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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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Personal: Fiji

Bula my friends! As it's the festive season and we're all in the holiday spirit I thought it would be a good time to share some pics from my recent trip to Fiji.

I hopped over there in November, which admittedly is an unusual time to leave Australia given that the wedding season is just starting to heat up. But Pixie Face had just reached her big 3-0 and wanted to celebrate in style, and as I had a gap in my schedule we locked it in.

The timing of the trip turned out to be perfect. I'd been super busy for the last few months and on the weekend before the trip I had back to back weddings and a 7 hour Love session, all in sweltering heat. Oh, plus there was the small matter of being best man at my best mate's wedding, held in the "humble" surroundings of St Mary's Cathedral and the Opera Point Marquee! For some reason everyone thought I would be able to churn out a world class best man's speech in my sleep given the amount I've heard. But they overlooked the small fact that when the speeches are on I'm taking photos, not making notes! So on top of everything else I had also spent weeks stressing over the most important speech of my life! In the end it all went to plan but I couldn't wait to jet off to Fiji the next day for some serious down time!

The flight to Fiji is only four hours long but you really do feel a whole world away. It was our first time in Fiji and as the singing welcoming committee greeted us at the airport, we immediately succumbed to the charm of the relaxed and friendly Fijian people.

We stayed at the InterContinental resort on the beautiful Coral Coast. The rooms, restaurants and day spa are world class and it has private access to Natadola Beach, rated in the world's top ten beaches. If you want even more perks, my tip is to join InterContinental's Ambassador programme. For a one-off US$200 fee you get automatic room upgrades at any InterContinental hotel, plus 4pm late check out and a Pay TV movie per stay, a complimentary night each year and lots more!

We could easily have stayed in the resort for the duration but we took two excursions that came highly recommended. The first was a day cruise to the tiny, private Savala Island. It was amazing for the superb crew, the reef snorkelling and the unlimited food and drink :)

The second trip was to the local primary school. It's run by volunteer teachers who don't have much to work with; they've only just installed their first computers and don't have internet yet. But the InterContinental makes donations and is currently funding the construction of a new kindergarten classroom. Plus the weekly visits by hotel guests has also resulted in donations of books, furniture and office equipment. But you would never have known the children were lacking or missing the things that we take for granted. As we arrived the classroom doors flew open and dozens of gorgeous smiling, giggling kids ran out to greet us with a welcome song. We spent about an hour playing with them, telling them about ourselves and being treated to a show of native songs and dances. It was one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences we've ever had.

Our last evening was spent in the resort's Navo restaurant which would surely win at least one Hat if it was in Sydney. As we finished our delicious meal the staff gathered by our table to sing a beautiful farewell song barbershop quartet style. It was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip. If you haven't sampled Fiji yet you really should try it. It's bula-licious!








































































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If you follow me on facebook you'll know that I LOVE traveling to new places to shoot weddings and that heading overseas for a wedding is something I've been looking forward to, like, forEVER! So it would be quite an understatement to say I was stoked when I headed over to Hawaii recently to photograph my first destination wedding!

The special couple tying the knot under the Polynesian sun were Sarah and JR, who met in Hawaii a couple of years ago when Sarah (an effervescent Kiwi) had just embarked on a few months of traveling around the States. Sarah's first stop was Hawaii and it was there that she met JR, a strapping 6' 7" sergeant in the US Army. They maintained a long distance relationship while Sarah traveled and JR served overseas, but their bond just grew stronger and eventually they were reunited in Hawaii where they started a new life together and got all engaged!

While their home is on the main Hawaiian island of Oahu, Sarah and JR decided to wed on the neighbouring island of Kauai at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club. Kauai is beautiful with lush vegetation and breathtaking canyons, cliffs and craters. So its title of the "garden isle" is well deserved. Mind you, Kauai is also overrun with wild roosters but I don't think renaming it as the "farmyard isle" would have quite the same appeal!

Friends and family jetted in from around the world and spent the days leading up to the wedding enjoying the spectacular resort and getting to know each other through cocktails, bbqs and beach volleyball. But mostly cocktails!

On the big day it was an early start for me. That's 5.30am early, to capture the purple skies as a new day arrived. The rest of the day unfolded perfectly with the bride and groom's prep in their suites, a gorgeous ceremony in the gardens of the resort and a fire-knife dancer entertaining the guests before the reception commenced in the most dramatic outdoor space I've ever seen!

With the formalities complete it was time to cut shapes and something of a Kiwi v Yankee dance-off ensued which continued long into the night as the reception ended and the after party began!

Anyway, you're here for the photos right? Ok, brace yourself cos here comes a whole heap!


Marriott Beach Resort Kauai


palm trees


Kauai surfers


rooster on Kauai golf course


Marriott Kauai Resort


bridge in garden


palm tree leaf


fan of leaves




Hawaii plant


Hawaii flowers


decorative pin


bridesmaids shoes


wedding bouquet


wedding dress hanging




bride in make up


bridesmaid laughing






















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The Aussie wedding season is winding down for winter so I recently took the opportunity to recharge my own batteries on the beautiful Thai island of Koh Samui.

The Lady and I hadn't been to Thailand before so we were keen to explore the sights, sounds and FOOD! We packed a lot into a week including elephant trekking, Muay Thai boxing, temples, fish exfoliation(!), massages, LOTS of food, and of course a few ladyboy cabaret shows!

It's often said how beautiful Thailand is and how friendly the people are, and we were delighted to find out first hand that it's all true. From the moment we landed at Koh Samui Airport (which is probably the prettiest airport you will ever see!) the Thai people made us feel welcome wherever we went, from the humble, ramshackle beachside restaurants to the most exclusive hotel resorts.

I tried to keep my photography to a minimum (after all I was trying to relax!) but I couldn't help taking a few shots which I thought would be nice to share and hopefully inspire you to visit Thailand as well. Perhaps for a destination wedding!

























Uluru is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once. And for those living in Australia a weekend trip is sufficient time to pay homage to one of the world's most famous natural and spiritual icons.

I spent a weekend in the Red Centre recently, visiting both Uluru and neighboring Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. These giant rock formations dominate the skyline for miles and form the only landmarks against a surreal martian landscape of red sand, green shrubs, bright blue skies and white puffy clouds.

I stayed at the Sails in the Desert Hotel in nearby Ayers Rock Resort from where a number of excursions can be booked including the amazing Sounds Of Silence. This popular daily event starts just before sunset at a viewing point between Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Canapes (including kangaroo and crocodile) are washed down with champagne as the sun sheds its last light on the monoliths. Then an incredible outdoor buffet feast is served before a "startalker" gives a guided tour of the constellations shining so vividly overhead in the southern skies. It's magical and memorable and will certainly be a highlight of any trip to the Red Centre.

The following morning was an early 5am mark to head out for the sunrise at Uluru. It was tough start to the day after the wine tasting session the night before, but those that made the effort were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise and the famous bright glow of the red rock. And my special souvenir was a long exposure shot of the clouds racing overhead.

But if you decide to visit make sure you buy a fly net! You might look like a bee keeper but it will be the best $10 you ever spend!