About Chris Hetlage
I live in Norcross Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. The skies here are very light-polluted, too much so for any deep sky photography but not too bad for imaging bright objects like the moon or planets. I am a member, and formal board member, of the Atlanta Astronomy Club. We have an excellent club, with very knowledgeable members. The club operates several darks sites away from the city lights but many of these sites are slowly being taken over by light pollution.
To make a buck I work as a Director for Cerner Corporation, a software development company specializing in clinical information systems. My team is focused on the development and implementation of electronic medical record systems. I have been involved in the development of some very exciting products over the years and I have worked at some of the most notable heath care facilities in the world.
Astrophotography is my primary after-hours interest, one of my MANY hobbies (as my wife would say). Golf, scuba diving, reef aquaria, woodworking, home theater systems, and photography are a few of my other interests. It's interesting to meet others in this field, seems I am not alone when it comes to many toys and hobbies.
I currently own and operate a remote observatory located at Deerlick Astronomy Village. Deerlick is a special development project I helped start a few years back. DAV is a village of homes and observatories located in central Georgia, far away from the city lights. You can learn more about DAV by clicking here.
My observatory is fully robotic and allows me to image deep sky objects remotely via the internet. I travel a lot and this has really been a wonderful feature. I also developed the automation system that allows me to operate the observatory. It is called the m1OASYS (Observatory Automation System). My partners in this endeavor are Scott Horstman and Chuck Faranda.
That's me on the right, along with a couple of my imaging buddies Don Conrad and Bob Holzer. BTW, take a good look at all this stuff we had to haul around before you think about jumping into this hobby!
I had spent many years admiring the works of such astrophotography greats as Robert Gendler, Jerry Lodriguss, and Piermario Gualdoni. Until 2000, I had not taken the plunge into purchasing my own equipment. This is not a hobby for most. It is very expensive and time consuming. It takes a considerable amount of technical skill and patience. So before I jumped in I did lots of research before purchasing my first setup.
Photography has always been a passion of mine. As far back as I can remember I have always been the 'camera-man' in our family....using everything from Brownies to my Dads Leica M3. When I was in 4th grade my Dad bought me a small intro kit to developing film/prints. All it did was contact prints but I had a lot of fun in the hallway closet making prints. When I was in 7th grade my Mom had our basement finished off and she had the contractors build me a beautiful darkroom. From then on I was hooked, participating in school newspapers, yearbooks...I even won a journalism award in photography while in high school. As I grew, my interest moved into more extreme photography, including underwater photography and macro photography.
My adventure into astrophotography started in late 2000 when I purchased my first 'real' mount and scope. I purchased a Losmandy G11 mount with a Gemini GOTO option from a nearby resident and club member here in Atlanta. The G11, for many, is considered the bare minimum starter mount for astrophotography. It is stable and is capable of tracking objects very accurately. My research pointed me away from the more popular mounts from Celestron and Meade. These mounts are just not accurate enough for long duration, deep sky astrophotography, many have tried...most have failed. My first scope was an APM 6" Quartz MN. I learned a lot with this setup and produced some pretty good planetary and lunar pics using a digital camera and webcam.
Things started getting really fun, and costly, when I upgraded to an Astro-Physics setup and an SBIG CCD camera. I am a big fan of Astro-Physics optics and mounts. The quality and craftsmanship that goes into their scopes and mounts is worldclass. To this day I continue to buy, upgrade, barter and trade equipment. It seems there is always another gadget that one needs to help take that special picture. To see a list of my current stuff look at my Equipment Page.
After several years of struggling to find darks skies nearby Atlanta, me and a few friends decided to start our own astronomy village, Deerlick Astronomy Village. In 2004 we purchased a 96 acre tract of land in Taliaferro County (Central Georgia). The skies there are very dark and population growth is very low. This project has far exceeded our expectations. We have developed 26 lots where folks are building observatories and cabins. It is a wonderful place to observe and socialize with like minded folks. In addition to the parcels of land we have sold, we developed a 10 acre special-use field/campground for use by amateur astronomers and clubs. We have members from all over the country who come to our site to camp for the weekend and special events. We have also made an agreement with the Atlanta Astronomy Club whereby they will hold their annual Peach State Star Gaze at DAV. The PSSG is a wonderful event that attracts hundreds of astronomers from all over the country for this week long event. To learn more about DAV check out my DAV Page
Thanks again for visiting my site and clear skies!