How does an otherwise sane person become obsessed with spending untold hours in the dark, often alone, and often cold, staring at the sky? In my case, it began with Comet Hyakutake, and became fixed with Comet Hale-Bopp. As a medical scientist by vocation, I had always been interested in the physical sciences and was vaguely aware of major developments in planetary astronomy such as the Voyager space probes, and the launch and early travails of the Hubble Space Telescope. However, I had looked for Comet Kohoutek with no success and for Comet Halley (the same) using binoculars and had a feeling that perhaps astronomy was not my forte, even as a hobby.
When the newspapers began hyping Comet Hyakutake, my first response was "here we go again, it'll be a big bust." And my first attempt to see the comet, following the newspaper directions, was unsuccessful. The second attempt, however, was successful, and I began photographing this remarkable object with what I had on hand, namely, a 35 mm camera with a moderate telephoto lens, on a tripod. I was unaware of the Internet resources for amateur astrophotography and had no idea of the exposure needed. To my pleasant surprise, the pictures yielded recognizable images of the comet! I was definitely interested in this new activity. When Hale-Bopp appeared in the sky the following year, I became more obsessed with getting good images and fortunately, Hale-Bopp was around long enough for me to catch a permanent case of astro-fever. A few of the comet images I took are in the Images section.
I have been interested in photography for most of my life, mainly to satisfy some aesthetic urge. (Unlike the popular misconception, most scientists have a very strong interest in art and some are very talented, especially in music. I can't say that I have any talent, but I certainly have the interest.) Daylight photography has been a rewarding interest for many years, with some periods of strong activity and others of rather less activity. You can see the results of some of my photographic activity in the Daylight Photography section. My initial beginner's luck photographing the comets confirmed my interest in astronomy: how many hobbies combine the aesthetic satisfaction of photographing beautiful and mind-boggling objects with the intellectual stimulus of understanding one of the most dramatic sciences and the technical fascination of using fine optical and mechanical devices?
The result has been a progressive increase in my involvement with astroimaging, both with film, and most recently (and tentatively), with a CCD camera. Most of the images posted in the Astro Images section of this site are film images, because the CCD imaging process involves many new techniques that I am still learning. Fortunately, many expert practitioners of both types of astro imaging participate in Internet newsgroups, so it is easy to get advice and encouragement.