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NEAF Travelog: Part 1

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NEAF 2011: Twentieth Anniversary
Part 1
Tom Trusock

Well, I know I say it every year, but every year I mean it.  Just when you don't think it can get any bigger or better - it does.  NEAF - for those of you unaware of the event - is most likely the world's largest astronomy trade show.  In short, it's a gear heads Mecca. 

My good friend Gary and I have been making the annual pilgrimage for - oh, geeze - I dunno seven or eight years now, but NEAF predates us by a good bit.  This little photo log started about the time of our first trip, and honestly once we started doing the web cam broadcasts, I wasn't sure there would be a lot of call for them.  In fact, I've nearly abandoned doing them the last couple of years, but it seems there are folks out there who really enjoy them - and so - here is yet another installment of the long running NEAF travelog.

I spoke with my good friend Alan Traino this year - and if you don't know who Alan is, let me just say that if NEAF were Christmas, Alan would be Santa - and as always the man constantly amazes me.  While the Rockland Club is the organization that puts on the show, it simply wouldn't be what it is without Alan's amazing talent for organization, situation control and boundless energy.   Some of the forum readers wanted us to put a camera on Alan this weekend so we could follow what the man did the entire weekend, but we simply couldn't find a camera man, camera, or even a set of batteries that could keep up with him.  No joke, Alan used to run around the show on a scooter.  Well - he didn't have it this year - evidently he wore it out last year.

For many of us, NEAF is about gear, gear and of course, more gear - at least to folks like myself, but ironically the last couple of times, I've not been as able to actually pour through the vast display on offer.  This video thing has managed to keep me pretty busy the entire weekend.  Make no mistake - this is a working weekend for me - (right along with MANY of the CN crew) but it's a labor of love.  (Ok, to be fair, NEAF is a lot more than gear - but lets face it - this is a gear head web site, so that's what we tend to cover.)

This year, I've got a treat for you. 

There's a ton of photos of gear in the forums (specifically our new NEAF devoted forum), so I figured I'd post a few of the more choice selections along with some pictures of the folks that help put everything all together for the CN web casts, work the show and just basically make everything possible for us to bring it to you over the internet.  And of course I'll have some pics of some new gadgets, favorite vendors and the like too. 

So enough of the boring drivel.  On with part 1.

I'll start off with a guy I owe an apology too.  Bill D from EarthWin.  (Yeah, I know that's the Tak booth in the back, and I'll get there in a minute but hold one for just a second.)  Bill, you sent me a unit for review about a year ago, and I just never had a chance to write it.  About the only thing I can say is that the last couple of years have become rather complicated for me, and I have not had the time to write as much as I once did. That will change in the very near future, and you can be sure I'll be getting back into the writing more.  But - Bill - My apologies sir.

And now, moving on.

Here we've got Art Campi, Bruce Prager and Bruce Bodner from Texas Nautical.  The more astute (or gear headed) amongst you will notice that Bruce P is holding something that does not look like a typical Tak mount controller.  That's cause it's not.

It's a computer.  One that Bruce is intimately familiar with for good reason - he developed it.  Or at least helped to.  It will be available sometime this summer, and looks to be a must have product for anyone with a Tak mount.

More than ever, observatories are becoming all the rage amongst amateurs - and with good reason.  They  make our wives happy by getting us to get our junk out of the garage.  Or at least that was what my wife thought was GOING to happen.  (Evidently I have too much junk.)  Skyshed Pod, Backyard Observatories, Exploradome, and Astrogizmos all had brought samples of their wares for display.

And of course Backyard Observatories was there.  No observatory set up this year, but Di, Scott and their wonderful daughter were all available to answer and questions and schedule installations.  BTW - I have a BYO for my own personal observatory, and couldn't be happier with it.  Now if I could just get Scott to do something about Michigan weather...

But scopes were there in abundance.  AP had brought their venerable El Capitan - seriously, if you need a payload capacity like this thing delivers, it's a bargain.  Those who saw the walk through witnessed Roland being kind enough to slew the big guy around a bit for us.  With Step (one of  our couldn't do without) behind the scenes producers hanging on for dear life.  The thing didn't even know she was there.  That's a 24" Planewave on top by the way.  Some serious drool factor there.

Roland also had brought along his "new" AP 130 - man, that's a beautiful instrument.  And I have to hand it to him.  He is just one of the nicest guys in the business.  It's always a pleasure to talk to him.  (And no, I'm not trying to make points because I'm on a waiting list.... ;) )

More and more, we're seeing the I invasion. iPods, iPads and iPhones.  And products are cropping up right and left to assist iAstronomers in the field.

Although, it may be possible to carry the customization trend slightly too far.

But somehow I don't think Rodger Greenwood from Astrocrumb would disagree.

Note the Borg actually is a power connector.

And this is one accessory that would definitely come in handy.

Rodger - I hearby nominate you for the CN Supreme Extreme Modification Certificate.  Award comes with a free membership in the forums, contact me for more information. 

And in keeping with the Behind the Scenes promise, let me close out with a few of the indispensables....

My erstwhile traveling partner.

I know, the look says it all.  But he's sane really.  He's a Jr. Loffland. 

BCB on the other hand....

Classic "deer in the headlights."

It was hard to get a picture of Mike B not talking.  Actually - it was impossible.  The guy was on the go ALL weekend.

The one, the only, the Steph.  Mistress of the internet, and master of the domain.  Be nice to her or she'll kick your butt off chat so fast it'll make your head spin.  (But seriously - she's a real sweetie.)

The indefatigable Rusty.

Ahh - Zach and the boundless energy of youth.  By the end of the show, energy supplies were few and far between.

EDZ's either caught in a moment of prayer, or inspecting a potential new toy.  I suspect it's a new toy.

Yours truly and an absolutely exhausted Mike B.  Yes, that's water.

And the Beithman during cleanup.  If he cut that styro into a triangle and painted it yellow, he'd be all ready for that Packers game.

My view for much of the weekend.  During the day anyway.

Coming up in the next installment(s):
  • Gear, Gear and More Gear
  • The two most innovative products at the show (one is an imaging product - GASP!)
  • Pics from the Solar Star Party
  • Shots of the Tele Vue Crew and their new eyepiece (along with a few comments on its performance)
  • A look at a product that got it's start right here on CN
  • Some talk about the interviews and my take on the show
  • And of course - More pics of your favorite vendors and gear
Stay tuned.  Lots more to come.


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