Las Vegas, an unlikely, but surprisingly great place for a family spring break

Red Rock Canyon - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon – Near Las Vegas, Nevada

We weren’t planning anything for spring break this year. Actually, we hardly ever do. A week just seems too short to bother with and it’s a good excuse to just catch up and relax at home. But, at the last-minute, my wife said she found “reasonably” priced airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. In Las Vegas!

I’ve only been to Vegas once, for a couple of days, a few years ago. The rest of the family has never been. I still have these notions of a city of wild parties and boring business conventions or perhaps a mix of both. I didn’t think it was a proper destination for a family trip.

Textures, Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada

But looking at Google Maps, I discovered a treasure trove of natural parks close by. Red Rock Canyon was a mere 30 minutes west of the famed Las Vegas Strip. The Valley of Fire State Park, an hour east. My older son was itching to go hiking and a 30 minute drive beats a 7 hour expedition to Big Bend, so things started to look interesting.

New York New York Facade - Las Vegas, Nevada
Venetian Details - Las Vegas, Nevada
Aria Curves - Las Vegas, Nevada

Of course, photographically, it could be interesting too. My recent first trip to Big Bend National Park was my introduction to hiking and landscape photography. I felt comfortable following up with another trip — at least I already had the hiking boots and photography backpack. Then, of course, there’s always the wild, kitschy and exuberant Las Vegas architecture. That would fit in great with my urban landscape interests.

We had a great time. We went to Red Rock Canyon twice as well as the Valley of Fire. We did some night life things too, in moderation. We saw two shows and walked through some of the more dramatic showcase hotels. Each family member got to do some of their favorite things.

Mountains near Red Rock Canyon - Near Las Vegas, Nevada
The Tree and the Mountain, Red Rock Canyon - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

I shot photos of course. That was my main interest beyond spending quality time with the family. I couldn’t shoot as much as I wanted, though I’m sure, the family thought I shot more than any normal person should. It’s a delicate balance. I also, hesitantly, brought 4 cameras on the trip — two digital and two film plus the iPhone.

Glitter and Shine, Cosmopolitan - Las Vegas, Nevada
Casino with Glitter - Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas

I was testing the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and also had my small Pentax Q7, mainly for black and whites. On the film side, I brought my chunky medium format Mamiya 645E and the compact Nikon 35Ti. All, packed into a 15 pound package, which I managed to successfully pass through TSA checkpoints. I even got them to hand check the film.

Calico Tanks, Red Rock Canyon - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

The hiking was more challenging than my first trip to Big Bend. I carried the said 15 pound package plus a 3 pound tripod up a trail rated moderately strenuous. The Mamiya was the heaviest and most bulky. I wondered if it’s worth the effort but then I see the colors that I got from film and I’m encouraged.

It was a fun mix of nature and the man-made. Day time outdoor activities and night-time glitz. A lot more photos to come.

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7 thoughts on “Las Vegas, an unlikely, but surprisingly great place for a family spring break

  1. Great shots all around but I have to say that little Pentax’s black and white files really impress me. Makes me want one. Looks like it struggles to hold the highlights a little. The look is very “noir” though and I really like it. The web sized landscape images don’t do you justice. The landscape shots you showed me on your retina Macbook were absolutely stunning.

    Vegas can be somewhat inexpensive, depending on where you stay and when you go. I went last year and stayed in the Luxor for about $50 a night during the week. Weekends are much higher and special events can drive up prices.

    1. Thank you, Mike. I really do like the Pentax Q7, it’s fun camera. The dynamic range is definitely reduced, the highlights are clipped and the shadows are clobbered, but’s that part of the look I guess. There are ways to get black and whites that don’t do that. I opted to go for this “noir” look as you call it.

      The web sizes are definitely a limitation, perhaps even more for landscapes. I would love to see these images in full-res on a Retina 5K iMac. That should look truly wonderful.

      Yup, there are inexpensive hotels and if you go towards downtown, even cheaper ones I imagine. Though perhaps bit more scary.

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