Pushing the image

As someone who really got into landscape astrophotography from doing time lapse sequences, one thing that has been a constant challenge is getting just the right amount of light on the foreground subject in a short exposure to capture sufficient detail. Too much light and you risk blowing the highlights or having a foreground subject that dominates the composition and looks out of place, not enough light and detail recovery can look muddy and over sharpened. Luckily time lapse sequences are somewhat forgiving here as a single image is only displayed for a fraction of a second. What if you want to take some of these frames and edit them for still photography though? Can you push the image of these single short exposures to a satisfactory level for print?

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Bulk layer edits with GIMP

If you are already familiar with shooting the stars, then you’ll know that most of the imaging magic happens in post processing. You’ll also likely know that the vast majority of popular online tutorials will use Adobe Photoshop which is both expensive and subscription only, with monthly photography plans starting from $14.29AUD upwards. Being neither popular nor prepared to spend that sort of cash on subscription based software, I find myself free to explore the alternatives. As far as open source software goes, Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is enormously powerful and supports layers which is critical for common processing tasks such as star trails and light painting. Unfortunately though, GIMP has no functionality via the GUI as of the time of writing this article which allows you to modify layer attributes in bulk or as a selection of layers. In this article we’ll take a look at one way in which the extensibility of GIMP can assist with this specific issue.

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