The evening after my previous attempt the sky looked better so I set up again mostly with the same kit (EQ3-2, 450D, 18-55mm lens at 18mm & f/4.5, but this time I used APT to control the camera from the laptop. This made focusing and capture so much easier that I was able to experiment a bit more, tidy up the framing and so on.
This time I took sixty 45 second exposures with ten darks, again stacking them in DSS and tweaking levels and curves in photoshop — another first as I’ve never used Photoshop before.
I’m much happier with this result. There is perhaps a little amp glow showing at the top edge of the image and the stars towards the corners are stretched somewhat because the lens isn’t perfect, but it has so much more impact thanks to the depth of colour and the sheer number of stars visible. I’m pleased enough with it that I’ve resized a version to use as my workstation desktop background 🙂 Here it is: