Hey all! My name is David Johnston and I’m a landscape photographer from the great state of Tennessee! I’ve been able to do a lot of fun things with photography like writing articles, ebooks, and run workshops.
While I do spend some time traveling (when there’s not a global pandemic…) I spend the majority of my time photographing Tennessee landscapes.
Please feel free to ask me anything about photography life outside of the technical stuff and camera gear. Topics like the mental health side of photography, creative blocks, life as a creator, art, creativity, and all that jazz would be great.
A big thank you to David and Jennifer for the opportunity to do this. It would be hard for me to name two more generous people I know.
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Hey David! I’m excited to see all the Q&A! I have done a couple of photo sessions and experienced some adverse conditions (for me). I’ve tried to shoot from a canoe (in still water but moving slightly) and recently encountered higher winds on a mountain and in Death Valley. Do you have any tips on settings and strategies when camera movement is an issue? How about using a telephoto in those conditions? I’m a little nervous to bump my ISO Or turn on my lens stabilization but maybe I need to experiment!!! Also, how’s dad life going???
I am retired and a very avid nature and landscape photographer. I am also a very avid learner and I enjoy continuing to expand my photography skills. I do this mainly by watching Youtube videos, taking lots of pictures and posting on social media. I want to take the next step and enter photography contests. Can you suggest some for landscape photographers that I should consider participating in?
David, I see more and more of my peers getting into podcasting and hosting video chats these days (this was a trend even before the pandemic). I’ve never been much of a podcast listener, but I’m curious about the process and inspiration for undertaking such a venture. What inspired you to do it, and how do you try to make your production unique compared to what seems to be rapidly-increasing competition?
Sure thing! It can be difficult to shoot into the wind. I do use image stabilization and IBIS in my cameras when necessary. However, I also like to use the conditions that are given to me. Creatively, that can be the most rewarding because you’re working with conditions instead of against them. If the wind is too high or the canoe is moving too much, it might be fun to try some intentional camera movement just for fun. Again, that’s when the most inspiration comes to you because you’re working with the conditions that are present instead of wishing for something different.
Dad life is great! I’m tired, but it’s definitely rewarding. Photography has prepared me for sleep deprivation.
Hey Matt! Man, Boulder is such a cool and fun place. I loved my couple of days there. I would definitely live there if I didn’t hate winter so much.
If I were to go back and start a vlog again, this would be my advice…
It’s going to take time and it’s going to be a slow build. Vlogging takes up so much time especially when you get into b roll and editing. If the goal is to build a following, just know that it will take a few years to do so.
Perfection is filming and editing isn’t important. Quality of video isn’t that important to people. I film in 1080p and no one cares if it’s not high quality 4k. I might think they do, but they don’t. Fancy editing skills is also not important. Audio however is very important to people, so a good mic is a must. I use a RODE Go Wireless.
Just start and have fun. My most popular vlogs are the ones that I just film for fun and tell the story along the way; no planning or having a vision before-hand. People have fun watching what unfolds and your natural reaction to it. Oh yeah, and be you.
If you feel like you just need to take photos, don’t film. It’s just not worth it and it will drain you creatively.
Hope this helps! Hey, if you ever start and want to collab, maybe we can after the pandemic is over!
Hey Alexander! Yikes, I might not be the best to answer this one. I never do photography contests because it makes me question my creative decisions too much. Sorry I couldn’t be much help with this one.
Hey David! Good to see this. I’m also trying my hardest to get my vlog going - I’ve found the time needed to produce quality videos is really hard to keep up with considering I have a FT job and a weekly podcast also. How the heck do you find time to pull it off? Any tips or shortcuts to produce quality videos? Keep up the good work.
Interesting question! So, I love meeting other photographers because of my geographic situation. There aren’t many other photographers in West Tennessee. Meeting virtually is just fun to me. The podcast is more of a personal project for me. It’s fun to gain ideas and just talk shop with people without having any business motivation behind it. I’ve been trying to separate my podcast and make it unique in that I talk a lot about the journey of the photographer and the mental health aspect of photography. Having gone through anxiety and PTSD myself, I know how much art can help. I love talking about this with others who have experienced similar things, but I appreciate their vulnerability to do so even more. People like Candace and Ryan Dyar, David Thompson, Erin Babnik, and John Barclay (not to mention more) have all shared very eye opening stories about their photography journey.
Thanks for doing the AMA.
What makes you stop and take a photograph? Is it a strong emotional response? Do you think being more thoughtful or aware of our response to the landscape can improve the quality of one’s images?
Yo Matt! Vlogging takes up so much time. Sometimes if I’m really excited about an idea and spend a lot of time filming timelapse or b roll and then a lot of time on music and edits it will take me a few days to finish it. Typically, those videos are a big flop haha! What’s funny is the ones that I just start filming and talking with no agenda and sloppy b roll here and there are the ones that get the most traction. I guess what I’m saying is that as the creators we get too wrapped up in video quality. If you have limited time, focus more on the photos and storytelling of the vlog instead of the video perfection and editing. You of all people know from your podcast that there are no shortcuts! I just think that focusing on the story is most important. ALSO, sometimes I don’t pull it off haha. Like this week. I have no vlog, all I have is b roll from using a new lens, so I’ll probably just hit record, start talking about the lens and what my experience was, and then throw some of the b roll over top of that. Keyboard shortcuts also speed up the process of editing.
Hey David! As a rather new photographer (6 months) I have tried to soak in as much information as possible, which at times can be overwhelming. When I listen to photographers I respect and admire I often hear them talking about the emotional response to images. It seems as though for many of them this is found in the field and then enhanced during processing. With your images, what emotions do you try to capture, and how to do you process them to emphasize those emotions?
Hey Brian! So, I kind of stole John Barclay’s approach to this. If you see something that just catches your eye, stop and take a photo. It doesn’t have to be a good image or anything. Maybe it’s just a fun subject that interests you. That said, I will stop most when I see really soft light on something. If you look in my post, the image of the tree root on the rock is a great example of that. In response to the second part, I do think that being aware of surroundings leads to better photos. I do my best to practice mindfulness in the field. It helps me notice more light, sounds, smells, and feelings. I’ve captured some interesting small scenes just because I simply stopped and sat for a while and listened to what’s around me.
Thanks so much for your help and answering our questions.
I on a fixed income and wanted to get a Tamron 15 to 30 2.8 for landscape or get into bird photography with the Tamron 150 to 600mm. My question is should I invest in new or used and if used who do you trust in a store as I live in Bossier City Louisiana and our only camera shop closed 15 years ago. Is this the best mm to use in what I want to do. I have a Nikon Z-6 with adapter and I have a D610.
Welcome to the club! To be frank, I try to enhance whatever mood was there. Dramatic, warm, etc. Usually I’l feel how the landscape looks. Now, I will say that in composition and post, I’ll try to use some tricks I’ve learned from video work. To create angst or uneasiness, I’ll move the subject to the most uncomfortable part of the frame, or if I want to show a dark emotion I’ll use more blue temperature, of for a happy photo I’ll go with a warmer temperature. I don’t spend too much time in post either. I think I’m a little different in that way.
Hey David, thanks for the time for the AMA and congrats on the podcast, really enjoy listening to it at work, keeps me motivated.
Using Brooks Jensen terminology, i feel like my personal focal length is a very long one, i feel like my mind get drawn to more intimate scenes and i see more and more people going from wide to small scenes.
Do you think this migration is the result of an evolving trend, and subsquent result of influence or result of a very restricting year or do you think people are seeing the landscape on a diferent way, going away from the great scenes or turistic spots and trying to show the small worlds that can be found on every corner or garden.
Thanks for listening to the podcast! I like that phrasing; personal focal length. Yeah, I see that trend too more this year than any other. I have a couple of thoughts on it. First, the pandemic has forced all of us to find local places to shoot. I know I’ve found several new spots that are down dirt roads that I never would have found had it not been for the pandemic. So, that has been a huge part of it. And like you said, you can even snap some photos of macros in your yard.
Second, I think that photography exploration is cyclical. So many people became interested in photography near 2010 when digital cameras became so accessible. Many people start out by capturing grand landscapes only to run out of a passion for the iconic spots after several years. That’s where I think we are. People are discovering their smaller scenes kind of on track with timing.