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Palms Casino Sky Villa Hot Tub

Lighting Diagram, Photos and the Story Behind the Photograph

Eleya Digital Photograph Las Vegas Photography Workshop

Eleya braved the cold weather for this photo at the Palms Casino, Sky Villa suite hot tub.

The Technical: While conducting a photography workshop with Arny Freytag, Playboy’s top photographer, Arny suggested we illuminate the hot tub at the Palms Casino, Sky Villa, Penthouse suite with blue gels. We wanted the Las Vegas lights in the background from the view of this 29th floor suite, so we waited until nightfall to photograph model Eleya. I had two Hensel Integra 500 Pro Plus monolights fitted with 7-inch metal reflectors and 20-degree grids, both behind the model and pointed into the water. Each grid was covered with a Rosco blue gel. Due to space restrictions and safety when working around water, the lights were placed high, hence the blue spill light on the model.

The main light was a Hensel Integra 500 Pro Plus monolight fitted with a 7-inch metal reflector and a 30-degree grid. The final image was postproduced using Nik Software’s Bleach Bypass and the Glamour Glow filters. 

Photographer’s Toolbox

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM at 105mm
Shutter Speed: 1/8th shutter speed
Aperture: F/6.3
ISO: 400
White Balance: 6000K

The Story: Often there are times when photographers come up with creative approaches and then there are times where another professional photographer will give you some ideas—ideas that you’d like to call your own, but you can’t. This is what sorta happened in the top photograph with one my workshop models from San Antonio, Eleya, while conducting a photography workshop at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.

Palms Casino, Las Vegas, Photos from Photography Workshop Instruction

(Top Photo and left two bottom photos) Playboy Photographer Arny Freytag looks on as photographer Ryan P. photographs Elite model Jenni L. (Bottom Photos, Right) Photos from the Las Vegas semi-private instruction workshop in Dec. 2009, located at one of the Palms Casion’s Sky Villa suites.

I shot this photo back in December 2009, on an evening after a two-day, semi-private instruction, photography workshop had concluded for a handful of photographers. We were fortunate enough to have as a guest instructor, Playboy’s top photographer (he’s been there 34-plus years), Arny Freytag. Arny had agreed to come down from California to Las Vegas and help teach the attendees, and he had plenty to share, including how to refine an idea I had to photograph a model in the outdoor hot tub of our Sky Villa, a premium, 6,200 sq. ft., two-bedroom Penthouse of sorts, up on the 29th floor of the Palms Casino.

We not only used this suite for the workshop, but Arny, my make up artist Stephanie Dawn, six models and myself, all stayed there—yes, they brought in extra roll-a-way beds for everyone (see model sleeping in photo above).  Arny and I were the fortunate ones and we each took one of the two master bedrooms for our sleeping quarters. Though it was no slumber party. We worked hard as this was a five-day event, Wednesday and Thursday were the semi-private instruction days with Arny and myself, Friday through Sunday was the three day glamour workshop. Arny eventually was called back to California by Playboy.  He left Thursday evening for a photo shoot for Friday.

Photographic Lighting, Palms Casino, Las Vegas

Lighting diagram and side shot of shooting ledge at the Palms Casino Sky Villa suite, shoot from the indoors.

Palms Casino, Las Vegas, Hot Tub Photo

This is how the hot tub looks during the day and night. Notice the columns and how it affected our light placement.

On Wednesday, one of the owners of the Palms Casino, Gavin Maloof, dropped by and invited us to his house. Arny, Stephanie, and the models and I  left that evening to go to Gavin’s house where we would watch a Sacramento Kings game in Gavin’s theater room—that’s another story in itself, though we had fun and Gavin ensured we were happy with the Sky Villa.

Las Vegas Photography Workshop
For the next Las Vegas photography workshop, please check my workshop calendar.  The August 2010 workshop is combined with my birthday bash at the Palms Casino.
Normally this one-story suite rents for at least $10,000 per night, but thanks to our good friend, Gavin, we were given a sweet deal.  I can’t talk about price publicly, but let’s just say, it was extremely affordable as a typical king size room at the casino.

It’s often heard, “location is everything” and this location made for a beautiful view of the Las Vegas strip from the balcony hot tub. This view also provided for the idea that the best concept shot of the hot tub should include the Las Vegas lights and skyline seen from the suite’s balcony view.

If you’ve ever seen the Palms Casino from the outside, right above the Playboy neon bunny on the building, appears what seems to look like diving boards sticking out, these are the hot tubs for the Sky Villas. Ours was the second one above the Playboy bunny sign. The top Sky Villa, or the last diving board you see from the strip, is the largest. It also sports the largest hot tub and this luxury suite is two floors. Obviously it’s called the Hefner suite and Hugh has stayed there before.

Outdoor Digital Photography

Another photo from the outdoor photography session with model Eleya at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.

These are interesting hot tubs, and if you have water, it’s not too flattering unless you “light it up” at night with gels and Freytag agreed with me and suggested that I use 7-inch metal reflectors on my monolights fitted with 20-degree grids and covered with blue gels. We also discussed that the main light would be a 7-inch reflector with a 30-degree grid to minimize lighting spill onto the water, thus preventing any main light from removing the blue saturation directly in front of the model, as the gelled flash heads would add light from the back, placed on each side of Eleya.

The challenge though, was having the room to place the lights far enough behind the model to point down into the water. This became a difficulty because the hot tub is “T” shaped with the long end of the T facing out towards the strip. On top of that, the whole balcony and hot tub area is surrounded by very thick glass to keep anyone from falling over while giving the front end of the tub an infinity edge appearance, similar to the infinity pool we use in the Virgin Islands photography workshops—with one exception, we don’t have a thick glass wall, though that comes with the Virgin Islands swimming pool sitting on the ground, not 29 floors above the ground.

Palms Casino Photo

Playboy’s top photographer, Arny Freytag, Palms Casino owner Gavin Maloof holding “Sally,” Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough and myself at Gavin’s house.

The other challenge was that it was an unusually cold night in Las Vegas, so we had to work fast. Model’s don’t look good with goose bumps, though I’m sure Eleya was happy that at least her feet were warm. She was a real trooper as photographer Mark Thomason and I photographed her. Mark also wanted to shoot this concept and we agreed to help each other out to achieve the results we both wanted. In the end, we all got some great photos, the model froze a bit, but as I often say, “In order to get the great shots, you have to sacrifice and pay the price.”

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  1. Great post, Rolando! Thanks for sharing this experience and images with us!

    • Marco,

      You are welcome. Also, the Palms Casino is the place to go in Vegas! Thanks, rg.

  2. Hey Rolando…. I wish you well in your new endeavors…. and am glad I was able to catch your San Antonio workshops and look forward to Vegas in August. I had my first ‘on location’ photo shoot with a model yesterday at the Fort Davis, TX area…. would not have been able to have pulled it off without the knowledge I learned from your workshops and the awesome deal you gave me on the used gear. I am very happy with the outcome of the shoot…. but know see certain things to watch for next time…. still have a lot to learn…
    I look forward to seeing you in Vegas.

    • Hey old Drug War-time, U.S. Army buddy of almost 20-years, not a problem. Cool thing is we’re not in the jungles of Central and South America anymore doing that dangerous stuff 😉 now we just have to deal with the dangers of photography addiction. Hard to believe almost twenty years ago we wore military fatigues and worked directly for a 4-star general, seems like just yesterday. Instead of think, shoot, and communicate, now it’s focus, compose and expose! I’m glad I could have been of help, that’s what friends are for! See you soon my friend, all the best to you and your family, rg.

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Welcome to (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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