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Kurt Johnson

Kurt Johnson is a naturalist, photographer and author with a passion for ecotourism. He grew up in both the urban setting of northern Virginia and the remote Adirondack Mountains of New York State where he developed his interest in natural history. Kurt has been fascinated by wildlife since he was a young boy, and he even claimed at age 4 that his professional aspiration was to grow up to be a monkey. He has yet to achieve this, but along the way he has studied wildlife biology in Wisconsin, acquired a second bachelor's degree in education and an MS in natural resources in Utah, and has since studied wildlife all over the world.

Kurt has been involved in wildlife education and tour guiding for more than 15 years, including organizing and leading safaris in Kenya and Baja. He also teaches photography and leads astronomy programs. His recently published book, a Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, is the most comprehensive identification and natural history guide ever written about these two famous parks. It represents Kurt's efforts to communicate the "big picture" of an ecosystem, rather than focusing only on the most charismatic megafauna.

As a wildlife biologist, animals are definitely a priority in Kurt's photography, but he is equally inspired by landscapes in the constant search for unique lighting on mountains and other epic vistas. While great wildlife portraits can arise from being close to subjects, Kurt is a bigger fan of “environmental” shots that depict the landscape surrounding the animal(s), which add to the power of the composition by capturing the holistic moment, with wildlife one part of the entire image. Another of Kurt's favorite styles is backlit images where an animal is perfectly silhouetted with the sun behind the subject. Kurt also does a lot of astrophotography of the night sky, including the Milky Way, northern lights and eclipses. When the moment is right, Kurt will use his mid-range lens to stitch landscape images together in Lightroom to make billboard-sized prints. Kurt also embraces the convenience of smartphone photography—and while these images may not end up in his portfolio, he enjoys helping travelers understand the full power of their devices to capture amazing imagery.

Kurt leads wildlife and photography safaris every week of the year, mostly in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, but also in many other places around the world. He tends to shoot with Canon and Nikon equally but is currently using a Nikon system. Kurt’s gear varies depending on where he is guiding, but he always has two camera bodies, one set-up for landscapes, and one set-up for wildlife. View Kurt's latest photography portfolio additions on Instagram at @wildthingsofwy.

What’s in Kurt's Camera Bag:

Camera Bag
Lowepro Proactic BP 450 AW II

Camera Equipment

Nikon D500 body
Nikon D600 body
Nikkor 14-24mm super wide-angle f/2.8
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikkor 200-400mm f/4
Manfrotto tripod
iPhone 12 Max
Swarovski, Brunton, or Kowa spotting scope
Phoneskope digiscope adapter for Swarovski spotting scope

For Select Trips
Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye f/2.8
Kenko Uniplus extension tube 25 and 12
Lightning trigger
Nikon speedlight SB-600

Post-Processing Software Expertise  
Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Photoshop

Upcoming Adventures with Kurt:

Northern Lights & Arctic Cultures
Glacier Park and Waterton Lakes: An International Treasure
Yellowstone Wolves & Wildlife: A Photo Pro Expedition
Yellowstone Wolf Quest & Photo Adventure
Yellowstone Winter Photo Expedition
'Round Iceland

Praise from Nat Hab Travelers:

C. Hill
"It is unimaginable to me that a better Expedition Leader than Kurt could exist. He's the complete package: he is thoroughly knowledgeable but is not pedantic; he is enthusiastic but is not a fake cheerleader; his patience is infinite but he is able to diplomatically move discussions along; he's attentive but not nosy; he's imaginative and has a great sense of humor; he's a natural manager of people and he was able to meld many different personalities into a cohesive unit. He kept us safe, showed us all the fauna and flora we asked to see and just did a terrific job. Whatever you are paying him, triple it!"

C. Martinez
"Kurt was the single most important reason we had such a wonderful experience. He was a real leader, amazingly knowledgeable and had great people skills."

B. Hendrix

"Kurt was exceptional. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about plants, trees, birds and mammals, but he gave us many geology lessons that I wish I had had in college. Kurt was patient, didn't mind answering the same questions over and over, made everyone on this trip felt important, was well organized and was one of the best guides that I have had with Nat Hab."
 
M. Doyle
"Kurt is a fantastic professional with a true passion for nature and teaching people about it. Nat Hab should be very proud to have him represent you."

B. Flynn
"Extraordinary! Kurt and Colby two of the finest guides I've experienced anywhere in the world. Their knowledge of Yellowstone, its habitat, flora and fauna, along with the history of the wolves and their reintroduction is astounding. They are true naturalists who take genuine joy in sharing their knowledge with others. Their attitude is contagious. There wasn't a moment where they were focused on anything other than ensuring that all members of the group had a great experience. It also helped that Kurt and Colby were well known and respected in Yellowstone."

C. Bariletto
"Kurt truly cared about us. I was not feeling well during one dinner, and he was very concerned. That's above and beyond all the great things he did for us, such as the individualized attention to our photographing techniques as well as answering our questions about the landscape, animals, Aurora Borealis and all the great things we saw. He is a fantastic and very knowledgeable person!!"

L. McKee
"Kurt was an exceptional Expedition Leader. He did everything he could to see that everyone on the trip was well catered to and made a special effort to see that each person's goals were met. His prodigious knowledge on many subjects really enhanced the trip. He was extremely thoughtful, even in details such as our lunch picnics. We would love to go on another trip with him."

M. Macklin
"I could not imagine a better Expedition Leader than Kurt. I especially appreciated all his help with my camera and picture taking, even though this wasn't a photography trip. He's funny, super knowledgeable and an all around nice person."

D. Langmeyer
"Kurt went well beyond anything I would have expected! He actually wrote the book on Glacier (not yet published). He had an uncanny ability to spot wildlife and knew so much about animals, plants and rocks that he didn't repeat himself in more than a week. In addition, he was superbly conscious of the individual needs and wishes of each participant and offered multiple options for every activity. Finally, Kurt came up with wonderful surprises. He went well beyond what I could have hoped for."

B. Neuman
"Kurt is the best Expedition Leader we have ever had. I can't say enough wonderful things about him. He taught us so much—he has an unbelievable amount of knowledge about wildlife, flowers and everything else in nature and imparted this knowledge so beautifully. In addition, I have never seen anyone as sensitive to the needs of every single person. Kurt made the trip a very special experience for us."
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