2013 NEAF & NEAIC – And Lots Of Geeks

I’m back home from the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference and the Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show in Suffern, New York. This was my first year attending these events, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  I have to say, I’m really surprised to learn that there so many men in this world who are even bigger geeks than I am!

These aren’t the kinds of events that you’ll see featured on Entertainment Tonight, but for night-photography geeks like me, they offer far more entertaining than anything ET could offer. And yes, I meant to say “men” and not “persons.” For some reason, the astronomy field is heavily tilted toward males. The astrophotography field is even more lopsided. I saw only a couple of ladies at NEAIC, and I think at least one of them was there only as a spouse. I think the reasons for this are many, not the least of which is that being an astrophotographer necessitates that you be an obsessive geeky gearhead. Men excel at this because their brain doesn’t always make their decisions for them.

Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show

The 2013 Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show

Okay, I’m going to shut up now before I get myself into trouble again. The last time I said anything about men versus women in this blog I received hate mail. Ouch!

NEAF bills itself as “America’s Premiere Astronomy Expo” and from what I saw, I’d say the claim is pretty well justified. More than 100 vendors participated, showcasing just about everything you could think of in the field of astronomy. I saw telescopes that were larger than Patricia’s car!

NEAIC is a two-day event that precedes NEAF. I was particularly excited about it, hoping to learn a lot of new techniques to apply to my night photography. I did learn quite a bit, but I have to say I was a little disappointed overall. Suffice it to say that Astro geeks perform much better at the eyepiece and the computer than they do on stage.

I will elaborate on one particular observation. Given the extreme popularity of wide-field astro-imaging that includes both a land-based foreground and the night sky, I expected to see more of a crossover between that field and the through-the-telescope shooters. I was very surprised to learn that wide-angle DSLR astrophotography seemed still in its infancy among most of the participants and presenters. Of course, this could be simply because the telescope guys have no interest in the subject, but I get the feeling that there is more to it than that. But maybe I’m just being biased. After all, I know very little about imaging through telescopes with dedicated CCD cameras, so in some ways I’m just as disconnected from the two fields as anyone else.  

The most remarkable thing about the two events is that I left both of them without buying anything. At NEAF, there was a gymnasium filled solid with goodies that would send anyone’s salivary glands into full-squirt mode, but I managed to slip out with nothing more than a few literature handouts.

I did tell that one guy that I’d think about his car-sized telescope with observatory-grade German equatorial mount, CCD camera, and all the goodies to go with it. Just need to count the piggy bank and see if there’s 40 grand in there. Oh, and I need to make sure that leak is fixed on the doghouse roof, considering that I’ll probably be sleeping in it for the next ten years or so!

P.S. I know I missed the last few days on posting night photos, but I’ll make up for them in a day or two.

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