Shooting in the face of COVID-19: “Distracted”

The June edition of KHL’s American Cranes and Transport (ACT”) just hit the stands. I was excited to see that an article I finished up in late April was selected for the issue. “Distracted” includes 20 of my images from ConExpo 2020 selected by the editors at ACT, as well as my take on the show and shooting with the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding before our eyes in Las Vegas. While all this took place in the first week of March, it seems such a long time ago at this point in time. Besides COVID-19, the biggest challenge was really bad weather for largely an outdoor trade show.

I have to say that my new Nikon Z6 consistently performed alongside what would be my last serious shooting with the Nikon D5 before moving to the new Nikon D6. When you have small windows of time to capture images, you can’t be worrying about your equipment. Nikon camera bodies and lenses came through again.

American Cranes and Transport: June Cover

After two days of miserable weather at ConExpo 2020, the sky began to clear and for a time we were treated to a blue sky with great clouds. Walking by a Kobelco Crawler Crane, I highlighted the yellow boom against what was going on above. Keeping it simple and at the same time creating a lot of space for text if it were to be chosen from my cover submissions.

American Cranes and Transport, April 2020 Cover

Trying to capture the scope of a trade show on the scale of ConExpo really requires some height. To tell the story of the size of the show, I’ve shot from parking garages, rooftops, hotel rooms and exhibit scaffolding.

Over the weekend prior to the show, I shot what I hoped would be a cover image from an adjacent parking garage rooftop, after getting permission from the very nice manager of the hotel that owned it (trespassing to get a shot is not advised, especially in Las Vegas). Nice light, most of the crane lot in frame. Only one problem, most of the show was not in nice light and if you attended the show you probably didn’t see the blue skies of the weekend. The image that was actually was chosen by my editor was shot by me out a hotel window of the Sahara Hotel across the street from the crane lot right after one of the rainstorms that confronted us during the first few days of the show. And yes that’s the parking garage in the distance where I shot what I thought would be the cover….

The Last Tradeshow in America….for awhile

ConExpo is the largest equipment trade show in the United States. Held every three years, in open lots around the Las Vegas Convention Center, it normally draws visitors from all over the world. I have attended ConExpo for almost three decades and shot the last four shows for American Cranes and Transport. Going into the show, the big challenge was that the old lot where most of the cranes were displayed had been sacrificed for the Convention Center expansion. Having shot three shows at the old location, I had a pretty good idea how the light moved throughout the day across the lot and where I needed to be to make the best use of it with the various exhibits. And I had my shooting notes from the previous shows. All that went out the window as the cranes moved to a new “temporary” lot about 1/4 mile away.

With COVID-19 at its infancy in the U.S., I arrived on March 6th and spent the weekend prior to the show, watching the light while avoiding being flattened by the flurry of forklifts and activity as the last minute preparations were made to the exhibits. The weekend was beautiful and had great light. Then for the first time that I can remember at a ConExpo, the weather went downhill fast and we opened the show to rain. Over the course of the week, the COVID-19 count in the U.S. climbed rapidly and ConExpo made the national news as the “last trade show being held in the U.S”. Most of the shooting opportunities were crammed into the last two of five show days because of weather and the show ended up closing a day early as the seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis became apparent.

I love the challenge of shooting trade shows of this magnitude and telling the story. With poor weather and COVID-19, I found the challenge amped up to an extreme. This is the scene that greeted me in the first 5 minutes of the show walking onto the crane lot.

American Cranes and Transport – March Cover

Cover-1I was flattered to have an image from the last ConExpo selected for the March cover of American Cranes and Transport, which also included their show guide for this year’s ConExpo. One of the largest construction equipment shows in the world, ConExpo occurs in Las Vegas once every three years and covers approximately 10 football fields of a variety of construction equipment. Thousands of copies of the magazine were given out to the roughly 400,000 attendees and it was pretty cool to see stacks of the magazine on display at their booth with this cover.

American Cranes & Transport

Was very pleased that American Cranes & Transport chose one of my images for the cover of their April issue as well as featured my images from CONEXPO in a two page spread as well as in their Recap article.
The largest construction equipment show in North America, CONEXPO is very challenging to shoot given (a) the difficulty in isolating specific pieces of equipment from adjoining pieces of equipment that can often be larger and distracting, (b) the significant shadows thrown by neighboring pieces of equipment onto other pieces of equipment that may be the subject and (c) the set-up of the equipment vis a vis the sun and time of day. I usually spend the first day just walking the show (which takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center over about 41 football fields of outdoor and indoor space) to make mental notes of which equipment is best shot in the morning or afternoon based on how the equipment has been set up. Then you hope for blue sky, some clouds, humans to provide scale and you are off to the races…