Summit Right Brain: Photographer Stephen Johnson captures birds in flight, showcases work in Keystone gallery
Inspired by his surroundings, photographer Stephen Johnson has been diligently capturing photos of the mountains, birds and landscapes around his new home in Summit County. A third-generation Colorado native, Johnson is no stranger to the state, but recently began his venture into high-altitude living after moving here with his wife, Carol, this past June to be closer to their daughter, son-in-law and 9-year-old grandson.
Johnson has been taking photos since the ’50s, when he purchased his first camera — a Kodak Brownie — taking black and white photos as a hobby. From there, he progressed to an SLR camera, starting his own color lab in the basement of his home.
“Which was a mess,” he laughed. “With all the chemicals, and temperature changes — you vary the temperature by about 2 degrees and you’ll ruin the print. It was difficult.”
He was involved in a focus group with Kodak when digital was in its early stages. Naturally, he’s now all digital, but his interest has remained the same with his work on scenic landscapes and birds in flight.
He combines his love of photography with another of his passions — history and genealogy — volunteering his time with Fairmount Heritage Foundation, leading photo shoots at Fairmount and Riverside cemeteries in Denver, and also conducting research.
“Riverside is Denver’s pioneer cemetery,” he said. “It opened in 1876, just a few months before Colorado became a state. I volunteer at Riverside once a month to help people with their genealogy and history research.”
Now in Summit, he recently volunteered with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance to lead a full moon tour. With a strong turnout of about a dozen participants, Johnson guided the photography tour through the historic Valley Brook Cemetery.
After his recent transition from Centennial to Summit, he has been working hard to get his name out in the county. He regularly submits landscape and wildlife photos featured in the Summit Daily News, and had a booth this summer at the Meet the Artists show. He is a member of The Gallery on Keystone Lake, where he regularly sells his pieces, and is also displaying some of his wall art at the North Branch Library in Silverthorne through the end of December.
Summit Daily News: What can people expect from your work at the Keystone gallery?
Steve Johnson: I’ve got both landscape and wildlife photos. I specialize in birds and birds in flight. A lot of raptors, all kinds of hawks and osprey.
SDN: What inspires you when it comes to photography?
SJ: The main thing is I can get out with a camera and whatever I see — shoot all kinds of things. One of my favorite places is Summit Cove. I also go up Tiger Run in that area, Blue Lakes, Cataract Lakes, north Cataract Lake, Heeney Road, there’s some eagles along there too.
SDN: What is it that you love about photographing birds?
SJ: The thing is I’ve learned how to capture them in flight, that’s not easy to do. I get a big thrill out of being able to freeze the action, get them suspended in air with sharp, clear images.
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