This was my introduction to the Vegas of the east coast.
I was contracted to come along as a shooter for another media company, and we were there to shoot a couple corporate videos and help document a realtor convention--glamorous stuff, right?? But we also had a few big chunks of downtime that were either relaxing or fun or both, and the two guys I traveled with were friends and fun guys.
I had just recently started shooting photos in RAW format on my phone using Lightroom Mobile, so I was experimenting with the possibilities and taking way too many photos. It was a super early-morning flight, so that presented some opportunities that don't come by day. And I'm a sucker for airplane window shots, so I'm always trying to figure out how to get a better one.
Also, I don't know why I always talk myself into believing I can hold a camera steady for long exposures. But I have to try. I can't not.
One of my favorite things about traveling is that it for some reason makes me feel like I have a license to take photos in a way that I don't when I'm in my hometown.
That's probably because when I'm traveling I'm often in congested public spaces where people aren't really paying attention to what I'm doing.
Lens flares on iPhones rarely look great but I love how it turned out in this first shot. Might of been because it was morning, or the light was partially diffused by the ceiling windows? It came out much softer than usual. I love when great lighting collides with mundane moments in highly populated areas.
We landed in Philadelphia and hit the ground running.
We shot a few scenes of Clint as a mysterious man in black at various spots. I'm not going to try to explain the premise of the video...lol...suffice to say that it was a tongue-in-cheek take on a spy movie. It was really fun to film a specific genre like that!
We then drove to Atlantic City, where we filmed at the convention. I shot b-roll of the convention and tried to make it look fun--which it was, depending on which booth you visited!
This whole project was interesting for me because for the first time I was just a shooter instead of project manager, interviewer, audio recorder, and editor. I was just filming as Mike directed and Clint boomed the mic and monitored audio. It was nice not having to keep my energy up to get the best out of the interviews, and Mike was great at that since he's an extrovert.
This was a challenging scene to light.
I have very little experience working with artificial lighting, so this part of the shoot was, to be honest, a little intimidating. I felt confident in what I could do once it was lit right, but I had to try a lot of different things before we finally got the dramatic look we were going for.
This is a skill I'm wanting to learn and a direction I'm wanting to move as a filmmaker--one who works beyond natural light. So this was a great experience and a great step towards that goal.
We stayed at "The Trop", as the locals called it.
This thing was a massive resort! We got lost almost every single time we tried to go anywhere. Seriously. The photo on the right is Mike on his phone getting an Uber in the morning after nearly 20 minutes of trying to find where the shuttles come for the convention center.
Parts of the resort were really neat but most of it smelled like a bowling alley and the casino area was a little depressing. Not to be Debbie Downer, but I do sometimes feel a conviction to un-gloss the glossy portrayal of certain aspects of my trips!
I will say, we ate at one of my favorite restaurants ever the first night we were there: Dock's Oyster House, an upscale restaurant that was started in 1897. As soon as I stepped in I felt like I'd walked onto a movie set where things are way cooler than they ever are in real life.
There was a live piano player playing jazzy tunes on an old piano, and a glamorous, dimly-lit bar area decorated for Christmas time crowded with people who looked like they could all be well-dressed extras in a classy Ryan Gosling movie. It just felt like I'd stepped into something timeless and wonderful, like a scene from White Christmas or something. I know, you get it--it was like a scene from a movie. Well, I just can't stress that enough. It was so cool. And the food was incredible.
The atmosphere of the place was such that I felt a little embarrassed gawking and taking photos with my phone, so I emerged only with a short video I took on my phone to share the bar atmosphere with my wife, and a quick photo of our food to send her as well.
That's how it goes with traveling--usually the best moments are so amazing that they don't get documented.
After our day of shooting we went out on the boardwalk for an evening stroll.
It was unseasonably warm (although still chilly) so it was a great night to get some fresh air and enjoy the atmosphere--and even see the ocean. Which, as you know, is pretty creepy at night. But from the shore the view of the resort was pretty spectacular. And the boardwalk was very charming.
These four shots on the shore were shot with my iPhone as Mike was shooting with the a7s.
The two edits of Clint are a good example of making the most of a RAW photo as I had the flexibility to alter the white balance in post, which gave me the ability to create drastically different edits.
The shot is grainy and a little out of focus, but man...we're taking shots like this on our phones! That was like a 2-second exposure, I think. Looks like I pulled back the highlights in the second one to make the sky darker and bring in the detail of the bright marquee lights.
After a second day of shooting we decided to reward ourselves for our efforts and have a little fun.
We cozied into a tiny karaoke bar in the resort and belted out some tunes with some drunk businessmen who, when assembled together, looked like a real-life SNL skit.
They weren't as funny as they thought they were, but I found that in itself to be amusing. They came in about 20 minutes after Mike and Clint sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart", and giggled through a rendition of, you guessed it, "Total Eclipse of the Heart". The DJ was kind enough to have them sing a slightly dancey, remixed version so the rest of us didn't have to hear the same thing twice, but it was an ironic performance as they clearly thought they were pretty clever for picking that song. To be fair, I'm pretty sure the song is a karaoke staple after Will Ferrell's "Old School" introduced a newer, funnier, more profane version to the world.
I convinced Clint to do Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart", and I sang "Rock n' Roll" by Led Zeppelin and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by JET. We had a blast.
This shot was taken at ISO 12,800
Not. Bad. And this was on the original a7s--I've shot with the a7s2, which is even better. I'm now waiting for the a7s3 which is rumored to be coming in the first quarter of 2018...I'm hoping it will be my b-camera and my travel photography camera. And I'm hoping it has 10-bit video! We'll see.
This shot also was taken from about 3 feet away, which probably isn't my normal preference for a shot of two people......but that also interestingly contributed to the candid, fun nature of the photo since the composition communicates that it was taken rather hastily.
The next morning came way too soon.
When we were staying up late and enjoying ourselves I was blissfully unaware that we'd be getting up at 4 am to drive back to Philadelphia and catch an early flight to head back to Indy. I was saying good night around 1 am and that's when Mike told me what time we were leaving and I was like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I hadn't yet considered that we were in Atlantic City but were flying out of Philadelphia.
The upside was that I got some neat shots during The Other Blue Hour...you know, the one that happens just before the sun comes up. I love shooting blue hour photos and footage, so this was fun.