What Happens in Vegas... (My First Month)

As they say, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Until I take a picture of it, that is. Here's my hot takes from my time in Las Vegas, Nevada, working for the Review-Journal so far.

I started on Monday, May 8. Well, sort of. I went in to do HR stuff and get oriented for the new job. After going through some of the nitty gritty, I finally met my boss, Kevin, in person. I was immediately welcomed with a plate of cookies from my "RJ family" and a staff who immediately made me feel at home. It's been a great place to work, as it's a paper that has a lot of resources too. 

I came in the next day and pretty much hit the ground running. My first day involved shooting a mock trial with elementary schoolers, and later, I photographed a woman who had been attacked by a dog. It was a pretty wild assignment to have on day 1, an interesting introduction to Las Vegas.

 Christopher Pandelis, chief deputy district attorney, talks with Zitlalic Salinas, the plaintiff and a fifth grader from C.P. Squires Elementary School, following a mock trial as a part of the "Kids in the Court" program at the North Las Vegas Justice Court on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Salinas said she hopes to become a lawyer someday. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Joan Hobbs, 53, holds photos of herself outside of her home before she was bitten by a dog in northeast Las Vegas Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Most of my assignments I get the day before. Some of them I have further notice on, but a lot of the time, I don't have a clear idea of what I'll be doing on a given day. But I'm someone who appreciates variety and spontaneity, so it works for me. One example of this was when I came into the office and my editors said "Hey, the World Series of Poker is starting today. We heard Michael Phelps is going to be there. Go shoot it." Did you know he played poker? I didn't. 

 Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps shares a moment with poker star Maurice Hawkins during a tag team event in the opening of the World Series of Poker at the Rio Convention Center on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Among other celebrities I've gotten to photograph are Steve Forbes and the singer Jewel.

 Steve Forbes speaks about "What Should Trump Do Now for a Great Economy?" at the MoneyShow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Singer-songwriter Jewel on the red carpet before a a charity concert event presented by Sands Cares at the Palazzo on Friday, May 19, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

I'm not really a huge sports guy, but I've had a few sports assignments.

 This was a playoff game in which Basic (team of the catcher) beat Coronado 7-3. Basic advanced to become the state champs. I thought this moment told the story of that game particularly well.

This was a playoff game in which Basic (team of the catcher) beat Coronado 7-3. Basic advanced to become the state champs. I thought this moment told the story of that game particularly well.

 Basic players are reflected in sunglasses during a post-game huddle after their victory against Coronado, 7-3, at Basic High School in Henderson on Thursday, May 11, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Jonathan Rukujzo of Illinois practices punting during the Chris Sailer Kicking National Camp in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 51s pitcher Josh Smoker demonstrates his slider grip at Cashman Field on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Another cool story I worked on was about Gist Specialties, a custom fabrication shop that makes lots of creations you might see on The Strip or in festivals that come to Vegas like the Electric Daisy Carnival.

 Ryan Bieman works on some welding at Gist Specialties, which makes custom wood and metal fabrications, in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Oscar Perez-Casiano, right, and Carlos Barragan work on finishing a piece Gist Specialties, which makes custom wood and metal fabrications, in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Spring is also commencement season. I only photographed one, and they're always hit or miss, but I got a few good shots from this one in particular.

 A College of Southern Nevada graduate talks with an audience member on the phone before the start of commencement at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 College of Southern Nevada commencement at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

One of my favorite writers to work with has been Paul Harasim, a seasoned storyteller who has perfected his craft over many years. He always finds excellent stories and writes about them in his columns, which run a few times a week. 

Candace Kawatsu fell 30 feet in a hiking accident 2 years later and required months and months of hospitalization and recovery. Some things have never been quite the same, but Candace is back out and hiking again. It was a great story to work on, especially because I got to go hiking while I was at it!

He wrote another column about Nevada's only female cardiothoracic surgeon. I got to be in the OR for the first time and it was pretty cool.

Did you also know that May 25 was the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars film? Fans celebrated at the Millennium Fandom Bar in the Arts District.

Among the other lighthearted and fun assignments I've had are fidget spinners. They're all the rage among the kids now. A reporter and I went out and found some kids on the playground with their new favorite toys.

Some days, when there isn't as much going on, we'll go around and look for "wild art," which are essentially standalone feature photos. I've been especially fascinated by street performers and Fremont Street downtown.

I've also been producing a lot of videos. The Review-Journal tries to be very web friendly and largely succeeds, I think. They're big on video and like to see videos with most assignments if possible. As my boss Kevin says, "they don't have to be Emmy award winning," as most videos I'm shooting on top of stills and trying to produce quickly. Here are a few of my favorites.

For being a mere intern, I've gotten some good access to things so far, as they've entrusted me with the bigger assignments like Michael Phelps at Poker, an assignment with a rare tour of the Nellis Air Force Base (yet to run, will post later) and more recently, a feature package about chapel weddings (will post in June recap). I've been treated as a part of the staff since day one, with my editors looking to give me opportunities and trusting me with those. I haven't gotten the shit assignments because I'm an intern – I've had a whole variety of things.

So overall, it's been a good experience so far! Vegas can be a whacky and weird place at times, but that's also why I love it. There's never a dull moment. There's always something happening, something to cover. Everyone on staff is very friendly and helpful, and the paper has resources too. I'm on a photo staff of about 10 (it's hard to keep track of everyone), plus a few video producers. That's kind of unheard of for most papers. Stay tuned for more things in the works soon!