PhotoPlus about to open

Let the Games Begin: A mass of photographers await the opening of 2013’s PhotoPlus Expo

Flying to New York is a breeze, but a pain in the back side… literally. Just a short hopper to Honolulu, but it’s the 9-1/2 hour red eye flight to JFK on Hawaiian Airlines that’s a killer: Crammed into the coach section like a tin of sardines, sitting in a thinly padded seat with the person behind me playing with the infotainment system most of the way (yo –it’s a touch screen, not a pound screen).


Awaiting to board the flight to JFK at Honolulu International.

A touch after 6:30 AM (EDT or 12:30 AM HST), the plane’s tires make contact with the runway at JFK, and after a few minutes of taxiing, the A330 comes to a stop. We walk to the baggage claim area, and our luggage is already on the carousel – sweet! We had hired a car to take us into Manhattan, but there’s no one holding a sign with our names. So I call the transportation desk at the hotel and leave a voicemail. Fifteen minutes later, I call again and leave another voice mail. Third time wasn’t the charm either. So I called a friend staying at the New Yorker, and had them walk down to the transportation desk.

Somehow wires had gotten crossed, and no car was sent, so an hour and a half later, we wearily loaded ourselves into the Town Car and joined the morning rush hour commute. Soon, we were traveling through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and were in Manhattan. Driving down 34th Street, my mind was flooded with memories of all the stores and neon that makes up The City. Then, in an instant, I realized that our driver had blazed past the hotel.

“Uhhh, excuse me,” I mumbled. “But I think you drove past our hotel.”

“Ahhh… English not so good,” replied our driver.

“Brah, our hotel is back there,” I pointed frantically at the back of the car.

Suddenly, the car brakes hard, and is in a tight U-turn (illegally, in the middle of the road) “Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry,” he said with tires howling, and soon enough we were flying past the hotel… again. Once more in the middle of the street, in the middle of Manhattan traffic, he flipped a U-ey, and we directed him onto 8th Avenue and the curb side of the hotel.

My wife looked at me and said, “Damn. Forgot to pack the Rosary Beads.”

We dropped off our bags in our friend’s room and headed to the Tick Tock Diner for a quick breakfast. As usual, the place was packed and jammin’ and we soon had a cup o’ Joe and a hot plate of eggs and home fries.

Media signing

Working on my carpal tunnel: Signing 400 prints for members of the media.

Once fueled up, we walked the four blocks to the Javits Center, got our credentials and headed up to the Media Room for our first print signing: 400 copies of Molokini Glow on Hahnemühle’s deckled edge Photo Rag paper for members of the media. Three silver pens and a couple hand cramps later, we walked back to the hotel, grabbed our room keys and passed out.

Working the booth

Day one: In the Hahnemühle FineArt both, taking pix and answering technical questions.

At midnight (Hawaii time) we awoke to the iPhone’s marimba, and we were soon fed, watered and shoed for the day. It was a brisk 46-degrees outside – Haleakala sunrise weather – and the brisk walk to the convention center kept us warm. Although the expo wasn’t open for another hour, the Javits was abuzz with photographers: Early morning seminars were already in session and a gaggle of image makers were waiting to have their portfolios of work examined by reviewers. Exhibitors poured into the main hall, setting up last minute displays and filling literature racks. For my first full day, I helped man the Hahnemühle FineArt booth, as official photographer shooting the display and interactions with visitors, and also answering technical questions or explaining some of the nuances between the available papers.

Taking a few breaks throughout the day, I joined the thousands of photographers on the show floor and hunted out a few vendors I want to chat with: Lowe Pro, Lee Filters, Cam Ranger, Drobo and Sigma to name a few. Everywhere I turned, there were incredible displays of all the latest photo innovations and gadgets, the sheer number of which was staggering. Many vendors had setup mini workshops or seminars, drawing in attendees left and right, all in search of tips and tricks to take their photography to the next level. With the show winding down for the first day, and our dogs barking incessantly, we hoofed it back to the hotel for a little relaxing and a shower before our dinner with friends at Canon.

We awoke the following morning, sensing a bit of Groundhog Day, as you do with most conventions/expos/trade shows, got our act together and headed back to the convention center. We headed straight to the media center, to confirm our 1 PM print signing at the Hahnemühle booth, and that the show’s PR team would be sending tweets and Facebook updates on our give away.

PPE Show Floor

The Calm Before the Storm: A mere 10-minutes before the doors open, the show floor takes on a serene look. Soon, it’ll be filled with photographers.

By 10:00 AM, the convention center was hopping – seminars were full up, the line to check in at the portfolio review was long and the expo hall was flooded with people. With over 20,000 people, getting around was a challenge at times, especially with some of the monster booths provided by Canon, Nikon, Sony and Epson. Canon’s booth alone took up a mind numbing 7,700 Sq-Ft. of floor space (that’s roughly double the size of an ordinary four-bedroom, four-bathroom home), and included at least one of everything they make. In the lens cases, there were several of the more popular L model glass. I found myself in awe of the new 200-400mm f/4 with 1.4 X converter built in. It’s a marvel of engineering, freakishly heavy and oh-so-cool! But at nearly $12,000.00, it’ll have to remain on my wish list for a long time.

Workshop Winner

Congrats to Stacey, from New York, who was our Sunset Workshop winner

I made my way to the Hahnemühle booth about a quarter to one that afternoon, and there were a gaggle of people hanging around the front of the booth. I grabbed my pens for the print signing, walked up to the desk and rang out a long, “Aloooooooha!” Before my voice trailed off, Stacey, from Rockaway New York yelled, “f/16 + be there” and knowing our workshop mantra paid off, as she won not only a cool T-shirt, but a free sunset workshop! With a line of people surrounding two sides of the booth, I signed 50 prints and talk story with many more. In a mere 35 minutes, the prints were gone, and with people still in line, my wife ran to the media room to get a handful of leftover media prints. It was wild, crazy and a whole lotta fun!

One of the uber cool things about PPE, are the people you run into on the show floor: Harry Benson (who famously captured The Beatles in the early ‘60s) and his wife, Gigi, made the rounds, and it was refreshing to compare notes from our film days, and the rapid advancement of digital capture technology. Fellow shooter and educator Stephen Johnson taught an incredible class on digital printing that focused on combining old-school testing to ensure correct density. It was great to share information about our workshops, and spreading the passion of photography to others.

The following days were a whirlwind of seminars, keynote speakers, playing with all the latest gear and gadgets (my next update will cover some of the cool things that I saw and played with), interviews and meetings. Thankfully, there’s time to have fun, meet up with old friends, and make a slew of new ones.

Aloha From Arno

After a fun evening at Arno Ristorante in the Garment District: From left, Scott Heath, PR Guru, Milan Licul, Owner and famed restauranteur, and yours truly, Shaka and all

Our final night, we went to dinner with our great friend and PR guru, Scott (yep – two Scotts in the same room, both of which enjoy juvenile jokes and banter. Trust me, it’s a great thing!). After a darn good meal at Heartland Brewery, we walked to Arno Ristorante for an after dinner aperitif and good ol’ talk story session. With laughter and teasing flying, we soon had the owner, Milan, and bartender extraordinaire, Jenny, carousing with us until they (literally) closed down for the night. We then joined the evening revelers as we walked down Broadway back to our hotel, lights a glow and street performers in full force.

Taking a doze at the Tick Tock Diner

After a night out on the town, a couple dozes in the Tick Tock Diner

We awoke early the next day and grabbed a quick bite at the Tick Tock. The diner was virtually to ourselves, except for a few late night partiers, whose coffee failed to keep them going. Arriving back at JFK, we were amazed to watch and be a part of the mass of humanity going through security. The TSA at JFK operated like a well-oiled machine, with people moving smoothly through the innumerable lanes. Soon enough, we boarded the Hawaiian A330 bound for Honolulu, sitting in the same seats as before  for another rousing round of “Pound Screen,” although this time, the my tray table and seat recliner stay buss…

All told, it was an amazing week in New York. My mind is a blaze with fresh ideas and techniques to try, I’ve made a host of great new friends, and I’m still drooling over the latest crop of camera toys. I can’t wait to go back, though I have to wait 357 days…