SATURDAY SIX Presents: Our Favorite @bioreonstruct Photos of 2021

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at our favorite @bioreconstruct photos from 2021! When the year 2020 ended, I think collectively we all breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “well, no matter what happens this year it can’t be worse than that.” Challenge Accepted, replied 2021. Despite the craziness of the past 12 months, there was some positives we here at the SATURDAY SIX can reflect back upon. We took Bacini – the official dog of DisTwitter – to the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando to experience their Unleashed program for pets. I was finally able to start the Theme Park Hills To Die On series, presenting passionate defenses of the Skill Games in Springfield USA, PizzeRizzo, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Most importantly, after 8 long years, we finally said goodbye to the Disney Outlet Store Photo Reports and said hello to the Theme Park Enjoyment Index.

As always, the one single thing that was consistent throughout 2021 was awesome photos from our favorite blogger-in-the-sky, @bioreconstruct. Today we’re going to look back at some of our favorite photos that our pal “Bio” took over the past 12 months, and we also reached out some thoughts from the mysterious time lord himself.  Let’s kick it off with…

# 6 – The “Big Picture”

The expression can’t see the forest for the trees is used to describe when a person is too involved with minor details to see the whole situation of a subject. For us theme park fans on the ground, we are enraptured by the incredible theming and design that is in front of us, but it takes someone like Bio thousands of feet up in the air to show us how all the smaller pieces fit together to form the larger puzzle.

One of the most interesting pictures Bio took this year ended up being a great comparison tool when matched against a photo Disney itself took back in the early ’70s. First, let’s take a look at the original photo, which shows everything that existed around Seven Seas Lagoon when WDW opened in 1971.

Scan of a postcard showing Walt Disney World soon after opening in 1971.

Over 50 years later, Bio took a photo from almost the exact same place to show what has changed over time. Just amazing!!

BIO’S THOUGHTS: “I hope someday there’s a 100th anniversary photo that this picture is compared to. One thing known in public records is there are plans to change road routing near Grand Floridian.”

For our next comparison, we’ll take a look at some Walt Disney World concept art that was posted earlier this year that shows the four Disney parks.

Below is Bio’s “recreation” of that photo, showing how the four parks actually fit in relation to each other. The arrow on the left is pointing to Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, while the arrow on the right is pointing to Space Mountain. This photo was taken on Oct. 1st, 2021, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

A very interesting wide aerial showing relative heights of Magic Kingdom area landmarks. Contemporary Resort in foreground.

 

In 2021, the Welcome to Walt Disney World signage at each access road was repainted with 50th Anniversary colors. Aerial look at work on World Drive here.

One of my personal favorite shots from Bio this past year was the one below that shows Universal Studios Florida. What I love about this photo so much is that it shows how much work Universal has done in maximizing space since they are limited it what they can do compared to Walt Disney World’s “blessing of size.” In the photo below we see both trains of the Hogwarts Express (one going to USF, one going to Islands of Adventure), Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit traveling through multiple “lands” of the park, and soundstages that were used for Halloween Horror Nights 30.

Meanwhile, Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park is slowly coming together. The photo below was taken early in the year and shows the basic layout of the park, with the pole in the middle of the photo being the center of the new resort.

It’s exciting to see construction increasing at Universal’s Epic Universe. The most recent flight discovered identifiable site preparation. Easy to dismiss it as just dirt. However, expert analysts like Tommy and Alicia now able to tie specific spaces and plans into the site. They both have terrific articles on what definitely is being built, and what might be being built, at the site locations.” – @bioreconstruct

Aerial view taken later in the year showing excavations and land forming onsite of Universal’s Epic Universe. Top center seems to be a theme park land, with service roads already in place for Back of House access. According to theme park rumor guru Alicia Stella, the circular basin in this photo should be the home of a large fountain at the front of an onsite hotel, where angled berm is already seen. The fountain would be 200 feet in diameter with possible show elements and seating. Another person to follow is Tommy Hawkins, who has mocked up some pretty amazing maps showing where things could possibly fit.

Aerial look at the first two structures built for Epic Universe. Large building in front is a chilled water plant for air conditioning.

Ride track staged in site of Universal’s Epic Universe. Now covered in blue tarps.

The photo below was taken on December 9th and helps put the entirety of the Universal Orlando Resort in context. The numbered arrows relate to: 1) Hogwarts Castle in IOA 2) Ride track storage pictured above 3) Kirkman Road construction 4) Center of Epic Universe 5) chilled water plant construction 6) Parking lot site.

The aerial below shows the Epic Universe site in the top left corner, while in the dead center of the photo is Universal’s Endless Summer Resort (Surfside and Dockside Inn & Suites.)

Bio’s aerials also give us an interesting look at attraction refurbishments. Below we see Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, with the tops of the two giant towers removed for refurbishment. Down below, the arrow is pointing to a Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges raft nearby, also being serviced in the area.

BIO’S THOUGHTS: Aerial look at the decorations or theming normally on top of Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, which were brought to the ground by nearby crane for easier access during refurbishment. It’s fun when Universal, more or less, introduces new stories for its most loyal fans to follow. This story continued with tent fabric on the structure to protect the refurbishment from rain. Peacock streaming service ought to take note of how much fan created “Making Of” media there is can consider producing more of their own like the VelociCoaster special.

# 5 – Our Fine Feathered Friends

It’s fun to spot birds in unusual locations. For example, I heard an Osprey call several days ago and it was perched on top of one of the construction projects at Universal. Perhaps a sign of good luck to this project.” – @bioreconstruct

One of the most amazing stories from the year 2020 was the battle back and forth between Universal Orlando and an Osprey. This struggle for supremacy, taking place on the highest point of the VelociCoaster track, was covered in depth in last year’s Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards. This “fight” between bird and man actually went into 2021, and it wasn’t until the VelociCoaster opened that Universal could finally be declared the winner (the Osprey was given several other options nearby from Universal in which to build its nest.)

Osprey continues on New Years Day to build a new nest at top of Jurassic World VelociCoaster. Previous one removed moments before sunrise yesterday.

The osprey was just one of many types of birds which Bio photographed throughout 2021.

Eagle on top of a statue on roof of Walt Disney World Swan.

An anhinga on the EPCOT moveable bridge.
A Calico Heron. Really: a juvenile Little Blue Heron gaining blue feathers. Seen here wading in Seven Seas Lagoon.
A Tricolored Heron on one of the floating gardens in EPCOT.

There’s just something about ducks that brings a smile to the face of even the most jaded theme park fan.

Duck surveillance in EPCOT.
Mama duck and youngsters on stairs in EPCOT Japan pavilion.
Angry duck chasing another duck at EPCOT.
Universal getting its ducks in a row.
Duck ignoring Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

On the official Cuteness Scale, with 1 being “Len Testa wearing a fanny pack and a shirt which causes seizures” and 10 being “Bacini air freshener“, baby ducks at theme parks score an 11. How can your heart not soar seeing these adorable little ducklings?

The Islands of Adventure duck family out for a walk before bedtime.
A performance of the Junior Duck Drill Team in Islands of Adventure.
Baby ducks running across hot sand to shade under chairs at the beach of the Grand Floridian.
Young ducks napping in Islands of Adventure with their wings as face coverings.
“Even though you share photos of Herons, Hawks, Ospreys, Bees, and Racoons, somehow you always return to sharing photos of us ducks. ‘Cause we’re the best!”
Donald with face covering outside a Walt Disney World pandemic temperature check.

There’s a kind of duck that winters in Orlando and I have yet to see it in theme park waterways or lakes. As if it prefers quiet residential lakes. From time to time I spot racoons in resort hotel wooded areas at Universal, but often too dark for a photo. Otters sometimes seen along Grand Floridian walkway to Magic Kingdom, but usually too quick for a photo.” – @bioreconstruct

# 4 – The Resorts at Night

While daytime aerial photos allow to see the grand scale of the the theme park resorts, at night we get a whole new perspective with the amazing lighting packages at both Disney and Universal.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Cinderella Castle lit up for Enchantment.
Space Mountain and Tomorrowland. We can’t wait until the Best of Bio 2025 to see the lighting package of Tron: Lightcycle Power Run!
Fireworks above Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

When not taking one of his dozens of helicopter flights per year, Bio has his boots on the ground taking some incredible photos as well. His use of long exposure shots provide great light trails for objects that are moving.

Disney monorail at night, at the Grand Floridian walkway. In distance are spotlights in Magic Kingdom.
Composite of 2 photos. One for each train, and each approximate 30 secs.
Monorail Coral passing through Grand Floridian station in the express track. Approx 10 second exposure.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower.
EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
New Year’s Eve celebration at the China Pavilion in World Showcase.
Aerial look at Typhoon Lagoon at night during its refurbishment. Plywood has been placed on surface of wave pool for equipment to access to the wave maker.
This photo of Typhoon Lagoon was taken the on December 31st. The water park is scheduled to reopen on January 2nd, 2022.

 

Across town, we’ll now take a look at the Universal Orlando Resort.

The Universal Orlando Resort.
Volcano Bay.
Volcano Bay  as seen from the side.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Islands of Adventure. The spotlight in the center of the picture is located at the VelociCoaster.
The VelociCoaster.
A look at pyro used during the Nighttime Lights At Hogwarts Castle.
Overview showing Universal CityWalk, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida.
A look at fountains of Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration.
Universal Studios Florida during Halloween Horror Nights 30.
The start of the Universal Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s.

Since we’re in the air, let’s head on down International Drive and check out another Orlando vacation destination, SeaWorld.

SeaWorld.
A private event being held at SeaWorld’s Aquatica Orlando.
Aerial look at International Drive’s ICON Park at night. Colorful lighting in test tonight at Orlando Drop Tower, at right.
Near the new drop tower is the world’s tallest slingshot, with aviation beacons. (DEREK NOTE: When it comes to rides I have several classifications. E-Ticket experiences, like VelociCoaster, Flight of Passage, and Forbidden Journey. Fun dark rides, like Runaway Railway, Haunted Mansion, and Spaceship Earth. Lastly I have NAY NAY rides, and that would include “world’s tallest slingshot.”)

Night aerials are challenging. Each location is different. Give Kids the World Village, for example, is near a Kissimmee airport runway. Allowed altitude is short, and combined with aircraft movement means a lot of fuzzy photos. Challenging, but managed to get magical photos of A Night of A Million Lights.” – @bioreconstruct

Give Kids the World Village’s Night of 1,000,000 LIghts.

To close out this section, we’ll do a quick comparison of how much change we have gone through in the past two years. First, let’s take a relatively recent look at one of the most traveled roads in Orlando, I-4. This is the connection between the Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.

The infamous I-4 at night.

Now let’s go back to I-4 in 2020, when both Universal and Disney shut down due to the Coronavirus.

# 3 – VelociCoaster

Speaking of the coronavirus shut down, when Walt Disney World shut down their resort, they shut down everything, including work on any new rides. Over at Universal, despite the parks and hotels being closed, work on the VelociCoaster continued on. If anything, work went even faster during this time period because construction crews didn’t have to work around guests during the park’s operating hours. This allowed Universal to have the Grand Opening of the VelociCoaster in 2021, instead of having to delay to 2022 or longer. The new coaster became a fan favorite from Day One, and after some careful consideration, I think I’m ready to say it has already become our favorite coaster in all of Florida (which has some tough competition with coasters such as Expedition Everest, the Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Busch Gardens Tampa’s Cheetah Hunt).

No one has taken more, or better, photos of the VelociCoaster than Bio.

The VelociCoaster testing vehicles on the track in April.
Raptor statue at VelociCoaster.
A look at the carriage articulating in Jurassic World VelociCoaster train with the themed front removed. Arrow at rain beading on the track.

Bio’s shots of the VelociCoaster track are simply beautiful.

The VelociCoaster’s arch-nemesis – an osprey – flies near the track.
The VelociCoaster at sunset, above a roof in Port of Entry.
The VelociCoaster at twilight.
The VelociCoaster at night.
The VelociCoaster running during the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.
Jurassic World VelociCoaster during the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle.

Okay, let’s check out some of Bio’s patented long exposure shots, because his camera combined with the lighting features on each VelociCoaster train make for some AWESOME photos!

A train of Jurassic World VelociCoaster passing through the high speed, high banked curves near Hogsmeade. Long exposure photo capturing front lighting, headrest lighting, and side lighting.
Long exposure shot of the Mosasaurus Roll.
Light traces from a VelociCoaster train surround a raptor statue. 18 second long exposure.
Tail lights of a Jurassic World VelociCoaster train in the Mosasaurus Roll.
The tail lights are circular, and outline of the rim can be seen. The tail lights also pulse. Wisps of blue are ambient light of the front-facing headrest lighting. 6 second long exposure photo.
(DEREK NOTE: Bio is just showing off at this point)

My personal favorite photos of the VelociCoaster are when photographers catch the Incredible Hulk Coaster and the VelociCoaster in action at the same time. Here is Bio’s incredible shot.

# 2 – Planets

We’ve done several articles in this Fine Blog Series on the craft of theme park photography. The best photographers can take something we’ve all seen a million times and present it in a way that is unique and eye catching. While most of us park goers aren’t astronomers, I think pretty much everyone would enjoy being able to see other planets from inside the theme parks. The good news is: you can. The bad news is: since most of us aren’t astronomers, we don’t know when or where to look. Thankfully, Bio has us covered.

Many years ago I went to the Smithsonian Planetarium show. This was also the same year that visible planets were in a row. I decided that I needed to learn more about the night sky. The Moon is particularly challenging to include in theme park photos, as it’s very bright and moves rapidly enough to become blurry.” – @bioreconstruct

Jurassic World VelociCoaster jumps over the Moon and Venus in this 6-second long exposure photo.
Venus and the Moon above Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Jupiter (top), Saturn (center), and Mercury (bottom) in the sunset at EPCOT.
Spaceship Earth with Moon and Venus (bright dot at bottom center).
Moon orbiting Earth, Spaceship Earth.
EPCOT Imagination fountain jumps over Venus and The Moon.
Full moon rising near VelociCoaster Osprey’s nest.
Full Moon silhouetting the flame decoration at the top of  drop tower in ICON Park.
Spaceship Earth glowing very brightly in twilight, with Venus above. This aerial photo is about 4 miles east of EPCOT.

# 1 – EPCOT

While still being a major construction zone (and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon,) EPCOT got a major “glow up” this year with the addition of lighting features added to Spaceship Earth and the debut of the nighttime spectacular Harmonious.

During the day, Spaceship Earth looks like its normal gorgeous self.
A closer look reveals all the lighting features which were installed on the globe.

The new lighting package is absolutely STUNNING at night. One of the best additions to any park.

Reflection of Spaceship Earth, with Walt and Orange Bird.
Spaceship Earth globe animation seen from Japan pavilion in World Showcase.

On October 1st, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, EPCOT transition it’s nighttime water show from EPCOT Forever to Harmonious.

Small platforms around the Harmonious barges are staged with fireworks for the EPCOT Forever show.
Harmonious.
Magic Kingdom Enchantment fireworks seen through center ring of Harmonious.
Harmonious nighttime spectacular with Spaceship Earth in the background.

Aerial look at the post show of Harmonious.
Harmonious fireworks above Spaceship Earth.
SSE has traditional lighting with slowly changing twinkles during the show.

We’ll close out this section with an incredible photo taken on the last day of 2021 with Harmonious in the foreground and the Enchantment nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Magic Kingdom also making an appearance in the background. It is rare that both shows are taking place at the exact same time. Talk about putting the exclamation point at the end of the year. What a shot!

It’s a compliment for Derek to write this best of article. However, I’m just the Hawkeye of theme park photographers.” – @bioreconstruct

HONORABLE MENTION – Mirror Glass

In photography, “Mirror Glass” is a term used for when water ends up reflecting an image in the same way a mirror would. Since both Disney and Universal have a lot of a water features, they can lead to some pretty cool looking photos!

Walt Disney World Dolphin.
Walt Disney World Dolphin.
Aerial look at Disney Skyliner crossing Hourglass Lake between Pop Century and Art of Animation.
Imagination Pavilion’s reverse waterfall.
Christmas tree in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Space Mountain.
Cinderella Castle.
The Universal Orlando Resort globe.
Rare mirror glass reflection of CityWalk.
Sunset at Universal Studios Florida.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers in a long exposure photo. Christmas tree also seen on the right.
Fisherman’s Wharf in Universal Studios Florida.
The Simpsons Ride.

Double Secret Honorable Mention: Cruise Ships!

Believe it or not, despite seemingly covering the theme parks 24/7, our man Bio has the time to charter flights in order to cover other things as well. When the cruise industry restarted earlier this year, you knew who would be there…

The Disney Dream at Port Canaveral.
Carnival Mardi Gras.
Aerial look at some of the recreation on Mardi Gras, including the first roller coaster at sea. Inaugural sailing was July 31st out of Port Canaveral.

Triple Threat Honorable Mention: White Castle Opens in Orlando

This may seem crazy to anyone who has a White Castle fast food restaurant in their town, but when White Castle opened their first location in Orlando it was The Place To Be. It drew extremely long lines throughout the day. Despite having hundreds (if not thousands) of other restaurants nearby – many with little to no wait – people would wait in their cars for hours for White Castle’s signature small burgers. Why? No one really knows other than “You always want what you don’t have.” We actually had a similar situation in my town this year with a Checkers. In 2019, a Checkers fast food restaurant was built but never opened because of the coronavirus. In 2021, they finally opened it and had huge lines at the drive-thru every single day. I’ve been to many Checkers restaurants in my life and I assure you that while they are perfectly fine for fast food, there’s no reason to ever wait in a line for one.

WHEN YOU COME AT THE KING YOU BEST NOT MISS….

We’ll end this year’s tribute to our favorite Time Lord with letting you know something that happened this past week. First we have bio himself who posted a must see video of the VelociCoaster running that shows some brilliant traces of light thanks the long exposure photography. In the video, Bio mentioned that there were some flights from MCO in the sky…

CLICK HERE to watch the amazing video.

In jest, a person responded to Bio’s video with some follow-up questions.

 

Bio immediately responded.

Bio was doing this all on CHRISTMAS DAY. For us. We truly don’t deserve him.

In the end, game respects game.

So there you have it: Our Favorite @bioreconstruct Photos of 2021! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

SATURDAY SIX Presents: @bioreconstruct’s Favorite Aerial Photographs (Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Volcano Bay, and more)

SATURDAY SIX Presents: Our Favorite @bioreconstruct Photos of 2020

The SATURDAY SIX Takes Three Flights in a Single Day with @bioreconstruct (MCO, Disney at Day/Night, MK Fireworks and more!)

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

See ya next year!

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2 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX Presents: Our Favorite @bioreonstruct Photos of 2021

  • January 1, 2022 at 4:40 pm
    Permalink

    Amazing photos by an amazing photographer! But I question the statement the ground level photo of the Dolphin water reflection “as seen from the EPCOT monorail”.

    Reply
    • January 1, 2022 at 7:26 pm
      Permalink

      That one is my fault. I’ve been adding, changing, and moving pictures around in the article seemingly every day for the past month. I had previously had a different picture of the Walt Disney World Dolphin with that caption that is shown below. I ended up replacing that photo with one I liked just a bit better. Normally I would just put both in, but I also already had the awesome nighttime photo of the Dolphin and three is just one too many. Long story short, I changed the photo but not the caption and somehow none of us caught it in the various updates.
      mirror

      Reply

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