Ted E. Johnson Jr., a native Port Orange resident and avid photographer, was recently named one of two area residents to have a photograph chosen from over 26,000 entries in a National Wildlife Federation competition.
Mr. Johnson’s photo was called Divine Lotus, a photograph he took of a flower through a chain link fence at a retention pond off Nova Road. The other area winner was Dave Bowers of Palm Coast with his Egret Siblings photo. Their donated photographs will be used in 2019 NWF promotional material, such as greeting cards and calendars.
Mr. Johnson said he has been interested in photography since high school, but did not buy his first camera, a Minolta SRT 101 roll film-type camera, until he was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Korea. He later earned a bachelor's degree in design at the University of Florida, but said he took as many photo classes as he could while earning his degree.
He worked as an art director and in graphic design in advertising for many years. But now, retired and 71 years old, he says he can pursue his passion, which is photography. He takes photographs of birds, flowers and Port Orange historical buildings and sites, which is appropriate, since he is a lifetime member of the Port Orange Historical Trust.
“I’m proud to be from a Port Orange pioneer family who came to Florida in 1852 from Onslow County, N.C.,” he said. “I’m fifth generation, but there are many more.”
His great-great grandparents, Edward and Rose McDonald, one of two original pioneer families in Port Orange, made the trip to Florida in a “barefoot cart,” one with no tires on the wheels and pulled by oxen, and set up camp in Daytona Beach on the peninsula.
Their first-born child was Mary Elizabeth McDonald (Mr. Johnson’s great-grandmother), locally known as “The Palmetto Lady,” because she owned and operated the Port Orange Palmetto Hat Factory at Lafayette Street and Dunlawton Avenue.
Like his photographs, Mr. Johnson’s ancestors have left enduring marks on the Port Orange area. Rose Bay was named after one of Mr. Johnson’s ancestors. Cracker Creek, adjacent to the historic Gamble Place (of Proctor and Gamble fame), has become an area environmental gem. Mr. Johnson’s great-aunt and uncle owned part of Cracker Creek, and another of his ancestors, Roland “Rollie” F. Johnson, was caretaker for the James Gamble Estate. (More information on Mr. Johnson’s local history is on his blog, portorangeted.blogspot.com)
Mr. Johnson posts much of his photography online on many sites, including National Geographic Society. He said people frequently send him requests about buying his images. He tells them they can use the image to print out and do something nice for someone, use the image however they want.
He’s retired. He’s doing something he loves to do.
“I tell folks I used to hunt and shoot wildlife with a 12 gauge,” he said. “I still hunt, but now I use a Canon.”