I got it in, just under the gun. About to turn 40 years old, I found myself in the somewhat awkward position of never having visited the nation's capital of excess, Las Vegas, Nevada. Fortunately, a business convention put me on a flight out of JFK last Friday, bound for Sin City.
My partying days long gone, the only trouble I was hoping to get into was the somewhat difficult task of photographing neon signs along downtown Las Vegas' "old strip" on Fremont Street. While the larger than life casinos of "The (new) Strip" provided compelling photo opps, quite frankly, as a New Yorker, the faux pyramids, arches, and fountains along Las Vegas Boulevard were somewhat underwhelming. And let's not even talk about the plastic-looking "New York, New York" hotel and casino.
I was more drawn to the vintage neon of Fremont Street, otherwise known as the "old strip". Here, much smaller, hokier casinos are jammed next to each other in a kitschy paradise of 99 cent shrimp cocktails, open containers, and street performers.
As I mentioned, shooting neon can be tough - exposure is easy enough, but the vibrant colors of the signs can often be tough to reproduce. This is because each neon tube uses different chemicals to produce different colors, which can really throw your camera off. Your best bet is to shoot in RAW format, if your camera allows it. You can then adjust the colors in post-production. If you don't have RAW capability, your best bet is to shoot on your camera's "florescent" setting - you'll get decent results.
While I don't know that I'd go out of my way to return to Vegas, I'd highly recommend doing it at least once. If you're not drawn to the gambling or other vices, the photo ops make it a worthwhile destination.