We’re just back from a weekend in Las Vegas, and of course, I packed my camera. I thought I would try and capture some of the “Lights of Las Vegas”.  Paris may be the “City of Light”, but Las Vegas is definitely “The city of lights”.


Look at all these colors! (1.6 sec, f5.3, 24 mm, ISO 100)

I’ve had the opportunity to shoot other cities at dusk or dawn, but none seem to have the variety of colors that Las Vegas offers.


Even the parking deck looks good all lit up! (1/40 sec, f2.8, 56mm, ISO 3200)

Adding to the interest level, Las Vegas also offers a variety of building structures and architecture. Where else would you see the fairy tale turrets of the Excalibur next to the skyscrapers of New York City?


Excalibur in the middle and NY, NY on the right. (5 sec, f8, 70 mm, ISO 100)

The challenge with capturing the city lights is they show up best at pre-dawn, dusk or night. These low light conditions are best shot with a tripod as they require slow shutter speeds to let more light into the camera. Although my tripod is wonderful, it is not practical for a weekend trip with carryon luggage. Hence, the reason most of us end up with blurry night-time photos.


Colors of Sunrise Reflected on the Mirrored Building Windows (1/160 sec, f2.8, 62mm, ISO 800)


The other option, the one I was banking on, is to go with a higher ISO. A higher ISO setting increases the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light; the trade off being that a the higher ISO also introduces more noise. You’ve seen those grainy photos, right?


Lights come on in Las Vegas as the Sunsets (1/60 sec, f3.5, 70mm, ISO 400)


So what technique do you think I used to capture these photos:

  • Balance the camera on rooftop railing as a makeshift tripod, and use a timer with low ISO and low shutter speed?
  • Lean into the building and hold real steady?
  • Use a real high ISO and go for it?

If you said, “all of the above”, you are correct. Once again, its all about the light.