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WPPIKO

Opening this month’s Rangefinder Magazine put a huge smile on my face, I quickly ran through the pages to see the winners of the WPPI Annual Print Competition, and there was my name. WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) holds one of the world’s biggest photography conferences that brings together over 13,000 photographers from all over the world. It also hosts the Awards of Excellence 16×20 Print Competition. This annual print competition brings in entries for all over the world and is known as one of the most prestigious photography competitions because it really celebrates mastery of the craft of photography.

This recent WPPI was huge for me. Not only did I get to speak 4 times (and 2 of those on Nikon’s stage), but I came home with an award, an award that I never thought I would receive. I have attended that award ceremony for 5 years, and never thought my name would be called.

I went to Ga Tech for Electrical Engineering, and I love being overwhelmed by technology. When I first saw Fundy software, the inner geek in me smiled. It was software that you could design albums in minutes. Drag images to a layout, toggle your design until it is perfect, then click send to printer. An album in minutes. With my love for shooting, hours of designing behind a computer, just took me away from that, so this software definitely had my interest.

Andrew Funderburg (founder of Fundy Designer) has become a close personal friend and last year he encouraged me to make an album for me… of my personal work. He is a big fan of the printed product. Let’s face it, a photograph isn’t complete until it is printed, before then, it is just digital data. Anyone who knows me, knows how passionate I am about my nature work. Fundy pushed me to put it together in an album. When running your own company, sometimes we don’t have the time to make work for ourselves. I got on his software and literally spent 10 minutes putting an album together, which was really all the time I had to do a project for myself.

The album was so much fun to design, I have never paired my nature pictures and watched them read off one another. I got the album in the mail (a huge brown leather bound book from Renaissance Albums) and got chills.

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When WPPI came around I decided to submit the album. At the award ceremony, it was my name that was called, I was so honored. I would have never had this moment, if it wasn’t for my friend Andrew and his amazing software.

Fundy Designer keeps taking steps forward, and just last week, they released an update. The geek in me was definitely excited when I got to test the new software…you can link images, pair them, select dominant pics… and then hit design, and done. So impressed. Congrats guys for this amazing product (and it’s upgrade), and thank you for letting me geek out, and for inspiring photographers all over this planet! A giant thank you to Fundy for encouraging me to make a book of my personal work (and for giving me the tools to do so). I love my book, which now sits next to it’s crystal trophy.

Here is a link to my first place album, so excited to share!
https://www.wppiawards.com/gallery/2016annualzzz/?0.5278096231409192#albumshow.2021500444.2

Make sure and check Fundy Designer out here.

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Yes, three years ago, I was a proud Canon shooter and had been for years. I loved my gear, and had traveled to six continents with it. I always figured a camera was a tool, and the brand didn’t make too much of a difference. I knew Canon well, and had a successful career with my Canon. So with the speaking for Nikon and now being a pure Nikon shooter… people seem to be curious… why the change? I first and foremost blame my friend and fellow DC shooter Mantas.

It was a warm Sunday, over 2 years ago, in which I was having brunch with two other local photographers in downtown DC. I was crazy tired from my long Saturday wedding, and sat outside in the sun, enjoying my favorite, an Eggs Benedict. My friend Elliot got a call from a frantic women, I could hear a stressed voice, and Elliot just laughed… “hang on” he told her. He turned to us “guys do you want to shoot a wedding”? She was a bridesmaid and their photographer didn’t show for a wedding that was supposed to start in an hour. Lucky for her, three photographers were having brunch, and just chilling in the city. Mantas and I replied “let’s do it”. We rushed to Maryland via Mantas place, the ceremony held off until we got there. There was absolutely no time for me to go and get my gear, so Mantas handed me a Nikon D4 and two lenses (no flash). I remember thinking… ok, I got this… a camera is a camera. I had never shot a Nikon before, I didn’t have any time to play, I was now going strait into a ceremony, with unfamiliar gear, that I hadn’t practiced on. It was pretty easy to pick up, the only problem I had was trying to twist the lens off the wrong way and I couldn’t find my histogram until I asked. I remember photographing the flower girl running into the sun, I clicked away and remember thinking… wow, this is focusing easily and fast…even directly into the sun. I also shot the reception, in a pretty dark room, without a flash at super high ISOs. Wow this camera can focus pretty well in the dark without a flash on….

The biggest difference was when I got home from the shoot. I started to go through the Saturday wedding that I had done with my own Canon gear (that I had been shooting with for years), then I went through the Sunday wedding with the Nikon gear. The Nikon files blew me away. On the Sunday when I was tired and using unfamiliar gear, I had a much higher percentage of sharp (really sharp) and perfectly exposed images (I do a lot of aperture priority shooting, so an auto exposure setting). I was hooked, and remember thinking… maybe the camera does make a difference.

I shot for the next 4 months or so with both, a Canon and a Nikon. My instincts started to show me what I needed to do, the bride is walking down the aisle with speckled sunlight… grab the Nikon… This happened over and over in my head. When I shot with the Canon I would always double click to make sure I had a sharp image, the Nikon… one click. I didn’t have spare batteries for the Nikon’s since I was just testing them, and I remember the day I decided to switch. I was too lazy to charge both the Canon and Nikon’s batteries for an after wedding shoot. I just took the Canon. I felt restricted, I kept thinking… If I only had the Nikon. That was the day I decided…the gear did make a difference and I wanted the best tools to be the best photographer I can be.

Now I know that the Nikon D4s is more like the Canon 1Dx. I have shot with the Canon 1Dx, but chose to have Canon 5D mark 3s for my company. Every camera is different and comparing two side by side will always have some ups and some downs. I have shot with the Canon 1Dx, all the 5D line, and now the Nikon D4, D4s, D810, and D750. The whole dark side reference is because Nikon has black lenses, while canon has whitish. Canon is an amazing system, that I was proud to shoot for years. But for sharpness, focus, consistency… I am so proud to have the best tools to be the best photographer I can be, which is why, I now shoot a Nikon.

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Photo by Mantas

So, it’s the last night in Vegas, the awards ceremony has started and Isil and I have 10:15pm flight to Dulles…it was going to be tight to make it. Jerry Ghionis is on stage in front of hundreds of industry peers and photographers dressed all fancy like and engrossed in his every word. He says let’s get to it and on the screen is the first category… informal albums. We start to make our way out and Isil turns to me and says “maybe we should wait”.. Jerry announces third place… then second… Roberto Falck… Roberto is a master of that category and his work is just beyond… but based on the scores given, if he is being called second means that I might be getting first. Jerry says “the winner for first place… this was a gorgeous album…Kristi Odom…” I stopped in my tracks and walked on to that stage in front of so many people I admire that I feel light headed.

WPPI brings in thousands of photographers from around the world, and I’ve been a grateful attendee for the last 5 years. This year they gave me my first opportunity to be a speaker. For years I have been inspired by talented photographers on their roster that teach, tell their stories, and win big awards. This year, I got to join them, and things happened fast for me. I went from being on the sidelines to being a speaker and giving 4 presentations, 2 of them on the Nikon Theater stage! What a whirlwind.

I am in the process of applying to live in Australia, and I had entered WPPI’s album competition with the hope of getting a few points to give me a master’s accreditation to add to my visa application. Never did I think I would be getting an award for my personal work. Before I arrived one of the judges told me that “my album wouldn’t do well, because it lacked story”. Thanks to my friend Andrew Funderburg from Fundy Software Inc who encouraged me to do an album of my nature work, I had taken a risk, and thanks to his amazing software I had designed my album in mind blowing time. While the print judging was going on my friend Katya messaged me and asked if I wanted to hear the score, I said sure. 90… what? Then she said, it had been just challenged by Bambi Cantrell, and it moved to a 95…now I am in disbelief. I was with Isil at the time and we looked at each other and laughed… seriously…. I was so excited I couldn’t do anything else but head over to the print judging room, we had just arrived at the MGM. We made it to the room right when the judging let out. I saw some familiar faces and got a few smiles from people. Then, someone I know well, got very vocal about the fact that they thought my score was bull and cursed loudly outside the judging rooms. I turned to Isil, “let’s go”… and we left. Later that day I started to hear stories of chatter about people posting on forums… “Nikon only has established speakers, what in the world are they thinking having her”…and other put downs about my success. My first night at WPPI, I was so sad I cried. It was hard because part of me worried that these guys are right, maybe I didn’t deserve that print score, why did Nikon call me? I guess we all have that self doubt every once in a while, and it all hit me that night.

While day one was hard being full of the critics, day two definitely wasn’t. I met the Nikon team and they immediately greeted with open arms and smiles. Their speakers are so beyond amazing, not just as photographers, but as people. These stars in the industry… and I was on stage with them..was I dreaming….When I got off the stage at Nikon, I got the comment… “hold on, things are just getting started for you”.

Back to the awards night…when I walked up to the stage, with my work on the screen, to get my first place trophy I knew that so many people were right, I worked hard and earned my way to be there…even as I passed people who had been vocal about me not deserving it (no applauds from them, but that is ok). Although their comments have hurt me they have also helped to make me be better. If they only knew how much their voices fuel my fire to succeed…I thrived after my divorce, thrived in my work, thrived in living a crazy life of adventure, and in my health (I am down 10 sizes and 40 pounds). It’s is funny, you can have so many amazing and supportive people in your life, but the second someone tells you an insult… the second someone tells you that you are undeserving, or that you shouldn’t be a speaker it hurts, and it also inspires.

At the airport I gave Isil one last hug, “was that just a week?” I asked her. I was holding so many emotions after that rollercoaster… but in that moment, I just felt overwhelmed with gratefulness. Grateful to Isil who taught me how to put others first and show love and support to those around. Grateful for WPPI and what they do for our community by giving us opportunities to shine and learn. Grateful to Jason Groupp and Jacqueline Tobin for all of their brilliant hard work. Grateful to Jerry Ghionis and Melissa Ghionis, who made the print competition unbelievable. Grateful to my mentors, Arthur Levi Rainville, David Anthony Williams, and David Beckstead for helping me believe in myself. Grateful to my amazing business coach, Blair DeLaubenfels who has steadily guided my to new and better opportunities. Grateful to my parents for dropping everything when I needed them most. Grateful for Andrew Funderburg and his amazing team. Thank you for your encouragement, support and awesome products. Grateful to Huy Nguyen from Fearless who gave me my first big industry speaking gig. Last but not least, I am grateful to Nikon (Chad, Mike Corrado, JC Carey, Mark Suban and the rest of the team). Feeling like part of your family, and being on your stage is something I will remember and love forever. You guys have given me the tools to live this crazy amazing life and travel to all corners of the world. I love being part of your community, and this ever growing community of people who help me to be the best that I can be (haters included).

If you have goals that you want to reach, surround yourself with people who believe in you, and stay thankful to the detractors who light your fire.

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Photo by Mantas

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Photo by Jeff Cooke

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Photo by Jeff Cooke

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As I fly back home to the Dulles airport, I can’t help but feel completely overwhelmed. Monday at around 3:30 I sat in my hotel room at the Valley Ho Hotel in the middle of Scottsdale Arizona. My makeup was done, my slides were finished, my laptop was packed and ready, I was ready. I was onto my second cup of hot tea to try and calm my nerves. It helped, but not enough….I sat alone and just cried. I cried for multiple reasons, one being that one of my biggest fears is public speaking. More powerful was just being so full of joy, pride, love and excitement… my path over the last couple years have been hard for me, really hard, and instead of crumbling I worked. Worked on my health, worked on my photography…and now I was about to speak about my journey to others. I was about to get personal, really personal (with my talk called “its personal”…imagine that) on a stage in front of leaders in our industry, some crazy badass photographers that I highly admire. I grabbed my bag, checked the mirror and cursed out loud…damn mascara had run and I looked a bit like a hot mess.

I am new to speaking at conferences in the industry, this was my first, and for being so green, I am really proud of myself. I put my heart and my all into my presentation. When I got asked to speak, I started going to public speaking groups. I worked with this amazing group of toastmasters since March. I know I still have a long way to go with public speaking and a few people pointed out that I smiled way too much on stage and that they could tell my heart was beating crazy fast from my breathing. The adrenaline from fear and excitement is crazy up there.

While I have a long way to becoming a strong public speaker, something unexpected happened. A couple of people came up to me after I got off stage with tears in their eyes. Telling me that my story gave them strength. As the week went on photographers kept coming up to me sharing their stories of projects they want to do and ways they want to give back. These stories were all so unique and beautiful in their own way. I have always believed that people shouldn’t just be consumers of this earth, that people should do something to help this beautiful world. Photographers are visual story tellers and artist, so it puts us in a great place to make an impact (I put that into my personal projects part of my speech).

I am so grateful to new and old friends (and especially those that flew across the states to support me). I am so grateful to everyone that opened up to me over the last 4 days. All the stories really touched my heart! This world is a crazy beautiful rollercoaster, definitely not boring right 🙂

The feeling of possibly helping at least one photographer do their own project to give back…and the feeling of possibly helping someone find strength in the hard times…it makes me feel great. This opportunity to speak, I will forever be grateful for. Thank you Huy and Fearless for taking the chance on me and giving me my first experience speaking at a photography conference. The Fearless photography community has pushed me to be a better photographer, and this speaking opportunity….has truly made my life better! I have new friends that I feel will be in my life forever, and old friends that I grew a lot closer. My heart is filled with so much joy right now.
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A giant thank you to Ken Pak for the photos, definitely a day I want to remember 🙂

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I am so excited to speak to the DC photography community in a few short weeks! The DC area photo community has helped me grow in so many ways (personally and professionally), and I have made some of the closest friends of my life through them. I am so grateful for the DC photogs, and love that I am given the opportunity to give back a little bit. Come out and join us, its a great group, and hopefully I can share some useful information that can help any photographer grow.

I put the information and description below. I would love to see you there! A big thank you to Nikon for helping us keep our community strong and by bringing these events to life!

What It Takes To Win Awards with Kristi Odom

Kristi Odom is a wedding and nature photographer who is based in DC. Photography has taken her all over the world for assignments on 6 of the 7 continents.

Kristi’s wedding work has been highly awarded by Fearless Photographers, Junebug Weddings and WPPI. Her photojournalism and nature photography has been on exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, featured on rollingstone.com, in the courtyard of Nat Geo and on the billboards of Times Square. She is a volunteer for Photographers without Borders and her public speaking credits include Georgia Institute of Technology, Adventure Always, Women’s Wedding Network, SmugMug, Lifetime and REI.
Join us on March 16th 2015 for a an amazing seminar where Kristi will talk on the world of photography competitions; what to enter, how to prep, and how to use
competitions to improve your craft.

To see more of Kristi’s work click here: http://www.kristiodom.com/

Join us for drinks afterwards at Daniel O’Connell’s Bar and Restaurant across the street!

There is metered street parking right near the Torpedo Factory until 9 pm. There’s also a Colonial Parking garage on N. Union Street directly across from Torpedo’s entrance. Otherwise, parking is free if you’re willing to park 2-3 blocks away! Here’s a link if you need help:

http://www.visitalexandriava.com/planning-tools/parking/

For Metro, you can take the blue or yellow line to the King Street – Old Town stop and cab/Uber to Torpedo or enjoy a nice walk!

Last week, I lost a close friend, and the world lost an amazing person. Holly and I have traveled in 3 continents and lived together in another (Australia). Holly was a very gifted writer and truly believed that she could make the world a bit better. She believed in conservation through awareness and education so she used her writing and radio segments to tell stories. The last trip we took we traveled in Borneo, Holly took off to even more remote spots to get stories from locals from what the deforestation was doing to the villages. She put articles together with my photos and her writing. We always talked about what the two of us could do together for conservation. Not only were we close friends and great travel buddies, but together we made a great team.

Holly traveled to Thailand with me last year. When I think of her, I think of this image and this moment. I was photographing a wedding for an Australian Adventurer. The groom is an avid rock climber and his friends are also crazy adventurous people. They asked us if we wanted to go climbing. Holly had never really done outdoor climbing, and this was with an extreme group of people. We scrambled up to start on the side of cliff already pretty high up. I could see just a few nerves in Holly but she threw a harness on and was ready. She jumped on the route so fast and without hesitation, not slipping or falling once, on a rather hard route, climbed strait to the top, impressing everyone there. When she came down, with the beauty of the mountain, the accomplishment of the climb, and a few dropped jaws (including mine), I remember looking over at her face and seeing just pure pride and pure joy. She was overwhelmingly happy, and it was a beautiful moment. I will always remember feeling her happiness at that moment. Holly just full of pure joy.

When I found out she passed away, I looked into flights to Sydney, to be there for her funeral. It didn’t feel right. I felt that it wasn’t what Holly would want. So instead, I decided to continue fighting her causes and give donations in her name. I want to celebrate her life, through her commitment to conservation and change. So if you want to continue her fight just a little bit with me, please consider a donation to the following causes.

Earth Matters Radio (Earth Matters Radio presents local, national and international environmental issues with a strong social justice bent.- from facebook)

Deforest Action (organization Holly worked with in Borneo) – Deforestaction.org

Anyone reading this take a moment and don’t forget to invest in what you believe in, that is why I made this a public post. This world is beautiful and it is worth fighting for.

Holly you will be missed. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better person and for your commitment to trying to make this world a better place.
Kristi

  1. Amy said:
    Thanks for posting this Kristi, really beautiful.
    November 26, 2013  12:35 pm
    Reply
  2. Patsy Nomvete said:
    Dear Kristi, I was very touched by this post. Thank you for sharing about Holly. Patsy
    November 28, 2013  5:47 pm
    Reply
  3. Mischa Hutchinson said:
    Hi Kristi
    This is beautiful, thanks you for doing this for Holly. I was wondering if I could have a copy of this photo? It's perfect.
    Mischa
    December 4, 2013  3:30 pm
    Reply
  4. Mark Worsfold said:
    You probably don't remember me from UNSW days but thanks for posting this about a dear friend.
    Mark
    December 24, 2013  2:54 am
    Reply

My Adventure Always into video:

from Kristi Odom on Vimeo.

I just got back 11 hours ago from the Adventure Always conference and just can’t stop smiling. Eight months ago I was standing in a very slow food line at a different photography conference and standing right in front of me was Jesh de Rox. I have always admired Jesh ever since I saw him speak at Mystic Seminars in 2011. He brought something completely new into photography. Jesh is really driven by the connections between people and found a way to capture and explore those connections. It is totally crazy what he does. A mutual friend that was in line with me introduced Jesh and I and we started talking. Jesh started asking questions about me and my work. I happened to have an ipad with me and showed him some of my work. Within minutes, someone I admired, had asked me to speak at his upcoming conference. I was floored and secretly jumping up and down inside, while I stayed composed and said yes. It kind of made my day… who am I kidding, it kind of made my year!

So here I was a little over 8 months later, on a boat with a presentation in hand (and backed up on 2 computers, on a server and a flash drive…just in case) quiet naucious but really excited. I have done speaking before, but more about traveling and encouraging people to get out there and see the world. A few small local meetings on my nature work… but that was it. It is a much different game speaking on your main passion in life to your peers and people you highly admire. I had a talk all written out a week before with so many good points and tangibles for the audience to take home, lots of practical into. I called a good friend Julie Massie and asked her opinion. She told me that people go to this conference to feel and to experience. She told me whatever I do, to speak with the heart. I changed my whole talk and put a few images up from what I love more then anything, interacting with wildlife.

I am just totally overwhelmed by the people, I have never been in a room of such positive and supportive group before. I will admit my first meeting with the group was a little scary “I am going to have to get over my not hugging thing” was my first thought. I am the type of person that likes a buffer seat at a movie theater and kind of avoids hugging at all cost. Once I kind of let go of that side of my personality, I really grew to love so many strangers. When I got off stage, those hugs and comments, meant the world to me. People told me how they felt about my work, they really listened and challenged themselves to feel. It was one of those moments I will never forget, all from an opportunity at a slow cafe and randomly being behind Jesh in line.

So leaving the ship yesterday, I just couldn’t stop smiling. Mostly because I was touched by the amazing people speaking and attending. Thank you to all who attended Adventure Always for the joy you made me feel. I am grateful beyond belief for my new friends and for the happiness that was shared.

I’m excited to announce I have been selected to share my vision and work at the Adventure Always Conference this October in Long Beach, California!

WHAT: Artists & creatives gather for 2.5 days & nights of mind-blowing inspiration, unforgettable conversations and wild adventure…

WHEN: October 21-23, 2013

WHERE: Long Beach, California (Los Angles area) aboard the Queen Mary Cruise ship.

WHO: For artists, creatives and troublemakers of all kinds who are interested in producing meaningful work & living fascinating lives.

WHY: Because this might just be the best decision you make for yourself (and your business) all year!

HOW: Visit http://www.AdventureAlways.co to reserve your space!

See you there!

Saying I am excited is an understatement! A week from tomorrow one of my images will be up at the Natural History Museum!! I still can’t believe it!! I got back from my brother’s wedding on Sunday and found that I was on the front of my local paper!! A huge thanks to the awesome Lisa Robinson for taking the cover photo, I seriously couldn’t have asked for a better friend and travel partner! You are the best!

Wow, sorry for the exclamation marks, I am just beyond excited (and just finished my second cup of coffee). If you live in Fairfax make sure you pick up a copy either today or tomorrow, to read the story click here for the Fairfax Time’s Article. They did a great job with the story, it kind of made my day! If you live in DC make sure and drop in to the Natural History Museum (starting June 7th) and look for my image on the first floor along with a giant elephant-I kind of love elephants.