Arctic Light Gallery & Excursions was launched in 2015 by Carl Johnson, an award-winning landscape and nature photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Founded on the 16th anniversary of Carl’s move to Alaska, Arctic Light seeks to celebrate a legacy of examining the dynamic quality of light in remote, wild locations. One of Carl’s early inspirations was California-based photographer, Galen Rowell, who named his business “Mountain Light.” Carl is also good friends with C.J. Kale, owner of “Lava Light Galleries” in Hawaii. Recognizing the quality of their work and galleries, and paying homage to Rowell’s inspiration, Carl chose the name “Arctic Light” to continue the lineage and highlight the primary focus of his own work, the vast landscapes of the Arctic.
Carl served four years in the U.S. Navy as an Operations Specialist. During that time, he served as Ship’s Photographer on two commands as a collateral duty. His first formal training in photography was at a Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan, in a traditional “wet” dark room with black and white film.
Following the Navy, Carl attended college at the University of Minnesota, where he took two photography classes, including one that focused on the Ansel Adams “Zone System.” Carrying on what he learned in the Navy, he developed a photojournalistic style.
After college, Carl worked for two summers at Wilderness Canoe Base, a base camp on Seagull Lake on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. He led guided canoe trips, helped manage the base camp, and learned to become a naturalist. It was also during that time that the natural world started to grab his photographic attention. He also became inspired by Minnesota photographers Jim Brandenburg and Craig, Nadine and Les Blacklock, as well as by the writings of Sigurd Olson.
Carl moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1999. He resides there in the Anchorage hillside with his wife, Michelle.
Carl has been recognized as the Artist-in-Residence for three national parks: Gates of the Arctic (2007), Badlands (2009) and Rocky Mountain National Park (2009). Carl has also served on the panel that selects the Artist-in-Residence for Gates of the Arctic and Rocky Mountain National Parks.
In 2009, Carl was awarded a Career Opportunity Grant by the Alaska State Council on the Arts. The grant supported his travel to South Dakota for his Badlands artist residency. In 2010, Carl was awarded an Artist Fellowship by the Rasmuson Foundation.
Carl was also recognized in 2010 as the “Environmental Issues” winner for the Windland Smith Rice International Awards. A partnership between Nature’s Best Photography magazine and the Smithsonian Institution, Carl’s winning image “Wolf Tracks on Ice” was included at an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. in 2011.
In 2014, two of Carl’s images earned an Honorable Mention in the Wilderness Forever competition sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography magazine. In the same year, his image “Alatna Headwaters” from Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve was selected to represent the park in the Voices of the Wilderness exhibition sponsored by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
Carl’s first book, Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, has won two awards: a Silver Medal in the 2016 Nautilus Book Awards and a Gold Medal in the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards. In 2017, Carl was recognized with the prestigious Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for Excellence in Still Photography, Film, or Video by the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Carl’s clients have included Tony Robbins, Princess Cruise Lines, Denali Backcountry Lodge, the National Park Service, Getty Images and National Geographic Education.
first formal training in photography was during navy service in yokosuka, japan
arctic light explores the dynamic qualities of remote, wild places