Chris Johnston Photography

Chris Johnston is a landscape photographer and photo educator in South Louisiana.

20 Questions about Chris Johnston

I've fallen in love with the work of Lisa Holloway. When this happens (it happens often) I become obsessed and I search for all the information I can find about that person and their work. I found an interview with Ms. Holloway and I liked the format so I decided to adopt it and answer 20 questions about myself.

Baby Cottonmouth Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Baby Cottonmouth Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Favorite Color: blue

Favorite Season: winter

Biggest Guilty Pleasure: Bacon and eggs for breakfast

The American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)

The American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)

Pet Peeve: People who turn on their turn signal as they are turning the wheel to turn. 

Studio or On location: On location.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A veterinarian, wildlife biologist, or geologist. I’d still love to be an wildlife biologist or geologist. (Ms. Holloway and I both wanted to be veterinarians when we grew up)

The New Orleans Crescent City Connection

The New Orleans Crescent City Connection

One thing no one knows about you is: I once rode a bull in a rodeo when I was in my early 20's.

Pc or Mac: Mac

Lightroom Or Photoshop: BOTH.

White Pelicans in the Louisiana Marsh

White Pelicans in the Louisiana Marsh

Film or Digital: Digital.

Props or No Props: No props.

If you could travel anywhere it would be: Denali National Park in Alaska.

Glass Half Empty or Half Full:  Sadly, half empty.  I’m trying to be more optimistic.

Raw or Jpeg: Raw.

Favorite Music to Edit to: I'm not a big fan of listening to music while I edit but classical relaxes me. 

Frozen Cypress leaves on a rare freezing morning in South Louisiana

Frozen Cypress leaves on a rare freezing morning in South Louisiana

Favorite Quote: “Having ADD makes life paradoxical. You can superfocus sometimes, but also space out when you least mean to. You can radiate confidence and also feel as insecure as a cat in a kennel. You can perform at the highest level, feeling incompetent as you do so. You can be loved by many, but feel as if no one really likes you. You can absolutely, totally intend to do something, then forget to do it. You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but feel as if you can't accomplish a thing." -Dr. Edward M. Hallowell

Most valued material possession: My camera gear.

Processing Style: I like deep blacks and a heavy vignette.

Coffee or Tea: Coffee.

If you could photograph a Celebrity who would it be? Mykel Hawke. I know he used to live in NOLA but if anybody has a connection I'd appreciate a hookup. 

Feeling God's Pleasure

Yesterday morning as I was drinking my coffee I looked out the window and I could see a dark fire in the sky to the East. I went outside and the sky was a beautiful range of yellows, reds, and magenta. The combination of the early morning light, and its reflection and diffusion through the clouds, had created a light that had pink quality too.  It was almost magical, and I stood there for several minutes admiring this beautiful sight.

Something occurred to me while doing this...the only thing keeping me from doing what I want with my life is me. It's not God, it's not my circumstances, or the money in the bank, it's me. I've been trying so hard to figure out how to be a professional landscape and nature photographer and everyday I'm trying to figure it out I'm missing opportunities like this awesome sunrise.   I can shoot locally and already do (but not consistently enough). I can blog (I have journalism degree). I can create products that people want (I have a marketing degree). What I need to do is create them and do it consistently. 

In the movie Chariots of Fire, there is a scene where Eric Liddell says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Substitute photograph landscapes for run and you have me. I don't just like shooting landscapes and nature, I feel God's pleasure when I'm shooting them.

Agkistrodon piscivorus - the Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin. This one was photographed at Jean Lafitte National Park - Barataria Preserve Unit.

Put some time between taking a picture and sharing it

One of the things that has occurred because of social media is the overwhelming urge to share all of our images. This is a totally new phenomenon.

If you think back to the days of film, we would take a roll of film, send it off, and then in a few days we got back physical object. There was a sense of anticipation. You had a sense of wonder in what was going to appear in that little package and when it did, you look at each picture and examined it and recalled the emotion at the time when it was taken. When you were done the pictures were put away. Maybe in a shoebox, maybe in album, or maybe in a file cabinet.

When we decided to show those pictures to someone it was special. Maybe a vacation image slideshow at a family gathering, maybe in a quiet moment a mother and father would look at pictures of their kids, or after the funeral of a loved one we would sit and look at pictures we captured of that person throughout their life. 

The decision to share was one that was considered and appropriate for the moment. I think in the world today we want to share everything and worry about how many likes or hearts or comments it might get and we make the decision on whether or not to take it based on that metric. The timeframe between capture and share is too short. 

Not every picture needs to be shared. Not every photo is taken for public consumption. Some pictures exist because they will mean something years from now. Some will never mean anything to us but they will mean much to others after we are gone. Stop taking photos for the purpose of sharing and take them for the purpose of remembering. Share some, but some away in a special place just for you. 

It has taken me a decade to write this post

Photography is a process and it takes time to discover what types of photography you like and to determine your style

I'm happiest when I'm alone. I'm not a people person. I don't go to concerts, or sporting events, or places where people congregate. I'll take a week in the woods in log cabin in the dead of winter over a week at Disneyworld. I live in New Orleans but have never been to Jazz Fest and about 17 years ago I stopped going to Mardi Gras. 

All this is to say that I'm in my element and take my best photos when I'm alone and can focus on the task before me without interruption. I like shooting landscapes, wildlife, cityscapes, and nature images. I'll also shoot real estate and architecture too because those are solitary types of photography. I also enjoy post-processing those types of images. Going through thousands of wedding images or hundreds from a family shoot is not nearly as much fun (to be honest, it's a bit of a chore).

This images shows the tenuous existence between New Orleans and the wetlands that are responsible for it's very existence and necessary for it's survival (as a buffer from storms).

This images shows the tenuous existence between New Orleans and the wetlands that are responsible for it's very existence and necessary for it's survival (as a buffer from storms).

I know that I'm in my truest element when I'm in nature and the more remote the location the better. For instance, I loved Banff, Alberta and Glacier National Park in a way that just doesn't compare to Jean Lafitte Park or the wetlands of South Louisiana. Something else happens to me when I'm in nature. I lose my aversion to people. Well, at least to people with my interest. 

I first discovered this over 20 years ago as a volunteer at the Louisiana Nature and Science Center and later at Audubon Zoo. I was shy kid with anxiety problems but when I was talking about wildlife I could get on a stage in front of hundreds of people and command their attention. I was a kid with ADHD but I could spend hours studying field guides to learn more about alligators or red-tailed hawks. 

Much later I rekindled this when I became a Certified Louisiana Master Naturalist. The hours spent in classes and in the field studying the habitats and wildlife of Louisiana made me almost giddy with excitement. Being able to share that with others came in a close second. I realize that with nature photography I get to share my knowledge and excitement through this site and with my images.  

It's taken me 10 years to embrace this. I spent a decade taking the types of images I thought other people wanted instead of the images I wanted. I tried to make everyone happy but all I did was make myself unhappy and produce images that were less than they could be. 

 

We Are Not Guaranteed Tomorrow

One regret I have is not asking Guy and his wife to schedule a photoshoot before he passed. Guy was good friend of my in-laws and we saw him often, but this is the only photo I have of him.

One regret I have is not asking Guy and his wife to schedule a photoshoot before he passed. Guy was good friend of my in-laws and we saw him often, but this is the only photo I have of him.

When I ask people to take a photo they will say we are too busy, or we don't any free time, or when I lose 10 pounds. They tell me they don't like being in front of the camera or they don't have anything to wear. 

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. On a seemingly normal September morning in 2001 over 2,000 mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters thought they were going to work at the World Trade Center but never returned. Three thousand people today will get a phone call telling them that the test was positive and they have cancer. 

Look I realize a photo can't bring someone back, but it can help you remember them after they are gone. A mother can leave an image of herself as she wants to be remembered by her kids. Grown siblings that maybe don't spend that much time together or with their parents can have a large image made, maybe 40 x 60, and give it to their parents to hang above the fireplace or in the great room so every day their parents can see their creation, their gift from God, as they enter that room.   

Call me today at 504-208-1766 to book a family, couple, or sibling session.