Henderson photographer honored for night flight work

Flying above the tops of City Center, the Bellagio and many other Strip hotels and sites, Lane Swainston sees Las Vegas from different eyes and captures them for the world to see.

"I’m just showing everybody my town," Swainston said.

Swainston, who grew up in Las Vegas, remembers that the only time he would go to d owntown Las Vegas or parts of the Strip was when family was in town.

"We would take them to go see the lights," Swainston recalled.

But those lights, along with Swainston’s view of them, have changed.

Miles above the ground in a helicopter, Swainston has captured unseen sights.

"There is a circle bridge at Harmon (A venue) that looks normal from the ground," Swainston said. "From the sky it’s art. The colors, the shapes and designs, it is all art."

Over years of capturing different places in Las Vegas, Swainston has rarely come across the same shot twice.

"Depending what’s going on around or the color of the sky, it is all different," Swainston said.

It’s not just that Swainston takes his aerial photos from a helicopter as opposed to buildings. It is also that he does it at night.

"And not at what photographers call the golden hour," Swainston said. "I actually go at night when the sky is dark."

The culmination of Swainston’s work was at the end of March, when he received three awards for his work from the Professional Aerial Photographers Association International.

"I won best photo of the year and most artistic photo," Swainston said.

Anela Kaheaku, who works with Swainston, said the last award was for engineering and design.

"He has had to create a lot of his own equipment to help him shoot at night," Kaheaku said.

This equipment helps stabilize his camera while he is in the helicopter, making the photo come out crisp as opposed to blurry.

All the photos in the competition were submitted without names and were subjected to a blind judging.

Kaheaku said they also had a workshop to help others from the association learn about Swainston’s nighttime photo techniques.

Part of Swainston ‘s success comes back to the city.

"I dare you to find a better place to take these types of photos," Swainston said. "There is more happening in two square miles of our city than any other urban place."

The best part about Swainston’s company is it always will be needed, as the city is constantly changing.

"The buildings I grew up with aren’t around anymore," Swainston said.

Swainston started out working in construction.

"I was a carpenter for the unions, and I was a Teamster," Swainston said. "But as time went on I knew there was no way I would get a job in management without a degree."

Swainston went to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and received a degree in construction management.

He worked for Steve Wynn developing projects and the Clark County School District helping to construct new schools during the boom in the ’90s.

Swainston eventually went on to start his own consulting company, Swainston Consulting Group.

"I found there was a demand for my expertise," Swainston said.

While consulting, he found the best way to show people a vision for what was to be constructed was to take an aerial photograph as opposed to a 3-D rendering.

It was about 15 years ago when he really noticed how beneficial photography could be with his consulting business.

But Swainston didn’t just do the photography for his business ; it turned out he loved what he was doing and the perspectives he was capturing.

The business split into two, with Swainston becoming a consultant by day and an aerial photographer by night.

"The time factors work any scheduling conflicts out," Swainston said. "It just makes for a long work day."

Some of Swainston’s favorite views include the old parts of downtown Las Vegas and the newer parts of the Strip such as the Bellagio fountains and City Center.

"You know you have a good photograph when people can just look at it for long periods of times," Swainston said.

In the end, Swainston doesn’t just care about the money or even the name he makes for himself.

"I just want to leave a legacy," Swainston said , " a part of me that will remain even when I am gone."

For more information, visit swainston.com.

Contact Henderson and Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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