Saturday, 29 November 2008

8 Days to Act: Project 551

Been to Seaworld at San Diego and managed to get this shot at the Shamu Show. I was reminded of my photo submissions [also here, here, and here] to International Fund for Animal Welfare's IFAW] Project 551.

Watching these so-called "killer whales" in action again; after more than ten years at the same venue, gave me a renewed appreciation of the fine rescue and scientific work Seaworld is doing for these and other animals.

By the way there is only eight days to act and support IFAW's Project 551.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mandalay Bay and Luxor

"On December 31, 1996, the Hacienda was imploded to make way for the Mandalay Bay. During construction engineers discovered that one side of the tower had sunk about two feet (600 mm) stopping construction. Construction was delayed while a solution was designed and tested. Eventually they were able to add material below the structure to carry the weight. Since then, there have not been any reports of this problem recurring.The gold colouring of the hotel is a result of gold leaf used on the windows.

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is a 39-story luxury hotel casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas. It is owned by MGM Mirage. The top five floors (floors 35-39) of the main hotel building are used by the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas.[1] It is connected by the free Mandalay Bay Tram to its sister properties, Excalibur and Luxor.

In keeping with the resort's tropical theme, it features a saltwater aquarium, the Shark Reef Aquarium, which contains the third largest tank in North America. Shark Reef Aquarium contains numerous other exhibits, including two tunnel-shaped, walk-through aquarium. Another popular attraction is the House of Blues, a venue for live music and a restaurant, with a capacity of approximately 1,800. On the top floor of the hotel is the House of Blues Foundation Room, featuring a dining room, private dining rooms, and a balcony looking down the Las Vegas Strip.

There are 24 restaurants and caf├ęs at the resort.[3] Michael Mina, Charlie Palmer, Hubert Keller, Wolfgang Puck and Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Too Hot Tamales) are all associated with restaurants on the property."

[Source Wikipedia.]

Saturday, 22 November 2008


"The MGM Grand Las Vegas is a hotel casino located on the Las Vegas Strip, which opened as a Hollywood themed resort. The MGM Grand Las Vegas is the second largest hotel in the world and second largest hotel resport complex in the United States behind The Venetian[1][2]

Originally, the main entrance on the Strip was inside the mouth of a giant cartoon-like version of MGM's mascot, Leo the Lion, but this entrance feature was changed to a more traditional entrance; many Chinese gamblers avoided the casino or entered through the back entrance, due to the feng shui belief that entering the mouth of the lion was "bad luck." [8] In 1998, a large bronze statue of Leo was added above the entrance to keep with the MGM Lion theme, while not scaring away their more superstitious guests. The statue weighs 50 tons, and at 45 feet (14 m) tall, on a 25-foot pedestal, is the largest bronze statue in the U.S. [4] (Source wiki)"

Above is a detailed photo of one of the numerous statues in front of the MGM Grand. Pictures taken hand held [no tripod], no flash, just cropped to show more details.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Le Reve at Wynn

This is one of the very few (a couple at most) pictures I took before this show started: Le Reve or The Dream. The show was one of the best I've seen ever, see a youtube snippet here - obviously this low resolution version does not do justice to the whole production. I was not game enought to contravene the usual directive of "no photography or video" rule, as this will also take away the experience of being in a "series of imperfect dreams".

We paid half price as you can get tickets at half price of the normal retail amount from various outlets (we got ours from my nephew who is a US military retiree). The seats were the best as the theatre was arranged, as you can see from above picture; in a circular pattern. The higher I guess the better as you can see better the production from that vantage point.

How can I explain the experience? Like a dream - It is so theatrical with hints of magic, dancing, acrobatics, synchronised swimming, etc. - much like the genre that Cirque du Soleil pioneered. Obviously with Franco Dragone one of the creators of Cirque, hence the "Cirque-ness" production similarities.

"Le Reve was created by internationally acclaimed director Franco Dragone and you will noticed the similarities to a few other shows in Las Vegas. (Celine Dion’s A New Day, 'O', Mystere), Le Reve, takes place in the spectacular aquatic in-the-round dome theater conceptualized by Dragone and it gives you a sense of feeling involved in the show. You will feel as if you are in fact a part of the show instead of the show happening in front of you." 1

According to Dragone: "My aim with Le Reve is to create an entirely new universe, to transport everyone into a world where the theater, performance and audience become one and the same reality." 2

If we had enough time (and money!) in Vegas, we would have seen more shows in this genre plus the usual Vegas revues and less time on the poker machines!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Cloud over Vegas

Pedestrian View

Taken from the pedestrian bridge: left, Las Vegas' Fashion Show Mall, the old Frontier sign and the Wynn Hotel and Casino building. I was fascinated by the flying saucer architectural feature of the Fashion Show building.

The flying saucer like feature is actually called "The Cloud, at The Strip entrance and is about 128 feet (39 m) above the sidewalk and is 480 feet (150 m) long. During the day, the structure provides shade for the entrance and at night it serves as a movie screen.

Fashion shows occur in the Fashion Show Mall every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For the winter holidays, the mall has scheduled snow storms inside."

Under construction

Common sight in the Vegas strip. Close pedestrian strips and constructions going on.
F/4.5, 1/180 sec at ISO 250, focal length 180mm. Hand held, no flash and cropped.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Veging out at Vegas

Hand held, no flash, cropped: f/4.5, 1/20 sec at 640 ISO, focal length 21mm

The Mirage

"Mirage's Marquee"

"The Mirage is a 3,044 room hotel and casino resort located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada (though like most hotels on the Strip, it uses a Las Vegas mailing address). The casino is owned by MGM MIRAGE.

The Mirage is connected by a free tram to Treasure Island, its sister property immediately to the north. The marquee in front of The Mirage is the largest free standing marquee in the world.

The Mirage was built by developer Steve Wynn and opened in November 1989 on the former grounds of the Castaways hotel and casino, and was owned by Wynn's company Mirage Resorts (later MGM Mirage). It was the first resort that was built with the money of Wall Street through the use of junk bonds.

The Mirage was the most expensive hotel/casino in history, with a construction cost of $630 million. The hotel's distinctive gold windows get their color from actual gold used in the tinting process. It was reported that the resort would have to bring in a million dollars a day to pay off a 7-year construction loan. But in fact The Mirage did so well, the loan was paid off in just 18 months.

Its construction is also considered very noteworthy in that Wynn had set a new standard for Vegas resorts, and is widely considered to be the father of today's Las Vegas. Prior to the Mirage's opening, the city was experiencing a decline in tourism that began in the 70s, especially around the time the state of New Jersey legalized gambling and tourists (in particular those on the East Coast) began to frequent the casinos of Atlantic City.

Also, this was a time when Las Vegas was no longer considered a fashionable destination, so a new, high-profile, project was necessary to jump-start the ailing industry. When it opened, The Mirage was the first casino to use security cameras full time on all table games."

Click here for the complete Wikipedia article.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Palazzo

Based from a previous visit two years ago (Red Rock, was the newest back then but not in the strip), The Palazzo is the newest casino and hotel complex in the strip. As the current financial crisis affects the whole of the US of A, even the casino city of Las Vegas seems to be affected. But as I've mentioned, there are still so many constructions sites just in the Las Vegas strip alone! I just do not know how many will finish by completion date or how many will be stopped altogether. But definitely according to residents, there is a marked slowing down.
Photo above taken hand held, no flash, just a little bit of cropping so as to reduce size:
F Stop: f/3.5, 1/25 sec at ISO 800, 18 mm focal length.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Riviera

Another Las Vegas strip veteran is the The Riviera. The hotel and casino celebrated its golden anniversary in 2005, " the historic Riviera is one of the State's premier destination spots offering the passion and excitement of nostalgic Las Vegas and the Rat Pack Era."

Friday, 14 November 2008


Taken at the car entrance of the original Sahara Hotel and Casino; the porte-cochere entrance, topped by an onion-dome minaret, is designed to set the resort's warm Moroccan flavour and hospitality.

According to the hotel's website:

"Located on the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, the Sahara Hotel & Casino is a desert jewel rich with history, nostalgia and class.
Since 1952, the Sahara Hotel & Casino has been a refuge for glitzy entertainment, exhilarating casino action, sumptuous dining and relaxing poolside decadence.

The last remaining "Rat Pack" resort, the Sahara was the setting for the original "Ocean's Eleven" film and has played host to everyone from The Beatles to Dean Martin to Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley."
Wikipedia's account said that:

"The hotel was opened in 1952 by Milton Prell just outside of the City of Las Vegas, and was the sixth resort to open on the Strip. The resort was built by Del Webb.[1]

In late 1954, the hotel hired jazz musician Louis Prima to be their late night lounge act, one of the earliest ones on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with his then wife Keely Smith and sax player Sam Butera, they created one of the hottest late night attractions on the Strip.

In 1961, the hotel was purchased by Del Webb. In 1962, a Don the Beachcomber restaurant opened in the hotel, becoming a top attraction to not only hotel guests but a variety of celebrities as well. A 24-story tower was added in 1963.

The resort was the site of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for many years, mostly in the 1970s, and for a brief time in the 1990s."

The northern end of the Las Vegas Blvd strip starts at and around Stratosphere, followed by this iconic structure, the last of the "originals". Nowadays, there are still many constructions on the northern of this strip and when visiting Vegas again, I am sure the landscape will change a lot more - might not be for the better but sure most of the iconic "heritage" buildings and signage will go down and relegated to the Vegas neon sign graveyard.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Viva Las Vegas - Stratosphere

On the way to checking in at Stratosphere, good rates from Expedia and in Oz dollars too!

As the name implies, the main feature is the 350 meter (1,149 ft) Stratosphere Tower, and according to Wikipedia, "the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States[1] and the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. It is the tallest structure of any kind in Nevada, and it is the second-tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, after the Kennecott Smokestack in Magna, Utah." But the actual hotel is a separate building with approximately 20 stories, 2,444 rooms and an 7,000 m² (80,000 square foot) casino.

If you are a thrill seeker and not afraid of heights, the tower's Xtreme rides are for you. Yes, rides on top of the tower:

"Big Shot - Shoots passengers straight up 160 feet at 45 mph (over 4 Gs) until they are 1,081 feet above the Strip.

X-Scream - A giant teeter-totter that propels you 27 feet over the edge of the Tower, 866 feet above the ground.

Insanity, the Ride - A massive mechanical arm extends 64 feet over the edge of the Tower and spins you at a force of 3 Gs for a truly mind-bending experience."

For me, I am happy with my cocktails and casino chips at the tables.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

LAX - 6 Nov

Tower at LA International with a partly hidden/showing LAX famous landmark: The Theme Building:

"The distinctive white "Theme Building," designed by Pereira & Luckman architect Paul Williams and constructed in 1961 , resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. A restaurant that provides a sweeping view of the airport is suspended beneath two intersecting arches that form the legs. The Los Angeles City Council designated the building a cultural and historical monument in 1992."

Left Sydney on 6 Nov and arrived at LA same day! Now that is flying in a time machine.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

On hiatus

Canon EOS 450D, f/4.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, Focal lenght 36mm