Archive for the ‘Las Vegas’ Category

Happy Chinese New Year (From Vegas!)

I’m not sure what it is about Vegas but there always seems to be something interesting to photograph there… It’s a pretty crazy place I suppose, a bit heavy on the visual stimuli so I guess it’s not all that surprising that I like bringing a camera when I go. At any rate, we had a couple things that needed celebrating last weekend so we did something truly irresponsible: an evening in Disneyland followed by a midnight push up to Vegas. The drive was simple enough, doable in under 4.5 hours but we were shocked to look up and find ourselves plunging along through a desert snowstorm! We rolled up to the Hard Rock Hotel’s parking deck around 4am and passed out in the car until morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, the Hotel Tonight app is a game changer. If you don’t mind a little drama, you can wait until noon on the day that you need a room and the app will release an assortment of incredible deals for the area. In Vegas, there’s literally no telling what could come up but there’s so many amazing hotels you’re likely to find great values. A room at Caesar’s for $69 last Easter, for example. This time we pulled the trigger on a room at the very small and off-strip Artisan Hotel for $45… not bad at all for a Saturday night. With a very out-of-the-public-eye vibe, it seems to cultivate a massive after-party scene with a spectacularly dark club that really only cranks up after 2am or so. In fact, upon checking in, the front desk warned that no room in the hotel would be “quiet” that evening because a DJ was playing (loudly) up until 10am the following morning…

The Bacchanal at Caesar’s was in full form. Crab legs, veal, sushi, and I was more than happy to help myself to the lava cake and gelato on the dessert buffet. As we sat there recovering and planning our hunt for $5 blackjack at reputable casinos, I reflected on the ridiculous decor we’d seen earlier that day. Most striking were the Bellagio conservatory, always a crowd pleaser, and the lobby at the Wynn, both decked out to celebrate the coming of the Chinese New Year last Sunday. While the Bellagio had actually placed a massive boat in their exhibit, I was still won over by the Wynn’s straightforward dragon dance costume. Suspended among their light-wrapped trees under the skylight, it really made for an impressive welcome sign at the Wynn.

This place exudes lavishness. Look at this walkway. Lavish: Las Vegas, NV

And as it happens I really couldn’t decide which of these two pictures to post. Fortunately I know the site’s administrator and we worked it out where I could just do both.

The amount of detail in the costume is awesome, in particular the texture of the teeth. I’d never really looked at one of these things for long until I was working with these images… Happy New Year! Las Vegas, NV


The Strip

Earlier this summer my family flew out for an impromptu rendezvous in Vegas. Shows were seen, pools were swum, and buffets were endured. I had always been partial to Bellagio’s trough but in another Vegas trip in late October the brand new “Bacchanal” at Caesar’s won me over. 500 dishes outputting an reported $100,000 worth of food every day. It’s so ludicrous they have a crêpe chef to help you build silly deserts on which to pile a limitless supply of gelato.

But over the summer the highlight of the trip was none other than Celine Dion’s outrageous production at Caesar’s Colosseum. With the repertoire split about half originals and half covers (including a spectacular rendition of “Goldfinger”) I really enjoyed getting to hear plenty of her early songs in French. We left with gift bags full of CD’s, playing cards, and throw blankets… but the real un-necessity was the atlas-sized coffee table book! It was an early show and, stopping by our room afterwards, I set up to nab the last fountains show before the sky went completely dark.

Probably not alone in this, but I can’t look at the fountains and not think of Ocean’s 11… Las Vegas, NV

The Conservatory at the Bellagio: Las Vegas

In a sudden burst of concentrated irresponsibility, my roommate and I decided to go have Easter dinner at The Buffet at the Bellagio. Now, there are several arguments to be had about why this was an unorthodox decision, but easily the most questionable was the fact that we were literally eating lunch at Bubba Gump’s at Universal CityWalk when the idea went from conversational joke to finalized plan in less than 10 seconds. On a whim we quickly looked into staying the night (since driving 4 hours in the ultimate food coma is simply not a good idea) and thanks to the Hotel Tonight app, we locked in a room at Caesar’s Palace for a paltry $69 less than 8 hours before check-in.

The Buffet itself did not disappoint: bottomless Kobe beef, lamb shank, sushi, king crab legs, manicotti, and beef Wellington were among my favorite items on the menu. We decided to eat until the moment when it actually becomes uncomfortable, put in an extra 20 minutes, and then headed around the corner to the Conservatory to decompress.

The Conservatory is a seasonal showcase but I have no idea what those tiny shoes are about. Stuff gets reused of course, I think the umbrellas on the ceiling actually hung above the Via Bellagio shops last year: Las Vegas, NV

Vegas Extravagance: The Venetian Lobby

Before Tucker and Giacomo came to visit LA a few weeks back, my family embarked on a classic road trip to get me and my car back across the country for the fall semester. As such, we saw it fit to stop by a few places “on the way” from Atlanta to LA: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Las Vegas. Needless to say, Vegas was the only one of these stops that was even close to being “on the way.” I’d like to eventually make my way back up to Vegas when I get a chance, most of what I was shooting while we were there was a spur of the moment, “I wonder what this’ll look like” kind of deal. Now that I’ve got a better sense of the area, I feel like I would be able to get some better material with a more planned out return trip.

As it happens, there are some casinos in the town. And these casinos tend to go… overboard in the theming department. One of the most impressively themed properties I wandered around was The Venetian, complete with functional canals (outdoor and indoor), St. Marks-esque plazas and archways, and generally awesome Italian Renaissance imagery. A long time ago, I saw this image over at stuckincustoms and was stunned that a hotel lobby could ever be so ludicrous. Naturally I decided to take a crack at the same shot, albeit with a tighter framing to cut back on the Footceiling effect that wide angle images usually suffer from (in which the photographer’s feet and the room’s ceiling are able to simultaneously squeeze into frame). In all seriousness though, I am very pleased with how this turned out. The white balance certainly took some after-the-fact loving to coax it back into normalcy but hey, that’s why you shoot in RAW. In the spirit of Las Vegas showmanship and general extravagance, I let this one sit on the tone mapping burner a little longer than normal. It’s a jaw dropping room to experience firsthand and I’d prefer to remember it as the crazy, colorful, and extravagantly themed surprise that my mind first encountered.

This entrance atrium is circular and (as evidenced by the stuckincustoms image) is therefore very susceptible to glaring lens distortion that can make some of the room’s upper arches look twice as big as others despite their being the same size. Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t shoot on a full frame body right now because my 16-35mm is never truly any wider than 26mm, lessening that disconcerting distortion while making me put a little more consideration into composition. Super wide angle (true 14mm or thereabouts) naturally draws an initial “wow” reaction because it’s so shockingly wide… but if you’re not careful it can turn into a shallow “wow” crutch for an otherwise unremarkable shot, giving you an freshly distorted but still unremarkable shot. Just my two cents.

At any rate, there’s PLENTY more to come from the Yellowstone/Tetons/Vegas/Disneyland cornucopia — And that’s just me! I left 90% of the Yosemite stuff to Tucker and Giacomo so there’s lots more goodies around the corner…

Great hotel, great lobby. Unfortunately, the canals were drained and the gondolas were being serviced while we were there... an excuse to go back some other time: Las Vegas, NV