Two exhibitions in one weekend…

…Two very knackered Lewis’s! We have just returned from Birmingham NEC with a boot full of gear to satisfy our outdoor and photographic adventures for the year to come and many more beyond! As I write this blog entry, my eyelids are very heavy, so bear with me if I drift off and write about what I ate for breakfast… A croissant if you really want to know.

Doing two shows at the NEC is both knackering and mind boggling. Yesterday we visited the Caravanning, Boating and Outdoor show and today we hit Focus on Imaging. A double whammy of stands, freebies and some very good things here and there. I shall tell you more about what we found along the way and what we filled our boot up with.

I must admit I would love to own a boat or motorhome, a massive tour bus style monster of a motorhome. Excessive? Well yes. Well beyond my means but one can dream. In all seriousness whilst the big vehicles certainly captivated our imaginations and we had a lot of fun looking around them. We were simply looking for a decent tent!

The show was mainly geared towards the motorhome and caravanning fraternity, so were a little concerned that we couldn’t find the tent section. We soon realized we were in the wrong hall (5 halls in total) and located what we were looking for. We bought entirely Outwell kit and kept one of their sales reps very busy in the process. It is always great to be able to see tents fully set up and we loved one in particular, especially as both of us could stand up in it. We purchased a Nevada M which is ideal for the two of us plus one “Diesel” who is our shaggy dog chappy! In addition we picked up a pop-up tent (handy for photography trips) and a couple of chairs to replace our delapidated set.

It’s funny how once you have opened up your wallet to make one purchase, others follow in quick succession, as if you’ve reassured yourself it is ok to spend your hard earned cash. Well this is precisely what happened, as we then went onto buy a few other things such as a wind-up camping lantern, a hat, a rucksack and a pair of gaiters. Stuff that we will use a great deal.

We are planning to camp frequently this year around the UK, mostly short trips and will form the basis of the photography this year. It is a lot cheaper to do this compared to using hotels. First light is the time to get up and out there which is a lot easier to do when camping out.

Focus was very very busy indeed, the queue was massive but luckily we had trade passes so managed to weave our way in fairly quickly. First port of call was the Professional Photographer (magazine) stand. Had a chat with the people there and renewed my subscription for the next two years. Looked for Roger, formerly the Editor of FPME (now discontinued) and now just about to take over on Photography Monthly – I couldn’t find him. They also gave us a free Lowepro rucksack to add to our collection, that is another story…

Next stop was the Lee Filters stand which was very smartly laid out as ever and adorned with the works of David Noton. Funnily enough he was there, recognized us and came over to say hello. We talked about business, life, Lowepro bags and heard a little bit about David’s recent trip to Bali. I also had a chat with the sales team about acquiring a whole new Lee filter kit to switch from my knackered Cokins.

Next stop! The Imagefile! Met another guy I have “known” for some time, Howard Butterfield who is one of the Company directors. It was good to catch up with him and put a face to his name. We talked about hooking the system into my website and this has fuelled more ideas in my mind.

After that it was time to loosen the purse strings and buy the stuff I had on my shopping list. I only stopped off at two main stands, Jacobs and Speedgraphic to purchase a battery grip for my D300, a Manfrotto 055ProXB tripod and a complete set of Lee filters. All I can say is that I spent quite a lot but all worth it plus shall make a difference to the way I work in the future.

One other big step I took yesterday was to start the process of joining the BIPP with a view to earning a qualification.

Very good show indeed. There was a great deal to see there and at times difficult to see it all due to the volume of people. The main stands were without doubt Nikon, Canon, Sony, Hasselblad, Giottos, Manfrotto, Kodak and Epson. There has been a big growth in the photo book market and now there are more ways than ever to produce prints. In fact the word “print” is old hat, since there are now so many more ways you can turn your images into mind boggling products. I really loved the Acrylic prints on Point101’s stand and the prices were competitive. There were model shoots to take part in. Talks and seminars. Competitions galore. Brilliant galleries everywhere and the majority of the prints were big.

We came away tired but satisfied with what we bought, the prices we paid (despite recession) and that we had learnt a lot more about the industry itself. I am excited about the future. Happy 20th anniversary Focus!

One final thing – I noticed more D300s around necks than any other camera. I did see the D3x, it is massive looking and certainly was attracting plenty of attention on the Nikon stand.

Pictures will follow in a separate post. Too tired to do any more for now!

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