Fresh Greens

North Las Vegas Food Photography

Aliante Casino + Hotel + Spa


North Las Vegas may surprise you.

Recently I was hired to photograph the food and beverage menu items for the various restaurants at Aliante Casino in North Las Vegas. Working with both their marketing team and my friends at Wicked Creative, we spent several days photographing the new items for the upcoming spring offerings. Now, I have to admit I knew about Aliante Casino, but seeing I'm a southeast Vegas dweller, I had to find them on the map. Located on the newly completed 215 beltway at the top of the valley Aliante is quite impressive for an off-Strip property. If someone had blindfolded me, dropped me in the center of their casino, I'd easily think I was somewhere inside a new Strip property when the blindfold came off - yeah, it's really nice.

From MRKT Sea & Land, Bistro 57, The Salted Lime and FARM, Aliante's well-balanced food & beverage program offers something for everyone at every price point. Like most casino F&B business models, all of their outlets are centrally located directly on the casino floor with open views to the happenings of the nightlife.

Starting at the pool, their beverage creators delivered to my camera's lens the ultimate fruit cocktail concoctions severed straight out of the skins that the fruit came from. Admittedly, I have to disclose I lived in the Hawaiian Islands in years past, so I know a little about tropical drinks - just saying. These trouble makers could without question put a Sumo wrestler down for an early nap. Kidding aside (not really), the tricky part of photographing food and cocktails at a pool (especially in Las Vegas) are the desert winds, the direct sunlight and finding the right composition to bridge the pool's atmosphere with the subject matter without framing too wide.

To begin, I'm not a fan of photographing food anywhere near a water source such as a pool; specifically since my light strobes need to be powered by electricity! On the occasion the production calls for this, I always take great precaution to pile extra steel shot sandbags on my c-stands to avoid the wind from playing Mary Poppins with my light modifiers (softboxes & umbrellas), taping my bright yellow stingers down with day-glow green gaffers tape and ensuring nobody is near or in the pool. Photographing food or cocktails in direct sunlight will always produce the same lousy results - unflattering hard shadows and blown-out highlights. The trick is to find the correct background exposure, underexpose by 1 stop, edge-light your subject opposite from the sun and lastly diffuse the sun's harsh light using a scrim. Bounce cards and reflectors don't work well in these situations because they won't wrap your subject with light, as a softbox or umbrella can accomplish. The only time I use reflectors is when photographing people in the middle of the desert, where power is non-existent. They are especially useful for filling faces with the warm golden light a setting sun provides.

For MRKT (I'd like to buy a vowel please) Aliante's fine dining restaurant, I photographed their signature steaks, seafood towers and shared side dishes in the various booths and on the beautiful marble bar tops. I have to say, in the 17 years that I've lived in Las Vegas, I've patronized just about every steakhouse on and off The Strip. The design team for MRKT really hit their mark on all the aesthetic elements. From the careful planning of separating the bar area from the dining room with a floor to ceiling temperature controlled glass-walled wine room, the semi-private high-back dining booths, arm chairs opposed to side chairs throughout the open dining area, an intimate private dining room and lastly the newly designed garden Al Fresco dining patio, the place looks spectacular.

For MRKT's new patio lunch menu, I photographed the new items outdoors, in the shade. For illumination, I don't have a standard lighting scheme for photographing food, but rather adapt to best reproduce the food as it appears in the various areas. If a venue has large windows providing natural light to pour in, I take advantage of that light. Natural light always delivers a more organic look by wrapping the subject with light and creating a lower contrast image opposed to lighting with strobes. Most people think a cloudy day makes for unfavorable photographic lighting conditions. To the contrary, a cloudy day can act as a giant softbox defusing the sun's harsh light rendering a more pleasing image. The key in great food photography is to create shadows that slowly transition from light to dark - this creates dimension to the subject. Direct sunlight will render hard line shadow areas and overblown high-lights. Even lighting will make your subject look flat. In between is that sweet spot. Never shoot in direct sunlight without the use of fill light unless your capturing a vast panoramic landscape image.

For further information, please visit Aliante Casino + Hotel + Spa in the city of North Las Vegas

Las Vegas Food Photography

Chef Mario Batali


Wearing his non-conformist fleece sweater vest (his variation of a chef coat) baggy shorts, donning his orange Crocs and color coordinated ponytail, Mario Batali would most likely not meet the dress code requirements for some of his own Las Vegas restaurants. Attire aside, Chef Batali knows Italian cuisine better than anyone. Okay, maybe we include Chef Ettore Boiardi, to avoid offending the other Italian master.

In addition to Batali's world-wide portfolio of restaurants, he and his business partner Joe Bastianich have set up shop at The Venetian, Las Vegas with not just one, not just two, but yes four eateries to cover the wide spectrum of Italian cuisine: Carnevino, B&B Ristorante, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and B&B Burger and Beer. If that's not enough, The Venetian also has restaurants by those up and coming lesser know chefs: Keller, Lagasse and Puck.

This month, the B&B Group (that's Batali and Bastianich if you're following along) brought me in for several days of food photography, for their spring menu offerings and to capture some restaurant architectural photography of their various private group dining rooms. If you've ever visited any of Batali's restaurants in Las Vegas, you know the size, caliber and aesthetic details in the architecture and design - they're gorgeous. Perhaps my favorite of the Batali restaurants to photograph in was B&B Ristorante. Located on restaurant row in The Venetian, B&B Ristorante doesn't scream at you when you walk by. In fact, its low-key entrance, mosaic artisan tile floor, quaint multi-room dining and limited seat bar are consistent with what you'd find while visiting a small village in Tuscany. If you didn't know what B&B stood for, you'd think you just happened upon the best little Italian restaurant in the world.

One of the first things I look for when photographing food in Las Vegas are surfaces. Unique surfaces, especially wood & natural stone, always provide a way to frame the food item and subtly capture an element of the room - B&B Ristorante offered just that with it's rich wood surfaces, table runners, natural stone bar top and linen covered tables.

Mob Museum Artifact Image Archiving

Saint Valentine's Day 1929 Massacre: Ballistics Collection


"On the chilly winter morning of February 14, 1929 four men, two in police uniforms entered the SMC Cartage Company garage. Seven members of Bugs Moran's gang were lined up against a the wall and shot. The men opened fire with two Thompson submachine guns and a shotgun. All seven were shot dead. A German shepherd dog named Highball, tied to a car bumper in the garage, was not killed. Six of the men, including John May, Albert Kachellek, Adam Heyer, Albert Weinshank, Peter Gusenberg and Reinhardt H. Schwimmer, died quickly. One, Frank Gusenberg, brother of Peter, clung to life despite being shot 22 times. Gusenberg died three hours later without revealing any information about the shooting. The killers undoubtedly had hoped to kill Moran himself, but he was not among the seven victims. Moran was supposed to be there, but was late for the meeting, saw the police car and walked on by along with two associates.

The Massacre was reported across the country, and it horrified an American public that had previously viewed gangsters such as Al Capone as heroic figures. A line had been crossed, and political leaders and citizens alike demanded a crackdown.

Al Capone was suspected of being the Massacre mastermind but there was no evidence to charge him. Instead, federal authorities built a tax evasion case against him. He was convicted in 1931 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The Cook County coroner took a scientific approach to investigating the Massacre. He brought in Dr. Calvin Goddard, a pioneer in the new field of ballistic testing. Testing bullets and shell casings recovered from the crime scene, Goddard confirmed that two Tommy guns confiscated from a hoodlum's house in rural Michigan were used in the Massacre. He also was able to confirm that no police weapons had been used, leading investigators to believe the shooters had worn police uniforms as a disguise.

Investigators recovered shells and bullet fragments from the floor on the North Clark Street garage and organized them in the evidence envelopes. Dr. Goddard's work proved that no two revolvers and made exactly alike - that every weapon makes characteristic marks on a bullet and cartridge shell, and that they are the same every time that gun is fired."

As part of a forthcoming new exhibit, the Mob Museum contacted me to image archive the entire collection of bullets removed from the victims' bodies and the accompanying spent shell casings collected from the Clark Street garage floor. Working closely with the Museum's archivist handling the collection with bleached white cotton inspection gloves, we carefully removed the bullets from their respective evidentiary envelopes and arranged them accordingly. For some of the more noteworthy samples, I imaged them using a 100mm macro lens. During the post process work-flow I was able to see, in great detail, what Dr. Goddard saw under the microscope nearly 90 years ago. Recording at 16 bit depth with over twenty-five million pixels through a 100mm macro lens revealed stunning details.

For further information, please visit the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"February 14, 1929 - Bullets taken from body of John May"

Aerospace Cinematography

Launch. Land. Repeat.


Space has always been something so unobtainable to those of us on the ground: the lucky few, being able to see the Earth and all its beauty being astronauts. Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, is making the ability to travel into space a possibility in the not so distant future. His vision to send millions of people into to space to live and work is becoming a reality with New Shepard, the first reusable rocket. In November of 2015 New Shepard became it first in its class to successfully fly into space reaching 329,839 feet, before making a historic landing back at its launch site in Van Horn, Texas. It returned through a 119-MPH altitude making a gentle, controlled landing just short 5 feet from the center of the pad. But how does this rocket make such a boundless liftoff and smoother landing? New Shepard’s main way of touching ground is a rocket booster powered landing that permits the craft to tilt freely in any direction so that it will remain horizontal even when the support is tipped. Thus eliminating the classic problem of inverted pendulum. A larger object is easier to balance because of its greater moment of inertia, which made it an obvious choice for Bezos to use to land and operate his rocket. The machine that is the star of these extraordinary feets is its American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. During the liftoff, the BE-3 produces 110,000 pounds of thrust. While ascending, the astronauts will experience 3x the force of gravity as the spacecraft breaks through the atmosphere. As the crew capsule descends and reenters the atmosphere the astronauts will experience 5x the force of gravity before it deploys its three main parachutes. Prior to landing, the BE-3 re-ignites and slows to a 4.4 MPH gentle landing, enabling the vehicle to be reused. Then in January 2016, New Shepard took off once again. Data from their first mission matched their pre-flight predictions very closely, making preparations for re-flight straightforward. All the team had to do for a successful mission was to replace the crew capsule and its parachutes, while also replacing the pyro igniters and including one noteworthy software update. Rather than the craft translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center. Instead of landing exactly in the middle it lands at a position of convenience on the pad. New Shepard simulated landings show this new strategy increases margin and improving the vehicle’s ability to reject turbulence created by low-altitude winds. With these modifications the craft will soon be ready to take up human pilots and then a whole crew to experience the mysterious beauty that is space. It will be interesting to see where New Shepard will be in the next few months. Remember to always keep your eyes to the sky.

- Chris Wessling -

Las Vegas Food Photographer & Restaurant Website Design

Golden Steer Steakhouse Las Vegas - "Best Steaks On Earth"


I've always been a fan of old-school Las Vegas my entire adult life, but sadly, as the years roll by, more and more of Vegas' legendary landmarks have been razed by dynamite or re-purposed beyond any recognition of their former being. When friends visit, I'm always excited to tour them on my Vegas bucket list of must-see vintage venues including the downtown casinos, mid-century martini lounges and time-honored first-class restaurants. Included on my list is the famous Golden Steer Steakhouse located just down the street from the former Sahara Hotel & Casino.

When the Golden Steer approached me to redesign their website, I jumped at the opportunity thinking how great is this? The idea of revamping their online presence, to introduce the next generation of patrons to this gem of a restaurant while paying visual homage to its past. This project fell right into my wheelhouse of Las Vegas food photography, restaurant web design and my enthusiasm for old-school Las Vegas.

A little back story about the Golden Steer Steakhouse: Opening in 1958 just west of the Las Vegas Strip on what was formally named San Francisco Avenue (renamed to Sahara Avenue after the opening of the legendary Sahara Hotel & Casino) the steakhouse quickly became the off-Strip hangout for the mob and countless celebrity entertainers who all had long-standing shows on the Las Vegas Strip. Performers like Sammy, Dino, Frank and Elvis dined so often they began to request ahead of time specific booths, for their post-performance dinners with friends and colleagues. With the restaurant located just off The Strip and away from the lights, glitz & glamour, these regulars knew they could relax in the dimly lit atmosphere and dine in anonymity. Today, brass plaques on the wood paneled walls identify these prized booths of real estate within this historic Las Vegas restaurant.

I played around with several website design concepts knowing the end result had to be fully compatible with today's mobile devices, but couldn't be too modern; the website had to keep a vintage feel but perform globally with today's mobile browser requirements. One of the things I've discovered with Las Vegas restaurant website traffic is the high number of visitors using mobile devices. Using Google's Analytic metrics, Las Vegas restaurants get more hits from mobile devices than any other city. This should come as no surprise since most visitors search for "best steakhouse in las vegas" once they are on the ground, while trying to find a dining option.

Sitting in Sammy's booth one afternoon, during a website design meeting, I commented on a neighboring framed Rat Pack poster hanging above Frank Sinatra's booth, saying the image must have been taken around the time the stars made the original Ocean's 11 movie, back in 1960. Many years ago at a movie poster restoration studio in Los Angeles, I recalled seeing an original U.S. 6-sheet movie poster for Ocean's 11 being linen-backed for preservation. I always thought that movie poster would be the ultimate art piece for any Vegas establishment to display. It got me thinking - how about a website landing page, similar in design, but with the Golden Steer's images replacing the movie's cast images. How apropos since they all dined there and the movie was about a Vegas casino heist.

[ "Though I love the luxury of the Waldorf Towers, room service there doesn't do soul food." - Sammy Davis Jr. ]

I spent several long days photographing the Golden Steer's food, cocktails and dining interiors. One of my biggest challenges for Las Vegas food photography is lighting. Rarely do I find a venue with natural light, as the majority of the restaurants are located deep inside the major casinos away from the windowless exterior walls. (Pssst, hey pally, we don't want you to know what time of day it is ...just keep drinking and gambling for our sake.) As for the Golden Steer, which stands relatively alone off The Strip, there are no windows by design. This guarantees a consistent envelope of mood lighting for your dining pleasure.

For the restaurant's architectural photography, I utilized multiple strategically placed daylight balanced strobe lights gelled in color temperature orange to match the low-wattage incandescent proprietary lighting. Yes, shooting with a higher ISO would help, but I really try to avoid the reciprocating digital noise factor that accompanies higher sensor sensitivity settings. Further white balancing and color correction was done in post, to best replicate how the rooms look to the human eye. You have to remember that cameras cannot capture what the eyes see especially in low light situations. The Golden Steer's architectural shots where the most challenging since the brightest bulbs found were 40 watts or less.

The food photography session, of their classic steakhouse menu, was somewhat refreshing since I normally spend my time photographing highly stylized haute cuisine in Las Vegas. At first I thought, how should I food-style this plain grilled rib-eye, sitting on an old-fashion white plate, green garnish adjacent atop a bright white linen table cloth? The answer was, just as it appears. One of the great concepts at the Golden Steer is to leave things alone. Why change what's been working for nearly 60 years and counting. If you're looking for a shrimp cocktail severed in a fountainware paneled glass bowl, with the proverbial laced paper doily underneath, like your grandparents enjoyed it, you've come to right place.

My recommendation when visiting - request an early table reservation to best ensure sitting in your favorite entertainer's personal booth, town car or cab it over and arrive 20 minutes prior to enjoy a Bourbon Old-fashion at the bar first. Once seated, dine like you're suppose to - course it out and take your time. Start with Champagne and choice of Appetizer. Next, Caesar Salad prepared tableside. For your entree, it's all Prime, so you can't go wrong. Accompaniments, Twice Baked Potato and Cream Corn all the way. Desert, without hesitation Bananas Foster Flambé. Lastly, dress like it's an important occasion (even if it isn't) otherwise your mother will smack you with a wooden cooking spatula if you dare arrive in your work clothes! (Speaking from experience here of course.)

Visit Golden Steer Steakhouse, Las Vegas

Below, an original U.S. 6 sheet movie poster for Ocean's 11 and Frank Sinatra's booth at the Golden Steer Steakhouse.

- Chris Wessling -

Las Vegas Food Photographer

Therapy - Urban Dining in Downtown Las Vegas


Most of my food photography projects in Las Vegas take me to the high-glamour celebrity chef driven restaurants on The Vegas Strip, so when Chef Daniel Ontiveros asked me to photograph his new menu, during the development phase for the forthcoming Therapy Restaurant located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, I wasn't sure what to expect. I often tell people my favorite style of foods to photograph are simple comfort food dishes; comfort food isn't pretentious, doesn't need styling and simply looks inviting by its simple & proverbial composure. Chef Ontiveros' take on American comfort food dishes are exactly the food photography projects I like to tackle.

[ If comfort foods were to star on the silver screen, I have no doubt Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart would play their true life counterparts. ]

The construction and build-out of Therapy restaurant was quite extensive, as its previous decades-long tenant, a five and dime store, did not possess any of the necessary commercial kitchen elements needed for a modern eatery. Our initial Las Vegas food photography session was done in a private home in order to produce some pre-opening media shots to release. Arguably, the private kitchen used was as well appointed and complete as any small restaurant could wish for. Test kitchens are always best for menu development and tastings since the distraction of front of house operations (guests dining) become non-detractors.

Once Therapy’s kitchen was approved for commercial use, Chef and I reconvened in the finished space where I was able to capture many of the slick proprietary design elements. Unique surfaces are always the first attribute I look for when photographing food. Background is always the last since I believe food photography should be all about the food and not what’s in the background. My approach is, if you love the venues space then capture that in a wide-angle architectural restaurant image. I often see food photography images where both elements (food and architecture) are fighting for the viewer’s attention. Let it be about one or the other, but not both. In film production, there’s a reason why directors call for establishing, wide, medium and close-up shots. The same rules should apply to photographing restaurants and the food they serve.

In addition to the Chicken & Red Waffle Sliders pictured above, I particularly enjoyed photographing Therapy’s “Big Sexy” Burger, Super Mac-n-cheese and Charred Street Corn con Husk, which can be found in the main food photography gallery.

- Chris Wessling -

Las Vegas Restaurant Service Training Website Design

Restaurant Hospitality Institute


Mark Steele, founder of Restaurant Hospitality Institute of Las Vegas, has created a simple yet brilliant educational training program for the Las Vegas restaurant service industry.

In recent years the onslaught of reality television celebrity chef cooking shows have placed focus on one thing and one thing only – bossy obstinate chefs and their Back of House (B.O.H.) operations. The list of shows grows and grows, most spawning from the likes of Iron Chef America, Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped and Master Chef to name a few. For the self-proclaimed foodie out there, who loves this form of that’s not really how it works entertainment, there’s one très très important factor missing - the Front of House (F.O.H.) operations, or guest service. No matter the chef’s persona, savoir-faire, likability and let’s not forget temperament (gee, who could that be?), a restaurant venue will fail quickly if equal operation standards are not applied to the guest service side of the business. Just as any well composed dish should have its protein cooked to perfection with an oh so delicately balanced acid to base finishing sauce, complimented with a defectless accompanying side, the same goes for the dining room server who should know the proper techniques when opening a wine bottle versus a Champagne bottle, pre-marking silverware prior to a course’s arrival, table talk descriptors, table maintenance, anticipating guests’ needs in advance of their having to ask and for Pete’s sake no food auctioning – know your table position numbers! Let’s face it, food is only one part of the dining experience, the other being service. This is where Restaurant Hospitality Institute fills the void.

[ “It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.” – Julia Child ]

Prior to developing my company Downstairs Loft Creative, LLC as one-stop-shopping for Las Vegas food, beverage & restaurant architectural photography, restaurant website design, digital media and marketing, yours truly was a fully vested F&B operations factotum. My experience spans from delivering pizza at the age of 16, a busy busboy, a seasoned server, a no-nonsense General Manager, a strategic Director of Food & Beverage and dare I add …a restaurant owner. Suffice to write, when Mark Steele contacted me to help develop his website for RHI, he didn’t need to explain his business model – I knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and moreover the need for it, in the Las Vegas hospitality market.

In all my years while in a hiring position, one of the most difficult challenges was determining a F.O.H. candidate’s knowledge and skillset based solely on a fifteen-minute interview accompanied by a curriculum vitae in-hand. There are those who live up to their resumes, but more frequently those who fall short. Wouldn’t it be nice if a State accredited training program existed that could qualify an individual’s aptitude and knowledge index to better expedite the vetting process? Now there’s a textbook example of a rhetorical question!

Restaurant Hospitality Institute provides graduates the necessary proficiencies and physical skills to exceed not only in delivering top-notch service, but also the added expertise to up-sell for higher revenue, or tips. The five week program includes: Hospitality, The Art of Service, Revenue Generating Techniques, Food Knowledge, Sanitation & Health Codes, Physical Skills, Wines of the World and Liquor Studies. The academia includes lectures, verbal communications and hands-on physical demonstrations to best create a real-life dining situation in the fast paced, high volume Las Vegas restaurant scene.

So, when will the entertainment industry produce their first celebrity F.O.H. personality for reality television consumption? Even better, how about a B.O.H. vs. F.O.H. battle? You know you’d tune in, wouldn’t you?

Visit Restaurant Hospitality Institute

- Chris Wessling -

Art Gallery Website Design

Celestart - Artist Representative


'Afternoon Sun' by Simon Kenevan

When the Celestart web design project first began, my client wanted a comprehensive framework to expand his artist's portfolio of work. When we viewed other online galleries we were surprised at the number of outstanding and prolific artists displaying their works on such low-standing website platforms. Equally as poor, were the images attempting to represent their work. Not only were the vast majority of these images poorly lit, most likely taken with a camera utilizing an on-camera flash, but the screen resolution was reduced to a size only qualified for hand-held mobile device resolutions. We thought, how can a patron be expected to become immersed into an original piece of art with a thumbnail image without even offering a slightly larger java script enabled light-box as an alternative?

To launch, we showcased renowned artist Simon Kenevan and his impressive body of work. Now, I've always said that great website designs require one measure of technical (the HTML and CSS code etc.), one measure of content (original written copy) and one measure of quality imagery; with that in mind, now's the time for a Vesper Martini. Beginning with the code, we wanted to create a clean, expansive and minimalist design that would be void of the proverbial multi-column side bars loaded with links & advertising, patterned backgrounds, excessive css (cascading style sheet) drop shadows and the rest of the usual suspects that most websites fall victim to - the site needed to be center-focused on the art. For the written copy, we followed suit and asked Simon Kenevan to contribute some meaningful words that captured the moment and vision prior to creating selections from his collection. Lastly, for the images, I insisted that high-resolution files would be the only source to master from. I specially choose just the right compression percentage and pixel dimension to maximize visual quality being sensitive to bandwidth download speeds.

In addition to website design and commercial photography, I've always been passionate about desert landscape photography. Since the nearest true body of water is a long way off from my existence in the Mojave Desert, it's always nice to see other artists who capture the desert's counterpart. To great surprise I was taken back when I first viewed Simon Kenevan's high-res image files - the soft palate of colors were perfectly saturated with a layer of slight embellishment. Most photographs render colors and object's edges with some exaggeration. Here's where I was off-keel ...I wasn't viewing a photograph, I was studying an original oil on canvas [above] by Simon Kenevan. Since the launch of, I've had fun asking friends their thoughts on Simon Kenevan's images, all the while not telling them what they are looking at. The results are always the same ...truly stunning and accomplished work.

- Chris Wessling -

Mammoth Lakes Architectural Resort Photographer & Website Design

80|50 Mammoth Lakes, CA - A Look Inside Luxury


No, it’s not the address, but the elevation the property sits at; EIGHT THOUSAND & FIFTY FEET above sea level. 80|50 Mammoth is Mammoth Lakes' newest Luxury Ski-In Ski-Out private residence club located in the heart of Mammoth Lakes Village. What differentiates this property from all other ski-in ski-out condos in Mammoth Village is their 5 star luxury condo appointments including 24/7 concierge & guest services, proprietary SUV town cars, valet service, private underground wine vaults, in-room private chef dining, full-time housekeeping …everything a world-class resort would offer, but it’s not a rental, it's yours!

Unquestionably one of my favorite places to say “I have to go to work today”, 80|50 Mammoth is certainly a rewarding project for me and I could not be happier to have them as my client. Over the past year, I’ve been involved in their marketing program specifically relating to 80|50’s website and applied search engine optimization. I spent the week with the sales and operation team reviewing the metrics and strategizing 80|50’s place in the market. In addition, I photographed a number of areas within the property to update the website. Perhaps one of the more stunning rooms photographed was the Owner’s Lounge, located on the rooftop boasting an absolutely majestic panoramic view of the surrounding snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Windows to the outside world are the bane of any photographer’s existence - the thorn in our side. There are a number of challenges working with windows including interior lights reflecting off the glass back at the camera, a high dynamic range of light exposure between the interior & exterior and color temperature (Kelvin temp.) between interior tungsten lighting & the daylight/twilight balance outside. Remember, the human brain and the eyes have the ability to factor all these variables instantly with a brilliant algorithm supplied by Mother Nature. Digital cameras are not self-intuitive (yet). All professional cameras have the option for manual or auto white balancing (tungsten vs. daylight), but how do you address this situation when you have mixed lighting temperatures, as in the image above?

I’m a strong advocate of truth in advertising, so it was my goal to accurately capture the true nature and beauty of this room as one would see it, if in person. My original plan was to simply open the accordion glass doors to the extending outside patio (eliminating the interior light reflections), but that option was quickly scrubbed as the leading edge of a Pacific storm approaching brought 40 mph sustained winds, gusting to 85 -- standing in a wheelhouse, on the upper deck of ship during a hurricane, with all the windows open would have been a mistake. Instead, I took the more tedious and time consuming approach of taking a series of images, while securely ratcheted into the tripod over the course of several hours to capture all the varying light exposures outside. The more challenging part was figuring out how to turn off all the interior lights. What you don’t see behind the camera, in the picture above, are two extending hallways, a full service bar, the elevator foyer, private spa rooms and a well-equipped wellness center …all with dazzling ceiling lights to annoy me. So you tell yourself, “turn ‘em all off”. Not so easy since the common areas do not have light switches on the walls for the kids to play with. With some help from the engineering department, we were able to locate the breaker panel and identify which circuits we wanted off. For the egress lights, which by building code are all roped together via a special breaker panel and must remain on at all times, I had to mask each one off with black studio foil and gaffer tape to silence them.

For added lighting, I positioned a total of 6 radio-controlled strobes - three inside with 1/2 CTO and 3 outside (out of frame) with 1/4 CTO to accurately reproduce the mood and provide image depth. I originally wanted to affix the outside strobes with my parabolic modifiers to provide some even edge lighting, but the wind had a little sumpin’ to say in that. I was forced go bare bulb with two 25 pound sand bags securing each of the century stands.

One may say why not simply perform many of these tasks in post edit? Well you could, but then you'd be crossing over into the embellishment zone, which I’d prefer to never venture into. Call me a traditionalist, but although I’ve gone all-digital for my commercial work, my integrity insists on adhering to as much in-camera work whenever possible.

- Chris Wessling -

Ownership at 80|50 Mammoth starts at $79,000 ...incredible!

Downtown Las Vegas Food Photographer

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, NV - Winter Menu


Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen, located in downtown Las Vegas, is one swanky-cool hangout. In a metropolis where billion dollar casinos, with their financial resources, have ruled the culinary landscape utilizing their "celebrity chef" collections, Kerry Simon and friends have ventured into the abyss of forgotten Las Vegas, to reinvent themselves and give great reason to explore the redevelopment of the East Fremont District of Downtown Las Vegas.

In 2014, the John E. Carson Hotel, yes you read that name correctly, located at the corner of Carson and 6th Street, in Downtown Las Vegas, was re-purposed into a multi-tenant commercial enclave. Hey Manhattan and Santa Monica, there’s a new place to “live-work”! Gone are the forlorn one-night-stay (if at that) hotel rooms, in are today’s digital media artist in their creative dens. The bottom floor of this former two-story mid-century hotel is now home to a Pilates studio, a boutique florist shop and several culinary offerings including Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen.

Like a fall fashion shoot, I set up shop for the day at Carson Kitchen to photograph Executive Chef Matt Andrew’s newest food creations for the forthcoming winter menu. Food photography is no different than photographing people; some take good direction from you, some have good & bad sides and some, well - keep your day job. Chef Matt Andrew’s creations not only behaved on-camera during the food photography shoot, they behaved equally as well after the shoot …in our mouths. Food never goes to waste on a food photography project. I often tell people that I enjoy photographing simpler foods that need no explanation, or accompanying item description, as great food should speak for itself. Take for example Carson Kitchen’s Pork Belly Carbonara with crispy egg yolk and Parmesan [pictured] – here’s a perfect example of a classic comfort dish that needs no introduction. The flavors and presentation of this now classic Carson Kitchen entree exceed any previous version you’ve ever indulged in ...and I do mean EVER! Now let's get into the Chili Cheese Dog Flat Bread. Seriously? Yes, it rules! Did I mention the Veal Meatballs with sherry foie gras cream and the “secret” Baked Mac & Cheese? Sure I mentioned it, in the last sentence …trust me and order both without a second thought. We photographed a number of cocktails too including “The Towns End” [pictured] with Slow & Low Whiskey, Fernet Vittone, Amaro del Sole, Regan’s #6 and Angostura Bitters. Sadly we didn’t indulge after taking their yearbook photos, as far as anyone knows.

Quietly, with great passion and diligence, Carson Kitchen has earned its place in the top ranks of Las Vegas’ local culinary scene. Carson Kitchen is not about over the top haute cuisine rather it focuses on serving fantastic traditional dishes, immersed in an atmosphere of urban elegance at comforting prices. In 2014 Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen was recognized by Gayot as one of the "10 Best American Restaurants in Las Vegas", Vegas Seven magazine gave them "Best New Casual Restaurant" honors, in addition to Kerry's "Lifetime Achievement Award" and Eater Vegas nominated Carson Kitchen for "Best New Restaurant in Las Vegas".

Carson Kitchen is not “one to watch” (what a tired cliché), it’s simply one to experience in your finest vintage t-shirt while your Chucks squeak on the barstool foot rail. Dining tables are typically filled, but in harmony with the proverbial John E. Carson flickering “Vacancy/No Vacancy” sign hanging on the hotel’s façade, Carson Kitchen’s loyal patrons arrive and depart frequently …there’s a payoff to the table wait.

- Chris Wessling -

Keep Calm and Kerry On

Las Vegas Food Photographer

The Chandelier Menu - The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas


Group sales departments of most major hotels rarely have the proper tools for selling private dining events in their various outlets and hospitality guest suites. Typically, sales associates follow the age-old protocol of emailing potential clients the proverbial large file Word or PDF attachments. If they're lucky, the documents will have the most current information and if they're really, really lucky, appealing food images to compliment!

In addition to the obvious challenges in keeping the catering menu updated on the hotel's shared server drive, menu items are constantly being updated due to availability of seasonal ingredients. The other challenge is providing the group sales team with a tasting for every new menu item, so they can disseminate their knowledge and likings to the potential client. Often, destination management companies are reluctant to make selections, on behalf of their client, not knowing what the selections look or taste like. Although there's no current method to digitally encode taste and smell over the internet (I'm working on it), the Visual Online Menu Gallery is the next best thing.

For The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, we created a Visual Online Image Portal for the group sales department to work with. No longer is the need to email bloated documents via email attachment when a visual online menu gallery of high-res images can be viewed with a simple and intuitive copy & paste web-link. No more lengthy conversation with the client as to what the food menu items look like or how they are presented. With the current digital imaging and custom web-portal platforms available, there's no reason to stick with those tired traditional ways. Imagine a resort's entire room service menu available visually online, without the order takers having to describe each item, as inevitably they do ...let the portal sell the product, relieving the staff to tackle other pressing needs.

- Chris Wessling -

Las Vegas Hospitality Website Design
Beyond Hospitality


Beyond Hospitality asked me to reinvent their website, from its original design and update the structure utilizing HTML5 Responsive code. Tobias Mattstedt, Managing Director of Beyond Hospitality, had a specific vision that he wanted to see that would showcase the company’s portfolio of projects with sophistication and modern elegance just as the finished luxury resort properties themselves possess.

The original site was embedded with Java, which can be blocked by default in today’s browsers for security issues, so it was replaced with responsive CSS code and where needed java script for the transitioning images. Tobias leaned away from the proverbial hover-over-drop-down navigation menu and asked me to design and incorporate the various divisions of Beyond Hospitality using a specific color pallet with the Neutraface font. There are challenges with the Neutraface font because it’s not a web-safe font that browsers can handle, so images had to be created to circumvent that obstacle. In order to offset each link to make them appear randomly placed on a full screen computer monitor, they were designed in Adobe Illustrator as PNG transparent files and simply coded as background images in the div’s CSS with varying percentages of X & Y -/+ coordinates to create the random placement effect. To solve the responsive mobile device issue (aligning all of them for smaller smart-phone screens), separate commands were placed for the mobile CSS layout rule.

For the individual page headers, rather than simply designing these in Adobe Illustrator as click-able PNG image links, I choose to wrap each navigation division (implemented as text copy) with its own color attribute defined in the CSS, so that each one could then receive a header tag for search engine indexing. Additionally, a web-safe font similar to Neutraface was used.

As an independent restaurant operations consultant and digital media specialist, I’ve been involved on many projects with Beyond Hospitality. The tasks are always challenging, as they should be; creating unique hotel environments and true hospitality in the modern senses does not come easy, but collaborating with seasoned professionals provides awarding results.

- Chris Wessling -

Aerospace Website Design

FlightLine Films, Las Vegas, NV


The design and build of FlightLine Films' website was moreover a labor of love versus my other projects, due to my direct involvement with so many of their specialized and unique productions; I knew the scope of FlightLine Films’ work and the visual look they wanted to achieve for their online presence.

The redesign conversation started during the zenith of the Red Bull Stratos project. Since the project truly exemplified FlightLine Films' ability to deliver cost effective streaming of moving images live from space, it was important to share this visual narrative using a large number of high-resolution images. With Stratos filed under "mission accomplished", attention to the website began.

The existing website analytics scripts reported a higher than normal use of mobile devices accessing the domain’s server, so it was imperative to construct the ideal mobile responsive design to allow images to load quickly over a wireless network, resize and not suffer from pixel degradation (macro-blocking, pixelation, gradient banding, etc.).

As a rule of thumb, images should be normalized at 72 ppi (pixels per inch) for web use. However, every image is different. For example if most of your images have a skyline that graduates from dark to light (sky to horizon) the inevitable color banding issue will occur if excessive compression is applied. In simple English, color banding occurs when you take a high-res image file, which is too fat and lethargic to download quickly on the internet and run it through an image software program (Adobe Lightroom) which uses an algorithm to “dumb-down” the amount of pixels by compressing them. By compressing, we’re talking about eliminating the in-between pixels by sampling the values of the surrounding pixels and combining them into one, or striking as many as it takes to make the image smaller and download friendly. Too much compression creates that awful banding effect. When “Saving for Web” always choose a quality setting that allows the image to look its best and not necessarily the programs’ default output level. When raising the quality level produces no visible gains in image quality then retreat back to the threshold, or sweet spot that provides the lowest files size for web use. Not everyone is as persnickety as I am when it comes to image quality. Be sure to engage me on that topic, but first reserve a few hours of your day.

The resulting site is light on java script and mainly controlled through the use of clean structured CSS. The purposely designed “Zero-G” floating div arrangements over the background of planet Earth were simply enhanced using a CSS box-shadow code. In this example, the scrolling effect and box shadow provided just the right illusion and atmosphere (pun intended of course) to meet the definition of à propos, or to the purpose.

- Chris Wessling -

Box Shadow CSS Code:

#main_text {
box-shadow: 15px 15px 28px #000;

Background “cover” commands in the body attributes for Earth were applied allowing auto resizing within the various browsers and screen sizes:

body {
background-attachment: fixed;
background-image: url(images/bg/index_bg.jpg);
background-repeat: no-repeat;
background-position: center top;
background-size: cover;
-webkit-background-size: cover;
-moz-background-size: cover;
-o-background-size: cover;
background-color: #000;

Art Gallery Website Design

Renee Reeser: A Los Angeles Illustration Artist


This month, I had the unique opportunity to rework an extremely talented Los Angeles Illustrator's web site by the name of Renee Reeser. Renee was looking for a very image-out-front, now-today design that would showcase her diverse talent in illustration. What made this project so enjoyable was her vast portfolio of work and the wide spectrum of projects she has been involved with.

Knowing her clientele, who are always on the run, we wanted to develop a website that would be fully responsive, having the ability to resize and reconfigure its visual content on any mobile device and also present her illustration artwork in a intuitive user format.

The resulting web site is beautiful example of form and function, with her artwork providing the form and the HTML5 CSS3 web design providing seamless function. Check it out HERE.

- Chris Wessling -

Red Bull Stratos Behind The Scenes

Project Stratos: Redux


I picked up a copy of Al Reinert's remastered For All Mankind from The Criterion Collection this week. As a huge fan of anything space related , I was really impressed with the Datacine inter-positive release print transfer to the high-def Blu-ray format. Equally impressive was the supplemental material and all the archival still images available on the disc. However, this is not another review of that film, but it did give me some thought about revisiting my behind the scenes look at a huge project I was involved with last year: Project Stratos.

Beginning in July of 2011 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where we ran tests of our long range optical tracking equipment on the final Shuttle launch (STS 135, Shuttle Atlantis) and ending on October 14th 2012, deep in the New Mexico desert with Felix Baumgartner's historic world record space jump from the Stratosphere (127,851ft.), I had full access to the project, documenting every moment with my cameras. With thousands of images taken, I even have images of paint drying on the space flight components!

Red Bull Media's live YouTube broadcast of the event broke the internet live-streaming world record with over 8 million simultaneous viewers. In 2013, Red Bull Media and Flightline Films were honored with an Emmy Award for "Outstanding New Approaches Sports Event Coverage." Knowing Red Bull Media's commitment to delivering a first-rate broadcast and subsequent documentary film, I was really focused on capturing the unsung elements that might have gotten lost or overshadowed by the sensational moving images.

For the most part, the following gallery images are in relative chronological order. During the course of the project there were 5 successful launches: 2 Unmanned Balloon Flights (UMF1 & 2) and 3 Manned Ballooned Flights (MBF1,2 & 3). Each launch had its own specific mission, in proving itself during the critical path forward, for the final mission to succeed, much like the series of Apollo launches leading to the Moon landing. I've chosen 180 images that best tell the story from an alternate perspective, including the logistics of travel, remote location setup, elements of weather, venomous rattlesnakes & scorpions, magnificent sunrises, distant Jupiter and its moons, capsule components, telemetry, mission control and "Jumper away!" as captured by my Canon 5D mated to an Astro Tech Ritchey-Chrétien 10 inch optic.

From a human perspective, perhaps the most entertaining of these images are of Col. Joe Kittinger's insistence on getting his hands dirty and later, of Felix's reflective visor folding training.

First mentioned; Joe Kittinger is one Tough-as-Nails, No Nonsense retired United States Air Force Colonel. At the age of 84 his contribution to the project was invaluable. Not only as a technical advisor, but as a mentor to Felix. I would constantly see Joe, hustling around the launch facility performing one task after another. My thoughts were always "Can't someone help Joe out with that task?" Yes, there was plenty of help, but Joe wouldn't have it that way, he had to have his hands in the mix at all times. The images of Joe removing and carrying away the capsule's access panels are priceless. I have nothing but respect and high admiration for him. If you ever run into the Colonel, just thank him for his enlisted services - enough said. [Images 82 - 85]

Capsule Crew Chief, John Wells (Sage Cheshire Aerospace) teaches Felix how to strategically fold the reflective shield which he would use to "visor-out" the Sun's extreme light rays while on the long accent up to space. Now, we all have these types of collapsible devices in our automobiles, but this one was really huge and required a few practice attempts to accomplish the task; now factor in the pressure suit gloves. [Images 88 - 91]

Some final thoughts as I look back: Since 1947, there's been a debate as to whether or not a real live alien ever landed in a farmer's field outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Being that Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian national, I can definitively tell the world that an alien did in fact landed there; I saw it with my own eyes!

- Chris Wessling -

See the gallery images HERE.

Las Vegas Aerial Cinematographer

Red Bull Air Race Championship 2014

30 September

Gearing up for the Red Bull Air Race 2014 Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, I joined the crew of FlightLine Films to capture some spectacular low altitude aerial maneuvering for the video promo. In addition my operation of the Red One high-speed cinema digital camera rolling at 120 frames per second, two other cameras captured the this amazing video footage; one from an alternate ground position and the other captured by Aerospace Cinematographer Jay Nemeth operating a helicopter mounted Gyron System camera mount. Check out the edited video below.

Red Bull Air Race Promo / Las Vegas Motor Speedway

30 September