When speaking of Las Vegas, several thoughts may come to mind -- Sin City, Lost Wages, the "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas" slogan -- and I am sure many more descriptions of the playground in the desert would apply.
"Photo destination" may not be one of them. However, I want to make a case for taking your camera gear along with the pile of money that you saved for the slots and tables.
Or, better yet, save that hard-earned money and buy some new camera gear and go photograph some of the remarkable things that Las Vegas offers for the photographer.
The first, and most obvious photo stop, is the Las Vegas strip. The architecture alone is worth the visit. Where else can you photograph Paris, New York and Venice all in one day?
Say you like to photograph water -- well, only in Vegas, in the middle of the desert, can you photograph such incredible man-made water features as the fountains at Aria in the city center. Once at Aria you'll immediately notice Lumia, a fountain featuring twisting ribbons and large arcs of streaming water.
And here's something you don't see everyday: This is the first fountain ever to display bright neon colors in broad daylight. We're so used to seeing these colors at night, but looking at Lumia during the day feels like your eyes are playing tricks on you.
Make sure to check out Lumia at night, too. The hot pink, green, purple and blue colors with the splashing water stand out even more.
Of course Vegas is known for its neon lights, which make the strip come alive at night. The lights are so bright that you may be able to get by without a tripod, but if you have one try some images at a slower shutter speed to create a ghostly looking image.
The strip is beautiful to photograph at dusk as the last rays of sunlight striking the casinos and hotels against a darkening sky in the east make for an amazing image.
The Trump Tower is especially beautiful at sunset. Just make sure that you position yourself just west of the strip to make this image.
Las Vegas is a great place for street photography as there are a lot of interesting people around. It is usually a good idea to ask permission to photograph someone on the street. And remember never try to photograph the inside of a casino, or you will be asked to leave very quickly.
If crowds and concrete are not your thing, the Vegas area has you covered as well. Just twenty miles from the craziness of the strip is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
To get to Red Rock Canyon, just drive west on Charleston Boulevard, which becomes Highway 159. As soon as you leave the city, the red rocks will begin to loom around you.
There is a 13-mile scenic loop that has plenty of places to pull over and photograph the rock formations. You will also find spring-fed areas of lush plant life.
You will see cactus, yuccas and Joshua trees at the lower elevations of the park, and juniper and ponderosa pines abound higher up. In spring, the desert floor has a great display of wildflowers. If you are up for a hike, the area has some great trails for all abilities. Most of these trails will take you to some great photo locations.
Another great photo-op is the huge Hoover Dam, 30 miles southeast of Vegas. This is the largest dam in the world -- an amazing place to photograph.
Las Vegas is home to many companies that offer helicopter and airplane tours over the Grand Canyon. This is a great way to get some incredible shots of the beautiful Grand Canyon from a different perspective.
When your shooting day is done in the Las Vegas area, be sure to check out one of Peter Lik's photography galleries. Lik is an amazing landscape photographer. He has one gallery at Mandalay Bay and another at Ceasars Palace. His huge, backlit images are very impressive.
Jay Sousa, a former Sun-Star photographer, has a photography business in Merced, conducts private classes and teaches photography at Merced College.