Horsehead and Flame Nebulas

Image Description

I captured three objects over a month ago and then it got cloudy and has been cloudy every night. But I needed the time to figure out how to process them. Finally stumbled through that enough to get something worth showing. Improvements can be made under the hood but that will be a continuing thing.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

There are minor issues that I need to learn to tweak in processing but overall I’m delighted with this one. It is only a very slight crop from the original frame, to eliminate a few bright stars right on the edges.

Interesting that the reds here are cooler than the reds in the previous post (Rosetta). Both were color calibrated in PI with spectrophotometric color calibration, which takes into account the actual star colors in the image – found from a database of the complete night sky. That gives an accurate white point but I haven’t explored the possibilities of subsequent processing changing colors. (I will.)

All the images of this area show the large halos around the bigger stars – I assume it’s gas clouds being illuminated.

Technical Details

Five hours of 30-sec exposures. Probably about 10% rejected by the software as imperfect tracker gears clashes their teeth. Processed in PixInsight with very minor final curve and tonal tweaks in PS an I haven’t mastered those tools in PI yet.


Hi Diane,
I’m afraid I can only repeat myself. I’m really impressed by your result. One enjoys zooming into your image and discovering the beautiful details in the nebula.

Very well done!

As a highschool kid, I bought a simple telescope and was enthusiastic about the marvels of the sky. Nowadays, immense light pollution frustrates the idea of purchasing a good instrument.
I never tried to capture the sky with a digital camera. Maybe I should try it when on holiday, in a region where the night is still dark. Love your image, thanks for posting.

I can understand that very well. Because of light pollution, it doesn’t make sense to try to photograph the stars in my region either.

But here in Germany, we have four areas that have been designated as star parks by the International Dark Sky Association. For example, surrounding towns and cities have very dim streetlights there, with the light shining only downward.

Thanks, @Jens_Ober and @Han_Schutten! The eastern half of the US is very light-polluted but there are some decent places out west – but they are getting worse. And air pollution is also getting worse, which makes the skies brighter. My closest high, dry dark location (8000 ft) is a day’s drive. But where we live is about Bortle 4, which isn’t too bad.

Dan Kearl, who has posted a lot of astro here was shooting from Portland, Oregon (Bortle 9) with a Radian Triad filter, with very impressive results.

Good reason to be delighted with this one. Very nice composition with the horsehead surrounding by the “flames.” Sounds like this has been a challenging but rewarding experience with deep sky images. Keep them coming!

Thanks, @DeanRoyer – I’ll try! I’m having fun with a new endeavor.