Hi Neighbor

I know this subject has been over-photographed but like any newbie cutting their teeth on a new bone, I just had to try. I think I can do better and I will continue, but it was exhilarating finding this galaxy in my viewfinder after several attempts pointing and photographing into the dark void of space. It’s hard to believe that a DSLR and a modest 400mm f/5.6 manual focus lens can achieve this level of image these days.

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So, what can I do to make such an image better, from an exposure and an in-camera perspective?

Technical Details

Photographed with a Nikon D850, Nikon 400mm f/5.6 lens at f5.6, for 30 seconds at ISO 6400., for a total exposure time of 3 minutes, under a Bortle 4 sky here in the Santa Cruz Mountains just southwest of the SF Bay Area on the south-west side of the mountains. Each of the six images was very weak and I was amazed at how much light pollution washed out each individual image. The camera was on a Sky Guider Pro tracking base. This photo was constructed from 6 images aligned and stacked with a Median Filter to help reduce noise and build up density.


Youssef, this is stunning! While I am no star photographer and don’t know the how’s and all, I think this is amazing.

Congrats on this Youseff! It is beautiful. I’m glad you posted this. I am interested in making images like this, so you posting this is inspiring. I’ll have to look up the Median Filter, is that in Photoshop? Did you stack in photoshop or another program?

@Mark_Muller , yes I processed the RAW images all the same way and opened them as TIFF files in PS as layers in the same file. I let PS auto align all the layers as a stack. I grouped all the layers as a Smart Object and then applied the Median filter to the whole stack. That causes all aligned pixels in the stack to take in the average value of all pixels in that pixel location. So it will improve the actual image pixels and reduce noise from individual layers. Then processed as normal.

Super!! Done before or not, Andromeda is a fascinating object visually, and interesting that it is our nearest neighboring galaxy and is on a collision course with our Milky Way galaxy. It’s also a great object to practice on. I think it is simply overwhelming that our cameras can see things like this that appear just as a smudge to our vision. I wish things like this would let more people realize their significance in the cosmos.

You’re well on the way with photographing the subs (individual frames) and the next level of magic is in the processing, for noise reduction and pulling out fine detail. An additional bit of image quality can brought out by using darks, flats and bias frames, largely for further NR. @Dan_Kearl has a system going that is working well. Being compelled to do everything the hard way, I went with PixInsight, which is the top level software (a complete processing package for serious astrophotography) but comes with a learning curve. There is a lot of information online about it.

I posted an M31 image a while back. It isn’t the best I could have done, but you can at least see the noise is better:

Very Nice… You didn’t blow out the core and got nice color.

I must have been asleep at the wheel for the last 2 weeks! I knew from earlier communications we were getting a new night sky category… but had no idea it was here! Guess I should pay more attention! A great addition to NPN @David_Kingham !

Youssef, this is phenomenal! Aside from the feat of just getting this capture and processed… I LOVE the color! Stars and the deep black space came out beautifully.

I am a big time amatuer when it comes to night photography - but this is sure impressive.

Am most curious to learn of your results from 4x5 film capture. that will be amazing if/when you can pull that off!

I dunno… with this new category I just might get sucked in…


Thanks Lon. I got sucked into this genre in a serious way. It is challenging and I like challenges. I think I will be able to pull off the 4x5 version. I have made three exposures already, two were a joke but the third one was almost passable. I know what I did wrong and in two weeks I try for my 4th sheet of film. I hope it works and if it does, you all will probably be the first to see it.

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