Gulf Photo Plus In Dubai Should Not Be Missed
Last year Patrick and I were invited out to Dubai to attend Gulf Photo Plus, a photography workshop unlike anything else on the planet. At the time the only thing I knew about GPP was that they did a shootout with 3 big name photographers. I never expected that attending this event would become one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
The deal was simple, GPP would pay our way to the event on the other side of the world if we created 2 videos for them. The first video would be a promo video that would be used to promote the 2014 workshop (above) and the second video was completely up to us. We decided to sit down with as many of the instructors as we could and interview them about what it took for them to become successful in photography. This video on success was released a few months after the event and you can read about the creation of that video here.
I didn’t know a thing about GPP before last years event. I honestly didn’t even know that there were individual workshops because the only thing I had ever seen was the shootout that they do with 3 big names at the end of their event each year (view Zack, Joey L, and David Hobby going at it here) . Being that the workshop was in Dubai, I always shrugged it off as something that was completely unattainable. I knew (at least I thought I knew) I would never get to go there so I never took the time to learn about the event.
Although I had no idea what to expect with GPP as an event, I had heard a lot about the city of Dubai. I had watched videos and documentaries for years about the creation of this almost mythical city. This town in the middle of the desert has the tallest building in the world, the largest mall in the world, an indoor ski slope (in the desert), man made islands in the shape of palm trees and the planet earth, and more wealth per person than any city in America.
When Patrick and I arrived in Dubai we ran into Zack Arias, a GPP veteran, in line at customs. We got to pick his brain about what the next few days would look like and my excitement grew even more. That night we got to meet all of the instructors for the event as well as Mo and Hala who were the masterminds behind the event. Mo and Hala turned out to be some of the nicest people we have ever met, and their hospitality towards everyone made the jet lag and cultural transitions much easier to adapt to than expected.
Unlike all of the other instructors who had to focus on their particular classes, Patrick and I had the ability to sit in on the majority of the courses. After the second day I started to realize that this event isn’t just about learning photography, GPP is an experience, an experience so incredible that I recommend it to every photographer I know.
Photography workshops these days are really prevalent. I go to at least 5 major workshops every single year. I’ve been to local workshops with 10 students and I’ve been to WPPI in Vegas with tens of thousands of photographers in attendance. Obviously one thing that makes a workshop valuable are the instructors and GPP has always managed to have the very best in the world. 2014 will have Gregory Heisler, David Hobby, Zack Arias, and Lindsay Adler to name just a few. But these photographers alone don’t set GPP apart, the experience does.
Once I saw who was teaching at GPP I knew it was going to be a solid workshop. Good teachers = good workshop. But when you take some of the best photography teachers in the world and put them all in one of the most incredible settings in the world (Dubai), you have so much more than a “good workshop.” Attending GPP was like going on the most incredible vacation of my life while also having one on one lessons from some of the biggest names in photography today.
The variety in the classes offered is unlike anything you can experience anywhere else. One morning I had access to photograph some of the most modern buildings in the world from the top of an office building. That afternoon I went into the desert and did a fashion photoshoot on location with camel farmers. That night I attended another class that ended up on one of the palm islands where we were shooting sunset shots of the entire Dubai skyline. The next day I was a bus with Joe McNally heading to “old Dubai” and the local fish market. Each of these locations felt like I was in a completely different country. Within a 5 mile radius we were visiting some of the most contrasting scenes in the world. One minute I’m taking a portrait of someone who literally lives in a tent in the desert and the next I’m photographing a million dollar sports car outside the biggest mall in the world.
I know the majority of photographers in the US are probably just like me and instantly disregard GPP because it’s so far away, but I can assure you that this workshop is within reach. Flights to Dubai are less than $1000, the majority of students (and all of the instructors) stay at a very reasonably priced Holiday Inn Express. The majority of the courses are much less than comparable workshops in the US. For the price of a new camera and lens you could easily afford this whole trip (and like all continuing education, it’s all a write off for your photography business)!
Workshops are great. They can be fun, they can help us become better photographers. For those of us who do this for a living, workshops should actually make us money in the long run because we are able to improve our businesses by learning from the best. But GPP is more than another workshop. Gulf Photo Plus is not only the best photography workshop I have ever been to, it is also the best vacation I have ever been on. I have found that the new camera I have lusted over never makes me a better photographer, and it definitely has never given me an unforgettable experience. Gulf Photo Plus will teach you photography in a way that is simply not possible anywhere else in the world.