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Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report - Completed

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been one big sour lemon.

For those that did not read my Pre-Trip report; my entire family (Val-wife, Alex - oldest daughter, Sterg - son, Toni - youngest daughter) has recovered from the Covid-19 virus. Myself, Val, Sterg and Toni got it in March and Alex in April while working as a nurse. Val had it worse with a fever for a couple days and flu like symptoms for about a week. The rest of us were either asymptomatic or had minor symptoms.

Add to that the mental stress of living in a society dealing with this pandemic, Toni missing out on a big chunk of her High School Senior Year and her last dance recital (where she was going to take on a major role as Jasmine), work reductions for Sterg and high stress work conditions for Alex on the front line. Yes, 2020 has sure been one big sourpuss.

But, as the saying goes; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

It just so happened that last year I made a reservation to attend the annual AHEPA convention in Walt Disney World, just as I did in 2017. We were going to stay at the Grand Destino Towers but that seemed very much in jeopardy when AHEPA (which is a charitable organization I'm involved with. Like a Greek version of the Knights of Columbus or Lions Club.) cancelled their convention. Soon after however, I received an email that Disney would honor our reservation in July. This was pretty tempting since we had convention rates and discounts on tickets. Long story short, we decided to go. We felt that having already had the virus gave us an extra level of protection and we knew that Disney would handle the health risks properly. In addition, we later found out that our rooms were moved from Grand Destino to the Contemporary in order to accommodate the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sterg's and my dream of playing Marco Polo with the Greek Freak and LeBron James in the pool were quickly dashed. But who could say no to staying at The Contemporary for $175 a night?

We were a go! It was frustrating however because although we had a resort reservation we did not have park tickets. We also didn't have a "park pass" which was needed during this reopening of WDW. We had to wait for all that to open and I had serious doubts it would by the time our first day at the resort (July 20th) rolled around. I decided to book flights without tickets or park passes. Southwest had roundtrip flights from Philly to Orlando for $90 plus if you had to cancel you got that credit for a future flight. No brainer. This was turning out to be the cheapest Disney trip we have taken as a family! Soon after I was open to buy tickets and book Park Passes. We had started to squeeze that lemon and add it's juice to our pitcher of cold water.

Now for the Cast of our adventure.

Myself - Chris/Fractal. A lover of Disney Parks for the many memories it has given me over the years with my family, the way it helps me completely unwind from my job, and how it taps into my creative side and challenges my skills as a photographer.

Here I am with my crazy kids at Christmas.


Val - my beautiful wife. Not the biggest fan of Disney but in the end she was on board. I think secretly she likes it more than she lets on. I will make it up to her with a trip more to her liking.

Here she is with Alex.


Alex - our oldest. Now a traveling nurse. Alex is like me in many ways but as she's getting older and more responsible I'm starting to see her take on a number of Val's traits. She's a good mix and always a delight to be with.

From a trip to Colorado we took last year;


Sterg, aka Fractal Jr. One word to describe Sterg - catalyst - he just makes things happen. He creates reactions both good and bad. He graduated last year from Penn State. He was a captain on the Swim Team but not without drama. He had to miss his promising senior year of swimming when a series of concussions (all outside the water) forced him to medically retire. PSU handled it very well as he helped the team from the sidelines. He now works as a digital marketing consultant as well as helping his cousin get his music career off the ground. Never a dull moment when Sterg is around!

with our dog Prince (Charming).


Toni - For long time readers of my reports you know that Toni and I have a special Disney connection. Many times she would be the only one up early with me to tackle the parks at opening. We have had many great adventures together in the Disney bubble. She's now technically an adult (how did that happen?) so I was going to find out this trip if the magic was still there. She's going to attend Clemson University starting next month and I couldn't be prouder.

Toni in front of the Theater her Recital was supposed to perform at.


So Covid-19 made our family suffer in many ways, but we took that lemon, squeezed it's juice out into our water pitcher, now we just needed a little Disney sugar to make our Lemonade complete.

Coming up - Our trip begins with a WDW meet-up before our flight even leaves the ground!


Premium Member
Original Poster
Your beautiful family is so grown up now! I won’t say all grown up because even in my mid-30s I still feel like I need an adult sometimes!

Wow! Those details on the Tree of Life with the telephoto lens. Impressive work!

Gorgeous lion shots too, but goodness, that warthog looks like he is one beer away from being kicked out of a honkytonk somewhere.

And yes, I will definitely be putting together a trip report once we get back! I’ve been brushing up on my photography skills for this one!

Thanks so much!

Yes, looks like the warthog had a rough night!

Can't wait to see your pics!

I hate to admit it but when someone posts safari pics i tend to skip by them pretty quickly but you've captured some great photos. I love Rhino's, the expression on the male lions face in all three pictures are great, and I'm loving the warthog! I didn't realize they were that hairy!

Well done!

Thanks @Zipitidoda !

Loving the safari pics with that camera/lens!! So clear! And yes, warthogs are ugly.

Thank you @cgersic !
Those lions! 😻😻😻


I would think, EVERYDAY would be Lion day. King of the jungle (who dont actually live in the jungle) and all😉🦁

Make sense to me!

After taking dozens of flamingo pictures, I am convinced that they have the plastic ones! They always look the same to me:cautious:

Great lion pictures. I only get pics of the lion's butt (can we say butt?). You can have no fear of the male lion because the females are the hunters (so they say), LOL.

Lol! When I was pledging a fraternity in college, we stole all the plastic flamingos off of the lawn of a nearby house and left a note that read "Dear Owner, we are flying south for the winter. See you in the Spring. Love your Flamingos."
Six months later we returned to that house one night and put the flamingos back on the lawn.

Thanks, I was lucky this trip with the lions! 😄

I go solo a lot but for someone to say their favorite day at WDW was spending time with the family at the pool instead of a park, speaks volumes. Cherish those memories.

I will, thanks @JohnD !
Your gorilla pictures are amazing!

Thank you @Swissmiss !
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Premium Member
Original Poster
Those early morning departures are tough ones when you're actually leaving WDW for home! The pictures from your balcony watching the sun rise are stunning and it's one of my favorite moments when we stay at WDW. You really got some incredible pics of the gorillas in action. The CM also made the same comment to me about the behaviors of the gorillas when they turn their backs. Looks like the perfect morning at AK so far! :)

Thanks @lindawdw! It was really peaceful and pleasant on that balcony in the early morning.

It was a great morning!

I was just abe to catch up. Work has been crazy these days. I love your stories, and your photos, and I love how your family has such a great time (including Val, even if she doesn't admit it most of the time). I followed you on Instagram a couple days ago, thanks for the follow back!, although you're probably just finding out it was a fellow wdwmagic-er you followed 😁

What I love the most about reading these TRs is being able to see WDW through the eyes of others. Whenever I go, I only have one day per park, so I just try to pack everything I like into a single day. I never have time to just walk around and take everything in, no time for that! I love all the details that make up the theming in every park, especially in AK, but I mostly see them as a "snapshot", a whole "landscape", I haven't been able to just walk and take an actual look at all the little things that are part of this awesome theming job, so looking at your pictures for instance, I find myself surprised remembering my most recent trip and thinking "I remember I walked through there, but how did I not see that cool (insert name here)?".

I agree with you about the current state of epcot with all those walls. Back in January we managed to squeeze in an extra park day, so we decided to go to all the parks once, and then decide which one we would visit again at the end. My husband and I had our minds set on epcot since before we traveled to the US, but after a day there, we felt a bit overwhelmed by all the walls. It felt like you were walking through a maze, everything was so far away, and you couldn't enjoy the walk because you were surrounded by tall walls (even taller to me, I'm only 4'11).

In the end we decided to visit MK again, and that was just a blessing because the first time we watched Happily Ever After and left the park, so we missed Once Upon a Time which was the show I got engaged to. It was also a good decision because we tried those corn dog nuggets from Caseys on our first day there and we were hooked! so I got to enjpy them a second time.

I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip. This has turned out to be pretty good lemonade!
Thanks @Sarabell ! and thanks for taking the time to comment. Hopefully you'll have a "slow down" day in a park soon.

I really missed Happily Ever After this trip - glad you got to see it!

Thank you!

ok This is getting crazy!! A second @fractal IPA Like the last one, I had to buy this as well. View attachment 500236

That settles it! Were going to have to do a taste test of all Fractal beers! I'll have Sterg video tape us and we can post results here.
Stunning photo's as always, your Trip Reports are amazing.

Thanks so much! :)

What a beautiful bird. Never seen a blue pigeon before!! :jawdrop: :)

Quite an amazing bird!

I love all of your photos, but the ones here at AK are some of my absolute favorites!! The clarity and the things I'm getting to see that I normally don't. Just so much fun!

Thank you again @cgersic !


Premium Member
Original Poster
So, I was shopping at Old Navy this morning & thought of you & your family.
Being that no one else was around & I’m sure it would have been easily noticed I felt funny snapping a picture so I pulled this off the internet. Regardless, I thought of you all!!

View attachment 500470

LOL! You're the second person to do this along with @Darstarr !


I'm way ahead of you Chris. I already have them both in my refrigerator. One for Sterg too if he can handle it! Whats better than drinking a Fractal IPA, then drinking a Fractal IPA with @fractal and @fractal jr ?

We need to make this happen!

Loved your AK photo countdown of Sterg and Toni that ended with a photo not of Sterg and Toni 😂



Premium Member
Original Poster
Continuing my photographic tour of Animal Kingdom.



I've always been intrigued by this area.


I like creating "layers" in my photos. Something(s) in the foreground, then the main subject, then a background. I feel it adds interest and gives a sense of 3D depth as well as a way to frame your subject.



No layers here but having a blurred background helps isolate this beautiful statue.


More details. I wonder what's the significance of strawberries?


Different viewpoint.


Never noticed the bicycle before.



Premium Member
Original Poster
More offerings to the Yeti god including several more strawberries.


This guy was looking for offerings of his own.


The more you look around the more you see.



The Forbidden Mountain was calling for me but I passed on an expedition, at least not yet. Until later EE.


I reversed course and started to head back towards the Tree of Life taking in details along the way.



These boats were in good order and ready to go.


And look who I found again as I crossed over the bridge to Discovery Island!





"DUDE. Nothing make me happier than seeing you throw kisses at Mickey and Minnie. Ha,ha,ha,ha!"



Premium Member
Original Poster
Leaving Asia



Never saw this before.


I cut into the trails behind the tree of life. The 105mm lens was replace with my trusty 24mm.

Once again I wanted to try a day time long exposure shot. With no tripod I found a fence and posts that provided some stability. This was shot at ISO 50, f/16 for 1/6 of a second; just long enough to turn the water "creamy".

This was the best of the bunch...


A few other waterfall shots.



I found this little nook to shoot straight into the sun.

First in color,


then in Black and White


Next stop for me was Pandora.

Thanks for stopping by.




Remember earlier in my report I said there was something different about Pandora compared to when we were here in 2017?

It was here when I figured it out. The trees had grown taller and the greens thicker.



2017 - this is not an "apples to apples" shots as the angle is different but whatever they planted in 2017 has definitely grown and matured quickly.


More waterfalls...



More Pandora.



All this picture taking, swapping lenses and carrying a big backpack was making me hungry so I decided to hit up an old favorite.



Premium Member
Original Poster
This pavilion behind Flame Tree is one of my, if not favorite spots to eat at Walt Disney World. There's usually a nice breeze and you get a great view of Everest.


We've enjoyed it many times over the years...

This is the lookout area next to it in 2007











The only thing missing on this day in 2020 was the rest of my family.



I caught a glimpse of Rafiki and Timon.


Here's a glimpse of the 105mm lens on my camera. Look at all that big glass! (sorry for the sour look - I was actually pretty happy).


As I was enjoying a nice Safari Amber.


After my delicious BBQ chicken platter and beer (mobile ordered of course), I set foot to explore the rest of the delightful area behind Flame Tree.

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Premium Member
Original Poster
How do you like the 105mm? It’s a candidate for the future along with their slightly slower 135mm.

The 105mm 1.4 renders beautifully. It is sharp and of course fast. Wonderful long portrait lens. Auto focus on my Sony is good but not great. The 85mm 1.8 is much better. So it's not made for "action" shots as it misfired a few times on the Safari or was a bit slow to acquire.

It's a big sucker and quite heavy (lots of gorgeous glass). Well built and comes with a nice case.

I'm not going to be rolling it out often so not even sure if I'm going to keep it. I'm glad I brought it to WDW but I can see myself deferring to the 85mm unless it's for something special. But man does it produce some amazing images and files!

WOW, your pictures are magazine worthy!

Thank you @lindawdw !:)


Well-Known Member
I have never been to AK and not eaten at Flame Tree and not sat right where you were. I can sit there for hours... Love all the little things that you are seeing for the first time, which means I'm definitely seeing them for the first time!

Minnesota disney fan

Well-Known Member
sorry for all the "likes", 🥴 , but I'm catching up and finding your photos as amazing as ever. I have never noticed all the things you captured behind the Tree of Life. I will definitely have to check it out better next time.
Of all your great pic's, I said, WOW, when I saw the black and white one. It really popped with the sun shot! :happy:

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