Ironstring Writing & Photography

San Diego surfing photography and cycling photography by journalist and photographer Mark Johnson. Established in 1988, we take assignments locally and  worldwide. We also do personal surf photo sessions.

Our books include a history of doping in sports and a year traveling the globe with the Garmin pro cycling team.

Our clients range from Microsoft to the The Wall Street Journal, Surfer magazine to The Washington Post.

We also shoot a lot in our north San Diego neighborhood. 

Mark Johnson is an experienced journalist and public speaker who regularly lectures on doping in sport and society, the pro cycling business, and cycling and surf photography techniques. Need a keynote speaker? Let us know.

Represented by the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Contact us.

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Photography and journalism with a focus on surfing and cycling.

We accept writing and photo assignments in the San Diego area and worldwide.

Our pro cycling work has taken us from the Tour of California to Paris-Roubaix, local cycling sportifs to the Tour de France.

As journalists, we specialize on the history of doping in sports, pro cycling, and the business side of international cycling.

Our services include

  • Surf photography and private water photo sessions
  • Cycling photography including professional race coverage and gran fondo events
  • Lifestyle, music, and social event photography
  • Fine art images for commercial and residential interior design
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Speaking Engagements

Contact us for pricing or questions about our services.



Ironstring Photography Services

Based in San Diego, California, we specialize on surf photography,  cycling photography, and beach and ocean photography.

Image Galleries

Surf photos

Cycling photos

Torrey Pines, Del Mar, and La Jolla

Ocean images

Event photos

Music photos

If you saw us at a bike race or at a surf spot but can’t find your photo, contact us and we will look for it.

Surf Photography

Hire us to document you and your friends or family surfing. We shoot from the water or land using state-of-the art photo equipment and water housings.

Cycling Photography

Since 1988 we have captured the glories of cycling for international and domestic media outlets and product manufacturers.

Looking for bike race photos? You’ll find them here.

Surf and Cycling Fine Art

We maintain a catalog of fine art ocean, surf, and cycling images for licensing for commercial, personal, and interior decorating use. Imagine working and living beneath a 6-foot fine art print of waves at Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa or a Tour de France peloton scaling the Col du Galibier in the French Alps.

We print on paper, glass, metal, wood, and even sound-dampening fabrics. Contact us for a quote to brighten your space!


Our global client roster

Our customers range from international media publications to multinational corporations to individuals and local businesses. Our clients include:

  • The Washington Post
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Surfer Magazine
  • TransWorld Surf Magazine
  • Microsoft
  • Intuit
  • Garmin
  • San Diego Padres
  • Sony Music/RCA
  • Kashi
  • Clif Bar
  • CamelBak
  • Sharp Electronics
  • Rusty Surfboards
  • California State Travel and Tourism Commission
  • VeloNews
  • CyclingNews
  • RIDE Cycling Review
  • Surfline
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Road Magazine
  • Fuji Bicycles
  • Cervelo Bicycles
  • Castelli Clothing
  • Pearl Izumi
  • Kenda Tires
  • Bianchi Bicycles
  • Giant Bicycles
  • San Diego Reader
  • San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Holland Bicycles
  • The Daily Racing Form
  • Competitor Magazine
  • Adventure Cycling Magazine
  • Cycling Weekly
  • Wieler Review
  • Paved Magazine
  • San Diego North County Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • DZ Nuts
  • J.R. Filanc Construction
  • Sheffield Platers
  • Excel Sports
  • 2XU Clothing
  • Har-Bro Construction
  • Squadra Clothing
  • Lezyne Design Bicycle Products
  • Modern Language Association
  • Natural Curves Surfboards
  • Saris Cycling Group
  • Bike Nashbar
  • AMC Outdoors Magazine
  • Editor and Publisher Magazine
  • CitySports Magazine
  • KHS Bicycles
  • Neurology Today
  • Popular Photography and Imaging Magazine
  • Road Bike Action Magazine
  • SKLZ
  • San Diego Unified School District
  • Shutterbug Magazine
  • Tomac Bicycles
  • University of California, San Diego
  • UCSD Department of Orthopedic Surgery

To inquire about our rates and how to benefit from our services, contact us.


Books by Mark Johnson

Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports

Spitting in the Soup investigates the history of drugs in sport–athletes turning to dope to go faster, longer, and higher. From pro cycling to the NFL, Major League Baseball to track and field, Spitting in the Soup reveals why elite and amateur athletes have always turned to pharmaceuticals. The book also explores why, in a society that encourages the wholesale use of performance enhancing drugs like Viagra and the amphetamine Adderall, it is so difficult to change athletes’ chemical ways.

Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sport by Mark Johnson book cover

Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports (VeloPress, 2016)  Press coverage and chapter excerpts

Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life

Mark Johnson spent the entire 2011 pro cycling year traveling with the Garmin pro cycling team. In words and full color photos, Argyle Armada takes readers along from early season training camps in Girona, Spain to victories at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France and all the way to fall racing in Quebec, Canada. Along the way you’ll learn why it is so hard to finance a pro cycling team, why riders don’t form a union, and what it takes to be a pro cyclist.

Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life, by Mark Johnson
Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life (VeloPress, 2012)

The Art of Spanish Guitar: A Method by Celino Romero

We photographed this book for internationally renown classical guitarist Celino Romero. 
The Art of Spanish Guitar by Celino Romero with photography by Mark Johnson

The Art of Spanish Guitar: A Method by Celino Romero (Amsco, 2007)