Vegas at Night - The Story Behind the Image

The photograph of Las Vegas at night recently came second in the Digital Photographer “Cityscapes” competition and was commended by the expert panel. It has won a few competitions recently so I thought I would take a few minutes to tell the story behind the shot.

Firstly, a little bit forward planning was needed in booking a balcony room with a fountain view at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas, it is one of the more expensive hotels own the strip, but the views alone are worth it.

The shot is taken with my Nikon D3100 camera. This is a crop sensor camera so it does not capture the same detail as my full frame D810, but the files are a lot smaller (14 megs compared to 36 megs) which was an important consideration.

The camera was set up on a tripod on the balcony with my 16 – 35mm f4 lens (wide angle) at f13. The shot was taken at night (obviously) so the shutter speed was fairly slow, at 3 seconds. The effect of a slow shutter speed is that stationary lights are sharp while moving lights, such as car headlights are blurred. This was exactly what I was wanting, sharp neon light on the buildings contrasting with blurred lights on the roads to give an impression of the dynamism all set against the jet black night sky.

The shot was complicated as the cars kept stopping at the traffic lights and therefore I could not get the shot I wanted in a single take. Knowing this I took lots of shots using an intervalometer (a device for taking shots at set intervals). I then took 10 shots that gave light trails along all the roads and merged them in Photoshop. This was actually very simple as I just stacked 9 shots on top of the shot of the fountain that I liked best and told Photoshop only to add light which was not on an underlying layer. I know I could have picked a more dramatic shot of the fountains, but if they were any bigger they would have blocked out other details in the shot and therefore this is the best compromise position.

I didn’t do much else in post production, except increases the contrast and saturation a little bit so that all the colours stood out against the dark. I also removed trails that a couple of aircraft had made in the sky as they were too much of a distraction (strange thing to say against all this action, but I know what I mean).

If you have taken time to read this, thanks, I hope you found it useful. If you have any questions then please just ask.

JSP web-.jpg