American photographer Miranda Alam reveals the story behind her spectacular shot shortlisted in the Street Photography category in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards' Open competition.
Everybody knows Las Vegas is hot (hello, desert), but few know that it actually exhibits all kinds of extreme weather. Usually from the middle of June right through to the end of September is monsoon season in the city, when humid air is sent north from the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico. Winds can get as high as 70+ mph. Monsoons tend to come out of nowhere and it’s the closest I hope I ever come to experiencing a tornado.
This photo was taken on the Las Vegas Strip during an outdoor party at the beach club at Encore. At this point the party was only about an hour in, and there was absolutely no indication that poor weather would come into play. That night I was working as an event photographer for the local alternative weekly magazine I normally shoot for, Las Vegas Weekly, and the event was a party for the local Las Vegans who’d won in their category in the annual Best of Vegas.
I had watched the animal print donuts being arranged on pegs on the wall during event setup, and throughout that first hour I would circle back every 20 minutes or so waiting to take something interesting with them in the background. The third of fourth time around I found three beautiful women in the early stages of getting ready to take a group selfie, so I offered to take it for them. I took the photo on one of their cell phones, handed it back and asked if I could take one of them for the event.
I stepped back and shouted that I would wait for the wind to die down a bit before I took the photo, but instead of dying down it burst forth with the biggest gust of the night. Instead of waiting I took the shot – a decisive moment indeed. The party was officially shut down five minutes later, but before it was over I took two more posed photos after this, but the four of us agreed the candid one was best. I was just glad they weren’t upset! In fact, it was quite the opposite. Shortly after finding out I’d been shortlisted in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards, all three of them posted on Instagram screenshots of my photo as it appeared in news stories, excited that this unexpected snapshot of momentary madness was being recognized in the street photography category.
When I’m working on assignment I use Canon gear. I shoot with a 5D Mark III and 1DX. Lately I’ve gravitated towards using an off camera flash setup and for this shot I just used a bare speedlite with manual settings in my left hand with a flash sync cable connected to the camera.