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My Photoshop World Vegas 2010 Wrap-Up

Photoshop World, Las Vegas, 2010 is in the books. This was my first Photoshop World (or PSW as I'll refer to it from now on), and I didn't really know what to expect. I had read some about it in the past, was familiar with some of the instructors, didn't know anybody going, and that was about it. The only conferences I'd been to in the past had been computer industry conferences.

It's now been 4 days since I've been back, and my brain is still overloaded from everything. To say I had a great time would be an understatement. This was a completely different type of conference I'd ever been to, and I loved every minute of it.

First, Don't Be Scared to Talk to People!

I knew absolutely nobody going into this conference. Sure, there were a few people I had heard of on the NAPP forums, but I didn't actually know anybody. One thing is about that, you can't be scared at all to talk to random people. Whether it's people sitting next to you in a session (before it starts obviously), walking down the hall with you, at one of the parties, you just have to go for it. There was nobody I ran into that was really mean or unapproachable, and I came away with a lot of business cards, and a lot of new people to keep in contact with and follow on Twitter.

Me and Dave Cross

As part of this, I ran into Larry Becker in the lobby of the hotel while I was searching for dinner. I went up to him, and talked to him for a few minutes, and he was extremely friendly and helpful about which classes I should go to, and which instructors I shouldn't miss. That really set the tone for the whole week for me. At computer industry conferences, you just don't go up to the "bigwigs". It's just not done (between you and me, there's a lot of ego issues, but that's a story for a different time), so this was a very refreshing change.

And since I ended up being in so many of Matt Kloskowski's sessions, I kind of got a little worried that he would think I was stalking him (granted, he is my favorite instructor, but still...), but the last day I ran into him on the expo floor, he gave me knuckles, and graciously posed for a photo during the few minutes I talked to him. I got that type of reception from all the instructors I ran into, be it him, Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, or anybody else.

Pre Conference - NAPP Photo Safari

Technically the conference didn't start until Wednesday, but Tuesday is when various, extra pre conference events happen. From the list I saw upon registration, I selected to attend the NAPP Photo Safari, led by Joe McNally and Moose Peterson. I was a little afraid I'd be bored since it was a 9 hour pre conference, but I can safely say, there was no way to possibly get bored. We were given lunch, then Joe and Moose spoke to us for a couple of hours. The one thing they constantly reminded people was that they each had over 30 years of photography experience, so you can't just look at one of their photos and say, "why don't my photos look like that?" It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and just experience to get that good.

Valley of Fire

Our location shoot was at the Valley of Fire. It actually reminded me a little bit of Red Rocks. While we were given free reign to wander wherever (within a time frame), Joe and Moose would occasionally call people over to give little demos, and were always available to answer questions. Besides shooting the landscape, after a certain period of time they brought out 4 dancers whom they had worked with before, who did various poses for us on the rocks. I had never done any sort of shooting like that, and it was helpful to get tips from Joe and Moose (not just in the group, but one on one).

Fortunately while this was Las Vegas in the summer, it actually wasn't that hot out (I think 90 in the sun), so it was tolerable to be outside.

Once the sun went down, Joe brought out the lights, and both of them gave us tips with using off camera flash, lights, angles, you name it. While it was a very tiring afternoon, it was a very fun afternoon.

Conference Sessions

As I've said before, I've been to several computer industry conferences in the past. The way all of the ones I've ever been to choose speakers is basically they put out a "call for white papers." People submit papers, the conference board picks the ones they like, and those people speak. Note that nowhere in there is a requirement to actually be a good speaker. I can't even begin to say how many sessions I've walked out of at those conferences. There was one conference where I think I only stayed in 2 sessions (out of 7) since the speakers were horrific.

Compare that with the way NAPP does PSW. As far as my understanding is (from talking to Larry Becker at the conference), NAPP recruits people to speak, not just from instructors they currently deal with, but others that they're completely impressed with. As a result, EVERYBODY is a good presenter. I went to 11 different sessions. Yes, I did say 11. There was not a single one I wanted to leave. Every single one was awesome.

Matt Kloskowski during Photoshop Wars

For the record, here's my list:

Stuff You Need to Know to Be a Photographer - Zack Arias
Five Ways to Select People - Matt Kloskowski
Big Light From Small Flashes - Joe McNally
Tweeting With Authority - Rod Harlan and Scott Bourne
Mastering HDR in Photoshop CS5 - Matt Kloskowski
Blogging for Photographers - Rich Harrington, Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Jeff Revell
Lightroom and Photoshop Integration - Matt Kloskowski
The Many Uses of a White Seamless Background - Zack Arias
Romancing the Landscape - Moose Peterson
Hollywood Lighting on a Laptop and Bokeh - Vincent Versace
Lightroom Killer Tips - Scott Kelby

I loved them all. I took notes in every single one, and would easily recommend every single one of these classes to anybody attending PSW in the future (assuming they're given).

APC HDR WalkShop

One of the other things I got in on was the Artistic Photo Canvas HDR Walkshop, with Brian Matiash and Jacob Lucas. Basically my previous understanding of shooting HDR was basically "oh, let's bracket this and see what happens", and then my basic understanding of post processing was "oh, let's import this into Photomatix. That looks decent, I'll click 'ok'". So pretty much very little. Only 30 people got to go on this, so I was one of the lucky ones to sign up in time. Wednesday evening we boarded a bus for Fremont Street, Brian gave us a little intro, and turned us loose. My understanding was still pretty wary, so I asked Brian for some more information on light metering and such. He proceeded to not only insist I shoot everything that night in manual mode, but showed me how to do it (zoom in before you focus, how to meter light on a neutral part of the photo, etc...), once I had told him I had never shot in manual mode. Is it harder? Yes, if you don't know what you're doing, but once I started doing it, I kind of enjoyed the control you have over everything. I ran into Brian and Jacob at various points during the evening, and both answered all my questions (without getting annoyed :), and I had a very enjoyable time.

From APC HDR Photowalk

After the shoot, we went back to the hotel, and met up with the APC staff at Border's Grill where they had provided us with appetizers and drinks.

I'll give extra kudos here to the APC staff for not only arranging this, putting it together, and sponsoring it, but it was so much fun to meet them all and go talk to them in the expo hall during the conference. What a great group of people, who do fantastic work.

Get Togethers and Parties

I missed the NAPP forum party because of the Safari, but I did manage to make it to the Tweetup. I just did my thing, mingling with various people, and talking with different groups. Erik Valind was doing portrait shoots of everybody there. After making me laugh while taking my picture, I then did a cheesy pose, which is the one he ended up using on Flickr.

Photo by Erik Valind

In any case, I met so many people there I just can't remember everybody. I was tired and sweaty after the Safari, but I do remember spending 15 minutes talking hockey with Dave Cross, amongst other things. :) Anyways, it was a lot of fun.

Another party was the big PSW party at the House of Blues. I got there late because of the WalkShop, but I'm glad I did end up going because Scott Kelby's Band was playing, and wow, they are good! I'm bummed I missed most of their set, but still had a great time there. More mingling, talking to people I had just met the day before, and hanging out. :)

Expo Hall

You know, normally I just blow through the expo halls, no matter what conference I'm at. This time, I barely made it through the entire thing. I kept stopping to see demos, talk to exhibitors, watch Photoshop Wars, see a taping of Photoshop User TV, hang out with people, check out the Westcott Shootout booth, and other various things. The first day it was open, in 4 hours, I think I made it to 3 booths. There were so many different demos and so many exciting things going on.

Motorcycle at the Westcott booth
From the Westcott Shootout Booth

I spent very little money, honestly. I was going to buy a Wacom Intuos 4 medium tablet, but the show special wasn't anything too exciting (only a $10 difference off the Amazon price), so I passed on that. I spent a bunch of time at the onOne Software booth watching their demos, and did end up getting Plugin Suite 5 (really good discount on that one), but that was really it. Oh, I did buy a book too, but that was it. :)

Dumb Luck

I'm not sure what happened, but I actually hit a bit of a small winning streak at PSW. I never win anything, and if I do, it's normally like some extremely minor. I think my PSW luck actually started back in April during the NAPP CS5 webcasts and I was one of the lucky winners (5 total) to win a copy of Photoshop CS5 Extended. I was flabbergasted with that, but it was just pure awesomeness. '

Anyways, on this trip, besides all the vendor schwag, I got:

  • Won $80 in video poker
  • APC t-shirt at the tweetup
  • Lightroom conference t-shirt
  • 4 gig NAPP USB wristband
  • Became the mayor of PSW on FourSquare and won Our Studio Premium Collection volumes 3 and 4
  • One of the first 5 to get to the Peachpit booth and tell them "Photoshop Makes Me High" so got Adobe Photoshop CS5 Learn By Video
  • Alan Hess's Composition Digital Field Guide book (signed) from the "where's Alan Hess" contest APC was sponsoring.

In Conclusion

All I'll say to sum up is: WOW. I definitely want to go again...soon! I'm hoping to make it to the next one in Orlando for sure. I've already started putting some of what I've learned into practice, but I still have a long ways to go.

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