<Help Needed> Processing Milky Way Photo

Hello all,

I took a picture of the milky way in Queenstown New Zealand just right outside my hotel.

Is there anyone who can help me process my raw photo into a nice picture with the obvious milky way? I have shared the photo below. Thanks!

DSC05875.ARW (19.9 MB)

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Hi @jin and welcome to the community!
I don’t have an edit for you with darktable, but I could show you what I managed to do in RawTherapee.

But in general, I don’t think this is going to give a spectacular result. There is just not enough contrast in your picture, and I think quite some stray light. I’m no expert in night photography, but maybe you can find some useful tips here: Star Trails and Night Sky photography.

There is a a lot of “foreground” in this image, that is difficult to crop out. With methods increasing the visibility of the stars, one will produce artefacts in these areas. In my example i tried to reduce background light by generating a second blurred layer in Gimp an substract this.

I couldn’t push it more than this in the latest dev version

DSC05875.ARW.xmp (14.6 KB)

@jin Welcome to the forum!

I find the foreground fun, though posing a challenge to the processing. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yep, there’s a Milky Way in there somewhere!

The folk who do this for fame and fortune typically have to do multiple exposures, long exposures for the star part of the sky and separate exposure for any terrestrial foreground. You’ve got a decent single exposure, but there’s still not enough data in it to tease apart the goodness you were seeing “in situ”.

Wife and I did a dinner train ride in 2017, in northern New Mexico USA. On the return trip, standing in the open car, freezing our fannies off, we saw the most glorious display of the Milky Way. Didn’t realize how much our eyes had adapted to that light until we returned to our seats; the car lighting was turned way down but it still seemed very bright compared to outside. That’s when I really realized what it would take to capture such a sight…

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I guess you are right because i took this shot in a pavement of a street which are well lit with streetlights. Physically i am also blocking the moon which was at that point of time next to the milky way that i referred from my phone application. Correct me if i’m wrong, that i suppose there is too many light sources from the physical environment that contributed in getting a better image of the milky way. Would it be better if i took the picture in a dimmer area (ideally pitch black) and far away from the moon?

I have no knowledge in editing raw images but i think this is a very good effort especially the contrast on the trees and the human which are now much similar to the human eye. Is there any way to make the milky way look dramatically more obvious? Otherwise this picture could have been closer to what i am expecting it to look like :smiley:

Thank you for sharing. This is my first time attempting to take a shot on the milky way. I read a little bit on toggling the camera settings to take these raw shots (first attempt) as well. Sadly now i am in Singapore which is considerably polluted to take these astronomy shots.

I also took picture of the similar environment (without myself) and also a shot of the milky way in the aeroplane. Maybe the milky way can be made more obvious?

DSC05664.ARW (19.7 MB)
DSC05871.ARW (19.8 MB)

Here’s a useful site:
I think it defaults to the US, but zooming out exposes the rest of the world.

Don’t discount your location; if you’re willing to dig into the specifics, you might be able to make decent MW images where you are. DPReview’s Astrophotography forum is a good place to lurk; both newbies and authorities are welcome…

Rather than work on your images, here’s the sort of thing I’m doing. This is not darktable, but the curve tool should work similarly:

Firstly, cropping the image gets all of the other stuff out of the histogram. Then, the curve is set to put additional contrast in the part of the histogram where the majority of the image is. A steep slope in any part of a curve is adding contrast; a shallower slope reduces contrast. Thing is, in just one exposure you’re not going to capture enough of the lower light levels to get definition in the majority of the MW; you’ll just get the brightest stars.

Here’s a pretty good recent thread at DPReview on just what you’re trying to do: