thought i’d post my quick attempts at M42 and the Double Cluster, both are big crops as my flats never work for some reason, hence the very fat stars. both can be found at my astrobin, link is in my sig so take a look if you want!
those are great images: a nice range of star colours in the Double Cluster and a wealth of detail in M42. I always think M42 is one of the toughest objects to image, given the range of contrast – but you have done a very job job.
You seemed to have tamed your HEQ5 – it’s certainly giving you good results.
Nice images. Definitely worth persisting with the cal frames though (flats, darks and biases). They will make a big difference when you get them right. For DSLR imaging I take my flats on a daytime sky and usually median combine 50-100 frames. I do darks and biases at night when the temperature is around the same as lights but again combine 50-100 frames to get the noise down.