Beer Pong, Weddings, Poker, & Flood Tunnels

Some of my colleagues in photojournalism – fellow students, people that graduated a year or two ahead of me – like to make blog posts monthly. As soon as the first of the next month hits, they have their blog post up (I'm looking at you, Isaac Hale). That's admirable, but here I am – again a few days late in making this blog post.

This is a result of a few things.

1. I am truly very busy between work, socializing and going on little adventures out here. I don't necessarily leave myself with too much "down time," but that's alright. I am thankful every day for the other interns, my awesome co-workers and new friends I've made out here. I'm glad that I don't have much time to be bored. 

and 2. I didn't even know where to start! The thought of even trying to encompass the crazy and action-packed month of June into one blog post seemed unfathomable to me. But I will sure as hell try. Let's start at the beginning and end at the end (well, more or less).

One one of the first days of the month of June, I worked a Saturday. I don't usually work Saturdays, but I needed to make up a day and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. I had the opportunity to spend a whole day at a wedding chapel with a reporter and videographer. I was there from 11am - 8pm and photographed about 13 or 14 weddings. It was really a marathon of a day and we even ordered a pizza to the chapel at one point. The themes ranged from Liberace to Star Trek, from Rocky Horror to Elvis, and Gladiator to traditional. 

I learned a lot that day. Marriage knows no age or boundaries. Some people were getting married for the second or third time at age 50 or 60. I saw multiple gay couples be wed. Love is kind of inexplicable. I really don't get it, but it can come in many, many forms. Also – Elvis isn't dead.

Las Vegas is a wild place. The very next day, I had an assignment to go and photograph the World Series of Beer Pong. Who knew that was a thing? I didn't, but my time at OU prepared me well for such an assignment.

The World Series of Poker has also been ongoing since late May. I feel like most people misunderstand exactly the scope of the events and the longevity of the Series, as they ask me "you're going back to that again?" Well, with over 70 events, play goes on for a long time. Through mid-July, actually. We have a reporter there almost every day. So I've now been to WSOP about five or six times for various features.

A new display came to the Bellagio's conservatory and botanical gardens on June 12.

I had a pretty refreshing assignment: family yoga outside at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. I wasn't even the one doing the yoga, but it was a fun one.

Skip ahead about a week. The temperature hit a record-tying 117˚. It was brutal, I went out onto the Strip to look for "hot weather photos.” 

Skip ahead a few days and I'm covering the Vans Warped Tour at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It was still brutally hot on that day, probably topping out around 113˚. But I came prepared with my CamelBak and some salty snacks, so I survived the day just fine. Plus the Hard Rock is literally the perfect venue for such an event. Most Warped Tour stops are solely outside. At the Hard Rock, there was one stage by the pool and three inside.

During the last week of June, intern Briana Erickson and I (the #WINterns) pursued a story together about how the monsoon season in July and August affects homeless people living in the flood tunnels. We followed around a group called HELP of Southern Nevada during two early mornings to tell this story. The organization checks on homeless people in the city and provides basic necessities and services. I think it really turned out between my visuals and Briana's excellent writing.

It's not that I feel like my work hasn't been important so far, but until this story, I felt like I was telling stories that were fun or entertaining, but not the most important stories. As I've driven around, I've noticed the homeless struggling on the streets and wanted an opportunity to tell a meaningful story with impact. I saw a stark contrast between the high rollers of the Strip and the people who have next to nothing. It felt good to dig into a story such as this. Here's the video I made, which I also composed originally guitar music for:

Recently, I was also assigned a story about street signs in Las Vegas. How they've been named after resorts and changed over the years. How do you make a street sign look interesting? Wait until night and catch light trails from cars, I guess. I sure tried, at least.

A few more random briefs and singles from the past month. 

 Boulder City High School seniors high five elementary schoolers in an annual Grad Walk to celebrate the seniors' accomplishments and encourage young students to finish high school.

Boulder City High School seniors high five elementary schoolers in an annual Grad Walk to celebrate the seniors' accomplishments and encourage young students to finish high school.

 Lisa Tenner, who has worked in branding and marketing for bands and the music industry for over 30 years, in her house.

Lisa Tenner, who has worked in branding and marketing for bands and the music industry for over 30 years, in her house.

 A thrill seeker falls to the earth while riding SkyJump at the Stratosphere on Monday, June 12, 2017. Golden Entertainment is acquiring a company that owns four Nevada casinos, including the Stratosphere, for $850 million.

A thrill seeker falls to the earth while riding SkyJump at the Stratosphere on Monday, June 12, 2017. Golden Entertainment is acquiring a company that owns four Nevada casinos, including the Stratosphere, for $850 million.

 Kelvin Ray, an elder of the Portals to Glory church, in the North Las Vegas church on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Ray received the missing "Baby Girl Jackson" the night before after police conducted a multiple state search for her.

Kelvin Ray, an elder of the Portals to Glory church, in the North Las Vegas church on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Ray received the missing "Baby Girl Jackson" the night before after police conducted a multiple state search for her.

 Dillon Truman, 4, races for the ball with his father Jared during father and child catch, an annual tradition, before the Las Vegas 51s game at Cashman Field on Friday, June 16, 2017.

Dillon Truman, 4, races for the ball with his father Jared during father and child catch, an annual tradition, before the Las Vegas 51s game at Cashman Field on Friday, June 16, 2017.

 Carter Grimes, a swimmer with the Sandpipers of Nevada, practices at the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center.

Carter Grimes, a swimmer with the Sandpipers of Nevada, practices at the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center.

 Ava Neidermeyer, a longtime casino employee, celebrates after the unveiling of the Palace Station train and signs, the latest contribution to the Neon Museum, on Thursday, June 22, 2017, with Scott Nelson, vice president and general manager at Palace Station, left, and Craig Randall, a longtime casino employee.

Ava Neidermeyer, a longtime casino employee, celebrates after the unveiling of the Palace Station train and signs, the latest contribution to the Neon Museum, on Thursday, June 22, 2017, with Scott Nelson, vice president and general manager at Palace Station, left, and Craig Randall, a longtime casino employee.

 River Apfel, 2, tries out a space sleeping bag at the Astronaut exhibit at the Springs Preserve.

River Apfel, 2, tries out a space sleeping bag at the Astronaut exhibit at the Springs Preserve.

I also put together an interesting video on how two professional bowlers in the 50+ division use exercise to remain competitive.

Las Vegas has proven itself to be a very interesting news town, as people have reminded me time and time again. In some ways, it's like a normal city, but in many ways it really isn't. But it has been a great environment to learn in and I think that I've been improving a bit every week here. All I try to do is keep rising to the challenge each assignment brings and proving myself, and that's all I can do.

I hope to get one or two more longer term stories under my belt here before my time is done. I'm just beyond the halfway point of my internship, which is hard to believe. It can be hard to focus on one story in particular with all of my daily assignments, but I will see what I can do!

One more note: as of July 1, pot is legal in Nevada. To close things out, here are a few moments from press conference leading up to the first recreational sales. Featuring a special appearance from state Sen. Tick Segerblom, who was a big proponent of legal marijuana.