Jimmy Walker’s Astroimaging Tips

As a traveling PGA golfer, Jimmy Walker knows how to maximize efficiency in his astroimaging process. From a remote observatory to a super-accurate Celestron mount, Walker uses the best equipment to create his deep sky images quickly. We caught up with Walker on the road, and he shared his best insider tips for budding imagers.

1. Learn your gear by starting with wide field images

It doesn’t take a ton of money to get into imaging; it just takes practice. You’ve really got to learn your gear first. Getting set up and polar aligned is key. A really good autoguider setup is very key.

You can start making really nice images quickly if you start wide field. Do not start with a C11 like I did—it’s impossible. Wide fields are much easier to work with. You can make mistakes as you’re learning, and they won’t show up as much.

2. Invest in a quality mount

The mount is, I think, one of the most important pieces of equipment in imaging. If you don’t have a stable base you’re not going to get what you want. 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.

The CGEM has shown 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.

Lagoon Nebula

3. Get involved in the astronomy community

When I was just getting started, I found online forums where people talk about imaging, and just really figured everything out that way. It was nice if guys posted good data that I could mess with to learn how to use processing software. Now, when I capture data, I keep it and share it on the forums every now and then. Just as others did for me, I let people use my data to practice. That’s what fun about these online communities.

4. Use both sides of your brain

You don’t need super, super nice equipment. You just need stuff that works and a technical side to put it all together. Then there’s the artistic side. Having an artistic background, or an artistic side to you, helps. After you're done capturing the data, it's really about art and using tools like Photoshop and PixInsight. 

5. Travel to a dark sky site

I wanted my stuff to be different and look really good, so I knew I had to travel to dark places. Of course, there are many sleepless nights taking your stuff out to remote locations, but the results are worth it. Imaging is easiest in the backyard from the city, and it’s hard to pack it up and go out—but you’ve got to want to do it.