This is the new me. This is me after realizing I need a fresh start. This photo was taken by Sherri Johnson, one of my fabulous roommates at WPPI 🙂
After a very bumpy plane ride into Reno, I got home last night from my 5 day Vegas adventure – WPPI. And I went to work today even though I really needed a day to rest. Words can’t express what the last 5 days meant to me, but I’ll try and use them to at the very least tell the story of the beginning of the rest of my life. I explained WPPI a bit in this blog…but if you didn’t read that one or don’t want to, WPPI is a photography convention and tradeshow held in Las Vegas, NV.
So how does a convention change your life? Well, if you’re me – the moments of clarity that come to you during the experiences you have during said convention actually end up shaping your actions the second you get home, or even beforehand. Tamara Lackey, at the Photographers Ignite presentation on the last day of WPPI, asked such a powerful question at her conclusion: “Will you choose joy? Will you choose to be happy?” Damn, Tamara…you just rocked my world. In that moment, I decided that I WILL choose happiness, despite my personal disappoints. Despite who or what has hurt me so deeply that I didn’t want to exist. Despite all my flaws. Despite everything in my life at this moment, I will CHOOSE to be happy. And I will also choose to succeed.
Did you ever have this crazy thing that you wanted to do and someone told you that it wasn’t possible? Or not that it wasn’t possible – but that YOU couldn’t do it?
I don’t think anyone has ever said to me “pssh, that dream of yours is ca-razy….you won’t ever do that.” In fact, I’ve always had the support of my entire family and my friends to go after my dreams. The person holding me back was ME. I’ve been shy. I’ve been scared. I’ve been naive and WAY too trusting. Everything that has held me back and anyone who has ever hurt me was because I let it happen. I trusted someone I knew I shouldn’t have. I let my work and myself be undervalued and unappreciated. I let myself be bothered by stupid wall posts on Facebook by people I’m not really even friends with. I let traffic GET to me. I let the opinions of others seep into my conscience and rule the things that I was doing. I let stress get in the way of relationships. With that realization hitting me like a freight train, I decided to take all these things that I let happen to myself, and I mentally threw them away. Of course I’m still going to cry once in a while over losing the person I called the love of my life. Of course I’m going to get annoyed here and there when someone flips me off on the highway for what I think is “no reason.” But I’m going to take every action necessary to put an end to all this crap that gets me down. If I don’t like what someone says on Facebook, I hide their posts. Done. If someone lies to me, EVER, I will not let it happen again. Period. And if someone is undervaluing me – I’m not going to do work for them. Straight. Up.
I am going to be in control of my own destiny. I am saying right here and right now that I refuse to give someone else the power to decide whether I succeed in anything or not. And that is what WPPI really meant for me. It EMPOWERED me to live my dream – to do what I LOVE to do. It showed me that I can grow, learn, try and if I believe in myself enough, I can go the distance with it. And I will.
“Didn’t you take any damn pictures while you were there?” you may be asking. And why yes, yes I did. Here they are – this was WPPI, in my eyes.
Day 1 – At first, WPPI kind of feels like this:
Before I even got on my flight, I found comfort in that fact that a Reno photography team was going to be on my same flight – and the only way I knew that was because Tiffany of Follow Your Heart Photography was kind enough to message me on Facebook. We met at the gate and we talked the whole way to Vegas – it was so rad. I’m so glad she messaged me. The flight went by very quickly, just like the rest of that first day. Tiffany had mentioned that I should try and go to Jared Platt’s platform class, so I did. And it happened to be one of my favorites right off the bat – and then I got a FREE ticket to his 4-hour Lightroom Workshop for day 3. I was SO stoked. I then saw Jason Aten who gave some awesome marketing advice, which I found really applied for me in the Reno market.
I was really nervous to meet my roommates, Suzzanne, Sherri and Elizabeth, but I was also really excited. We all met up at the Launch Pad party which had the craziest most delicious appetizer I’ve ever had in my life – it was chicken curry filled french toast on a freaking STICK. Loved it. I want one right now actually. We all hung out for a bit there and grabbed some lunch (which took a day and a half – $16 for a water, coffee and crappy sandwich at Starbucks) and then proceeded to our seperate classes, and then we met up again for the only real disappointment of WPPI – the Sony “fashion show” which was just Nigel Barker selling the Sony cameras that no one in that arena wanted to buy, except for the people who actually use Sony cameras. The three of us that went to the show ditched about 45 minutes in and went back to the room. The view was pretty sweet for a hotel at the end of the strip. We had a lovely neon green glow coming in the window at all times.
Day 2 – Monday morning, I awoke to the awesome realization that I GET TO SEE JASMINE STAR!!!
I’m such a little fan boy for her – but so much of one that I refused to wait in line and meet her because I didn’t want her to see what a fan boy I was…because all I had to say to her was “thank you – you’re awesome” – which I’m sure she hears all the time. But I kind of regret that – no wait, I REALLY REGRET THAT – it was a chance to introduce myself to Jasmine and say hi, and I missed it. But it was only day 2 of WPPI – I hadn’t been empowered yet. I was still the me that left the day before from Reno to Vegas.
Jasmine was so funny, and so inspirational. She touched on a lot of things that were not in her CreativeLIVE course, so I was really happy to see new content during her class. I walked away knowing that I need to make at least two changes in my life. What is holding me back or making me sad and what can I CHANGE to CHANGE IT? I don’t have the answer yet, and I don’t expect to by the time I’m done writing this blog. So what I will do, is when I’m ready, I will tell the world my two things. Along with the other action steps I’m taking based on the advice of other wonderful speakers.
Now, I can’t skip the fact that in the morning, I saw Blair Philips – a presentation which got me SUPER pumped for the day ahead (JASMINE!!!!!!! AHHH!!) I want Blair’s lighting apparatus SO bad. I wish I could find it for sale online. He was also incredibly inspirational. Let me preface this by saying I teared up at nearly EVERY Platform Class, but Blair made me cry. I’m a crier. I accept it. And I think that is a part of what makes me – me. PS – I love southern accents.
Moving on – after Jasmine, I saw Kevin Kubota, who – wait for it – made me freaking cry. I loved hearing about his relationship with his family and how it impacts his work. Kevin talked about doing what scares you – conquering fear and how it will fuel creativity. I walked out of his presentation feeling like I could tackle the world. I think his may have been my favorite – it just hit me hard. So you know what the Lay Down Game is, right? Yeah you don’t – here is what it is from the Urban Dictionary definition: “The funniest game ever created on the face of the earth.” But it’s basically an exercise to face your fears. Just remember that for a minute or so. And oh yeah, if your cell phone rings during his class – you have to come up on stage and dance with him.
That night, Sherri, Elizabeth and I went to the Airplanes and Blazer’s Party at the Rio. We took this crazy neon party bus that had videos of stripper silhouettes with odd man-hips (thanks for one of my new favorite phrases, Sherri!) and when we got to the Rio, I felt a lot closer to home – if you know what I mean. You do if you’ve been to Reno and the Rio in Vegas.
At the photo booth… (this is my photo of a photo..)
Day 3 – Started off with Jared Platt’s Lightroom Workshop which was monumentally educational. I loved it – and I would recommend any photographer to take his workshop if you get the chance. I took roughly 47 pages of notes. It was a game changer for me – and I thought I KNEW LIGHTROOM. Yeah – no. Didn’t know jack. But now I know a bit and I’m super excited to edit Robert and Aenne’s engagement photos that I shot last Saturday 🙂
I also saw Jason Groupp and Damon Tucci – split my time between both classes (they were both on lighting). I walked away feeling like I must have video lights. But I still like Blair’s lighting solution over ANY pocket wizard or radio popper or flash or whatever. Then it was time for Cliff Mautner – another one of my favorite classes this week. He also MADE ME CRY. Like a lot, this time. His images were just straight up powerful in that way – and it made me want to make images that powerful myself. I can’t even summarize how much I learned in this class – it was Wedding Photography in a huge nutshell and I plan to re-read my notes like 7-thousand times. He also had a really, really, really cool perspective on light – more like go look for it – don’t add it in unless that’s what will create the photos you want. I loved hearing that because honestly, I don’t really enjoy dealing with lighting. I want someone to set it up and I go take photos – cuz I’m good at THAT part. I know I need to get some lighting solutions, but I loved his approach and how to put down the flash and go look for available light in dark areas. It creates super dramatic, stunning photos. He also had amazing marketing advice.
Afterward, we all had dinner at Diego – I had garlic-lime tacos del carbon – and it came with chihuahua cheese, which made me miss MJB (my chihuahua) – but it was sooooooooo good. It was a nice chance for all four of us to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. When I look at this photo, I see how tired I was. So, so tired. But so happy 🙂
That night, Suzzanne and I headed off to the Studio 54 Pictage party – which was so nice because it was in the MGM so we didn’t have to walk far. When we got there, the first thing Suzzanne says to me is “this would be the perfect place for the Lay Down Game.” I stared in awe, at the go-go dancer before me, on her high, high platform, and I pondered and then said to Suzzanne – “yes, yes this IS the PERFECT place for the Lay Down Game.” But I was a little embarrased and I was like, “no..I need to find a different spot.” For no reason. So we went upsatirs to the Pictage deal and got some drinks and hung out for a bit – and after at least 30 minutes, I felt so uneasy and I realized it was because I could not go another minute without tackling my fear of embarrassment and playing the Lay Down Game. So I got up, told Suzzanne to get her camera ready and BAM. Did it.
Yeah, I put my head on that nasty dance floor. When I got up – not one single person asked me what the hell I just did. No one cared. Life lesson. Learned. I felt so accomplished after this, as silly as that might sound.
Later, Suzzanne played the Lay Down Game on the BAR!! It was epic. What I love about this game is that all it takes is a little courage. And if you’re with a friend, going for it might give them a little extra courage to do it, too – and it’s SO FREAKING HILARIOUS to do it. So go do it. Totally worth it. According to me.
Day 4 – The morning was hard. Suzzanne and I had been out til who knows when, and I was not going to let myself be late for Jose Villa, so I got up pretty darn early for me. He has….the most beautiful, light, airy and romantic images I’ve seen in my life. He gave some awesome advice and seems like the coolest, most genuine person. I’m so glad I went to his class. He inspired me to give film a try – a neat personal project I can’t wait to dive into!
My last Platform class was Lisa Lefkowitz, another stunning film photographer – and she gave some incredible advice for getting published.
WPPI was coming to an end…Suzzanne had left to go home and it was just me, Sherri and Elizabeth at the WPPI Awards – where they announce the winners of the Print Competition – I so want to be good enough to enter next year. Dinner was free this evening aside from a Diet Coke….I love receptions. And I love this Shrimp Ceviche. Om nom nom nom.
Day 5 – VEEEEGAS! But first – Elizabeth and I went to Photographers Ignite – an insane program where a bunch of speakers only have FIVE minutes to present their points. This was super cool – the only thing is that I wish they would do this on the first day…so motivational.
Kirsten Lewis was my fave – I related to her presentation like no other – it was the perspective based on being 33 and single as a wedding photographer. SO FREAKING FUNNY. I love her – I’m definitely going to add her to my list of people/blogs to check on a regular basis.
After Photographers Ignite, Elizabeth and I headed out into the sunlight to explore Vegas. Aside from going outside to enter the other tradeshow ballroom – this was the first time I’d been outside at all in 3 days. It was excellent.
We walked up to the Bellagio right when they started the water show, and I was so pumped because I thought we wouldn’t get to see this because it was time for us to turn back, eat lunch and head back to the MGM so we can get our stuff and take a taxi to the airport. I’m such a tourist for wanting to see this – and I don’t care!
I can’t believe how much I condensed this blog down so it wouldn’t be the most boring “dear diary” entry on earth. WPPI was just an experience too intense, informational, inspiring and fantastic to only write a 10 page essay about it. I want to quickly say THANK YOU to the 3 other girls that opted to stay with strangers for a few days – I’m so, so, so glad I met you all. And to the one person that read this all the way through – you are either a photographer who wants to go or did go to WPPI, you’re bored out of your mind – or you love me enough to stick it through to the end.
And that is all I have to say – except I AM GOING TO SLEEP SO WELL TONIGHT.