By Kerry Drager
The Las Vegas Strip is always a colorful treat for night photography. On a recent 5-day trip, I devoted time each evening for shooting the Nevada city's bright lights. With my DSLR camera, a single lens (a 50mm "prime" or non-zoom lens), and a small tripod, I spent a string of refreshingly creative times exploring - and photographing at night - in one of the most visually exciting cities around.
The accompanying sequence (see below) was shot from virtually the same spot in front of the Bellagio hotel. My primary goal was to photograph the fantastic fountain performance. As show time neared and people started lining up along the fence in front of the hotel's huge front pool, I found a nice lineup of viewers to serve as silhouetted foreground figures.
As I often do in tricky low light photography, I started things off with a quick grab shot to check the highlight warning on my LCD monitor - i.e., that my exposures weren't blasting out any important bright areas. Due to the extreme lighting contrast, having the fountain show good detail meant that the shadowed figures in front would be silhouetted, which was just what I wanted.
For these fountain silhouette shots, I was able to shoot around 1/30th of a second, thanks to the use of ISOs ranging from 400 to 800 (which, with my Nikon D3, yield very little noise). Still, to play it safe, since digital camera exposure can be tricky in low light, I set my DSLR for continuous shooting in order to fire off a rapid burst of images. When photographing in low light with some subject movement, I usually choose my camera's continuous shooting mode that almost always ensures sharpness in at least some pictures in the sequence. (Nature photographers frequently use this "trick" when shooting flowers or other delicate plants when there's a breeze.)
After the light and water show ended, I discovered the graphic-design repetition and pattern of the Bellagio's decorative fence. I kneeled down for a low-angle perspective and worked the scene for a variety of compositions.