Last week, I spent a day shooting on-location at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The image above, one of my favorites, was taken inside the Joint – but more about that a bit later.
First, let me back up a bit. I was hired by R2W, Inc. R2W designs high-end audio visual systems, like those shown in this blog, in bars, restaurants, hotels, high-end homes, conference rooms, theaters, churches, and other facilities around the country. On this specific assignment, my job was to document audio-visual systems they designed and installed throughout the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, including monitors, TVs, speakers, computers, lighting, and the racks that house their wiring. We began inside the Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill, shown below.
It’s important for them to document their work in photographs when they wrap each project; they use the images to display their designs in case studies, which they use to market themselves to new clients.
Shoots like this are extremely challenging, extremely technical, and extremely COOL! I got to walk the back hallways of the casino and see things the general public never sees. And I got to see some truly cutting edge technology. Check out this lift, which R2W designed, that floats down from the ceiling when the projector it supports is needed:
I also enjoyed the view from the top floor, which houses a restaurant, to document the speakers that R2W installed on the balcony:
Here’s a cool series of overlapping flat screens they installed on the casino floor:
And the system hanging above one of the bars on the casino floor:
Now, back to the Joint. Here’s where I got to really have fun! The in-house light and sound guys were so amazing! They started throwing up all of these cool lighting designs for me to shoot against. I am IN LOVE with these images! Thank you so much for making my job so much more fun – and the results so much better!
My shot list included images showcasing those banks of speakers, above – a challenge, since speakers are almost always black, and installed against black paint and/or black catwalks. (Speakers and lighting are designed to blend in.) So, without the some specific lighting, making the speakers stand out in an image would have been next to impossible. Thanks, guys!
R2W designed all of the stuff you are seeing here…amazing, right? The technology is just incredible.
Shooting screens is tricky, but I love challenges like this. Screens, especially screens with moving images, have pixels that are continuously scrolling around – but at a speed that is faster than what we can perceive with the human eye. So, if you take a photo at a really fast shutter speed, you’ll get those nasty black lines on the screen, because at any given millisecond, some of the pixels are missing. Slow shutter speeds are required, which requires a tripod to get sharp images. I shot these at 100 ISO, too, to eliminate noise…so I had shutter speeds of up to 225 seconds.
Further, in images like the one below, to get that cool starburst effect, you have to use a really small pinhole-like aperture. Wide open apertures would allow you to use a faster shutter, but then the lights would look like soft hazy circles, which wasn’t the effect I envisioned.
I took this one laying flat on my back in front of the stage. Another one of my favs.
And then in a moment of true fortune, one of the in-house guys offered to take me up into the catwalk for some shots. Oh my goodness, yes please!! I shot the next one almost completely blindly – I leaned my tripod down over the edge of the railing and opened the shutter for 10 seconds (and prayed none of my gear would fall off the catwalk)! Voila! Awesome image of the sound booth, which R2W designed.
These shots would have been nearly impossible without a wide angle lens, and definitely impossible without a tripod. I use the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. I definitely recommend using good glass if you are going to bother investing in a wide angle. I had a Tokina previously – and it just didn’t perform nearly as well (and had a variable aperature).
Last but not least, we mozied into the nightclub (Friction) and I got some shots of the cool backlit bar!
I had such a blast on this shoot! It’s exhausting but very rewarding work. Thanks to the R2W guys who helped me so, so much, to the casino staff, and to the gracious restaurant manager at Toby Keith’s for my yummy lunch! More on-location images to come in future posts about other R2W shoots!
Note: You may contact R2W, Inc. at 1-800-488-1811 or email@example.com.