Behind the Lens with the Pros: Bill Johnson, Johnson’s Photography
Each month, we sit down with one of our favorite photographers for a snapshot interview of the person behind the lens. This time, professional photographer Bill Johnson shares his perspective as well as straightforward advice gained from shooting for books, magazines, calendars and more.
This stunning shot of rain-drenched cosmos, one of Bill Johnson’s photos, appeared on the inside back cover of Birds & Blooms’ August/September 2007 issue.
What inspired you to become a nature photographer?
The simple answer is nature. The complicated answer would go something like: the beauty of the colors, patterns, textures … the fleeting moments of gorgeous light that accentuates the above, and the feeling it gives me when I’m out there capturing it and my senses come alive.
What does photography give back to you?
The simple answer is peace. The complicated answer is it satisfies my creativity, lets me abandon the hustle and bustle of modern life (even if only for brief periods of time,) and brings joy to people who view my work. It has also given me wonderful memories that I can show others, and a way of seeing life that is so satisfying.
What inspires you, or what is your favorite thing to photograph?
The simple answer is light. The complicated answer is capturing the way light moves me, evoking a mood or feeling. Sometimes a two-dimensional image brings my senses alive when I’m able to reveal the beauty in a object that often goes unnoticed. Sometimes it’s about reminding viewers of beauty in a way that’s like meeting an old friend. Getting viewers to stop and smell the roses, to appreciate nature more, to learn more about it, to get people to stop and say “Wow!” whether it’s a simple subject like a flower, tree or rock; or more complex like a marsh, sunrise or mountain view.
Do you have a favorite technique or effect, and if so, why do you find it compelling?
Simply striving for sharp images. This is the way the human eye works. We never see soft foregrounds or out of focus backgrounds—everything we look at is clear and crisp. I like an image to give the viewer a sense of touch, to be so sharp they could almost feel the feathers on a bird, sand on a beach, or the soft petals on a flower.
Do you have a few tips to share with aspiring photographers?
It’s a old cliche about just showing up, but it’s very true. It cannot be overstated how important it is to be out there shooting and learning from the experience. It never gets old, it’s always different, so be there and enjoy it. Nature will reward you for it.
What is your favorite camera feature or piece of equipment, and why?
The one piece of equipment that is indispensable to get really sharp images that the digital age has not replaced, although they are trying with image stabilization technology, is the tripod. I have worn a groove in my right shoulder from carrying one for so many years, but I honestly can’t say it’s a favorite piece of equipment. Sometimes it can be a royal pain.
Have you taken your photography beyond taking pictures?
I would say so! Photography is a lifestyle for me. I started out as a hobbyist and did it in my spare time, now I do it in my spare time and most of the rest of the time, too. When my eyes are open, I’m studying light and nature. I’m constantly adding new images to the files. I have done six books, the latest being New England’s Historic Homes and Gardens by Union Park Press, three calendar exclusives for 2013 by Tidemark Press and Protege Publishing, plus contributing to numerous other calendars, puzzles and postcards.
What’s in the future for you?
The short answer is taking more pictures. The long answer is enjoying life and the fascinating never-ending beauty of nature and the satisfaction it gives my soul. And, of course, taking more pictures.