Along with my traveling companions, Ron Thompson and Forrest Sumner, we made the drive from Maine arriving at the Rockland Community College
facility late afternoon on Friday. Finding the exhibits in various states of preparation, it appeared to be a good opportunity to take
some exposures. Tomorrow things would be significantly different…
One party we were especially pleased to see was our friend, George Whitney. George had recently relocated from Maine to Illinois and is now working with the world renowned firm of
Astro-Physics, Inc.. He and the A-P staff were diligently uncrating and setting up equipment. It was clear this was no simple task
with the crates
they had forwarded for the event. George has been my imaging partner, star party companion and friend for a number of years. We’d traveled
far and wide seeking dark sky conditions with a truck and/or trailer loaded with equipment. This was the first opportunity I’d had to see
him since his relocation. Guess I’ll be visiting Illinois with my cameras soon…
George Whitney of Astro-Physics with a 24-inch PlaneWave Instrument
One of the exceptional aspects about NEAF is once again getting to visit with friends, vendors and associates from all walks of the astronomy
world. And it started this afternoon… As we perused the event floor I came upon Ashley Stevens and his associate, Andrés Valencia, finalizing the
set-up of their PreciseParts booth. Ashley specializes in custom adapters for all
types of telescope and camera systems - the work of this firm is
simply outstanding. I’d found oftentimes he’d be informed about and could create an adapter for a particular application before the commercial
version became available. Plus the word ‘precise’ in their name isn’t a misnomer – they’ll get it done correctly. Ashley demonstrated his website
on-line ordering system. This is an excellent system – if you get a moment please check it out. It was wonderful to talk with him again…
Another NEAF regular I was pleased to see once again working to set up their display was Art Ciampi of
Land, Sea and Sky - Texas Nautical Repair, Inc. We checked out the instruments on display and talked for a time. Art asked
if I still owned my Takahashi FRC-300
astrograph, which I do, although I explained I haven’t mounted it for a while and
been employing refractors mostly due to our Maine sky conditions. Texas Nautical always has a noteworthy presence at NEAF and I was pleased to see Art and crew as well as a FRC-300 they had on display – an impressive instrument…
Forrest, Ron and Art at the Texas Nautical Booth
We walked by and observed Wally Pacholka at his booth preparing his beautiful prints for public display, so I stopped and said hello. Wally’s booth,
America the Beautiful at Night, displayed some incredible views of the night sky in phenomenal locations. We
discussed some of his recent endeavors including a trip to Easter Island, and Wally pointed out some of the images from the journey. Understandably,
he has few images of himself in the booth, so he posed for the photograph at right which I later emailed to him. I took few posed images over the coming
days, mostly candid shots, which I prefer. Check out Wally’s website – you’ll appreciate his efforts…
Wally Pacholka at his Display...
Along the same side as the Solar Star Party booth our nearest neighbors included Talons! A Bird of Prey Experience,
an exhibit next to us on the end of the row,
which included birds of prey nursed back to health through their efforts. The birds are used to educate the
public and I’ve learned are quite a hit with the NEAF attendees. Over the course of the weekend Talons! conducted
multiple shows and the birds flew about the facility from time to time. We never did figure out what the tie in with
may be with this exhibit, but everyone appreciated their presence. I do a lot of nature photography and specialize
in birds, many photographed while working with Federal Fish & Wildlife Refuge personnel, which are posted to my website's,
Bird Photography Index. I rarely photograph captive birds, this isn’t the
same, but over the weekend I did photograph some of this group for the NEAF record. I also put some of my long lenses used for this endeavor to
work at this event, photographing people from the mezzanine over both days.
Talons! Raptor in Silhouette...
Fred Bruenjes, owner of Moonglow Technologies of Warrensburg, Missouri,
demonstrated their latest product, the All Sky Cam. In concert with their Uploader software package for Windows, it allows users to check
conditions at an observing site in their backyard or on the other side of the planet. The camera is full time color, showing clouds, stars,
meteors, and the Milky Way with a limiting magnitude similar to a naked eye view. I thought this was quite interesting…
Fred Bruenjes of Moonglow Technologies...
Starizona is a retail Astronomy shop located in Tucson, Arizona and is the manufacturer
of the amazingly fast and easy HyperStar f/2
imaging system, as well as the state of the art Hyperion Astrograph telescope. In December Starizona is launching a HyperStar C9.25" to aid the
scientific efforts of the International Space Station - now how cool is that...
Scott Tucker and Gil Esquerdo of Starizona...
An Arizona-based firm, Deep Space Products, is a family-owned business founded in 2007. Among others, their
products include HyperTune Kits, telescopes, mounts and accessories.
Chroma Technology Corp is a employee-owned firm
and a leading manufacturer of optical filters and related products based out of Bellows Falls, Vermont.
Natalia Gorawski & Mark Kfloury at the display of Chroma Technology Corp...
I stopped by the Canon USA booth and talked with Mike and Fred on several occasions. I’m
almost fearful when looking at the lenses on display at this table – NEAF can be detrimental to your financial health and children’s
inheritance overall. Adding camera equipment to an existing astronomy effort may easily result in a rapid depletion of one’s disposable income…
Mike and I discussed the TS-E 17mm f/4L tilt/shift lens on display. I recently acquired one of these and the next morning used it on the exhibit floor.
It’s always a pleasure to speak with the gentlemen of the
Astronomical League and this year they were once again working diligently in their
exhibit booth. I’d written a few short pieces for the league’s magazine, ‘The Reflector’, and they had some copies of these issues along which
they pointed out.
John Goss, Vice-president & Carroll Iorg, President of the Astronomical League...
Another regular at NEAF I was pleased to see once again was Gregory Terrance of
Finger Lakes Instrumentation of Lima, New York. Everyone was quite
busy and I never had an opportunity to speak with Gregory other than a cursory acknowledgement saying hello…
The Meteorite Men
display was quite active all day long. Forrest wished to get a photograph with these folks but with all the activity we never manage to
get it done. His grandson apparently is a fan of their television program.
Meteorite Men Display...
Forrest, with me all day supporting the photographic effort, and I were confident that all exhibitors were in the NEAF photographic record somewhere because of the many sequence composites shot
over the weekend. Even with the significant image group – and many hours on the computer conducting the evaluation thereof, I could still recall
scenes that weren’t captured of people, places and things. In the afternoon we went back on the mezzanine – this time with my 600 f/4L lens on a
tripod. We spent several hours circling around the event space photographing people…
We spotted Alan Traino, the primary NEAF coordinator on the floor and I followed him with the lens for a time. This wasn’t as simple a task as one may think – Alan never
slowed down much – looked like he was on a mission and taking care of business…
Alan Traino on the Exposition Floor...
RAC really went out of their way this year to provide fun and entertaining pursuits for the children attending the event. This effort included a large
inflatable slide and tunnel device and hand’s–on activities in the ‘Kid’s Corner’, where children had an area designated just for them, staffed with
RAC folks. From the mezzanine it appeared the kid’s enjoyed this and surely appeared to be making the most of it…
Al Nagler of Tele Vue, one of the originators of NEAF and perhaps the first of firm’s to display products, was
present and he and staff had a
terrific exhibit of telescopes, mounts and products offered in their usual exhibit area. A leader in optics design, this firm is my first choice for eyepieces. Take
a look in my eyepiece case – you won’t find much other than Tele Vue products…
Tele Vue on the Exposition Floor...
It had been a long and active day. NEAF 2011 had record-breaking attendance and the exhibitors I spoke with were quite pleased with the pace of commerce
and interest in their products. There was little doubt that the first day had been a rousing success. This evening for me would include several hours on the
computer downloading media cards and checking the sequence exposures. After dinner with our Maine group and friends, we called it a day…
With a tripod, electronic cable release and TS-E 17mm f/4L lens, we walked the floor to obtain some data. Yesterday I’d set Forrest up with a camera and lens and he took
quite a few exposures over the course of the day. He wished to do the same today and stayed with me to assist as I set up for some bracketed shots...
Astro-Physics 3600GTO, ‘el Capitan’ and 24-inch PlaneWave Instrument in HDR...
We also took a series of exposures around the Universal Astronomics display,
which always includes bins full of hardware, knobs, covers, etc., that always prove so handy in the field. When I asked Larry Patriarca, the
owner of this firm preparing his booth for the day, if he minded if I photographed his bins he said no, although he looked at me a bit strangely…
Another exhibit we had an interest in was that of Dark Star Enterprises, the display of Mike Filimon. Mike sells museum quality fossils, meteorites,
crystals and spheres among other goods. I asked him if I could take a few shots around his booth, indicating I’d take a wide view image of his exhibit
before I left the area…
Fossil Close-up at Dark Star Enterprises Booth...
The event would open soon so I ceased shooting HDR groups. I still had the wide field lens mounted though, so took some booth shots before changing lenses. The
sky was clearing and it was apparent the Solar Star Party would be moving to the courtyard for a day of solar observing. Soon we’d be outside photographing this
portion of the event. We didn’t plan to start for home late due to the six-hour drive so planned accordingly to not miss any activities of consequence. Ron was to
provide a solar related presentation at noon and soon after this was completed, we planned to load up and depart…
Øivind Tangen has attended NEAF for multiple years and supports the solar effort with Barlow Bob and the solar crew at the event. At NEAF 2010 he purchased an
observatory dome and had it shipped to his home in Norway. Barlow Bob indicated next he purchased land on a mountain in the Norwegian williwacks, where he erected his
observatory and commenced to promote astronomy endeavors. I was informed he traveled with several associates from Norway to attend NEAF this year. I’ve been
around Øivind for several years at
NEAF, but didn’t know anything about where he was from or had not met any of his associates, so I found this to be quite interesting. I don’t know if this trip represents the
furthest distance traveled to attend NEAF this year, but he certainly must be in the running. Barlow Bob also informed me that Øivind is special on another
count – he is one of few people fortunate enough to have received a personally guided tour of the Tele Vue optics plant. This was from the first year he
showed up at the event door early carrying a backpack and was seeking information. Once everyone figured out where he was from and why he made the journey,
he was well taken care of… Should Øivind return for NEAF 2012 I plan to make a point of speaking with him in detail…
Øivind Tangen on the Solar Field...
After our time with the NSSP group, a change of pace in another active day, we returned inside to learn how things were progressing with the interior event. The place
was jumping once again and I indicated to Forrest we should go back on the mezzanine to shoot a few more composites and could carry the 600 millimeter f/4L lens along as well. With his
assistance we got both tripods and systems topside. I enjoyed using the long lens at NEAF and this was a first, as I wasn’t certain if it may be a bit too much focal
length. However, it worked out great shooting the lens wide open with the available light. The equipment remained in the booth next to the Talons! folks and their birds, so I decided to
photograph what I could of the flock from there before moving along…
Today found the Kid’s Corner even more active than yesterday. We enjoyed observing the goings-on and Forrest commented on both how active the group was and the level of supervision…
Activity at the Kid's Corner...
The day was progressing and soon we’d have to think about gathering the camera equipment and packing up… But in the meanwhile we stayed on the mezzanine
observing the activity and seeking people shots while allowing time for Ron to complete his presentation.
So ends this informal photojournal of NEAF 2011… This year had achieved a new standard for people in attendance and more than likely even more people,
vendors and firms will be present next year as the event continues to expand. Alan Traino and RAC are already in the planning stages for 2012. There is
little doubt the upcoming event will exceed the 20th in scope, content and attendance. That’s what NEAF is all about – the nation’s largest event…
The End of NEAF 2011...