BryanRph wrote:You have a great eye (and probably lots of patience to wait for the perfect shot!)
Too much, maybe! Sometimes have to wait for a few coaster trains in order to get things timed out right, which means I'm standing on the midway for 5-10 minutes, knowing there's no line and I could be on the ride.
SFOGdude25 wrote:Gotta ask, if you're willing to share, what do you shoot with? Love the depth-of-field on a lot of those shots!
Nothing super special. Canon T2i with the cheapo 18-55 and 55-250 lenses. I'm not always thrilled with the performance of the latter, especially at the far end of the zoom, so for every one good shot there may be 1-10 lousy ones I don't use.
This park is awesome if you can hit it on a slow day. And when the weather is not so bad. Feb and Oct, or Nov are good months. Weekdays if you can. I love the Lorikeets! Montu and Kumba are still very intense rides and have aged well. A question though, why has Universal replaced the Hulk track and Kumba's original track is still going strong? They are about the same age.
The Great Zo wrote:Nothing super special. Canon T2i with the cheapo 18-55 and 55-250 lenses. I'm not always thrilled with the performance of the latter, especially at the far end of the zoom, so for every one good shot there may be 1-10 lousy ones I don't use.
Hey just proves that it's not the camera that makes great pictures. It's the person behind it. Also proves how well the T2i holds up today for a camera that was released 7 years ago!
Thanks again for the comments! Moving ahead a little over a week -- and skipping something I'll get back to later -- I'll jump over to Orlando for a visit to SeaWorld.
Though my family has averaged a trip to Disney World about once every three years, I've been extremely negligent in visiting the other major parks in central Florida. Though I got to both Fun Spot parks in 2015, I had not been to SeaWorld since 1995 -- when I was ten years old. It's so long ago that I have virtually no memory of the park, though I do remember riding the Sky Tower -- so hey, at least I got that credit 22 years ago, since it wasn't operating this time.
I visited the park on Monday, February 13. Crowds were very light in terms of locals and domestic visitors, but this was also my first time visiting an Orlando-area park during Brazilian tour group season -- thankfully, there were only a few large groups, and they added only negligible stress to the day. Actually, they kept the coaster trains at least partially full, which was better for photography's sake!
Scorecard for the day: manta x2 kraken x2 mako x3 wild arctic -- lunch -- blue horizons turtle trek manta x2 antarctica kraken x2 mako x2 one ocean mako x3
My closest comparisons to this park are SeaWorld San Antonio (which I visited with TPR in 2013) and Busch Gardens Tampa (which, well, it's on Page 1). This is definitely a better and more full park than San Antonio, but it probably doesn't win the battle with BGT. Both parks are impeccably landscaped and quite beautiful, and they both contain an excellent (and very different) assortment of animals. However, for as much as I love SeaWorld's three B&Ms, BGT wins the ride battle in a landslide. Kraken's a good mid-tier Floorless, though it's a little shaky in spots. Manta is my easily favorite flying coaster, and the first I've been on that wasn't a Superman clone, a Vekoma deathtrap, or a Volare torture device. Mako was a surprise hit -- I went in expecting a mid-tier B&M hyper, but it's probably one of my favorites, and I'll take it over Diamondback here in Ohio. Yes, most of the air is floater, but don't tell me the first drop in the back row isn't a little more! Unfortunately, that's about it -- Turtle Trek is OK, Antarctica is a disappointment, and Wild Arctic is best not spoken of. Still, I'm totally happy to mini-marathon the B&Ms in between watching the animals and shows -- this park is worth a day for those reasons alone.
Started the day off on Manta -- my first roller coaster at the park.
This was my first non-Superman B&M flyer, and I thought this layout was a huge improvement over those.
It starts off with the always-awesome pretzel loop, but it actually does fun things after it too!
A Manta train climbs the lift. Yes, there are actually people on the train, but I'm pretty sure it was never more than a station wait all day long.
Good ride. Slightly uncomfortable if stuck on the brake run in that position for more than a minute or so, but otherwise I like it a lot.
Journey to Atlantis was in the middle of its scheduled maintenance -- or de-maintenance, if you've kept up on the SeaWorld Orlando thread.
So, let's head over to Kraken! He looks kind of threatening.
Do not look the Kraken in the eye.
Especially do not try to steal the Kraken's eggs!
About the only good place to get a close-up shot of riders on Kraken.
I think I found a SeaWorld survey marker disc in the ground in front of the Kraken entrance. Disney World and Disneyland have their own system of survey markers, but I didn't know SeaWorld had any until I stumbled across this one!
Next up, things get a little chilly.
Antarctica is the Empire of the Penguin. I visited twice, and the first time, I skipped the ride -- which turned out to be a good call, as it broke down for a while anyway.
The second time through, I did get on the ride. It's the second trackless dark ride I've been on, after Ratatouille in Paris. That one was a lot of fun. This one was cute, and had some neat visual effects, but felt like quite an under-utilization of an awesome ride system.
Apologies for the oddly-shaped, unrelated picture.
Here's the real draw at Antarctica -- the only open-air penguin exhibit I know of!
Open-air means two things. #1: it kinda smells bad.
#2: it's cold! You're in the penguins' habitat, not the other way around.
As a result, I did about 10-15 minutes of photography, and had to stop because my fingers had lost the ability to reliably press the shutter button.
Penguins are really fun to watch, even though most of them just stand around, not doing much.
Because this exhibit is open-air, I knew it'd be great for photography. No glass to shoot through!
I was able to get some good close-up shots of the penguins.
I'll share a few more, because penguins are awesome, as long as you're not referring to the hockey team, because they're the worst.
Taking a swim.
Staring right into the camera!
A look at the "indoor" viewing area.
This is truly one of the best penguin exhibits I've ever seen. The only one close is the new exhibit at the Detroit Zoo, which lacks SeaWorld's open-air section, but makes up for it with some incredible underwater viewing areas.
Sky Tower was closed (as expected) and as an observation tower enthusiast, I was not pleased. Glad to see two Osprey call the top of the tower home.
So, I made my first trip over to the park's newest coaster, Mako.
I loved the shark animations on the ceiling of the station!
Mako's hard to photograph from inside the park, like Kraken, but there are a few good spots near the end of the track.
This was my favorite spot to shoot from -- a perfect view of the final turn over the lake.
So, as it may be evident from these pictures, the Brazilian tour groups were here!
After doing this photography set, I got in line for the ride behind a huge group that had just entered the queue. How long would I have to wait? How much would this inconvenience my day? I got to the station and found they'd filled the queue two or three trains deep for every row /except/ the back row -- the best spot on the ride! To put it another way, their presence was not a problem.
A similar thing happened on Kraken, in which the front row was shockingly left empty. Even with the groups, the park was not even remotely busy, so lines were never a concern.
If it's not tour groups, I'm getting stuck behind a parade of ... flamingos?
Wild Arctic was up next. How was the ride? It needs to be put out of its misery. It's closer to "Jules Verne Orbinaut at La Feria Chapultepec" than it is to Star Tours or anything at Universal.
However, as it is with SeaWorld, the ride is joined with some awesome animal exhibits. The belugas were not easy to photograph, so have a shot of the inside of their building instead.
A can of B&M beans? A little on-the-nose, eh SeaWorld?
Goo goo g'joob.
Let's go see some dolphins!
If you don't like dolphins, you're probably not human.
A silhouette of a dolphin!
A dolphin pokes its head above the water.
This one's probably looking for something to eat.
After seeing the dolphin exhibit, it was just about time for the Blue Horizons show. I didn't know it at the time, but Blue Horizons was on its last legs, soon to be replaced by a different experience. So, I'm glad I saw it while it was still there!
One flying dolphin!
Two flying dolphins!
Two flipping dolphins!
If there was a story, it was hard to follow, but I think this performer was discovering a world of sea and avian life.
Here's a person dressed as a parrot, which I realize makes very little sense out-of-context.
This guy had more birds than he knew what to do with.
Thankfully, they were well behaved.
This bird is part of the show.
This bird is not part of the show, but seems to think so anyway, the thief.
Stopped by the manatee rehab area to see some of Florida's gentlest sea creatures.
Turtle Trek was the last attraction to visit. The 3D film was kind of interesting, I guess. A warm-up for the next couple days at Universal.
Sea Turtles are awesome, and Turtle Trek does have some great viewing areas for them.
I also went through the other smaller aquariums around the park, such as the ones adjacent to Manta and Mako.
A whirling tornado of fish.
The tunnel in the shark exhibit. I think everyone that visits SeaWorld gets this picture.
The Guy Harvey mural, as Mako swims by in the background.
Finally, a chance to get some better pictures of Mako and Kraken, which are both nicely visible from the Mako exit stairway.
Mako crests the lift. That drop is a lot of fun in the back row!
Speeding along the water.
The setting is quite nice, passing water and trees, with good views over a very busy area.
Hitting the hill for some airtime.
On the return leg.
Almost as high as the birds.
Coming through the mid-course brake...
...and into the rest of the course. The final third of the ride isn't as great, but the turn over the walkaway and the water is fun.
Looking just to the left at Mako's older sibling.
Kraken's an older B&M, so the pre-drop is there.
Rounding the top of the first loop.
I like coasters with vertical loops.
A two-train shot!
Cobra rolling on Kraken.
Another two-train shot, as Kraken rises above Mako.
Kraken heads down the first drop.
Mako's lift hill lines up nicely here with one of Kraken's inversions.
Framing Kraken's drop in a silhouetted Mako.
Pacific Point Preserve is home to seals and sea lions.
These two think they're in the spotlight.
A dignified appearance.
This was interesting -- there was a roseate spoonbill standing on top of the roseate spoonbill enclosure. This one didn't appear to be tagged, at least not in a way that was obvious. Was it just stopping in for a visit?
Spoonbills aren't overly hard to find in the wild in Florida, so maybe this is just one of them.
Definitely not difficult to find in the wild in Florida -- or just about anywhere -- but this squirrel was posing, so I had to get the shot.
Reflections on the water as the sun begins to set.
A final look over Manta from the walkway across the water.
Mako makes its last big turn before heading into the station.
The sun sets, silhouetting Mako against the fading light.
I made it to the final One Ocean show of the day at Shamu Stadium.
I wasn't actually planning to watch One Ocean while I was at the park, figuring I'd rather be riding coasters, but I'd already taken multiple laps on everything. So, I figured that this would probably be my last chance to ever see an Orca show, and made it to the last show of the day.
Feeding time from the trainers.
On the platform right in front of the seating area.
Another bird convinced they're part of the show. Who's going to tell them otherwise?
This is why you don't sit too close -- especially with electronics!
When the sign says you may get wet, you're getting wet.
After One Ocean, I returned to end my night with a few more rides on Mako. This is what the station looked like -- and yes, re-rides were allowed. There's nothing quite the views and experience from a tall and fast coaster at twilight.
A bad phone photo, but one last view of Kraken and Mako on my way out of the park.
Alright, as I did with the last segment, part of this report is going to be "other stuff in Florida" in addition to the roller coasters. Yes, there's more to do in the Sunshine state than resorts and theme parks!
So here's the addendum to Part 2 -- stuff I did in the couple days after leaving Tampa and before visiting SeaWorld.
First, on Saturday February 11, I made a very quick stop in Lakeland.
Here, a giant swan. Because if there's anything I've learned from visiting lakefront urban parks in Florida, it's that large birds are /everywhere/.
A fountain on Lake Mirror.
Fountain, art, and a road in the distance. Yep, probably about all there is to see in Lakeland.
Next, I spent a few hours at the Circle B Bar Reserve, a nature preserve southeast of Lakeland.
This place went viral shortly before my visit, after somebody filmed a ridiculously large Alligator on one of the trails. I figured this place would see a spike in visitors, but on the Saturday I visited, it was even worse than I'd expected! Actually, some of the preserve workers seemed slightly annoyed by it. Eh, ultimately, it's not an awful thing if it's motivated people to take a hike outdoors.
To be truthful, this was one of the better nature preserves I've visited -- an awesome variety of wild animals, and as this picture shows, a Hitchcockian number of birds. See this tree?
Take these trees, multiply them by 30, and add up all the birds. That gets you close to how many birds were in just one section of the preserve.
Was able to get closer to some of the birds, like this Great Blue Heron.
Or the Osprey on a tree branch.
An Anhinga spreading its wings.
This might have been the first time I ever saw a Sandhill Crane.
Honestly, there's something just a little different about seeing animals like this in the wild -- not that I don't enjoy places like Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, or a nice zoo.
Somebody's gone fishing.
A small viewing area offered views over Lake Hancock.
The lake was pretty well populated by alligators, many just slightly poking out above the water.
The swampy areas of the preserve contained several more alligators.
This one was the largest I saw -- the king of the castle on top of that rise.
I like turtles.
Even an armadillo!
There's a certain scenery to the area...
What else is central Florida known for? Orange groves everywhere.
And yes, there are hills in Florida, and the views actually aren't awful in spots. Orange groves as far as the eye can see.
Even some just-planted groves!
Fading colors on Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee.
Orange sky, reflections, palm trees -- that's pretty much Florida.
The next night -- Sunday February 12 -- I went to no-man's land. Here's the funny part about Orlando -- it's the one city everyone has visited, but the one downtown no visitor goes to. I mean, it's not like downtown Orlando is a miserable ghost town. It's just not a tourist draw on anywhere near the magnitude of the resorts just to the southwest.
But, I like downtowns, and I like night photography, so I went "off the beaten path" and gave downtown Orlando a visit!
Welcome to Lake Eola Park -- another urban waterfront park with nice paths, nice landscaping, and /lots/ of birds.
Yep, Orlando's got a big downtown, and it looks pretty nice from here.
Lake Eola is located just east of the main downtown core, but most of the skyscrapers are visible from various vantage points around the lake.
I did this photo set between 10PM and midnight, but there was never any concern about safety -- there were /lots/ of people in the park. Joggers, readers, bikers, and even one couple practicing salsa dancing.
A sculpture of birds, because of course.
The majestic Lake Eola fountain.
An orange glow on Washington Street.
More buildings and reflections.
Finishing my loop around the lake.
A good spot to end. The Universal parks are up next, and part 3 of this trip report will be posted in another week or two.
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