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It’s safe to say that the majority of people who visit Las Vegas don’t go there for the desert wildlife, at least not the kind of wildlife you’d find on a nature programme. Las Vegas is all the glamour and overindulgence of America encapsulated in one city: it’s brash, over the top and unapologetic about just how ritzy it is. Chances for a photograph not only come in the neon tawdry of the theme park style casinos but also in the diverse people that gamble in them as well as those outside who gambled it all away.
A ten hour direct flight from the UK is possible with airlines such as BMi and Las Vegas’ McCarran airport is a short taxi ride from the Strip where most of the hotels are located.
Things to see
Just standing on Las Vegas’ main street, the Strip, is an experience in it’s self – where else in the world can you see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and a giant pyramid on the same stretch of tarmac? The four mile long Strip is home to some of the largest casinos, hotels and resorts in the world and with all of them fighting for the attentions and dollars of tourists everything here is about lavish excess.
At the very north end of the Strip is the Stratosphere hotel and casino which, as it’s a much longer walk from many of the popular casinos, has to offer something really special to draw the crowds. The Stratosphere Tower is the tallest structure in Nevada at 1149 foot and from the top the views of the neatly planned out city and stark desert hills beyond it are remarkable and definitely worth capturing, particularly at night.
Travel further north and you’re in downtown Las Vegas and the birth place of the city. Downtown Vegas offers a slightly seedier side of the city and doesn’t reek with as much falsity as many of the newer casinos. Much has changed since the early days of the city and an entire street has been transformed into the Fremont Street Experience – a pedestrianised area where a huge roof which doubles up as a giant TV screen covers the older buildings to protect them from the elements. The famous signs for Glitter Gulch and the 75 foot tall cowboy beckoning gamblers with his thumb are found here as well as the older casinos such as the Golden Nugget and The Four Queens, which feel more like a trip to a huge sea front arcade, unlike their grander counterparts at the southern end. Although much of the mystic of this area was lost when it was covered over there are still some superb chances to photograph true vintage Vegas with Elvis look-a-likes, sparkling show girls and old fashioned one armed bandits.
At the opposite end of town to the south of the strip are the casinos which are tourist attractions in their own right; these hulking monstrosities of excess come in every shape but the size is always the same – big. Photography highlights include New York-New York which is a not so mini replica of Manhattan including the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. The theme of the Big Apple continues inside and it even features it’s own Central Park area complete with riverside restaurants, trees and Manhattan side streets with fruit machines and poker tables in between.
The huge and daunting black pyramid of the Luxor hosts an ancient Egypt theme and if the pyramid wasn’t a give away then the giant sphinx guarding the entrance makes this theme evident. Although it may not been as breathtaking as a real trip to Egypt, it is worth capturing the Vegas interpretation of the pyramids and pharaohs in true outlandishness.
There is a darker side to Vegas, one where the house has well and truly won and stripped people of everything. As well as a glitzy casino on each corner there is usually a person with a sign asking for gambling money to win something back or just asking for food, a sharp reminder that too much excess comes at a price.
At night the south end of the Strip is like a shimmering stretch of gold in the desert with the lights from each casino trying to shine brighter than their neighbours. Exploring the casinos day or night will take you from Venice (The Venetian) to medieval England (Excalibur) to pirate filled waters (Treasure Island) and many places in between, all of which will keep your camera busy.