Expo Floor (image courtesy PDN PhotoPlus Expo)

I made my annual trek to that dismal tinkertoy creation Javits Center for the biggest annual gathering of photographers and suppliers on the East Coast, PhotoPlus Expo.

The trade show portion is not quite as big as it used to be, probably due to the recent spike in lodging costs in Manhattan and airfare costs in general. However, the number of photographers and their enthusiasm has not diminished. PhotoPlus allows you the rare opportunity to handle all the merchandise, see all the software demonstrated, and check out the newest publications and services, with people on hand who can comprehensively answer questions and gather feedback. Some of the most personal gear decisions, such as what bag to carry and which tripod is right for your purpose, can best be made by actually trying out all the options in person, and no bricks and mortar camera store stocks everything. Innovators can get your attention without having to compete with all the white noise on the internet and the biases of retailers heavily invested in the status quo, figuratively and literally.

I visited Olympus immediately to put my hands on the new EM1. The mood in the booth was electric; Olympus took the risk of announcing the camera in advance of the show, and it paid off, as uniformly positive reviews pushed traffic to the booth. I overheard one woman saying “I didn’t feel like my Canon M was up to shooting that assignment in Paris, but I would have taken this one in a heartbeat.” I met the head of the Olympus Visionary program, and she introduced me to my “local” visionary, Victor Rodriguez, who will be presenting to our camera club later in the year, I hope. (I also ran into visionary David Wells, whom I met in Amherst last year, at SNYC.)  I did handle the EM1, a very pocketbook-endangering experience. The camera balances solidly in the hand, and the new pro lens (12-40mm f/2.8, to be joined by a 40-150 f/2.8 next year) has that wonderful machined feel as well. I am no fan of electronic viewfinders, but the Epson unit on the EM-1 is acceptable for most uses.

I also stopped by c’t digital photography, who publish the best technically oriented photo magazine out there and the comprehensive and attractive Rocky Nook books. The folks from Santa Barbara were, as usual, friendly and engaging. I also stopped by Focal Press to catch up with Sloane Stinson and thank them for their generous club programs. I looked at the books on display that I had not noticed on the

In the past few years, ink jet printing has progressed to the point where gallery class printing is available to photographers who print themselves. To that end, I approached several vendors including Moab, Hahnemühle, Red River, and Carson, who all agreed to contribute sample papers if I created a printing education program for our local clubs. Epson said their local dealer network would likely be interested in helping us run it.

I no longer take the seminars offered by PDN at the Expo. Now that ample instruction is available via Lynda, Kelby and Creative Live for a cost ranging from free to reasonable, I find it silly to spend for two hours as much as I would spend for a downloaded three day course from CL or three months of Kelby or Lynda. The PDN seminars are not intimate enough to earn the premium. There was even a free alternative just down the street.

Interactive Shoot-NYC Demo Area

Interactive Shoot-NYC Demo Area

Intimate seminars

Intimate seminars (photos courtesy Broncolor Shoot-NYC)

That was Shoot-NYC, two free days of seminars and demos sponsored by Hasselblad and Broncolor. It’s not for everyone – the emphasis fell on studio, location, and corporate photography. and its promotion of a very expensive camera and high end studio lighting gear was unabashed. The purpose is to introduce emerging photographers to their gear and to solid studio and business practices. Serious professionals know that it is the archer not the arrows that matters, but HasselBron realizes that your job is easier if you have a reliable bow on your shoulder and straight arrows in your quiver. Photography is problem-solving, and the more you can concentrate on solving photographic quandaries, not dealing with technical shortcomings, the better.

The Shoot-NYC seminars feature dynamic presenters, and the converted warehouse building and its cramped rooms, is more intimate that what you find at a Javits seminar. With only two classrooms and a small trade floor sandwiched in between, you get to spend a lot of time with the teachers and seasoned pros. The gear is pretty intimidating, but it is nice to see what is available and what it is capable of producing. I left with loads of ideas.

I had a great two days in New York with minimal damage to my wallet, though the knock-on effect of my visit to the Olympus booth has yet to materialize.