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Complete Noobie-First DSO Image

18 Mar, 2019 00:32
Hello to all. This is a link to my work in progress image of M42:

This is my first attempt at imaging, not only am I new to imaging but also new to astronomy, astrophotography and pretty much everything else related to star gazing. Jumped into the hobby with both feet and making my first post here in the hopes that viewers would have a go at my image of M42 and comment on where I may have gone wrong with the processing. This image was taken with an un-cooled ZWO ASI178MC one shot color camera, a Celestron Nexstar SE 5 mounted on a Celestron Advanced VX mount…all of this is completely new to me as well. Thanks for your comments…even the funny ones that suggest that one not give up their day job smile
Edited 18 Mar, 2019 10:42
18 Mar, 2019 09:36
We were all new to imaging at one point, and you got a much better result than my first image.  I can't see anything wrong with the processing.

You have done well, just need to practice.

Uncooled and One shot colour is not going to yield the best images, but will be good for learning.

Are you guiding as this will allow for longer exposures.   Though M42 does require short and long because the core is so bright.

Edited 18 Mar, 2019 23:24
18 Mar, 2019 10:41
Greetings Carastro

Thank you for the reply, now I can work toward improving my images knowing that I am on the right track. Regarding your question about guiding; this is an unguided image which presented with some additional challenges because my polar alignment was a bit off. I will indeed migrate to a guide camera in the near future.

Clear Skies
18 Mar, 2019 23:34
Though M42 does require short and long because the core is so bright.

So that is how I can fix the core of the Nebula…short and long exposures combined? I may be going down the road of addiction? I did notice that when I took "Framing Shots" I could see the individual stars at the core and then when I collected the longer subs, the stars grew larger. Then the stretching made everything worse smile Thank you for the comments.
Edited 18 Mar, 2019 23:35
19 Mar, 2019 02:16
You chose a very tough target as a first one.  M42 has high dynamic range and the challenge, as you noted, is to not blow out the center while still showcasing the outer nebula.  With something like this, learn how to combine images of different exposure.  Take short ones to allow the Trapezium to shine and longer ones to get the nebulosity.  Masking the correct sections gives the range of brightness that you're looking for.

Congratulations, though.  It is a nice first start!!

19 Mar, 2019 05:47
Masking and variable exposures, got it. Thank you Ron, now back to the help files to learn about Masking.
19 Mar, 2019 07:53
This is the tutorial I use for layer masking in Photoshop.

19 Mar, 2019 09:09
I liked it! I think you've got some equipment which is excellent for starting, you'll get some nice results with it and will learn how to improve. My first gear was way worse. I'm using the same camera as you at the moment (among others).

In fact I think it's much better for improving when you don't start out with the best gear available as it's more challenging to produce good or excellent pictures with mediocre equipment. Others here may differ from this philosophy.

Most important thing: Have fun and always try to take failure as a positive and necessary experience for improving.

19 Mar, 2019 09:09
19 Mar, 2019 09:13
Thank you Jolind for your comments, they are helpful and encouraging.

Clear Skies
19 Mar, 2019 15:26
Nicely done! MUCH nicer than my first attempt!

One thing that jumps out at me is your histogram. The peak is actually at the far left. This means that a lot of the dimmer data you actually captured is getting cut off. When you adjust your levels (and curves!) make sure that your histogram always starts at the bottom on the left so that you don't clip your blacks.

This is what the histogram from my last M42 looks like:

Great job and clear skies!
Edited 19 Mar, 2019 15:28
19 Mar, 2019 17:55
Chris, many thanks for the comments. My histogram did not start off that far to the left and the peaks were taller. Seeing your example leads me to understanding where and how I clipped my data? I saved the original unprocessed image therefore I shall go back and create a new image, maybe then I can locate the errors? This is cool, I wonder what a properly processed image will look like?

Clear Skies
19 Mar, 2019 18:21
I meant to say: Doug German has some great tutorials for beginners on YouTube. If you haven't watched them yet, they're worth your time.
19 Mar, 2019 18:41
On my way smile YouTube is how I was able to get as far I did with my first image!
21 Mar, 2019 11:48
Greetings All

So here is my second attempt at processing M42.

Full disclosure…I'm really starting to feel as though I need a new friend that likes processing! This stuff is kicking my…you know smile Anyhow, using all the advice I have received from this thread I managed to fix the blown out core but somehow also managed to use a bit to much "Blur" and less stretching of certain tones. I'm not happy with this one either but then again, I am comparing my images to those of the Astro-Genius types publishing on Astrobin. For the record, the idea of using multiple exposure lengths in an image like this really does help so thank you for that one.
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