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Brianne & Craig’s wedding at Caesar’s Palace

I’ve shot about four weddings in Las Vegas now and every one of them is unique and fun. One thing in common though: They are all laid back and chill. I think people go to Vegas to party, and usually these weddings consist of a smaller group of people which makes the day super easy.

Heck, on this day the bride and her father had to sorta make me sit down and take a break, something I’m not great at! Gotta love that.

The reception was a simple, family style dinner with belly dancers at a Marrakech restaurant. Loved it!

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Vendors
Venue & Wedding Planner // Caesar’s Palace
Makeup // Sin City Makeup
Dress // Wendy’s Bridal Cincinnati
Reception // Marrakech Mediterranean Restaurant

Sunset on the Nevada desert

Sunset south of Boulder City, Nevada

(Click to see this image with a darker border…brings out the colors a bit better)

Back in March I posted a sunset shot from the Nevada desert that had powerlines and I dubbed “Se7en” for Movie Title Wednesday. There were a few other shots I got that night and I just haven’t posted any of them until now.

It had been awhile since I’d seen a painted sky like this. Honestly, this wide open desert landscape was great, but I was scrambling to find something more interesting nearby to include in the frame. I realized, however, that this sunset wouldn’t last forever and sometimes all you need is a great sky.

This was one of the last images from a great afternoon just driving around this area south of Boulder City. In fact, I include the date the photo was taken in my tags, so you can see all the images taken on March 16th. I keep looking back on this day and what I love the most is that I have images to help me always remember how much fun I had just exploring some area that I’d never been before.

I was looking up ghost towns in Nevada, saw a little place called Nelson and headed off with no real plan or idea of what I wanted to shoot. That’s all I need really. Clouds, weather and driving around. It’s when I feel the most free and away from everything. Just me, my camera, the road, my iPod and the unknown.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100)

 

 

Dead Rock Canyon

(Click to see full size or to fit your screen resolution)

Red Rock Canyon. Dead cactus. Dead Rock Canyon.

See what I did there?

So clever Mike…so clever.

Back in March I explored this area west of Las Vegas and was struck by these dead things. I think they are some kind of cactus, but I have no idea. I tried to Google them, but I couldn’t find anything. Either way, they kind of speckled this wide valley expanse between the red cliffs and the western mountains off in the distance.

What’s interesting about going to shoot place that are big attractions for “something”, like amazing burnt red rocks…is when you turn away from them because you are more drawn to something else.

I had left my project site and raced out here to shoot in the canyon…and was just happy I got a few shots off before the sun sank behind those cliffs. Definitely a beautiful place to visit.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/22, iso 100)

The Road Ahead (Welcome to the new look)

(click to see the image above in a beautiful lightbox with a nice, dark border)

Well, you’ve no doubt noticed things look a lot different here today. Of course, if this is your first visit, that may not mean much, but I welcome you here just the same!

To those that follow this blog and my photography on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, this is the first theme change I’ve done to this website in a very long time. I’m never the type of person to stay happy with a theme for very long, but the previous one was awesome, I loved it and I actually still love it.

But it’s time to move on to something else. I didn’t do it lightly, nor without a lot of help, advice and feedback.

Why the change? Well, for awhile now I’ve been struggling with the idea that people may not get a clear idea of everything I do. Portraits, weddings, events…and prints of course. The old theme was okay, but I needed something that would hopefully tell you who I am the second you hit the website.

The slideshow on the frontpage is pretty awesome. The guy who designed this theme did an amazing job overall, but that style of a slideshow is all kinds of bad ass. And it solved my problem. When you arrive here, you get to see a smorgasbord of my images…from people to places. I love it.

There are a lot of other, fairly important reasons for doing this and I’m not going to go into them all. If you are interested in knowing, you can email me, ask in the comments, or whatever. I’ll gladly answer any questions you have. If you have feedback, I’m open to that as well. If you notice anything broken or acting funny, I urge you to let me know.

Thanks to those of you who saw the new theme ahead of time and gave me feedback, especially my little focus group that actually took the time to explore it and send me detailed notes. So very appreciative! I feel like this change (among other things) is going to lead to bigger things for me down the road and I’m beyond excited about it!

OH YEAH…the image at the top of this post. I shot it back in March whilst in Las Vegas. This was the road to El Dorado Canyon and of course I had to stop and get out. Clouds…awesome. Road…perfect. Done deal.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, iso 100, f/22, 17mm)

 

The winding road

(clickity click on the image for a biggity big version)

I know, a road shot right?

This is yet another shot from my trip to Nelson/El Dorado Canyon southeast of Las Vegas back in mid-March. The clouds, the light, the winding road…were almost too much fro me to handle. I saw too many shots I loved and had to reel myself in thinking “Do you really need 25 more road shots Mike??

My real, unabashed answer to that from deep inside me is YES…but in reality, certain road shots are special, most aren’t and you gotta know when it’s worth it.

This photo was actually unplanned…I had parked on the other side of the road and was shooting some Cholla cactus on a hillside that were amazing looking with the sunlight (you may remember this shot). But as I turned to walk back to the car, I just stopped and saw the road.

A quick pause here. I love being a photographer. I love looking at something and seeing beauty in it that perhaps another person would never notice. It’s something to embrace.

The image above, for me, was full of unique elements that made it worth shooting. First off the light shining further up the road. The second was the way the elevation slopes upwards instead of down. The way it winds right to left and then back right. The way it rises on the bends. The clouds. The hills.

Sometimes scenes like this one speak only to us, not others. Not everyone else is going to appreciate it, or love it the way I do. But that’s okay. Be proud of what you see and what you compose. Own it, grow it, get better at it.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.8, iso 100)

The open door

(click to view image larger in lightbox for a better look)

My life has become a lot about where I am currently located these days…either Phoenix or Las Vegas. The project at my day job has gotten really busy up there so my presence has been required more. It’s hard to travel to much, because I hate being away from my girls. But traveling does give me chances to see new places.

One of the recent visits I made included a trip to the ghost town of Nelson. I was a bit bummed to find out that the actual “real” ghost town part was still inhabited by people with lots of huge “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. In this kind of town…it’s a bit more dangerous to venture onto a property with one of those signs. You’re likely to get nailed by a shotgun or something.

Further down the road, however, I discovered that there was a sort of “touristy” version of Nelson with a lot of old vehicles, barns, mining equipment, etc., all laid out. I walked around it a bit…but I honestly felt little desire to photograph old things that had been places there for tourists. I’d rather find them in their natural element, if you get that.

One image I did take, the only one…was this old bus. I loved the setting sun shining through the windshield and the open door, making it something more unique than just a another photograph of an “abandoned” vehicle.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5.0)

 

The Gap

(To get more up close and personal, click on the image to view in lightbox)

Whatever. I love road shots. I’m sure people know this about me…but I make no apologies. Sometimes I think it’s almost cheating to shoot on the road, because you really don’t put a lot of work into it right? You just pull over, walk to the middle and shoot. It’s not like I hiked four hours to the middle of Yellowstone to capture something never seen before. I just stepped out of my car? It’s almost lame right?

Well, I think road shots helps capture the beauty of a country from the view that most of us see it from when we’re driving across it. But also…the way I treat road shots is that I’m looking for something unique. Shadows. Clouds. Landscape. Interesting features. I don’t just shoot any old road. There has to be a huge reason to make me pull the car over.

For example…in the image above: If it had been a clear day, I would never have stopped. It also just so happened that I LOVED the way the mountains and road basically disappear at a little gap in the horizon. I mean…that’s awesomeness right there.

I pay attention to how clouds contrast with the road too. Usually any type of clouds will work, but sometimes the best ones have opposing lines, or even parallel lines. The movement or direction of the clouds helps provide a contrast with the direction and look of your road.

I took this a few weeks ago as I was leaving El Dorado Canyon and the Nelson area. I was racing to capture the sunset that I posted on Wednesday (otherwise known as Se7en). But there was no way I was going to pass up this shot.

ON ANOTHER NOTE: Check out Chris Nitz Lego Wars competition! All the entries are in and they are fantastic!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/11, iso 100)

The Mighty Colorado

(click on the image for a lightbox version with a sexy dark frame)

I’d toss this into more of an abstract category that I like to do from time to time. Some of you know I was inspired a bit by the black and white work of Mitch Dobrowner and so from time to time I like to process my landscapes/stormscapes with a very stylized B&W treatment.

After my drive through El Dorado canyon last week outside of Las Vegas, I parked and walked down a wash to the Colorado River. The desert around this area was pretty stark. I mostly liked the mountains across the river and how the fading sunlight was falling on them.

I wanted to get a bit closer to the mountains so I used my 50mm 1.4 and slapped every ND filter I had on it, but they only added up to about 6-stops so I could only get around 10-12 seconds at f/22 before it was over-exposed.

Still, it gave the water an interesting texture anyways…so much so that when I processed it in B&W, it almost started to look less like water and more like some weird landscape.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100, 10 seconds)

 

The Seam


(clicking on the image may not give you a larger view depending on your resolution, but it will frame it in a lightbox nicely)

Traveling is harder for me than it used to be. I still hated being gone for weeks at a time from my wife, but now that we have a little girl…it’s a lot harder. We use FaceTime on the iPhone all the time now when I travel and while it makes things easier…it also kind of makes it more difficult to see those faces and not be close to them.

I used to just sit in my hotel room and veg out on these work trips, but lately I’ve tried to pass the time I’m away by exploring the places I’m staying. These days that is mostly Las Vegas.  I’ll get done working around 4-5pm and hit the pavement with the rental car to find something interesting out there. Last week it was Red Rock Canyon and the town of Nelson…both areas within about 45 minutes or less of Las Vegas.

The image above was taken in Red Rock Canyon, simply a beautiful place to explore. There is a nice road looping through the area with cool stops along the way…plus vistas that are definitely unique to this park. The photo may be a bit deceiving in a way because the red area up top isn’t really part of the foreground formation, but belongs to a  larger hill behind it.

I did something I don’t usually do with this photo…because of the wide angle and the closeness I have with the ground right in front of me…I shot two sets of brackets in live view. The first set I focused on the rocks in the background to get them crisp, and then I focused the next set on the foreground right in front of me. I then tonemapped both sets of exposures and blended them later in Photoshop before stylizing.

In hindsight, I have no idea why I wasn’t maxed at f/22 on this shot for this very reason…but that is likely one of those moments where one cannot recollect what your mind was thinking at the time *grin*

On a side note, my buddy Brian Matiash has been posting some of his own awesome shots of Red Rock and here is his similar entry from last week. I love the different looks he gives you with each of his shots from this area.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16)

Cholla Hill

(Clicking on the image gives you a sweeter look in lightbox)

This is another shot from my brief little trip to the Nelson/El Dorado Canyon area southeast of Las Vegas on Wednesday. I have to say…I’ve really been loving these little trips after working on the road. I do a little research the night before (or the day of) and find something that looks interesting. Since I’m working with locals, I ask them if they know anything cool close by and then scout it out on Google Maps.

This hilltop jumped out at me. It was literally peppered with hundreds of Cholla cactus…something we also know as “Jumping Cactus” around these parts. There is a special reason for that, a fact you out-of-towners may need to pay attention to since I’ve heard a few of you would LOVE to visit Arizona someday (we have these there too, they aren’t only in Nevada).

Jumping cactus grow just fine and aren’t much of a threat…but when those lower growths start to die, they fall off and disperse/pile-up on the desert floor. The big issue is…if you walk over these dead needles in a pair of normal sneakers…prepare to have some sharp pains in your foot very quickly. The needles seem to “jump” at your shoe and burrow their way into them and right into your foot. And really it’s not just your shoe, but your entire body. Keep clear if you can.

Here’s a shot of a poor soul who had no idea.

I loved this scene. The sun was setting on the left side of the frame and really lit up the tops of each cactus. You usually see these all over, but it’s a little more rare to find a giant “forest” of them like this.

It’s amazing how much photography has made me appreciate the deserts. I just love exploring them these days.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100)