I finally broke down this week and purchased Adobe Photoshop- While it is fairly expensive software, I was able to purchase it with an educational discount through the University which eased the pain...slightly. Already, I can see that it is a very powerful program for manipulating digital images to bring out the maximum amount of detail in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. I had been using the freeware program Gimp 2.8, however, this most recent version of the program had a difficult time utilizing the RAW images that I was taking with my Canon T2i and trying to work around this issue finally pushed me into the decision to purchase photoshop. My next step is to find a good tutorial on line for using the program with my pictures, particularly those of the Sun. Unfortunately an internet search for photoshop tutorials turns up far too may sites for my patience level...so if you know of a particularly good one, drop me a line.
I decided to play around with a shot of second contact from the Venus Transit to start understanding a little of how the program works...believe it or not, even the concept of 'layers' is new to me and I have a steep learning curve ahead. Below is a processed shot of second contact from the transit, as well as an inverted image which is kind of cool in an artistic way. Be sure and click the images to enlarge them to full size.