The Landscapes of California

Mono Lake, Bodie and the Yosemite High Sierra
A Roving Digital Photography Field Workshop

June 16-21, 2007
6 days $1500 limited to 12 students

A strange lunar-like lake,
eerie tufa towers,
alpine forests
and granite domes...

The high desert sea of Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie, the 10,000 foot high Sierra, all in a single workshop exploring one of the most scenically spectacular regions in the world.

These six days will be a dynamic combination of a traditional landscape photography workshop while diving deep into the digital age. Technical and aesthetic considerations will be discussed in detail, while we explore this high desert lake and its strange environs.

The workshop will be taught by the pioneer in digital landscape photography, Stephen Johnson. Also the organizer of the "At Mono Lake" exhibition currently on display at the National Forest Visitor's Center, Steve has been teaching at Mono Lake for almost 30 years.

Mono Lake
The stark and beautiful scenery of this legendary lake is unlike any other landscape in the world. Its alkaline water, desert vistas, volcanoes and unusual tufa towers make it a remarkable place.

The presence of this huge lake in the eastern sierra desert is improbable at best, its out of place character is pervasive, at times seeming more lunar than terrestrial.

Mono Lake can change from a tranquil expanse of silver water to a blue-green stormy sea in minutes. It is a most intriguing place. It is both a challenge and a pleasure to photograph at Mono Lake. But Mono Lake's beauty does not necessarily make it easy to photograph here. The desert sun can be harsh, and the horizon can appear endless. It takes time and patience to catch the subtlety of Mono's moods. The autumn weather should provide some interesting cloud formations.

The lake's strange landforms can easily become ordinary when photographed casually. Consequently this place demands a certain intensity to do it visual justice. A primary goal of our time spent together will be to slow down and understand the lake on a more intimate level than might normally be possible.

The gold mining ghost town of Bodie lies at 8000 feet in the stark lonely hills north of the mono Basin. It is a photographers paradise and holds as many photo cliches as any place that comes to mind. It is a challenge to make new and unique photographs amid the old wood, tin can walls, decaying machinery. But it can be very rewarding make strong work there. That will be our goal together.

The High Sierra
Tioga Pass and its spectacular surroundings will wrap up our workshop with drives and day walks. Lembert Dome, views of the Lyell Canyon, Mt's Dana and Gibbs, alpine forests, Tenaya Creek and Olmsted Point will all be part of our high Sierra experience.

The Workshop
We will spend our first half day preparing for our outings. Topics covered will be optimal digital camera use in a variety of formats, file size and printing considerations. Fieldwork along the lake, in the volcanic craters, and through the canyons with intensive presentations and assistance will fill our days. We will open files, review successes and challenges of the photographs made during the day, constantly going back in the field putting into practice lessons learned.

The advent of the digital age of photography provides unique opportunities for field photography instruction. We will be reviewing work on camera screens as it is made and on portable computers, examining exposure, composition and emotional impact. Group evening reviews will also be conducted using digital projection. High resolution printers will be available to put some images to the ultimate test.

Field instruction will concentrate on technical and aesthetic issues, working to develop a personal vision of this endangered lake. We will be doing some walking and hiking. The workshop will include a survey of the area's photographic history, natural history of the basin, and the development of the photo exhibit "At Mono Lake."

Digital exposure and dynamic range, color management, printers, papers and pigments, b&w and color, composition, emotion and amazement-all will be part of our ambitious 4-day excursion into the evolving world of digital photography.

A BetterLight Scanning camera insert for 4x5 view cameras will be available for use. Participants who want to use the scanning camera will have to supply their own 4x5 camera and accessories. Explorers just wanting to use film, but anxious to learn the ropes, are also welcome.

Students are responsible for their own transportation and lodging in Lee Vining. Some carpooling around the basin will likely be needed to minimize our parking requirements.

Stephen Johnson
A photographer, teacher and designer, Stephen has been teaching and working in photography since 1977. His books include At
Mono Lake, the critically acclaimed The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland and Making a Digital Book. He runs his own photography, publishing and design company--scanning and preparing his photographic books using a Macintosh computer and now photographing in the field with digital view cameras.

Current projects include With a New Eye, his groundbreaking and historic all digital national parks project.

Stephen's work in digital photography, desktop color separations and digital imaging has included software and product development for clients such as Apple, Adobe, Eastman Kodak, Leaf, Ricoh and SuperMac. His work with Adobe includes the creation of the duotone curves shipped with their Photoshop software.

He was named to the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2003. Photographic clients have included the Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Friends of Photography. Johnson's photographs have been widely published and collected internationally.

To Register: call with a credit card. 650 355-7507

This workshop is financially dependent on adequate class registration. Where minimum enrollment requirements are not met, the class will be canceled, and a full refund given. You will be notified at least one week in advance if a workshop is not going to take place. Student initiated cancellations received prior to one month before the workshop will receive a full refund, a 50% refund will be given for notice received two weeks immediately prior to the workshop.

Photographs and Text Copyright ©2007, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved.