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.