Excited to have the cover of the latest version of this book on Valley of Fire! Valley of Fire State Park sure has boomed in popularity since I started photographing there many years ago – back then, seemed like few photographers were really aware of what amazing scenery could be found in Valley of Fire.
This past June I detoured from our Grand Canyon / Page / Zion trip to Las Veges to do some assignment work for the same publisher in Red Rock Canyon NCA – looking forward to seeing the final product from that work as well.
A Desert Tortoise at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
We are spending the last couple of days of this trip in the Las Vegas area doing some assignment work for a large book publisher. I’m excited to be working with this publisher as it looks like it could lead to a lot more work. Most of my assignment has been around the beautiful new visitor center working with a wonderful family as they viewed the different exhibits. But, earlier in the morning, I couldn’t resist spending some time with this guy – and was lucky enough to catch him in a yawn. In was in a large outdoor containment area in that visitor center.
Since it has almost been almost a week since I have posted, I though I needed to do an update as to what we have been up to over a busy week.
Recently we have lost out on some photo sales for laughlin photos because my coverage was not current enough – evidently some of the hotel names have changed. So we ended up doing a quick three day trip over to Southern Nevada.
We then returned to Anza-Borrego for my Anza-Borrego photo workshop along with a private tour – I had a lot of fun, wonderful people and great photo opportunities! The highlights for me included the amazing sunrise on Sunday morning and watching a young Desert Bighorn nurse just a short distance away from us on Friday morning. I won’t be sharing photos from those days since I don’t photograph during my workshops, but it sure appeared everyone else got some pretty cool stuff and for me that is very satisfying.
Here is a new time-lapse video of Las Vegas – most of this was filmed during our visit last Winter. Some of the opening scenes were filmed with a tilt-shift lenses giving the appearance of a miniature city. Enjoy!
Continuing on a the same theme as my last post – this image, along with a couple of others will be giant murals in the newly relocated Planet Hollywood Restaurant inside The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. One of them is a giant panorama.
I had hoped to see them and to grab a photo while I was there in March for the NAB Conference, but it was still under construction. That will be fun to see one day!
Dead tree branch cutting through a rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
I know this photo will never win me any awards or make any money, but it was such an interesting sight, I just had to share. This was from our recent winter / spring travels.
This dead branch was still connected to the tree it grew from, but part of it came to rest on this rock. As the tree swayed back and forth in the wind, this branch would rub against the sandstone boulder. Over what probably took many, many years the branch has slowing cut it’s way through the stone. Now granted, on the scale of hardness, sandstone is much softer then most – but it is still hard enough that trying to cut it by hand with tools would have taken a lot of effort. Pretty interesting.
At the time I found this, I was exploring a somewhat remote canyon hoping to find an interesting slot canyon. Judging by the difficult access to this canyon, I think it is safe to say very few people ever visit this area – just as well, one misplaced step and this branch would be broken. I may have to go back in a few years to see how much more has been cut.
This was one of the test frames for what will be a short time-lapse video of Las Vegas.
I have seen this technique used many times, but had never tried it myself. When some nice defused light moved in during the day while we were in Las Vegas this past April I thought I would give it a try. This is done by using a wide aperture for a narrow depth of field on a tilt / shift lens. By tilting the lens and moving the narrow band of focus part way into the frame, you can achieve this trippy look that makes everything look miniature. If you don’t have a tilt / shift lens, you can kind of do the same thing by adding blur in Photoshop – I think this has gotten even easier with the new version of Photoshop, CS6 but I haven’t upgraded yet. Probably a project for this weekend.
Janine kayaking in a cave on the Colorado River, Arizona.
Thursday, after I wrapped up my time at the NAB Conference we brought couple of friends from back home kayaking on the Colorado River – one of my favorite things to do when staying in Las Vegas!
Since I had photographed this stretch of river a couple years ago, and because all my dry bags were back in Alaska – I decided not to bring my camera. Big mistake! This cave which had visited before looked spectacular – much, much better then before. So the following day (last Friday), Janine and I bought a dry bag at REI and drove back to Willow Beach, rented kayaks and repeated the trip. That was ok with me since it was so much fun paddling on such warm weather.
So why was the cave so much better? Since the temps were in the mid 90′s, the demand for electricity to power air conditioners in Las Vegas has increased substantially. To produce the extra electricity, they had to push far more water through the turbines at Hover Dam which increased the water level a fair amount over our previous visit during the cool month of November Evidently the extra water level is perfect for filling the cave, and that really increases the access to the amazing sight.
I have said this before, but I would really like to do a over night trip on this stretch of river, it is really beautiful. We even saw some desert bighorn along the banks!
Scion-FR-S seen during a commercial shot, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
I was in Valley of Fire State Park yesterday shooting a moving 3D time-lapse on a 6 foot ramp when my unique setup caught the attention of a film crew working on a car commercial. I was happy to answer their questions since I had my own questions about their production. I asked if I could grab a few photos of the cars during the filming and they said go ahead – so this is a scene that you may soon see on TV, except in a horizontal format.
This 2 seat sports car will be released this week I understand – it is a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru. Subaru will market it as the BRZ, while Toyota will sell it under their Scion brand and will call it the FR-S. It will sell for around $25,000.
I often think I may have the best possible job out there – but after talking to the professional drivers who were able to race up and down the curvy roads through the park that were closed off by Highway Patrol – now I’m not so sure.
Update: It will be formally introduced tomorrow (Sunday) at the Long Beach Grand Prix as the marshal car.
This is the beginning of a series of zip-lines that end up at the bottom of the mountain. The end of this zip is on the distant ridge – looks fun!
If you look close you can see a series of trails heading down this hill side. These are part of a series of down hill mountain biking trails known as the Bootleg Canyon Trails. On certain days of the week there is a shuttle that hauls riders back to the top. Add Lake Mead and the Colorado River, and I gotta say, there are a lot of recreation opportunities in this area.
I originally drove / hiked to the top of this mountain thinking it would offer a nice view of the Las Vegas Strip, but it was too far away. It did provide nice views of the town, lake and this zip-line!
When you see an arch in red rock sandstone you might be thinking we took a detour to Moab, Utah and Arches National Park, but you would be wrong. This was in Lake Mead NNRA.
I think there are a lot of undiscovered gems in the seldom visited area. First, the North Shore Road near Lake Mead receives very little traffic. But by turning off that road onto a 4×4 road and the amount of traffic drops to just a handful per day. Then, by pulling over at an almost random location and hiking pretty much assures us of being the only humans for miles. I look forward to spending more time poking around in this area.
I have been in Vegas the last couple of days – I have a film permit to shoot video and 3D video. Well yesterday we ran across a major film production, filming the movie Now You See Me. It stars a lot of famous people and according to some reports will be one of the most anticipated movies of 2013.
Watching the production was fascinating – a very slow moving, carefully planned but well conceived creative process. Nothing is by accident – a casual cocktail waitress briefly passing in front of the actors for example is discussed, modified and practiced before actually filming a number of takes. Every little detail is scrutinized down to the placement of lights – guys were crawling on the floor at one point identifying distracting light reflections off the shiny floor. The production had taken over a large portion of the Aria Hotel and Casino.
One of the highlights was seeing Woody Harrelson. I have enjoyed his acting going back to the days of Cheers – but that isn’t why it was a highlight. What I thought was awesome was how he took the time to greet many of the extras on the set – there were around a hundred! Then he went around and shook hands with the young production assistants who were basically standing off in the distance doing crowd control – class act!
Hoover Dam at sunset, Lake Mead NRA, Nevada / Arizona.
This is from the dramatic new by-pass bridge that routes traffic around the dam. I captured some images from this bridge last year right after it opened, but they were taken during the day – I like the sunset / evening photos from this trip much better.
Janine getting ready to enter the Lovell Wash Narrows, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada.
I found this location after checking out some of the more colorful areas of this region on Google Earth. This was a cool slot canyon! I included Janine in both of these images to help show the scale of the place, although I have versions of both images without her.
Janine inside the Lovell Wash Narrows, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada.
Sunset on Lake Mead. This lake has sure dropped a lot over the last decade. As you can see we have moved to Southern Nevada and are photographing the areas around Lake Mead.
This was captured on a very windy night. To get enough depth of field to put the entire scene in focus I would have needed an aperture of around f/16 – but that would have lead to a very slow shutter speed and the flowers would have been nothing but a blur in the heavy wind.
So this is actually two exposures – One at f/4 and 1/60th of a second in which I focused just on the flowers. This became the foreground portion of the images. The second at f/14 and 1/5th of a second with focus further back. This became the background. The two images were then combined in Photoshop.
Both exposures were done at ISO 400 and had the same exposure value in that they had the same level of brightness, but this way I could have the flowers fairly sharp and the background.
Inside of the Sahara Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Before my quick trip for a conference in Las Vegas this spring, I heard the Sahara Hotel and Casino would be closing down for good – actually this upcoming weekend will be the last for this 60 year old Las Vegas icon as it closes for good on May 16th.
Back in the day, this was one of the most popular places to “hang outs” if you were someone famous – or, wanted to see someone famous. The Sahara often hosted members of the Rat Pack including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Famous comedians like Johnny Carson have performed shows here, heck in 1964, even the Beatles stayed here!
So, I figured I better hop on the monorail so that I could get some images of the place before it was too late. I’m kind of sorry I hadn’t photographed some of the other old hotels before they were imploded.
It is funny, typically you only have a few seconds to get a photo from inside a casino before security moves in and asks you to stop. I had a feeling that employees about to lose their jobs might be a little more complacent. Sure enough – I photographed away without problem. Even a security guard walked by without saying anything.
Makes me wonder what the rules are if you stay the last night at a hotel. Will they even bother cleaning the rooms afterwords? Can you keep the robes? Do they bother with a room deposit? I’m guessing things are probably pretty crazy that last night. I also wonder what will happen to the mono-rail station. This is the only stop on the North end of the Strip, it would be too bad to lose this convenient mass transit option – but the stop leads you right through the casino. I suppose they will come up with some kind of temporary work around. Anyway, good bye Sahara.
Chandelier Bar in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The first thing you see when you enter the Cosmopolitan from the Strip at street level, or from the pedestrian over-pass is the Chandelier Bar. The Chandelier is very popular at night, and the subject of many visitor vacation photos during the day.
The Chandelier is a three story bar covered with a multi-million dollar, 65 foot tall chandelier made from some 2 million beaded crystals. The top two levels, which you see in the top half of the above photo is completely enclosed in crystals. Access to the middle level is gained from a small, inconspicuous stairway from either below or above, making it a bit of what the Las Vegas press called a secret room.
The top photo is from ground level looking up, the bottom photo is from the third level looking down.
Chandelier Bar in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Cosmopolitan along the Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The main reason we took a quick detour over to Las Vegas was to photograph The Cosmopolitan. The Cosmopolitan will be the last of the series of new hotel / casinos to open on the Strip for some time to come. All of these of course were all started long before the Las Vegas economy tanked.
There are two more brand new towers on the Strip that were completely enclosed before construction was stopped a couple of years ago. Even if construction was to begin again tommorow, they would be a couple of years out before being completed – and I don’t see construction on either one starting anytime soon. So for now, they stand as stark reminders of the economic conditions in Las Vegas.
Fortunately I have no trouble avoiding the slots when I go to Vegas – so we are probably some of the few people who make money on our trips to Vegas.
View from a room balcony from the Cosmopolitian, Las Vegas.
Well we have taken a quick two night trip up to Las Vegas not only to photograph what is not only the most recent hotel and casino, but probably the last new hotel on the Strip for many years to come – The Cosmopolitan. I not only wanted photos of the Cosmopolitan, but also wanted to take advantage of their amazing balcony views!
We are in one of the smallest rooms – it is still over half the size of our home! Maybe that is more of a reflection of our home, but the place is nice. We are here during one of the less expensive times – not only to save a bit of money, but to avoid the crowds. Even at that, this place is still really hopping – seems to be the place to hang out these days. Can’t imagine what the weekends are like. I do know at times this room almost costs as much as our monthly house payment!
So, we are really here for the view and I’m doing everything I can to take advantage. I have been shooting 3D and regular video and time-lapses, plus a wide range of stills including panoramics and HDR. I worked late in to the night last night so that tonight after sunset we might be able to enjoy the property a bit.
This photo blog by professional photographer Ron Niebrugge and his wife and business partner Janine will cover all type of issues, opinions and experiences related to outdoor photography. Go here to see some of Ron’s Photos.