Action-packed photos + is LIVE!

I love Universal Studios Hollywood but, due to its closure for COVID-19, I had not been there in a very long time. I jumped at the chance to return when I was invited to their summer Media Days. By the end of my wonderful, sunny day, I had taken almost 3,000 pictures throughout the park and Universal CityWalk, gotten soaked on “Jurassic World—The Ride,” barely escaped the shark from “Jaws” and was utterly exhausted.

A​ppropriately, I parked in Jurassic Parking
T​o get to the park, I walked through Universal CityWalk
T​hankfully, life is getting back to normal, businesses are open and people are enjoying themselves.

There is so much to see and do, including elaborate themed rides…

… movie and TV sets…

… and cars…

1931 Duesenberg Model J. Actual picture car from “The Mummy” (1999) (Universal Transportation Department)

… spectacular live shows including the fantastic, action-packed WaterWorld show, which has returned after COVID-19…

T​his live action water show begins with some members of the audience getting wet.

… the world-famous Universal Studio tour…

M​y attempt to re-create the picture from the guide sign. The Studio Tour heads down below.
O​n our way down, we pass the Universal Studios Fire Station
G​et ready for “Jaws”

… tempting, themed dining options …

M​y personal favorite when I go to the park, but there was a huge line to order this day

… and shopping…

… the amazing “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”…

I​ remembered to take a selfie, mask and all, with my iPhone

… and more, like the “Super Silly Fun Land” waterpark for the kids.

One day is simply not enough! Thankfully, Universal Studios Hollywood is still affordable, offering not only day tickets (for the best prices, buy them online) but also ANNUAL PASSES.

Originally, I was going to include Universal’s movie and TV cars in this column, but I discovered so many of them, and I have so many other cool things to write about right here, right now, that I have decided to dedicate an entire column to them. Watch this space in the near future…

Inspired by the films, “The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!” is a new, family-friendly ride attraction that answers the question: “What are your pets really doing when you’re not at home?” To see for yourself, you will begin by walking through their New York City apartment building into their homes, and then take the ride — all while their humans are away.

The pets’ New York City apartment building

With live action enabled by technologically-advanced animation and state-of-the-art projection mapping, 64 lovable characters interact with each other and you.

F​irst you walk through the apartments, while the pets’ humans are away!
N​ow the ride begins, in a ‘cardboard’ pet box…
A​lley cats
U​h, oh. Fireworks!
A​nd the fireworks go off!
P​et wash (you’ll get wet here, too)
J​ust like you would do with your car at a car wash, the pets’ humans look through the windows to see their pets, all nice and clean!

Minimize waiting in line by using their app-based Virtual Line technology — at no extra charge.

G​oing down one of multiple outdoor escalators to the lower level

Get close to Blue, if you dare, at the Raptor Encounter.

Then intensify your Jurassic experience on “Jurassic World—The Ride.”

Prepare to get very wet — as I experienced first-hand while riding it three times! Spectacularly introduced in this 2019 online video, a rampaging Tyrannosaurus rex sends the terrified casts and crews of several film productions running for their lives through the Universal backlot and out the main entrance, as the dinosaur smashes through it in hot pursuit:

I got very wet here, but not as wet as I would get after the steep plunge at the end of the ride!
G​etting sprayed with water is a recurring event on this ride!

The climax of the ride is a truly epic, animated battle between the huge, hyper-realistic Tyrannosaurus rex and Indominus rex that tower above you in the darkness (which I needed to shoot at 108,000 ISO!), just before you plunge down a giant waterfall in a desperate effort to escape! Sitting at the front, with my Nikon D5 wrapped in part of my poncho and only the end of its lens sticking out, I was thoroughly drenched by a wall of water.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: This photo shoot reminded me of something in photography that I’d forgotten over the long dry spell when I was not out taking pictures all the time, due to COVID-19. Even though using extremely high ISO settings on my camera will produce images of subjects that are photographed in near-dark conditions, those images will be EXTREMELY grainy — full of tiny, colored dots. To take photos of the dinosaurs in the dark at “Jurassic World—The Ride,” at relatively high shutter speeds in combination with using a small enough lens opening to get reasonable depth of field, I had to ride the ride three times (and got thoroughly drenched in the process of doing that), each time setting my camera at increasingly higher ISO numbers (108,000 and beyond!).

I could not see on my camera’s tiny monitor just how grainy my extremely low-light photos were while I was at Universal Studios Hollywood, but boy did I see the grain back in my office on a high resolution, large computer monitor! To get rid of those dots I used a feature in Adobe’s Lightroom called “Luminance Noise Reduction,” in combination with increasing the darkness of black areas. The result was surreal-looking, poorly defined, very softly-focused images. You might not recognize your own mother in photos that have had this done to the extreme. That might be suitable for surveillance pictures, where stealth is more important than publication-ready images, but the resultant pictures just do not meet my standards to share with you. It took ages for me to edit and finesse just a few of these photos.

Next time, I will shoot at much lower ISO settings, with wider apertures and slower shutter speeds, so that I can use lower ISO settings. The key will be for me to hold the camera very steady where the subject is not moving, or if the subject is moving, to try to match that speed of movement with my camera. Otherwise the images will be out of focus.

Minion Café is a new place to eat, adjacent to “Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem” and the “Super Silly Fun Land” waterpark.

From 3PM daily, check out NBC Sports Grill & Brew — CityWalk’s newest dining establishment. It features high-definition big-screens inside and out, a food menu curated by Universal Studios Hollywood’s Executive Chef Marie Grimm, a wide selection of alcoholic beverages, shuffleboard and foosball tables.

For additional information, visit:

N​ew construction at Universal Studios Hollywood. Can you guess what this is going to be?


Since writing my first column about 20 years ago, I intended for “AutoMatters & More” to have its own website where you could see all of the columns (now over 700), complete with my extensive collection of photos — many of which are of people, places and events that are no longer with us.

I embarked upon this ambitious project long ago, carefully choosing a website building program that I thought was likely to be around for many years to come: Microsoft’s FrontPage. It was not a particularly easy or user-friendly program for me to learn, and the process to add each column was convoluted and complicated. It took months to accomplish but, eventually, I overcame these and other obstacles. My website went live, for all the world to see, at

T​his is one of the final iterations of my old FrontPage website (probably from 2006). At the time, my column was named “AutoMatters+.”

My website gained in popularity and its rankings grew. I continued to write new columns and take more photos, adding them to the website. All was going well and as planned — until Microsoft discontinued FrontPage, along with the support necessary to enable it to work with new versions of computer operating systems. Microsoft had killed FrontPage, and with it my website.

T​his is an excerpt from one of my now-vintage columns, from Dec. 26, 2006. It was entitled: “Auto Racing’s Off-Season: An Enthusiast’s Perspective” (#220).

Fast-forward to today. Here, in column #701, I am proud to officially announce my brand new “AutoMatters & More” WordPress website, live now at Over 400 of my columns have already been uploaded to there, and more will be added.

To explore, simply type a topic in the website’s Search Bar, or click on one of the blue ‘years’ buttons below that Search Bar, at the bottom of the Home Page.

T​his is the Home Page of my brand new “AutoMatters & More” website (as of July 25, 2021). Either click on a blue “year” button, or type something in the Search Bar above the buttons.
W​hen you click on a blue ‘year’ button, you will be taken to a chronological listing (spread over several pages) of all of the columns from that year (the most recent will be at the top of the list). Click on one where it says “Read More,” and you will be taken to that column.
T​he landing page of the Photography gallery (much more to come)
T​he Motorsports section of the Photography gallery (much more to come)
T​he Aviation section of the Photography gallery (much more to come)
O​n this, the “About the Author” page, you can gain insight into what motivated me to create and contribute to “AutoMatters & More.”
F​inally, this is the Contact page, where you can write to me. I tested it and it works! I am swamped right now with things to do but I promise that I will reply to you as soon as possible.


Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner — AutoMatters & More #701r1ext

Jan Wagner

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