Fare
Terri - A lil bit of this, a lil bit of that. Nothing really good. Definitely more about the experience than the food. Value: $42.59

Lisa - As buffets are pre-prepared (just go along), the chef wound up making my meal. I had an assortment of vegetables, potatoes, chicken, and steak. Desserts from the buffet were varied but not worth sneaking into a ziploc bag for later, if you catch my drift. Character interaction was great with Anastasia and Drizella. Cinderella and Prince Charming are dull. Value: $42.59

Sit-down restaurant - Restaurant Marrakesh
Terri - I ordered and paid $8.99 for the chicken bastilla appetizer. It was delish! For my entrée I had couscous with beef which was also very good. I am fuzzy on dessert. I think I remember chocolate ice-cream drenched with cinnamon or something that was too strong for me to eat. (Bastilla with chocolate ice cream) Value: $27.99 and $7.99

Lisa - Here, too, the chef accomodated my dietary restrictions. I had the shish kebab of filet minion, vegetables, and potato. The menu said mint ice cream as an option for the bastilla but it was actually mint chocolate chip and you-know-who is not supposed to have milk chocolate. I ate some of it and enjoyed the cinammon topping. Value: $28.99 ad $7.99

Listen into our conversations.

Lisa: What was the worst thing about the trip?

Terri: The hot! That's the only complaint, that it was really, really hot but shame on us, we went in September. How can you be surprised? No, I lie. The worst part of the trip was finding out the monorail was closed - it does not have extra Magic Hours. Then the hike from the dock through the Grand Floridian out past valet parking (or special people, not us) and across the street to guest parking. There wasn't a lot to buy even in Japan. Nothing new or gotta have or that you can't get at home.

Lisa: That's true. So much is imported now.

Terri: The wait at Marrakesh of all places.

Lisa: That was insane.

Lisa: What was the best thing?

Terri: We were at Walt Disney World. Let me think, what was...spectacular. What was new since we were there? What were the magical moments...hmmm. Oh my gosh, the free upgrade to the pirate room!! That room was great.

Lisa: I love everything from the fridge inside a barrel to the crate-looking drawers and the imprint in the shower. I don't think any attractions were new.

Terri: The wood plank-looking carpet!

Lisa: What do you remember that was funny?

Terri: The girl wearing the shorts that were too small.

Lisa: A lot of clothes were too small.

Lisa: What didn't we get to do?

Terri: I did not do American Adventure and you didn't get to do American Idol (Experience) or that Star Wars thing (Star Tours). No Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse or Magic Carpet Ride with Aladdin.

Lisa: I didn't ride with Aladdin.

Terri: We didn't do Buzz Lightyear or The Laugh Floor.

Lisa: Hey, I still have FastPasses in my wallet!

Terri: The hot air balloon (Characters in Flight) at Downtown Disney. We didn't see Ariel or Beauty and the Beast.

Lisa: What did we learn?

Terri: How to draw the Toy Story alien, again! The Tiki Room was a highlight, seeing the original show again.

Lisa: And that September is too hot and humid.


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October 26, 2011

Pop Music for Halloween

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Last week I promised an overall review of my Labor Day weekend visit to Walt Disney World. That's going to be a little late as both my friend Terri and I aren't up to par for different reasons. In the meantime, enjoy a little Halloween treat.

Walking into work, one will find very large and many cotton cobwebs adorned with plastic spiders along with various ghostly decor. Skeletons of varying size adorn walls and cubicle entrances. String upon string of orange and purple lights dangle over 5' 8" walls. My area? You know I put up cutesy Disney Halloween cardboard cutouts featuring the Fab 5 and Pooh and friends. I got each package at Walgreens for $1.99.

While my decorations might be fewer in number and not so scary (curtsy), I have one other trick up my sleeve...my MP3 player. Come Halloween, my cute little pink Archos 104 will fill the air...up to 3 feet from my desk...with a concoction of dare I say...pop tunes and soundtracks that work for my favorite holiday.

I will share my complete list even those non-Disney songs in case you too want to be totally awesome and party at your own desk. Also, these songs are kid-safe and can be played around the little Tinker Bells and Tow Maters in search of candy.

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In no particular order other than the order I am typing them in right now as I type this.

The Munsters theme song
The Addams Family theme song
Addams Family Groove - MC Hammer (balloon pants optional)
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves - Cher
Oogie Boogie's Song - Nightmare Before Christmas
This is Halloween - Nightmare Before Christmas
Gremlins main theme - Gremlins
Grim Grinning Ghosts - let me think, maybe one of those rides at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom in Florida
Prince Ali (reprise by Jafar) - Aladdin, my boyfriend
Dreamweaver - Peter Frampton
Maneater - Hall & Oates
Thriller - Michael Jackson
To the Moon and Back - Savage Garden
Pirates of the Caribbean tunnel music (with 2 real drops) - Disneyland soundtrack
Great Pumpkin Waltz - It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Beetlejuice theme - Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice
Shake, Shake Senora - Beetlejuice
Black Cat - Janet Jackson
Be Prepared - The Lion King
Black Magic Woman - Santana
Hazard - Richard Marx
The Simpsons Halloween Special (Treehouse of Terror) - Songs in the Key of Springfield
Shake Your Bones - Disney's Halloween Songs & Sounds
Haunted House - Elvira cuz it's not Halloween without the queen of cheese
Heffalumps & Woozles - Winnie the Pooh
Ghostbusters - ditto
She Wolf - Shakira
Do You Believe in Magic? - Shaun Cassidy What? He's cute!
Thieves in the Temple - Prince
Boo to You - Magic Kingdom Event Party Music
Men in Black - Men in Black or on Will Smith's compilation
Hungry like the Wolf - Duran Duran
Jaws theme - Finding Nemo just kidding
Prologue- Little Shop of Horrors
Witch Doctor - Alvin and the Chipmunks
Les Poissons - The Little Mermaid (that is one sick song)
Cruella De Villa - 101 Dalmations
Time Warp - Glee cast cuz Glee makes scary things tolerable and I'm a wuss
Laundry Day - Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along
Spiderwebs - No Doubt
Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell (Did we ever find out if that's Michael Jackson singing the main line?)
Maxwell's Silver Hammer - Steve Martin via Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club soundtrack
Star Trek main theme
The Purple People Eater - Sheb Wooley
Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Picket & The Cript Kickers
Davy Jones (song not the person) - Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Coconut - Practical Magic soundtrack
Feed My Frankenstein - Alice Cooper I heard this for the 1st time a week ago...cornyyyyy.
The Nights the Lights Went Out in Georgia - Vicki Lawrence (surprisingly good choice, huh?)
I Put a Spell on You - Hocus Pocus
Nightmare on My Street - DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith pre-movies)
Star Wars theme by John Williams - shout out to the former Boston Pops Orchestra conductor

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Have a safe and fun Halloween. Save me some Twix bars and Twizzlers!!


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October 19, 2011

Trip Report: Last Day - Hollywood Studios

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


For some strange reason, packing to leave Walt Disney World just doesn't have that feeling of anticipation, excitement, and boost of adrenaline like you get when packing to go to Walt Disney World. Surely there was or is a scientific study on the matter. I willingly volunteer as a participant for such a noble cause. Until the call comes in, allow me to recap the last :sigh: day :sigh: of our Labor Day weekend :sigh: vacation.

I got my tushy up early in order to throw all my dirty clothes into my suitcase and meticulously pack the presents I bought while making sure neither my suitcase or carry-on were too heavy. Whatever food we didn't finish or couldn't inhale before flying was left behind for the housekeeper. I hope she enjoyed the cheese, grapes, bagels, cream cheese, rotisserie chicken, seafood medley, water, cereal, potatoes au gratin, and antacids. Also, and I type this while giggling, that she wholeheartedly enjoyed the tip envelopes I left each day. Two of them were cutesy and one had some art depicting select heroic figures in carefully lit uniforms.

The car was packed and off we went, leaving behind our free upgrade to a Pirates of the Caribbean room and into Old Port Royale. Technically we drove into the parking lot. I can't afford to convert the gift shop and food court into a drive-thru. Terri picked up a package she had had delivered to the resort. We pounded down some breakfast. By the way, you can pay for your food at any register. I tried to take photos of the pool but my lens fogged up repeatedly, and I found an AllEars fan working the Disney Vacation Club booth.

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Shiver me timbers, the fog has rolled in.

The last :sigh: park for our last day of :sigh: vacation was Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was the one place Terri and I had separate agendas that slowly became the same. First matter of business was to obtain Toy Story Mania FastPasses. Done. Next...get out of the heat! One Man's Dream was the perfect choice. I desperately want to see the Disney Studios in Burbank and not just through the metal gate with Mickey heads atop posts. Been there, done that, got the photos.

The Great Movie Ride had one of the shortest lines I've ever seen. We practically walked on. If I could change one script at Studios as I nicknamed it, it would be The Great Movie Ride. I'm thirty-something and haven't seen a Busby Berkeley movie and I'm supposed to believe the 20-something year old Cast Members love them? Not! The only Cast Member whose word I'll take is the older fellow who is totally awesome and I rarely ever see. Horror is my favorite movie genre. Really? Dang, you guys must spend the entire day at work talking zombies and killer tomatoes but I digress.

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Line!

I think our next stop was Muppets 3D. I love The Muppets. Fozzie Bear is my favorite comedian. I wish he would perform in one of our local clubs or elementary schools. Quiz time! Do you know what the interior of Stage 1 Company Store is modeled after? The answer is at the end of this blog. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN! You can wait.

Lunch time approached and our tummies made me check-in early at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano. I have a request. Could "Peggy" from 1900 Park Fare please retrain "Kelly" at Mama Melrose's? If it wasn't for the chef taking my order personally, I would have been very worried that my dietary restrictions and allergies wouldn't have been taken seriously. I also think she forced Terri into ordering double the portions she wanted.

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Today I learned where they film the American Idol Experience fans.

We split up after lunch. I wanted to try the new Star Tours but the line was outside and the humidity was too much for me. I walked around, hit a few shops in search of a gold Minnie Mouse charm my mom wanted to give her best friend. I couldn't fine one the entire trip. Seems that I'm very bad at locating jewelry because I tried here and there during the course of the trip. Thankfully, my mommy did not ground me when I got home but she did take away my TV privileges for a day. Too bad she can't work the remote without me. Yeaaah. I won!

Terri was taking drawing lessons in the Animation building. I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler so it was best for her to have some fun while I continued milling around. I caught part of a streetmosphere act and later caught most of another act featuring Melvin Macheezmo and my favorite cop, Officer Percival Peabody in a psuedo Dating Game episode. It was a riot.

By the mid-afternoon I was too far gone to take any more photos. The sun poisoning never fully went away and my eyes stung off and on. I probably shot less photos on this trip than on any other. Perhaps I'll have to take a make up trip. Do you suppose the crowds will be low December 23rd - 26th? I made a funny.

I had just sat down for another viewing of One Man's Dream when Terri called to say she finished drawing. We used our FastPasses for Toy Story Mania. My aim still stinks. Terri's stunk as well. We pretty much called it a day at this point even though we still had time before rushing to the airport. Sad as it was, our timing was top notch. A split second after we got in the car, the skies opened up and a huge downpour descended.

There were still Disney Dining Plan credits to spend so we decided to visit Pop Century and make use of their food court. Everything was packaged to go so we could eat at the airport or during our flights. I seem to recall having a salad, a side of watermon chunks, and a Vitamin Water to make up for the one Terri stole from me back in the room. Yeah, it was actually a funny story. One of my bottles was sitting on the night stand yet I didn't recall putting it there. I made some comment about it and Terri said she'd been drinking it not even realizing she hadn't bought any Vitamin Waters. Her reaction was hilarious and I got to poke fun at her about it for days. Between that and the pirate lagoon, the laughs just kept on coming.

Sure as we'd arrived, it was time to head home. No problems returning the car or checking in but security was kind of slow because they were looking for a suspect. How do I know? I saw the sheet TSA staffers were passing around.

Come back next Wed for a recap of how we spent our Disney Dining Plan credits and other fun facts.

The answer to the question, Do you know what the interior of Stage 1 Company Store is modeled after? is The Happiness Hotel. See for yourselves.


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October 12, 2011

Trip Report: Day 3 - Magic Kingdom

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


Driving along in our automobile with my Disney music mix CD playing, we delighted in singing along with attraction songs and soundtracks. My favorite part was when Terri became engrossed in You can fly! You can fly! You can fly! from Peter Pan and let out a Freudian slip. Wendy says: I'll think of a mermaid lagoon. Terri said: I'll think of a pirate lagoon. That stuck for the rest of the day and made me crack up every time I thought of it.

Inside the Magic Kingdom we made part of our way down Main St. via the shops because it was hot and humid. I looked at my new camera which told me the battery was about to give out. The night before it said the battery was 2/3 full so I figured I'd use up the power at Magic Kingdom and recharge it at night. Sometimes you learn the hard way. Without a spare battery, I was left extremely aggravated with myself. Eventually, I forgave myself because it was a brand new camera and now I know that 2/3 power means it's going to wear down fairly soon. Not to fret, I had my professional gear on me as well and used that for the day.

Our focus for the morning was to conquer Fantasyland and so we set out on a cruise highlighted by singing children, those who I interviewed were delighted to see me. We garnered FastPasses for Peter Pan's Flight and re-visited Snow White's Scary Adventure for what may be the last time before the ride is removed. We soared with Dumbo all the while trying to see what progress was going on in the expansion part of Fantasyland and bounced along with Tigger at the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Our FastPasses came with bonuses for Mickey's Philharmagic which we poo-poo'd as unnecessary. Let me tell you, next time I get a surprise FastPass for Mickey's Philharmagic, I'm using it. We waited in a packed queue while the smarter folks strolled right up to the 3D glasses bins.

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Beyond the wooden fence lies the future Fantasyland expansion. I can't wait to ride the bulldozer!

Something I forgot to mention is that I brought along a bag of lollipops, each tagged as a thank you for attending Terri's birthday weekend. We didn't hand out as many as we meant to due to fried brains but I did catch Cast Member Abby off-guard. As we approached Peter Pan's moving sidewalk, I handed her a lollipop as she asked "How many?" To which I responded, "Two by the window, please." I'm so funny. I always make myself crack up.

Yes, as we sailed over Neverland and the pile of pirates Pan conquered, I pointed out "a pirate lagoon" in my finest English accent.

I can't remember what happened in what order anymore so bare with me as I sort out what lands we visited during daylight and after the sun disappeared.

The Haunted Mansion's new interactive line is worth checking out. I had a good time touching things, reading, and taking photos. While seeking out a place for lunch we stopped at the Columbia Harbor House. The colonial gentleman out front overheard us and offered to get us samples of the lobster salad if Terri would fill in for him and ring the bell. Deal! Terri loved the lobster salad but ordered a fish platter and I got the shrimp basket. When I picked up our food the Cast Member, whose name shall be withheld to protect her or him, gave me an extra mini chocolate cake for some unknown reason. She also gave the people ahead of me a free lobster roll. Neither of us had coupons either. Score! I mean she or he. Yeah.

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Dare the new interactive queue at Haunted Mansion if you dare. Muah ha baw whoo hi-ya!

Tomorrowland was busy so we opted for relaxing rides on Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Carrousel of Progress. All of the lights were on inside Space Mountain. The track still scares me so I won't be attempting it anytime soon.

As all of our shopping expeditions had been a complete bust so far, I had no hope for finding anything at the Polynesian or Grand Floridian. Still, we wanted to visit both resorts before our early bird dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Neither of us needed anything at the Contemporary Resort so we permanecimos sentados. No reason to get out at the Ticket and Transportation Center either. At the Poly, as it is affectionately called, I lucked out and found some H2O products on sale. I have been longing for the body butter and foot lotion since using both during my Disney Cruise in 2007. They had one out of two which was better than zero. At the Grand Floridian we stopped to smell the soaps at Basin White but didn't buy any. Heck, I still have 3 bars from a previous trip. They're so pretty I just want to look at them and sniff 'em. Perhaps there's a self-help program I should enroll in.

What can I say about dinner at 1900 Park Fare other than wow! This was my 2nd time dining here, the first was breakfast with Barrie, at the very same table, in 2008 or 2009. Ask Barrie. The server, let's call this Cast Member...Peggy, knew her job extremely well with an added flair of New York diner personality. If that makes any sense at all. The chef took excellent care of me and gave me way too much food.

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This is my 2nd meal that was served on sticks. At least he didn't attempt shish kabobing the ziti. They work better being strung together.

If you haven't been for dinner, your dining experience is enhanced by appearances from Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella. They dance, they chat, they pose for photos, and on a good night, the sisters will freak out a little boy who high tails it out the door because he doesn't want to date let alone dance with either of them. It was a very entertaining evening despite Drizella and Anastasia's antics which lead me to suggest to their mother it was time she called Super Nanny. Lady Tremaine agreed.

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That poor kid got a restraining order against Anastasia (left) and Drizella (right) who are desperately seeking out princes of their own. "There aren't any princes left in this kingdom. As soon as one comes along, some girl snaps him right up," Anastasia told me.

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A rare look at Prince Charming mid-blink. I thought Snow White had Prince Charming. Who owns Prince Philip, Aurora/Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose? That chick has an identity crisis.

The skies grew darker and we kept up the battle to conquer Magic Kingdom in one shot. The Jungle Cruise was a quick wait, Pirates of the Caribbean was not. Terri and I are both Disneyland nuts and so we crossed our fingers and hoped the tiki gods had genuinely restored the Tiki Room to our approval. Did you hear a loud sigh about a month ago? That was us, relieved that the show of shows is back to its glorious splendor. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? We rode it twice, almost in a row. We had to get back in line and the same mom and son were one seat ahead of us again.

I started wearing down after Frontierland and barely made it into Liberty Square. In fact, I was so "done" that I sent Terri off to play while I waited for the next Hall of Presidents show to begin and then sat through it. It really isn't a bad show but they could use more padded benches with cushy backs in the lobby.

Eventually I dragged myself out of the park, meeting up with Terri who was in better shape than me. We aimed for the monorail however, it had closed earlier. Here's the deal, they tell you the monorail will stop running one hour after the park closes. It was Extra Magic Hours and the park was open until 1am for resort guests yet they shut down the operation at 10pm, one hour after "closing" to non-resort guests. Picture an angry mob, hot, sweaty, and tired waiting from the Polynesian/Grand Floridian boat dock aaalllllllll the way back to where the display for Mickey's-Not-So-Scary Halloween sits. I believe we got on the 4th or 5th boat and waited an hour or longer to board and then we sat there for another 10 minutes before sailing away. EPIC FAIL.

Plopping onto my pirate ship bed was long overdue.

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October 5, 2011

Trip Report: Day 2 - Part II Epcot/Downtown

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

For those who need to catch up, the previous blogs in this series are, in order:
Trip Prequel: Decisions, Decisions
Trip Prequel: Research & Practice
Trip Report: Day One - Epcot
Trip Report: Day Two - Part I Animal Kingdom/Epcot

Terri and I made a well-evaluated executive decision to board a Friendship Boat and sail over to Morocco. The humidity was beating us down. Do you know what she asked me? No, you don't unless you were also on the boat and eavesdropping. Shame on you! Terri asked if I could sit on the same bench as her or did I need my own. Smart-aleck! I told you this was going to come back and hit me throughout the trip and we were just on day 2 of 4.

Morocco is a lovely country but since we ate there the day before, we walked right by it. Next on the list was Japan. I knew Yakitori House was closed and the Food & Wine Festival stand carried counter service meals during the rehab. Normally I order the kiddie meal but with the Disney Dining Plan I had to eat like a grown-up. Yeah, that's the only grown-up behavior you'll get out of me, too. I got the teriyaki chicken with vegetables, a drink, and the only dessert they had, a chocolate chip cookie. I was totally looking forward to trying their traditional desserts but with Yakitori House closed, I was out of luck. So much for my pink and purple striped lucky cat figurine that beckons for tea and cake.

Since there wasn't anywhere cool to sit, not that Japan doesn't rock, we entered Fife and Drum Tavern literally following the fifes and drummers. Or is that fifers and drummers? We walked in behind the musicians and plopped down at a table. The air conditioning was fantastic. America really knows how to party. Stuffed and completely disinterested in that "Japanese" chocolate chip cookie, with permission from their moms, I offered it to 2 boys sitting nearby. Terri said the older one was beaming. I had no idea it was a magic cookie!

Our time in Italy proved to be educational and embarassing. I don't recall if this first story happened on day 1 or day 2 although I'm leaning towards day one cuz I think it was dark out.

How to flirt with an Italian: Step 1. Find a cute Italian boy or girl as desired. Step 2. Ask the Cast Member to help you. Step 3. Bring said Cast Member over to the semi-refrigerated case to point out which candy and chocolate he/she likes best. Step 4. Smile the entire time, nod, giggle, and place hand on Italian's shoulder. Step 5. Watch Cast Member walk away, not at all interested in you.

Before you laugh at me, I'm not the one who tried to pick up the guy. Please, he was way too young even for me. That said, it took guts and a flirting technique I lack.

This next episode in Italy was all me. Me, me, me, me, me and I'm an idiot. I have no idea what was wrong with me that day. Maybe my blood sugar dropped dramatically. Perhaps aliens sucked out a portion of my memory. It could have been the heat and sun poisoning. More than likely it was all of these factors that made me ask not one, not two, but three Cast Members when the tall bell tower (replica of St. Mark's Campanile) was added because I swore it wasn't there before. I now lower my head in shame, understand that it was a stupid guest trick, and hold my sign from Bill Engvall.

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Let's move on shall we.

We stopped at Africa, the world's smallest continent, sponsored by Coca-Cola, for Terri to buy jewelry made from park maps. Surprisingly, she didn't buy anything. The beads didn't look anywhere near what she imagined they would. With her brave face on she bought something cool to drink to help keep Africa's economy growing.

Today China was open. Hooray! I burst through the open doors and set out on a quest to find soap. No, I didn't stink, thankyouverymuch. Last year I bought soap made from coal that absorbs toxins from my skin. It also works on your skin but you'll have to buy your own bars. I searched up and down, North, South, East, and West...rat tat tat tat. Nothing. Perplexed, I asked Cast Member Temperance where the soap might be hiding. :sigh: She informed me they stopped carrying it. How will I ever detoxify from all the True Moo I drink and salty Atlantic Ocean fresh air I inhale? Oh the horror.

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I was smart enough to scan the box before I threw it away. Hey, this totally makes up for my insanity in Italy. Yeah, I guess you're right. Darn.

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Raise the roof and have some dim sum.

We visited Norway the night before so we moved on to Mexico. Sailing by the cantina, I cupped my hands together and quietly shouted, Toss me a roll! It's only funny when yelling to patrons at Blue Bayou...I guess. I tried wicked hard to find something to buy in Mexico but came up short yet again. Outside, Pato Donald posed for photos with me. I was wearing my Three Caballeros shirt and got a thumbs up...wait...thumbs up? Wing up? Feather up? Pato Donald gave me his approval y un abrazo. Orale!

Once last round at the shops bordering World Showcase Lagoon for Terri.
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Too pooped to party, we went back to our pirate cove and flopped for a while. No naps just snacks, water, TV, and heavenly cool air.

Downtown Disney was the plan for the night. Our first stop was World of Disney where I checked off a bunch of stuff from my shopping list. I got the Tinker Bell earrings my co-worker wanted for his wife, Mickeyroni & Cheese for my mom to give to someone from work with a kid although this lady is in a different office (I have no clue), snacks for the food pantry, postcards (I never wrote), a CD, bag clips, and a semi-squishy ball.

Dear Disney Records,
I'd love a CD compiled of music heard in the World Showcase pavilions. Reflections from Earth is on enough CDs so feel free to skip that track. The music from Germany's clock tower would make for a cool hidden track.
Melodically,
Lisa

Running late for our YMCA (advanced dining reservation) at Raglan Road, we showed up a bit worn. The staff was friendly and we didn't wait long for a table to open up. Seated inbetween the musicans' stage and dancers' mini stage, I was totally stoked at the good fortune for my very first visit. Let me sum up the night with 1 statement and 1 question. I want to eat there every time I visit Walt Disney World. Chef James, will you marry me?

Next time: Day Three - Magic Kingdom/1900 Park Fare

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September 28, 2011

Trip Report: Day Two - Part I/Animal Kingdom/Epcot

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

For those who need to catch up, the previous blogs in this series are, in order:
Trip Prequel: Decisions, Decisions
Trip Prequel: Research & Practice
Trip Report: Day One - Epcot

Slumber was disturbed by the wake up call I'd set the night before. I picked up the phone to hear Mickey Mouse interrupted by Stitch. I adore Stitch but not when he starts screaming in my ear, regardless of the time of day.

Dear Walt Disney World Wake Up Call Decision Maker,
Change the message. It's old and annoying. How about something positive and fun from Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog? If you take my idea, I'd like to discuss my friends and I staying at Cinderella Castle. Thanks.
Magically,
Lisa

I got up, bathed with non-Disney toiletries, got my gear together and headed off to Animal Kingdom. Terri didn't have hopping capabilities on her tickets so she took the bus to Epcot where I'd meet up with her later. The bus stop was rather close to our building which made it not-so-bad. Also, we had bunnies...pirate bunnies! Arrrrg, what's up matey?

Upon my arrival at Animal Kingdom, the security guard, Smurfette, recognized my AllEars.Net shirt and pointed out that some Lion King topiaries had gone up overnight. In addition to the greenery I found Rafiki, the real-life Rafiki. With over an hour to run around taking photos for future blogs, I made my way through parts of Asia. New discoveries were made (you'll have to wait for the photo blog), shopping was imminent although sans purchase transactions, and I melted in the high humidity.

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If only Simba had been out I could have tried for a live reenactment of the topiary display.

Jack Spence and I co-hosted a meet-n-greet over at Dinosaur. We had a nice turnout of 15 people which far exceeded my anticipation of 2 plus Fred, my invisible friend who lives in my cousin's dorm room at UCF. Jack held court for a while answering questions and talking about Disney parks and attractions. I lead our group through the queue pointing out and sharing bits of info no one else knew. For example, the holding room with the dinosaur, yeah, totally the inspiration for the movies "Night at the Museum" I & II.

The person who made the best face in the ride photo won an 8x10 print. The winner was...Nicholas! He's the spikey-haired dude in the red shirt. Rock on! Dinosaur-ridephoto-blog.jpg
In case you're wondering, yes, that's Fred in the "empty" seat. I've already spoken to him about the importance of seatbelts.

I don't always get to see Jack when I'm in town so getting some personal time together with him over lunch was priceless. We went our separate ways and I went in search of more photo opportunities around the park. Coming out from the restroom behind Yak and Yeti, I looked up to find skywriting which didn't make any sense.

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While some may think I'm missing a letter, I'm not. The whole thing actually read "Welcome Go". Perhaps there was a race going on somewhere. A race to potties.

My hunt included one zebra cupcake at Kusafiri Coffe Shop and Bakery. As hot as it was, I sought out shelter from the sun at a nearby...hut...with a table top. Sadly, this was a really dumb move. Ladies and gents, it was a sauna. Once the yellow cake, buttercream frosting, and zebra chocolate shavings evidence was devoured, I stepped out and the air seemed a hundred degrees cooler. Ay, ay, ay.

A change of wardrobe was necessary. In one of the various shops I passed heading towards the exit, I stopped and picked up a 2-pack of socks. One pair had Mickey and the other had a freaky-looking version of Minnie. A clean T-shirt awaited me in the car.

On my way to where the air is sweat, I apparently missed the second exit for Epcot. There's no doubt I took the first one because I distinctly remember following the signs but at some point, I missed the next one. That makes another "Lisa got lost" moment. Eventually, I made it to Epcot with additional time to cool down in the air conditioning.

Terri and I met up over by The Land which she already conquered but was willing to revisit. Being a Disneyland Resort snob, I just can't get into Soarin' Over California being held inside that building as one of several attractions alongside a food court and restaurant. I need my attraction inside a hangar with images of pilots lining the walls.

In short, we went to see Nemo and embark on a clam shell journey followed by spending time with Crush and Terri's monstrous decision on which pins to buy. She had narrowed it down to 4 when her fiance called. I took the pins from her, handed one to the Cast Member, Lois, and paid for it. "Happy Birthday, Terri," I said when her conversation ended. She thanked me and then bought the other 3 pins from Lois. Terri couldn't find her sunglasses so Lois, being the good researcher that she is, made a call to see if Crush and/or Dory had it. They didn't have it so we left with instructions to call Lost & Found sometime in the future.

No Michael Jackson for Terri. She's not a fan. We did however find our imaginations as best we could with Figment. Guess what?! Other people were there, too. Yeah both ahead and behind us. It was crazy! The entire lot of us must have added up to a baker's dozen.
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The background has been enhanced for your viewing pleasure.

Have you ever noticed that Mark Ballas wears a Captain EO shirt during rehearsals on Dancing with the Stars? He's been wearing it for years.

What visit to Epcot is complete without a stop at Club Cool where the nicest people in the world turn into caffeinated evil-doers. It's also where folks go to watch what happens when people stop being polite and start getting really...dangerous! If you know not of what I type, perhaps next time I'll take you there. If you do in fact, get it, well then...thanks for the laughs.
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Will they or won't they?

I found Cast Member Carmen from Rhode Island in a shop bordering World Showcase Lagoon. We discussed Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and the damage it did throughout New England including Vermont where her son lives. On a lighter note, Halloween merchandise was out and throughout the trip I went back and forth over whether or not to buy anything. Also, I only once found a bag of Halloween candy and I believe it was in one of those two shops by the water.

Next time: Part II - More Epcot and Downtown Disney

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September 21, 2011

Trip Report: Day One - Epcot

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

While standing in line at the gate for my non-stop flight to Orlando, the woman in front of me turned around and asked, "Are you going to Florida?" If you've read my blog for some time, you're aware of my witty repartee. Strange as it may seem, I only responded to her query with "Yes." but my brain was throwing down one-liners as fast as Superman surpasses speeding bullets. This was the beginning of what would be a very up and down kind of trip, physically, mentally, and verbally.

My friend Terri was scheduled to arrive 90 minutes after my flight landed, only my flight landed 30 minutes early so I had a good 2 hours to kill. Some of that time was spent talking to a woman who was verturing off on a cruise with her sister. A poke inside Sea World/Busch Garden's gift shop lead me to learn via T-shirts that someone named a rollercoaster Cheetah Hunt. Are Cheetos really that difficult to locate?

I'll fast forward past reading ingredient contents in the food court and being filmed as b-roll footage for a local production company. In addition, I'll bypass my intense debate with the car rental company over arriving 5 hours earlier than planned and their intent to gouge me a full extra day at 400% over what I pre-paid per day. Did you know that if your plans change and you return the car 5 hours early (or any amount of time) they won't give you a partial refund? Funny how that only works to their advantage. Hurts.

Terri arrived ahead of schedule as well. I found her patiently awaiting her suitcase at Carousel of Is That Your Bag? Fast forward and we're in the car, my homemade Disney mix CD is playing Hakuna Matata, and in zip-a-dee-doo-dah time I turn the wrong way off the exit ramp. Get your pencils ready and keep track of how many times I "get lost". There will be a quiz later. Banged a u-ee. Banged a u-y. Hmm, I've never typed that out before. Bing has no suggestions and neither does Google. Ohhhhh. I thought Google knew everything. Well, for those of you not from New England, I made a u-turn. Finally, we pulled into Premium Outlets where my vivid dreams of sweeping up tremendous deals at Character Premiere's Labor Day weekend sidewalk sale were smothered. Sure, sales were going on for the holiday but the Fab 5 weren't participating. :insert sad face here:

We still managed to buy a few things, as hard as that is to truly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, believe. I sponsor a few local kids through a non-profit child and family service agency every year during their Big Wishes gift drive. My purchases are anxiously waiting to meet their kids.

Next was a stop at Publix for a few groceries. Even though we're on the Disney Dining Plan, we knew breakfast items, snacks, and especially drinks were still necessary. We bought enough to feed a small army of small green army men.

Finished with running around, it was finally time to check into Caribbean Beach Resort. We were quickly called to the next available Cast Member at the online check-in window. You know, these men and women deserve some recognition so I'm going to name every Cast Member we encountered. The odds are fantastically high that I'll guess wrong every time but what the heck, at least I'm trying.

As DeeDee proceeded to get our welcome packet, I tried to get rid of Terri by telling her to go take pictures out the window. Why would I shoo away my friend? Cuz I didn't want her to hear me ask about possibly upgrading our room, you know, if it was complimentary. In short, DeeDee who was earning her ears, learned something new (with help from her supervisor) and we scored a Pirates of the Caribbean themed room at no additional charge. Tada!

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Terri tries to steer the bed with her smartphone. There's no app for that.

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This is only half our loot from the grocery store. The rest is inside the min-fridge inside the barrel inside the room inside the building inside the resort inside Walt Disney World inside Lake Buena Vista....okay I'll stop now. Inside Florida.

Unpacked and roaring to go, we sped off...we drove cautiously to Epcot. Whatever shall we do first? Terri wanted to hit Spaceship Earth so that's where we headed until she got stopped by the cops. :snort: It was the first Cast Member, Pat (cuz I can't remember if it was a he or a she) who wanted her to complete a survey. She did that and I got in line because a barrell of teenagers came rolling along and I didn't feel like babysitting. Terri came along a minute later.

At the end of the line, Pasquale, the Cast Member, asked how many were in my party. I told Pasquale, We're riding 1 and 1. I got in the front row and Pasquale told Terri to get in the car behind me. That totally confused Terri who bewilderly informed Pasquale that she was with me and got in the back row. :chuckle: Thus began Terri's verbal lashing at me every time we got on a ride. "Do you need your own row?" "No, I need my own car." It was funny. You had to be there. Hey! I was doing it all for you guys. By having my own row I could slide back and forth taking photos of both sides of my travel through time. I used my noodle.

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There were actually 2 of me but the evil twin was camera-shy.

Terri's birthday was just a few days prior so a birthday pin was in order. The Cast Member who helped us, Elphaba, wanted to give me one of those green pins that says "I'm Celebrating." I asked if she could write on it, "My half-birthday". Elphaba said I deserved the birthday pin for my half-birthday. What a wicked nice girl.

Test Track was fun as always even if I didn't have my own row or car. Cast Members Dick and Jane scanned my PhotoPass card but somehow the attraction photo is not showing up in my account. I even invited Dick to join us for dinner provided he order from the kiddie menu. See Lisa be disappointed.

Walking around World Showcase counter-clockwise, we saw the tarps over Canada in preparation for winter. Then we passed thru England quickly to escape the dreary, foggy, and wet weather. Over the bridge and into France where we saw...France. Nothing specific comes to mind. Just beyond the home of Remy was our dinner reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco. I think the last time I ate there was in 2003, long before most of my dietary problems came into light.

It's pretty normal to walk by Restaurant Marrakesh or bop inside to use the restroom and see lots of available seating. It must have been Opposite Day because people were packed into the lobby like sardines. We waited a good while for our table and put our free time to good use by continuing our search for Inappropriate Theme Park Footwear. Not only did we find questionable shoes but we also made the unfortunate discovery of inappropraite shorts and shirts. Mamas, don't let your girls grow up to dress like working girls, if you know what I mean.

Chef Samar came out to go over my allergies and dietary restrictions. I was given the following choices, chicken kabobs or filet mignon kabobs, a small salad, vegetables, and potatoes. It seems that Morrocan food is marinated and prepared hours before it's served. That said, Samar made an offer I haven't heard in any restaurant, anywhere, "If you don't like it, you don't pay." Terri should have photographed the expression on my face of pure astonishment.

My dinner was fantastic. I'd eat there again under the guidance of chef Samar. Everything on my plate was yummy, especially the potatoes.
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I just got my new camera and was learning it throughout the trip so don't judge me.

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Terri ordered couscous with beef. She said it was excellent.

After dinner we decided we'd concentrate on shopping our way through World Showcase. Both of us love the stores in Japan and always buy something but for whatever reason, neither of us made a purchase. For years I have been thinking about buying toe socks. I recently bought a pair with little grips on them to use while attempting yoga on my Wii board. Turns out I don't like toe socks. The adhesive packets of bamboo and vinegar that draw toxins out of feet are something I've bought before in Japan but I found them at the local Christmas Tree Shop for much less. Habitual chopsticks? Got a 6-pack of bamboo ones at the mall for slightly more than what one pair costs at Epcot. Pocky? Available at my grocery store. Oh well. We did however find it nerve-wracking when we discovered merchandise that said Made in China.

At American Adventure we checked out the store. I talked to the Cast Member, Becky Jo Lynn, about the college program at Walt Disney World. Unbeknownst to me (until I turned around), a battle had broken out between the youngest members of the Harper family complete with rifles, running between displays, and a lack of parental ...caring. We left, quickly.

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New mouse ears for every country. I don't know...it seems a bit cheesey to me.

The Werther's shop in Germany was completely empty when we arrived but it didn't stay that way for long. China was closed. How odd, especially since it was like...11am there...in China. Our last country of the night was Norway. After escaping trolls and sailing along with vikings, I needed my school bread. Oh yeah, and I had my own row in the boat. It was empty. Gimme a break. We slowly headed out of Epcot and finally made it back to the car, parked by pillar 169. Yeah, I forgot to look at the ground so Terri located the number on a pillar holding up the monorail track. What a clever kid.

It was a long day filled with highs and lows, heat and humidity, laughter and sweat. A good night's sleep in my pirate ship sounded delightful. Would Dramanine be necessary? Stay tuned for the next chapter.


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September 14, 2011

Trip Prequel: Research and Practice

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Preparation is a key component to each form of travel, including equestrian. Without proper preparedness, miner setbacks disguise themselves into monstrous obstacles. Confusion and the sense of feeling overwhelmed can ruin what should be happy moments.

It is for such reasons that my friend Terri and I took substantial time and asserted endless energy into laying the groundwork for our 3-night Walt Disney World vacation. Don't think about why two young lasses such as ourselves with well over 40 combined ventures would require so much planning. This isn't Jeopardy. It's more like Battleship with Mongala Millie and Twister replacing red with Fantasyland, blue with Liberty Square, green with Adventureland, and yellow with Main St., U.S.A.

Before taking flight to your choice of Disney Parks, familiarizing oneself with the stories that spawned attractions and characters is vitale. Personally, I beat Terri on this matter by jumping head first into an animation and live action pool consisting of rentals; Tangled, Tom and Huck, Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Tigger Movie, The Sword in the Stone, The Great Muppet Caper, and Vintage Mickey. Add to that Winnie the Pooh in the theater and my personal copy of The Three Caballeros and I was filled with character(s).

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Hellooooooooooooo Prince Caspian!

Every day for roughly 10 days prior to our impending hoopla we would update each other on our research plans and accomplishments. As the flights times drew nearer we also found ourselves imagining what we wish we we doing.

Messages from Terri:
For today I feel like riding Figment, er the Figment ride all day with a few breaks at Ice Station Cool or whatever they are calling it these days.

Hurry up! Spaceship Earth is only on a 5 minute wait!

I discovered Disneyish items at work or at least made them such. My co-worker Agatha keeps a container of assorted hard candies on her desk. Something gold shimmered under the fluorescent lighting and caught my eye. :gasp: A Werther's Original! Practice for the Germany pavilion accomplished.

Then just a few days later, I turned to my right and saw the back of my co-worker's chair or was it a doom buggy? My mind was playing tricks on me. Oh how the need to quench my thirst with Pixie Dust-flavored Kool-Aid shook me to the very core of mine own Disney geekiness.

Music! It soothes the soul and relaxes the body and counts as a preparation. To appease and calm myself for the benefit of those around me in the office, I set the MP3 player and reveled in The Muppet Show: Music Mayhem & More - The 25th Anniversary Collection. Relaxation didn't kick in. Rather I spent over an hour bopping around in my seat, shaking my head, and singing. While I wondered if my co-workers would find my behavior odd, the true absurdity is that none of them seemed to notice or care. Pay attention to me!!! I'm not even in a cubicle, I'm inbetween or at The Inbetween.

More messages from Terri:
I am sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant preapring for Marrakesh, 1900 Park Fare, Mama Melrose, and Raglan Road.

I could go stand outside in the rain to preapre for the Orlando afternoon downpours!

Staying the course and rehearsing for plenty of walking, sweating, and carrying photography equipment meant a visit to the nearby zoo. My pal Julie from work and I set out for a good 5 hours of walking up and down hills, photographing animals, bathroom breaks, and even locating a baby bunny like those seen at Walt Disney World Resorts. It was a magical day.

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Once upon a time there were 3 tortoises. The biggest tortoise was a bully and wouldn't let the other tortoises hang out at his pad.

Terri and I felt ready for the challenge (and Tropical Storm Irene was gone) and so we packed our bags and headed to our respective airports, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and T.F. Green Airport. With fists raised we declared, "Don't mess with us Katia and/or Lee."

Previous entry: Trip Prequel: Decisions, Decisions

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August 24, 2011

Trip Prequel: Decisions, Decisions

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


What are you doing on Saturday, September 3rd around 10:30am? Jack Spence and I are co-hosting a meet-and-greet at Disney's Animal Kingdom in front of Dinosaur (the attraction). Help us bring back an Iguanadon and act nonchalant to Phylicia Rashad's warning. Free AllEars.Net trading cards to those who attend.


Adults, as measured by age, aren't required to give reason or explanation for repeatedly soaking up the sun, tasting worldly treats, and galavanting from attraction to attraction. Yet, in some instances, honest-to-goodness rationale exists, albeit from the high-pitched cartoony voices in one's head. I didn't say MY head, I said one's head. I only hear my own voice and it is undeniably correct and extraordinarily funny. My dad, who has known me my entire life (funny how that works), dared to inquire, "Why are you going again?" "I ran out of photos for my blogs." was and still is my response...this time.

Once I established that I was indeedally doo going back, I set my dates around Labor Day weekend. The office will be closed on Labor Day, giving me (along with my co-workers, bosses, and stapler) a 3-day weekend. Flying out on Friday evening would fascilitate an early departure from work, so I booked my flights.

The next step was to find some friends to join me. I asked around and got one lame excuse after the other. "I don't have any extra money and I'll be back in school" lamented Tracy who is studying to be a nurse. Erin (Queen of Menus) is saving her Disney Dollars for A December to Remember, AllEars.Net's 15th Anniversay festivities. (I'll be home shoveling snow no doubt) Thankfully my GOOD friend Terri signed on to join me, so quickly in fact that she nearly ran straight to the airport. lkb-Terri-KermieEars.jpg
Last year at Stage 1, the Muppet shop in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Immediately, we started tossing around ideas. No, we started asking monumental questions and answered them with other questions. Should we rent a car? How much are they now? Where will we stay? Will we get upgraded to the Polynesian? How about the Disney Dining Plan? Is it worth the cost? How many suitcases will we need? Will we hit the outlet store? You get the idea.

Terri said, "I have had such Disneyitis that I fear that upon arrival I may collapse on a bench on Main Street, U.S.A in a catatonic state!"

Within minutes we started actual planning. Seriously. We simultaneously read menus. I checked park hours and Extra Magic Hours then cross-referenced them against projected crowd levels on www.touringplans.com. Terri put together a plan of action and an altenate plan of action. We're just that...good?

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Yes, of course we'd love an upgrade to the Polynesian Resort. Does the room comes with a Hawai'ian hunk...uhhh...I mean...a...host?

I said, "My Studios To Do List: Beauty & the Beast, Streetmosphere, Little Mermaid, Star Tours, American Idol, Toy Story, Phineas & Ferb, and the Muppet store.

Four days later we were booked into a value resort (annual pass discount) with the Disney Dining Plan (full price) by Margaret Johnson of Mouse Fan Travel. I rebooked one leg of the trip for an earlier departure. Guess which one! Correct. Now I'd be leaving work after a long and tedious 3 hours. Rough, I know.

Terri said, "So how many times are we gonna ride Dumbo to try and get a glimpse behind the construction walls to the new Fantasyland expansion? I wonder if we will be able to see any of it from TTA and if the Toon Town train station will be closed. All very important things to worry about for the next 47 days."

Renting a car became more and more of a deep desire. The average rate I found was $54/day for a compact. Uh, that's absurd. I tried bidding on a rental and was denied. Several days later the same company, pitched by Captain Kirk's alter ego, sent me an offer. If I bid on a standard size car, they would tack on $4/day out of their pockets. With little to no hope, I "spun the wheel" with $14.00 which was upped to $18.00/day with their promotion. It was accepted. I couldn't believe it. Can you say, such a steal?! Dude.

Things were going well until I decided to check Southwest again (the next day) and found the cost of the earliest flight south was on sale for $2.00 more than I had initially paid for the afternoon flight. I had to do it! You understand. With my friend Terri on the phone (rooting me on), I switched once more and grabbed a seat just in case I could get the entire day off. Luckily for me, my boss likes me and approved it, ya know, after I looked like a sad puppy and he tormented me by turning calendar pages in slow motion.

I said, "Good news! That outlet mall is having a Labor Day weekend sale. Hopefully Disney's Character Premiere will participate and since we'll be there the day it starts - more selections for us! Yippy!"

We moved quickly and strategized some more including Advanced Dining Reservations, ADRs to most of you and YMCAs to me. Why? Eh, why not. Even counter service locations were discussed especially around World Showcase. Terri wants Mexican food. I like Mexicanos pero voy a comer en Japon. Where will we stuff ourselves the day of our arrival given that now we plan to shop and pick up groceries? I'm still not sure. Everything from the hotel food court to Planet Hollywood to Sweet Tomatoes has been suggested.

Our table service (Oh, garcon!) meals consist of me re-trying a restaurant I haven't been to in so long that I can't remember the last time I was there. A character meal neither of us has tried before, and a very popular location I have never ever been to cuz no one's ever suggested it to me. Cryptic I know but my mom has spies. Everywhere I go..."Hi. I know your mother." "Oh, you're Sheryl's daughter." Yep and they don't even use Kimmunicators.

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Hoy me voy para Mexico.

Two weeks ago my brain kicked into planning gear again. Closer examination, a calculator, and non-stop e-mails later, I realized that Terri and I have to renew our annual passes upon arrival. The Making Memories Package includes Magic Your Way base tickets that are upgradable. For very little additional funds, we could upgrade to a higher class resort (no Daisy Dukes permitted) and get a free photo album filled with pics taken of my friend and I (but mostly me and Aladdin(s)) by PhotoPass shooters. A little persuasion and Terri fell for it. That is, she concurred with my findings. Got the word out to our travel (top secret) agent Margaret Johnson (that's M-a-r-g-a-r-e-t space J-o-h-n-s-o-n) and voila! Disney took more of our money. That was easy.


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August 17, 2011

Bad Fireworks Turned Psychedelic

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Coming up on the end of a long day in the Magic Kingdom, I knew Wishes was about to begin. With me was a tiny lightweight tripod with bendable legs designed for holding small point and shoot cameras. The attempt to wrap its short bubbled legs around a metal fence didn't hold.

As I was alone, I was able to find a spot on the ground a few rows deep. Standing a whopping 8 or 9 inches off the ground and bending sideways as to grab vertical shots and not tip over, my Nikon Coolpix 7600 was ready to try its best.

Sadly, it wasn't stable and the photos all came out blurry. No surprise and not a disappointment as I figured this would happen.

Sometimes with a bit of creativity, photo editing software, and a fib, one can take advantage of the not-so-great results.

The original shot includes the back of a Guest who sat in front of me. Additional distractions are portions of the stage and arches used for a show.

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First, I cropped out the girl and the stage followed by sharpening. Then I increased the density of red, magenta, yellow, and blue. Next, posterization at a very low level was implemented. With the paint bucket, I turned the 2nd outer band of reds and magentas into a dark purple. Lastly, I brightened the highlights, darkened the shadows, and ever so slightly deepened the midtones. All of these tools are in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

My final result.

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Oh yeah, I meant to do that. :wink, wink:

What do you think?

Next week Barrie, Scott, and I will be posting more images that were changed by creative post-processing.


Come join me and Jack Spence on Saturday, September 3rd for a meet-and-greet before taking on Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We'll be there at 10:30am.


Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.


August 10, 2011

Cropping Photos with Character

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



You've been home a whole 17 minutes since returning from vacation and your legion of online community pals are already requesting, nay, demanding to see your photos. Geesh! Once you've settled in and started loading up the 101 million images you shot while skipping around Frontierland singing, "...and blood all around and a great big puddle of blood on the ground," you select pictures to share. Uh oh! This photo need some serious cropping because you were super excited and forgot proper framing

Look at all that space around Gloria (adorable human on the right) and Dale (XL chipmunk on the left). No need to waste tears, it's an easy fix.

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Open up whatever photo editing software you have. Pull up the photo that needs attention. For instance, I have Adobe Photoshop CS3, it's software designed for professionals, students, and advanced hobbyists. All photo editing programs (free or for sale) offer cropping capability so don't fret,

The cropping tool, circled in purple on the left, is what you'll be using. The standard icon for cropping is the box-like shape with lines coming out. When dragging the crop tool over the image, the area that will be cut out is darker than what will remain of the original image. With that said, your software may reverse it, making the portion that goes lighter than that which stays.

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After choosing carefully, I approve the crop. Voila! A full body shot perfect for posting and/or printing.

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Should you decide to crop the photo differently, say for framing, make sure you go back to the original image. Always start at the beginning because that's the highest quality.

Adobe Photoshop allows users to choose how they want to view images. In this instance, it was best to go with Fit on Screen. The original photo is on the right and that red box indicates which part of the photo is showing center-screen. Once I select Fit on Screen, those 2 faces shrink back down. Too much cuteness causes cavities.*

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If you've got a horizontal frame, picture-less, patiently waiting on the bookshelf for some love, crop the image to fit. Leave some extra room because most frame designs will cover up a small portion of any photo.

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Going vertical? Crop the image accordingly and again, leave some extra room.

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*I'm not a dentist but I did just have an examination, cleaning, and x-rays. No cavities!

Today's model is Gloria "Glo" Konsler of Ears to Ears moderator fame. Yep, Glo's an AllEars.Net teamster.

Come join me and Jack Spence on Saturday, September 3rd for a meet-and-greet before taking on Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We'll be there at 10:30am.


Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.


August 3, 2011

Lanterns Around World Showcase

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Come join me and Jack Spence on Saturday, September 3rd for a meet-and-greet before taking on Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We'll be there at 10:30am.

Epcot's World Showcase is a photographer's paradise filled with color, texture, various materials, light, and shadows. When I think of it, I go in with a plan to concentrate on something specific. While the intention is there, it might take me a few trips to get enough of one topic to be content with before posting.

Once I saw that several pavilions had lanterns, I went back and got a few shots. Perhaps on my upcoming trip I'llf find a few more.

In Morocco you'll find colorful glass designs hanging in several rooms and buildings. Just look up. The rich colors glow against gorgeous woods of varying shades.

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By placing the subject to the side and having it closer to the lens, it pops out more from the background.


Over in China, the residential-like area with all of its details usually goes unnoticed as Guests make their way in and out of the gift shop and counter service dining. Stop yourself in your tracks and look around. There's a story surrounding you.

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How you frame the subject makes a big difference. By having items in the foreground that are out of focus and darker, the eye is drawn right into the subject, centered and well lit.


Italy with its open promenade is popular among shoppers and diners and those enjoying the live entertainment. If you pull back from the hot spots, your view will change.

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When various depths are sharp, it helps to place you in the picture and imagine being there much like a postcard does.



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July 27, 2011

Tarzan the Stage Musical Comeback

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton



An interesting thing happened after watching Tarzan The Stage Musical based on the Disney film, this past Saturday. Five of the actors came back out on stage for a question and answer session with audience members who stayed. It seems that during the show's 13-day run at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA, several folks from Disney Theatrical Productions visited. From what I learned, Disney hasn't given up on Tarzan completely and is considering making the show available and re-staged for local theater, school performances, and quite possibly returning to a touring production which was previously scrapped in 2009.

While I never saw the Broadway staging and can't compare that against what I saw on Saturday, I can go over what worked and what could use some pixie dust.

The particular theatre used is small with a circular stage, the center of which can drop or rise. The intimate setting was great for seeing facial expressions on the actors but it would, and probably did, play much grander on an average stage, facing one direction. While seeing Tarzan swing in from between seating sections or climbing a rope ladder in front of the first row puts you right in the action, it would have been more dramatic if he had swung in from a greater distance. I'm not complaining, if he was directly beside or in front of me, doing what he does quite well, I might not have even thought of such a suggestion.

One major change from the Disney animated feature to the stage is that Terk went from female to male. Terk also doesn't start off young like Tarzan. I wasn't sure this twist would work but it did, and fantastically, as played by Christopher Messina. Tarzan and Terk's relationship was brotherly. Messina was energetic, comical, and athletic with a great voice that showcased a toned down rocker scream. Keep an eye out for this adorable creature as he's sure to play Broadway soon. It's surprising he hasn't already, he's just that good.

Broadway alum Robyn Payne and Todd Alan Johnson portrayed Kala and Kerchak, respectively. Each actor did an outstanding job in his and her roles. Payne delivered a beautiful solo of Phil Collins' You'll be in My Heart but it was the duet version with Brian Justin Crum as Tarzan that truly tugged on heart strings.

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Andrea Goss has a lovely singing voice and did a great British accent in a naive version of the botanist, Jane, who falls for Tarzan. Jay Russell gave Professor Porter, Jane's father, some depth albeit in a role with too few lines for such a talented actor. The only speaking role that I couldn't connect with was Mr. Clayton, the antagonist as played by Eric Collins. He lacked that Disney villain essence we're all familiar with.

The star of the show, Brian Justin Crum was Tarzan in every sense of the character. He was strong, funny, tender, protective, aggressive, passionate and carried himself as an ape man both while standing and low to the ground. Crum sang Different, Strangers like Me, For the First Time, Who Better than Me?, Everything that I Am, and Sure as Sun Turns to Moon with just the right expression for each number. For me the most memorable were Different and Strangers like Me. Too bad they didn't record a cast album.

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Where some improvements could be made to the show based only on the North Shore Music Theatre production would be the costumes for the animal characters. I had no idea it was supposed to be a jaguar who killed Tarzan's parents and stole the baby gorilla from Kala's arms until later in the show when the scene was mentioned. Except for the tail...it could have been a gorilla. Speaking of gorillas, their costumes weren't very defined either. I would actually describe them as wearing torn mesh brown sweaters and stretch pants. Lead gorillas (Kala, Terk, and Kerchak) were better but still have a way to go. The "yarn" danging off of what looked like bodysuits fell flat.

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Everything else except for the hanging ropes that blocked the audience's view, and the awkward moments of dancers prancing on and off stage with fruit vines and other props, worked. The live orchestra sparkled and additional singers built up the vocal power from off stage.

I see no reason not to bring Tarzan the Stage Musical back into theaters as a touring show. If that happens, grab Messina to play Terk and Crum as Tarzan and sign me up as their fan.

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July 20, 2011

Riding Attractions When They Break Down

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton


A few months ago, I was at Sea World San Antonio with my friend and her family. Her husband, three year old daughter, and I climbed into a swinging fish with bench seating. It moved like it was modeled after a skateboarder on a half pipe. Well, a few seconds into the ride, we stopped short. I turned around to see a somewhat panicking young employee. She did the right thing and phoned for help and came over and told us to sit tight. But in that moment I announced something to the effect of, "This is Lila's first broken ride! Hooray!" You gotta start sometime.

During a trip to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom with my parents and brother in the 80's we filled a car on the PeopleMover. This is one of my mom's favorite attractions. Just before our car was pulled into the building that now houses Stitch's Great (meh) Escape, the ride stopped. Okay, no big deal. One thinks they must have stopped to let someone on who is in a wheelchair or having trouble with the moving sidewalk. As it turned out, that wasn't why we stopped. The PeopleMover broke down. Eventually, a Cast Member came over and helped us and others out of our cars and walked us along the track and into the building. There's a staircase once inside and we took that down to street level. It was quite an adventure, walking high above Tomorrowland. I'm not even sure there were railings on both sides of the track back then. I remember joking that we should buy T-shirts that said, I survived the PeopleMover.

I've asked folks to submit their memories of being stuck and or walked off an attraction. Feel free to write in about your own experience using the Comment form below.

Rita Joy Egan of New York - It was 1974 and my parents and I were on it's a small world. The boats stopped, but the figurines kept moving and the music kept going and going. My mother said it felt like a half an hour! Whenever the ride gets a bit backed up, I have flashbacks to that day when both my parents desperately needed a drink coming off that ride.


Lisa Lasater of California - The Sailing Ship Columbia broke down at the dock on Tuesday, July 8th, when we were on the Mark Twain Riverboat. We sat in one spot for at least 20 mins. When we finally got to the dock, they handed out re-admittance passes good for any ride except Star Tours. It was nice that they just automatically did that instead of waiting for complaints.


Pooh of Hundred Acre Woods - Every day I get stuck in hunny. RideBreakdown-Poohstuck.jpg


Cindy Hershey of Kentucky - In October 2010, we were on Splash Mountain and it stopped. Unfortnately it stopped right after the curve following the big drop. We had two nice showers courtesy of the splash from the next two boats that came down the drop.

We were also on Peter Pan during the same trip and it stopped as we were "flying" over the town. I whipped the camera out and took a few photos in the dark. It's interesting to see the ride from the camera's point of view.

Kelsi Bruno from Nebraska - The last time we visited Walt Disney World and rode Splash Mountain, it stopped just as we got to the big drop. We sat there for over half an hour listening to Brer Rabbit saying "Please don't throw me in that briar patch!" We did get to see the back of Splash Mountain were given FastPasses. We went again that evening and got to see the lights as we (finally!) went over the edge.

Jennifer Charier from Kentucky - I remember when I was younger and rode the old version of Imagination (Journey into Imagination). The ride broke down about half way through. It was a long ride as it was, but we ended up having to walk through the rest of the ride. It was pretty interesting. I wish they would have kept that version of Imagination with the Dream Maker.

Lori Jacobs Netti of Indiana - New Year's Eve a few years ago, I got stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean by the donkey and the singing pirates. I had "A Pirate's Life for Me" stuck in my head for a loooooong time!

Sarah A. Inkin of New York - I was in Epcot in December of 2006 when all of Future World was shut down due to power issues. We were evacuated from Ellen's Energy Adventure. When things came back up, I was lucky enough to be the first one on Mission Space.

Back to me! My cousin Matthew and I found ourselves stopped on Splash Mountain as well. Just like Cindy Hershey, our log halted after making the "u-turn" following the long descent. As boat after boat came down the chute, a tidal wave of water crashed into us. I was wearing a poncho but Matt was too cool. :insert evil laugh here:


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July 13, 2011

Disney with Caption Bubbles

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Sometimes one takes photos for no apparent reason and then makes use of them later for no apparent reason. These are such photographs.


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Enjoy my shenanigans on Facebook.


July 6, 2011

Submissions - Show Us Your Photos

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Last week I asked our readers to submit photos showcasing what they've learned from the Picture This! blogs. Take a look at what we received.

Tina Santacroce:
I took it outside the Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World) where the personalized bricks are. My husband and I have a brick there from when we were just married before we had kids (the two in the picture). We were checking out the condition of the brick (not so good 20 some-dd years later) when I noticed our shadows and remembered from someone's blog that shadows and light make interesting pictures. I thought this picture of our shadows came out kinda cute and made for a different type of family shot.

I have a point a shoot Fujifilm Finepix F70 EXR.

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Diane Tredore:
Taken with a Sony Cybershot.

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Clair Gregory:
I took this photo at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I remembered the ideas for framing photos, so I took this shot, and I like it. I have a lovely pink Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10, which was most likely set to Auto.

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Diane:
I remembered your blog about turning your flash off, so you don't have the flash
glare in the glass. This was taken at Epcot in the Nemo Living Seas with a Fujifilm F650http://www.dpreview.com/news/0602/06021402fujif650.asp, set to "S" with flash off. I thought it was so cool how you could see the jellyfish & his reflection in the glass and angled so you couldn't see me!

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Keep up with my freelance writing and photography via my Facebook page.