A word about aesthetics and knowing your audience.

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A word about aesthetics and knowing your audience.

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Astrophotography is more than just pulling sliders along, showing the maximum amount of detail. The greatest names in astrophotography are able to tell a story with their images.

The two means that help you with this are framing and scale.
Framing is the way you put your objects in their frame. Take for example this amazing work by Rogelio Bernal Andreo; it's like the witch is looking up a the star - they are the two main objects and the eye is immediately drawn to the two and their juxtaposition.
A similarly brilliant example of effective framing, is this image of the blue horsehead; the 'horse' is intently 'staring' at the bright star in front of it. Just spectacular!

Using scale to direct the viewer and tell a story is a little bit less obvious and is a lesser known technique. This is not surprising; the tools that allow you to effectively manipulate your presentation this way, have only been introduced fairly recently and only really pertain to astrophotography. The advent of multi-scale processing (aka 'wavelets) tools in programs like like PixInsight for the first time afforded astrophotographers control over individual detail sizes in their images.

The scale at which you process has ramifications for your final presentation and how you would want to show details, structures and super-structure coherence. Just like a painting in a museum, are you going to force people to 'step back' and admire the image as a whole (i.e. provide a lower, screen filling resolution), or are you going to let people 'swim around' in your image through panning? Both are valid choices but will lead to a different aesthetic and composition. The first means you will try to create an image that is pleasing as a whole, much like an oil painting - you dispense with amplifying 'busy' (i.e. small) detail, such as a busy star field, that detracts from the super structure. The other, a 1:1 close up where you will have your viewers panning through, emphasises busy detail, with lots of stuff to discover as you pan through. Zoom out though and the image will look very busy and less aesthetically pleasing.

The nice thing is, it is up to you - you have the tools! In StarTools the Life module especially lets you manipulate and enhance super structures all the way down to the smaller details. And, of course, StarTools also comes with traditional wavelet sharpening tools.

Original (data courtesy of Josh Lake)
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Original.jpg
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Original.jpg (152.17 KiB) Viewed 3112 times
Treated with Life's Isolate preset (attenuating everything but super structures)
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Isolate.jpg
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Isolate.jpg (121.86 KiB) Viewed 3112 times
Treated with Life, augmenting smaller superstructures and re-embedding detail into super structure with HDR's Reveal algorithm
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Large_HDR.jpg
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Large_HDR.jpg (154.91 KiB) Viewed 3111 times
Treated with Life, augmenting larger superstructures and re-embedding detail into super structure with HDR's Reveal algorithm
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Heavy_HDR_Life.jpg
Tutorial_M45_Luminance_HDR_SuperStructure_Heavy_HDR_Life.jpg (134.35 KiB) Viewed 3111 times
Ivo Jager
StarTools creator and astronomy enthusiast
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