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03-15-2012, 11:00 AM   #1
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Going to the Las Vegas desert with my camera....

...and I'm looking for suggestions on where to shoot. I have been to Vegas several times to party/gamble. I've spent weekends there without even seeing the light of day. This time however I'm going to shoot in the desert. No gambling or partying. I will be visiting a friend that is house sitting. I will be there for a week near the end of May. I'm thinking Red Rock, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Maybe even a few hours drive to Death Vally or Zion. Any other suggestions? I'd love to find some great places close by. Thanks!

03-15-2012, 11:19 AM   #2
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Well, you listed all the right places that I know of. You can always check out this site Photograph America Newsletter | Travel Newsletter for Photographers | by Robert Hitchman. The author has great guides on lots of places. I might say that Death Valley anytime after early April is going to be H O T and I'd avoid it.

Just did Bryce Canyon and Zion last fall, awesome places really and within the general vicinity of them are lots of other things to see. They are a bit far from LV though more than a day trip really.
03-15-2012, 12:50 PM   #3
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Mojave Desert, Nellis Air Force base, Area 51/Racher (if you are into that kind of this - but really, there is not much around to see).
03-15-2012, 12:51 PM   #4
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Thanks for the heads up about the heat in Death Valley. I suppose I expect it would be hot. Maybe too hot though.

Any good places in town to shoot? Maybe from the top of the Stratosphere? Is there a sign graveyard?

03-15-2012, 01:28 PM   #5
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Most of the good stuff is listed above. For a different view, speed past Hoover Dam to Kingman, then take US93 toward Wickenburg and slow down. Some miles past Wikieup, take AZ97 and AZ96 east past Bagdad, and AZ89 north to Prescott. This whole route crosses some of the most splendid High Mohave terrain (and I've been wandering the Mohave for 5+ decades). From historic Prescott, don't miss vertical Jerome and red-rock Sedona and fabulous Oak Creek Canyon via AZ89A. I'm selling my historic adobe house on the Mexican border; if I were staying in Arizona, I'd move to Prescott (and not just because I have a sister there).

If you visit Zion, go north just a little to Cedar Breaks Nat.Mon. Be sure to take an oxygen mask; that's HIGH country. Wander around the Markagunt Plateau between Cedar Breaks and Panguitch and Hatch. Roll down to Kanab and maybe to Jacob Lake. (North Rim of the Grand Canyon is inaccessible till around Memorial Day.) Eyeball the polygamists' huge houses around Colorado City, south of Zion. West of Zion, UT18 north of St George runs through splendid joshua-tree country. Then cut back west to Panaca and Caliente (see below).

QuoteOriginally posted by song_hm Quote
Mojave Desert, Nellis Air Force base, Area 51/Racher (if you are into that kind of this - but really, there is not much around to see).
That should be, Area 51 / Rachel. And yes, it's pretty dead there, although the loop through nearby Tempiute is rather picturesque. I've been in Rachel for a couple of fairly major events but those UFO parties just don't happen anymore. And it's a LONG way out there. In that direction, Caliente (pronounced kal-YEN-nee by locals) is more interesting, whether or not a monster cross-desert race is scheduled.

Last edited by RioRico; 03-15-2012 at 02:09 PM.
03-15-2012, 01:35 PM   #6
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Wow! THATS what I'm talkin about! Thanks Rio! I knew I'd get good insider information here. Keep it coming
03-15-2012, 09:59 PM   #7
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Just where ever you go, take plenty of water and sport drinks, and I am not talking a couple of bottles either. Take gallons with you. Dehydration is a silent killer.
03-16-2012, 02:11 PM   #8
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One question, when will you visit?

That area in the summer is quite different than the area in the wintertime. If you go to the desert at certain times of year you will encounter high winds and a lot of sand, dust, bugs, etc. Also, very hot days and very cold nights.

So, I would take a good camera with one single multipurpose zoom lens, eg. 28-250, so that you would not need to change lenses in a harsh environment. If you enjoy shooting vista, then something like a 10-20mm would be nice.

Regular dust is hard enough or a camera, but I would hate to think of desert sand and a SLR sensor!

03-16-2012, 03:23 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by thebigcat Quote
...and I'm looking for suggestions on where to shoot. I have been to Vegas several times to party/gamble. I've spent weekends there without even seeing the light of day. This time however I'm going to shoot in the desert. No gambling or partying. I will be visiting a friend that is house sitting. I will be there for a week near the end of May. I'm thinking Red Rock, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Maybe even a few hours drive to Death Vally or Zion. Any other suggestions? I'd love to find some great places close by. Thanks!
Valley of Fire is one of my favorite places.




Red Rock Cyn was nice but not as impressive, at least the only time I was there.




Death Valley is pretty spread out, and can't be done in a day.






Zion is awesome but a bit of a drive and takes a couple days, really. This was a 6-hour round-trip hike.



Oh, there is a sign graveyard in LV. One day a week, with appointment weeks in advance. But, some are on display at Fremont St.









Almost forgot the dam.



Last edited by SpecialK; 04-24-2012 at 11:44 AM.
03-16-2012, 04:17 PM   #10
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Desert survival: Yes, stay hydrated. If you aren't sweating a lot, one quart gatorade plus a few quarts water daily should do. If you ARE sweating, two quarts gatorade (no more per day) and a gallon or more water. Don't chop up cacti, they don't contain water. Wear a hat and brightly-colored clothes. Don't go barefoot or bare-ass. Know where you are -- don't wander out of sight of known landmarks. Don't reach into unseen spaces -- critters there may object. Avoid washes on cloudy days. Et cetera.

Lens-camera survival: I've lived and shot in deserts and seacoasts (among other places). I find seacoasts to be the harsher environment. No, I don't try to change lenses when winds are moving sand -- I don't even aim into the wind. I change lenses inside a shelter, like a car or a changing bag. But WR or extreme paranoia just aren't justified.

Lens selection: On my stay in and around Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, I mostly used: DA18-250 (big outdoors), Tamron 10-24 (big indoors), DA10-17 (tight spaces). Valley of Fire, Mt Charleston: DA18-250. Inside the Venetian: the ultrawides. Et cetera. In lesser light I whipped out 28/2, 50/1.4, and 85/2 lenses, and sometimes the Raynox DCR-250. But if I'm staying in the field for awhile, I take the same approach as I do in a town: The DA18-250 to shoot obvious stuff the first day. Note areas of special interest. On subsequent days, work with selected primes for best effect.

Deserts are subtle. Midday is usually not the best time to see and record the subtlety. Subtlety escapes snapshots, once-overs, hyperactivity. Slow down. Feel the rhythms. Sit and observe. There's an awful lot there.

Last edited by RioRico; 03-16-2012 at 04:26 PM.
03-17-2012, 02:39 AM   #11
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Death Valley is no problem with heat until late May--with occasional exceptions, of course. Last year I went first week of May and weather in the basins was just right....actually got stuck in snow at some of the higher altitudes! So by all means, go to DV in May!

Red Rocks is the closest desert place to Vegas to check out--it's good in the afternoon because the warm sun is lighting the red rocks then. Also, check out some of the slot canyons on the western side of the park. These will be in shadow in the pm, but you can shoot out toward the bright east; maybe consider exposure stack or HDR to deal with the high contrast.
03-17-2012, 02:16 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the tips on handling the environment also. I dont think I just fell off the turnip truck, but I am a city slicker and don;t fret the environment much. I have thought of these things though and do consider the weight of their seriousness. Thanks for stressing the points.

I really don't worry too much about dust. I feel if I leave it alone it will leave me alone and havent had any major issues with dust on a sensor. Do I have to be extraordinarily careful when changing lenses or just exercise common sense? I also dont use filters just to protect my lens. I've never had a problem but I can scrape up a few if its considered essential. Is it?

Perhaps my favorite advice though is from Rio about sitting and observing and appreciating the subtlety. This applies to most everywhere and is something I have been overlooking as of late. I hit a dry spell and didnt shoot much at all over Winter. I've yet to find my "eye" this Spring. This piece of advice may be just what I have needed regardless of my pending vacation.
03-17-2012, 02:25 PM   #13
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As to the gear I'm bringing I think I'm bringing everything except my M lenses (see signature below). I can fit it all in my Lowepro backpack easily. I generally like wide. I know I'm covering that with the 10-20 and the 15 but they really have different characteristics and the 15 is so small theres always room for it to tag along. Plus the 15 has much less flare.

I wish I had a better tripod though. I'm bringing the ever popular cheap Dolica I got as my first tripod. I do also have the Slik Pro 700dx which is so solid you can take tack sharp long exposure shots during an earthquake but the thing is sooo heavy.
03-17-2012, 05:31 PM   #14
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Vegas is our favorite non-gambling desert vacation escape (from Oregon).

A couple quiet, close places that are fun for photography: The Henderson sewage ponds, which have a nice walkway for bird observation, and Wetlands Park, a few miles east of the Strip near Tropicana.

Also, a little north of the megalopolis, check out Corn Creek in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
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