Photographing Las Vegas – Fremont Street!


(All photos taken with the Fuji X100t. Click to view large.)

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

Fremont Street is a place of firsts:  The first paved street in Las Vegas (1925).  The first street to have a traffic light (1931).  One of the first hotels in Las Vegas (The El Cortez, built in 1941).  One of the first casinos in Las Vegas  (The Northway Club, licensed in 1931).  And, it is often the first place people think of when they think of “old Vegas”.


Like all things Fremont Street has changed with the times and is now referred to as the Fremont Street Experience, a 5 block section at the west end of Fremont Street that is enclosed, and has light shows and concerts every evening.

I wasn’t looking for this though,  as I had already spent a few days along the Las Vegas strip.  I wanted to find Vegas the way it once was.  I wanted to find old Vegas.

The Golden Nugget, the largest casino in the downtown area and an anchor of the Fremont Street Experience, opened in 1946.  After spending days at the Paris, at the Bellagio, and at the Venetian, this felt like old Vegas to me:




One of the main attractions at the Golden Nugget, oddly enough, is a large shark tank that has a waterslide going through its centre:


When planning my trip I was told to visit the Fremont Street Experience at night, when the light shows were on and the concerts were in full swing.  Honestly though, I enjoyed my late afternoon / early evening visit a lot.  There were amazing street entertainers, no more so than the gentleman at the top of this post who was absolutely killing it on his guitar.  I mean, killing it.  I played professionally for many years, and this guy just buried me.  I shot many, many images of this fine player:



I also hung out with this gentleman for while:


Browsed the tourist shops:


Got busted by a couple of show girls taking their photo, who in turn took mine:


And, watched this bartender perform his amazing tricks:


This is what travel photography is about for me.   Yes, I love shooting epic cityscapes, but it is always my experiences with people that are the most rewarding.   Over and over again I’d watch people stop, look at something for 30 seconds, not engage with anyone, and keep walking.  They are missing something so important about travel.

Now, no visit to the Fremont Street area would be complete without at least checking out the famous Heart Attack Grill, which this gentleman seemed to be doing with some intent:


This is, of course, the restaurant that boasts the world’s highest calorie burger… weighing in at 9,982 calories!  That is the caloric intake most average people should take in over a 4 or 5 day period!


The Fremont Street Experience isn’t the only thing to see in this area, however.  There is also the  Fremont East District.  I fell for this area as soon as I found it.  This felt more like old Vegas to me.  Like this:


…that’s what I’m talking about.  No billion dollar resorts.  No walkways that force you through the casinos.  Just Vegas, the way it once was.  David Alan Harvey once said “don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like”.  When I look at this photo, with a vintage treatment, it reminds me of the way Vegas once was.

Fremont East is home to the El Cortez Hotel, which has operated in this location since 1941:


The El Cortez has a history steeped in Las Vegas lore, including being owned at one time by a consortium that included famous mobster Bugsie Siegel (one of the original founders of Murder, Incorporated).

I loved the feel of this area, and wandered the side streets looking for interesting compositions:



I returned to the Fremont Street Experience as night fell, and as the neon lights came on:


And, of course, as the crowds gathered to enjoy their evening:


It was getting very close to the time the light shows and concerts would be starting, but I decided to head back to my hotel on the strip.  My day was one of searching out old Vegas, and I was happy with my experiences and photos from the day.

This was my final view of Fremont Street, shot just before the sky went dark:


This is the Fremont Street I came to see.  This is the way I wanted to remember it.

All said and done I highly enjoyed my time in Las Vegas, and especially my time around the Fremont Street area.  It is a photographer’s paradise, and I’m sure I only scratched the surface.  Traveling light with just my little Fuji X100t allowed me to focus on the people, on the experiences, and to both listen to and tell some of my own stories.  It was a perfect way to spend a few days as a traveling photographer.