A Photography-Centric Trip To The Pacific Northwest - DPReview.com's PIX2015 & Beyond

If I had to map out a perfect photography-centric week, it would not have turned out as well as the week that I just finished. It was overwhelming, encouraging, exciting, inspiring, nerve-racking and glorious all at the same time. I'm not sure how I'll convey it here, but I'll give it my best shot.

In a nutshell, as many of you may already know, I somehow fell into the good fortune of being a Samsung Camera Imagelogger, essentially a brand ambassador for Samsung cameras. Well, last week, Amazon's DPReview.com, the comprehensive gear review site, hosted their first PIX event, an "Interactive Photography Expo & Conference" in Seattle, and Samsung asked me to be amongst one of the several Imageloggers to give a presentation there. While the 'not-used-to-public-speaking' part of me put a knot of nerves in my stomach, the 'oh-my-god-this-is-an-amazing-opportunity-hell-yes' part of me easily won out.

PIX2015 Samsung Camera Imagelogger Meeting (Photo by Rinzi Ruiz)

PIX2015 Samsung Camera Imagelogger Meeting (Photo by Rinzi Ruiz)

We arrived on Monday and got to meet many of the faces that until now, I've really only known through online avatars. Some of them I've had a chance to meet before, but some of them, this marked our first time face to face, and I was crazy humbled to be amongst this company. Along with the wonderful Samsung PR and technical team that has kept us oh-so-happy with incredibly innovative new product after product, I found myself surrounded by inspiring photographers from all walks of life and subjects, including The Candid Frame's host and creator Ibarionex Perello, street photography extraordinaire "Street Zen's" Rinzi Ruiz, Reuters & Getty news photographer Jonathan Alcorn, insane landscape and astrophotographer Matt Kumasaka, prolific celebrity photographer Brian Ach, world's greatest kid photographer Laura Winslow, and social change advocate and photographer C.C. Chapman. We had dinner at the waterfront Aqua, where we snapped some sunset pictures, and wined and dined the rest of the night away.

The next day was the first day of the PIX conference, and it was filled with one must-see presentation after another. It was crazy. It started off with Reuters snapper Jonathan Alcorn's presentation "The Evolution of News Photography," and ended with Cristina Mittermeir's tear-jerking keynote presentation, "Waters Edge." In between, we had everything from NASA photographer Robert Hurt's "Revealing a Hidden Universe," to Instagram star Matthew Kumasaka's "Taking Instagram to the Next Level," street photographer extraordinaire Rinzi Ruiz explaining "How To Use The Sun As A Single Source of Light," to Joe McNally's "How to Get the Right Lighting When Shooting Any Group of People." I even found myself sitting on a panel with the incredibly inspiring International League of Conservation Photographers founder Cristina Mittermeier and one of a kind NASA's photographer Robert Hurt entitled "Photography and the Environment." How and why!?? Complete fluke...but I sure as hell wasn't going to tell anyone that! YOLO!

One of the highlights, at least for me, was getting explore and experience Project Beyond and Samsung's VR Gear virtual reality headset. It's hard not to imagine the hold that Virtual Reality (VR) is going to have on the public in the next couple of years, especially as Fortune estimates it to be a $150 billion industry by 2020, so to be able to experience what we're in store for was quite mind-blowing. Once you experience it, you can't help but begin to ruminate on all of it's incredible potential, from education, to medical help in the field, to news reporting, to real estate tours, to quick virtual escapes from our everyday reality, to mental health and PTSD treatments, to trainings. I can't think of a single aspect of society that can't find a way to benefit from this technology. Sure, there may be some dark uses, but, with the inherent good in people, as more and more of the world's population gets connected, I feel that will far outweigh the negatives as the younger more empathetic generations begin to get their hands on and develop this technology. 

That evening, we had the DPReview.com party and Awards show, in which the Samsung team was incredibly humbled and excited to receive 3 of the coveted awards:

1. Best High End Crop Sensor Interchangeable Lens Camera (Samsung NX1)
2. Best Lens for Crop Sensor (Samsung 16-50 f2 - f2.8 S)
3. Innovation Award (Samsung NX1)

So if you're looking for a new camera and haven't checked out those NX systems ...can't think of any reasons not to anymore...yes, accept the reality, Samsung is now a formidable contender in the camera market! 

The next day was absolutely no different. It started off with the Samsung Ditch The DSLR, where Samsung gave away free NX500 cameras in exchange for old DSLRs to a line that had begun to form around the building at 8pm the night before. From there we jumped into social change photographer C.C. Chapman's Inspirational "Using Photography to Drive Change," street photography guru and The Candid Frame host Ibarionex Perello's "How to Approach Strangers and Take Their Pictures," Laura Winslow showing us her methods of "Taking Photos of Children" (seriously...she's unparalleled...watch how she handles a complete stranger on stage at about the 25:34 mark), a conversation with amateur photographer and latest Samsung Imagelogger Devin Allen, the viral sensation who's iconic Baltimore Freddy Gray protest pictures landed 2 TIME Magazine covers, adventure and humanitarian photographer Colby Brown teaching us "How To Tell Compelling Stories Through Photography" and The Celeb Snapper Brian Ach's inspirationally compelling "Stories Of Getting The Right Shot."

This was also the day of my presentation, "What Photography Did for Me: Getting Out of my Comfort Zone to Focus on the Moment," which, despite the nerves, all in all, I think went off pretty well.

I got to close out the day by leading a photowalk with fellow Samsung Imagelogger Laura Winslow. We had a group of about 8 or 9 walkers and led them through some creative techniques to get unique vacation photos in the grounds surrounding the Space Needle. After the conference was over, a group of us headed out for a final supper, and then as things began to wind down, the first rain of our 3 days in Seattle began to fall. A couple of us, Rinzi Ruiz and Jonathan Alcorn, felt it was only appropriate to bust out an impromptu photo session in the wet Washington streets. Figured what better way to end a photography conference than to take a bunch of pictures?

I feel so absolutely grateful to have been a part of this thing and cannot give enough respect to the DPReview.com crew that made it happen, made us all feel so welcome and comfortable, and who's hard work and effort helped guide us through 3 wonderful days of photography psychotica. There's nothing like finding yourself in the fortunate opportunity to rub elbows with and completely geek out about photography with some of the top and most inspiring names in the industry, many of whom are part of the very reason I got into this to begin with. So thank you Samsung! Thank you DPReview! Thank you PIX! Thank you Seattle!

You can now catch all the speeches and presentations, not only from the Samsung Imageloggers I mentioned above, ALL of which just nailed it up there, but also indulge in presentations from people like "THE" Joe McNally, 'The Godfather of Photography' Rick Sammon, Aaron Huey, Benjamin Van Wong, and so SO many more. Just click on this link to check out the list.

lost in the fog somewhere between seattle and portland.
samsung nx1 | 60mm | f3.5 | 1/500s | iso160

After the conference was done, I wasn't through with the Pacific Northwest. I decided to take the Amtrak down to Portland for a couple of meetings and to visit some friends. I got into town around 2pm, picked up a rental car, and headed right over the river to the offices of new photography startup PICR. I first heard of them through an online teaser that said something along the lines of "90% of Photographers Are Underpaid" and I was immediately curious, so when I did some research and found out they were based in Portland area, I contacted them to see if I could stop by. Andrea, their copywriter and editor responded enthusiastically and invited me in. They were extremely accommodating, showed me around, and gave me a breakdown and quick demo of the platform and their plans. Essentially, if you're a photographer, they're an online platform that will do all the marketing and advertising for you, connecting you with clients looking for your type of work. Kind of like an Airbnb for photography in a way. I've seen a few models like this, but this one seemed like the most stable and viable solution. If you're a photographer and want to give 'em a shot, click here to sign up. Can't hurt right? 

After meeting with PICR, I headed to my host's home. If you follow along with this blog, you may remember Wendy Mitchell, the Director of Stewardship at the World Forestry Center who gave me a tour of Portland's famous Japanese Gardens over the summer. We've kept in close contact regarding possibly working with the World Forestry Center, so she invited me to stay with her and her wonderful husband. That evening we had dinner with their strategic communications consultant to discuss an event they're hosting on December 9, the "United Nations Climate Change Report," a dinner and ceremony hosted by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Steven Running, the Lead Author for the 4th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It's sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Pinchot Institute and will be attended by almost 50 high-level names in the environmental, climate change, and conservation space, on a date that coincides with the World Climate Change Conference in Paris. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, be there!

Over the next couple of days, I had a couple more meet and greets set up. The first was with Sockeye Creative, the top creative production house in the Portland area. They're responsible for several marketing and advertising campaigns for clients such as Adidas, The Nature Conservancy, Keen, Travel Portland and many more. After that, I met with a friend and colleague I hadn't seen in a while, Matt Hanrahan of KingSize-USA, about some possible collaborations as well. I took the last few hours of light I had left in the Pacific Northwest to grab a few shots of the leaves as they began to turn for the fall, which I've already shared in the previous post, but here they are again in a small slideshow. If you haven't guessed by now...yeah, I'm pretty smitten with the Pacific Northwest...kind of exploring the idea of making a go of it up there...

So all in all, that last week was an extremely exciting, enjoyable, and productive week on so many fronts, the results of which, I have a feeling, will extend well into the next year. Meeting so many people and hatching ideas in common interest areas is always an exciting prospect, and the idea of bringing many of these ideas into fruition have me incredibly invigorated for the months and year to come. 

I must say, this photography journey over the past several years has been an absolute joy. You never know where life is going to take you and what the cosmos decide to hand you, but it has become more and more apparent that if you're open to it, and you choose to embrace that unknown, by definition, its basically guaranteed to surprise you in ways that you never could have imagined. This past week was filled with several of those surprises, all of which have me feeling extremely blessed and thankful. 

Below is a gallery of images shot over the course of that week. You'll see some from Seattle, some from the PIX2015 conference, and some from the Portland leg of the trip. Click on any one and that'll open up a lightbox where you can scroll through them.

Thanks so much for reading and following along. For more of the crazies and the fun funs, find me at:
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