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Working with Star Tools – From Nikon D7100 to DSS to Star Tools – Advice?


redarmy27
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Good morning everyone,

I’m relatively new to astrophotography but have been a photographer of terrestrial objects for a few years now.  Even since I was a little boy, I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy and anything that is far above our heads.  I decided to take the plunge into astrophotography and bought myself an Ioptron Skytracker.

So far I’ve managed to get some good shots of galaxies and even comet Lovejoy, but I feel I could improve my images with Star Tools.  My images feel too blocky and over-processed.
 

The Orion Nebula:

http://www.captureminnesota.com/photos/1658443
 

Comet Lovejoy:

http://www.captureminnesota.com/photos/1655678

My normal routine is to shoot light frames, dark frames, and bias frames (all in raw: Nikon NEF) and then import them into my computer to be stacked with Deepskystacker (DSS).  I made a discovery: DSS does not like the size of my NEF files.  I tried numerous times to stack my shots, but it’d always run out of memory despite my computer being built for intense photo processing.  I tried many different settings (and yes, I left the dreaded drizzle off!) with no avail until I did some research on the cameras other people were using.  I discovered that since I use a Nikon D7100 24 MP camera shooting 6,000 x 4,000 size files, it was essentially slogging up DSS.  I remedied this by first going to Lightroom, converting the files to a 16 bit Tiff, and then resizing to 85% of their size and then importing them into DSS.

From DSS, I then moved the image to Star Tools and failed miserably because the data was getting compromised.  With the help of Ivo Jager (who’s been nothing but awesome in this), I discovered the conversion process was messing with the stretching and color balance of the files.  So last night, I used a different converter (Nikon’s own converter/ resizer since Dcraw is a bit foreign to me despite my efforts), resized the NEF files to 16 bit Tif files at 85% of their size and created the following composition in DSS.  I left as many addons and settings off in DSS as possible in the best effort to ensure that Star Tools has good virgin data to work with.

Would this file work? (Google drive of my latest Orion stacked image straight out of DSS)

https://drive.google...iew?usp=sharing

I invite any of you to try with it and see if you’re successful as I’m pretty new at manipulating images in Star Tools.  I’ve read the guides, but I’m not all that sure where to begin and I end up with some funky effects in the program.  If you’re successful, I’d appreciate some guidance on the image as I’ve seen some great shots done around here.  I’m used to working with Photoshop a bit, but I don’t feel as precise as I could be as if I were to be using Star Tools.

If the image is still over stretched and compromised prior to being processed, do you have any guidance?  What can I do to convert the file better?  If the data is good prior to stacking, what settings in DSS work the best?  DSS has been a pain to work with at times, but I like it since it’s free and relatively easy to use.  I guess the part that’s throwing me off is the resizing of the images to be compatible with stacking.

Any guidance on the best ways of getting my information stacked and then into Star Tools would be much appreciated.  It’s a little overwhelming is all since I’m used to portraits and landscapes!  Any tips or advice on how to transform the stacked image above into a great image would be wonderful.  I’m eager to learn.

Thank you all very much in advance!  I can’t wait to get better with my processing and my results!

All the best,

Jake

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You need to make sure DSS saves it file as a Fits file when it is processing. Once you have stacked, find the autosave.fits file to load into star tools.

I must warn you though that Startools wants very good data to work well.

it is heavy on your system, I have 8GB I5 and it is sluggish on my system, so I suggest you crop and then Bin to the size you want first. Then do develop.

My best efforts in about 5 minutes:

post-32740-0-56176900-1422028858_thumb.p

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Good morning everyone,

I’m relatively new to astrophotography but have been a photographer of terrestrial objects for a few years now.  Even since I was a little boy, I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy and anything that is far above our heads.  I decided to take the plunge into astrophotography and bought myself an Ioptron Skytracker.

So far I’ve managed to get some good shots of galaxies and even comet Lovejoy, but I feel I could improve my images with Star Tools.  My images feel too blocky and over-processed.

The Orion Nebula:

http://www.captureminnesota.com/photos/1658443

Comet Lovejoy:

http://www.captureminnesota.com/photos/1655678

My normal routine is to shoot light frames, dark frames, and bias frames (all in raw: Nikon NEF) and then import them into my computer to be stacked with Deepskystacker (DSS).  I made a discovery: DSS does not like the size of my NEF files.  I tried numerous times to stack my shots, but it’d always run out of memory despite my computer being built for intense photo processing.  I tried many different settings (and yes, I left the dreaded drizzle off!) with no avail until I did some research on the cameras other people were using.  I discovered that since I use a Nikon D7100 24 MP camera shooting 6,000 x 4,000 size files, it was essentially slogging up DSS.  I remedied this by first going to Lightroom, converting the files to a 16 bit Tiff, and then resizing to 85% of their size and then importing them into DSS.

From DSS, I then moved the image to Star Tools and failed miserably because the data was getting compromised.  With the help of Ivo Jager (who’s been nothing but awesome in this), I discovered the conversion process was messing with the stretching and color balance of the files.  So last night, I used a different converter (Nikon’s own converter/ resizer since Dcraw is a bit foreign to me despite my efforts), resized the NEF files to 16 bit Tif files at 85% of their size and created the following composition in DSS.  I left as many addons and settings off in DSS as possible in the best effort to ensure that Star Tools has good virgin data to work with.

Would this file work? (Google drive of my latest Orion stacked image straight out of DSS)

https://drive.google...iew?usp=sharing

I invite any of you to try with it and see if you’re successful as I’m pretty new at manipulating images in Star Tools.  I’ve read the guides, but I’m not all that sure where to begin and I end up with some funky effects in the program.  If you’re successful, I’d appreciate some guidance on the image as I’ve seen some great shots done around here.  I’m used to working with Photoshop a bit, but I don’t feel as precise as I could be as if I were to be using Star Tools.

If the image is still over stretched and compromised prior to being processed, do you have any guidance?  What can I do to convert the file better?  If the data is good prior to stacking, what settings in DSS work the best?  DSS has been a pain to work with at times, but I like it since it’s free and relatively easy to use.  I guess the part that’s throwing me off is the resizing of the images to be compatible with stacking.

Any guidance on the best ways of getting my information stacked and then into Star Tools would be much appreciated.  It’s a little overwhelming is all since I’m used to portraits and landscapes!  Any tips or advice on how to transform the stacked image above into a great image would be wonderful.  I’m eager to learn.

Thank you all very much in advance!  I can’t wait to get better with my processing and my results!

All the best,

Jake

Hi Jake,

I could have guessed that you came from a photography background by the use of the 1.4X TC. I used to be a semi pro for a long time ( devotee of Adams and Weston ) and in the beginning had to clear a lot of the normal practices out of my mind. Ditch the TC to start with, use the lens at f2.8 and use a front aperture mask to stop it down to f4, you can use a metal step down ring in front of the lens to achieve this, just calculate the aperture needed. This way you get the correction of the smaller aperture without the multiple spikes. DSS is a nice software but it is a 32 bit one so can not address more than 3 gig of memory and as a result the operation is very slow with large files. You can help it by throwing the red rectangle around area of interest and it will stack the chosen area but make sure that Drizzle is not checked or it will crash. Your comet image is very nice. Orion needs some very short subs for the core ( about 5s~7s @ F4 ) and then you can combine these post capture using the layers in StarTools and setting the filter to " Mean Distance to 1/2 Unity " and it will give you a nice HDR image. StarTools likes 32bit Fits format files ( unprocessed ) and if your computer has real processing power and the data is clean with strong signal it can really give you nice results with little effort. There are some tutorials on the net and a few in the ST forum.

Regards,

A.G

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Thanks for the reply Chris!  I’ll be sure to have a go at the same image but save it as a FITS file the next time.  Are you a Star Tools user much?  The image looks good so far.  I’ll have to wing it when I get home.

A.G., I’m in luck that I actually have a step down ring that I could use.  Do you have any suggestions for a good front aperture mask?  I’ve seen some Bahtinov masks out there and thought about making one for myself.

Thanks for the feedback guys!  Astrophotography has a bit of a steep learning curve it feels.
 

Jake

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Thanks for the reply Chris!  I’ll be sure to have a go at the same image but save it as a FITS file the next time.  Are you a Star Tools user much?  The image looks good so far.  I’ll have to wing it when I get home.

A.G., I’m in luck that I actually have a step down ring that I could use.  Do you have any suggestions for a good front aperture mask?  I’ve seen some Bahtinov masks out there and thought about making one for myself.

Thanks for the feedback guys!  Astrophotography has a bit of a steep learning curve it feels.

Jake

I don't like or use Bahtinov though I have 4 sizes of them. I prefer the FWHM with a 2s loop cycle either in Nebulosity 3, Artemis capture or APT.

A.G

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Thanks for the reply Chris!  I’ll be sure to have a go at the same image but save it as a FITS file the next time.  Are you a Star Tools user much?  The image looks good so far.  I’ll have to wing it when I get home.

A.G., I’m in luck that I actually have a step down ring that I could use.  Do you have any suggestions for a good front aperture mask?  I’ve seen some Bahtinov masks out there and thought about making one for myself.

Thanks for the feedback guys!  Astrophotography has a bit of a steep learning curve it feels.

Jake

I don't use it much as I prefer PS5.

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Why does the autosave file need to be used as opposed to creating an image file at the end which can also be in fits format?

Startools, needs the raw stack, so it can understand the way the bayer matix was applied.

As soon as any stretching or manipulation has happened it messes with it's ability to understand the file.

It's best not to mess with the file, startools still works on normal files, but you get best results from the autosave. 

Edited by Christopher Davenport
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Can I just ask am I right in stacking the images with DSS and as soon as its done save it without touching the sliders or saturation. Also when I load my photos into startools which have been taken with a DSLR and stacked with DSS which option should I be saying right at the beginning of star tools ? ( it says someting like linear debayered etc)

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Hi Jake,

Just for info I also use the 7100, and dss had no problem stacking 70 or so files on a 5 year old i3 with 4GB RAM. Be careful when converting to TIFF as there can be various processing algorithms applied. Better to use RAW output from dss as a FIT file, and then convert to a 16 bit TIFF in PS (or whatever)

This is just what works for me.

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That sounds about right Brttpaul!

Willi, that's really interesting! My computer is a bit newer and beefier than yours but no matter what I do to try and process a NEF file in DSS, it has a fit. How much do you crop the files by? And what are your settings if you don't mind me asking?

Thanks!

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Can I just ask am I right in stacking the images with DSS and as soon as its done save it without touching the sliders or saturation. Also when I load my photos into startools which have been taken with a DSLR and stacked with DSS which option should I be saying right at the beginning of star tools ? ( it says someting like linear debayered etc)

For startools make sure that the output file is an fits file, set on the last tab of the stacking settings in DSS. Post stacking just close DSS then open the autosave.FTS in star tools. This is a linear debayered file.

Even if you don't touch the DSS settings and save dss will automatically apply default setting, messing with the file.

Edited by Christopher Davenport
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Sorry it took so long. I have just checked, and I use the following settings:

DSS Version 3.3.2

Register stars to give around 50 stars 

Standard mode

No drizzle

Median stacking of light frames

Automatic alignment

Create TIFF files

Detect and clean remaining hot and cold pixels

For some reason, this has always worked perfectly,

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Sorry it took so long. I have just checked, and I use the following settings:

DSS Version 3.3.2

Register stars to give around 50 stars 

Standard mode

No drizzle

Median stacking of light frames

Automatic alignment

Create TIFF files

Detect and clean remaining hot and cold pixels

For some reason, this has always worked perfectly,

Hey all,

Thanks for the feedback; I really appreciate it.  Will, I’ll have to try those settings when I get home.  I’ve continued to mess around with the programs I have and made the following conclusions:

Deepskystacker:  the program only works for me if I convert the files to a tiff at 80% size of the original raw file (NEF).  I have never used the drizzle function and keep the settings as minimal as possible.  Additionally, I always use the crop function when I’ve tried to convert files straight out of camera (Nikon D7100, 24 MP at 6,000 x 4,000).  I do like the simplicity of the program, but wonder how much data I actually use while doing the conversion.  My troubles occur with both versions of the program despite my system being built for photo processing.

Startools:  I’ve had a great chance to mess with the program, but it requires virgin data.  The only way I can get such data would be to use dcraw to make the NEF (raw Nikon files) into Tiff files for DSS and then flow through to Startools.  I’ve been unsuccessful getting dcraw to convert my files, and the files I’ve thrown into ST from DSS (having been converted to Tiff with a Nikon converter previously) still could be improved, again from not being able to use virgin data.  The program is great, but I can’t get it to work with the stuff I currently have.

So for now, I’m left with converting and resizing the raw files into tiff files and then processing the images in Photoshop afterwards.  I’ve discovered a lot of great tutorials out there, but it looks like it’ll be a long road ahead.  I did pick up a Bahtinov mask for my camera lens and that’ll be here soon.  I just need to continue to practice with my camera and Ioptron Skytracker.

How long did it take you to get clear images and what methods/ tutorials do you suggest?

Thanks in advance,

Jake

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In DSS you want to set the autosave file to fits (on one of the tabs when looking at stacking parameters).

The autosave fits file is what you open in startools. This will then be a totally unmolested file from DSS.

That is my understanding.

Edited by happy-kat
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