Sunday, September 27, 2009

Las Vegas Highlight Reel

I've spent the last week in Las Vegas.  While I spent most of my time playing poker, I did take my camera along and did some shooting when I wasn't in a tournament.

112.365 Bellagio Fountain

I started with the easiest subject, the fountains at the Bellagio.  I think the experience of photographing those ballerinas a few weeks ago came in really handy, as I was able to play with the timing and try to catch the movement of the water in a predictable manner.  I'll have more Bellagio shots to come shortly.

I stayed at a center strip hotel (the reasonably priced Bally's) and had great access to the big name casinos.  I didn't get particularly creative or unique with my shots. 

113.365 Venetian Canals

In a sense, it's hard to do anything but staged shots in Vegas, as there is so much going on.  Power lines are everywhere, and ads cover almost every bit of open space.  You can see several in this shot, although I did my best to exclude them.  I couldn't really go any wider here, or else the street lights and construction cones and such would start to get in the way.

Down at the south end of the strip, I did my best to get an interesting shot of the MGM.  You can see the construction cones and standing traffic (this signal took 120 seconds to cycle through) but all in all I think it turned out pretty good.

114.365 MGM Light Trails

There's a huge construction project going on on this end of the strip, Project Cityscape (I took a few photos you'll see later) so it really felt isolated.  To get back to the center of the strip, I had to walk about a half mile, maybe a mile, through a narrow construction walkway, often covered, with people who are much slower than I.

I'm so glad I didn't stay down at this end like I have in the past.

On Thursday and Friday, I really focused on playing poker, and my photography took sort of a back seat.  I had a couple of hours between tournaments on Thursday evening and decided to do a few daytime shots.

116.365 Paris Daytime

Here we see the "Eiffel Tower" at the Paris casino.  Again, there are basically only two shots of this that work.  This one, and another you may see later, taken from the south.  Otherwise, you'll have a streetlight in the way, or a rail or a big garbage bin or billboard or some such BS.

It had been a long week, and on my final night as I returned to Bally's, I decided I would make a real effort to get this cool long exposure shot of myself.  It took a lot of tries, most of them embarassing as I knelt down like an idiot on the moving walkway and spent a minute or so repeatedly trying to stay still for two seconds.

117.365 Goodbye Vegas

It wasn't easy.  But I think I did all right with this one.  Although I look terrible!  In my defense, it's one in the morning... although I'm not sure that excuses those bags under my eyes.  Ugh!

The Fountains at the Bellagio

As most of you know, I spent last week in Las Vegas.  I did pretty well playing in the poker tournaments, although not quite well enough to bring home a profit.  I had a good time tho, and really enjoyed hanging out in this exciting, lively part of the world.  When I wasn't playing poker or eating delicious buffets, I was carrying around my camera and tripod and taking some photos.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned yesterday, I had a hard time getting creative in this land of streetlights, power lines, and advertisements.  Still, I did my best to bring home some nice shots, even if many of them are the standard views you see from Las Vegas.


The Bellagio Fountains were a natural starting point for me.  The Bellagio is right across the street from both Caesar's Palace, where I was playing poker, and Bally's, where I was staying.  So I had to walk right past it in the evenings on my way back to the hotel from the tournaments, and of course it was very handy when I was leaving the hotel after gathering my camera.  Plus, of course, they really are beautiful.


The great thing about these fountains is that they run four times an hour, and about five minutes at a time.  So I had plenty of opportunity to get a lot of shots and try different setting combinations to get the right effects.  I really did get a lot of pretty shots of these fountains, and it was hard to narrow them down to just these five or six... I have another 20 or 30 I'd like to share, but they'll never see the light of day.  I did upload a few extra to Flickr, tho, so you may be able to see them there.


Although they played a lot of different music for the fountains, all I ever can think of is Celine Dion and "My Heart Will Go On"... the song I heard when I first saw the fountains back in 2001.  The music from this trip was a lot better, and the fountains really are amazing with their blasts of water, but my mind only seems to bring up that stupid song.

They play the Star Spangled Banner at midnight when they shut down the fountains for the day, which I found to be nice.  Like the old days, when the TV used to go off the air and they'd play the national anthem then, too.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to see if the lake displayed a test pattern.


I hope you've enjoyed.  Vegas doesn't put on the level of free shows that they did in the heyday, but that's OK.  I am happy to see what they do still have.  I didn't get a chance to shoot the Sirens at TI, because they are very very crowded, but next up is a series of shots of the volcano at the Mirage.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

106 and 107 - Two West Burnside Businesses

A couple of photos of nearby businesses.  I do like these night shots.  They make pretty boring things look a lot more interesting.

106.365 Powells Books

There is a homeless guy dancing wildly there in front of the store, the other guy was playing a guitar and singing.  Powell's does attract the most creative class of street kids.

Today I decided to go for another walk and catch some other building at night.  I wasn't sure where I was going, but I had an eye on a building several blocks away.

107.365 Marathon Tavern

Before I even got to Burnside I realized I have never really taken a look at this building.  So I had a real victory there for laziness, and barely walked one block for my photo.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Industrial Photos from NE Tillamook Street

It's funny how much stuff gets left behind due to 365, as I focus on getting the one shot posted.  It's been 11 days, I think, since I stopped in the industrial area after work and spent an hour focusing on just one block.  I got quite a few good pictures out of that small area.  It's probably something I'll do more often now that fall is coming.

I don't have much else to say, so I'll let the photos speak for themselves.




Have a great night!

Monday, September 7, 2009

96, 97, 98 : Three Portland Views

I drove up to Vista street on Friday night, just to get a quick shot of the city with the cool clouds in the sky. However, that shot didn't really come out all that impressive.


Instead, this throwaway shot I took of Mount Hood ended up winning the day for me. I am not sure why, it's not really all that special, but I really like it. I don't think I feature Hood enough in my photos, although I see the thing all the time. It's a beautiful part of my town, so here's a view of it with the city.

A fellow Flickr user, Jon, turned me on to a cool municipal staircase in the southwest hills which has a great view of a previously unexploited part of downtown.

It's a pretty short walk from my place to here, so I made it my goal on Saturday as the sunset drew near. Those stairs are brutal, steep and climbing directly up the hill. I don't know how many steps it is (100?) but it was exhausting climbing them.


The view was well worth it, and I certainly shall return.

Today I discovered that it's not really all that far a walk to Macleay Park from my apartment. It was really weird to walk through the trendy shopping along NW 23rd, and then around the NW Industrial area where I like shooting, and then suddenly I am on a hike out in the woods. Portland really is awesome.


I haven't visited this place in some time. It was about time I returned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oregon Ballet Theater at the Waterfront


In the last few months, I've discovered, which is a sort of review-based community social network sort of thing.  I don't quite get the "friend" side of it, but it's a great site for finding places to go eat and things to go do.  I've discovered a lot of interesting activities through this site, including that bike race I visited a few weeks ago.


Last month I saw that there would be a free concert from the Oregon Symphony down at the waterfront, and I signed up for a reminder.  Getting an email telling me that there's something fun to do for free is pretty cool.  I did a little research beforehand, and found out about the artillery.  The ballet caught me off guard.


I was trying to get some pictures of the crowd and such when they announced the ballet coming to the stage.  I had no idea what sort of shots I would be able to get of them.  I had been doing pretty long exposures for the crowd, both of those shots were in the 20-30 second range.


Luckily, they stood on the stage for a minute or so before the music started, and I had time to do a few sample shots.  I set the ISO to 800 and played around with the shutter speed.  I set it to 3 seconds (@f/5 or so), which actually gave me a lot more light than I needed.  The first few shots were way too bright.


Eventually I settled in on the 2 second range with a slightly higher f/stop, and got these great swirly shots.  I tried to time my shots out to where either the dancers were standing still, or moving into their still poses, or just moving out of them.  It was a lot more fun than I expected.


I am glad I went out and took these shots, instead of staying home and being lazy.  I almost did, but after a little pep talk I was able to get going.  It was a nice walk on a warm summer evening.  When I got to the waterfront park, I realized I hadn't looked to see which part of the park the concert was at. 


I had arrived in the middle of the mile-long park, where I had expected the concert to be.  But it wasn't.  I had also figured I could follow my ears if I came to the wrong spot.  Wrong again.  No music to be heard.  I decided to go to the south, since that is the fancier end of the park, and I figured it might be more likely to host an orchestra.  Turns out, I was right! 


I really had no idea what to expect with the whole trip.  I had been prepared to take pictures of the crowd and hopefully orchestra.  I wasn't sure how I would shoot the cannon, but I figured I would treat them like fireworks.  The ballet was completely unexpected but all that movement practice I've been putting in really paid off.


Although I probably would have done this shoot even without 365, it's nights like last night that really make 365 worthwhile.  I get a lot of practice and thought in all those boring days where I took so-so shots, and that totally pays off when I have the chance to catch something interesting and new.  I was confident and reasonably comfortable taking these pictures, even though it was a subject for which I was unprepared.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Photos from the Waterfront Concert (95.365 and a bonus shot)

There was a concert downtown at the waterfront, and I managed to get down there in time to see some ballet dancers take the stage. This was unexpected and proved to be an interesting shoot.


The lights on the stage were really bright and I was able to play around a bit with a variety of shutter speeds... and still usually ended up with a too-bright shot. I had a lot of them come out pretty good, this mysterious one was my favorite, even though there isn't really a clear view of any of the dancers.

That image is my 95 shot, and it's also slightly cropped.

The Oregon National Guard brought out their artillery to help the Oregon Symphony with their rendition of the 1812 Overture.

I've never shot them before and had no idea what to expect. They are very tricky to shoot, and since they only fired them about five or six times each (in rapid succession!) I didn't really get a chance to look at what I was getting.

95.365 FAIL

As you can see... not much. I think next year, I'll just get in close and see if I can get something a little more interesting.

This bonus shot (which was the primary goal) is cropped and slightly brightened.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I changed parking garages today.  I had been staying in a pretty nice garage, which was the only one open at the time I started renting there.

In the mean time, several lots have reopened in my neighborhood.  I justified staying at the other lot because it has guards patrolling and the occasional valet passing through.

After my car was broken into last month, I decided that it wasn't worth any extra money to stay there.  So I moved to a lot that is right next door to my apartment, instead of four blocks away.  And it's about 2/3 the price, so there's some extra money.


The drawback of course is that I am now parking in this lot, the one that I like to take pictures in because it looks like an abandoned warehouse.  Yay!