Film Photography in Las Vegas
Las Vegas 2018
Back in early April my wonderful wife and I took a very much needed vacation in Las Vegas. Those who know us in even the most limited of ways will know how much we love LV. This was trip number 14 having been married there a while ago now.
We didn't get to visit last year for various reasons so it's fair to say that we were more than ready for this trip and it didn't disappoint... we had an amazing time (probably overdid it a bit to be honest... I'm still recovering).
From a photography point of view I decided to approach things a little differently to previous trips in so much as I left my digital cameras at home and just took a couple of film cameras, namely my lovely Bronica ETRS and my trusty Canon AE-1. I love the organic feel that film provides and I wanted to push myself a little in a location that I know so well and have photographed many many times before.
Here are a few of my images from a wonderful two weeks.
This image (above) is my favourite shot of the trip. I spent a little while taking photographs of the Trump hotel for obvious reasons and this shot of a reflection of the hotel tower in one of the Encore windows opposite really does it for me!
They do say that anything is possible in Vegas and here is photographic proof...
The Park area near the T-Mobile Arena was still under construction during our last trip in 2016 and one of things I was looking forward to photographing this time was the Bliss statue in the park. This 40-foot tall statue by Marco Cochrane has become something of a 'must do' photo op in Vegas and I obviously had to get a shot of it myself. I found this shot a little tricky... I only had a 50mm lens on my AE-1 and kind of had to shoe-horn myself into a nearby tree to get the angle I wanted. Metering was also a little tricky but I am really pleased with how the image has worked out.
Vegas can at times get a little too much... even for seasoned veterans like us, so every trip includes a visit to nearby Boulder City for a few hours of peace and quiet. It's a lovely little town, almost feels like you are stepping back in time a little.... and the old school signage everywhere is awesome! Oh and there is a little bar on the high street that serves the most wonderful sandwiches. Do get out there if you can... 40 minutes drive is nothing and it is totally worth it.
Of course, visiting Las Vegas over St. Patricks weekend might of had something to do with our need to get out of town for a bit. It was crazy and ended up with us both having two of the worst hangovers either of us can remember. I suppose that's what happens when you decide to match a bunch of folks from Boston drink for drink in a piano bar at 2 in the morning....!
Someone always has to get in the way....
A puddle and Ringo. This is going on my wall.
As is this one I think.
And maybe this one...
Say what you like about Circus Circus (and many people do), but it is one of the few remaining old school style Hotel and Casinos in town and I think it looks awesome! Obviously, a bunch of folks in cowboy hats didn't hurt the shot either!
Because this holiday was very much about giving my wife and I a chance to forget real life for a while, I didn't really take my cameras out at night. The Bronica is big and bulky (and heavy) and gets in the way of my drinking. I also didn't have suitable film with me to use the AE-1 too well in low light.
However, I did take the Bronica out on one occasion with a view to trying a couple of double exposures. I've never done this before and I am pretty happy with the results. They would have been a little better if the Cinestill 800 I ordered before the trip been delivered before we left for the airport, but I made do and really like the results using Portra 400.
Another one of those 'must do' photo ops is the Bellagio Conservatory. A haven of peace and quiet it is one of our favourite spots. We watched the spring display being put together over the course of a couple of days and it did not disappoint.
Putting my photography hat on for a minute, one of the things I love about taking images in Vegas is the beautiful light you get in the evening, and how it reflects of the hotels to light up other parts of the strip in a way that doesn't happen during other times of the day. For example, Omnia at Caesars Palace gets the spotlight thanks to the mottled light reflecting of the Flamingo hotel opposite and the strip near the Venetian takes on a beautiful Bronze glow thanks to Encore. Beautiful!
And of course there is the people watching....
When I got my scans back from the wonderful folks at Ag Photographic a couple of the images were, erm... a bit wrong.... I think due to my inability to load film in my AE-1 correctly. However, I really like the following image .... a pleasant mistake I think!
If you like Country (and I am not ashamed to say I do), Gilley's is a great place to spend a few hours. We even tried a bit of line dancing which didn't go well at all (I have two left feet and my wife now has the bruises to prove it).
The final shot of the trip. Leaving Las Vegas is always really hard for us, but mother nature did make things a little easier for us this time with typically British weather on the last day.
So, how did my film adventure work out? As I have already said, I love how film looks and feels and I am super happy with these images. Yes, they aren't as clean and crisp as digital files would of been and the cost is a little prohibitive for me to shoot film all the time, but I really like having to wait a little to see how the images turned out. Life is very 'immediate' now and it was very refreshing to wait a while before getting the shots back.
I am very much a newbie where shooting with film is concerned but it is certainly something I will be doing more of. What I seemed to lose in terms of crisp, clean images I got back in terms of not over shooting and the latitude of film meant my exposures where a little easier to get right (proven with a few shots where I forgot to alter my shutter speed which would of ruined a digital file... but not the film exposure which was perfect, but for motion blur from the ridiculous shutter speed I set!) I have A LOT to learn but will enjoy doing so that's for sure!
Vegas was, as it always is, just awesome. I feel so comfortable there and who knows one day we may be able to call it our home. But, for now we will just have to settle for a couple of weeks here and there. Here's to 2019!
Bronica ETRS with Prism and 75mm F2.8 lens.
Canon AE-1 with 50mm f1.8 lens.
120: Kodak Portra 400 and Ilford Delta 400.
35mm: Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Portra 160.