Flame Nebula and Horsehead Nebula attempt #2

Discussion in 'Astrophotography' started by MadMarco, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    I managed to get a second go at the Flame and Horsehead Nebulas last night using my new secret weapon (more about that later).

    There are 60x 60 seconds exposures @ISO800 stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. There is some post processing to stretch the levels and set the black point.
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  2. MikeB

    MikeB Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    Very nice.

    I'm still trying to figure out the post processing for astro shots. I think I have all the tools I need between DSS and Lightroom, but I'm still doing mostly trial and error with curve sliders. Since yours came out so nicely, can you summarize what you did and what to look for?
  3. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    Hi Mike,

    I've posted this on another thread, which pretty much covers my processing for astro images. It's different every time, depending on the image, how much light pollution and what the signal to noise ratio is. The basic steps are the same and particularly in DSS which is very reliable at the processing of the images. The most important "rule" is to always deal with RAW images and don't convert unless you absolutely have to. Dark frame processing is the "magic sauce" that has the greatest impact on the final image.

    First thing is to makes sure that you are using the latest version of DSS with updated RAW support:

    My basic workflow in DSS would then be:
    1) Load Lights, Darks, Flats, Bias straight into DSS as ORF files
    2) Stack using the recommended settings
    3) After stacking, align the RGB spikes by sliding the 2 left most spikes to the right so everything lines up (This does your white balance)
    4) Adjust saturation, 13%-15% usually works OK
    5) Adjust Luminance so the curve is just to the left of the spike as it is rising by altering the second mid-tone slider
    6) Play with the luminance sliders until you get the best detail without a background that is too light or blow highlights
    7) Save image as TIFF

    My Photoshop workflow is:
    1) Load TIFF
    2) Immediately save as a different file name so I have the original to go back to
    3) Image - Adjustments - Levels - Choose Gray point - OK
    4) Image - Adjustments - Levels - Move left slider until it is just before the spike, move the right slider until it is just before the spike - OK
    5) Repeat 3&4 (it's better to do small multiple passes than big lumps)
    6) Image - Adjustments - Levels - Choose Black point, move the black output level to somewhere around 20 (black sky isn't black)

    You could also try adjusting the curves to boost the lighter portions and cut the not so light (light pollution) levels. Adjusting the contrast can help as can making changes to vibrancy to bring out nebula.

    It's more of an art than a science; I've processed an image and thought that it was really nice, only to go back a few days later to have another go and made it much better. I've also done the opposite, where I've had another go at an old image only to make a complete mess of it. I'm still learning!
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    Just over an hour of images...how did you keep from getting star streaks?
  5. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    I want to know!!! :)
    • Like Like x 1
  6. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    One word: AstroTrac


    I've got the AstroTrac TT320X-AG and TW3100 Wedge on a home made tripod. If you nail the polar alignment then it's very accurate.
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  7. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  8. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Looks good.
  9. Very impressive! I'm awaiting the arrival of an Altair Astronomy Lightwave 72ED-R scope so I can start taking more detailed shots.
  10. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    Just had a look at the specs of the 72ED-R, it looks like it should be very similar to my ZS71. What are you going to use as a tracker?
  11. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    I've seen this on a few forums and it looks like a nice tracker, make sure to let us know how you get on with it. I keep pondering getting a HEQ5 Pro or the iOptron ZEQ25, but then I look at my bank balance and decide otherwise. I'm currently looking at putting together an auto guider for the AstroTrac so that I can increase the exposure times. I'll make sure that I'll be able to transfer whatever I get over to another scope and mount should I choose to upgrade in the future.

    The AstroTrac is a great tracker, but I'm doing the equivalent of 836mm unguided so drift is always going to be a problem. Currently I can do about 60 seconds without trails, which doesn't sound that amazing until you realise that would be 10 minutes at 80 mm unguided which is actually pretty good. My AstroTrac runs a tiny bit fast; I could have a go at adjusting it, but I think that guiding is the only long term solution.
  12. Auto-Tracking seems to be yet another thing to sink money into! The tracker that I've bought does have an auto-track port but I haven't looked to much into it yet.
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