Monday, January 21, 2013

Goodbye orange glow! Is this cheating?

The more I learn about astrophotography, the more I realize that really amazing images are very rarely published straight out of a camera. Finding out the Orion Nebula looks like a gray green blob even through a high power telescope is sorta like finding out there is no Tooth Fairy (spoiler alert?).

But, where the magic fades, my appreciation for the work increases. Brilliant photos take time and skill, and I guess I'm becoming more comfortable with manipulating images to represent reality using some "little white lie" Photoshopping.

Now that the curtain has been pulled back, it seems less dishonest to kill the orange glow of the rural suburbs to more closely represent the sky how I perceive it in person. See below:

night sky over bowling green ohio
25 sec at ISO 800 shows lots of orange glow straight from the camera

photoshop color adjust night sky
Same image adjusted in Photoshop to match what I saw in person - is this cheating?

Which of these is more authentic? The one that I didn't touch (but the light pollution junked up), or the one that looks more like what I really saw (but didn't have the ability to capture).


  1. How did you achieve that effect ?

  2. Hi Chris, I removed a lot of the orange in Photoshop by adjusting the color balance. Specifically, I moved the yellow/blue slider more toward the blue end, and the red/cyan slider slightly toward cyan.

  3. Using the white balance in "Tungsten" setting....helps to kick down the intrusive sky glow...and right at the start of the Astro imaging session. Nudging it in Post production brings our dark skies back.

    I have been enjoying the results for quite sometime now - using a Canon Powershot S3 and now the Canon T5i.

    Chicago Astronomer Joe

  4. Hey Joe, thanks for the comment! I got a T5i for Christmas and I still have yet to really put it through it's paces. Hoping for some nice nights this Spring - this was the worst Winter to experiment with motorized tracking (snow, numb fingers, tiny screws) ugh!