WPPI 2011 * Las Vegas {recap}

So, I've been back from Las Vegas for almost 2 weeks now, and life is just now starting to get back to normal. I wish it wouldn't. I don't ever want to do "normal" again. Because my recent trip was so incredibly inspirational, that I want to just keep that feeling in my pocket so I can carry it with me always. This was my third year attending WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) in Las Vegas. It was a surreal experience... surrounded by close to 15,000 other photographers, the lights and sounds of Las Vegas, and 2-hour classes that were reminiscent of my college days. Because, not only is WPPI a playground for photographers (especially as it's held in a party city like VEGAS), but it's also a GREAT place to learn and grow the craft. In my 3 days there I ended up taking 5 classes (which amounted to 10 hours of schooling). Whew! And besides the fantastic classes, there were all the vendors to check out at the massive trade show... which was so huge, it had to be housed in 2 separate buildings. I gave myself 2 days to walk the floors, and it amounted to about 4 hours total. My brain was buzzing (and my bags were a lot heavier) from all the information received.

But it was so much MORE than that. It was a complete feeling of being surrounded by my peers and actually feeling like I belonged. And the chance to explore the playground of possibilities and create the world I wanted for myself. It was such an empowering feeling, made even more so by several special events that happened along the way. There were crazy brainstorming sessions, hand-cramps from writing like a maniac, and lots of joyful tears. Because when a person discovers the place within themselves that feels like home, how can one not expect to shed a tear or two of relief?

Here are some of my most precious memories that I brought home with me:

1. FINALLY getting to meet my mentor-turned-friend, Ronalyn.

Having never actually met her in person before, I had the "first date jitters." I shouldn't have worried. We got along fabulously from the start, and even decided that we have found "forever friends" in one another. It was amazing to share this trip with her... comparing class notes and cheering each other on through our self-discoveries. And, I've got to admit, it was a lot of fun to just hang out in the hotel room in our jammies, munching on oreo cookies & rice krispie treats, having late-night girl talk till the wee hours of the morning.

2. Playing tour-guide to someone who had never been to Las Vegas before.

Now, let me just say that our schedules were quite limited to the time that we actually had to go exploring. And since neither Ronalyn nor myself are "party people," we were able to bypass a lot of places that most others might be drawn to. But even still, we barely scratched the surface. When I picked her up from the airport, I made sure to take the long way back to the hotel, to show her a bit of the "Strip." She said that she was already overwhelmed by that. Our first night in Vegas, we wandered through the MGM, New York-New York, Excalibur & Mandalay Bay. And she was introduced to the joy and pain of the slot machine. On Tuesday, we made it over to Caesar's Palace and the Bellagio.

3. Chocolate.

A friend of mine told me that I HAD to check out Max Brenner while I was there, as she had recently seen the restaurant on the Food Network, and the place was centered around CHOCOLATE as a theme. (um, YES, please...) It is located inside Caesar's Palace, so Ronalyn and I had a late dinner, drinks and dessert there on Tuesday while we were there. And it was SO incredibly yummy that I actually went back there for breakfast the next day, before my drive back home. (Breakfast included a sugar-topped biscuit and melted chocolate for dipping... how could you NOT love this place??!!) As for what Ronalyn and I had the first time around... these pictures should speak for themselves...

4. Falling in LOVE with a new vendor.

I pride myself on being able to offer my clients the best products available. The tradeshow gave me the perfect opportunity to not only visit with my current vendors, but check out any new possibilities, as well. And I fell in LOVE with these fine art books I came across. I went back three different times and spoke with two different representatives to check, re-check and triple check that this was the direction I wanted to go in. But there was no disputing the fact that every time I saw their books my heart went pitter-patter. Gor-geous! The pages are matte, but the printed images are so vibrant they seem to just POP off the page. And each page is actually really thick and durable. It simply looks and FEELS like a quality product. And let me say... you will be seeing a LOT more of these books in the future. I will be replacing my current book/album offerings with these books instead.

Sample of their cloth-covered book with photo strip:

And check THIS out... a panoramic book! (Isn't it fabulous?):

5. Beloved.

You will be hearing this word a LOT from here on out. I attended a class taught by Jesh De Rox, and it has changed my world... both photographically and otherwise. Last year around this time, Jesh introduced a new type of photography he referred to as "experiential photography." Midway between traditional posed portraits and photojournalism, it allows the photographer to use their technical skills of capturing a portrait while allowing the subject to be completely, 100% REAL. No posing. No stiff smiles. And not only are beautiful images captured, but they are of real interactions of real couples... with those resulting images becoming captured memories. Jesh has dubbed this experience "Beloved," and it is spreading quickly.

As I have always tried to stick to REAL experiences and limited posing, I am fully embracing the Beloved experience and will be incorporating it into my own offerings. Hearing Jesh speak about this style and how to effectively use it just touched something so DEEP within me, especially as we watched it come to life onstage with a few volunteers plucked from the audience. It was an emotional experience, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

As I said, you will be hearing/seeing a LOT more from me on this subject in the near future. My mind has been ablaze since that class, and I will be launching these offerings soon. (Stay tuned.)

And, wouldn't you know it? This is the one time I don't have any pictures to show. I was just so enraptured in class, that I simply forgot to pick up the camera!

6. Time to Dream.

This was the first time I had ever made the trip to Las Vegas on my own. 4+ hours there, and about 5 hours back home. All by myself. Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, sing to myself, and just let my mind wander. The trip there was a bit scary at first. I'm not a "road trip" kind of person, and it was a bit strange for me. But that strangeness soon turned to pleasure of my own company. And the trip home was even better...  my mind still swirling with everything I had seen and heard over the past several days, it gave me 5 full hours to brainstorm, plan and dream.

And now, back home, I have the privilege of bringing my dreams into REALITY.