This past week has been absolutely amazing. It was my first year attending the renowned WPPI conference in Las Vegas. I don't even know where to begin. I've had the privilege to meet some of the most amazing photographers in the industry. Hear their stories; struggles, success and the reason they found their calling in documenting the world around them. I want to remember this feeling. Inspired, love, motivation to continue this work and the desire and faith to follow my heart.

Beyond the technical aspects in photography that I have added to my bag of tricks this week, my favorite part has been listening to these artist speak from the heart and share their passion. I have taken 13 classes from the top of the top, cream of the crop and their lowest common denominator in their success is their heart. Their need to wake up every morning and watch the beauty of the human spirit unfold in front of their lens. This I understand. When your craft becomes your breath and your passion overcomes your soul, you have found your calling. A calling beyond those of a job or career but rather a way of life. A way of seeing the world.

Here are a few moments that ignited my heart. Moments that spoke in the native language of my soul. Moments that connected thousands of people in a single second as we were inspired beyond belief. Thank you to the generous teachers of wppi. You have forever changed the intention of my path and shown me the depth and expansiveness of my potential and talent. You gave me the greatest gift imaginable.

Friday night, our classes began with Dane Sanders. He shared the video below which instantly brought a tear to my eye. Tears of joy. I was in the right place at the right time. Just when I started to miss the environment of the university, I blinked my eye and I was back. I absolutely love hearing artists speak about their life and craft, hearing the struggles of their success making them human again. My education is in modern dance and I was blessed to be in a fantastic program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Here I learned to articulate my art in words, movement and video. This was learned through practice, experiment and observation of our talented and sometimes superhuman professors. In my endeavors of photography, I have missed this element. Surrounding yourself with people of success and learning from them. Lucky for me, this is what can be found here at wppi.

I questioned writing this post. Do I share what I have learned? Was attending wppi something like an initiation of secrets and stories? The teachers were so generous with their hearts and souls. I truly believe the intention of this conference is to promote learning and generosity of knowledge. If we are all amazing at what we do, it betters the community as a whole. Competition breads innovation. So here are a few moments I would like to share in the spirit of learning.

Wisdom Shared:

"Healthy and strong businesses are good competition"
Jason Aten

"Expand your vision"
Jerry Ghionis

"There are no limits when you chose to go beyond the impossible"
Doug Gordon

"Change the way your think, Change your world."
Doug Gordon

"Do what you love, don't make excuses"
Mike Larson

"You have a responsibility, you are recording history."
Joe McNally

"You already won the race, life is the celebration"
Jesh de Rox

"Pay attention to the stories and see with your heart"
Jesh de Rox

"You have to be willing to throw yourself into the fire."
Dane Sanders

"Train as if your life depends on it"
Dane Sanders

Quotes shared:

"Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
Henry Ford

"Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work"
HL Hunt

"If you don't know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere."
Henry Kissinger

"The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."
TE Lawerence

"Happiness is only real when shared"
Christopher McCandless

"A bad artist copies. A good artist steals"
Pablo Picasso

I hope this post inspires you as it did me. And if you are a photographer, please consider going to wppi. It is a game changer. It wasn't easy for me to go but, I made it work. My husband, 4 month old son and I drove for two days to make it happen. It was worth every mile, moment and penny. Thank you to my amazing teachers and peers. See you next year.

Fun. Love. Smiles.

Heather Gray

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