The Orion Constellation & Barnard’s Loop taken with a DSLR

I wanted to capture my first deep sky object and the Orion Constellation is a beautiful and easy target. The scale of this object is unimaginable. The entire span of our solar system would barely register as a pixel in this image.

It felt overwhelming to see actual color appear in my image from pointing my camera into outer space.

To quote Kerry Kennedy of Acadiana Astronomy Club about this photo:

Barnard’s loop is tough. It’s mostly faint hydrogen-alpha wavelengths, so its really hard to capture with an unmodified dslr. Great work!

I’m no scientist, but this explanation makes a lot of sense. I had to stack a ton of photos together and do lots of photoshop kung fu to get even the slightest color and nebula data to show up in this image. 

Image Details


Date Taken: 1/5/2019
Location: Pecan Island, Louisiana
ISO: 3200
Exposure: 1 Minute 20 Seconds (8 Composite Images)
Lens: 50mm 1.8
Camera: Nikon D750
Additional Details: Standard tripod with a 2 second interval shutter delay.

Post Editing

In Lightroom I made adjustments to the white balance and removed vignetting on all 8 images. Then I moved them into Photoshop and followed a guide by Lonely Speck for LRGB processing, and made adjustments for taste. I copied the composite image three times to make three different layers: A high contrast black and white Detail layer, a low contrast black and white luminance layer where you capture the Nebulocity, and finally a layer that contains all of the Color. I made adjustments to each of them separately to find the right balance between low noise, lush color, and nebulocity.

Finally I made some minor color corrections and vastly increased the vibrance and saturation.

Here are my three layers in the final image.

This whole process took longer than a week tweaking it every night. I plan on taking more photos of this night sky object and to have improved photos in the future.

Another part of the challenge was when I noticed my histogram was almost off the chart. I was too excited during the shoot and forgot to check it. I also only had 8 exposures instead of the 32 exposures I had hoped to stack. So I didn’t have nearly as much detail as I’d hoped to work with in this image but all considering I’m still really blown away by how it turned out. After struggling with clearing up the noise for a few hours, I think it’s pretty okay for one of my first astrophotography shots.

Taken 1/5/2019 with a 50mm 1.8 at 3200 ISO. 8 composite images for a total exposure time of 1 minute 20 seconds.

You can check out this nebula with a good pair of binoculars.


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