Photographing the Las Vegas Strip at Night

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(All images can be clicked to viewed large)

Note:  This post is part two of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Whenever I visit a city I am always looking for a trophy shot, a beautiful city skyline photograph that I’d love to print large and put on the wall (remember, a photograph needs to be real).  I knew during my recent  business trip to Las Vegas that I’d have two or three nights available to shoot, and I wanted to make the most of them.

One of the first things I do when I am researching these trophy shots is to find the best place to shot from.  Many cities have elevated viewing platforms (e.g. the Top of the Rock in New York City, the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, the Vancouver Lookout, etc), and if they do I always spend an evening at the top shooting.  A little research goes a long way here:  Usually you have to pay to go up to these viewing platforms, sometimes you need to make reservations, you want to be there at least 30 minutes before sunset, they may or may not allow tripods, etc.

The photo above is a view of the Las Vegas Strip looking north, shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience.   This photograph is a 3 image stitched panorama shot with the Fuji X100t.  Shooting stitched panoramas allows you to travel light, but still take beautiful scenic photographs.

Looking south from the same platform, this was the view:

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Give yourself time to shoot these images.  The light changes fast in the hour that starts 30 minutes before sunset, and ends 30 minutes after sunset.  As the sky darkens the colours saturate, and there is that beautiful sweet spot between the rich sky and the city lights that only lasts for a few minutes.

Tripods are not allowed at the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience, so having strong camera handling skills is of critical importance to ensure you get a sharp image when it is darker out.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Increase your ISO.  Yes, you may get a slightly more grainy image, but you will get a faster shutter speed which will help keep your image sharp.  Today’s technology helps a lot here… I know with my Fuji cameras I can get clean files up to ISO 1600, and even 3200 is fine if I need to go that high.
  2. Brace against whatever you can.
  3. Use your timer to trip the shutter.  This eliminates any motion caused by pushing down on the shutter.
  4. Have good “trigger control”.  Control your breathing while the slow shutter is open.
  5. Take lots of photographs.  The slower shutter speeds required to get these images means you are going to get some blurry ones when you handhold.  You can always delete the extra photographs from you hard drive later.

Let’s get back to our evening…

Once the sky is black, I usually switch to black and white.  The Paris Hotel and Eiffel Tower Experience is directly across the street from the Bellagio Hotel, with its famous fountains:

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And just a few minutes away from there is Caesar’s Palace:

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These images, with the bright lights against the dark sky, work well as high contrast black and white photographs.

The longer shutter speeds required at night also provide an excellent opportunity to shoot motion blur:

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The strip is busy.  Hectic.  Chaotic.  A little crazy.  Pictures like this remind me of what it was like to actually be there.   Las Vegas has elevated pedestrian walkways over the strip, which give you an excellent point of view to shoot the traffic below.

On the second night I set up to shoot the Paris Hotel, framed with the fountains from the Bellagio.  Sunsets in Las Vegas have a magenta glow to them, which I loved:

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Shortly after this photograph was taken I moved south by a block or two, and shot back toward the Paris Hotel from one of the elevated walkways:

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Notice the difference in the sky.  These two photographs are taken less than 30 minutes apart, but the change is dramatic.  The sky has darkened and lost much of its colour, but the lights have come on beautifully!

This photograph is shot through the glass that is used to wall in the walkways.  Shooting through glass can be difficult due to reflections.  If you have a lens hood use it, and get your lens right up against a clean section of the glass.  Then use a small piece of dark cloth, your hand, anything to wrap your lens and prevent light from getting in.  You can almost always eliminate unwanted reflections by doing this.

On my last night to shoot there were amazing clouds, and I knew when they saturated with that sunset magenta colour the sky would look amazing:

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Spinning around, I shot another slow shutter speed image to try to capture some of that crazy las Vegas hustle and bustle:

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…and Hooters.  You can’t photograph Las Vegas, Sin City, and not get Hooters in the frame!

Of course, no trip to Vegas would be complete without shooting the famous sign:

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Shooting at night can be very rewarding.  The sky looks gorgeous, the city lights sparkle, and the slower shutter speeds allow you to capture motion.  This is your time as a photographer.   Enjoy the day with your family, visit the sites, enjoy the food.  When the sun is going down though put on your photographer hat and go looking for that trophy picture.

Next up, Freemont Street!

Cheers,

Ian

 

 

Las Vegas street photography with the Fuji X100t

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Note:  This post is part one of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Many readers of this blog know that I lead a double life, working as a paramedic and as a photographer.   Recently I was asked if I could attend a conference on trauma care….

…in Las Vegas.

Ummmmm….. ok!

My time was going to be quite full during the conference, so I booked a few extra days for photography.  I have been testing the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens, but my Fuji X-T1 needs its sensor cleaned so I decided to travel ultra light with just my beloved Fuji X100t.

I have two more posts coming up on photographing the Las Vegas strip at night, and on shooting the Freemont Street Experience.  For now though, let’s just have some fun and talk about shooting street photography on the Las Vegas strip…

I landed in the early afternoon, and had a couple of hours before my hotel room was going to be ready.  I travel ultra light so the second I stepped out of the cab I had my Fuji X100t in hand and begin shooting.

For me there is a rhythm to shooting on the street, one that is similar to a musician getting “in the groove”.   I need to get warmed up, relaxed, over any nerves I may be having as I start my day of shooting.  It doesn’t take me long to go through this process, but I find I am always the most confident approaching strangers, making street portraits, etc an hour or two into my day of shooting.

When I teach photography workshops I often tell people who need to warm up to start by shooting street entertainers if there are any in their area.  They are often wonderful people, are used to being photographed, and make interesting photo subjects:

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Be sure not just to grab a shot and hurry past them though.  These people are working, many creating art just like we are with our cameras.  When I shoot street I carry spare change, or money in $1 denominations, so I can tip the artists when I shoot them.

As soon as possible get over your nerves and interact with your subjects…. honestly get to know them.  Be respectful of time (as they are working), but you are much more likely to get a compelling portrait once you have built a rapport with someone:

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I love that photograph.  That young man was the second coming of Jimi Hendrix.  It was such a pleasure to speak with him on that overpass, watch and listen to him play, and to make 10 or 12 portraits of him until I captured this moment.  I had much the same experience with these gentlemen:

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It may come as a surprise to some people that you can walk down the Las Vegas strip with open bottles or glasses of alcohol.  I’m always intrigued by this, perhaps because this isn’t something you usually see day to day:

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I quickly fell in love with shooting street photography on the Las Vegas strip.  The strip is a melting pot of people, with the casino experience being the great equalizer.  These two gentleman were deeply engaged in a serious conversation when I photographed them:

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And,  you never really know what is going to stop at a red light beside you:

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Or, who is just going to lie down on the sidewalk to ensure that their electronics are fully charged:

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I’m sure most of the people on the strip are tourists.  You can always find someone sitting on the side of the street taking a much needed break:

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And, of course, someone beside them growing impatient as that break goes on… and on… and on…

Right after taking the photo above I turned around and saw this:

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Red, white and blue.  It’s almost like it was planned.  Side note:  Is it just me, or does that phone look huge?

I realized within an hour or two of shooting that there is amazing afternoon light on the Las Vegas strip.  As the sun is setting it casts beams of light across the strip that are blocked by the towers, creating these little shafts of light that you can catch people walking through.  The light was golden, and I spent a good 30 minutes waiting for the right person to come through this shaft of light:

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One definition of photography is to write with light.  When you find the right light it is so worth taking the time to make a great photograph in it.

For street photographers I highly recommend a trip to Las Vegas.  It is extremely economical, I found the people to be friendly and open to being photographed, and the strip lit up at night means you can shoot well past dark.  It was very easy to be out shooting from 6am until 10pm, and you’ll come home with a fabulous album of candid street images and portraits.

Next up we’ll talk about shooting the Las Vegas strip at night, and some tips for getting amazing cityscapes.

Cheers,

Ian

 

 

 

 

 

Discussing Vancouver Street Photography with Valerie Jardin

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Good morning everyone!

Just a quick note to say I am the guest this week on episode 59 of the Street Focus podcast, hosted by official Fuji X Photographer Valerie Jardin.

On this podcast we take a tour through the downtown core of Vancouver, discussing some of my favourite spots in the city for street photography.

You can find a direct link to the podcast here:

http://thisweekinphoto.com/street-focus-59-streets-of-the-world-vancouver-with-ian-macdonald/

And of course it is also available on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/twip-street-focus/id921337844?mt=2

I created a map to go along with our chat, complete with links to the different places we discuss. You can view that page on my website here:

https://ianmacdonaldphotography.com/where-to-shoot-street-photography-in-downtown-vancouver/

I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Ian