The Craft: WPPI 2012 & West Coast California

Yesterday's delivery from Mr Aus Post was a hip swinging pair of blue suede shoes - uh huh huh! It therefore stands to reason that the next four hours were lost to finessing my Elvis lip curl. However, my new arrivals also reminded me that I still needed to blog my trip to WPPI and California back in February. So grab yourself a Friday arvo beverage, relax and read on...

WPPI stands for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. It's a US based organisation that every year pulls together the largest gathering of photographers in the world for a week of workshops, seminars, print judging and high octane partying networking. This year there were 17,000 of us. Oh, and it just happens to take place in Las Vegas. Gee, the things I have to do for my profession ; )

However, whereas most people head to Sin City in search of drinking, gambling and showgirls, my pilgrimage was for inspiration. I had left full time employment just a week earlier so I was still getting used to the thought of life without regular paydays or cupcake drops. But within a couple of days of hanging out at the MGM Grand with my new shutter-clicking brethren (special mentions go out to Lara Beck and Rebecca Lozer), I knew I had made the right decision.

There were over 160 seminars, workshops and master classes to choose from, many of which were hosted by some of the biggest names in the business including Jose Villa, Jasmine Star, Bambi Cantrell and Australia's own Jerry Ghionis and Sue Bryce.

Jerry Ghionis is one of the best wedding photographers in the world. He's incredibly skilled and creative as you would expect, but wedding photography is about people so one also requires immaculate conversational and customer service skills and Jerry has them in bucketloads. His ability to put clients at ease and make them happy to spend time being elegantly posed is just incredible. And on top of all that he's one of the nicest and funniest guys you'll ever meet. Man crush much?! At the awards night Jerry won the WPPI Wedding Album Of The Year title for the 8th time in 10 years! The album was ground breaking in design using fractured images, inspired by the edges of bevelled mirrors. Below is one of the amazing layouts and here's the whole WPPI Wedding Album Of The Year.


© Jerry Ghionis

Jerry also entered another album into the contest. What the judges didn't know was that all the photos were taken on an iPhone 4S and processed with just one app to give them a sepia polaroid look. It finished in 4th place! Have a peek at the iPhone album.

Sue Bryce is a Kiwi by birth but now calls Sydney home (when she's not jetting around the world teaching and speaking). Sue is hilarious and shamelessly ditzy, but she also has the most incredible story, starting a portrait photography business in her parent's garage in country New Zealand and going from scratch to $20,000 per week - within. her. first. year! Sue has redefined the glamour portrait industry with her breathtakingly beautiful images of women.


© Sue Bryce

© Sue Bryce

Just before WPPI Sue won the Australian Portrait Photographer Of The Year title, then followed that up at WPPI with 6 awards in her first year of entering! Sue's seminar was the last on my timetable. Hundreds of photographers filled the auditorium to capacity and were held spellbound as Sue gave one of the most inspirational classes I've ever heard. At the end of it Sue received the only standing ovation I had witnessed that week. A truly fitting end to my first WPPI.

I would highly recommend anyone entering the wedding photography industry to head to WPPI, for the incredible experience and to get their bearings in an industry that's evolving at an astonishing speed. 

So after 9 days of frantic scribbling my notebooks were overflowing with photographic, creative, and marketing ideas and I was raring to come back to Sydney to put them all into practice and take my business and client experience to the next level. But my time in the US wasn't over just yet. I had also planned a road trip up the West Coast of California to San Francisco, a place that I have always wanted to visit.

So I headed off in my trusty Dodge Nitro and spent three days on the road, taking in the spectacular scenery of Pacific Coast Highway 1 (including the incredible Big Sur!), and stopping off overnight at the beautiful coastal towns of Santa Barbara and Monterey before arriving in San Francisco. It could have taken even longer given that it was my first time driving on the right hand side of the road, and without any GPS, but somehow I managed to stay on track!

San Francisco lived up to my expectations; beautiful, charming, and a little quirky. I only had three days there but managed to squeeze in a night tour of Alcatraz, a hike over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, a bread bowl of clam chowder at Boudin Bakery, a Double-Double burger at In-N-Out, a catch up at the Cheesecake Factory (Y.U.M!) with new friends from WPPI, and was a good Apple fanboy by dropping by Apple HQ in Cupertino.

All up it was an awesome way to mark the start of my new life. I did of course take a lot of photos but I had challenged myself to pack light and so shot pretty much everything on my new 45mm tilt-shift lens. This is a speciality lens that has a number of tricks up its sleeve. You'll probably be most familiar with its ability to make big things look miniature as you can achieve a similar effect on your iPhone with apps like Instagram. So anyway, that's enough of my spiel, here are some of my postcards from Nevada and California. Enjoy!


























































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