Although friendships had been nurtured on the web, few far-flung astro-photographers had ever met face to face, had an extended conversation in real time or been given the opportunity of watching a live demonstration about image preparation from someone with more experience earlier in this decade. Thus, when a group of northern California friends discussed their common desire for learning more from other astro-imagers, the idea to sponsor a conference was born as a venue for sharing picture processing techniques and personal image acquisition experiences. Although this was envisioned to be a small weekend gathering of friends who shared a common fervor for the hobby, about seventy five people attended that first meeting in 2004. Each year the number of attendees has grown- almost three hundred participants took part in the 2008 and 2009 meeting.
The Advanced Imaging Conference was established as a non- profit corporation managed by an all-volunteer, non-compensated board of directors who are also imaging enthusiasts, themselves. Each year, board members donate well over one thousand personal hours organizing, managing and coordinating the annual event without expectation of compensation other than seeing the satisfied faces of conference attendees.
Planning and operating the annual get-together is not without risk, however. For example, non-refundable commitments that involve the outlay of many thousands of dollars must be made to the conference hotel and caterers many months in advance to secure venue dates, guarantee low room prices and offer reasonable registration fees. Because the cost of operating the yearly meeting exceeds attendee registration receipts, the conference must also attract exhibitors as a method of supplementing income and making the meeting economically viable. Over the years, a small reserve has been created to cover the possibly of expenses exceeding income during any one year however, any shortfall must ultimately be born by the personal assets of the board. As a result, the conference's working capital is quite limited and our ability to support the astrophotography community is far less than our ambitions.
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