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Finding the “I” in WPPI 2013 {thoughts from a sixth-time attendee}

Back at home. And sitting at my laptop in my dining room. One son is happily pounding away on his drum kit downstairs, while my youngest watching my iPod intently while sipping on juicebox like a little drunk man. I’m allowed to spoil them after four days of being away. And yes. It’s good to be home.

Ahhh. WPPI. I mark it on my calendar each year and anticipate it like a little kid. The annual trek to WPPI in Las Vegas is an equal mix of trade show, print competition, workshop classes, reunion, parties and inspiration infusion. Touted as the biggest and boldest photography conference for wedding and portrait photographers worldwide, it as grown to attract nearly 16000 photographers. Now that’s a lot of camera-toting people roaming the corridors of the MGM Grand. But having gone 5 times prior, I never fail to walk a few meters without running into someone I know. It’s a homecoming of sorts.

Here’s the familiar walkway from the hotel room to the conference center – which we walked numerous times every day. It was about half a mile, seriously.

It’s true many of the classes are now geared towards photography novices, starting entrepreneurs and serious hobbyists – but there are always nuggets of wisdom to be found. One can find platform classes with photographers who inspire them, or take master classes or even platform classes with a business track. There’s always something new to learn.

(Clockwise from left upper corner: Elisabeth Messina platform class, Elisabeth Messina gives away a prize, Scott Kelby talking about one-strobe lighting, L.A. wedding planner Jill LeFleur,  the musical act for Sue Bryce slideshow and Matthew Jordan Smith at Sony booth)

Education does not necessarily take place within conference walls, but in meaningful communication with the people around you.  I’m never shy to strike up a conversation with anyone, regardless of the photographer rockstar status.

At this year’s WPPI, I met George Larson, the inventor of the softbox. He is an amazingly kind man with tons of stories to share. We chatted for about 20 minutes and from him, I learned about hard work, creativity and invention. He also stressed the value of having a vision and seeing it through to the end.

At the trade show, I volunteered at the Cullinator and Clienti booth.  If you hate culling as much as I do, you should definitely check out the Cullinator game control editing system. For a mere $50, you can make your life a lot easier and comfortable as you sort through thousands of images in the culling process.

Meanwhile, Clienti is a brand spanking new client management software in development. The demo on hand was very impressive and I can’t wait for it to be released in August.  It was a huge source of Filipino pride for me as most of the developers were my kababayans. Hi Rengie! It’s great to see the genius mind at work in ways to make life easier and more productive.

Above is me and fellow booth babe Monica Pingol. And later,  the super talented but humble funny guy -photographer Ed Pingol gave a talk on his favorite wedding tips. I should’ve kept tally on how many times he said crap.:)

Check out *the* Joe Photo, playing with his new Cullinator. Here’s Alisha Todd of Alisha + Brooke Todd Photographers with hers.

Imbetween all the schmoozing, I managed to attend some platform classes. Elisabeth Messina was incredibly inspiring with her unique trademark natural-light-infused images. Her latest book from Amphoto entitled “The Luminous Portrait” is now available on Amazon. It’s impossible not to fall in love with her and her work.

Creative Live’s internet sensation Sue Bryce was simply ah-maz-ing. Words cannot describe her biting wit, technical savy and commanding artistry  in producing beautiful glamourous portraits of real women. Gotta love that Aussie accent. I was smiling throughout the entire talk. Chin-shoulders-hands-hourglass body -language-connection-asymmetry. Say that 10x fast and please commit to memory!

 And of course -my dear friend Jesh de Rox. There are probably better versions of this on the inter web, but here’s my view of his talk’s closing words. Fun. Spontenaous, Unforgettable. Definitely a tiger-claw moment (inside joke).

Of course I shouldn’t forget about the parties. Lots of those happening in Vegas!

Night #1 The annual dinner with the Changs, uber talented photographer Augie and hair and make-up artist extrordinaire Maria (not married, nor related – just a happy coincidence), at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill. So much fun to meet and greet everybody in our home away from home. I’m always thankful to be part of a supportive wedding industry.

Night #2. Crazy fun is always guaranteed at  Lasers and Blazers, held at Vanity at the Hard Rock Hotel. Photographers party hard! Here’s a little snippet video of the Harlem Shake.  Hee hee. And  yes, that’s a glimpse of me with the white balloon. Thanks, Peter Clayman, for immortalizing me in my tipsy state. I’m anxiously awaiting photos from SmileBooth, I think I may have photobombed someone’s portraits that night. Sorry!

Night #3, there was the THRIVE launch party at the Palms. It was an intimate gathering of friends from the Beloved Collective and Thrive community, set to be launched formally this year. A warm community of artists from different mediums, the goals are to help inspire art and educate artists to make a decent living from it. Eric Nordby from With Etiquette and Jesh de Rox both performed an acoustic set for us. Such a beautiful way to spend an evening.

Next stop, Business as an Artform 2013. Will I see you in Denver?

On a more somber note, WPPI will always remain a big part of my photographic journey, a pitstop to refuel, refresh and reinspire my artistic soul. If you have never been, do check it out next year. If you’re a WPPI veteran like me, I do hope to see you again next year!

How can I *not* have at least one cheesy photo on the Strip? 

Andrew - Still so bummed we didn’t hang out this year but I will see you very soon :)
Glad you had such a great time this year :)

Susan Walker - Auey! Thank you so much for posting the video of Jesh De Rox’s talk! I’ve been scouring the web, trying to find it! It was such a moving experience, and I wanted to be able to relive it! :) Thanks again!

Blessings to you and yours! :)

Susan Walker

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