Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

Venetian Hotel Gondoliers

They may not be plying the waters in Venice, but the gondoliers that paddle the Venetian Hotel's faux canals are pretty authentic, demonstrating considerable singing skills and an impressive knowledge of Italian opera and other romantic melodies. This photo was taken by Swiss photographer Tomas Muscionico, who has lived in Las Vegas since 2004.

Bonnie Springs

Just 15 miles from downtown Las Vegas, Bonnie Springs is an Old West theme town that features lots of family attractions, including a staged "posse" show, in which visitors are asked to play the roles of Villain, Judge and Defender. Muscionico used a wide-angle (24 mm) lens and moved in close to capture the players' faces. He also got down low and tilted the camera up, so he could fit all the story's elements — from the crossbar on the noose to the sheriff's holstered weapon — comfortably into the frame. (Most of the staged plays end the same — with the villain meeting his just deserts.)

The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Boneyard is three-acre museum of gigantic Vegas relics that offers a fascinating glimpse into the early history of America's gambling capital. It's available to visit only by appointment and tours happen only during the middle of the day — for photographers, that means trying lots of different angles to eliminate harsh shadows.

Circus Circus Arcade

The Circus Circus hotel houses the world's largest permanent circus, plus endless attractions, like a gigantic arcade, to keep the kids busy while Mom and Dad mortgage the house at the craps table. Muscionico notes that photographers should try to avoid using an intrusive flash in the kinds of intimate situations that collect around the gaming tables. In this shot, he used the artificial light of a toy cube to illuminate the faces of children peering through the glass.

Circus Circus Adventuredome

At midday, outdoor photography in sunny Vegas is tough. So, Muscionico went to Circus Circus' indoor theme park, where the pink-tinted glass dome casts a rosy glow on everything. Notice how he enhanced the torturous twist of the roller coaster by tilting his camera off the horizon.

Fremont Street

In an effort to rejeuvenate Las Vegas's seedy downtown, in the 1990s the city erected a family-friendly four-block promenade with a programmable video display roof. To get the best pictures here, Muscionico says you should wait until the video — displayed on the roof several times a night — leans toward bright colors. Because the rest of the street will be completely dark — the casinos on either side of the street turn off their exterior lights every time a show is displayed — you'll have to rely on the projected light to get a good exposure. For this shot, Muscionico used an aperture of f5, and a 1/50-second shutter speed.

Treasure Island's Sirens of TI

There are a lot of cheesy shows happening nightly outside Las Vegas hotels. In the Sirens of TI, staged in front of the Treasure Island, or TI, casino, a group of beautiful sirens clashes with a band of renegade pirates in a singing and dancing spectaclular. If you want to get close to the action, Muscionico recommends staking out a spot on the walkway between the two ships that float in the water in front of the hotel. To get this close, you'll need a 105 mm zoom lens.

The Sirens of TI's Burning Pirate Ship

The Sirens of TI was created by Kenny Ortega, who also directed the 2002 Olympics opening ceremonies and High School Musical. Part of the over-the-top action includes setting fire to one of the pirate ships. Even though it'll be dark out, you can capture the scene on film by setting the ISO on your camera to 1000 and using a shutter speed of 1/40 second.

Bellagio Hotel Fountains

The dancing-water show outside the Bellagio hotel is really the only one worth seeing. This photograph was taken at about 8 p.m, after sunset — Muscionico used the artificial lights of the fountains as his sole light source. To freeze the motion of the water, he set the shutter speed to 1/400 second, and used a wide aperture (F1.4) and a relatively high ISO (800). To keep everything in focus, he walked back about 50 feet from the other visitors and set his zoom to 35mm, to compress a wide scene into a narrow plane.