You might think this blog a week late, but I just got home actually. Well... mostly, I was home from New York for a solid 13 hours, time to eat, sleep, and do laundry and then I was on a road trip from the East to West coast helping family members relocate. Cross country, 60mph maximum, three dogs. Do the math... I'm SO ready to go back to work now! It's amazing how much email and missed phone calls you can accumulate in only a week (well, two actually), so I'll be digging out for a few days for sure.
I've lost count of how many NEAIC's I've attended, but this was my 14th consecutive NEAF. My favorite star party is WSP of course, but my favorite event over all is NEAIC/NEAF. These events are much different for a vendor than a star party in many ways. We aren't "working" so much as representing, and that's more of a social endeavor. There is far more time for talking to customers, friends, and fellow vendors, and those three categories often have significant overlap with each other. In fact, I was remarking this year about how so many of the vendors are good friends with each other, and many of us actually like our competitors (well, mostly - LOL). Some of our customers can be acrimonious towards each other, but we'll sit down with competitors and have a few drinks and laugh and tell stories all night until we can't go anymore. One of my favorite this year was listening to Roland Christen describe the process of how mirrors are coated. I'm just a software guy, so it was all new to me; fascinating, and Roland sounded like a man in love when describing the beauty of the process, and I was in love too by the time he was done (no, not with him<g>). Sometimes yes, we butt heads with our peers, but overall we all have the same love for what we do and in any other circumstances we'd probably congregate together anyway. A friend from Sky-Watcher and I talked endlessly about Sci-Fi and remarked how we were such nerds and that we look forward to spending time together at NEAF every year because no one at home understands us! Let's not forget the "shopping" aspect either, there is no greater venue to see and touch what's new, and of course figure out how we are going to ship that thing home we just bought because it won't fit in the overhead on the plane!
At NEAIC, I was honored this year to be invited as a speaker and I gave a talk on "Choosing a Camera for Astrophotography". Working on so many camera plug-ins has given me a good perspective on camera technologies (at least as much as a software guy can hope for), and it's one of my favorite topics. Coming from computer graphics, and being an avid photographer myself, camera technologies has a strong attraction to me.
Steve was there again of course too as he is every year, and I think he's closing in on 17+ NEAF's now. At NEAIC we had a Paramount MYT, and at NEAF we had both the MYT and a Paramount Taurus 400. This was my first encounter with the 400 (remember I telecommute), and I was impressed by how compact it was. I think I could fit this in the dome where my MX+ is actually, as one of the advantages is that the equatorial forks don't require as much space around the mount for the counterweight shafts. No... I'm not retrofitting my dome... I'm just say'n is all ;-)
Another interesting observation I made was it seemed to me/us at the last AIC (Advanced Imaging Conference) that we were the only vendor showing anything new. This NEAIC it was just the opposite, other than TPoint for iOS, we had nothing new to show (oh, believe me, we have some exciting things just on the verge of being announced), but almost everyone else did have something new. New cameras, new mounts, new accessories and gear of all sorts. The industry is alive, vibrant, and still competitive. This gave me not just a sense of job security, but also hope for the future of our hobby and tangentially, science literacy as a whole.
Face to face time with customers and prospective customers is also invaluable. A web site can be so impersonal, and when it comes to "text", it's hard to read emotion, passion, or intent. We are just human beings and when we meet in person, our mutual passions and perspectives are driven home. The biggest mistake any vendor can make is to loose touch with their customer base. Ultimately, they are the ones who give us our paycheck, and allow us to work in the field we love so much.
What's next? Well, TPoint for iOS was a big deal for me personally, and I think the MYT with a SkyFi board is now the ultimate visual/outreach system in the world, as well as for imaging. We have some pretty big cookies in the oven and we have a lot of work to bring these projects to completion, but you can bet there are some exciting new (and not just incremental improvements) things coming soon; some of which have been years in the making/planning.
Travel wise, there is no rest for the weary. I am teaching a beginners astrophotography class at CAPS the first weekend in May, and I am finalizing my travel plans for the Texas Star Party later in May. This year I'm driving instead of flying, so I won't have to borrow a table... and a chair... and... a lot of other things! I had a great time last year at TSP and spent a lot of time on the field with customers so I'm looking forward to my 2nd TSP... and I just might have something new to demonstrate. The summer is going to be busy trying to get some upcoming projects pushed to the finish line, so I'll be staying put mostly until the Fall when there will be an epic couple of weeks at AMOS in Hawaii, and AIC in San Jose were we will naturally be as vendors, and I'm honored to report I've been invited to speak on the topic of "Ethics in Astrophotography"... sure to be an exciting topic!
Meanwhile... back to work,
04-18-2017 9:39 AM