The Laurel Magazine

Laurel Magazine is a monthly magazine guiding you where to shop, play, dine, and stay in Highlands NC and Cashiers NC.

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  • Laurel Contributor

A Blast of Glorious Light

by Donna Rhodes




As the Goddess of Spring rolls out her green carpet, photographer Charles Johnson, sets about capturing every image in her luminous art-show.

“A magical translucence, abundant April through June, is unique to spring, my favorite season,” says Johnson. Picture a tree that is backlit, early morning sun radiating each leafling with a blast of glorious light. Johnson observes, “The light x-rays the leaf’s bones (the midrib and veins) that mimic the trunk and limbs of its parent tree.” For Johnson, photographing the forest, clothed in a pearly luminance, is absolutely intoxicating.

But newly unfurled leaves are fragile. They evolve in a matter of hours. Their peak beauty is short-lived, so Johnson stands ready, camera-in-hand, to immortalize an instant in the life of a leaf, a blossom, a tree, or the shimmering surface of a burbling creek. He says, “Mother Nature keeps me on my toes.”

Johnson’s stunning digital prints of all seasons are frequent Laurel features. While he prefers digital images, he is a veteran darkroom guy, having run a commercial photo-finishing business (touted as one of the best in the nation). For the first 20 years of his career, he often used a 4x5 film camera with its inverted images. It suits his style and creative vision, and he’s pretty darn good at seeing the world upside-down.

With a digital camera, the ability to bypass a lot of darkroom work (cropping, light adjustment, filtering, contrast, etc.) by viewing the image on the small preview screen saves him a lot of time. He makes edits on the fly.

Like all exceptional artists, Johnson is happy to share his knowledge with others and does so with lectures and even a blog, if interest invites it. Visit his website: charlesjohnsonfineart.org, or Instagram, or call him at (704) 339-0602.