Jimmy Walker: PGA Golfer by Day, Astroimager by Night
October 18, 2013
This week, pro golfer Jimmy Walker won his first major PGA Tour event, the Frys.com Open. With this big win under his belt, Walker is taking the golf world by storm and will soon compete in his first Masters tournament.
On the Tour, Walker isn’t just known for his Frys.com win. He’s also the PGA’s resident astroimager, with the Celestron logo emblazoned on his golf bag.
“A lot of the guys [on the Tour] found out and they come talk to me about imaging,” he said. “They all want pictures and posters.”
Walker’s astrophotos would certainly make impressive prints. He’s created colorful, artistic images of targets like the Pinwheel Galaxy, Bode’s Galaxy, the Leo Galaxy Triplet, and the Lagoon Nebula, to name a few. For Walker, golf and astroimaging go hand in hand.
“Golf is my job and I continue to try to get better and better each year. I try to take that into imaging,” he explained. “I'm competitive and I try to be really good at it. I work hard, and I practice hard. It's my whole upbringing—being competitive and wanting to be the best.”
Getting Started With Imaging
Jimmy Walker’s interest in the night sky began the same way it does for millions of amateur astronomers.
“As a kid I remember having a telescope and looking at the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter,” Walker recalls. “Now, we have a house with a big backyard, and I thought it would be fun to get a telescope again.”
Walker purchased a C-11 and Celestron CGEM mount, and it wasn’t long before he began to dabble with imaging.
“My fascination started with looking up, and from there it evolved to attaching a camera and taking long exposures. Two and a half years down the road, here we are taking really cool images,” Walker said.
Developing a Style
Over the years, Walker has honed his talent and developed a unique visual style that stands apart from typical astrophotos.
“Having an artistic background, or an artistic side to you, helps,” he explained. “My style is changing a little bit. I used go very vibrant. I keep learning about color balance, so now I’ve started to go a little more natural. I’ve gone back and reprocessed my earlier images so they look more natural, show more detail, and have better color balance."
With a busy career, and two boys at home in Texas, Walker uses imaging as an outlet for creative expression. Although he constantly challenges himself to try new techniques and image different targets, Walker isn’t going for perfect scientific accuracy in his images.
“It's all art, its what you want it to look like—no one knows what these objects look like,” Walker reminded us. “There’s no right or wrong, it’s your artistic impression. I just try to make them appear how I think they would look if you could actually see them.”
Walker’s Favorite Equipment
Walker’s first computerized mount was a favorite among astroimagers, the CGEM, designed with imaging in mind.
“I’ve been using the CGEM mount and it's been really good. I’ve been able to take 20 to 30 minute exposures, and I think that really shows the capability of the mount. It showed me that you don’t have to go out and buy a $10,000 mount to take pretty pictures. You can buy a mount for a good price and it works. You might not know how, but it works,” Walker said with a smile.
Since he’s away from home so often, Walker sets up a laptop in a hotel room and controls his telescope remotely via the Internet.
“I found a place out in New Mexico that does remote hosting and it allowed me to do this more often,” Walker said. “I wouldn’t get to do it a whole lot if I didn’t have remote hosting. A couple years ago, I’d only get to shoot 3 to 4 images per year. So remote imaging has helped me and it's fun to have that to look forward to when you wake up in the morning when you're on the road.”
Next on Walker’s list of Celestron equipment to try is the Celestron CGE Pro 1400 HD. He’s eager to try Celestron EdgeHD optics with Hyperstar technology to create wide-field mosaics of the night sky.
Stay tuned for more updates and don’t forget to catch Jimmy on the PGA Tour!