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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.

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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.

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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;

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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).

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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.

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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!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
More photos around Animal Kingdom.

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Another nearly perfect day in Walt Disney World!

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Sterg send word that he was (finally) on his way to the park. He was hungry so we decided to meet at Satu'li in Pandora. Alex however was on her way to Disney Springs to return something she bought.

Making my way back to Pandora. The area on the right in this photo was another "relaxation station".

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Never saw this before.

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This was a drum band cruising the rivers of AK. They were pretty good!

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Looking back at our sinking ship.

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Look who's coming just around the river bend...

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Almost there!

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Look who I ran into!

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Time to get Jr. some lunch.

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Another good meal at the Canteen (according to Sterg and my little sampling).

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
After Sterg's lunch I went on another quest for more long exposure shots.

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It was right around here when I realized I missed a great opportunity. In my back pack was a 10 stop Neutral Density filter (which is like a very dark pair of sunglasses for a lens) that goes on my 15mm lens. The problem was my 15mm lens was back in the Hotel Room. That plus my tripod would have given me the tools for some really special photos. Something to "shoot" for on the next trip!

"Dad, let's do Flight of Passage one more time."
Sterg requested.

No brainer.

I pray that when we look at these photos years from now we'll all say. "Remember when we had to wear those stupid masks?"

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Extreme Toxicity Levels - Don't have to travel to Pandora to experience that.

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Another thrilling ride on a Banshee!

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We bid farewell to Pandora until our next trip.

"See you later floating mountains..."

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Off to something Sterg hadn't done since...


2011

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Sterg was a little lukewarm about going but as I explained the genius and little details of the queue line he started to become more engaged.

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He enjoyed it much more than he anticipated! Actually loved it! There is nothing like the sheer bedlam of a room filled with the screams of dozens of children as black window spiders descend from the ceiling and dangle over their heads!

We both however commented how the 3D (just like Mickey's Philharmagic) seem dated.

Overall though we considered ITTBAB a big win!


UP NEXT - Final ride on Everest/great pool time with Alex/Breaking out the tripod for some night time shots!
 

JohnD

Well-Known Member
After Sterg's lunch I went on another quest for more long exposure shots.

DSC00580-X3.jpg


DSC00584-X3.jpg


It was right around here when I realized I missed a great opportunity. In my back pack was a 10 stop Neutral Density filter (which is like a very dark pair of sunglasses for a lens) that goes on my 15mm lens. The problem was my 15mm lens was back in the Hotel Room. That plus my tripod would have given me the tools for some really special photos. Something to "shoot" for on the next trip!

"Dad, let's do Flight of Passage one more time."
Sterg requested.

No brainer.

I pray that when we look at these photos years from now we'll all say. "Remember when we had to wear those stupid masks?"

DSC00599-X3.jpg


Extreme Toxicity Levels - Don't have to travel to Pandora to experience that.

DSC00601-X3.jpg


DSC00602-X3.jpg


DSC00604-X3.jpg


DSC00606-X3.jpg



Another thrilling ride on a Banshee!

DSC00611-X3.jpg


We bid farewell to Pandora until our next trip.

"See you later floating mountains..."

DSC00612-X3.jpg


Off to something Sterg hadn't done since...


2011

DSC02062-X3.jpg



Sterg was a little lukewarm about going but as I explained the genius and little details of the queue line he started to become more engaged.

DSC00616-X3.jpg



DSC00617-X3.jpg


DSC00618-X3.jpg



He enjoyed it much more than he anticipated! Actually loved it! There is nothing like the sheer bedlam of a room filled with the screams of dozens of children as black window spiders descend from the ceiling and dangle over their heads!

We both however commented how the 3D (just like Mickey's Philharmagic) seem dated.

Overall though we considered ITTBAB a big win!


UP NEXT - Final ride on Everest/great pool time with Alex/Breaking out the tripod for some night time shots!

I have to admit, while I know what's coming in "Bug", it is fun to be surrounded by the startled kids and other guests who've never seen the show, whether the spiders descending or the "bugs exiting" the theater at the end of the show.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Making our way to Nepal and base camp.

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There's that floating drum band again.

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Time for our expedition.

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I was now using the 55mm 1.8 lens (actually had been since Pandora).

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For the first time since our first trip on EE, the queue line extended up and behind the buildings. This offered a few different viewpoints. By the way, on our first time in 2007 on Everest we witnessed the Yeti in awesome "A-mode". Hopefully someday we'll see that again. It really is amazing.

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Time to board.

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I put the camera away this time and thoroughly enjoyed our close encounter with the Yeti.

These people also seemed to be enjoying themselves.

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Everest was our last stop of the day.

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Sterg and I left AK and grabbed the first bus to the Contemporary.

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Back at the Contemporary I took a few pictures with Alex on the balcony.

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I'm enjoying having all my children now in adulthood. Our conversations are different, but I love spending time with them. I had a great time alone with Sterg in AK. He had some work to do then wanted to hit the gym while my first born wanted to spend time at the pool. I was game for that.

DSC00644-X3.jpg


Val and Alex just completed their cross country drive to San Diego and spent great Mother/Daughter time together. Alex will be there for the next several months on her nursing assignment living near LaJolla. I'm really proud of her and
how she's handled the craziness that 2020 has brought.

DSC00646-X3.jpg


We got ready and headed down. After lugging around all the camera gear all day I decided to take a break and leave it behind. My Pixel 2 would pick up the slack.

We started out at the main pool, then when the sun dropped behind the Contemporary, we moved to the quiet pool to steal another 1/2 hour of sunshine.

Last moments of sun.

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A quick video as we were packing things up. The weather really was magical.


By this time we were both hungry so off we went to the Contemporary Cafe.

Photos along the way.

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We grabbed our food and a table in the closed Outer Rim.

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Nice view.

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Hi there.

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I don't remember what I had to eat but do remember it was better than I expected.

Now back up in the room I took this shot on the balcony.

I started the day with the first boat out of MK, and now with the last going back (or one of the last).

IMG_20200725_204351-X3.jpg
 

cgersic

Well-Known Member
Back at the Contemporary I took a few pictures with Alex on the balcony.

MVIMG_20200725_173000~2-X2.jpg


I'm enjoying having all my children now in adulthood. Our conversations are different, but I love spending time with them. I had a great time alone with Sterg in AK. He had some work to do then wanted to hit the gym while my first born wanted to spend time at the pool. I was game for that.

DSC00644-X3.jpg


Val and Alex just completed their cross country drive to San Diego and spent great Mother/Daughter time together. Alex will be there for the next several months on her nursing assignment living near LaJolla. I'm really proud of her and
how she's handled the craziness that 2020 has brought.

DSC00646-X3.jpg


We got ready and headed down. After lugging around all the camera gear all day I decided to take a break and leave it behind. My Pixel 2 would pick up the slack.

We started out at the main pool, then when the sun dropped behind the Contemporary, we moved to the quiet pool to steal another 1/2 hour of sunshine.

Last moments of sun.

IMG_20200725_185013-X3.jpg


A quick video as we were packing things up. The weather really was magical.


By this time we were both hungry so off we went to the Contemporary Cafe.

Photos along the way.

IMG_20200725_190033-X3.jpg


IMG_20200725_190129-X3.jpg


IMG_20200725_190338-X3.jpg


We grabbed our food and a table in the closed Outer Rim.

IMG_20200725_190448-X3.jpg


Nice view.

MVIMG_20200725_190545-X3.jpg



Hi there.

IMG_20200725_190550-X3.jpg


I don't remember what I had to eat but do remember it was better than I expected.

Now back up in the room I took this shot on the balcony.

I started the day with the first boat out of MK, and now with the last going back (or one of the last).

IMG_20200725_204351-X3.jpg
That is beautiful! Is that Spaceship Earth in the background?
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
It was our last night in WDW. After we finished packing we did some shopping downstairs in the Contemporary gift shops. Alex bought me a new Disney/Tommy Bahama shirt as a thank you for the trip which I pledged to wear the next day.

At some point the thought formulated in my mind that I could use my tripod for a few shots; after all what's the sense of lugging that thing down to Florida if you're not going to use it?

So I broke it out along with my camera and the 105mm lens and headed to the Contemporary balcony.

I set my sights on this...


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The lens' tripod collar kept things very well balanced and stabilzed.

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I made a video discussing the shot and my settings but later realized that when I thought I was hitting "record" I was really hitting "pause". :( We'll just blame that on 2020.

I slightly adjusted my setting for the different shots but I started out at f/8, ISO 100 for 25 seconds...

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I would have been better served with a longer lens (200mm or more) but the high megapixel count on my camera allowed me to crop without much loss in image quality.

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This shot of Space Mountain only required a 6 second exposure due to it being more "lit up" and closer.

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It felt good getting use of the tripod. No fireworks shots this year but as with everything in 2020, just trying to turn lemons into lemonade.

The plan for the next day was to get up early and hit Magic Kingdom at the open. We needed to squeeze every last drop out of that yellow citrus fruit!


UP NEXT - LAST DAY!
 
Last edited:

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
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!

Such a great place!

Such vibrant colors!! Your pics are always so beautiful.
giphy.gif

thank you @PacNWTigger !
LOVING your Animal Kingdom pictures! Truly the most photogenic park!

So beautiful! thanks!

I second all of this!

Thank you @Sulley_1313 !
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:

Never apologize for likes! 😄

thanks - I love how that one came out!

Your photos are stunning, STUNNING! They are so clear I can actually feel the vibe and atmosphere. The waterfall photos...wow! 😍

thanks for the kind words @dave&di !
I have to admit, while I know what's coming in "Bug", it is fun to be surrounded by the startled kids and other guests who've never seen the show, whether the spiders descending or the "bugs exiting" the theater at the end of the show.

Always a fun attraction and vastly underrated in my opinion!



Beautiful waterfall pictures. :)

Thanks you @ajrwdwgirl ! 😊
I've gotta say that over the past few years, you've managed to take some of the best photos of Expedition Everest, from any others anywhere on this forum!!!! :inlove:

thanks @MinnieM123 ! that mean alot! 🙂

thanks Teresa!
More incredible pictures from AK! :)

Thank you very much! 😊

Thanks, now I have "just around the river bend" streaming through my head! :joyfull:

Haha! How could I not! 😁

Look Up Kansas City Chiefs GIF by ****'S Sporting Goods'S Sporting Goods


Again, same as above!

Double thanks Teresa! 😄
I think "dreamy" is more appropriate!

Yes, much better word!

That is beautiful! Is that Spaceship Earth in the background?

Not sure but very possible!
 

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