Place: Las Vegas, home to the greatest neon collection in the world, with all those mega casinos.
Where: In the heart of the Nevada desert, just over the state line 45 minutes from California, and 2 hours away from neighboring Arizona and Utah.
Postcard shots: the skyline and neon.
Why Las Vegas? Because it's a one of a kind attraction that you won't see anywhere else. Even if you go just once, it's a must visit. And your photos will pop. Go to Vegas, get skyline and neon.
Las Vegas Photowalk
Guidelines: The only remaining classic, old-style neon left on the Las Vegas Strip is at the Fabulous Flamingo, the hotel started in 1946 by mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. To experience the neon of olden days, take a visit to downtown and Fremont Street, where the Four Queens, Binion’s and the Fremont Hotel still shine brightly, all night long.
1. The Observation Desk of the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower(ticket prices start at $20) will get you a great view looking back at the Strip. The Hotel is just off the north end of the Strip is way more camera-friendly. It has an observation deck where you can snap away, looking south at the Strip with no blockage, just wide-open spaces. Tip: Nighttime is best for photos as the Strip looks best when lit. You can also indulge in thrill rides while up here.
2. Down the Strip, the high-tech High Roller observation wheel is like a huge railroad car that happens to circle above the Strip. It's smooth and a fun ride. You'll be getting good shots of the key portion of the Strip (the Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Flamingo Hotel) through a window. Tip: Put your camera as close to the window as possible to help eliminate reflections. And ride in the evening, when the glass is less likely to show the dirt.
3. The Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck at the Paris Las Vegas hotel is the best spot to see the Fountains of Bellagio show across the street. But it's through a cage and that's not good. It’s very hard to shoot from up here, especially with a smartphone. There are several holes in the cage, and if you have a camera, you can stick your lens through and get something decent. Smartphone photos are way more challenging. Good luck.
4. The parking garage roof of the old Hard Rock Hotel (now known as Virgin Las Vegas) is far from the Strip, but you can get a great shot of the Strip from there. Just bring along a camera with a long lens.
5. My favorite spot in Las Vegas for the Strip shot is atop the Waldorf-Astoria. The Skybar was very good about letting me put the tripod in front of the window, out of the way of guests, for a time-lapse video shot. The Skybar doesn’t charge admission, opens at 4 p.m. and just asks that you buy a drink and perhaps a snack. It has giant picture windows on the 23rd floor looking north at the Strip, from the Aria on down.
6. The VooDoo Lounge at the Rio, off Flamingo Road on the west side of Las Vegas, is another great spot to look back at the full Strip. It's up on the 51st floor and is an indoor/outdoor nightclub that doesn't open until 8 p.m. – which means you'll miss your sunset shot, unless you're there in the summer.
7. Finally, there's one more option for a skyline shot, and it's one that probably more people attempt than any other: taking a photo from one of the many pedestrian bridges that dot the Strip, connecting travelers from one casino to another. Unfortunately, the bridges are covered with dirty windows and barriers that make it a challenge to get the shot. However, each bridge usually has one opening, on the side, that will allow you to get an unobstructed photo of the Strip.
Good luck and have fun in Vegas.
Photo tips: Speaking of time-lapses: Timing is everything. You want to get the skyline shot in the so-called magic hour, from 30 minutes before sunset until 30 minutes afterwards. So plan your shoot accordingly. You'll need to have a tripod, as you'll want the camera to roll for 60 minutes straight, and hand-holding for such a long period of time isn't possible.
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas houses old signs after they get torn down and keeps them alive. Here are the signs for the Riviera and Stardust hotels.
The old Golden Nugget and Horseshoe Casino signs, on display at the Neon Museum.
The Las Vegas Strip as we know it today. Most of the signs are LED lights or video screens. Photographed on the 23rd floor of the Skybar at the Waldorf-Astoria, part of the Las Vegas Photowalk
A panorama of the Las Vegas Strip from the roof of the Hard Rock Hotel parking garage by Jefferson Graham from the Las Vegas Photowalk