So after doing a BUNCH of reading and research into this astrophotography thing, I discovered ONE technical hurdle to overcome (among many) is signal noise. Digital cameras are great for sensitivity, but it comes with increased noise during long exposures. To combat this (and increase signal to noise ratio) one must take MANY individual exposures and "stack" them together. In addition, calibration frames are taken and subtracted to decrease the "read noise" of the camera ccd chip as well. What does all this mean? Software! To be specific -- Maxim DL and lots of Photoshop processing in my case.
Here is my next try at Orion with stacking, calibration, and lots of image processing to decrease noise, increase signal, and pull out more details -- it works!