Amid a pandemic, two girlfriends from Louisiana and a photographer from New York decided to fly for a 3-day photoshoot in Las Vegas. Here’s what came out.
One October day in 2020, my adventurous world-trotter Alia who already flew me to Dominican Republic for daring underwater photography, contacted me with the next project. She planned to be in Las Vegas, NV in December. Not only is she a scuba diver but also a yoga fan. You see, a fan aiming for the epic backdrops for her yoga moves. And so is her girlfriend who’d also come along.
Alia had previously visited the Red Rock Canyon just 16 miles outside of Vegas and pictured herself posing yoga there.
The plan sounded familiar: I had already traveled to Vegas for photoshoots twice. First, for a mind-blowing engagement session for my client from Georgia in 2017 in the Antelope Canyon and second, during my 2018 cross-country RV photo tour when my New York client did her snazzy photoshoot in Las Vegas, followed by a spectacular Grand Canyon backdrop. There are cool spots within a drive from the Sin City if you tire of it! So, the plan was to get there and load as much photography as we could into their schedule.
I flew in on Friday afternoon and suggested we shoot immediately. It would give us the night city to embrace the COVID-diminished but still sparkling glory of The Strip. Alia couldn’t make it to this portion of photoshoot in Las Vegas, unfortunately, so I gave all the attention to her friend Stephanie. We started by the Fountains of Bellagio, then turned across the street to capture the Eiffel Tower of Paris Las Vegas. I used my portable lights.
It was December night, cold even for a Nevada desert—temperature dropped to 34F that night. Steph froze soon, so we wrapped up. Her open-toe high heels were particularly torturing, and I offered her my spare warm socks (always have them in my backpack). There I was, walking a lady in the socks to her Las Vegas hotel at midnight… She planned to return them later but forgot, ordering a set of new socks for my entire family! Not just some plain socks but sporting prints of a camera, Cyrillic letters, and funky cats for the girls!
The streets were far from crowded but there were tourists, and almost as many living photo props from the Marvel and Disney universes. Unlike in Times Square, you can also take exotic snapshots with the carnival-ready showgirls who always work in pairs.
I woke up at 4 AM after a 3-hour sleep. We aimed to meet the sunrise at the Red Rock Canyon. The ladies picked me up from my hotel and we drove into the dark desert. It just dawned, so the temperature was still near freezing. The theme was yoga… barefoot and in thin yoga outfits! Their blankets were coming off and on between the shots but the toes were going numb on the cold ground. I rubbed them to boost the circulation and the mood. It got quite better when the sun came and the temperature rose into 60s.
During our pre-trip discussions of our photoshoot in Las Vegas, I shared my idea of also going glam in a desert. I’ve done something similar in the White Sands National Park but it was over 100F then and dressing up wouldn’t be easy. This time, with the daytime temps in the 60s, they could comfortably handle some garments.
Problem is, although they say Las Vegas is in the middle of the Mojave Desert, it’s not that sandy type of desert you may think of. Although it is the driest desert in North America, the soils is fairly solid and covered with vegetation. Nothing like the soft endless White Sands. Yet, we researched and found a workable patch of dunes — Nellis Sand Dunes. Not only is it just 15 miles north of Vegas, but it’s also free to enter! They primarily use the ground for ATV tours but you can find a pristine spot with a bit of sandy background.
The time was limited to accommodate my clients’ afternoon business plans. We also lost some of it when mis-routed by navigation into a private land with “No trespassing” signs. Not knowing the local gun rules, we turned around and kept scouting the horizon. Finally found it, spent about an hour shooting, then rushed back to the city.
The ladies toured the Grand Canyon on a helicopter the following, third day. I asked if they’d be interested in shooting there but the logistics weren’t favorable so I just stood in the room first half of the day.
The fun came later! For the concluding part of this adventurous photoshoot in Las Vegas, I headed to their penthouse at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The suite featured a golden cage to get your pretty bird vibes going. The girlfriends again donned stunning costumes of a bird and a cat. Swanky boots and shoes, too!
I then spent time with Alia to do a biz-chic series on the 70-something floor balcony with the Vegas skyline in the background. The suit then fell off, and we touched on a boudoir feel.
All the adventures end and so had this one. Alia and Steph opted for a smashing photoshoot in Las Vegas finale—a slumber party! I was speechless to see the setup. Turns out, Alia has a take at event planning and décor! In case you missed it from her previous blog, she’s a clinical research quality assurance consultant, auditor, and health educator. I know her from my previous 11-year-long corporate life at pharmaceutical. That’s her trade, yet she packs so much else into an exquisite package!
So there’s your dessert in a desert, ladies and gentlemen. Boxes of PinkBox Donuts trophies and cakes decorated by Alia. I hope you’re not hungry.
We ate the spoils during and after the shoot. I took some excess goodies out, offering them to those Mickey Mice, Stormtroopers, showgirls, and my cleaning lady.
The following morning, travelled back to JFK where my wife and youngest daughter would conveniently fly from a 2-month trip to Moldova the following day. As usual, I just slept in my Zotel near the airport.
Don’t I have a fired up behind-the-scenes video for you! Not always do I get to document during a shoot, much less on a video (even if just a phone). Ain’t easy to mind both the camera and a phone but I tried to capture interesting moments. You may recall such approach in 2019 during a busy week with 5 shoots between NYC, Philadelphia, DC, and Miami. This Nevada project, however, was the only trip in 2020, amidst the cancelled weddings, including one in Europe. I’m infinitely thankful to Alia who organized it all despite the pandemic and air travel woes and turned this photoshoot in Las Vegas into one of the best highlights of 2020!