Chris Johnston Photography

My Journey in Photography

As we get close to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina I think might be interesting to shed a little light on how that event is part of the reason I am here today. I owned one camera before Hurricane Katrina, a Canon EOS Rebel II film camera with an 35-80mm lens. I shot a few rolls of film and don't know where any of the prints are today, but it was Hurricane Katrina that really got me into photography. 

My wife and I were evacuated in Houston when we decided to get a digital camera to document the damage to our belongings when we arrived back into town. Luckily, our apartment was in a slightly elevated area and we had no water damage. Since we had nothing to document I decided to photograph the damage to the area I grew up in. 

My parents had over 10 feet of water in their home. Oddly enough, I can't find a picture of the outside of the home I grew up in. The first image I uploaded to Flickr is the one below. 

This was the home of one of my wife's best friends

This was the home of one of my wife's best friends

This was taken with small 5 MP Kodak point and shoot. I took hundreds, maybe thousands, of images with camera. 

In April 2010, a small startup called CreativeLIVE launched. They provided free photography education using an innovative new model. I had never considered becoming a professional photographer before watching CreativeLIVE. I believe the first class I watched was a wedding photography class with Jasmine Star

In September of that year I made the leap and purchased a DSLR. Initially, I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. The first image I can find with my Canon is of duck in City Park.

Mallard duck in New Orleans City Park

Something you learn pretty quickly about wildlife photography is that the camera is only a small part of the equation. You need BIG zoom lenses that have HUGE price tags. I mean 5-figure price tags. Then there is the issue of finding the wildlife. You need to either spend hundreds of hours in the field looking for the best location to put a hide, so you can spend more hours in the hide looking for the perfect shot, or travel to places like Yellowstone where the animals are easily approachable. 

At the time, I was in school full time with two young children at home, so I couldn't afford the lenses or the travel, and I didn't have the time to spend my morning and evenings hanging out in the woods looking for wildlife no matter how much I wanted to be the next Marty Stouffer.

I decided to focus on what I had around me and that was my kids. I was the dad version of the MWAC (mom-with-a-camera).

Since 2010, I have taken over 51,000 images with my camera. I've gone from this

Family portrait in Fontainebleau State Park with moss covered oak trees behind them

To this

I see areas where I need to improve. I see little things wrong, but 50,000 images later I know my purpose. I take pictures of kids and families. I started with my own and branched out to others. This is what I'm good at. This is why I'm excited to get up in the morning. 

How Family Changes You

It's amazing how goals and desires change over the years. When I was 16, I had the good fortune to wander into the Louisiana Nature and Science Center in eastern New Orleans. I went in to volunteer to be part of their version of Space Camp. While there I met an amazing lady who ran the wildlife rehab center and ended up spending all my time volunteering there. 

That exposure created an interest and love for the natural world that never ended. Over the next few years I'd spend tens of thousands of hours in the woods chasing wildlife. I'd travel to Glacier National Park and Banff looking for elk, deer, and bears. I would catch alligators from the back of flatboats and study to be a falconer

When I eventually decided to take up photography my goal was to photograph wildlife. I wanted to climb in the water with alligators and track mountain lions through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and publish those adventures on the pages of National Geographic. The problem was I had kids, a job, and responsibilities that competed with those interest. 

I started photographing what was around me, and this business sprung from that. I captured the little slices of family life that I was experiencing with my kids on a daily basis. It's an adventure no less interesting than tracking mountain lions, albeit it slightly less exciting and far less dangerous.

Here is an interesting collection of images I've captured during that journey.