Ashe County photo featured in USA Today

Wil Petty Staff Writer

December 16, 2013

When local author Clint Johnson saw an unusual cloud from his kitchen window, he knew he had to get his camera.

“I had never seen a formation like that before,” Johnson said. “It pops out, looks like a leaf in the sky.”

After shooting the photo at his property near the Wagner Access of New River State Park in late November, he sent the photo to USA Today. On Monday, Dec. 9, the photo appeared in the paper, on the back page.

“Every time I see an unusual cloud formation, sunset or sunrise, I will snap it and think about submitting it in,” Johnson said. “It is a way to promote Ashe County a little bit.”

The formation Johnson shot was a fallstreak hole, otherwise known as a hole punch cloud. The odd formation occurs when the temperature in a cloud is below freezing, but the water within the clouds has not frozen.

Sometimes, the clouds can be confused as unidentified flying objects.

But this wasn’t the first time USA Today has used one of his photos. Two years ago, he shot another formation at his property.

While, he has been published multiple times, Johnson is not a photographer at heart. The author writes nonfiction novels on Civil War History and Civil War travel.

Typically, he will use his Nikon D5100 to take snapshots for his books.

“I just was taking a snapshot like everybody else,” Johnson said. “I still don’t understand apertures, shutter speeds or anything else required to take a great photograph. I just snapped it.”

Johnson said people should look to the sky and be prepared for the unusual.

“I mean for Ashe County, if you make the assumption people looked at that photo, it was seen by several million people,” he said. “Every little bit of promotion to have (the county) be recognized as the Coolest Corner of North Carolina helps.”

Johnson’s books on Civil War history can be ordered through his website,