Combining Short and Long Exposures to Preserve Star Colors

 

Here's a summary of the technique:

- Blend the 90 and 30 min shots with a common black point setting and an upper light mask based on the 30min image.

- Save the blue layer for use as a mask.

- Use curves on the blue mask to eliminate any faint areas remaining from the nebula.

- Do a gaussian blur on the blue mask to eliminate the hard edges around the stars

- Using the blue mask to shield the stars, adjust curves, saturation and color to enhance the nebula.

- Remove the mask and apply grain reduction processing

- Make a light mask for the upper 5% brightness (targeting the stars with white centers) and feather to reach just beyond the outer edge of the color halos.

- Apply a gaussian blur to the masked bright areas to blend the color edges toward the center.

- Adjust saturation.

 

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