Since I joined the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers last September I had been looking forward to attending their annunal convention at the Novotel in Hammermsith. The convention is a week long event incorporating talks, classes and workshops from some of the best photographers in the world, as well as a trade show and an annual awards dinner (more on that later). So with my tickets booked, redbull packed and notebook ready, I braced myself for four days of photography heaven. And I wasn’t disappointed..
Each day was split in to five time slots, with each offering a choice of up to 8 different topics and speakers. To be honest the hardest part was deciding which to attend, and the term “like a kid in a sweet shop” definitely sprang to mind. In the end I attended over 35 hrs of classes covering subjects ranging from sales and marketing to photoshop and lighting. I wont list them all but here are some of my favourites-
One Light Madness by Dave Montizambert – Ok, it wasn’t that mad, but I learnt alot about studio lighting and Daves knowledge was immense, definitely a topic I will pursue further this year.
Taking that Image to the Next Stage with Sofie Louca and Paul Karaolides – A really talented husband and wife team based in Greece. They came across as really nice people and gave us some practical guidelines on how they edit their shots in Photoshop. What they taught me will completely change how I retouch my shots and its exactly the sort of input I wanted. Sofie also took time to comment on my facebook photography page, which I really appreciated. Thanks guys 🙂
The Pre-Wedding Shoot with Michael Turner – I’m starting to do pre-wedding shoots with all my weddings this year and thought that this class would be a great way to brush up my skills. Not only did I get some great tips, but I also got a chance to get chatting with Michael and his wife Janet, and Karrie, who works for Turner Photo Training( definitely recomended). After mentioning that it was my first time at the convention they were kind enough to invite me to sit at their table at the awards dinner ( more on that later ) All three of them are lovely people and Michael has a calm and understated way of working that makes him a great teacher.
Successful Image and Marketing with Shirenn Hammond – Shireen has a beautiful personality and approach that really shines through. She took the time to come and say hello to me before the class began and I think that really sums up her approach to photography and business.
Finally, after a tiring but inspirational four days, it was Sunday evening and time for the awards dinner. The awards are given as the finale of the Societies annual photographic competition which takes place throughout the year. Members are invited each month to enter one photograph in up to 34 catagories, ranging from Advertising to Wildlife, as well as four wedding and five portrait catagories. A distinguised panel of judges then award each image either unclassified, bronze, silver or gold awards. From the gold awards a small number are nominated in each catagory for the respective Photographer of the Year Award, and there is also an Overall Photographer of the Year, chosen from 17500 entries. As I mentioned on my Facebook page , I was lucky enough be nominated for The Wildlife Photographer of Year for my image, Dark Hare. (copies can be purchased here)
I was accompanied to the awards by my beautiful wife Andrea, who looked stunning as usual. I sometimes forget just how gorgeous she is. She is a great mum to our daughter Giselle, and completely supportive of my photography, which takes up alot of time. At the end of the day its only worth doing if they are there to share it with me, and I hope I can make them both proud. I love you both xx.
Philipa Forrester was the presenter and with each award the nominees were shown on a large projector. This was the view from our table –
Sitting to our left were Kaz and the Turners and to the right were Steve Allen and his wife Pauline. After ten minutes of chatting to Steve, I asked him what type of photography he does, and it turns out that he is a top travel and wildlife stock photographer, having traveled to over 80 countries. Steve was kind enough to answer a multitude of questions that I fired at him and I really enjoyed talking to him.
So eventually the nominees of the wildlife catagory were announced and as my heart raced the winner was announced – Pete Denness!!. I was totally amazed and so so happy. As I went up to collect the award, Kaz managed to grab some footage
What I hadn’t realised is that both Michael Turner and Steve Allen are part of the judging panel, and had known all along that I had won! I honestly didn’t have a clue, and was totally baffled when Steve presented me with the award – ( That cheesy grin was stuck to my face all night, serious cheek ache!)
I didn’t think that the night could get any better, but then came the Overall Winner. As the 3rd place joint winners were read out I was sipping a glass of Chablis and still trying to take it all in when I heard my name again!! I was literally stunned and it took a few seconds for me to get up. As the the table erupted in celebration ( and thanks to all the guys for your support), I made my way to the stage. On the way I met joint winner, Paul Bucknall, who was kind enough to let me go up first and collect the award. Paul’s photograph, which won the open catagory was brilliant, and I feel very privilaged to share the award with him.
The rest of the evening was spent with Kaz and the Turners, dancing the night away whilst talking cockney rhyming slang, doing various regional walks and debating the merits of Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter….. Really lovely people and new friends made 🙂
The Societies Convention was one of the best weeks of my life and an amazing start to 2012. I got to meet some brilliant photographers, made some great friends and now feel ready to take my photography to the next level. Thanks to all the speakers, volunteers, models and organisers who made this fantastic event possible, I’ll see you all again next year 😉
And finally a big thank you to all my friends who follow me on facebook, I really appreciate your kind comments and support.