As I write this post, I am on a plane flying to Greece for a convention from Las Vegas at the end of another week at WPPI. The day after WPPI ended, Melissa and I finally got out of bed at 5:30pm. To say that WPPI takes a lot out of you would be an understatement. My week here was certainly filled with all kinds of events: I presented two platform programs, spoke for Nikon on three separate occasions, presented 11 demonstrations at my own Ice light/Ice Society booth, I was involved in two short films for the convention, I was a judge on the panel over two days in the print and award competition and sang with the FFB band after the Ignite presentation. Phew! It’s always the craziest time of the year but also my favourite week of the year. Melissa and I had the pleasure of meeting some of you for the first time and we loved seeing so many of our old friends, too!
But I have to say that I am so proud to be associated with WPPI. Their team is slick, professional and personable as well. I want to make sure that I give a huge thank you to Arlene Evans, George Varanakis and their wonderful team for yet another memorable show. For me, WPPI has always been about growth, education and family. A week at the convention really reinvigorates you creatively, sparks that passion for what you love to do and gives you strength for the rest of the year.
Melissa tirelessly spent months tackling logistics as we created our largest exhibit at the trade show as we officially launched the Ice Light this week. The Ice Light is a brand new continuous LED light source I invented and that Westcott created. Our booth featured three gorgeous models: Meleane and Anita were illuminating themselves as they walked around the convention and the stunning Lisa modeled at the booth as she posed and illuminated herself while photographers were able to practice shooting. We also had our largest team ever this year which included some of our closest friends: my former assistant, Sally Sargood; Gail and Nicole who are long time friends and veterans at our booth; a former workshop student, Michelle Campbell; Marco and Liz from Michigan who modeled for us in Paris; Mark and Tiffany who modeled for us and are our close friends in LA; and Tabitha and Miguel who are the sexiest Texans you will ever meet. Thank you guys! Melissa and I couldn’t have done it without you!
Each year, I use WPPI’s print and album competition to reinvent myself. It puts a deadline on my creativity as I challenge myself to produce unique albums and enter fresh prints each year. For this convention, I entered a total of five albums and one of them was easily the most ambitious and difficult album design in my career. I photographed about 20 weddings last year and I knew that I needed a wedding with that “X factor” to have a chance at taking the top honours in the Wedding Album of the Year competition. There was one wedding in particular that I felt had that perfect blend of story, family, emotion, ritual, glamour and the wow factor. The album design itself had to be different enough to make it a contender, though. I thought I would take a risk and create a polaroid collage creating a sense of movement in each spread. It makes a 2D image almost appear 3D. It was like creating a puzzle from the inside out with no knowledge of the final image. When I began creating it, I was in a creative zone like never before. Each image had to be placed individually and carefully. It took me six long days with very few interruptions to produce this album. Since all the images had to be placed into position one by one, a reasonable knowledge of Photoshop would be required. The problem is, I don’t know how to use Photoshop. So I called my good friend Andrew from Fundy Software. He created the base templates for the book and after a short tutorial, his software made it easy to bring my vision to life. It wouldn’t have been possible without Fundy software. Thank you Andrew!!! A huge thank you to Jessica Schembri as well who worked the images for me. (She offers tutorials on her retouching web site. Check it out!)
My inspiration for this design came from the master at polaroid collages, David Hockney, and also the double reflection you would see in a beveled mirror. This album design is truly one of my favourites and it is the most difficult design I have ever attempted.
This is the tenth year in a row that I have submitted an album in the Single Photographer category for Wedding Album of the Year, and I am excited to announce that the following album of Stella and Minh’s wedding (photographed in May 2011) won 1st place! This win marks the 8th time I have won the award in 10 years! I am so proud that I have won 15 out of the possible 30 top honours in the past 10 years. (Counting 1st, 2nd and 3rd places).
Win or lose, entering prints or albums into competition keeps you fresh, sharp and challenges you and others around you to always get better and improve their craft. I have always said that you don’t have to be the best. You just have to be better than last week.
I will be posting more of my WPPI entries here on my blog very soon, including an entire wedding album with images that were taken on an iPhone and presented without Photoshop. That album scored an 85 and I’m so proud of it. But don’t worry…that wedding was mainly shot with a Nikon D3S.
In the meantime, though, enjoy the winning entry in this year’s WPPI’s Wedding Album of the Year competition. By the way, this entire wedding is now being featured on my subscription based educational web site, the Ice Society If you are not a member, you can browse chapter 49 for free or if you’d like access to all of the chapters, you can join now for $100 off. Just use the promo code: icesale Enjoy!
Here are a few samples of the album. To see the entire album see the gallery below…
Let me tell you the story of how and why I am now shooting with Nikon. I grew up with Nikon, having shot with the FM2, F90x, F100 and even with the Kodak DCS 760 which was modelled after the F5, and which was my first digital camera. It was as big and as heavy as a brick. I remember paying close to $18,000 for it. I then started shooting with the Nikon D100. I found that I wasn’t getting consistently great results with the D100, so I then switched to the Canon 20D. It served me well for a while and soon started shooting with the 5D and then with the 5D MkII. At the time, I found the quality of the Canon system to be better although I always preferred the ergonomics of the Nikon system. I had been shooting with two 5D MkII’s for a few years and was very happy with the results, as long as I didn’t shoot higher than 1600 ISO. I found the camera to be reliable and the focusing fast.
In May 2011, I photographed my gorgeous friends, Dave and Quin Cheung while I was presenting a workshop in Toronto. I photographed Quin as a modern day geisha and she looked absolutely amazing! It was a shoot that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Several years earlier when I first met them, I remember saying, “I want to photograph you naked!” They freaked out a bit but then I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be naked.” We all laughed and have since become the best of friends. (By the way, I will be featuring the shoot in upcoming chapters of my educational web site, the Ice Society – www.icesociety.com). During the shoot, I knocked over one of my 5D MkIIs and it fell off the wall and onto the sidewalk. The body cracked from the fall and was completely unusable. Since I always shoot with two cameras, I just accepted that I would buy a new one with with the insurance money once I filed the claim. The problem was, I was getting ready to leave overseas and would need both of my cameras and I didn’t think I would have enough time to purchase a new one before I left.
Rewinding my story just a bit and going back to January 2011 at the SWPP convention in the UK, I won their major award – the Photographer of the Year among 10 accolades. The prize that was given to me for winning that award was a brand new Nikon D3s with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The rumours around the industry at that time was that it was the first Nikon digital camera to rival if not better any Canon digital camera, but I never even took the camera out of the box. I simply left the box on a shelf in my studio and didn’t think twice about it. It just didn’t seem worth it to me because I wasn’t about to invest in Nikon lenses and suddenly change everything I had because I would have to replace up to 8 lenses and still get another body.
But soon after I broke the 5D MkII, I borrowed a Canon 1D MkIV and shot a wedding with it because I was considering buying it to replace my broken camera. I enjoyed shooting with it the whole day, but it wasn’t full frame and I just love shooting full frame. Because I had become so used to shooting full frame, it just didn’t feel right to me. So I quickly dismissed that camera as being an option. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I pulled that Nikon D3S out of the box and shot with it. Three letters…W-O-W! Ignorance apparently is bliss! I had no idea how amazing the D3s was. When my friends and students would tell me that the D3s was the best DSLR on the market I would quickly dismiss them and say that it’s “the chef and not the oven” and didn’t need another camera system. I quickly purchased my favourite lens, the 70-200 f2.8 and a SB-900 Speedlight. The camera and buttons seemed comfortable again and the muscle memory I had built in my early career came back to me very quickly. The focusing was super fast and using focus points other than the center one was very reliable. The crowning jewel, though, of the D3s is without a doubt the amazing quality with high ISOs! I’ve never shot at any ISO above 1600. Now I find myself regularly shoot with ISOs of up to 10,000 quite comfortably. For a while, I shot with the D3s and the 5DMII was my back-up camera but I discovered that I hardly ever used the Canon again. So since June 2011 I have been shooting with the D3s exclusively and I have just invested in more lenses including the 24-120mm f/4, 85mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 105mm Micro, 45mm tilt shift and the 16-35mm f/2.8.
I can’t wait for the Nikon D4, and from what I hear is the best DSLR ever made. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but I’m really looking forward to getting one soon. I am the first to tell or teach you that your camera is only a tool and that you make the difference. That being said, I am getting shots with the D3S (because to the great quality at higher ISOs) that I have never achieved before. The camera is allowing me to provide even better results to my clients.