Having spent my entire life living on the East Coast (North Carolina, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts then back to New Hampshire), I’m very accustomed to the landscapes out here (mountains, countryside, oceans, beaches, busy cities…). While I have traveled out of the country plenty, including a semester in Rome, I had never really traveled further west than Kentucky (which isn’t all that far west, let’s be real) outside of a quick jaunt to Point Loma Nazarene University for Executive Student Government Training in college for a few days. So, when I made the decision to travel to Las Vegas for the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo (WPPI) for the first time, I knew I would be seeing all types of things I had never seen or experienced before on top of learning so so much from the best in the business. I’ve got soooooo much I could share about my trip and you can bet there will be multiple blog posts to come about WPPI (including more on the Desert Styled Wedding Shoot I was a part of at Seven Magic Mountains), but let me just tell you how it all went first. I’ll share some iPhone snaps throughout and at the end will share some images from my professional cameras.
The journey to Las Vegas was actually a pretty hectic one for me. On Saturday, I had a beautiful winter wedding I was photographing at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, NH. Amidst dealing with some of the coldest temperatures we’ve had all winter, my second shooter and I wrapped the day around 11:30pm – and I still had a 2hr drive home. Once arriving home, I had 2 hours to shower, import photos from the wedding, wrap up some things at home and finish packing before my husband drove me the hour and a half to the Boston airport to board my 6am flight. I think I may have gotten 3 hours of sleep on my journey west as the first flight to Salt Lake City included the sweetest little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 saying “Whoa, daddy, no way! Clouds don’t look like that in real life! They are so much fluffier!” After flight two and a shuttle ride to the hotel, I got all checked in and went straight to the killer hotel room that I got to share with Elvis, Ali, Marilyn and later, my WPPI roommate (who is epic and awesome). Along the exhausting journey to Las Vegas, I managed to get kicked in the face with a head cold, so I spent the first half of the Super Bowl in my hotel room before getting myself together and riding the monorail one stop down to join some new friends at an outdoor bar for the remainder of what will easily be the best Super Bowl performance in history (I’m a huge Patriots fan. Completely unashamed.)
WPPI Day One – Medications, Competitions & Podcasts
Day two in Vegas was Monday, Day One of WPPI and was incredibly eventful and at times overwhelming in the absolute best of ways. My roommate, Caroline, and I enjoyed breakfast together while I medicated away with some cold meds and then we headed over to watch some of the judging in the Print Competition. I’ll admit that at first I thought this would be extremely dull and nowhere near as entertaining or informative as the classes taking place. Boy, was I wrong. We sat in on a couple different rooms and categories of judging, and hearing how the judges scored the prints, why, how they would improve them and even the simple importance of paper style, color and quality for an image’s success were incredibly educational. I left the judging rooms certain that, though it may be scary to put my images out there like that, I’m determined to enter at least one of my images for competition next year.
In the evening, I met up with Jeff & Erin Youngren – two of the most genuine, caring, goal-oriented and amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and learning from. After chatting around the meetup they organized for photographers who were a part of their Facebook group, I was able to be the smallest part of their newest venture – podcasts for and about and inspiring other creatives and photographers. Some of the wonderful folks I had met while standing with them at the meetup were a part of the initial Q&A before they went on to conduct a more detailed interview with Heather. So fun!
WPPI Day Two – Back Spasms, Boneyards & Buying All The Things
On Tuesday as I was getting ready, my back freaked out an I hit the floor, unable to move without pain. I had never experienced anything like this before, so trying to figure out what to do was a bit crazy. I managed to get myself up and moving to get Advil eventually and then made a B-line to the Expo where, amidst the hundreds of vendors of all things in the industry, I knew there were some massage therapists to help me out. I also did a first pass through the expo – which took several hours, seeing all that was there and realizing that while I thought I would never want to buy anything, all of the sudden I was having to figure out wants vs. needs, what I could do to make all the things I needed to happen as well as a couple of the things I wanted.
In addition to some of the classes I attended, I went on a Photo Walk with Katrin Eismann and Sony to the Neon Boneyard – where Vegas signs go to rest in peace and where some are restored. This was one of the neatest, most unusual and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Seeing all these signs which once had such vastly different purposes juxtaposed against the sandy ground was so captivating. I was definitely taking tourist selfies (as showcased below) while also snapping away with my cameras (see those photos at the end of this post).
WPPI Day Three Part One – The Expo to End All Expos
This was my “expo day” – a day that only really had two other things I had to do besides walk the expo over and over to narrow down all the things I was going to buy. I visited my friends at the Massage Therapy booth again before diving in, but then I was good to go. Seriously, when you go to this expo, you really do need to be prepared because you WILL want to buy things. I never want to buy at events like this, but the deals were so great and being able to test and use the products while also seeing them in action by the best in the business was incredible. I won’t lie, before the end of the day, I had purchased a new lens, new memory cards, a new tripod, a new flash modifier and made plans for a couple other purchases upon arriving home.
One of my favorite parts of the expo, however, was meeting the vendors I use in my business face to face and seeing some vendors whom I have already met in the past again. Meeting the extended team at The Knot (whom I have been featured with for nearly 8 years now), saying hey to the folks from 17 Hats who transformed my workflow system and giving a quick “hey” to the team at Two Bright Lights was wonderful. Extra awesome? Millers is the company I use for all my client albums and while I’ve always loved their customer service, they went above and beyond for me at WPPI. When I had an issue come up with an album, I was able to go right to their booth and work it out with someone there to get my client their updated album sooner. It was so nice to be able to problem solve on the spot, face-to-face. Loved it!
While I knew the expo would be large, I guess I didn’t even think about the idea that vendors would have their own little stages with speakers and sessions going on every day throughout the expo hours. I got to listen in on so many Q&As with some amazing artists as well as to pop in to learn some tips and tricks for improving images and interactions with clients. Seriously so cool.