Isaac Johnston's Newsletters, thoughts, and other fun shi... stuff.

The Best Camera Gear For X-Mas | Stoke-Ness

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It’s the season of caring/first snows/trying your first backflip on a snowboard. 

Get your skis/snowboard or maybe just your sled ready ‘cause the snow is about to hit and the fun is about to start.

In this issue I answer your questions, recommend a book that will blow your mind, and share gift guide that will get you on your way to completing your shopping so you can get back to shredding.

Be stoked,


New Places

Glacier National Park flight

Flight Over Glacier National Park

It’s not a place so much as it is a perspective. This month I was lucky to be invited on a flight over Glacier National Park in Montana.

I’ve been to Glacier hundreds of times, but only flown over it twice. I was struck by the vastness of the place. Peaks go on forever in each direction and massive valleys I’ve never seen seem to be behind every ridge. We flew just after the first snow, but before the lakes froze. it felt like flying over emeralds on a white pillow. There are few pilots who will fly over the park for around $400. It’s a lifetime experience for less than a weekend away. You can book a flight Here

See it on Google Maps Here  


Montana Gift Guide

Gift Freakin’ Guide

It’s the Christmas season and we are all scrambling to find cool stuff for the little bro, Dad, or sis in our life (face it you are going to get Mom a candle).

I’ve put together a guide on Amazon to the gear I know works for the photographer in your life (or to share with your family to buy for you).

See it here: The Best Christmas Gifts for a Photo/Video Creator 

Who I'm loving on Instagram

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Travis’ work is often seen for western wear companies Filson and Lucchese and is a huge part of why those brands feel so iconic. His work has a realness and a nostalgia while also feeling like a scene from a new western movie you haven’t seen yet. I’m always excited to see his work pop up on my feed.

Give him a follow Here

Music I'm Diggin'

South of the Border (Down Mexico Way) by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band

Out of left field? Maybe. Older than dinosaurs? Before my time for sure. A classic? You know it.

This is the perfect mood lifter for your commute to the office on Monday or to add to the mood Friday night with a tequila in hand.

Bonus song: The Chris Isaak version is smooth as butter here

Give it a spin on Spotify here. 

Videos, Movies, and TV

Riding Rock Rolls & Waterfalls in Quebec City

I love mountain biking, but I almost never do it solo. It’s just so much more fun to ride with my friends and laugh about dumb shit along the way. Matt and Jason from IFHT Films get this and their videos are all the best parts from messing around outside with their friends.

Not into mountain biking? No worries, this vlog/video/film is entertaining enough for the unwashed among us =)

9/10 would recommend.

Watch it here



Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage 

I’m not into the type of book that you know is not going to end well. They feel like slowly tearing off a band aid.

This book is different from all the others in that genre. It reads like an epic movie with all the twists and turns you need to stay curious for the next page. You won’t be able to put it down. I also recommend listening to the audio book because the narrator is so dang good.

It’s about crossing Antartica by Ernest Shackleton in 1914. I won’t say more because the less you know the better the book is.

It’s my number one book recommendation of all time and if you read or listen it you will see why.

Buy the book Here
Listen Here

Photo/Video Technique


Your Questions

I asked on Instagram what you all wanted to know about photography. You all answered and I’ll answer a few of them with short answers here.

  • Q: How to take low light photos with a cell phone? A: I don’t very often. Phone cameras struggle with low light and usually up the ISO in the image that makes it look grainy and flat. I use the LightRoom app “noise reduction” feature to clean some of that up, but it’s an uphill battle. If you only had a phone then you could get tripod and use the LightRoom App to shoot photos full manual settings and with long exposures to capture the light while using very little ISO.

  • Q: What is the best focal length for Landscape photography? A: There is no one best here, but I love my 16-35mm. I also use a 70-200mm to mix up my perspective. If I could only choose one for landscape photos, I’d choose the Canon 24mm 1.4.

  • Q: How to not crush blacks or blow out highlights? A: Well this one definitely depends on dynamic range on the camera, but there are a few techniques that help. First, I always expose for highlights. Second, I shoot darker in harsh light because with the dynamic range of my camera, I can bring up the shadows without much loss. If you over expose the highlights you can’t get them back. I use Lightroom to push the blacks and shadows back up. This really is one of the techniques in photography that you have to experiment with until you find something you like. Try 3-4 different exposures and then see which one you like better when you edit.

  • Q: How to take a proper time-lapse? A: Last months newsletter HERE will sort you out.

  • Q: How to shoot stars? A: This is a fun one. I’ve got a write up HERE about it.

  • Q: How to combine 2 separate exposures? A: There are a few techniques for this. You can take separate exposures in Lightroom and use the “photo merge HDR” function. It will automatically take the highlights and shadows from each exposure and mix them. It’s good for images taken from inside out of a building where the inside is dark and the outside is super bright. It is hit or miss though.

    Another technique is to use Photoshop to mask several images and paint the part of the images you want to show. This is best for something like a night sky exposure balanced with a campfire scene. Youtube will be your friend for the details here. Just be sure that if you are combining exposures that you shoot from a tripod, it makes life easier when combining later.

  • Q: How to take clear/crisp photos? A: This took me longer to sort out than most I think lol.

    There are a few components to a clearer and crisp image. Learn how to get an accurate focus. Even a slightly out of focus image will look unclear. Shoot at a high enough shutter to freeze a moving subject. I like at least 1/500 shutter speed to start if a person is moving. Hold your camera steady, use a tripod if needed, especially for shutter speed 1/100 or slower. Use less ISO. the grain can make images look mushy.

    I have a newsletter with more info on this HERE

Thanks for your questions! If you have more questions the best place to get a response from me is on Twitter HERE. I’m always happy to share what I know.

I am making YouTube videos and thought about doing a giveaway of a few backpacks on my next video. Would you subscribe for a chance to win, or is that too thirsty? As usual, you all here are the core of my audience and I’ll probably go with the group consensus.

Be stoked and have a great month,