Wildlife photography of white bears surrounded by snow with trees in the distance

Interview With A Photographer: Johnny Hayward

Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?

Johnny Hayward: I am based in North Vancouver, Canada now but am originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?
 
JH: This is now my 29th year as a professional photographer.  I spent the majority of my time working as a staff photographer for Canada’s wire service The Canadian Press covering national and international news and sporting events but left the news business in Dec. 2022 to pursue my loves of waterski and wildlife photography specializing in polar bears.
 
CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?
 
JH: Honestly I am just a get it done photographer.  Having worked with such tight deadlines for my entire career there hasn’t been a lot of time thinking about how to get something done, my style has always to get the best result as fast as possible and to get the play no matter if it was print or online.  Now a days I am hoping to be able to slow down a bit more and put more thought into each assignment.  
 
CC: Have you ever gone to photography school?
 
JH: Yes I have a photographic arts degree from Ryerson University in Toronto.  However I would say that most of what I have learned has been from the amazing photographers that I have been lucky enough to work along side of. 
 
CC: Where is your favourite place or thing to shoot?
 
JH: For me I always thrived on breaking news, not knowing what I was about to show up to and having to figure it out on the fly in all kinds of conditions was a real rush.  These days I am getting to do more one on one photos of athletes and things have slowed down a lot and I really like the creative process.  
 
CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?
 
JH: Through my career I have worked with Nikon and Canon back and forth but currently I am working with all Sony equipment.  My standard kit for my assignments these days are two Sony A1’s, Sony GM 100-400, Sony 600mm f4 with a 1.4X and a Sony GM 12-24mm f2.8.
 
CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?
 
JH: Wow for a national wire guy thats a loaded question.  I don’t think there is just one thing, life for the wire was wild and different everyday, I have been shot at, punched, fell through the sea ice, hanging out of helicopters, running/driving into flood zones, forest fires, mudslide, snowstorms, etc.  
 
CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?
 
JH: My journey to photography was most likely inspired by water ski magazine photographer Tom King back when I was a kid.  Then throughout my journey it has evolved from Andrew Vaughan, Fred Chartrand and the late Tom Hanson all of the Canadian Press to wildlife photographers like Harry Skeggs.  I am always looking at others work and love being inspired by all of the creative photographers producing such amazing work these days.  
 
CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?
 
JH: Get the basics down pat learn all the rules and then know when to break them as you progress.  Put the time in and learn, you have to be ready for when the moment arises and if you are not comfortable and fast with the basic photography skills to have as muscle memory then you are in no place to capture a great moment that unfolds unexpectedly in front of you.  Once you have the ground rules nailed down then you can start experimenting and pushing the limits into your own style.  
 
CC: Can you share a photographic resource you personally use?
 
JH: Honestly I am a bit old school, I pick up the phone and call another photographer who may have the answer for what I am trying to achieve.  
 
CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?
 
JH: I love the historical side of still photography, especially in being in the national news for so long I look at the stills that I have taken and see history captured.  
 
CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience?
 
JH: Photography has been both my blessing and my curse.  There is literally nowhere I haven’t been and I have seen and witnessed a lot.  I have travelled to White House and the Oval Office, travelled as the pool photographer with the Royal Family, travelled from Olympia Greece to Canada and throughout the north with the Olympic Flame, covered several Olympics witnessing the winning of Olympic gold medals, covered the Stanley Cup, several Grey Cups, dozens of provincial and federal election campaigns the list goes on.  The downside is that I have also seen and witnessed a lot of tragedy and horrible events definitely leaving a mark on me.  
 
CC: Any exciting photographic events coming up you’d like to share?
 
JH: Right now I am planning for the 2024 polar bear season in Churchill, Manitoba where I am guiding low volume high quality tours.  I this time of year and look forward to it all year.
CC: Anything else you’d like to add?
 
JH: I appreciate the time Cotton Carrier and I love your products, honestly speaking I wish I had know of your system years ago, I may have saved my shoulders.