Thursday, June 22, 2006

Photographer Shootout in Las Vegas

About two years ago I joined SATW - Society of American Travel Writers. The organization also has a small segment of its membership who are photographers. I've been shooting for travel publications for the last 30 years, so I figured it was about time I joined.

Last fall I attended their annual convention in Las Vegas. I had just spent a week in Las Vegas and I have to admit I wasn't that keen to go
back right away - because the city is such an intense experience. Don't get me wrong - I happen to love urban environments and I live about 35 miles from New York City - but Las Vegas is something else. It's like a shot of adrenalin to all your senses. However, as a photographer - it's like a visual fantasyland.

Part of these conventions are various pre and post trips to nearby destinations and one of the pre activities scheduled for that year was a "photographer shootout". Basically, a contingency of photographers had 24 hours to shoot the city. Kind of like the Amazing Race of photography. We were given a list of contacts for various hotels, shows, museums etc. that had previously given their consent for photography of their properties. However, we needed to call ahead and slot a time. Keep in mind - 18 other competitors were given the same list. Places included hotels, restuarants, shopping malls, museums, shows, rides, parks, fashion shows, clubs and of course anything else that you came upon in that 24 hour period. Photographers could shoot film or digital and could submit only 10 shots for their final portfolio.

One of the challenges was just getting around the city. I soon found out that if I wanted to get anywhere in the afternoon and evening hours - I needed to stay off the Strip. Then of course the endless walks through hotels and casinos. For those of you who've been to Las Vegas - you know what I mean. Huge spaces packed with people at all hours. And everywhere you go it seems like one big party.

I ran into other photographers along the way, and you would think that we would all come back with the same images. Even though there were similarities in subject matter, oddly enough we all saw it through different eyes. So if you read my first blog "First Time", it proves the point that cameras don't take great pictures - people do. My favorite shots usually turn out to be the unexpected ones. I generally set out with a plan and hope that I get segwayed by something I didn't count on. I think they call that serendipity. The shot above of the semi silhouetted "bouncer" was one of those moments. I was rushing to get to a rooftop club that had a fabulous view of the Strip - when on the way, I spotted this guy. My gut and my experience told me to stop and capture the moment. Glad I did. One habit I have gotten into over the years has been to "look the other way". By that I mean, if I'm shooting a baseball game for instance - I know that many times the best shots are right behind me in the crowd.

Most of the shootout participants were men. At the end of the night, a lot of us ended up in a burlesque club. And we were all pretty much shooting the same exact show. When the final results were shown at the judging, I took note that most of the guys emphazised close up shots of the dancer as she made her way toward the photographers. I went for the interaction of the dancer and the sax player - I loved the moment. I wonder how many guys noticed the sax player.

So, I made it through the exhausting 24 hour period and then spent probably another 12 hours looking through hundreds of digital photos and culling them down to 10. That was the hard part - deciding which 10 images to submit. I took it down to about 20 and then solicited my partner Tom's input. He picked his 10 favorites and I went with it. Below are the other photos that I presented in my "portfolio".

By the way, I ended up taking top prize - "gold portfolio" in the competition. Some say it was beginners luck. A beginner with 30 years of experience.

The prize? A trip for two to Belgium.


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