Rena Johnson lives life to the fullest and documents it all through the creative expression of her photography. As a highly acclaimed award-winning nature photographer, she pursues the beauty that surrounds us in a way that shows in every image she produces.
In the Beginning:
From her roots of growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains region in Western North Carolina to her extensive travels throughout the US and England, a love of nature is ingrained into her very core.
In 2001, Rena suffered a horrific accident which lead to years of recovery and over 18 reconstructive surgeries on her face. With her entire life changed forever, she found a way to turn the whole experience into a powerful and motivating force in her life.
Taking Off Strong:
With this bit of time on her hands while recovering, she began learning everything she could about her two greatest loves, writing and photography. By the time she recovered from the majority of her surgeries, she had already started working for several different off-road clients. She quickly became a popular contributor to many US and International publications, magazines, webzines, etc. With such a huge following, she decided to start an organization called the Off-Road Tour for a Cure and began using her work to help raise funds for many charitable organizations including the Breast Cancer Society, The American Cancer Society, Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital and many more. Several amazing organizations jumped on board to help her with this cause including well known companies such a Polaris Industries, who provided her with a new RZR each year to use on her tour. She travelled all over the country doing what she loved and helping others where she could along the way.
Coming In For A Landing:
In 2010, her adventures landed her in the beautiful state of Georgia. She began exploring all of the many diverse parks and wildlife areas in her new home and it very quickly turned into a new passion. She soon joined forces with the “Friends of Ga State Parks”, the Department of Natural Resources as well as a few other organizations and her new passion turned into a brand-new mission. At this point, her focus turned toward conservation and working with different groups and organization to help preserve the natural world she loves so much. As she traveled around the state and country, she used her skills as a photographer to document each of her experiences through the lens of her camera.
An Added Passion:
Rena’s love of photographing these amazing locations, along with her willingness to share this knowledge of both with others, lead to the discovery of a new passion for teaching. Her familiarity and work with the Friends of Georgia State Parks helped to initiate an alliance with the Ga State Parks and Historical Sites Organization, followed by several other groups and organizations. These unions opened the doors for many great adventures as Rena started teaching photography workshops all over Georgia and beyond.
What Others Are Saying:
As you can see from numerous testimonials and reviews that another one of her gifts is her compassionate and patient nature which allows her to foster this deep passion with her students. Rena has taught and mentored dozens of budding photographers and encouraged them to pursue their own dreams.
Having hiked hundreds of miles over rugged terrain to some of the most beautiful peaks in the country such as along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, to having crawled up the sides of mountains and down steep rocky ridges such as at Crowder’s Mountain State Park, to having snaked her way through canyons such as Tallulah Gorge, Cloudland Canyon and Providence Canyon State Parks, to having padded entire river systems such as the beautiful Altamaha River from Middle Ga all the way to the coast, from exploring the depths of the Temperate Rain Forest along the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, to getting up close and personal with baby alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp at Stephen Foster State Park, she still personally felt as though she was just getting started.
Taking It A Step Farther:
Her deep commitment to nature and conservation has continued to grow stronger and has lead her into many new and exciting endeavors. Rena considers herself a conservationist and her goal is to do more than just “Go Green”. She envisions a life embedded in sustainability. This also fosters an ever-deepening relationship with Georgia State Parks and the Friends of Georgia State Parks as well as many other parks and park systems throughout the US.
Another Life-Altering Experience:
At the height of her teaching career, near the end of one of her Adventure Photography Workshops, she had a mountain bike accident that caused a catastrophic break in one of her legs as well as several other less severe injuries that together landed her in a wheelchair for several months and a long road of recovery during which she had to learn to walk all over again.
Getting Back Up and Out There:
While that accident did slow her down and kept her less active than usual for a couple of years, she used that time constructively. In less than 24 months, she put together and wrote four very different books, all of which are now published and available on Amazon among other places. She had studied and practiced her craft and turned most of her collection of works into Fine Art and has started showing her work in many different locations and is using her work to continue her efforts in conservation and has taken it all a step further. Now her focus has turned to sustainability and environmental rejuvenation.
When asked what some of her favorite projects were besides those already mentioned, two came to mind right away. The first was a pollinator program she worked on with several different organizations around the state. She feels like that project had several great benefits including a significant awareness increase with all involved as well as the very tangible long lasted benefit of having an increase in pollinator gardens around the state including at almost every single state park throughout Georgia.
Another favorite project she worked on for about 3 years was working with Stephen C Foster State Park, taking pictures at all different times of the year and providing them to them in an effort to become a dark sky park. In November of 2016, they were officially recognized and designated as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park, making it the first place in GA to receive accreditation as part of the IDA’s International Dark Sky Program.
Now with this new passion for sustainability, and being back on her feet, she is excited to move forward with several new projects that will be officially announced in the near future.
Can You Make A Difference?:
She is a strong believer in the power of volunteering and uses her images to encourage hundreds of other volunteers to show up for events throughout the years and to give of their time and talents to the best of their ability. She believes that everyone on the planet has a role to play and that we all have a choice in what that role is. She challenges everyone to find a cause that matters to them and make a difference. Rena puts her words into actions, not only by the work we have already mentioned but also by regularly donating a significant portion of her proceeds to different park systems, organizations and other worthy causes close to her heart. She believes that through fund raising, education and a pure appreciation for the world around us, we truly can create and maintain a better world for ourselves and for generations to come.
Fine Art Prints and Beyond:
After many years of countless experiences in the nature photography world and working with so many different groups, people and organizations, as well as having spent so much time perfecting her craft during her down times, she has reached a point where she feels confident about her collection of Fine Art Images. She is very excited to start offering them as such to her collectors and clients, both long held and new ones alike.
She has made the commitment to use at least 10% of her own annual income to put into the field of Sustainability and Research. She is also currently working on the planning stages for a new 100% sustainable and rejuvenating community area where the keepers will learn everything they need to know about living a productive and self-sufficient life and be able to teach those skills to others in other areas. Her goal is for each community that implements one of these sustainable areas to be able to provide more nutritional locally grown foods, to help local farmers and to provide means for feeding any hungry or homeless people within the entire area of its care.
Having spent so much of her life working in the area of conservation, she is now ready to take it another step forward and start turning around more of those other areas outside the usual boundaries of conservation. Together she believes we can truly make a change for the better on this earth we call home!
What’s ahead? With her deep commitment to nature, conservation, sustainability and rejuvenation, as well as to always improving her own work through her photography, her world is an open book. That commitment partnered with her ability to not just think outside the box but to live her life as though no box exists, we can only imagine what the future holds. But one thing is for sure, it will be fun, exciting and she will do her best to continually make the world a better and better place!