The Story Behind the Photo - Shooting for the Moon

I get a lot of questions about this photograph when I show it to people. The two main questions people ask are what is it exactly, and was the sky really like that? Well, I call this photograph “Shooting for the Moon.” It’s the Moon shining through the clouds on the left with the Luxor light beaming up and reflecting off the cloud layer on the right.

Shooting for the Moon in Las Vegas
Shooting for the Moon in Las Vegas

I was walking around the Las Vegas strip on a cloudy evening. Cloudy evenings are a relatively rare occurrence in Las Vegas. We’re in the middle of the desert here, after all, so there was already potential for some interesting photography. I took this photo from what is now the parking lot behind the High Roller wheel. I wandered back there while the wheel was still under construction. I didn't take any pictures there and was more just curious to see what was going on, but then I looked up and noticed this scene. The Luxor light is so ridiculously bright, I think they even use it as an aeronautical reference point. I love it--it’s so Las Vegas, and it makes me smile every time I see it. So here was this intense light shooting straight up into the sky, and a short distance away was the Moon. I set up my camera and took some shots. I took a few fast exposures where the clouds were more well-defined, but I really prefer this longer exposure where the clouds are more dreamy and fluid. The Luxor light beam is also more visible due to the longer exposure.

So was the sky really like that? Actually, I didn’t manipulate it that much at all. The color was much more orange than you see here, but there was a very strong color in the sky in any case. The cloud layer was relatively low to the ground, it was not that long after sunset, and there are so many lights coming from the strip that it’s easy to get orange-tinted clouds under these conditions. I just shifted it more towards the red/magenta range. Those colors contrast with the blue beam of the Luxor light, and I think the color shift adds to the drama of the photograph. In the end, I was going for a very abstract look, and I am happy with the result I got.

When in Vegas, you might as well shoot for the Moon. And as the saying goes, if you miss, at least you’ll be among the stars!