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Extreme Road-Tripping



Dalton Johnson taps into his Tamron lenses for a wild ride down the West Coast.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Dalton Johnson


Dalton Johnson typically spends half the year surfing, the other half rock-climbing—and all of that time taking pictures of his adventures. But some recent journeying up and down the West Coast offered Dalton ample opportunities to try his hand at taking pictures of Baja fishermen, the perilous sport of highlining, and even some local wildlife.

As he prepped for his latest trip to the American Southwest, Dalton shared some of these experiences with Tamron, whose 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III VXD G2, 28-200mm Di III RXD, and 150-500mm Di III VC VXD lenses offered him the ideal focal-length range, imaging performance, and portability for his photo expeditions. Accompanying him on many of his trips were influencer Andrew Muse and his “adventure pup” Kicker.

Read on for how Dalton used his Tamron lens lineup on his various road trips up and down the West Coast.

Image 1 (tree at Mount Whitney)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (150mm), F/22, 1/50 sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

Taking a photo like this at Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous US, is iconic. I’d always driven by this spot, but never in the autumn, so when I was driving from San Diego at the end of October, I knew the fall colors would be in full force and that I had to make this happen. This was the very first photo I took with the 150-500 lens. I had a lot of fun playing around with it and doing my best to compress the scene. I was so happy with the amount of detail I was able to get in the image, and with how portable the lens was.

Image 2 (man and dog walking on rocks, Alabama Hills)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (150mm), F/5.0, 1/800 sec., ISO 250
Click image to view larger

This shot was in the Alabama Hills, not far from a town called Lone Pine. We’d gone there to do some camping and motorcycle riding. I was looking for some fun things to photograph, and I realized that when the sun set, I’d have the chance to capture some nice silhouettes. Andrew and Kicker are up on the rocks in this photo, about 100 feet from where I was standing. They’re standing on the edge of a cliff, with a deep drop on the other side. Andrew had to get Kicker comfortable enough to walk around, so that I could eventually achieve both the silhouette and some separation between Andrew and the dog. Kicker doesn’t know how to stay in one place for very long once he gets moving, so it was challenging. I appreciate that I could get my aperture down low enough with the 150-500 lens to take this evening shot. Often with bigger lenses that’s hard to do.

Image 3 (highline walker in Joshua tree)
© Dalton Johnson
17-28mm (17mm), F/6.3, 1/800 sec., ISO 320
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This guy, Ray, is an ambassador for Arc’teryx, a brand of outdoor clothing and equipment. His specialty is highlining, an extreme sport stemming from slacklining in which the athlete walks across a rope from one rock to another. This photo was in Joshua Tree National Park. He’d been doing a shoot for Arc’teryx, and this location was about a half-mile away from that shoot. He said to me, “I could rig this line and do a sunset walk for you to photograph.” And he did just that—he rigged the line and walked across it perfectly four times. There were a lot of clouds, and I was disappointed, because I thought they’d mar the sunset, but then Ray walked across the line a final time just as the sun broke through, perched over the horizon.

Image 4 (bighorn sheep on hill)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (500mm), F/6.7, 1/500 sec., ISO 1250
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I was driving home from visiting a college professor in Palm Springs, along this mountain road, and I stopped at a pull-out to take a rest and reflect. I was sitting on the side of the road, journaling, when this bighorn sheep wandered by. I didn’t even have my camera on me—I had to run back to the van. By the time I got back to the spot, the sheep wasn’t there anymore, and I thought I’d missed my chance. Then I looked over the other side of the ridge and there it was. I took pictures of it for three or four hours. I think I had 1,200 photos by the time I was done.

Image 5 (Baja, exploring in Ford Bronco)
© Dalton Johnson
28-75mm (44mm), F/2.8, 1/500 sec., ISO 3200
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We went out one day to explore Baja’s Catavina—a popular spot for viewers of the Baja 1000 race—in a Ford Bronco, which is the perfect vehicle to use in this landscape of boulders and cactuses. The race course is about a quarter mile away from where I took this photo. I was really trying to milk the last bit of light here at sunset. In reality, all I could see were the headlights of the SUV. I cranked the ISO up to 3200 so that the photo allows you to see much more of the landscape. Anything above 3200 and I was afraid there’d be too much noise in the image. Usually with a vehicle going 20 mph, the photo might come out a little blurry, but I shot it at F/2.8 at 1/500 of a second and was pleased with how well the lens captured the scene.

Image 6 (Baja fisherman)
© Dalton Johnson
28-200mm (44mm), F/4.5, 1/250 sec., ISO 400
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This photo was taken in San Juanico, also known as Scorpion Bay. It’s a little village in Baja where the main source of income for the locals is fishing. I went out one morning and watched the fishermen work. The gentleman I photographed here was a lobster and octopus fisherman, and he was standing near all of his traps, stacked up next to him. He was gazing in the direction of all the birds hovering nearby when I took this photo. The vessel you see in the right of the frame is the panga he goes out in (I got to go out in one the following day). I wanted to get a sliver of the boat into the image, because it had “San Juanico” stamped on it.

Images 7 and 8
(Baja, Andrew and Kicker coming up stones from beach)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (150mm), F/6.3, 1/640 sec., ISO 12800
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(Baja, waxing surfboard)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (150mm), F/6.3, 1/640 sec., ISO 12800
Click image to view larger

I used the 150-500 quite often on my trip, especially in Baja for surfing photos, as it allowed me to zoom in and out as needed, whether it was Andrew and Kicker coming back from a surfing session in Scorpion Bay, which is said to have one of the longest waves in the world, or Andrew waxing his surfboard at sunrise, Kicker at his side.

Image 9 (Black Beach, San Diego; silhouette photo of Andrew and kicker)
© Dalton Johnson
150-500mm (150mm), F/6.3, 1/640 sec., ISO 12800
Click image to view larger

The final shot I used the 150-500 for was this silhouette of Andrew and Kicker at Black’s Beach in San Diego, a famous surfing spot. Andrew had just finished up with his session and was coming out of the water. San Diego has this occasional magic at the end of the day where it feels like the sunset is simply exploding over the scene. It was the ideal opportunity for me to capture a silhouette of Andrew and Kicker with that gorgeous sky behind them. Andrew dug the tip of his board into the sand and I just started shooting away. The Vibration Compensation (VC) feature on this lens was also incredibly helpful at this time of day, as I shot with a slower shutter speed.

To see more of Dalton Johnson’s photos, go to www.daltonjohnsonmedia.com or check out his Instagram.





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