I had some apprehension for the show this year. With the show last year being a very scaled down affair and lower attendance I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. On top of this, a week out from the show it was announced that the show would close on Monday as a mark of respect for the Queen’s funeral. Fortunately I was always planned to attend Saturday and Sunday, but what impact would this have? Would this make for a busier Saturday and Sunday show attendance? Would any exhibitors pull out? I did notice a couple of stands that were labelled but not attended, ‘selfie wizard’ being one of them. The reason for this I’ll never know. So I was unsure what to expect, could the show recover from covid? Is closing a day going to shock exhibitors confidence? After all, as an exhibitor you could be loosing 25% of potential show revenue.
It’s a long journey from Cornwall so we made a stop at WWT Slimbridge on the way. We visited last year, it was evident this year that there were fewer birds. Whether this be because of the UK drought or avian flu I do not know. There were no obvious communications about avian flu so hopefully the site hasn’t been impacted. It says a lot when one of my favourite shots is this shots of reeds! However I did manage this shot of a Little Egret, full disclaimer though, the bird was in an aviary.
On to Saturday and our first show day. Like last year it was evident that there was very little happening at the NEC. Many halls were closed and much of the site felt deserted. Previously when the show was held in March the NEC was buzzing with various different shows on at the same time. Whether this is again the impact of covid or September being traditionally a back to school/uni time I do not know. There was a large crowd gathered for the show, reminiscent of the pre-covid show days. Last year the show opened slightly early so people could filter in and stop gathering, this year the crowd was allowed to build and the doors open at 10.
The show floor immediately felt busier with both people and exhibitors compared to last year. It still felt like there were less exhibitors to pre-covid but this is purely a feeling rather than anything scientific. Because the hall is a different shape to the old rectangle it just has a more spacious feel to it, and that sense of being less cramped feels like less exhibitors. What wasn’t in short supply was the options for talks. With ‘behind the lens’, ‘photo live’ and ‘on location’ to name a few plus the exhibitors own talks there was no shortage of options. The only thing perhaps missing were some bigger names. This is by no means a dig at those that were talking on the various stages but for example we had no household names like Chris Packham this year.
One of the benefits for me for attending more than one day is the chance to reflect on what I had seen and not rush into any purchases. So day two was definitely a chance for me to invest in some gear. And whilst there were still some supply issues it was evident that this year it was possible to pick stuff up there and then, and there were still some good show prices to take advantage of. Again, without any scientific approach it seemed to me that the show prices for cameras and lenses, especially the mirrorless offerings were very modest. With these items still in strong demand and constrained supply I guess it does not make sense to offer big discounts on these. One of the highlights of the show for me was the chance to chat to Marcus and Ruth from the Photography Online YouTube channel. It is easily my favourite photography YouTube channel and well worth checking out. Not being in the market for cameras or lenses I didn’t spend a long time looking at these at the show, but it was clear that the crowds were gathering around the mirrorless models whilst the DSLRs languished. I wonder how much longer before the exhibitors go to an all out mirrorless display?
And so another show was over for another year, and as I write this the show has announced a return to it’s March schedule and return in 2024. So no show in 2023, which is disappointing but I understand the organisers returning to the original March position. Whilst covid has made it hard to gauge, the March schedule in previous years certainly felt busier both at the show and in the NEC. It also gives the organisers time to reflect on what worked well this year and demonstrate to exhibitors it is worthwhile returning in 2024 or even exhibiting for the first time.
Our long journey back home was broken up by a stop at RSPB Ham Wall. We had a much more successful photography trip than Slimbridge seeing Great Crested Grebes, Great Egrets, Kingfisher, Bittern and Marsh Harrier to name a few. I will leave you with a few images…