#FilmShowAndTell: An Interview with Yosemite Photographer, Blake Johnston
Blake Johnston is an inspiring film expert who lives and works in Yosemite as a Photography Guide and Instructor for The Ansel Adams Gallery. Even more exciting for TeamBay, is that he carries his craft over to Drum Scanning at our Oakhurst location! Echoing the legacy of Ansel himself, Blake has a knack for capturing the beauty of Yosemite through an array of medium and large format *color* film. Scroll on to learn more about Blake's inspiring journey in photography, and share your own film stories with us! Tag #filmshowandtell on social media.
Tell us about your background and how you got started shooting film photography.
"Ever since I was 11 years old, my family would visit Yosemite Valley for my father’s birthday at the end of June. I can vividly remember driving through the Wawona Tunnel for the first time and being in absolute awe. It was in Yosemite that it felt like nothing going on in the world mattered and a young me could just let my imagination go wild. My dad claims it was on this first trip that I said he wanted to be a Yosemite Park Ranger one day.
"Having explored photography and filmmaking in San Diego by making skate videos with friends in high school, I eventually realized the fast-paced Southern California lifestyle wasn’t meant for me. I decided to revisit my childhood roots and moved to Yosemite as a dishwasher in October of 2018, and would spend my free time photographing with my medium format film camera, learning how to photograph landscapes. My film source quickly became The Ansel Adams Gallery (TAAG), and I'd buy rolls every week.
"In May of 2019, I landed a seasonal job as a cashier for the Ansel Adams Gallery. This led to a full-time position in the autumn when I became the Gallery’s first Staff Videographer. In addition to working in the Gallery and producing videos, I now run Social Media for TAAG and lead their Photography Education Programs as a Staff Photographer.
"Although I didn’t become a Park Ranger, I'm very grateful that I get to share my passion and knowledge with those visiting the park."
"I spend my free time photographing with my 120 or 4x5 film camera, hiking, and camping with my girlfriend plus our two dogs."
What is the most memorable photo (or photos) you've ever captured on film?
"I’d say the most memorable photographs I’ve captured on film was during this one Winter day in Yosemite Valley. I was lucky enough to be one of the photographers involved in testing the 120 Kodak Gold200 for Kodak. We had significant snow come into Yosemite National Park with the forecast calling for clear skies the next morning. I wanted to make the most of the conditions and the opportunity to make some images for Kodak. I met up with my friend RJ Franklin along the Merced River and ended up meeting some awesome people that day too."
"It felt like we were in a winter wonderland and I'm grateful the photos turned out."
What inspires you about shooting film vs. digital?
"Film has allowed me to appreciate and pay closer attention to my surroundings - because of this, I’ve become more intentional with my photographs in regards to lighting, composition, and weather conditions.
"I frequently use my Large Format View Camera which means I have to study the light more and pre-plan… when everything lines up the reward is very worthwhile. Plus, It’s a ton of fun experimenting with different film stocks and seeing the way they render scenes."
"I used to spend hours trying to get my digital work to represent the way moments felt to me. Film seems to pick up subtle tonalities and colors that my eyes don’t always register. I love how tangible film is - from choosing the stock, and processing it myself to then being able to drum scan it."
Which film photographer do you most admire, or has most influenced your own work?
"I don't know if one particular photographer influences my work the most but I’d say it’s a combination of Charles Cramer and William Neill. They both shoot digital now but the images they’ve been able to create on film inspire me to explore and make the most of my film. I see some of their work from the 70s-90s and it’s truly timeless. I hope one day I can make images like they do. I was fortunate enough to drum scan some 35mm for William recently which was a real honor."
What is your favorite gear and film to shoot with?
"My favorite camera/lens to shoot with is my Chamonix 45f-2 and Nikkor 75mm. I thoroughly enjoy how slow the 4x5 View Camera process is. The 75mm lens is fairly wide which allows me to place details in the foreground while still giving room for towering mountains in the background."
"If I had to pick a favorite film stock it would be Ektar 100. You get colors similar to slide film but great tonality of color negative."
Special Thanks to Blake Johnston!
Blake has a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to share. Visit his Instagram and YouTube channels to learn more:
Show Us Your Film!
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