KPM Franklin’s Bobby Johnston is a Wildlife Photographer
Note: We asked our KPM Franklin employees working remotely from home how they are spending their time when they are not working. We discovered that many have very interesting hobbies and talents. With permission, we are sharing some of their stories.
When he is not at his computer working on commercial or design surveys for KPM Franklin’s clients, you can find Bobby Johnston outdoors searching for wildlife to photograph in any one of several wildlife refuge areas near the outer banks of northeastern North Carolina.
[See image collection at the end of this post]
The Central Florida native is a self-taught wildlife photographer whom for more than ten years has been capturing stunning images of alligators, bears, coyotes, deer, elk, geese, otters, rabbits, swans, wolves and many other species.
Johnston began his passion for wildlife photography in Osceola County and continued when he moved to North Carolina more than three years ago. “I love wildlife and being outdoors,” Johnston says. “I was a hunter that began taking pictures of wildlife while hunting and found that pushing the shutter button on the camera when capturing that perfect image was just as exciting as hunting.”
On the weekends, Johnston travels about an hour south of his home in Elizabeth City to search for wildlife on public lands. He drives dirt roads, tracks on foot through the woods and puts his boat in to traverse waterways looking for the perfect shot in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Pocosin Lakes NWR. Johnston says lately he has been photographing black bears the most, and even counted 25 on a recent weekend trip.
Johnston will occasionally travel north into Virginia to photograph elk herds that run wild in the western part of the state. Elk were extirpated in Virginia during the mid-1800s but reentered from Kentucky during the mid-2000s. Elk now number approximately 250 according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).
From December through February, Johnston says he especially enjoys photographing tundra swans and snow geese migrating from northern Canada and Alaska. Johnston also will lead groups to observe the birds as they arrive at the onset of winter. “I’ve seen as many as 10,000 swans flying into the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge,” he says. “If you have never experienced seeing this many swans, it is a real sight you won’t soon forget.”
Johnston also is passionate about photographing red wolves, which are a Federally designated endangered species and extremely elusive. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that red wolf numbers in their native habitats in eastern North Carolina dropped from roughly 100 to 20 wolves between 2013 and 2019. Fortunately, the 240 square miles of the Alligator River NWR is large enough to support 12 red wolves spilt into two packs.
“I support the North Carolina Red Wolf Coalition and enjoy helping make the public aware of their long-term restoration program,” Johnston says. “I have become good friends and stay in continuous contact with representatives that work in the field for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its red wolf recovery program. I have donated some of my photos of red wolves to both entities for use in presentations and other educational materials.”
Johnston also has a red wolf conservation display he includes in his Robert Johnston Photography exhibit at local arts and crafts shows in North Carolina where he sells canvas prints of his best photographs.
“When I moved to eastern North Carolina, I never thought I would become as involved as I am with helping save the red wolf from extinction and preserving this beautiful animal for future generations to enjoy.”
Johnston also is a member of Soul Hunters, a Christian outreach ministry in Elizabeth City made up of bear and deer hunters which hosts fund raising activities throughout the year to help families that need assistance with medical and other bills. During deer hunting season, Soul Hunters works with North Carolina Hunters for the Hungry, a non-profit which accepts whitetail deer donated by licensed hunters to be processed as ground venison and distributed to families in need and community organizations that provide assistance in and around the Elizabeth City area.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnston continues to roam the woods to photograph wildlife. However, he says what he perhaps misses the most is the time he spends talking to people at arts and crafts shows about his passion for photography and wildlife conservation. “I didn’t really realize how much I miss talking to people,” he says. “That is the greatest thing about the shows for me.”
Bobby Johnston's Wildlife Photography