2016 PSA Annual Conference Speakers

The following speakers have been confirmed so far. Speakers are subject to change.

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    • Sponsored by: Tamron
    • Speaking: Thursday, September 15
    • Topic: Are We There Yet?
    • About: The program on Thursday night will be presented by Tamron and be from Tamron Image Master David Akoubian.

      Bear Woods Photography is the photography of David Akoubian. David resides in the mountains of North Georgia with his wife, Evelyn, and golden retriever, Bailey. David has been a photographer since 1972, but his career in photography started in 1992. David learned his craft originally as a painter and from his father. Early in his career, he traveled with, learned from, and taught beside some of the masters of nature photography including John Shaw, Art Wolfe, Galen Rowell, Bryan Peterson, Pat O'Hara, and Rod Planck. David has been teaching photography since 1994 in the classroom and leading workshops around the United States. His focus remains on the Southeastern United States, where he calls home, but he does workshops and lectures all over the United States.  If you would like to see some of David’s work, visit his Bear Woods Photography website:

      David's clients have included, but are not limited to Coca Cola, PNC Bank, Tamron, the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia, Lensbaby, The Nature Conservancy, and Gibbs Gardens. His photographs and articles have appeared in publications such as Nature Photographer, Audubon Magazine, Blue Ridge Country, Birder's World, Outdoor Photographer, Backpacker Magazine, and many local publications. His work has appeared in several feature books in addition to instructional guides on scenic locations. David is a Sirui Professional as well as being designated as a Tamron Image Master.

      The program that we are going to see on Thursday evening is titled “Are We There Yet.”

      Since we were young kids, sitting in the back of a station wagon, we asked "are we there yet"? Today, we get to hear those words from family and friends. We ask ourselves that question when we look at our photography skills as well. The program takes a look at the great opportunities that present themselves here in our country and how to prepare to make the best of the trips. The program also examines the question "are we there yet"?  It offers a realistic way to judge how you are doing with your photography and how to improve in some basic ways. David will focus on letting people know it isn't always the end of journey that is important, it is the trip to get there.

    • Sponsored by: Canon
    • Speaking: Friday, September 16 (evening), workshop Saturday, September 17
    • Topic: A Creative Journey
    • About: Parish will be our feature presenter on Friday evening.  As a bonus, he will also be hosting a mini workshop on Saturday morning.  Parish, a Canon Explorer of Light, comes to us courtesy of Canon, Inc.

      Parish says that “Photography has given me an expanded vision of the majestic beauty of the world… elevating my spirit, bringing me the profound pleasure and passion to capture and share this sublime beauty. There is ‘NO’ substitute for the joy, appreciation and fulfillment that this valuable gift has brought into my life.”

      Commitment, passion and love to elicit “magical beauty” are the paradigms of Parish’s intuitive philosophy of three decades of photography. Consistently original, diverse, inventive and timelessness are the hallmarks of his photography. His uncommon use of colors, whether vibrant or pastel, as well as the use of multitudes of tonalities in his stunning and luminous black & white images have created his distinctive and unique signature and style. 

      Parish has been a member of the prestigious “Canon Explorers of Light Program” since its inception in 1994. This program is comprised of about 50 of the most elite photographers worldwide. He has been chosen as “one of the "Worlds’ Top 100 Photographers" for three consecutive years by Graphis.

      While working with many Fortune 500 Companies, ad agencies, design firms, publications, and major clients, Parish was passionately pursuing his love for Fine Art Photography producing a vast array of Fine Art images which he now exhibits in galleries worldwide.

      Parish continues to renew his passion and love for photography by expressing the beauty around us in the constant flow of his luminous imagery.

      His Friday evening program is titled “A Creative Journey”

      Parish Kohanim’s presentation will reveal a versatile and exciting career of over three decades.  He shares images taken throughout his successful years in commercial photography, giving behind the scenes anecdotes and revealing what it takes to put a major shoot together and execute it successfully. 

      Parish also shares his philosophy and passion about the art of photography. This presentation will be educational as well as inspirational, giving tips on methods he uses for lighting, posing and composition.  Since opening his Fine Art Gallery in 2004, Parish has also added his fine art photography to his presentations.  These images include painterly portraits that are works of art, combining the subject and unique backgrounds in brilliant colors or soft, moody pastels.  His stunning, luminous black and white works demonstrate his expert use of multitudes of tonalities, creating his distinctive and unique signature and style.   Parish has been working with Cirque performers for the last few years and will be publishing a book on their incredible art, performing impossibly graceful feats of the human body.  The presentation includes brief videos, demonstrating how true artists strive for perfection in any field.   Parish encourages everyone to explore, experiment and enjoy, pushing them outside of their comfort zone. 

      Parish exposes the beauty…. in all things that surround us in our everyday lives…landscapes, florals, the human form and challenges others to do so as well.

      His mini workshop on Saturday morning is titled “Secrets of Bringing New Life to Your Photos”.  In his workshop, Parish will explore new and powerful techniques that will enable you to see photography from a new perspective.  He will discuss the impact of lighting, proper composition and designing a shot as well as transforming your visual experience into an emotional one.”

      If you would like to know more about Parish and see examples of his outstanding work, please visit his website: or his page on the Canon Explorers of Light site:
    • Sponsored by: Manfrotto
    • Speaking: Saturday afternoon, September 17
    • Topic: Photographing America's National Parks
    • About: On Saturday afternoon we will have a program by Chris Nicholson about his favorite subject, our National Parks. Chris is being sponsored by Manfrotto. The timing of this is ideal because 2016 is the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

      Chris Nicholson is a photographer and writer based in the Northeast, and is author of “Photographing National Parks” (Sidelight Books, 2015). He is also a workshop leader, working in National Parks at night to bring participants to magical and majestic destinations for extraordinary night photography adventures. He was a magazine editor for ten years, but Chris has worked independently since 2004, with his photography and writing appearing in over 30 publications, including Wired, Men’s Health and the New York Times. He is also a book editor for National Parks Traveler, writes for websites such as Naturescapes and B&H Exlpora, and lectures at various photography conferences and events around the U.S. To see more about Chris and our National Parks, go to:

      Chris’ program and is titled “Photographing America’s National Parks.” From Sea to Shining Sea, the National Parks preserve some of the country’s most unique wilderness areas. Their existence is a gift to nature photographers everywhere. In this presentation, Chris Nicholson delves into what the park system offers to the photographer, where to find the wildlife, the wildflowers, the waterfalls, and how to best research and prepare for a trip to explore the artistic opportunities within. Learn how to travel safely and photograph in the various environments found in the parks, including desert, alpine, forest and coastline. Learn secrets for finding new and exciting photo spots, how to stay powered up in the outdoors, ideas for supplementary gear that will make a photo project more productive and enjoyable and tips for scouting locations to maximize your creative potential.
    • Sponsored by: Sigma
    • Speaking: Wednesday, September 14
    • Topic: Mastering Lighting, Indoor and Outdoor
    • About: On Wednesday evening we will have the pleasure of attending a presentation by James Schmlezer who is a Sigma Pro and is being sponsored by Sigma. Known for his consistently outstanding style of portrait and wedding photography, James Schmelzer is an internationally known Master Craftsmen Photographer, lecturer and owner of Elite Photographic Studio located in Shelby Township, Michigan.

      As a professional photographer for over 25 years, James has been awarded the Photographic Craftsman & Master of Photography from PPA and the Accolade of Photographic Mastery from WPPI, among many others.

      Besides owning and running his own studio, James conducts workshops, speaks at seminars and demonstrates lighting techniques at tradeshows all around the world. Recently Kelby Media Group has commissioned James to be their official senior portrait instructor for their online education site, Kelby Training. James is also the author of quarterly portrait articles in Kelby Training’s online magazine, Light It, and one of the Dream Team instructors for Photoshop World Conference & Expo. James also has online training program classes on Creative Live, Skillshare and Westcott. James has been an instructor for Westcott for more than 25 years and has been actively involved in designing new light modifier products as well as creating instructional videos demonstrating the control of light. Most recently, he was added to the Sigma team of pros.

      His is Program “Mastering Lighting, Indoor and Outdoor” is designed to give a better understanding of studio lighting for groups, and head shots. Demonstrations will also include 7 different lighting patterns and when to use them based on different facial shapes and flaws. Topics will also include how to tame and control outdoor lighting.

      You might enjoy learning more about James by visiting the Sigma Lounge:
      • Sponsored by: Panasonic/Lumix
      • Speaking: Friday, September 16 - morning and afternoon
      • Topic: Finding the Photographer's Vision and 4K for Photographers
      • About: On Friday morning and again on Friday afternoon we will be entertained and educated by Giulio Sciorio.  He will present two different programs, one just before and one just after lunch.  Giulio is a LUMIX Luminary and is being sponsored by PanasonicLUMIX.  Giulio says “I Live to Create and Inspire Others to Create."

        Giulio is a minimalist photographer who creates content for the small screens in a social world.  G's photographic roots began in film so he creates as much of his work as possible in camera. In a digital world, this authentic way of creating gets the work online fast. You can learn more about Giulio and see more of his work on the following websites: and on the Panasonic LUMIX LOUNGE website:

      • Finding the Photographer's Vision -  The single most important aspect of creating a lasting body of work is vision. In this class, you will learn foundational practices to help you create a body of work that speaks to that unique vision inside you. Some topics we will explore together are: creating with intention, how self imposed constraints can help focus creativity and working with a vision file. Your participation in this workshop will align you on the path to create your best work for life.

      • 4K for Photographers - Photographers have a unique view of the world and up until recent times our vision has been focused onto a single still photograph. With technology like 4K video blurring the lines between motion and still photography, where do photographers fit in? 4K for Photographers will focus on how photographers can embrace 4K technology while staying true to their photographic roots. Topics Include:
        • A brief overview of gear used for assignments
        • How a photographer can incorporate 4K video into their still shoots
        • How to present the content online and within client meetings
        • What comes next

    • Speaking: Saturday, September 17, 10:30-12:00pm
    • Topic: The Last Ocean: Antarctica's Ross Sea Project
    • About: John B. Weller is a writer, photographer and filmmaker who works to drive marine conservation around the world. An impassioned observer of nature, he followed a path through the Colorado desert to the waters of the Antarctic. He and Antarctic ecologist David Ainley started The Last Ocean Project in 2004, dedicated to promoting conservation of the Ross Sea, Antarctica – the last intact large marine ecosystem in the world. After four trips to Antarctica, including three months of diving under the ice as a guest of the United States Antarctic Program, Weller compiled a library of Ross Sea photographs that has become the face of Antarctic conservation efforts worldwide, published thousands of times in dozens of countries.

      Weller’s latest book, The Last Ocean, has received top reviews from The New York Times, Scientific American, and other publications. It offers a rare glimpse into life in this most southern place, taking the reader on an in-depth journey above and below the icy ocean surface. He challenges us to see that the Ross Sea story is not just that of a fish, or of the incredible creatures that live at the edge of the world. It is our story – the story of our struggle to become sustainable.

      Weller has worked closely with scientists, policy-makers, and conservation organizations invested in the Ross Sea, and he helped solidify the coalition of NGOs fighting for Ross Sea protection. He also co-founded The Last Ocean Charitable Trust with David Ainley and New Zealand filmmaker Peter Young in 2007. After more than a decade of work on this issue in collaboration with NGOs, national delegations from many nations, and scientists from around the globe, a Ross Sea marine protected area – the ultimate goal of The Last Ocean – is finally on the horizon.

      Weller has also partnered with acclaimed cinematographer Shawn Heinrichs and an array of environmental organizations to conceive, create and deliver national-level media campaigns in support of marine conservation initiatives in many other crucially important regions of the world’s ocean. These campaigns have resulted in new shark and manta ray sanctuaries in the Bahamas and Micronesia, new marine protected areas in Indonesia, and new international law protecting manta rays.

      Weller was named a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation in 2009 and is currently a Fellow of The Safina Center.. He continues to work in defense of the Ross Sea and for other important marine conservation measures alongside a team of close collaborators and his wife Cassandra Brooks.