aerial water projects

Sea Lions and Rocks, Pt. Lobos. 2008. Canon 1Ds Mark III


Welcome to the April 2008 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter. As always, we hope you enjoy this edition.

We have many new exciting trips and offerings this month. There is also a new podcast up.

The spring schedule includes the new Digital Black and White Photography Hands-On from May 15-18, 2008. Also because of many inquiries, we have scheduled another section of our much in demand Fine Arts Digital Printing Hands-On workshop for May 24-27.

We finally found a date to offer the long overdue Pt. Lobos and Carmel Workshop May 3-5, 2008.

The Galapagos trip is full, but for a single option, we are one short on a single female shared cabin with another female student.

We are very excited about our Ireland's Spectacular West Coast workshop in June. Our ten day with co-instructor Anthony Hobbs of the National College of Art in Dublin should prove to be a fantastic immersion in the Irish landscape and culture.

Summer and Fall workshops include the popular From RAW to Print: Summer Digital Boot Camp, Zion National Park, and Yosemite in the Fall The first 2009 workshop is up, Death Valley in Winter.

We are also continuing a new program of letting people request the workshops they want. Email the Workshops Currently Building List so we can build a list of people and determine dates.

Great teaching, great facility.
What more could you need for the plunge into digital photography?


Gallery Events

Critique Session
April 24, 2008, 7-10pm


The Bookstore Expands

We are now carrying not only books by Steve, but by Ted Orland/David Bayles, Al Weber and others.

Ted Orland's New Photographic Truths Poster. 24x36 inches. $20.

 an underground classic, gracing the walls of university darkrooms and professional studios alike. But now (finally!) it’s available again in a new edition — still illustrated with the same friendly picture of Ansel Adams, but with a text that now includes many newly-discovered digital truths.

Advice for Photographers: The Next Step
by Al Weber
2007. $12

Based on decades of teaching, Weber has collected and organized ideas and suggestions to aid those who would be photographers. A 72-page field manual.

Art and Fear
by Ted Orland and David Bayles
1993. $12.95

A terrific book. A must read for every artist who has struggled with working, creating, reaching out and hanging in there.

Featured Products

GrayCapsTM Digital gray card. The Digital gray card you will always have with you, even among 10,000 penguins.

April 2008
Fog and Hills. Skyline Drive. California. 2008
11x14 Pigment Print on Rag paper
$195 each

Coming home from Santa Cruz last month along Skyline Drive near La Honda, the fog was rolling in as the sun set, forming islands of trees as the hills rose up from the sea. I ran up a trail for a clear view over the hills as the light was fading fast. It was quite a remarkable sight.

We're offering an 11x14 inch print, matted to 16x20 and ready to frame for $195, framed for an additional $75. This print at this price is offered through April 30. We'll be taking orders until then, and shipping them out by May 15th.

About the Program
Each month we offer a signed, original print, at a special price. This is a great opportunity to own a very affordable fine-art photograph. Orders are taken for a 30-day period, then printed and shipped within two weeks after the close. When it's over, it's over, these prints won't be available again at this price.


Ralph Putzker, 1977.
Traditional Light Out of Dark Black and White.

Light Out of Darkness

Photographic image appearance has evolved over time, with technical processes, stylistic changes and affectation, print materials developing, and ultimately, we hope, growth that reflects the emotion and character of the times.

For many decades now, and still, we seem to be in the hold of a rather dark view of the world through photographic eyes. In the 1950s, this style extended its reach into cinematography with film noiré. Interestingly enough, this lack of inherent chiaroscuro in digital photography has filmmakers longing for film's melodrama. Of course, learning to use a curve editor would help.

Currently we are in the midst of the first real technical revolution in photography, transitioning from silver to silicon. It is interesting to me that the stylistic affectations of our time appear much the same and don't seem to have been much influenced by an entirely new set of possibilities that emerge from Photography's liberation from silver's limitations. Photography still seems to be chasing darkness.

Light is unquestionably our subject matter in this light-writing medium of photography. Photography inevitably becomes a record of light, and the absence of light. But that doesn't seem to be what we chase nowadays. We seem to seek a somber, dark world, where light struggles to emerge and color comes only with great saturation, also often a characteristic of darkness.

This dark world has many symbolic implications, with demons and fear running through many human renderings, melodrama and grandiosity in many landscapes. This is not the world of our eyes, and despite our love of the medium, does effect how photography brings us the world. To say that there is a disconnect is a bit of an understatement. But it is a disconnect we have embraced.

Many of the classics of what we have thought of as modern photography come from, and perhaps helped found, this concentration on darkness. Ansel Adams' dramatic black and white landscapes with black skies, Edward Weston's sensual pepper series rising to human form from wooden bowl and pepper also emerging out of darkness. Much of our black and white aesthetic, rich blacks on gelatin-silver paper comes from this same inclination.



Dusk, Mono Lake, 1979.
High Key, Pastel color.

There is, of course, a context for these thoughts having to do with my own work. People often comment that my photographs don't look like photographs, some from a complementary point of view, others with a rather negative take. My love of light defines my photography, not a love of darkness. Not that I don't struggle with darkness. But in my photography and its worship of the real natural world, I find a relief from man-made trauma and seeming purposelessness of modern life. I feel life itself amid the light. And I don't mean the golden light, or "good light" of photography's world of perpetual sunsets, but rather the natural luminous glow of sun pouring energy 93 million miles across the void and blessing our world with light and heat hitting air and giving life itself.

Random Observations

Things do get strange though. Recently I had a conversation with someone who was expending time and energy trying to create software to throw things out of focus exactly as a shallow depth of field would. Perhaps this reveals only my stylistic preferences, but that seemed odd to me. Expending real work to make the world fuzzier still. Hard to believe. It's hard enough to get what you want sharp with these curved melted-sand light focusers we engineer. But it does seem tellingly symptomatic of affectation breeding agendas that so often lead us backwards. Of course, my own myopia might simply be coming into play.

As I've said before, when we make a photograph, to some degree we are chasing a concatenated experience we had over the moments of looking around the scene, focusing and re-focusing, taking in a memory that we want the photograph to communicate. Selective focus is just not that kind of real experience for me, so I've never understood it as a goal.


These meandering thoughts I work to articulate each month stem from somewhat classical photographic values influenced by a natural world that may be engendering a new aesthetic. It is at least an evolving style for me. Perhaps even a subtle kick in the pants to record the world differently.



Order Now for a signed copy!

Professional Photographers of America 2007 Hot One Awards

Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography

Book Reviews
Book Comments online

* Upcoming Workshops
We trust you find our selection of classes interesting and useful for your needs. We take the imparting of information and the empowerment of our students quite seriously. The digital age has considerably enhanced our ability to teach, and we believe, your ability to capture what you see. This program is designed to help you benefit from both of these advances.

We hope you can join us on a workshop.

Request a Workshop

We are also starting a new program of letting people request the workshops they want. Check out the Workshops Currently Building List and help us build a list of workshops and people so we can then determine dates. See the workshops page for a list of previously offered classes that we would be happy to teach when we have enough people.

Fine-Art Digital Printing Hands-On
May 24-27, 2008
Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

This workshop focuses exclusively on improving your fine-art digital printing in our new Digital Lab, primarily using Epson inkjet printers. Concentration will be on inkjet printing with color pigments and black/gray ink combinations on coated and rag papers. Learn from the digital pioneer how he obtains his impressive results during four days of lectures, printing, and feedback in the studio.

We will cover workflow issues, color management, correcting color casts, adjustment layers, custom profile generation, editing and inspection. There being no magic bullet to making good prints, the workshop will also explore old fashioned testing, careful color judgments and interactive honing in on the best print possible.

Pt. Lobos and Carmel: A Digital Photography Field Workshop
May 3-5, 2008

pt lobos map

Ansel Adams called Pt. Lobos "the greatest meeting of land and sea" on earth. It is truly an amazing combination of rock, surf, wildlife, changing light and abstraction...aqua surf, orange lichen, organic rock forms and waving sea palms. We'll walk the trails, wander the rocks, get lost in form and light.

We'll talk to a gallery director, explore the Carmel photography scene, likely eat well and meet some career photographers in this three-day immersion into classical California landscape photography.

Digital Black and White Photography Hands-on: Scanning, Conversion and Printing
May 15-18, 2008

Stephen Johnson Studios & Gallery
Pacifica, California.

Explore black and white photography in the digital age from file creation to print with a classical landscape photographer who comes from the world of large-format black and white.

Steve has maintained his deep love of black and white photography while leading the transition into digital photography. His digital black and white work dates back through 1992 with the Kodak DCS 200, the Leaf DCB and later through the BetterLight, Kodak dedicated BW cameras and the Foveon BW mode.

Steve's use of custom Iris inks, gray inks for Epson printers and development work on the new HP Z3100s black and white modes shows a long-term interest in bringing BW into the mainstream digital world.

Ireland’s Spectacular West Coast
June 20-30, 2008

Join Stephen Johnson and Anthony Hobbs for an unforgettable journey along the rustic West Coast of Ireland. This workshop will include hotel stays in several towns along our route from County Clare towards Achill Island. Along the way, participants will explore western Ireland's landscape with its rugged coast, lush greens, rocky islands, lake-filled valleys and remote castles.

Irish culture and history will also be part of this trip as we visit key locations and provide natural and human history discussions along the way. Some Gaelic language lessons and Irish folk arts performances might also be picked up on our travels along with the warmth and friendliness of the Irish people.

From RAW to Print in One Week
Summer Digital Boot Camp
July 21-25, 2008


An intense immersion into digital photography with one of its pioneers. In five days you will go from perhaps not even understanding what a RAW file is, to making well-crafted and thoughtful prints. Some fieldwork and extensive lecture and lab work will fill our time together. Every student will have full access to their own workstation in our lab. Topics include practical experience with digital exposure, RAW processing, image editing, color management and printing.


Included in the workshop is a copy of Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography, courtesy of O'Reilly Media.


Zion National Park
August 30-September 1, 2008

Join us on a three-day adventure through the visual wonderlands of southern Utah's Zion National Park. The trip is designed to be a complete immersion into landscape photography and its digital evolution with the pioneer in digital landscape photography. Extremes of brightness and shadow, distance, haze, perspective and form can make Zion a real challenge to photograph, but are at the heart of its beauty as well. Thoughtful seeing and good use of digital tools assist greatly in this process, and the workshop will emphasize those aspects of digital imaging and processing for which this location creates such a unique need.

We'll work on creating photographs which succeed in carrying some feel of what is special about this place with a visual integrity that speaks to you. The place was named "Zion" as a sanctuary by the early settlers, and was a holy place to the Native Americans before that. Zion is more than just a scenic national park; it is at once wild and unknown to most visitors, while at the same time managing to be comforting and intimate, becoming nature at its most intriguing. If you haven't been to Zion, imagine huge rocky outcrops, similar to Yosemite, but much closer together. There are towering red sandstone cliffs accented by pines and chartreuse cottonwood foliage; mossy seeps and creeks; sandstone in every color from mustard to raspberry, eroded into sensuous forms; petrified dunes with their layers, angles and striations; aspens, slot canyons, slickrock, sage; wide views and precious details.

Infusing your reactions to all this into your photographs will be the second focus of the workshop.

Yosemite Valley in Autumn
October 11-14, 2008

The fall colors of Yosemite offer photographers a wide variety of hue and texture. As the weather cools, the valley begins to change, subtle and beautiful colors start to emerge. People begin to disappear, bright greens turn to browns, yellows, blacks and golds. The valley smells fresher, the air clears and invites the walking we will be doing during this workshop. We'll spend four activity packed days in the valley, sometimes rising before dawn and lingering for the last moment of twilight.

The trip is designed to be an in-depth landscape photography workshop in the context of this digital age. We will discuss technical and aesthetic issues, tapping into your emotional response to this landscape, working toward images that are uniquely your own.

death valley

Death Valley in Winter
January 31-February 3, 2009

Transformed from a searing 120 degree desert in summer to January's mild 60-70 degree weather, Death Valley is filled with intriguing landforms, delicate flora, strange mineral deposits and expansive views. Mile high Dante's View overlooks the patterned salt flats of Badwater and the Amargosa River below (the lowest point in the United States). Badwater's still water in turn mirrors the blue and white Panamint Mountains to the West. The lunar landscape of Ubehebe Crater's black volcanic fields rise from the rolling desert at the valley's north end with the steep gorge of Titus Canyon and Red Pass to the southeast

Personal Workshops and Art Consulting

Arrangements can be made to work with Steve individually at his studio or at custom locations. Call for a discussion of the possibilities. 650 355-7507

Steve and Tom
Olympic Peninsula, 2002

* Check out our workshop web page for information on all of our workshops, including both our field and studio workshops.
UPCOMING EVENTS with Stephen Johnson

mmw logo

Maine Media Workshops

New England Camera Club Conference
Friday through Sunday, July 11 - 13, 2008

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Canon's Explorer of Light Photographer - Stephen Johnson
Photographer Lecture Series

Stephen Johnson Talk
Adobe Technology Exchange of Southern California
Saturday, July 19, 2008. 9:00 AM to 12 noon
Location of event: Toyota USA's headquarters at the corner of 190th street and Gramercy Place in Torrance, California



Book Reviews
Book Comments online



Printers I'm no longer using. Make an offer. Must pick up.

  • Epson 1280
  • Epson 5500 (with lots of ink supplied)
  • Epson 9000 (dye inks and Lyson grayscale set included)
  • Epson 9500
  • Epson 10000

Printers being replaced:
  • Epson 2200 $300


We are now offering rental time in our new lab on an hourly basis during our normal business hours.

Tuesday-Friday 10am to 5pm.
$25 per hour, plus a per print charge

Includes full access to calibrated monitors, fast G5 Macs, Epson pigment inkjet printers, 5000°k viewing lights and color profile creation hardware and software.

Appointments can be made by calling 650 355-7507.
Familiarity with Mac OSX and Photoshop CS2 or 3 or Adobe Lightroom recommended. Staff tutorials available for additional charge.

A Great Opportunity!
  • Fully equipped lab
  • Make your own printer profiles
  • Finally have access to the equipment you need


Digital Portraits by
The Studios of Stephen Johnson Photography

  • Instant Feedback
  • Special prices
  • Satisfaction or no fees


  • Artwork Copying
  • Custom Printing
  • Custom Profiles
watercolor by Ralph Putzker


To purchase original prints, see:

11x14 pigment on rag paper $450 from existing prints

•Information on Stephen Johnson's Original Prints

With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project


Please come visit us at our gallery and see our original prints in person. The subtle detail of the prints and the beautiful texture of the fine art paper have to be seen to be understood. And while you're here, browse through our books, cards, posters, and specially priced prints.

We're happy to mail you a copy of our product catalog, just send a note to or call us.

We're located at:

Stephen Johnson Photography at the Pacifica Center for the Arts
1220-C Linda Mar Boulevard, Creekside Suites, 5-7
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 355-7507

Pacifica Center for the Arts from Linda Mar Boulevard

We're open by appointment. To find us, use our map online at:

Map to studio
Studio directions and site layout.


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Photographs and Text Copyright ©2008, Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.