Tabby

It was just over 6 years ago that we brought Tabby home.

I had some trouble getting her to pose back then. Tabby was hoping that she was doing the right thing for the camera guy, looking over to Lorraine for confirmation.

So happy that I got this shot.

Such an awesome Golden!

Downtown Kingston

I love being in downtown Kingston especially during late spring. A few images from my photo walk this evening.

As we walked around the market square, there appeared an old Triumph Spitfire. I used to have one of these when I was a very young man — I was only 17 years old. I will say that I do not remember my Spitfire being as nice as this one. Especially the suspension system. My rear wheels literally toed out from the bottom by a good 5 – 10 degrees. On this car, all the wheels were perfectly level. If you look closely, you can make out a gun target on the hood of the car just in front of the steering wheel.

Sorry, How Much For That Camera Bag?

I have followed Thorsten von Overgaard for a long time. He certainly had an influence on my decision to move away from Nikon gear to Leica. A bit of an expensive decision to be quite candid. I thoroughly enjoy his writing and his videos. I’ve even been tempted to try out one of his workshops.

I am on Thorsten’s mailing list and I receive his newsletters.

The most recent one announced a new set of products for his online store: luxury camera bags and luxury bespoke suitcases for world travelers.

From his website:

You want the ideal product that fulfills all of your needs, made to make you happy every time you touch it, and made to last forever.

I must admit that I am totally out of touch with the pricing for luxury camera bags.

Kristian Dowling did a review of the perfect bag for Leica back in 2014 and recommended the Wotancraft Ryker:

If you’re after a small unobtrusive camera bag with style, quality, great layout and zippered compartments, the Ryker really has no competition. Not only is it great for a Leica kit, but it’s suitable for any mirrorless camera kit plus a whole lot of extras.

At a price of US$379, it may sound a bit pricey compared to alternatives in the marketplace, but if you truly value quality that matches your equipment and photography, go spoil yourself with the Wotancraft Ryker. It has more quality and less hype than any bag I’ve ever owned and I feel privileged to have one.

$379 USD is roughly $500 CAD before taxes. I would expect a luxury camera bag to be in that price range. $500 to say $1,500. Pricey enough to make you ask whether it makes any sense to spend that much money on a camera bag (short answer for me, no).

My perspective on how much luxury camera bags have changed in price since Kristian’s review was obviously not an informed perspective.

If you want one of Thorsten’s bags, be prepared to dig deep into that bank account of yours. Really, really deep.

$7,500 CAD for calfskin. $50,000 CAD for croc.

Yes.

$50,000.

For a camera bag.

KA by Cirque du Soleil

It was our last day in Vegas and we really did not have anything planned. I was a bit restless. I get that way towards the end of a vacation. Not really looking forward to getting back to the cold of a Canadian winter. And, now that retirement is only 18 weeks away, I found that I was quite enjoying the unstructured time and not really looking forward to getting back to a busy calendar.

We had a wonderful morning walking around a number of the resort properties on the strip. We decided to stop at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay for brunch.

Did I mention I was a bit restless? When I get restless I get impulsive. We walked by the Titanic exhibition and, on impulse, purchased two tickets and enjoyed a walkthrough of various artifacts taken from the ship.

We made our way over to the MGM property and I was taking a few shots including this one at the exit gate for KA.

As I was taking the shot, an employee raced over to us. At first I thought I had broken some rule about taking pictures but no. “Hurry!” she said, “You can join us for a behind the scenes look at Ka but the doors are closing right now.”

There we were. Inside the incredible theater hall for KA.

There were only a handful of people for the demonstration but the presenter was great and walked us through many of the remarkable sets for the show.

As we left the presentation, I took this picture of the dragon. And, being restless, which meant being impulsive, I jumped online with my iPhone and purchased two tickets for the evening performance. Great seats and, sadly, a great price to go along with the great seats.

What a show! We were so close to the front that we felt like we were in the show. We loved every minute of it.

Here is a trailer that shows some of the highlights from the show. What a terrific way to end the week.

Hoover Dam

Somehow we had managed to avoid it. Touring the Hoover Dam. Until this year.

Why this time? Not sure. I suppose it felt like a bit of an obligation. Visit Vegas, visit the Hoover Dam.

So we did.

We booked a Pink Jeep tour with a great travel guide, Dennis.

As of August 2017, Lake Mead was at approximately 40% of full capacity and we could clearly see the drop in water level in the basin that feeds into the Hoover Dam by the difference in the colours of the canyon.

Dennis called the white markings etched into the canyon rock a bathtub ring.

It is also obvious that the water is low when you look at this view of the dam. The intake towers draw water into the tunnels to drive the hydro-electric generators. Good thing that they draw the water in from a high water level as well as a low water level.

Lorraine ignoring the warning sign.

Two time zones at the Hoover Dam. This was the Nevada side which is opposite the Arizona side, one hour later.

Here are the turbines that generate electricity.

A shot of the face of the dam.

We walked to both ends of the Hoover Dam. This perspective offers a good view of the new bridge that was constructed to alleviate the traffic that was forced to use the Hoover Dam roadway. The dam is now classified as critical infrastructure and there was a visible armed presence complete with semi-automatic rifles.

Fremont Street Experience

And what an experience it was. Such a dramatic contrast between the strip and Fremont street.

Here is one of the main roads into Fremont:

And on the strip:

The covered walking mall experience on Fremont:

The indoor mall experience at the Venetian:

The shops at Fremont:

The shops on the strip:

Specialty retailers on Fremont:

And on the strip:

Wonderful eateries on Fremont — meal is free if you weigh over 350 pounds:

Dining is a touch different on the strip:

Our uber driver described the Fremont Street experience as “working class” compared to the “upper class” experience on the strip. There are some tacky spots on the strip as well however the differences are quite stark between the two environments.

First time we had gone to Fremont. It was interesting to spend a few hours walking around the place.

Not sure I would book a vacation there.

Las Vegas Resorts

We spent several days walking up and down the Las Vegas strip. According to Lorraine’s Fitbit, we easily broke 25,000 steps each day.

I’ve always found the New York, New York Resort and Casino to be bigger than life. The photo above shows how physically imposing a structure it presents on the strip. That said, it is not the largest or the most expensive resort in Las Vegas. The MGM holds over 5,000 rooms compared to the New York, New York resort which offers only 2,000 rooms. The Cosmopolitan hotel is the most expensive at $4.2 billion. New York, New York cost roughly $460 million to build.

Treasure Island stands across from the Venetian. Many times we have been in Vegas. Very few times have we even entered Treasure Island.

The Mirage is a bit of a different story. We have seen the Cirque show, Beatles Love, here. And I also celebrated my 61st birthday by having dinner at the Heritage Steakhouse in the Mirage. Wonderful restaurant.

Lurking just off the strip is the Trump International Hotel. The tower holds about 1,200 rooms although back in 2012, 300 units were sold to Hilton Grand Vacations timesharing operation.

The Bellagio is a favourite. We have stayed here several times over the years.

We have stayed at Mandalay Bay twice over the years. And both times we found it to be too far from the strip itself. It is a nice property and the swimming area is an attraction in and of itself. The Four Seasons operates a hotel within a hotel at Mandalay Bay. They occupy the top five floors.

There were a few properties that we had never visited before, like the Linq. It seemed like just another casino. The strip is so competitive that properties like the Linq seem to be a step down from the major resorts.

The Venetian has always been a favourite for the amazing indoor shopping mall. We also enjoy eating at some of the Italian restaurants in the Venetian.

Towards the end of the strip are the Wynn properties.

And then the resort we enjoyed during our stay in Vegas, the Aria. Beautiful property with a stunning, contemporary design.

 

Las Vegas

As we spent a week in Vegas, I should probably share a few shots of the strip. I brought my Leica M10 with just one lens, the 35mm Summicron F2.0.

I loved shooting with such a minimalist kit. Quite different from shooting with a DSLR.

We stayed in the Aria Tower Suites. We were in suite 15-246 and this was the view from the floor to ceiling windows that stretched the full length of our room.

We faced towards the back of the resort property. At first we were a bit disappointed until we looked at the front of the resort property. Nothing but buildings and cars.

We have stayed at the Bellagio many times over the years. The resort is positioned well back from the strip with a massive water treatment. The forward facing rooms do have a great view. Bellagio is a bit of an exception in that regard. The rest of the strip has been built out to such an extent that there really isn’t a view. And I suppose that is how it was designed. Keep people inside the casinos.

The scale of the Aria is beyond impressive. Aria is the main resort in the City Center project, the largest privately funded construction project in U.S. history at just over $9 billion. Here is but one very small corner of the resort, looking out over the main registration lobby.

The City Center includes a number of other properties like the Cosmopolitan. The Cosmopolitan was built at a cost of $3.9 billion and has been named as one of the best hotels in the world.

Many screens attempt to grab your attention as you walk the strip. This one grabbed mine. A massive, curved high resolution electronic billboard.

We grabbed a quick dinner at the New York, New York casino. No windows to the real world, only fake ones on the inside of the casino floor.

Outside New York, New York, there were numerous planes flying in the night sky.

It had been a long day and with the time zone change, we had stayed up several hours past our normal bed time. When we go to Vegas, we spend most of our time outside of the city, exploring the landscape. And this trip was no different. The changes on the strip have been dramatic to us. Lorraine and I decided that we would go to the original strip in Vegas, the Fremont Street Experience.

I will have a few shots to share from that day.