We arrived at the MK around 6:40, and immediately got in line for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Well, we thought Snow White would be there. Apparently, Grumpy had made some sexist remarks to Snow White about women, “not belonging in the ‘Dwarf Mine’,” and Snow White was a bit offended. So she never did show up. While this explanation might be more humorous, I imagine the actual explanation was that Disney wanted to give the impression of more entertainment at the party than there actually was, so Snow White got her own meet & greet in Toontown, thereby creating two separate lines for people to wait in to see her and the dwarfs. This was really disappointing, because the Dwarf Mine set up for the little guys looked great, and was (surprisingly) well lit. At least we got a photo with Snow White AND the Dwarfs at last year’s MNSSHP (I guess MNSSHP has enough entertainment that they don’t have to separate the characters); unfortunately, the lighting was crappy at the Halloween party.
By 7:15, we were through the Dwarf line (ironic, as it was quite a lengthy line). We wandered around, heading over to the Golden Horseshoe to watch the dance party again. For some reason, this dance party was very captivating to us–us being Sarah and my mom. Both of them danced with the characters, having quite the good time. I am not down with the hip hop music, so I didn’t quite see the appeal. I also was a bit surprised at some of the suggestive songs being played. I doubt the little tykes understand the messages of these songs (or at least I hope they don’t understand them at their ages), so maybe it’s not such a big deal. Still, not what you’d expect to see in the Magic Kingdom. Before we left, I saw one of the Country Bears “getting down,” so I busted some of my ill moves next to him. I can assure you all, you’ve never seen moves like mine. They are…terrible…seriously, train wreck bad. Ill is not an exaggeration. They are so ill they would remind you of a rabid raccoon.
Since it’s patently obvious that WDW has made cuts to MVMCP in the last several years (free photo, Twas, portions of the fireworks, etc.) without adding much new quality entertainment (nothing pertaining to the Castle counts as that is run regardless of MVMCP–even if it weren’t, the argument can be made that the Castle lights only offset the loss of Country Bear Christmas), and while dramatically increasing the price, it would be nice if little “plusses” were made to the party. For example, during a normal day at the MK, the toilet paper that is out is pretty brutal. During the party, maybe they could bring in some of that nice 2-ply stuff they have at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Yet another example of why I’d make a great dictator of WDW. Heck, if any Disney executives are reading this, I’d even settle for a middle management position!
After the dance party, unsurprisingly, my mom wanted to do some more shopping. Since I knew she wouldn’t want to stay the entire night, and the stores get especially packed around closing, I agreed to go then. Plus, you never want to delay when LE pins are at stake! The Emporium, unsurprisingly, was a mad house. I quickly exited the store in favor of wandering around Main Street. I told Sarah to call me when they were done.
We caught the first parade, arriving only 15 minutes early but catching it from our super secret perfect location. Watching it so many times gave me the luxury of shooting it with numerous different lenses. I actually ended up using all of my lenses except the 50mm f/1.8, which has become the black sheep of my herd (oh yes, the appropriate term for 4 or more lenses is a herd).
After the first parade, we found a spot for the fireworks. Given that the party was sold out, I was a little surprised that Main Street wasn’t more packed for the fireworks. My theory was that a large block of tickets went to the cheerleaders, and they either left voluntary because the cold was too much, or were hospitalized because of it. Either way, I wasn’t too beat up about the park being less busy than I expected. The fireworks, just as they were the time prior, were awesome. I could watch that show again and again–I certainly listen to its soundtrack enough during the Christmas season.
Celebrate the Season was next on the agenda. This was the one thing, entertainment-wise, that Sarah and I had not done the previous party. We had only seen this show once ever, as it was cancelled in 2008 when we last attended the party. This show was pretty good; perhaps better than I remembered. That, or last time the measuring stick for it was Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, and this time, the measuring stick was A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. Funny how everything is relative.
For the second parade, we were going to go for our normal super secret awesome spot, when I spotted a new awesome spot! It turns out that a filming crew was at the MK to shoot a commercial for ABC. I had been thinking about using the fisheye to photograph the parade, but this sealed the deal. There was a “father and son” (those are air quotes, for what it’s worth) on the curb right in front of us who were models for the commercial. Let me just say that I would not want to be a Disney model. Different people kept approaching the two of them, telling them to do things differently. Three different people told them contradictory ways to sit (boy on outside vs. father on outside), and kept making other requests of them. It was funny to hear the kid and dad talk; I realize actual father-son teams are not usually cast for these things, but it’s still funny to hear a “father” ask his “son” where he is from. It was also funny overhearing the crew talk amongst themselves about how much they hate shooting at WDW because of all the rules, requirements, and control. The coolest part, by far, though, was seeing all that camera gear. I can only imagine how much some of THAT stuff cost. I think my little Nikon D7000 and Rokinon fisheye had a bit of performance anxiety.
Speaking of the D7000, I’ve received a lot of emails, messages, and comments about how I liked the D7000. I haven’t responded to any of these yet (or any messages for the last month or so–been busy–sorry!), and this as good of a time as any to give my capsule review of the D7000’s powers, so I figured why not give some of my thoughts now.
First, the pros. The dual memory card slot is nice, as is the virtual horizon (yet I still manage to get slightly crooked shots). The ability to meter with older lenses is great, as it enabled me to buy a Samyang/Rokinon fisheye that wouldn’t have metered with the D90. The camera is well built (better than the D90). The biggest upgrade of all, that I have noticed, has been the dynamic range increase. I can really push and pull a RAW file in all directions. It’s huge.
Now, the negatives: the high ISO increase does not meet my expectations. This was a big selling point for me as I shoot a lot in low light without a tripod, and I was hoping to push the ISO more. The buffer does not seem noticeably improved, and that’s running class 10 cards. I still experience slowdown. The RAW files are huge; I suppose some people might consider this an advantage, but I’m fine with 10MP. The advanced settings in auto-ISO are sort of wacky when using the Nikon CLS flash system. This may not seem like a big deal, but I actually use this a lot.
Maybe my expectations are too high, but I am already looking forward to the D400 or (don’t tell Sarah) the D700’s replacement. My next camera will probably be full frame regardless of the D400’s features, as full frame enables me to buy the 14-24 f/2.8, which is the holy grail of lenses for me.
Overall, I would say the D7000 is a good camera, but a bit overrated. The price difference between the D90 and the D7000 is going to be about $600 for most people. Because I bought an Epson printer that had a nice mail in rebate (and subsequently resold the printer), and sold my D90 before the D7000 was announced (and thus before the market had a chance to react) the upgrade was only around $200 for me. For that amount, it was a worthwhile upgrade. For $600, if money is an issue, I would suggest putting that money towards an UWA lens. If money is no issue…why not buy a D700 or D3s?
I got some cool shots from the parade with the fisheye, but it’s not something I would want to use if I were only photographing the parade once or twice. This was also probably the least attention I paid to the parade, because I was so enamored with what the film crew was doing. With any luck, I am in a commercial. At the very least, I know my feet made a couple of shots. (Because I kept kicking the father and son to make sure my feet got into the shots!)
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the ambiance of the party (oh, and we saw A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas again) and trying to stay warm. We had plenty of hot chocolate, and plenty of cookies. I think the cookies we had at the three parties probably account for about 7 of the 10 pounds I probably gained while we were down there. I’m going to have to workout double-time in the new year to work off all of this flab.
When we left, it was only us and this tourist at the monorail station. Both he and I were taking pictures as we waited for the monorail, and suddenly, when it approached, one of the Cast Members said, “oh, they aren’t riding,” without asking us. Sarah quickly responded that we were, and the other individual followed us onto the monorail car that we boarded. All of the cars were empty, yet he chose the same one. This guy must have never seen Walt Disney World before, because, even as we were in the moving monorail late at night, he was firing away like crazy. He had a nice-enough DSLR, but there is no way these photos were turning out. During the monorail ride alone, he probably took as many photos as I took the entire day!
He got off at the Polynesian, and continued to take shots throughout the lobby of various things. I sure how he was shooting in jpg, because I can’t imagine having to process all those RAW files! We contemplated just sleeping on a couch at the Polynesian before deciding it probably wouldn’t be too fun to walk home a couple hours later after we got kicked out.
Stay Tuned for the final installment of our Christmas 2010 trip report!