We arrived at Rockland Community College shortly after 5:00 pm, parked and entered through the vendor's door. It’s always good to locate the show passes early because things do get a bit crazy later. We found
our passes under the solar star party group. Later I learned Ed had a photographers' pass at the main entrance for me, but I didn’t pick it up until Sunday - this would have proven an asset. As the displays were in various stages of preparation,
I placed a lens on a camera and took a walk.
We expected our friends George Whitney and Howard Hedlund of Astro-Physics would be diligently at work setting up, which they were. George, a longtime friend from his time in Maine, had been my imaging partner, star
party and traveling companion for a number of years. We’d traveled far and wide seeking dark skies with a truck and/or trailer loaded with equipment. Now he lives in Illinois not far from the Astro-Physics
facility. When it comes to referencing telescope equipment, accessories or astronomical software, if these two guys can’t answer your question you’re probably out of luck…
I don’t know anyone who has a greater knowledge of telescope gear and accessories than George – he is truly a font of information in this regard.
George Whitney of Astro-Physics Setting up
One exceptional aspect about NEAF is once again getting to visit with friends, vendors and associates from all walks of the astronomy world. I started seeing familiar faces everywhere – it was
good to be back… I started the morning by the main entrance as people started to arrive, even shot a few video clips. Afterwards Ron and I went up to the second floor and I started shooting
some floor composites. We split up and went our separate ways to canvas the area. I came across the booth for ‘Astronomers Without Borders’ where my friend & astronomy club mate, Joan Chamberlin was in attendance. I
knew she would be there and Joan, along with some other friends, had gotten together with us for dinner the evening before. It was a later evening than I'd planned.
I had to go by and see Art at the Land, Sea and Sky - Texas Nautical Repair booth. It’s always a pleasure to chat with him and find out what’s going on in the Takahashi world. As in
2011, the last time we talked, he asked if I still have my FRC-300 astrograph, to which I replied in the alfirmative. I explained I didn’t have any telescope gear along while out west, so it’s
had little use in the interim period. I sure hope to change that soon. Art had some nice Takahashi mounts & refractors on display, but few of their larger tubes.
Ron's image of Art Ciampi & Kirk Rogers at the Texas Nautical Booth
Wally Pacholka was at his booth exhibiting his incredible night sky views rendered in phenomenal locations, so I stopped to say hello.
He indicated he has few images of himself in the booth, so he posed for the photograph at right and several others over the next day. I
enjoy candid shots, but this year I posed some of the vendors for the NEAF archive.
By early afternoon what had appeared to be a slower than usual NEAF morning turned into a flood of attendees – the place was jumping…Ron
and I ran into each other on the floor and discussed
what we’d been doing. Ron had photographed the solar star party for a time while I concentrated on the plethora of activity
surrounding the exhibit area. Neither of us had seen Ed yet, which
we thought surprising - he was a busy guy in the midst of a major event. Multiple hours remained and soon enough we were finding new subjects in this target rich
environment with much to see and do.
I stopped to speak with Dietmar Weinzinger of Astro Systeme Austria. He had a telescope slewing around, which was a bit of an eye catcher. I hadn’t yet met Dietmar and was surprised by what the ‘ASA’ on his display indicated. I told him I’d been in Austria just last week – he laughed and remarked that, ‘so had he’…
Dietmar Weinzinger ~ Astro Systeme Austria
As indicated, the Solar Party was well represented. Ron and I each made a trip to the observing field to check out the activities and enjoy the beautiful day. Ralph indicated this Saturday was about as low
humidity as he could recall – excellent for solar viewing. Stephen Ramsden of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project was on-hand again this year as well. It was good to see Stephen and he
was quite active with presentations and talking with people in the field.
Stephen Ramsden & Ralph Marantino on the Solar Field...
Back in the exhibit hall, it was active with a significant group of people present. With the varied activities throughout the facility – presentations
in auditoriums, talks in classrooms, the cafeteria opened for food/drink seekers and solar field activities, it was gratifying to see so many people
walking the exhibits in the main hall. I came across Ron again and we decided to attend a Celestron Theatre presentation
entitled, 'Living in the Atmoshere of the Sun', by Dr. Matt Penn. We still
had time before this started, so we obtained some sustenance and walked the floor once again…
Scott Losmandy ~ OPT...
Four of our group met at the Celestron Theater to attend Dr. Matthew Penn’s presentation. Matt is an Associate
Astronomer with the National Solar Observatory working with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in
Tucson, Arizona. His presentation, ‘Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun' was excellent and we all enjoyed it. I
took few photographs while attending, although later Ed asked why I didn’t take more as they were seeking more
exposure for the presentations. I could have easily enough and was equipped to do so, but in this case I wished
to concentrate on Matt’s talk. I did notice the entire presentation was being videotaped.
Upon leaving the Celestron Theater, we discussed what to do next. Rob and Forrest would be leaving soon, as they needed to
return home. Ron and I were a bit weary, it was getting towards late afternoon and we’d gathered a lot of data. We
decided to head back to the hotel so I could download the media cards and re-charge batteries. Our primary
friends at the event were either leaving or otherwise occupied, so I thought we could have dinner followed by time
on the computer evaluating and combining the sequence shots taken during the day. I looked forward to a fairly
early evening. However, this was not to be…
Sean League ~ Daystar...
The image at right was the only ‘formal’ photograph I took at the dinner. The Rockland Astronomy Club (RAC) presented
Dr. Ken Kremer with an Honorary Board Member plaque for his contributions to NEAF and the club.
The dinner was wonderful, itself an event, with outstanding food and plenty of wine and other beverages. We were in esteemed company with all/many of the NEAF presenters attending. The restaurant ambiance was fabulous and the private room we occupied opulent. There was a violinist strutting about and a piano player – both excellent, providing further character to the scene.
Jose Alvira, Joe Moskowitz, Dr. Kremer & Ed Siemenn...
We’d planned to be at the vendor entrance before 10:00 am when they first opened the exhibit hall. This would
give us a few minutes before the doors opened to the public and the craziness began. However, I wasn’t up as
early as planned having gotten back late from the dinner, downloading/backing up media cards and charging
batteries – this made for another late night. Upon arrival we had a bit of an issue as they had an attendant
stopping vehicles from entering the vendor area parking lot – just too many cars, trucks and trailers for
the area. Fortunately a car pulled out of the lot as we were talking and the volunteer told me to find out
where it came from and take the space. This was indeed fortunate because we made multiple trips back and
forth during the day.
Amanda Weatherly ~ OPT...
Once Ron and I finally got the truck parked, I started to organize what I thought I’d need for the shoot. As it turned out these needs continued to
change and Ed had some activities he wished to see photographed/viedotaped, but we were reluctant to bring in more gear than we could carry as we didn’t have a secure place to leave anything. I knew I’d be going up on
the deck to do some overview shots and planned to do one of my favorite things - people shots from the deck…
Ed had a couple of tasks he wished to see addressed. One was shooting a video clip & some stills backstage of the
Celestron Theater. He wished to capture the tone of preparations surrounding the presenters prior to going
on stage. Like many things, what the public sees is a minute portion of what actually goes on beforehand. This
was enjoyable to observe, but it was all done in faint lighting; photographically speaking - almost no
light. I was amazed at how well my Canon camera captured the scene upon review.
Ed Siemenn & Dave Sheperd ~ RAC...
While I was on the deck checking out people, Ron had gone out to check the solar field. It was another nice day and the
temperature got into the high 80’s – it looked terrific for solar observation…
We’d anticipated leaving the event around 1:30 pm to avoid getting home too late after the four/five hour drive. With everything going on we
could see that wasn’t going to happen. I indicated to Ron I was going to make one more walk around the exhibit hall to take some shots and say goodbye
to friends at the event. We took everything not required back to the truck and packed it up for the departure. We split up again intending to meet back
at the Astro-Physics booth where we’d check in with George and Howard before getting on the road.
Mike Simmons & Joan Chamberlin ~ Astronomers Without Borders...
I was pleased to see a Maine business represented this year. I stopped to speak with George and Holly Stone, Directors
of the Medomak Family Camp/Retreat Center in Washington, Maine for a time. I wasn’t familiar with this facility and
appreciated their angle on astronomy in a family setting.
Of course no astronomy event would be complete without a visit from the Enterprise crew along with the Scotsman, seen
here at the Astro-Physics booth…
As I close out this NEAF 2015 overview, I’d like to thank my friend and traveling companion, Ron Thompson, for his
assistance with the photographic effort. I’d also like to comment the event was a ‘job well done’ by Ed Siemenn,
Jose Avira, Ralph Marantino and the many worthy RAC members, vendors, exhibitors and presenters…