Carl Johnson was born and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He started his photography career in 1988 while serving in the U.S. Navy, where he was a ship's photographer for two commands and trained in a documentary and photojournalistic style. His later work as a wilderness guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, along with his exposure to the writings of Sigurd Olson and the images of Jim Brandenburg, inspired his passion for nature photography. They also informed his belief in using photography to promote conservation.
Carl's first book, "Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska's Bristol Bay," was published by Braided River in June 2016. It explores the amazing ecosystem and way of life in Alaska's Bristol Bay region. It earned a silver medal from the Nautilus Book Awards and a gold medal the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Carl's photography has also been published in Alaska, Backpacker, High Country News, National Geographic, National Parks, Nature's Best Photography, Outdoor Photographer, and PDN Magazine.
Carl has served as the artist-in-residence for Badlands National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Shenandoah National Park. In 2017, he was recognized by the Alaska Conservation Foundation with the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for Excellence in Still Photography, Film, or Video. He was the "Environmental Issues" winner for the Windland Smith Rice International Awards in 2010. Carl regularly partners with the Great Land Trust to document watersheds that the organization is seeking to protect. He has worked as a guest lecturer for Tony Robbins, Princess Cruise Lines, and several remote lodges in Alaska. Carl leads photographic tours and workshops through his company, Alaska Photo Treks. He also operates the only nature photography gallery in Anchorage, the Arctic Light Gallery. Carl was the first American photographer to document the Norwegian long-distance dog mushing race, the Finnmarksløpet.
Carl lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, Michelle. At their home on the Anchorage hillside, they share 1.25 acres with black bear, moose, lynx, coyote, porcupine, ermine, and snowshoe hare. Aside from photography, Carl enjoys tending to their 1500 square-foot vegetable garden, peony garden, rose garden, and perennial garden. He has also been an avid rock and mineral collector for over 40 years.